Saturday, June 21, 2014

Down the Rat-Lines of the SS Maliki

Washington’s Rats are Abandoning Maliki

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

The rat, among mammals, is one of the most successful animals on the planet. Cunning, ruthless, competitive and above all adaptable — it is able to change its habits quickly as needed to accommodate the situation it finds itself in.

When it comes to foreign policy, the US government is swarming with rats.

Just look at the situation in Iraq. The US invaded the country in 2003, claiming it was a rogue nation that had, or was trying to develop, “weapons of mass destruction.” When it became clear that this was a lie, or at best, simply not true, the stated motive for the invasion was changed to “regime change,” and the goal became “bringing democracy to Iraq.”

The US and the key US corporate news organizations loved Maliki when his party won the largest block of seats in the first parliamentary election in 2006 and he became prime minister. As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius crowed at the time, after the votes were in, “The most important fact about Maliki’s election is that it’s a modest declaration of independence from Iran.” Ignatius quickly went to the US ambassador at the time, Zalmay Khalilzad, for a comment, and Khalilzad, a neoconservative linked to the National Endowment for Democracy, obligingly told him, “His reputation is as someone who is independent of Iran.”

Khalilzad had worked assiduously (almost rat-like, one might say) behind the scenes to build a coalition of Kurds, Sunnis and Shia politicians opposed to the incumbent prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari (who was seen as Iran’s man), in order to back Maliki’s ascendancy.

In 2010, the US again backed Maliki, supporting him for a second term even though the initial results of the voting gave a plurality to his challenger Ayad Allawi. Using heavy-handed tactics and his control of the judiciary, Maliki essentially stole that election,. He did this with the approval of the US Embassy which, in 2010, was still, if not controlling the country, a major player.

Shift to the present Iraq national elections. The US, during the campaign, was clearly backing Maliki’s virtually assured re-election as prime minister. Indeed, an April 30 article in the New York Times — a steadfast voice for the Washington foreign policy establishment, hailed the parliamentary voting underway as a triumph. As reporters tim Arango and Duraid Adnan wrote:

“Millions of Iraqis voted for a new Parliament on Wednesday, defying threats from Islamist extremists, in an election that was carried out, by Iraq’s brutal standards, in remarkable peace…

“The election, the first nationwide vote since the departure of American troops more than two years ago, was seen as a referendum on Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s eight years as prime minister as he seeks his third term amid a growing Sunni insurgency that has brought the country to the edge of a new civil war.”

On May 19, after the votes were all counted (at least those in Shia regions), the Washington Post, another stalwart backer of the US foreign policy establishment, reported on the victory of Maliki’s party in the elections saying:

“The US Embassy in the capital welcomed the result, calling it ‘another milestone in the democratic development of Iraq.’”

But along the way to Maliki’s re-election plurality, something happened: a lightning-fast military campaign by Sunni insurgents, backed by a population that was furious over several years of violent attack and repression by Maliki’s police and military, and an opportunistic separatist move by Kurds in the north, suddenly put even Baghdad at risk.

Suddenly the rats in Washington, seeing their “man in Baghdad” as vulnerable, and their rickety construct in Iraq as facing collapse, aren’t so committed to democracy in the place, and are “adapting” to a new political environment.

As the Wall Street Journal reported this week:

“WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is signaling that it wants a new government in Iraq without Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, convinced the Shiite leader is unable to reconcile with the nation’s Sunni minority and stabilize a volatile political landscape. The U.S. administration is indicating it wants Iraq’s political parties to form a new government without Mr. Maliki as he tries to assemble a ruling coalition following elections…”

Democracy for Iraq? Oh that was so yesterday. Today the issue is combating the Sunni insurgency, and keeping Iran from gaining further influence over Baghdad.

Whatever one’s opinion of Maliki — and the truth is he has been a fairly typical Middle East strongman, brutally surpressing the Sunni minority on behalf of his Shia backers, and also playing hard-ball even against those Shia politicians who would be his rivals, including having them arrested — betrayal of allies noble and vile has of course been a long tradition in Washington. So has dropping any pretense of supporting democratic elections. The US backed elections in the Palestinian territories until Hamas won handily in Gaza, at which point Washington just stopped talking about democracy there, and backed Israel’s policy of turning the place into the world’s biggest concentration camp, starved of water, fuel and food.

In Ukraine, the US backed so-called “orange revolutions” and democratic elections until it decided to back a right-wing coup that drove the elected prime minister out of the country.

As the US continues to find itself increasingly challenged around the globe by countries that feel less and less intimidated by an overstretched US military, and as the dollar keeps losing ground as a reserve currency, making economic sanctions less and less potent as a tool of coercion, the rats in Foggy Bottom and the White House will have to become increasingly adaptive if they hope to continue to infest the globe as they have since the days of the Cold War.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Washington Escalating Intervention in Western Asia Regional War

Washington Escalates Intervention in Region-wide Middle East War

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

With nearly 600 Green Beret “advisors” and other US troops in or set to be sent to Iraq over the coming days, the Pentagon announced Friday that it is negotiating rules of engagement that the regime in Baghdad rejected two-and-a-half years ago, before the final pullout of the American military.

Key among these provisions, according to Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, is blanket immunity from Iraqi or international law relating to the slaying of Iraqi civilians or other war crimes.

It was the refusal of the government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to accept such provisions in 2011 that scuttled negotiations on a status of forces agreement that would have kept some 10,000 US troops indefinitely deployed at a number of strategic Iraqi bases.

The Pentagon spokesman attempted to deflect suggestions that the Obama administration is exploiting the debacle in Iraq to blackmail the teetering regime headed by Maliki into submitting to US terms, thus paving the way for the permanent bases that Washington initially sought.

“What we were talking post-2011 was a fairly sizable force of American troops that would remain in Iraq for a long period of time,” Kirby said. 
“What we are talking about here is a very small number, up to 300, whose mission will be of a limited duration.”

Anyone familiar with the history of the period leading up to the US war in Vietnam, however, knows full well that the dispatch of “advisors” to a war-torn country in Washington’s crosshairs can quickly lead to the deployment of a very “sizable force of American troops.”

There is every reason to suspect that President Barack Obama, who won his first election to the US presidency by posturing as an opponent of the Iraq war, is heading down just such a path.

In his statement delivered at the White House on Thursday Obama attempted to sell the renewed deployment of US forces in Iraq as part of Washington’s global war on terrorism—he repeated the words “terrorism” or “terrorist” 10 times in the short briefing. In reality, however, the US ruling establishment’s response to the collapse of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of broad-based insurgency by Iraq’s Sunni minority is directed at pursuing far broader aims, both regionally and globally.

While claiming that the advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in northern and western Iraq pose an eventual threat of terrorist attacks on the “homeland,” Obama added that Washington had “strategic interests in stability in the region.”

Spelling these out, he added that “obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues [sic] to be important.”

In other words, the latest intervention—like the catastrophic nearly nine-year-long war and occupation that preceded it—is ultimately about oil and who controls this strategic resource.

It was to establish American imperialist hegemony over the oil reserves of the Persian Gulf that Washington launched its war based on lies in March 2003, killing upwards of a million Iraqis and sacrificing the lives of some US 4,500 troops in the process. US imperialism has never given up on this goal, even while forced to pursue it by other means.

Even as Obama was speaking, the Islamist insurgents were overrunning Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. The loss of the facility, which is directed to domestic consumption, spells gasoline and power shortages for the embattled country.

The US intervention in Iraq is part of a broader intervention into a developing region-wide war that has been ignited by a succession of American military operations, ranging from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the use of Islamist militias as proxy forces in the 2011 US-NATO war for regime change in Libya and the instigation and support for the ongoing sectarian civil war in Syria by Washington and its allies, including Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Persian Gulf monarchies.

Even as ISIS fighters were encircling the last holdouts among the government troops at the Beiji refinery Friday, the Syrian government reported a terrorist car bombing in the central city of Hama, which killed at least 34 and wounded some 50 more. The Al-Nusra front, an Al Qaeda affiliate that has clashed with ISIS for control of turf in Syria, claimed responsibility for the atrocity.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, another suicide bomber, apparently linked to ISIS, attacked a checkpoint in the Beqaa Valley, killing two people and wounding dozens. The apparent target of the bombing was Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, a Shiite official who is director of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate. On the same day in Beirut, police rounded up 20 members of ISIS who were suspected of preparing further assassination attempts.

While claiming that its intervention in Iraq is meant to quash ISIS, the reality is that this Islamist militia is Washington’s own Frankenstein’s monster. It was forged first through the US military destruction of Iraqi society and the divide-and-rule strategy of the American occupation that fueled the bitter sectarian bloodbath that wracked the country. While suppressed in Iraq, this tendency had a dramatic resurgence in Syria as the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regimes in the region funneled arms and other support to the Islamist-dominated “rebels” carrying out the sectarian war for regime change against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Last September, the Obama administration was forced—in the face of massive popular opposition—to back down from its plan to carry out US air strikes against the Assad regime, and in support of the ISIS and other Islamist formations. Now it is preparing to reverse this humiliating climbdown on the pretext of pursuing the ISIS both in Iraq and across the border in Syria.

US officials speaking to the Washington Post Thursday said that the administration sees Iraq and Syria as “a single challenge.” Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, such an intervention will be directed primarily at furthering the drive to topple the Assad government.

This position received support Thursday from Senator John McCain, a prominent critic of Obama’s Iraq policy, who stated his agreement that “we are going to have to act in Syria as well.”

Also noteworthy in terms of support was a statement issued following Obama’s press conference by Anthony Cordesman, a military strategist for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has advised the Pentagon on the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The President’s decision to send 300 more US military advisors to Iraq is a key first step in dealing with the crisis,” Cordesman wrote.
“It ensures that the United States as well as Iran will have a presence on the ground, while any US use of airpower alone would have effectively empowered Iran’s Revolutionary Guards because they would have been present with Iraqi forces.”

This points to another major strategic aim in the Iraq intervention, which is to weaken Iranian influence in the country as part of an overarching strategy of subduing every power that poses an impediment to US imperialism’s drive for global hegemony. This undoubtedly is a primary consideration as well in the ever more open campaign by Washington to oust Maliki—who was originally put in office by the US occupation—and replace him with a more pliant regime that will align itself with Washington against Tehran.

Thus, for all Obama’s talk about taking “targeted and precise military action,” the reality is that US imperialism is once again embarking on an aggressive policy that has the potential to ignite a regional and even world war.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Why Iraq?

It’s all for Israel

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

“It is no longer plausible to argue that ISIS was a result of unintentional screw ups by the US. It is a clear part of a US strategy to break up the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah alliance. Now that strategy may prove to be a total failure and end up backfiring, but make no mistake, ISIS IS the strategy.”  - Lysander, Comments line, Moon of Alabama

“US imperialism has been the principal instigator of sectarianism in the region, from its divide-and-conquer strategy in the war and occupation in Iraq, to the fomenting of sectarian civil war to topple Assad in Syria. Its cynical support for Sunni Islamist insurgents in Syria, while backing a Shiite sectarian regime across the border in Iraq to suppress these very same forces, has brought the entire Middle East to what a United Nations panel on Syria warned Tuesday was the “cusp of a regional war.”  - Bill Van Auken, Obama orders nearly 300 US troops to Iraq, World Socialist Web Site

Barack Obama is blackmailing Nouri al-Maliki by withholding military support until the Iraqi Prime Minister agrees to step down. In other words, we are mid-stream in another regime change operation authored by Washington. What’s different about this operation, is the fact that Obama is using a small army of jihadi terrorists –who have swept to within 50 miles of Baghdad–to hold the gun to Mr. al Maliki’s head. Not surprisingly, al Maliki has refused to cooperate which means the increasingly-tense situation could explode into a civil war. Here’s the scoop from the Guardian in an article aptly titled “Iraq’s Maliki: I won’t quit as condition of US strikes against Isis militants”:

“A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he will not stand down as a condition of US air strikes against Sunni militants who have made a lightning advance across the country.

Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, on Wednesday made a public call on al-Arabiya television for the US to launch strikes, but Barack Obama has come under pressure from senior US politicians to persuade Maliki… to step down over what they see as failed leadership in the face of an insurgency…

The White House has not called for Maliki to go but its spokesman Jay Carney said that whether Iraq was led by Maliki or a successor, “we will aggressively attempt to impress upon that leader the absolute necessity of rejecting sectarian governance”. (Iraq’s Maliki: I won’t quit as condition of US strikes against Isis militants, Guardian)

Obviously, the White House can’t tell al Maliki to leave point-blank or it would affect their credibility as proponents of democracy. But the fix is definitely in and the administration’s plan to oust al Maliki is well underway. Check out this clip from the Wall Street Journal:

“A growing number of U.S. lawmakers and Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are pressing the White House to pull its support for Mr. Maliki. Some of them are pushing for change in exchange for providing their help in stabilizing Iraq, say U.S. and Arab diplomats.” (U.S. Signals Iraq’s Maliki Should Go, Wall Street Journal)

Pay special attention to the last sentence: “Some of them are pushing for change in exchange for providing their help in stabilizing Iraq”. That sounds a lot like blackmail to me.

This is the crux of what is going on behind the scenes. Barack Obama and his lieutenants are twisting al Maliki ‘s arm to force him out of office. That’s what the Thursday press conference was all about. Obama identified the group called the Isis as terrorists, acknowledged that they posed a grave danger to the government, and then breezily opined that he would not lift a finger to help. Why? Why is Obama so eager to blow up suspected terrorists in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan and yet unwilling to do so in Iraq? Could it be that Obama is not really committed to fighting terrorists at all, that the terror-ruse is just a fig leaf for much grander plans, like global domination?

Of course, it is. In any event, it’s plain to see that Obama is not going to help al Maliki if it interferes with Washington’s broader strategic objectives. And, at present, those objectives are to get rid of al Maliki, who is “too tight” with Tehran, and who refused to sign Status Of Forces Agreement in 2011 which would have allowed the US to leave 30,000 troops in Iraq. The rejection of SOFA effectively sealed al Maliki’s fate and made him an enemy of the United States. It was only a matter of time before Washington took steps to remove him from office. Here’s a clip from Obama’s press conference on Thursday that illustrates how these things work:

Obama: “The key to both Syria and Iraq is going to be a combination of what happens inside the country, working with moderate Syrian opposition, working with an Iraqi government that is inclusive, and us laying down a more effective counterterrorism platform that gets all the countries in the region pulling in the same direction. Rather than try to play whack-a-mole wherever these terrorist organizations may pop up, what we have to do is to be able to build effective partnerships.”

What does this mean in language that we can all understand?

It means that “you’re either on the team or you’re off the team”. If you are on the US team, then you will enjoy the benefits of “partnership” which means the US will help to defend you against the terrorist groups which they arm, fund and provide logistical support for. (through their Gulf State allies) If you are “off the team” –as Mr. al Maliki appears to be, then Washington will look the other way while the hordes of vicious miscreants tear the heads off your soldiers, burn your cities to the ground, and reduce your country to ungovernable anarchy. So, there’s a choice to be made. Either you can play along and follow orders and “nobody gets hurt, or go-it-alone and face the consequences.

Capisce? Obama is running a protection racket just like some two-bit Mafia shakedown-artist from the ‘hood. And I am not speaking metaphorically here. This is the way it really works. The president of the United States is threatening a democratically-elected leader, who–by the way–was hand-picked and rubber-stamped by the Bush administration–because he has not turned out to be sufficiently servile in kowtowing to their demands. So, now they’re going to replace him with another corrupt stooge like Chalabi. That’s right, the shifty Ahmed Chalabi has reemerged from his spiderhole and is making a bid to take al Maliki’s place. This is from the New York Times:

“Iraq officials said Thursday that political leaders had started intensive jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and create a government that would span the country’s deepening sectarian and ethnic divisions, spurred by what they called encouraging meetings with American officials signaling support for a leadership change…

The names floated so far — Adel Abdul Mahdi, Ahmed Chalabi and Bayan Jaber — are from the Shiite blocs, which have the largest share of the total seats in the Parliament.” (With Nod From U.S., Iraqis Seek New Leader, New York Times)

Remember Chalabi? Neocon favorite, Chalabi. The guy who –as Business Insider notes “was a central figure in the U.S.’s decision to remove the Iraqi dictator over a decade ago” and “who helped get the Iraq Liberation Act passed through Congress in 1998, a law that made regime change in Baghdad an official U.S. policy.” “Chalabi claimed that Saddam was an imminent threat to the U.S., and was both holding and developing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, (which) became the view of the intelligence community and eventually the majority of the U.S. congress. In the first four years of the Bush administration, Chalabi’s INC recieved $39 million from the U.S. government.” (Business Insider)

You can’t make this stuff up.

So, good old Chalabi is on the short-list of candidates to take al Maliki’s place. Great. That just illustrates the level of thinking about these matters in the Obama White House. I don’t know how anyone can objectively follow these developments and not conclude that the neocons are calling the shots. Of course they’re calling the shots. Chalabi’s “their guy”. In fact, the goals the administration is pursuing, aren’t really even in US interests at all.

Bear with me for a minute: Let’s assume that we’re correct in our belief that the administration has set its sites on four main strategic objectives in Iraq:

1–Removing al Maliki
2–Gaining basing rights via a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)
3–Rolling back Iran’s influence in the region
4–Partitioning the country

How does the US benefit from achieving these goals?

The US has plenty of military bases and installations spread around the Middle East. It gains nothing by having another in Iraq. The same goes for removing al Maliki. There’s no telling how that could turn out. Maybe good, maybe bad. It’s a roll of the dice. Could come up snake-eyes, who knows? But, one thing is certain; it will further erode confidence in the US as a serious supporter of democracy. No one is going to believe that fable anymore. (Al Maliki just won the recent election.)

As for “rolling back Iran’s influence in the region”: That doesn’t even make sense. It was the United States that removed the Sunni Baathists from power and deliberately replaced them with members from the Shia community. As we’ve shown in earlier articles, shifting power from Sunnis to Shia was a crucial part of the original occupation strategy, which was transparently loony from the get go. It was as if the British invaded the US and decided to replace career politicians and Washington bureaucrats with inexperienced service sector employees from the barrios of LA. Does that make sense? The results turned out to be a disaster, as anyone with half a brain could have predicted. Because the plan was idiotic. No empire has ever operated like that. Of course, there was going to be a tacit alliance between Baghdad and Tehran. The US strategy made that alliance inevitable! Iraq did not move in Iran’s direction. That’s baloney. Washington pushed Iraq into Iran’s arms. Everyone knows this.

So, now what? So now the Obama team wants a “do over”? Is that it?

There are no do overs in history. The sectarian war the US initiated and promoted with its blistering counterinsurgency strategy–which involved massive ethnic cleansing of Sunnis in Baghdad behind the phony “surge” BS– changed the complexion of the country for good. There’s no going back. What’s done is done. Baghdad is Shia and will remain Shia. And that means there’s going to be some connection with Tehran. So, if the Obama people intend to roll back Iran’s influence, then they probably have something else in mind. And they DO have something else in mind. They want to partition the country consistent with an Israeli plan that was concocted more than three decades ago. The plan was the brainstorm of Oded Yinon who saw Iraq as a serious threat to Israel’s hegemonic aspirations, so he cooked up a plan to remedy the problem. Here’s a blurb from Yinon’s primary work titled, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”, which is the roadmap that will be used to divide Iraq:

“Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.” (A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties, Oded Yinon,

Repeat: “Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon.”

This is the plan. The United States does not benefit from this plan. The United States does not benefit from a fragmented, Balkanized, broken Iraq. The oil giants are already extracting as much oil as they want. Iraqi oil is, once again, denominated in dollars not euros. Iraq poses no national security threat to the US. US war planners already got what they want. There’s no reason to go back and cause more trouble, to restart the war, to tear the country apart, and to split it into pieces. The only reason to dissolve Iraq, is Israel. Israel does not want a unified Iraq. Israel does not want an Iraq that can stand on its own two feet. Israel wants to make sure that Iraq never remerges as a regional power. And there’s only one way to achieve that goal, that is, to follow Yinon’s prescription of “breaking up Iraq …along ethnic/religious lines …so, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul.”

This is the blueprint the Obama administration is following. The US gains nothing from this plan. It’s all for Israel.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Al-Sham or Just Sham: ISIS and the New Caliphate

Will ISIS Create al-Sham Caliphate & Liberate Palestine?

by Franklin Lamb - CounterPunch

Ein el Helwe Palestine camp - One need not be prescient to understand the unfolding “Jihadi Spring” is fueling the plans and perhaps destiny of ascendant Islamists in this region with the increasing help of in-country nationalists, including remnants of the Iraqi Baath Party. This, according to more than a dozen ardent supporters of The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), known locally as DAASH whose representatives allowed this observer over the past six months to interview some of its supporters to discuss what they found inaccurate in a piece I wrote about DAASH actions in Raqqa, Syria. In that article I claimed that DAASH was selling Syria’s archeological treasures, just as they are selling Syria’s oil and in some instances, food warehouse contents, to the highest foreign bidder. There is no paucity of the latter.

The final “S” in the acronym “ISIS” relates to the Arabic word “al-Sham” which itself is variously used to refer to the Levant, Syria or even Damascus. But DAASH (ISIS) means the Levant or Eastern Mediterranean including Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and southern Turkey. ISIS has just announced that Raqqa, the only one of 14 Governorates it controls in Syria, is now the “Capital” of their emerging “Caliphate” which so far is a swathe of territory encompassing much of eastern and northern Syria and western and northern Iraq. The Emir is to be their military strategist and leader and successor of Abu Mus‘ab Zarqawi, Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Those interviewed at length include sympathizers, students of politics and of the Islamist ‘spring’ in Syria and Iraq, as well as a few shadowy claimed jihadist recruiters, some working with a claimed new specialized DAASH unit organized at the beginning of 2013 and which focuses exclusively on destroying the Zionist regime occupying Palestine. DAASH’s “Al Quds Unit” (AQU) is currently working to broaden its influence in more than 60 Palestinian camps and gatherings from Gaza, across Occupied Palestine, to Jordan, and Lebanon up to the north of Syria seeking to enlist support as it prepares to liberate Palestine.

DAASH believes, according to one of its claimed academic advisers, that the ummat al-Islamiyah (Islamic community), as a US Foreign Relations staffer, on 6/18/14 advised this observer, that the White House estimates that approximately six million Iraqi Sunni have recently become supportive of the armed action by DAASH. The support excludes its strict, indeed anti-social societal mores and abhorrence of current harsh realities of life in DAASH territory. The Islamist organization believes it currently has massive regional support for it rapidly expanding “revolution of the oppressed.” Large numbers in this region do appear to appreciate its recent successes, despite its history of calculated brutality for political purposes. DAASH urges the public to study its remarkable history that reaches back to 2003 when Abu Mus‘ab Zarqawi got out of prison in Jordan and headed to Afghanistan, gained valuable experience from if the trust of Osama Bin Laden, and then crossed over to Iraq to wage jihad against America. DAASH appears to be using sectarian appeals in Iraq and Syria much the same way Zawqawi did when he confronted the ascendant Shia militia following the US invasion and occupation.

DAASH supporters claim that it has been joined by more than a dozen Sunni groups such as one called Men of the Army of the Naqshbandia Order.” JRTN as it is known locally, was established in 2007 following the execution of Saadam Hussein and is made up of former Hussein regime loyalists, including intelligence officers and soldiers from his Republican Guards. If its alliance with DAASH holds, JRTN can contribute thousands of fighters with strong social roots in the community. One JRTN interlocutor explained to this observer, “As Sunni Muslims, DAASH can resolve differences between its views of Islam and those of the Ummah. First we need victory and to achieve that we need each other and if our Baathist partners decide to position themselves to be secular guardians of Sunni Arab nationalism that can be discussed later. The official website of the Naqshbandi Army includes a 1/1/2014 announcement: “To all our brothers and families of the tribes and factions we tell you, you are not along in this battlefield.”

DAASH insists that it has become less active in killing anyone who works for the government of Syria or Iraq including rubbish collectors, a barbaric practice that alienated the Sunni population and that their support is growing as they increasingly provide the essential social services in the forming proto-Caliphate. “Zionists call us masked, sociopathic murderers but we are much more complicated and representative of those seeking justice than they portray us. Are we more barbaric than the Zionist terrorists who massacred at Dier Yassin, Shatila twice at Qana, and committed dozens of other massacres? History will judge us after we free Palestine.” A few years ago the CIA and others estimated that the Zionist occupation of Palestine will collapse in less than a decade. DAASH claims it can do the job in 72 months.

With respect to events surrounding its takeover of Mosel and other social media broadcast exhibitions of mass brutality, ISIS claims it was done for a purpose, the same purpose that other state and non-state actors have used over the past two decade and that is for 90% of the world 1.5 billion Muslims (Sunni) to free themselves from the oppression of the 10% (Shia).

Several reasons were given as to why Palestinians should hold out hope for ISIS succeeding in their cause when all other Arab, Muslim, and Western claimed Resistance supporters have been abject failures and invariably end up benefiting the Zionist occupation regime terrorizing Palestine. “All countries in this region are playing the sectarian card just as they have long played the Palestinian card but the difference with ISIS is that we are serious about Palestine and they are not. Tel Aviv will fall as fast as Mosul when the time is right”, a DAASH ally explained.

When asked about Hezbollah’s 22 day war with the Zionists in South Lebanon in July of 2006 and its sacrifices in terms of lives which is to this day widely believed to be a victory for the “Resistance” and a blow to the Zionist occupation. An angry middle aged Iraqi Baathist, now a ISIS heavy weapons trainer, interrupted, “The difference between DAASH and Hezbollah is that we would have fought our way to Al Quds in 2006 and established a permanent organization. Hezbollah quit too soon and they will only fight if and when Iran tells them to.” He added, “What has the Hezbollah Resistance ever done for the Palestinians in Lebanon except resist their civil rights in Lebanon. Should Palestinians believe them?” Another gentleman insisted, “DAASH will fight where no one else is willing.”

ISIS appears uniformly contemptuous of the Zionist regime and its army and also appears eager to fight them in the near future despite expectation that the regime will use nuclear weapons. “Do you think that we do not have access to nuclear devises? The Zionists know that we do and if we ever believe they are about to use theirs we will not hesitate. After the Zionists are gone, Palestine will have to be decontaminated and rebuilt just like areas where there has been radiation released.”

DAASH supporters claim that it reaches out to local notables and tribal leaders and discuss their differences and seek their tribal counsel. DAASH claims that the Roman Catholic Vatican supports its own claims that when they captured Mosul last week they did not harm Christian residents or desecrate churches. In this they are supported by Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s envoy) in Iraq who this week told the media: “The guerrillas who are in control of Mosul have to date not committed any violent act or damaged the churches there.”

It is becoming clear that DAASH has set up well organized local administrations in areas it controls, including an Islamic court system and a local non-hostile police force which support public safety with measures such as closing shops for selling poor products in the souks and supermarkets and on the street, destroying cigarettes and whipping some individuals for disrespecting and insulting their neighbors, confiscating counterfeit medicines in addition to some death sentences for apostasy.

DAASH supporters claim that as soon as they ‘liberate” and area invest in public works such as the new souk in Raqqa, installs new power lines and conducts training sessions on how citizens can do-it-yourself for more self-reliance with fixing infrastructure problems. In addition DAASH claims that it quickly fixes potholes, runs a low fare bus system, has established a ‘green’ program to build parks and plant trees and flowers, helps farmers with harvests and runs a zakat (almsgiving) organization.

Moreover, ISIS has established a number of religious schools for children, including ones for girls where they can memorize the Koran and receive certificates if successful, while also holding “fun days” for kids including all the ice cream they can eat and inflatable slides. For their older counterparts, ISIS has established training sessions for new imams and preachers. Schedules for prayers and Koran lessons are posted at mosques. In a more worrisome development, ISIS runs training camps for “cub scouts” and houses these recruits in the group’s facilities.

Several social media reports and a few eyewitness accounts appear to confirm that DAASH has developed health and welfare programs, operates bread factories and distributes free fruits and vegetables to needy families, passing the goods out personally as well as setting up a free food kitchen in Raqqa as well as an adoption agency to place orphans with families in their areas. Unlike the Taliban and some other regimes which exhibit paranoia about vaccination campaigns, DAASH claims to be more ‘modern” and actively promotes polio-vaccination in its areas to try stop its spread.

The social services that DAASH provides obviously do not ameliorate the deadly violence it carries out, but does suggest it is well-organized and has caught the interest of the Sunni Muslims who feel besieged by Shia. According to an al-Bagdadi relative, nearly the half a billion dollars that was snatched from Mosul’s central bank this month will help to win hearts and minds and correct some of its “bad press”. DAASH appears to ascribe to the cliché that half of any war is a rumor. It condemns the project of many satellite channels and claims that they do not objectively report the news but mainly spread rumors with sectarian instigation as the goal. On this point who can refute them?

DAASH supporters deny any interest in training and directing foreign fighters to attack Europe and other places, claiming that their goals are to establish an al-Sham Caliphate and liberate Palestine. With respect to exactly how DAASH intends to liberate Palestine, the Iraqi’s and now the Obama administration is in possession of an encyclopedia of information about detailed DAASH plans, and tactics it will confront the Zionist occupiers with, according to a congressional staffer via email with this observer. Reportedly the employment of large numbers of militarily untrained foreign volunteers as suicide bombers, moving on foot wearing suicide vests, or driving vehicles packed with explosives is just the tip of a deep iceberg of what DAASH is planning. The trove from reportedly came from Iraqi intelligence sources that came upon it less than 48 hours before Mosul fell. Apparently a fellow known as “Abu Hajjar” a captured trusted DAASH messenger broke under Iraqi torture and turned over more than 160 computer flash sticks which contained the most detailed information to date about DAASH. The US intelligence community are still decrypting and analyzing the flash sticks.

Predictably, no sooner that this information reached the US Congress, than Congresswoman and Israeli agent, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and her partners at AIPAC went to work trying to get ahold copies of the flash sticks and share them with the Israeli Embassy and the Mossad. The current sense on Capitol Hill is reported to be that the Obama administration in not in the mood to share anything with Israel these days and certainly not with the Netanyahu regime which it loathes.

Time will reveal if DAASH achieves one or both of its objectives. Many believe if they eject the Zionist regime from Palestine, the expanding Islamist group will set in motion historic currents that in all likelihood will be rather different from the Ehud Omert-Condeleeza Rice fantasy of “a New Middle East.”

In any event, it is unlikely that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, among other countries in this region, are going to look much like what George Bush and Dick Cheney and their still active neocon advisers had in mind when they were beating the drums for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Libya, and now Syria and Iran.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (

Killing Us Softly:Hillary and Co.'s Climate Denialism

Killing Kyoto Softly: Hard Choices and Hillary Clinton's Climate Change Alternate Reality

by Peter Lee - China Matters

I suffered an attack of bulging eye/throbbing vein syndrome when reading presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s blithe account of a clever piece of business she pulled at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009.

Courtesy of India’s First Post, an excerpt from Hard Choices:

At the international conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December 2009, US President Barack Obama forced himself into a room where the then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao was holding a secret meeting with the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders. Giving a blow by blow account of the incident, of which she was part as the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in her memoirs 'Hard Choices' writes that the purpose of China was to isolate the United States by bringing together countries like India, Brazil and South Africa on its side. But Obama's determination and presence of mind thwarted such a move, she writes.

"President Obama and I were looking for Premier Wen Jiabao in the middle of a large international conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark," she recalls. "We knew that the only way to achieve a meaningful agreement on climate change was for leaders of the nations emitting the most greenhouse gases to sit down together and hammer out a compromise, especially the US and China," she said.

"But the Chinese were avoiding us." "Worse, we learned that Wen had called a 'secret' meeting with the Indians, Brazilians, and South Africans to stop, or at least dilute, the kind of agreement the United States was seeking. When we couldn't find any of the leaders of those countries, we knew something was amiss and sent out members of our team to canvass the conference center," she writes. "Eventually they discovered the meeting's location. After exchanging looks of 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' the President and I set off through the long hallways of the sprawling Nordic convention center, with a train of experts and advisors scrambling to keep up," she writes in her book. "Later we'd joke about this impromptu 'footcade', a motorcade without the motors, but at the time I was focused on the diplomatic challenge waiting at the end of our march.

So off we went, charging up a flight of stairs and encountering surprised Chinese officials, who tried to divert us by sending us in the opposite direction. We were undeterred," she says. When they arrived outside the meeting room, there was a jumble of arguing aides and nervous security agents, she says. Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, got tangled up with a Chinese guard, she adds. In the commotion the President slipped through the door and yelled, 'Mr. Premier!' really loudly, which got everyone's attention. "The Chinese guards put their arms up against the door again, but I ducked under and made it through," Clinton writes recounting the incident. "In a makeshift conference room whose glass walls had been covered by drapes for privacy against prying eyes, we found Wen wedged around a long table with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and South African President Jacob Zuma. Jaws dropped when they saw us. 'Are you ready?' said President Obama, flashing a big grin," Clinton claims.

"Now the real negotiations could begin. It was a moment that was at least a year in the making," she adds.

Horsepucky as far as the “we broke up China’s cabal and got the real negotiations going” thing.

I wrote a detailed backgrounder on Copenhagen soon after the debacle. Here are some choice excerpts concerning the United States’ failure to “thwart”, indeed its inadvertent success in creating, the “BASIC” bloc (Brazil, South Africa with initials inverted for maximum acronym effect, India, and China) of affronted developing regional powers:

[T]he United States assiduously ignored the embarrassing fact of ostensible ally India’s move into the BASIC camp—and skated over the issue of how Washington’s conference planning found it lined up against both New Delhi and Beijing instead of playing one off against the other.

When one considers that the essence of U.S. diplomacy in Asia involves pushing China and India into opposition, forcing these two rivals into an alliance is a remarkable if dubious achievement.

India, for its part, was frank about its identity of interests with China, at least on the issue of climate change India has come out quite well in Copenhagen: Ramesh (Lead):

[Environment Minister] Ramesh said: “A notable feature of this conference is the manner in which the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) coordinated their position.

“BASIC ministers met virtually on an hourly basis right through the conference; India and China worked very very closely together.”

… “India, South Africa, Brazil, China and other developing countries were entirely successful in ensuring there was no violation of the BAP [Bali Action Plan] (of 2007),” Ramesh said.

“Despite relentless attempts made by developed countries, the conference succeeded in continuing negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol for the post-2012 period”, when the current period of the protocol runs out.


The original piece, long and filled with circumstantial detail, is still up at Japan Focus.

In Hard Choices, Clinton also misrepresents the key US gambit at Copenhagen: the $100 billion per year mitigation initiative:

The United States was prepared to lead a collective effort by developed countries to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 from a combination of public and private sources to help the poorest and most vulnerable nations mitigate the damage from climate change if we could also reach broad agreement on limiting emissions.

Actually, the quid pro quo was not “broad agreement on limiting emissions”; the promise of aid was linked to the PRC’s acceptance of emission caps and “transparency”. It was, as Admiral Akbar would say, “A trap!” As John Lee approvingly put it in Foreign Policy at the time, it was “a clever trap”.

Having just announced that the United States would establish and contribute to a $100 billion international fund by 2020 to help poor countries cope with the challenge of climate change, Clinton added a nonnegotiable proviso: All other major nations would first be required to commit their emissions reduction to a binding agreement and submit these reductions to "transparent verification." … The onus was now on Beijing to agree to standards of "transparent verification." If it did not, poorer countries standing to benefit from the fund would blame China for breaking the deal. Clinton's proposal had cunningly undermined Beijing's leadership over the developing bloc of countries.

It was a trap that worked—for a while. The solidarity of the G-77+China bloc--which had historically maintained a united front insisting that the developed nations shoulder most of the greenhouse gas burden in the spirit of the Kyoto Treaty--was shattered.

Actually, it had been shattered pre-Copenhagen as the United States had cultivated the emergence of a pro-Western faction within the G77, led by Tuvalu, to confront the PRC at the conference on the issue of obstructing US-sponsored mitigation aid. But the benefits were short-lived as the big powers alienated the G77 in toto by excluding it from the closed door negotiations over the final accord, it became obvious that the US lacked the political will to commit to binding agreement on emissions despite the desperate efforts and importunities of the at-risk nations, and that a “collective effort by developed countries to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 from a combination of public and private sources” i.e. after President Obama had left office, looked like a piece of public relations vaporware.

Another piece of dubious reportage from Hard Choices is Clinton’s rather counterintuitive explanation that outrage within the Chinese delegation was triggered by fear of the mad US negotiation skillz, rather than anger that the US team had forced its way into a private meeting between Wen and three other world leaders as if it was schooling misbehaving adolescents at a sleepover:

In one surprising display, one of the other members of the Chinese delegation …started loudly scolding the far more senior Premier. He was quite agitated by the prospect that a deal might be at hand.

WaPo provided the context at the time:

China’s top climate change negotiator exploded in rage at U.S. pressure after Obama walked in on the Chinese while they were holding talks with the Indians, South Africans and Brazilians. After Obama asked whether the Chinese could commit to listing their climate targets in an international registry, Xie Zhenhua launched into a tirade, pointing his finger at the U.S. president… Wen instructed his Chinese interpreter not to translate Xie's fiery remarks. When Xie erupted again, Wen, who was chairing the meeting, ignored him. After Wen handed Obama a draft text of an agreement that included verification language Obama couldn't abide by, the two men led a lengthy debate that ended in a working compromise, sources said.

The “working compromise” was an agreement text that kicked the transparency can down the road to a future “conference of the parties”. I imagine Xie was continuing to vent his spleen at the US delegation for its disrespect for the PRC, and felt little need to disrupt a “deal” that was little more than face-saving nonsense.

Apparently the fact that the US stunt—which, I note, Clinton is careful not to take responsibility for--caused Xie Zhenhua to berate President Obama, not Wen Jiabao, is one of those awkward items of narrative that demanded some creative bending and stretching.

Beyond placing the lumpy gristle of Copenhagen failure into the political memoir Cuisinart in order to output creamy Clintonian achievement, the book says very little about the objective that has been driving international climate change policy under President Obama: the desire to “kill Kyoto” i.e. collapse the current treaty and its messy framework of unbalanced obligations, big-and-small consensus, and rhetoric of moral claims on the developed world, with something more U.S.-friendly.

What really happened at Copenhagen was that President Obama had been unable to get national cap-and-trade legislation passed in the US. Having never ratified Kyoto (with its binding emissions caps) and with no meaningful prospect of national legislation, the United States was unable to put any pressure on the People’s Republic of China to implement national caps and assist the world in moving beyond the Kyoto Protocol (which bound only the Annex 1 “advanced economies”) to a new regime in which all of the largest emitters (including China, India, Brazil, & South Africa) accepted binding caps.

In 2010, Al Gore told a conference in Montreal that the PRC passed a message to President Obama before Copenhagen that it was ready to work with the United States to come up with a binding successor to Kyoto… if the US Congress could pass similar legislation.

Not to be.

Instead, President Obama and Secretary Clinton apparently came to Copenhagen with the idea that, absent meaningful US advances either on ratifying Kyoto or creating a new regime, the US would settle for half a loaf: incrementally weakening the Kyoto Protocol at Copenhagen so that it could be allowed to expire and the new regime, nonbinding and with the US and other major powers calling the shots (embodied in the “Denmark draft”) would emerge from its ashes.

In tactical terms, this meant attacking the PRC instead of working with it, by dangling the promise of mitigation money linked to transparency concessions to break the united front of China and the G-77 bloc of small countries.

The PRC—apparently because this would make tapping the international carbon offset market subject to the adversarial attention of the United States and its allies, thereby putting at risk a major economic prop for greenhouse gas reduction—declined to yield to the public US demands for "transparency". (I might add that the PRC is a clever and not entirely scrupulous player in the offset game; however, its resistance to US demands seemed to have more to do with the apparent inability of the US to deliver a binding emissions commitment in return for transparency concessions.)

In PR terms it meant that the virtually foreordained failure of the conference would be laid at China’s feet, something that the PRC was not quite prepared for, and which probably accounted for Xie’s furious but untranslated set-to with President Obama.

Unfortunately for the United States, the $100 billion gambit and shouldering its way into the PRC/Brazil/India/South Africa confab did not isolate China; instead, the BASIC alliance stepped forward to share the political heat and finesse the creation of a pro forma accord that put the West and Japan on the hook for the $30 billion in immediate aid but accomplished nothing else on the key issues of binding emissions targets or transparency.

India’s Jairam Ramesh described the fallout from the U.S. tactics as follows:

"During the last day of the summit (18 December) when the talks had reached an impasse, it was the intention of European Nations and the US to announce the breakdown and hold the four Basic nations (India, China, Brazil and South Africa) accountable for its failure," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said addressing the Aspen Institute of India recently.

Speaking about the talks on the concluding day of the Summit, he said the US President (Barack Obama) kept on saying to the head of state of Bangladesh and Maldives that "you are not going to get money (for climate steps) unless these four guys (BASIC nations) sign the Accord."

He (Obama) made it categorically clear that any money flow to the developing countries will be linked to the Accord provided the four countries of BASIC group come on board, Ramesh said.
"Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did ask me whether India will deny her country this money. This was the line taken by UK and Australia as well.

"Against this background, none of the heads of the four states wanted to be responsible for the breakdown of the talks. China was particularly wary being world's largest green house gas emitter," Ramesh recalled.

This "was the moral line taken at the summit and against this background the Accord was noted," he added.

The Accord that resulted from Secretary Clinton’s fancy footwork and “clevertrapping” was, by design, a nonbinding collection of loopholes negotiated behind closed doors by the big developed and developing powers in order to save their face as climate change heroes.

The BASIC countries insisted that it be stripped of anything that would allow it to be construed as a (nonbinding) successor to the (binding) Kyoto Protocol. The Accord was not adopted by the conference attendees, who in general detested it; and it was only “noted” by means of some procedural legerdemain as it was jammed through the general session of the Conference, to the intense resentment of the G77. By the end, even Tuvalu, the leader of the pro-West bloc, had turned on the United States and condemned the Accord and the $30 billion in promised “Fast Start” mitigation aid as “thirty pieces of silver” that betrayed the interests of the small developing nations.

The lack of any real achievement at Copenhagen was the signal for a general pile-on intended to put the onus on the PRC and not the US for the failure at Copenhagen, led by the Anglo-American bloc abetted by prestige media, especially in Great Britain. Kevin Rudd memorably accused the PRC of administering a “ratf*cking” at Copenhagen.

Nevertheless, the BASIC countries, led by the PRC and India, have maintained a united front on climate change—and the preservation of Kyoto—to this day.

Subsequent to Copenhagen, in its campaign to supersede the Kyoto treaty with the “Copenhagen Accord”, the Obama administration appeared to be channeling the unsavory spirit of the Bush neo-cons. For the United States, negotiator Todd Stern (apparently a favorite of Clinton’s; in Hard Choices she singles him out as a “passionate and dogged diplomat” whom she put in charge of climate diplomacy) assumed the role of climate-change goon-in-chief, charged with the task of killing Kyoto—and belittling both the Kyoto Treaty and the smaller at-risk nations that presumed to invoke the treaty to assert moral and financial claims on the developed world.

Post-Copenhagen the U.S. engaged in an intensive global armtwisting campaign to compel smaller at-risk nations to endorse the Copenhagen process as a successor to Kyoto (in 2010, as a part of the kill-Kyoto PR campaign, Todd Stern displayed a “little chart” that pointed out surviving Kyoto binding signatories only accounted for 28% of global emissions, as opposed to the more inclusive [but unbinding] Copenhagen Accord’s 80%)—and keep the pressure on China for “transparency”, instead of hassling the United States to commit to an emissions cap.

Wikileaks also revealed a sleazy campaign to browbeat dozens of smaller at-risk countries into “signing on” to the Copenhagen accord and and discuss tangible financial inducements, in return for their support.

Todd Stern went distinctly undiplomatic in his effort to neutralize the unfavorable effect of the Wikileak.

In an article entitled US envoy rejects suggestion that America bribed countries to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord, the Guardian reported:

 Stern added: "We can eliminate any cause or accusation of bribery by eliminating any money."

This case of affairs is bitterly ironic, since the “Copenhagen” model would require the at-risk developing countries to sacrifice their independent voices (through abandonment of the unanimous consensus system) and the moral and legal claims on developed countries that they enjoyed under Kyoto. The concrete business of climate change policy would shift to the “Major Economies Forum” and climate change financial assistance would be doled out by the donor countries according to their own priorities instead of collected and distributed by the UN in a spirit of equity.

As the Kyoto regime hollowed out, the United States also gave every appearance of slow-walking the negotiations with the PRC on “transparency”, the issue that the U.S. claimed was the vital precondition to the successful reform of the Kyoto regime—and the release of billions of aid.

Post-Copenhagen, the US and China have held continual meetings on MRV and it appears that there isn't too much practical difference between the two sides.

The Guardian reported a WikiLeaks cable with this exchange between the EU's top climate change official and the lead US negotiator:

[Connie] Hedegaard asks why the US did not agree with China and India on what she saw as acceptable measures to police future emissions cuts. "The question is whether they will honour that language," the cable quotes [Jonathan] Pershing as saying.

Given the lack of US domestic progress on climate change legislation, at the 2010 Cancun conference the “blame China” dog showed signs of not hunting anymore, as the New York Times reported:

Yet while the United States is casting China as the linchpin of the negotiations, there is anger aplenty at America inside the Moon Palace resort where talks are being held. Many say the United States is demanding compromise from others while bringing nothing to the negotiating table itself.

"I'm actually more concerned about the US's transparency," said Jennifer Morgan, who heads the World Resources Institute's climate and energy program.

One leading US analyst said every time countries make progress on an issue, the United States reminds countries that it might all mean nothing unless China agrees to transparency rules.

"The US is the problem here," the analyst said. "Everybody is so pissed off. Here we are with nothing back home, and acting like bullies."

On December 8, 2012, at yet another conference in Doha, in another exercise in “kicking the can down the road as far as we can before the asphalt melts in the heat”, the Kyoto regime was extended to 2020 and everybody agreed to negotiate a replacement regime in 2015--at the cost of the withdrawal of staunch US allies Japan and Canada, and (because of its dislike of tougher offset standards) Russia.

Signatories still accepting binding targets are basically the EU plus Australia. Now advocates of the Copenhagen Accord can claim that Kyoto, governing only 15% of world greenhouse gases post-Doha, is not significantly better than Copenhagen (zero % binding). At the same time, the US and EU refused to make inconvenient commitments for climate change aid to at risk nations beyond the $30 billion in immediate aid they promised at Copenhagen.

And, in another indications of the problems inherent in the US strategy, America, not China, was putting in time in the climate change doghouse, at least with Friends of the Earth:
 “Doha was a disaster zone where poor developing countries were forced to capitulate to the interests of wealthy countries, effectively condemning their own citizens to the climate crisis. The blame for the disaster in Doha can be laid squarely at the foot of countries like the USA who have blocked and bullied those who are serious about tackling climate change. 
A few observations on Hard Choices:
Clinton’s strategy of advancing US policies (or obscuring their failures) by sticking it to the unpopular and autocratic Chinese regime—through a surprise attack with careful advance planning in an advantageous multilateral forum--was fully formed in December 2009 at Copenhagen, long before the “freedom of navigation” contretemps at ASEAN’s Hanoi meeting in mid-2010.  
By laying down her rather skewed version of what went down at Copenhagen, Clinton is signaling that she wants her readout of the Copenhagen outcome—Kyoto superseded, all caps to be renegotiated on a nonbinding basis with transparency on offsets a prerequisite-- to be regarded as the anchor for further negotiations.  As a practical matter, that means that major, costly joint global action on climate change looks pretty unlikely.
Message to Xie Zhenhua: Suck. On. This.
Deciding to treat China as an enemy is a clever tactic and good politics, but I think it’s a strategic blunder whose cost Americans will pay in matters great and small for decades.
And on the subject of climate change, going adversarial with China and Kyoto might turn out to be an existential blunder that will help decide the fate of the whole planet.
So that’s where we are, Ms. Clinton. 

Warm Globe, Wet World: Waters Predicted to Rise for US Northeast

Scientists Predict Increased Rain, Floods for Northeast

by Walter Brasch

Residents of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states will experience increased rainfall and floods if data analysis by a Penn State meteorologist and long-term projections by a fisheries biologist, with a specialty in surface water pollution, are accurate.

Paul Knight, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State, compiled rainfall data for Pennsylvania from 1895—when recordings were first made—to this year. He says there has been an increase of 10 percent of rainfall during the past century. Until the 1970s, the average rainfall throughout the state was about 42 inches. Beginning in the 1970s, the average began creeping up. “By the 1990s, the increase was noticeable,” he says. The three wettest years on record since 1895 were 2003, 2004, and 2011. The statewide average was 61.5 inches in 2011, the year of Tropical Storm Lee, which caused 18 deaths and about $1.6 billion in damage in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and devastating flooding in New York and Pennsylvania, especially along the Susquehanna River basin.

Dr. Harvey Katz, of Montoursville, Pa., extended Knight’s data analysis for five decades. Dr. Katz predicts an average annual rainfall of about 55 inches, about 13 inches more than the period of 1895 to 1975. The increased rainfall isn’t limited to Pennsylvania, but extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Both Knight and Dr. Katz say floods will be more frequent. The industrialization and urbanization of America has led to more trees being cut down; the consequences are greater erosion and more open areas to allow rainwater to flow into streams and rivers. Waterway hazards, because of flooding and increased river flow, will cause additional problems. Heavy rains will cause increased pollution, washing off fertilizer on farmlands into the surface water supply, extending into the Chesapeake Bay. Sprays on plants and agricultural crops to reduce attacks by numerous insects, which would normally stay localized, will now be washed into streams and rivers, says Knight.

Pollution will also disrupt the aquatic ecosystem, likely leading to a decrease in the fishing industry because of increased disease and death among fish and other marine mammals, says Dr. Katz.

Another consequence of increased rainfall is a wider spread of pollution from fracking operations, especially in the Marcellus Shale.

Most of the 1,000 chemicals that can be used in drilling operations, in the concentrations used, are toxic carcinogens; because of various geological factors, each company using horizontal fracturing can use a mixture of dozens of those chemicals at any one well site to drill as much as two miles deep into the earth.

Last year, drilling companies created more than 300 billion gallons of flowback from fracking operations in the United States. (Each well requires an average of 3–5 million gallons of water, up to 100,000 gallons of chemicals, and as much as 10 tons of silica sand. Flowback is what is brought up after the initial destruction of the shale.) Most of that flowback, which once was placed in open air pits lined with plastic that can tear and leak, are now primarily placed into 22,000 gallon steel trailers, which can leak. In Pennsylvania, drillers are still allowed to mix up to 10 percent of the volume of large freshwater pits with flowback water.

In March 2013, Carizo Oil and Gas was responsible for an accidental spill of 227,000 gallons of wastewater, leading to the evacuation of four homes in Wyoming County, Pa. Two months later, a malfunction at a well, also in Wyoming County, sent 9,000 gallons of flowback onto the farm and into the basement of a nearby resident.

Rain, snow, and wind in the case of a spill can move that toxic soup into groundwater, streams, and rivers. In addition to any of dozens of toxic salts, metals, and dissolvable organic chemicals, flowback contains radioactive elements brought up from deep in the earth; among them are Uranium-238, Thorium-232, and radium, which decays into radon, one of the most radioactive and toxic gases. Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer, after cigarettes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of well samples collected in Pennsylvania and New York between 2009 and 2011 revealed that 37 of the 52 samples had Radium-226 and Radium-228 levels that were 242 times higher than the standard for drinking water. One sample, from Tioga County, Pa., was 3,609 times the federal standard for safe drinking water, and 300 times the federal industrial standard.

Radium-226, 200 times higher than acceptable background levels, was detected in Blacklick Creek, a 30-mile long tributary of the Conemaugh River near Johnstown, Pa. The radium, which had been embedded deep in the earth but was brought up in flowback waters, was part of a discharge from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, according to research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Increased rainfall also increases the probability of pollution from spills from the nation’s decaying pipeline systems. About half of all oil and gas pipelines are at least a half-century old. There were more than 6,000 spills from pipelines last year. Among those spills were almost 300,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil from a pipe in Arkansas, and 100,000 gallons of oil and other chemicals in Colorado.

Increased truck and train traffic to move oil and gas from the drilling fields to refineries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has led to increased accidents. Railroad accidents in the United States last year accounted for about 1.15 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than all spills in the 40 years since the federal government began collecting data, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of the spills were in wetlands or into groundwater and streams.

A primary reason for increased rainfall (as well as increases in hurricanes, tornadoes, ocean water rises, and other long-term weather phenomenon) is because of man-made climate change, the result of increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel extraction and burning. It’s not a myth. It’s not a far-fetched liberal hoax invented by Al Gore. About 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree we are experiencing climate change, and that the world is at a critical change; if the steady and predictable increase in climate change, which affects the protection of the ozone layer, is not reduced within two decades, it will not be reversible. Increased rainfall and pollution will be only a part of the global meltdown.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and emeritus professor. He is a syndicated columnist, radio commentator, and the author of 20 books, the latest of which is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the effects of horizontal fracturing. He is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and multimedia writer-producer.]

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.
Latest Books: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution
Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster

Thursday, June 19, 2014

China Winning the Solar Race?

China Might Be Winning The Race To Reduce Solar Costs

by Martin Tillier -

Many people, even fanatical advocates of solar power, are unaware quite how close we are to reaching a critical milestone in the industry. Within a fairly short space of time, solar generated electricity will be fully cost competitive with coal-powered electricity -- at least if the governments of the world's two largest energy consuming nations have their way.

Both the U.S. and China have a stated goal of reducing the cost of solar generated electricity to that level, and quickly. How they are going about it says a lot about how each economic system works.

In the U.S., despite the complaints of some that a drift toward government control is taking place, private initiative and free markets still rule. The Department of Energy launched the SunShot initiative in 2011, with a stated goal of reducing the cost of solar power to be fully competitive with conventional energy sources by the end of this decade. The program funds grants, incentives and competitions to encourage private sector research that will improve the efficiency and lower the cost of solar energy.

The Chinese, faced with what is in many ways a more urgent need to achieve the same thing, have taken a different approach. In a manner more in keeping with their history and current economic system, they are beating the problem over the head with piles of cash until the desired outcome is achieved. It looks, if this excellent Michael Sankowski piece at Monetary Realism is to be believed, as if they are getting mighty close.

Sankowski maintains that, driven by high levels of pollution and national security concerns, the Chinese government asked a question back in the early 2000s: "How Much Will It Cost To Make Solar Cheaper Than Coal?" The answer was based on Swanson's Law that states that every doubling of photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity results in a 20 percent reduction in unit cost. Testing that theory, because of low levels of production at that time, would only have cost around $10 billion -- a small price to pay for the chance of cheap, clean energy that didn't rely on importing coal from Australia.

When Swanson's Law still worked after a couple of doublings of capacity the Chinese government stepped up their efforts. As a result, Suntech now expects the goal to be achieved by 2016, or 2017 at the latest. That's right: 2016. A couple of years. Of course, Suntech has an interest in exaggerating somewhat, but even so, that is stunningly close.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal accounted for 69 percent of China's energy production as recently as 2011. Cost comparative solar power and a centralized government committed to change will make that number laughable in a few years.

It should be borne in mind that reducing the cost of solar electricity to parity with coal in China is not the same as it is in America, if for no other reason than that electricity in general, and coal-powered electricity in particular, is more expensive in China than in the US.

SunShot, however, has also been successful, and claims a 60 percent reduction in cost since its inception three years ago. Many believe that their stated goal of solar power at $0.06 per kilowatt hour (kWH) is achievable by 2018. Some of that cost reduction is no doubt down to China ramping up capacity at such a rate and flooding the market, but there have been technological advances over that time, as well.

You can argue all day about which approach is correct. History shows us that innovation from the private sector is the most effective, long lasting change agent there is, but the Chinese approach of heavily subsidizing a massive increase in PV production capacity has been effective. Unfair, short sighted and disruptive, maybe, but effective nonetheless.

Command economies may be terrible at some things but when the rapid marshalling of resources is needed to solve a problem they can be very good at doing whatever it takes.

The simple fact is that with both innovation and increased capacity, the cost of solar energy has fallen considerably over the last few years and continues to do so. If, as looks likely, it does become truly cost comparative with coal in the next few years, then the days of cheap, clean, renewable energy dominating the world's two biggest energy markets may be closer than you think.

Getting What They Wished For: Finding the Arc of Instability

Who Won Iraq? Lost Dreams, Lost Armies, Jihadi States, and the Arc of Instability

by Tom Engelhardt  - TomDispatch

As Iraq was unraveling last week and the possible outlines of the first jihadist state in modern history were coming into view, I remembered this nugget from the summer of 2002. At the time, journalist Ron Suskind had a meeting with “a senior advisor” to President George W. Bush (later identified as Karl Rove). Here’s how he described part of their conversation:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That's not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”

As events unfold increasingly chaotically across the region that officials of the Bush years liked to call the Greater Middle East, consider the eerie accuracy of that statement. The president, his vice president Dick Cheney, his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, among others, were indeed “history’s actors.” They did create “new realities” and, just as Rove suggested, the rest of us are now left to “study” what they did.

And oh, what they did! Their geopolitical dreams couldn’t have been grander or more global. (Let’s avoid the word "megalomaniacal.") They expected to pacify the Greater Middle East, garrison Iraq for generations, make Syria and Iran bow down before American power, "drain" the global "swamp" of terrorists, and create a global Pax Americana based on a military so dominant that no other country or bloc of countries would ever challenge it.
Tomgram: Engelhardt, The Guns of Folly

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As you know, our third Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, has been an instant hit for us. Three weeks after publication, it’s already going into its second printing! The reviews have been raves, the chatter about it on social media heavy indeed, and it’s even hit some local indie bestseller lists! We’ve been offering a special deal to TomDispatch readers. If you contribute $100 to the site, Rebecca will send you a signed book. Many thanks to those of you who have already so generously taken us up on our offer. You really are helping us stay afloat in a tough world. For any of you who meant to contribute but haven't yet, the offer will remain open only through this Sunday night, so check out our donation page! Tom]

Who Won Iraq? Lost Dreams, Lost Armies, Jihadi States, 

and the Arc of Instability

by Tom Engelhardt

It was quite a dream and none of it, not one smidgen, came true. Just as Rove suggested they would -- just as in the summer of 2002, he already knew they would -- they acted to create a world in their image, a world they imagined controlling like no imperial power in history. Using that unchallengeable military, they launched an invasion that blew a hole through the oil heartlands of the Middle East. They took a major capital, Baghdad, while “decapitating” (as the phrase then went) the regime that was running Iraq and had, in a particularly brutal fashion, kept the lid on internecine tensions.

They lacked nothing when it came to confidence. Among the first moves of L. Paul Bremer III, the proconsul they appointed to run their occupation, was an order demobilizing Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s 350,000-man army and the rest of his military as well. Their plan: to replace it with a lightly armed border protection force -- initially of 12,000 troops and in the end perhaps 40,000 -- armed and trained by Washington. Given their vision of the world, it made total sense. Why would Iraq need more than that with the U.S. military hanging around for, well, ever, on a series of permanent bases the Pentagon's contractors were building? What dangers could there be in the neighborhood with that kind of force on hand? Soon enough, it became clear that what they had really done was turn the Iraqi officer corps and most of the country’s troops out onto unemployment lines, creating the basis for a militarily skilled Sunni insurgency. A brilliant start!

Note that these days the news is filled with commentary on the lack of a functional Iraqi air force. That’s why, in recent months, Prime Minister Maliki has been calling on the Obama administration to send American air power back into the breach. Saddam Hussein did have an air force. Once it had been one of the biggest in the Middle East. The Bush administration, however, came to the conclusion that the new Iraqi military would have no need for fighter planes, helicopters, or much of anything else, not when the U.S. Air Force would be in the neighborhood on bases like Balad in Central Iraq. Who needed two air forces?

Be Careful What You Wish For

It was all to be a kind of war-fighting miracle. The American invaders would be greeted as liberators, the mission quickly accomplished, and “major combat operations” ended in a flash -- as George Bush so infamously announced on May 1, 2003, after his Top Gun landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. No less miraculous was the fact that it would essentially be a freebie. After all, as undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed out at the time, Iraq “floats on a sea of oil,” which meant that a “liberated” country could cover all “reconstruction” costs without blinking.

The Busheviks entered Iraq with a powerful sense that they were building an American protectorate. So why wouldn't it be a snap to carry out their ambitious plans to privatize the Iraqi economy, dismantle the country’s vast public sector (throwing another army of employees out of work), and bring in crony corporations to help run the country and giant oil companies to rev up the energy economy, lagging from years of sanctions and ill-repair? In the end, Washington’s Iraq would -- so they believed -- pump enough crude out of one of the greatest fossil fuel reserves on the planet to sink OPEC, leaving American power free to float to ever greater heights on that sea of oil. As the occupying authority, with a hubris stunning to behold, they issued “orders” that read as if they had been written by officials from some nineteenth-century imperial power.

In short, this was one for the history books. And not a thing -- nothing -- worked out as planned. You could almost say that whatever it was they dreamed, the opposite invariably occurred. For those of us in the reality-based community, for instance, it’s long been apparent that their war and occupation would cost the U.S., literally and figuratively, an arm and a leg (and that the costs to Iraqis would prove beyond calculating). More than two trillion dollars later -- without figuring in astronomical post-war costs still to come -- Iraq is a catastrophe.

And $25 billion later, the last vestige of American Iraq, the security forces that, in the end, Washington built up to massive proportions, seem to be in a state of dissolution. Just over a week ago, faced with the advance of a reported 800-1,300 militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the opposition of tribal militias and local populations, close to 50,000 army officers and troops abandoned their American weaponry to Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadis, shed their uniforms by various roadsides, and fled. As a result, significant parts of Iraq, including Mosul, its second largest city, fell into the hands of Sunni insurgents, some of a Saddamist coloration, and a small army of jihadis evidently funded by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both U.S. allies.

The arrogance of those occupation years should still take anyone’s breath away. Bush and his top officials remade reality on an almost unimaginable scale and, as we study the region today, the results bear no relation to the world they imagined creating. None whatsoever. On the other hand, there were two dreams they had that, after a fashion, did come into existence.

Many Americans still remember the Bush administration’s bogus pre-invasion claims -- complete with visions of mushroom clouds rising over American cities -- that Saddam Hussein had a thriving nuclear program in Iraq. But who remembers that, as part of the justification for the invasion it had decided would be its destiny, the administration also claimed a “mature and symbiotic” relationship between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda? In other words, the invasion was to be justified in some fashion as a response to the attacks of 9/11 (which Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with). Who remembers that, the year after American troops took Baghdad, evidence of the nuclear program having gone down the toilet, Vice President Dick Cheney, backed by George W. Bush, doubled down on the al-Qaeda claim?

"There clearly was a relationship. It's been testified to," said the vice president on CNBC in June 2004. "The evidence is overwhelming. It goes back to the early '90s. It involves a whole series of contacts, high-level contacts with Osama bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials." Based on cherry-picked intelligence, such claims proved fraudulent, too, or as David Kay, the man assigned by the administration to hunt down that missing weaponry of mass destruction and those al-Qaeda links, put it politely, "evidence free." By then, however, 57% of Americans had been convinced that there was indeed some significant relationship between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaeda, and 20% believed that Saddam was linked directly to the 9/11 attacks.

Be careful, as they say, what you wish for. More than a decade after its invasion and occupation, after Cheney made those fervent claims, no administration would have the slightest problem linking al-Qaeda to Iraq (or Syria, Yemen, or a number of other countries). A decade later, the evidence is in. Sunni Iraq, along with areas of neighboring Syria, one of the countries that was supposed to bow down before American might, now houses a rudimentary jihadist state, a creature birthed into the world in significant part thanks to the dreams and fantasies of the visionaries of the Bush administration. Across the Greater Middle East, jihadism and al-Qaeda wannabes of every sort are on the rise, while terror groups are destabilizing regions from Pakistan to northern Africa.

Creating an Arc of Instability

In the period before and after the invasion of Iraq, top Bush officials and their neocon supporters spoke with relish about taming an area stretching from northern Africa through the Middle East and deep into Central Asia that they termed an “arc of instability.” In a February 2006 address to the American Legion focused on his Global War on Terror, for instance, President Bush typically said, “Slowly but surely, we're helping to transform the broader Middle East from an arc of instability into an arc of freedom. And as freedom reaches more people in this vital region, we'll have new allies in the war on terror, and new partners in the cause of moderation in the Muslim world and in the cause of peace.”

By then that “arc,” which in the period before 9/11 had been reasonably stable, was already aflame. Today, it is ablaze. Almost 13 years after the launching of the Global War on Terror and the first bombing runs in Afghanistan, 11 years after a global antiwar protest went unheard and the invasion of Iraq was launched, and three years after Americans gathered in front of the White House to cheer the death of Osama bin Laden, that arc has been destabilized in a stunning way.

As things recently went from bad to worse in Iraq, jihadist militants in Pakistan attacked Karachi International Airport, an assault that stunned the country and suggested that the reach of the Pakistani Taliban was growing. At the same time, after a six-month pause, the Obama administration resumed its CIA drone assassination campaign in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, a deeply unpopular program that has been a significant destabilizing factor in its own right. Meanwhile, in Yemen, where the U.S. has for years been conducting a special operations and drone war against a growing al-Qaeda wannabe outfit, unknown militants knocked out the electricity in Sanaa, the capital, for days. The Syrian bloodbath, of course, continues with estimates of 160,000 or more deaths in that multi-sided conflict, while in Libya, now an essentially ungovernable and chaotic land of jihadist and other militias and ambitious generals, tensions and fighting increased.

Think of this as George W. Bush’s nightmare and Osama bin Laden’s wet dream. On September 11, 2001, a relatively small, modestly funded organization with a knack for planning terror surprises every couple of years had a remarkable stroke of televised luck. From those falling towers, everything followed, thanks in large part to the acts of the fundamentalists of the Bush administration, whose top officials thought they had spotted their main chance, geopolitically speaking, in the carnage of the moment.

Almost 13 years later, there is a jihadist proto-state, a fantasy caliphate, in the heart of the Middle East. Now a dime a dozen in the region, jihadists of an al-Qaedan bent are armed to the teeth with cast-off American weaponry. In northern Africa, other jihadists are using weaponry from the former arsenals of Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, looted in the aftermath of President Obama’s can’t-miss 2011 intervention in that country. The jihadists of ISIS now have hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the Mosul branch of the Iraqi central bank for funding and have advanced toward Baghdad. Even Osama bin Laden might not have assumed things would go quite so swimmingly.

The Guns of Folly

In the wake of Mosul's fall, ISIS advanced even more rapidly than the American army heading for Baghdad in the spring of 2003. In some Sunni-dominated cities and towns, the takeovers were remarkably bloodless. In Baiji, with a power plant that supplies electricity to Baghdad and Iraq’s largest oil refinery (now under attack), the insurgents reportedly called the police and asked them to leave town -- and they complied. In Kirkuk, a city in northern Iraq that the Kurds have long claimed as the natural capital for an independent Kurdistan, Iraqi troops quietly abandoned their weaponry and uniforms and left town, while armed Kurdish forces moved in, undoubtedly permanently.

All in all, it’s been a debacle the likes of which we’ve seen only twice in our history. In China, when in 1949 Chiang Kai-shek’s largely American armed and trained military disintegrated before the insurgent forces of Communist leader Mao Zedong and a quarter-century later, when a purely American military creation, the South Vietnamese army, collapsed in the face of an offensive by North Vietnamese troops and local rebel forces. In each case, the resulting defeat was psychologically unnerving in the United States and led to bitter, exceedingly strange, and long-lasting debates about who “lost” China and who “lost” Vietnam.

Early signs of an equally bizarre debate over the “loss” of Iraq are already appearing here. This should surprise no one, as the only thing left to pass around is blame. Senator John McCain, a fervent supporter of the 2003 invasion and occupation, launched the most recent round of the blame game. He pinned fault for the onrushing events on the Obama administration’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq in 2011 (thanks to an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration) without leaving a significant presence behind. Citing himself as if he were someone else, he said, “Lindsey Graham and John McCain were right. Our failure to leave forces in Iraq is why Senator Graham and I predicted this would happen.”

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri was typical of the Republican politicians who began promoting this line. “It’s a desperate situation,” he said. “It’s moving quickly. It appears to me that the chickens are coming home to roost for our policy of not leaving anybody there to be a stabilizing force.” In a similar blast, the Wall Street Journal editorial page wrote, “In withdrawing from Iraq in toto, Mr. Obama put his desire to have a talking point for his re-election campaign above America's strategic interests. Now we and the world are facing this reality: A civil war in Iraq and the birth of a terrorist haven that has the confidence, and is fast acquiring the means, to raise a banner for a new generation of jihadists, both in Iraq and beyond.”

And so it goes. In this case, however, none of it may matter much. In a country visibly sick of our wars of this century in which even many elite figures find further intervention in Iraq distasteful, “Who lost Iraq?” may never gain the sort of traction the other two “lost” debates did.

In the meantime, however, the world of the Middle East is being turned upside down. Take the example of Iran. Once upon a time, Iraq was thought to be just a way station. As neocons of that moment liked to quip, “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” As it happened, the neighborhood around Baghdad quickly grew so ugly and the Bush administration soon found itself so bogged down in unwinnable minority insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan that it never put the U.S. military on that road to Tehran.

Today, the Iranians, it seems, are riding to Washington’s rescue in Iraq. It's already rumored that they may be sending, or considering sending, elements of the Republican Guard in to protect Baghdad. As a result, the U.S. finds itself in a tacit alliance with Iran in Iraq, while still in opposition to it in Syria. At the same time, it's still allied with Saudi Arabia in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while facing the disastrous fruits of Saudi funding of the brutal newborn jihadi state at least temporarily coming into existence in the Sunni borderlands of Iraq and Syria.

The Middle Eastern system as once known has, with the singular exception of Israel, largely evaporated and where it was, there is now increasingly chaos. In all likelihood, it will only get worse. “We” may not have “lost” Iraq, but can there be any question that Washington lost in Iraq? American goals in the region went down in flames in a fashion so spectacular, so ignominious, that today nothing is left of them. To the question, “Who won Iraq?” there may be no answer at all, or perhaps just the grim response: no one. In the end, Iraqis will surely be the losers, big time, as Syrians are just across the now nonexistent border between what until recently were two countries.

As for the future Washington has on offer, the Obama administration is, it seems, considering responding to the crisis in Iraq in the only way it knows how: with bombs, cruise missiles, and drones. The geopolitical dreams of the Bush era are buried somewhere deep in the rubble of Iraq, while the present White House has neither visionaries nor global dreams, grandiose or otherwise. There are only managers and bureaucrats desperately trying to handle an uncooperative planet. The question that remains is: Will they or won’t they send American air power back into Iraq? Will they or won’t they, that is, loose the guns of folly and so quite predictably destabilize a terrible situation further?

In the meantime, a small footnote to future history: given what we’ve just seen, it might be worth taking with a grain of salt the news out of Afghanistan about the increasingly impressive abilities of the Afghan security forces, another gigantic crew set up, funded, trained, and armed by the U.S. military (and associated private contractors). After all, haven’t we heard that somewhere before?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt