February 29, 2012

You Are Not Not Mistaken

In one of the Stratfor emails released by Wikileaks, George Friedman, the head of Stratfor, writes this after someone has mentioned Pearl Harbor:

...while we are at it a moment to remember those that fell at pearl 69 years ago today wouldn't be out of place.

If I'm not mistaken more americans died at pearl than died in iraq. Not trivializing the latter. Simply highlighting the former.

That was December 7, 2010. I can't claim that I keep a 100% accurate running total in my head of the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, but reading that I realized there's no way it could be correct. And it's not.

4,430 U.S. soliders had died in Iraq when Friedman wrote his email. If you add the 256 U.S. contractors, it's 4,686. 2,388 Americans (including civilians) were killed at Pearl Harbor. So about half as many.

This isn't the biggest thing in the world. But given the embarrassing right-wing gobbledygook that fills most of the other leaked Stratfor emails, it certainly suggests that these bozos tailor reality to their preferred worldview before it even gets out of their brains. (Also note that none of Friedman's employees realized he was wrong—or if they did, they didn't bring it up. Neither of these is something you'd want from "intelligence analysts.")

In other words, they really ARE like the CIA.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:26 PM | Comments (4)

February 28, 2012

Lying the World Into War Is Always an Option

This is from p. 84-5 in Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran, a June, 2009 book edited and co-authored by Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution:

...absent a clear Iranian act of aggression, American airstrikes against Iran would be unpopular in the region and throughout the world...it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.) ... [T]he use of airstrikes could not be the primary U.S. policy toward Iran...until Iran provided the necessary pretext.

You may remember Pollack from The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, the 2002 book cited by all the nice liberals who sadly and reluctantly supported war. What you don't remember—because none of the nice liberals mentioned it—is that on p. 364-5 of The Threatening Storm Pollack presented exactly the same option regarding Iraq:

Assembling a [] coalition would be infinitely easier if the United States could point to a smoking gun with Iraqi fingerprints on it—some new Iraqi outrage that would serve to galvanize international opinion and create the pretext for an invasion...

There are probably [] courses the United States could take that might prompt Saddam to make a foolish, aggressive move, that would then become the "smoking gun" justifying an invasion. An aggressive U.S. covert action campaign might provoke Saddam to retaliate overtly, providing a casus belli...

What matters about this is that Pollack is right at the heart of the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment, and he's completely comfortable proposing that he and his friends lie the world into war after war in the mideast. (The other authors of Which Path to Persia? are Daniel L. Byman, Martin Indyk, Suzanne Maloney, Michael E. O’Hanlon and Bruce Riedel.) No one he hangs around with will find anything jarring about this. And he knows he can count on the media to never mention this option is being openly kicked around before the war starts. (Pollack is Ted Koppel's son-in-law.)

To understand how seriously the U.S. government takes this kind of thing, here's some of the relevant history involving Iraq and Iran:

1. In 1997, a Clinton cabinet member (probably Madeleine Albright) suggested that the Air Force fly a U-2 so slowly and low over Iraq that Iraq would be able to shoot it down. This would be a "precipitous event—something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world" and enable us to invade.

2. On February 16, 2002, George W. Bush authorized parts of "Anabasis", a CIA plan to fly Iraqi exiles into southern Iraq, where they would seize a military base in hopes Saddam would fly troops south to retake it. According to one of the CIA operatives involved, "The idea was to create an incident in which Saddam lashes out... you'd have a premise for war: we've been invited in."

3. In 2002, the U.S. and U.K. doubled their rate of bombing Iraq "in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war."

4. On January 31, 2003, in a White House meeting with Tony Blair, Bush proposed painting a U.S. plane in the colors of the UN in hopes it would draw Iraqi fire, thus providing a pretext to invade.

5. In early 2008, Dick Cheney and friends discussed how to create a casus belli for attacking Iran. One of their bright ideas was to build some speed boats that looked like the ones belonging to the Iranian navy, put Navy SEALs on them, and then have the SEALs start shooting at American ships. (Note that with this concept we'd give up on secretly goading Iran into responding to our aggression, and just provide both sides of the war ourselves.)

Given that someone like Barry McCaffrey is privately telling NBC executives that Iran is going to "further escalate" hostilities in next few months, it's a good time to pay attention to all this.

P.S. If you're hungry for more of Kenneth Pollack's acute political insights, this is from Which Path to Persia?:

Iranian foreign policy is frequently driven by internal political considerations...More than once, Iran has followed a course that to outsiders appeared self-defeating but galvanized the Iranian people to make far-reaching sacrifices in the name of seemingly quixotic goals.

And this is from The Threatening Storm:

Saddam's foreign policy history is littered with bizarre decisions, poor judgement, and catastrophic miscalculations...Even when Saddam does consider a problem at length...his own determination to interpret geopolitical calculations to suit what he wants to believe anyway lead him to construct bizarre scenarios that he convinces himself are highly likely...

[100 pages later]

Imagine how different the Middle East and the world would be if a new Iraqi state were stable, prosperous, and a force for progress in the region...Imagine if we could rebuild Iraq as a model of what a modern Arab state could be...Invading Iraq might not just be our least bad alternative, it potentially could be our best course of action.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 09:14 PM | Comments (22)

February 19, 2012

Meet the Let's Shove Stuff Inside Other People Against Their Will Party

Politics has almost nothing to do with finely-crafted op-eds and reasoned discussion, and almost everything to do with the dark murk churning in our psyches. Everyone of every political persuasion has their own roiling murk to deal with, and a person's political viewpoint is generally determined by their personal blend of murk.

On the right, the murk often manifests itself as an obsession with shoving things inside other people's bodies against their will. That's the case now in Virginia, where the legislature just passed a bill to require that filthy slut who laughed when I asked her to homecoming in 9th grade women seeking abortions to be forced to first undergo a vaginal ultrasound.

Meanwhile, we recently learned we should "expect" that women in the military will be raped. Then there was the weirdly-threatening "parody" of Elizabeth Warren's popular video about successful businesses. And so on.

Really, you could spend the next 5,000 years listing examples of this regarding women. But in a pinch, men will do too. It really turns the CIA on to do this:

In October 2001, Habib was seized off a bus by Pakistani security forces. While detained in Pakistan, at the behest of America agents he was suspended from a hook and electrocuted repeatedly. He was then turned over to the CIA, and in the process of transporting him to Egypt he endured the usual treatment: his clothes were cut off, a suppository was stuffed in his anus, and he was diapered and “wrapped up like a spring roll.”

Then there's George W. Bush excitedly telling Ariel Sharon this about his plans for Osama bin Laden: "I will screw him in the ass!"

And then there are the Libyans who captured Gaddafi:

A frame by frame analysis of this exclusive GlobalPost video clearly shows the rebel trying to insert some kind of stick or knife into Gaddafi's rear end.

GlobalPost correspondent Tracey Shelton said there is some question as to whether the instrument was a knife from the end of a gun, which Libyans call a Bicketti, or a utilitiy tool known as a Becker Knife and Tool, which is popularly known as a BKT.

At the same time, those on the right tend to be obsessed with preventing their numberless enemies from breaching their own personal inner sanctum:

LIMBAUGH: We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president.

And here's a story of Dennis Perrin's:

I recall a relative of mine arguing in favor of extensive war in the Middle East, saying that if we didn't bomb the Arabs into submission, they would come over here and "fuck us in the ass." That's a direct quote, by the way. I remember that line well because I had no real come back to it. I mean, what do you say to that: "To the contrary, they won't fuck us in the ass"? ... 20 years ago I heard similar violent and gay-oriented rhetoric from the ex-Dartmouth Review editors and writers I had gotten to know. Back then, it was the Sandinistas who wanted to fuck us in the ass. You'd think that the U.S. has the most tantalizing rear the planet has ever seen, given how many countries desire cramming their dark, uncircumcised pricks deep inside our cheeks. This is why we must kill them before they drop their pants and pull out the bad news.

I'm not sure what can be done about this, if anything. Any suggestions are welcome. Maybe the best we can hope for is just to leave behind evidence that were we aware of this, and cross our fingers that when the Super-Intelligent Snails find it in 200 million years they'll be able to use it to deal with their own problems.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 06:46 PM | Comments (29)

February 15, 2012

Missing Hammer

By: John Caruso

Truer words were never spoken:

[T]he Obama administration ... has brought more prosecutions against current or former government officials for providing classified information to the media than every previous administration combined. [...] Mr. Corallo, who served under Mr. Bush’s attorney general John D. Ashcroft, said he was “sort of shocked” by the volume of leak prosecutions under President Obama. “We would have gotten hammered for it,” he said.

The lesson: if you're going to leak information, do it while a Republican is president.

CLARIFYING: Since 100% of the people I've asked have given this a reasonable interpretation that's not the one I intended: not because a Democrat is more likely to prosecute you, but because when you're prosecuted you'll have that many fewer people on your side.  As inspiring as the support for Bradley Manning has been, imagine what it would have looked like if he'd been thrown in prison and given the full torture-that-leaves-no-marks treatment by Bush instead of Obama.  The moral cretins who rationalize away their selective lionization by convincing themselves that Manning's no Daniel Ellsberg are right in one sense, anyway: Ellsberg had the good fortune to be persecuted by a Republican.

— John Caruso

Posted at 11:57 PM | Comments (60)

February 01, 2012

No More Poems

I'm sorry to see that the Giant Mouth That Eats Everything has gotten the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. She just died in Krakow at age 88.

Szymborska somehow won a Nobel Prize for writing poetry that non-professors can enjoy, such as "Reality Demands." I hope you will read it all, but here's the ending of it:

Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.

This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.

The grass is green
on Maciejowice's fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal with grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don't cower
under a bush but squat behind it.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only the blood flows, drying quickly,
and, clouds.

On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can't help
laughing at that

Someday I hope to write a book partly inspired by "Reality Demands," which will be about the places on earth where the most concentrated evil has occurred. If you glance at the cover of this imaginary book quickly, it will look like the title is "HELLO EARTH!" Only if you look closely will you see that there's a narrow space after "HELL" and a very small n after the letter O.

(Thanks to Tristero, who set one of her poems to music, for the news.)

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:20 PM | Comments (12)