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Caplewood

Mar. 6th, 2008

07:09 am - Bushies aren't any better at capitalism than they are at war

Peter Morici writes in Asia Times:

When George W Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the euro was trading at 94 cents and gold cost $266 an ounce. Now they are trading at $1.52 and $985 an ounce. That is a plain vote of no confidence in the government's economic model, and international investors are fleeing the dollar for the best available substitute - the euro and gold.
Why the dollar is cheap

Mar. 4th, 2008

07:07 am - Bushies in Gaza

From Vanity Fair:

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever. Gaza Bombshell

ht to
Attaturk

UPDATE: Scott Horton comments:

A conservative foreign policy recognizes that even in the best of cases, our powers of prediction are slight, our ability to assess in advance the results of our interventions are poor. This counsels against aggressively wading into the affairs of others with force of arms except when the risk to our own nation is clear. And in this case, we are witnessing a curious pattern of picking allies, the “lesser of two evils” for some imagined incremental benefits. To venture the reputation and treasure of a great nation in such a manner is foolish. But the real evil of this choice lies in the death, destruction and mayhem which were predictable from the outset. The likelihood that the scheme would bear the fruit that its authors imagined was infinitesimal. Whatever you may wish to label this foreign policy, “conservative” it is not. No comment

 

 

Feb. 26th, 2008

08:16 pm - The Birmingham News is crap.

We have always known this, but now the national media has taken note. Scott Horton writes: 

The unofficial voice of the Alabama G.O.P. throughout the entire Siegelman affair has been the Birmingham News, which posts the party’s propaganda as if it were newscopy, mixed in with a bit of material that looks like reporting.
Harpers

Feb. 25th, 2008

08:22 pm - The 40-year Brit occupation of Iraq

Andrew Sullivan quotes Lawrence of Arabia:

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told ... It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster.
  Daily Dish

Feb. 22nd, 2008

04:33 pm - Voting for Democrats

Howard Zinn writes: 

Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.

Let’s remember that even when there is a "better" candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.
[. . .]
The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties. We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box in November will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.*So we need to free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left.*Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Election Madness


ht to Avedon Carol at
Sideshow

Feb. 19th, 2008

07:39 pm - It's all over baby blue

Tony Karon writes:

The Democrats envisage turning the clock back eight years, restoring post-Cold War American primacy simply by adopting a more sober and consensus-based style. The problem, of course, is that while Bush’s reckless forays into the Middle East have accelerated the decline of America’s strategic influence, there’s little reason to believe that this decline can be reversed either by more of the same, or by a less abrasive tenant in the Oval Office. . . Bush’s catastrophic mistakes have inadvertently revealed the limits of U.S. power, making it abundantly clear to both friend and foe that Washington is no longer in charge.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Middle East, where most of the Bush Administration’s exertions have been focused. The U.S. remains mired in Iraq for the foreseeable future, its recent troop surge — utilizing the maximum combat capability currently available to its military – achieving tactical gains but failing to resolve the political conflict that drives the violence there. Other designated bad guys such as Syria, and particularly Iran, have actually grown in strength and influence as a result of an Iraq invasion designed to intimidate them into surrender. Tehran has cocked a snoot at U.S.-led efforts to pressure it over its nuclear program, buoyed both by America’s need for Iranian goodwill in Iraq and also the ascendancy of non-Western players, particularly China and Russia, as economic and geopolitical partners.

Bush has failed to exorcise Hizballah and Syrian influence from Lebanon, and his efforts to marginalize Hamas in Palestinian politics have also clearly floundered. These and other failures have demonstrated even to longtime U.S. allies in the region such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia that Washington currently has neither the muscle nor the vision to secure their common interests, prompting both to rebuff U.S. policies they deem dysfunctional, such as the efforts to isolate Iran and Hamas.
Honey I shrank the superpower

Feb. 18th, 2008

07:33 am - The other road to serfdom

Alabama's most astute political commentator writes:

The philosophical mission of the Bush/Cheney regime is to set aside the constraints of constitutional checks and balances in favor of concentrating authority in a "unitary executive"---what the Founding Fathers might have called a "king." From illegal signing statements to unjustified invasions, George Bush and his minions have acted in disregard, if not outright defiance, of the rule of national and international law and have done so with impunity.
[ . . .]
[T]hese people mean to create a living legacy, to leave behind an authoritarian regime operating according to their repressive principles and for their benefit long after they’ve gone; a military-financial complex against which ordinary citizens would be powerless to resist.
Courtney Haden in the Birmingham Weekly

Feb. 16th, 2008

08:48 am - The unarmed road of flight

Patrick Cockburn shows what the Bushies and their Democratic collaborators have done to one Iraqi family:

He
[Bassim] was living there [the Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad] in the summer of 2006 with his wife Maha, 38, and his children Sarah, 13, Noor, eight, and Sama, three, when Shia militiamen took over Jihad when Shia militiamen took over Jihad. . . . Bassim fled to Syria with his family and, when he returned to Jihad three months later, he found pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia nationalist cleric who heads the Mehdi Army, pasted to the gate of his house.

Neighbors told Bassim to get out as fast as he could before the Mehdi Army militiamen came back and killed him. He drove with his family to his father-in-law's house in the tough Sunni district of al-Khadra, where he and his wife and three children were to live in future in a single small room. He did not dare go back to his old home, but he heard about it in the summer of 2007 from a friendly Shia neighbour who said it had been taken over by militiamen. "They accused me," says Bassim, "of being a high-rank officer in the former intelligence service and because of that they got a permit [from al-Sadr's office] to take it over." 
[. . . ]
The permanent loss of his home, his only possession of any value apart from his car, was a terrible blow to Bassim and his wife. "I have nothing else to lose aside from my house," he wrote to me in a sad letter in the autumn of 2007, "and because of what happened I had a heart attack. I worked as a taxi driver for a few days, but I couldn't do it any longer because of the dangerous situation and I had no other way of earning a living. Finally, I sold my car and my wife's few gold things and I will try to go to Sweden even if I have to go illegally." 
[. . .]
I had originally hoped that his plan to travel illegally to Sweden was a fantasy he would never try to realize, but everything he had said in his letter turned out to be true. He had sold his car, his wife's gold jewellery and some furniture for $6,500 and borrowed $1,500 from his sister and the same amount from friends. Of this, $6,900 was paid to Abu Mohammed, an Iraqi in Sweden, who provided Bassim and a friend called Ibrahim with Lithuanian passports (these turned out to be genuine, but one of Bassim's many fears over the next three months was that his passport was a fake and he would be thrown in jail). The two men went first to Damascus and then, instructed over the phone by Abu Mohammed in Sweden, they flew to Malaysia.

This would seem to be the wrong direction, but Malaysia has the great advantage of being one of the few countries to give Iraqis entry visas at the airport. Bassim and Ibrahim took rooms at the cheapest hotel they could find in Kuala Lumpur.

They were then told by Abu Mohammed to get a plane to Cambodia and take a bus to Vietnam. Though their money was fast dwindling, they did so. Somehow, still speaking only Arabic, they made their way from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. The plan was to get a ticket to Sweden by way of France (Bassim now thinks that this was a mistake and it would have been better to travel first to Lithuania, posing as citizens returning home, but this would have left the two Iraqis with the problem of explaining to officials there why they did not speak Lithuanian).

In the check-in queue at the airport in Vietnam on January 5 this year, Bassim was desperately worried he would be detected. He had staked all his remaining money and his family's future on getting to Sweden. In fact, he and Ibrahim had little chance of being allowed on to the plane. Too many Iraqis, claiming to be citizens of small East European states, had tried this route before. Suspicious Vietnamese immigration officials took them to an investigation room where Bassim felt ill and asked for a glass of water, which was refused. He and Ibrahim continued to protest that they were Lithuanian citizens and demanded to be taken to the Lithuanian embassy, knowing full well that Lithuania is unrepresented in Vietnam.

It was all in vain. The officials guessed that they were Iraqis. They sent Bassim and Ibrahim back to Cambodia. Half-starved because he did not like the local food--"I was used to Iraqi bread," he recalled later--and with his money almost gone, Bassim made his way back to Kuala Lumpur by the end of January. He last saw his friend Ibrahim heading for Indonesia in a small boat.

Abu Mohammed in Sweden became elusive and, when finally contacted by phone after six days, admitted that "for Iraqis, all the ways from Asia to Sweden are shut". He did not offer to return Bassim's $6,900. Demoralized, and hearing that many Iraqi refugees trying to get to Europe through Indonesia simply disappeared, Bassim used his last few dollars to fly to Damascus and took a shared taxi across the desert to Baghdad. "The journey took three months but it felt like 10 years," he said. "I have lost everything."
Flight

Feb. 13th, 2008

Feb. 12th, 2008

08:37 pm - A US deal between the US and Iran?

 George Friedman argues that we are seeing the results of secret negotiations between the US and Iran:

Casualties in Iraq have declined — not only U.S. military casualties but also civilian casualties. The civil war between Sunni and Shia has declined dramatically, although it did not disappear. Sunnis and Shia both were able to actively project force into more distant areas, so the decline did not simply take place because neighborhoods became more homogeneous, nor did it take place because of the addition of 30,000 troops. Though the United States created a psychological shift, even if it uses its troops more effectively, Washington cannot impose its will on the population. A change in tactics or an increase of troops to 150,000 cannot control a country of 25 million bent on civil war.

The decline in intracommunal violence is attributable to two facts. The first is the alliance between the United States and Sunni leaders against al Qaeda, which limited the jihadists’ ability to strike at the Shia. The second is the decision by the Iranians to control the actions of Iranian-dominated militias. 
[. . .]
If the prime Iranian threat against the United States was civil war in Iraq, the prime American threat against Iran was an air campaign against Iranian infrastructure. Such a campaign was publicly justified by the U.S. claim that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. With the Iranians having removed the threat of overwhelming civil war in Iraq, the United States responded by removing the threat of an air campaign. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran does not have a nuclear program at present effectively signaled the Iranians that there would be no campaign. 
[. . .]
The Iranians reduced Shiite violence. The United States reduced the threat of airstrikes.
Beyond the rhetoric

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