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Total number of comments: 87 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:59)

Susan Sunflower

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  • Saudi Arabia at the G20: Is it waging Econ War on Iran, Russia and N. Dakota?
    • susan sunflower 11/16/2014 at 8:54 pm

      bits and bobs -- from Patrick Cockburn: Independent.

      "" For 28 days people had no fresh water or mains electricity. They now rely on local generators. Crude oil from Mosul province goes to Syria where it is refined, but the fuel which comes back is poor quality and ruins the engines it is used to power. Some foodstuffs, such as tomatoes, are cheap because farmers have no customers aside from the markets in Mosul.""

      Daesh production is estimaed at 1.5 to 2 million barrels a month

      Our bombing runs in Syria were meant to crush Daesh oil industry ... but since they apparently controlled nearly all of Syria's oil production -- it may just have made life all but unbearable for Syrians without electricity or possibly petrol. -- not finding a progress report wrt Daesh oil revenues for -- just conspiracy theory that we're using Daesh as a pretext to harm Assad's infrastructure and future

  • America didn't learn the Lessons of Tribes & Counter-Insurgency in Vietnam, Leading to the Iraq Quagmire
    • One of the striking things in both Afghanistan and Iraq was how very much the relationships area under the "command" of coalition partners -- the British and the Dutch come to mind specifically -- were in fact qualitatively different. The reason usually given was that these troops were not combat, although they did operate in self-defense, sometimes often.
      The Americans inability to "buy friends" particularly in Iraq, and the extraordinarily poor quality of partners we enriched with little to show for it again suggests boobish mismanagement. In Afghanistan our inability to track and follow up on contracted was exploited furiously -- and I believe the same was true in Iraq. Whether it was true incompetence, confusion/resentment of 'the mission' or simply a refusal to risk personal safety at all, confuses me -- or yet more hopeless chain-of-command failure.
      My impression, repeatedly, was that American boorishness and frank racism made enemies quickly and indelibly -- still it would be interesting to revisit the British occupation of Basra and the various sectors not-under-US authority in Afghanistan.
      It would appear, based on this thesis, that the reason Afghanistan has been spared the blood-letting "insurgency" of Iraq is that the Taliban never really went away, so regardless of the incompetence or corruption in Kabul, life did go on -- miserably poor and without much improvement. (I recall the irony that American roads opened up to the attack any number previously safe remote "forgotten" villages -- and competition to local producers -- until the roads fell into disrepair and the price of those goods rose precipitously as transportation costs added to purchase prices.
      I've wondered if the European colonial experiences resulted in a better mindset, a different sort of racism or orientalism, an acquired "talent" for dealing with foreign, occupied populations that Americans were clueless about.

  • Shiite Militias of Iraq Reject US Return, Threaten to Attack US Forces
    • It's not a surprise but it should leave a lot of people scratching their heads about the urgency of providing "American help" both in Iraq and in Syria (whose "moderate rebels" also are less than thrilled by our impending "help")

      re syria (09/11/2014) nyt: U.S. Pins Hope on Syrian Rebels With Loyalties All Over the Map.

      ""

      The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.

      Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.

      ""

      We seem to be in considerable denial when we talk about these countries as if they were "real" nation-states able to control their borders and their people, see also Turkey (which frankly baffles and alarms me). The Syrian rebel militias are said to number in the hundreds -- the Iraqi appear to be similarly numerous, small and regional -- none of them have any practical way to negotiatewith Baghdad, even to negotiate a surrender, much less (as was and is true in Libya) a way to actually unify sufficiently to be able to govern/rule should they 'win'.

      If this were a presidential election year, I'd suspect McCain of "dirty trick" but I don't think (even) he has enough connections or finesse to orchestrate this embarrassing spectacle.

  • Obama's ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense
    • Susan Sunflower 09/11/2014 at 7:18 pm

      Yemen's been going on for 5 years or there about, starting after the Saudi discovered that they didn't like losing soldiers in the process of securing their southern border (lost 17 in one month, the nation reeled) trying to keep Al-Qa’ida out --

      Our first notorious drone strike came a month later in November 2009. (that's the one of Wikileak's fame where Saleh "'pretended" it was of Yemeni origin. [[ wikipedia: On December 17, 2009, the village of Al Ma`jalah was hit by a cruise missile, killing 41 people, including 14 women, 21 children, and 14 alleged al-Qaeda members. While the Yemeni government initially took responsibility, photographs of American components and a Wikileaks cable suggest that it was carried out by the United States. ]] **
      Gee, I wonder who's gonna play the part of Saleh this time around?

      ** I remember it vividly because initial reports -- that I had read -- calling the strikes American were scrubbed from several publications -- impressive.

      First Al-Qa’ida , AQIP and now it's the Shiia militia giving the government headaches ....

    • Susan Sunflower 09/11/2014 at 8:47 am

      Not seeing that "vision thing" in the face of what appears to be overwhelming inertia now, "when push comes to shove" "when it really really matters," when it's "do or die" "crunch time" The ISIL's "caliphate" has as much or more reality than the real-world, dawn on maps, nation-states of Iraq and Syria at this point.
      And it's one-two-three. what are we fighting for?
      Damned if I know. Not with a bang but a whimper.
      That vision thing is still missing (along with billions dollars of dollars stolen in the last decade, by people placed in a position to do so).
      Obama certainly knows that 3 or 5 years will not end this fight, that like other "separatist" movements, it has the makings for yet another never-ended generational conflict.

  • Should Americans be allowed to Serve in Foreign Armies?
    • Susan Sunflower 08/30/2014 at 5:53 pm

      I think it needs to be tolerated -- except in the case of a declaration of war -- because it constitutes, to some degree Freedom of Speech ... as also probably most charitable donations.
      There have been terrible selective prosecutions of muslims (remember the waterproof socks) for things that probably could easily have been ignored -- in cases where the argument seemed to be that they really really wanted to "get some guy they couldn't make a case on" or to "send a message" -- both egregious and great fodder for the cultivation of "Home Grown terrorist" everyone has been expecting to show up any minute now for years -- and oddly the Tsarenevs really didn't fit the BOLO, imho.

      We have a lot of immigrant who came here as refugees from countries ruled by tyrannical regimes and I think it's a terrible burden on immigrant communities to have to publicly align themselves with (often changing) state department policies -- when in fact, they may see hope for their future in conflicts where we are supporting the status quo -- At very least, if we are going to actually prosecute people for "aiding the enemy" to those enemies need to be formally declared ... the term is again being used casually and the list has grown so long and the varied statuses so great, I fear Americans and resident aliens may soon find their freedom to travel either restricted or "at your peril" -- our freedoms are supposed to be inalienable, not situational. The discipline of needing congressional declaration might slow down some of our adventurism or favors to friends.

  • ISIS: How to Defeat a Phony "Caliphate"
    • Susan Sunflower 08/29/2014 at 6:27 pm

      I think there's a high likelihood that ISIS will be weakened by its success -- reports are that thousands of young people are streaming to the region to join up. While it's a ghastly prospect that they would be drawn to join such barbarism -- there's the rub -- these "hoards" are going to need food and looking after (all the more so if they are "tenderfeet") and they expect weapons training and !!!ACTION!!!.

      At least some of the atrocities may be ISIS indulging the blood thirsty and the adrenalin junkies. I fear for Syrian civilians, certainly, but -- as with captives who need to looked after and guarded -- this mob may also deplete resources.

      As Fred Kaplan also pointed out, agreeing with the above, ISIS's victories have been the direct result of dysfunctional local order -- meaning they have very shallow roots that may wither when bare-bones expectations of leadership fails to materialize, life becomes even harder and more brutal, at which point, at least in Iraq, there may be a mutiny.

      In Syria the population has been suffering so much for so long -- that any ceasefire is a blessing -- I think we have to see if Assad is able to effectively use his army and air force to put ISIS on the run.

      All this I think will become clearer within a few weeks. Iraq's military capability needs to be reassessed (now that they've lived with the results of their failures for more than a month) and prospects for future performance assessed.

      There seems to be an almost complete news black-out and stories not followed up -- ISIS was reportedly exploitng a tunnel network north of Baghdad -- believed to be digging in for a conventional terrorist campaign of bombings in the capitol before swooping in for the kill -- then crickets. I'll hold off judgment on what appears to be continued inertia and inability to mobilize because there is so little news.

  • Syrian Rebels welcome US Air strikes on ISIL Terrorists
    • Susan Sunflower 08/29/2014 at 5:58 pm

      Well suggesting that Assad is supporting IS so that IS will do the dirty work of killing all the moderates is a step up from the it's-the-CIA-all-the-time conspiracy, but seriously I"m not sure how this post-defeat of the moderate rebels "align with" would work ...

      Tale of a moderate rebel who lay down his arms and took an offer to relocate in Turkey -- interesting but caveats apply.

      link to nytimes.com

      rather bizarre article from the Guardian from a Yazhidi woman still trapped on the mountain ....

      link to theguardian.com

      another single-source cell phone eye-witness -- rather raises more questions than it answers.

  • Why Would They Stay? Making Sense of ISIS and Iraqi Sunnis
    • Susan Sunflower 08/28/2014 at 10:57 am

      ah, found the article: link to nytimes.com

      "" As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to seize territory, the group has quietly built an effective management structure of mostly middle-aged Iraqis overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment."" (first paragraph).

      If ISIS in Iraq is comprised of middle-aged Sunni Iraqi ex-military, then I think they are likely different stronger and better coordinated force -- qualitatively quite different from the apparently youthful Syrian ISIS evolved from local rebels mixed with youthful foreign zealots amped up on heavy weapons and giddy with victory. I'm not sure.

    • I've been confused/intrigued by the apparent acceptance (with or without enthusiasm) of ISIS by Iraqi Sunni who "failed to embrace" and eventually shunned the Wahabbi Al-Qaeda 7-8 years ago.

      The Guardian suggested the ISIS was rather salafi "which should not be confused with Wahabbism" ... this morning, HuffPo (link to huffingtonpost.com) says it's Wahabbi.

      My interest in this is two fold -- first is (what seemed to me to be unlikely) the apparently rise of Wahabism in Syria and Iraq -- the second, how durable ISIS's conquests would be as, in many ways, an 'foreign" invasion -- at least wrt religious conversion and the insistence on strict behavioral standards with accompanying enforcement.
      The Guardian's [http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/16/isis-salafi-menace-jihadist-homeland-syria] description of salafism suggested a practical adaptability for ISIS to avoid (which might make ISIS's incursions into Iraq more durable). Are Iraqi Sunnis paracitically/opportunistically using ISIS to achieve their aims.
      Or -- is ISIS (as I read yesterday somewhere) in fact largely a reconstituted Iraqi Sunni resistance/army under the guise of "outside agitators" and/or "foreign fighters.
      (rarely mentioned is that there was concern throughout the last decade that if the plight of Iraqi Sunni got "bad enough" the Saudis would step in -- overtly/covertly -- to facilitated "redress" -- whether this is another step in a larger Saudi plan of creeping overt aggression on Iran remains a possibility -- with Iraq as a forward operating base.

      I don't believe that ISIS "just appeared" fully formed -- and I suspect all major power actors have reasons to mold their "identity" and history to protect friends and further demonize enemies -- I suspect that ISIS is eager for it's barbarity to be reach mythical proportions as, in fact, a tactical weapon. How much this barbarity has been fueled by a generation raised on YOUTUBE role models, I'm not sure. I think ISIS will need to control the barbarity of their "troops" if they want to hold gains in Iraq. If they can do that, they will represent an even more formidable foe.

  • 5 Ironies of US Reaction to Egypt/UAE Bombing of Libya
    • While Libya's war has been of lower level conflict that Syria, it has been going on an equally long time with no resolution in sight.
      There are reports wrt ISIS in Syria that -- rather Taliban like -- they are being accepted as victors in areas where the population is simply exhausted by fighting.

      I wondered if Juan would comment on this Guardian article:

      Isis: a portrait of the menace that is sweeping my homeland

      link to theguardian.com
      Guardian: Isis: a portrait of the menace that is sweeping my homeland.

      I had been (and still am) confused about the apparent widespread, sudden adoption of extreme fundamentalism and sharia not only in Syria but also Iraq where Wahabbbism/Al-Qa’ida had been rejected before by the more liberal and more secular Iraqi Sunnis.

      is this correct:

      The second trend that makes Isis a more perilous phenomenon is the neglected ideological shakeup of Sunni Islam's traditional Salafism. This has been taking place more noticeably since the Arab spring, when Salafis became increasingly politicised. Salafism, not to be conflated with Wahhabism, was traditionally inward-looking and loyal to the political establishment. Salafists, religiously speaking, hold extremist views, but also tend to hold pragmatic political positions. Jihadists, who are heavily influenced by Salafi ideas but equally influenced by political Islam, started polarising the Salafi landscape and steadily, if slowly, eroding traditional Salafism.

    • Susan Sunflower 08/26/2014 at 2:30 pm

      What was shocking yesterday and remains so today is all of cheering over this -- based mostly on better-them-than-us and "Finally, the Arabs are controlling their own" with no recognition of -- as Juan mentioned -- international law, the UN -- or -- the rather catastrophic record of such interventions (ummm, see Nato helping foundering and failing Libyan rebels the first time around and see also the Saudi's helping foundering and failing and in-fighting rebels in Syria) ... not only does it skew the outcome, ramp up the brutality, it also tends to destroy the traditional power networks favoring those who "have connections" among and would collaborate with outsiders who -- of course -- are acting in their own interests.
      Nobody learns.

    • Susan Sunflower 08/26/2014 at 12:38 pm

      Yes, I've not seen mentioned that the recognized government has had to move to Tobruk and the islamists have reconstituted their government ... Of course, we insist "ours" is the only one that matters because they're the ones with the oil contracts, but that can change or become moot.

      The strikes may well have come at the request of the recognized government to try to save the airport -- which was lost to the Islamist anyway, last I heard anyway.

      The recognized government is still asking for help but all the western powers are tied up with other concerns/commitment and besides "same old same old" -- What to do about Syria (fresh turf, at least officially) and ISIS is the sparkling new crisis we haven't already managed to muddle or botch.
      Isis and affiliates will begin wholesale exploitation of this shortly -- start the countdown.

      link to theguardian.com
      link to theguardian.com

  • Iraq Intervention? More like Ceaseless Escalation
    • Susan Sunflower 08/13/2014 at 11:26 am

      No, ISIS is the (Sunni) reaction, not the cause of this phase of the religious/sectarian war after 10 years of de-baathification with little to no reason for hope. This is why Maliki is being blamed, although much of his Shiia backing has absolutely supports no concessions to the Sunni in the name of unifying Iraq -- as with so much of the world these days, they place priority on immediate "security" and "control" (as they have for a decade). Fallujah III (barely reported in the United States) under Maliki and, I gather, Maliki reneging on promises of more Sunni opportunities in the Army and government, seem to have been a breaking point to "working within the system" He also reneged on a promise not to seek a 3rd term.

  • The Cruel Jest of American "Humanitarian Aid" to Iraq
    • and, miracle of miracles ... first Al Jazeera and now the guardian with a UN Official claim that 20-30-40,000 Yazdi have escaped the mountain after the Peshmerga opened a back-door road -- oh wait, what they actually say is "" A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Iraq said officials had been reporting to the UN that 15,000 to 20,000 people had escaped the siege. "" -- whew, that was quick ... Let's see if Obama declares mission accomplished -- oh wait, he's now avoiding -- he said it, not me -- "another Benghazi" maybe in the Kurdish territory or maybe in Baghdad ... can you say "mission creep" I knew you could.
      link to theguardian.com
      Note how the number of "folks" stuck on the mountains appeared to me to have morphed from 40,000 (Guardian 08/07/2014) upwards, but as of this moment, I only find BBC with 50,000.

    • Susan Sunflower 08/10/2014 at 10:05 am

      So, did Maliki succeed in making Obama blink? Is Maliki's resignation now less likely?
      My understanding is that Obama had made providing "support" contingent on Maliki stepping down, and "by his weakness" Maliki, with the help of the real (but neither new or unanticipated) humanitarian crisis, managed to create a virtually "irresistible" opportunity to enter stage left..
      The stories from the mountain redoubt appear wildly inconsistent but tend toward "heart breaking" -- but again curious -- 50 children died in the massacre of 500 reported several days ago, followed by 50 children died of dehydration, and then again, today NBC with a massacre of 500 (with the added gruesome detail of people buried alive) and then shades-of-Boku Haram "" Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves"" [[ Slaves? What would Sunni guerrillas want female slaves for? I don't know, but would devout Salafi crave Yazdi sex slaves? Why would any army on the march encumber itself with prisoners? Inquiring minds, etc.]]
      I do not doubt that there are several humanitarian crises in the region but these crises did not arrive full blown (particularly since two involve long recognized vulnerable minority populations) nor in fact did ISIS, although I see little interest any longer as to how that caught-with-our-pants-down moment (if that's what it was) came to be.
      Much speculation that in fact, (Saudi-extremist backed) ISIS is a first phase in drawing Iran into the fray ... As always, the silence from/about KSA raises even more questions. This "enemy of my enemy" strategizing sucks.

  • Iraq's PM al-Maliki Rejects Gov't of Nat'l Unity as Sunnis Demand he step Down
    • Susan Sunflower 06/26/2014 at 4:00 pm

      It also remains to be seen if "we" will allow anyone to negotiate with ISIS -- see also Afghanistan and the Taliban -- when there are no American lives and no American blood at risk, we can be remarkably resolute in not only our refusal, but putting the thumbscrews on any of our dependents when it comes to negotiating "with terrorists" -- see Ukraine, which seems to grow worse weekly, particularly for the "pro-Russians" and/or ethnic Russians of the east and/or "the federalists" and/or "the separatists" -- BBC did a long segment this morning. Reportedly 14,000 have fled into Russian and taken refuge there.
      link to bbc.com

    • A great deal will be revealed by what happens next ... particularly as to who is calling the shots from within "ISIS" and how unified they are (which is critical -- as can be seen in the trajectory of the Syrian rebels whose moment of near-victory resulted in catastrophic infighting and general chaos -- not matter how much we still like to refer to them as "the rebels" as if they were unified amongst themselves).

      Because of the lack of oil reserves in the traditionally Sunni areas, there are, in fact good reasons "ISIS" to forgo blowing up Iraq and letting the chips wall where they may -- there's the majority Shiia population, the as-yet largely untapped (I think) Medhi army of Al-Sadr, the Kurd and Iran -- arrayed against them -- and, yes, it wouldn't be 2014 without the United States and Israel rather decidedly not.on.their.side.
      KSA should be shaking in the boots and unable to sleep at night for the chaos they've aided and abetted here.
      However, all bets are off, if Lebanon becomes yet another "front" in "ISIS's" assault and/or if the Palestinan refugee population there becomes mobilized. Jordan, similarly, needs close attention -- particularly since they raised alarms about the dangers to stability they saw in their own returning Syrian veterans. I'm going to think good thoughts and hope that there are enough Lebanese who remember their last civil war ... however, about Jordan, I just don't know. See also: If "ISIS" turns up in Yemen and/or takes the reins of that insurgency from AQIP.

  • Iraq in last Throes as Kurdistan Seeks Independence, Syria & Iran intervene
    • I find Maliki again utterly baffling. He always seemed remarkable dull, possibly even quite stupid or not-up-to-the-job. I recall so well how America (Bush and the press) demonized him (before they turned their guns on Karzai) until he finally appeared to have "proved himself" to them by attacking Sadr City suggesting, apparently, that the true test of leadership is a willingness to kill your own ... because once "proved his mettle" in this way, criticism stopped.
      I have never seen even a flicker of "vision" in him. He seems poised to "go down with the ship" ... apparently various people in state are reflexively pushing Chalabbi and/or Alwawi --- both of whom have preexisting enemies who deeply deeply hate them, for cause. Oh well, the fall of Maliki appears to grieve no one ... hopefully he'll get out alive ... Paris, London, Rio ...

  • Afghanistan Elections: Abdullah refuses to Concede, Protests Erupt charging Fraud
    • Susan Sunflower 06/22/2014 at 3:45 pm

      Yes, it's bizarre and I'm feeling fairly agnostic about whether there was fraud, ballot box stuffing specifically -- however -- since this was the charge LAST election, you might have expected that precautions would have been taken and there would be better "evidence" than some alleged incriminating audio tapes of some high-level official conspiring with another to stuff ballot boxes ... Oddly, although Abdullah as been charging fraud (like he did last time) this is the first I've heard that his victory was actually in jeopardy.
      As with the allegations wrt Karzai's victory last time, at 1,000,000 unexpected votes, is this again a case of "overkill" making the whole thing absurd. (Karzai was expected to win the disputed election but possibly without sufficient margin to avoid a run off -- against Abdullah -- so, it is alleged "his people stuffed ballot boxes to give him this edge -- which was discovered with great scandal and the run-off was scheduled -- which Karzai was expected to win -- and Abdullah pulled out. and Karzai won by default. So, that was last time. This time, this IS the RUNOFF, and I'm not sure what remedy might satisfy Abdullah ... except re-running the voting -- and, if he doesn't win on this second try -- what??
      Karzai is welcoming UN intervention, mediation. Watch what happens. For a "gang" who wanted to subvert the election for their candidate, they've apparently AGAIN made a mess of it ... which makes me just a bit suspicious. Karzai has said that he believed that Richard Hollbrooke instigated the ballot fraud to make Karzai look like a crook ... if so, it worked.

  • As US Pressures Maliki to Resign, will Iraqi Gov't Collapse?
    • Susan Sunflower 06/19/2014 at 9:13 am

      More gob-smacking cluelessness from Team Obama or whoever is responsible for this "latest" widely reported American demand of "regime change" ... while "our" candidate in Afghanistan has reportedly thrown a spanner in the works of that country's election by accusing Karzai of ballot box stuffing AGAIN ... Abdullah Abdullah notably was the second runner up, facing a run-off with Karzai when he decided to bow-out handing the last election to Karzai (in an election that we ultimately signed-off-on, giving it necessary "legitimacy")

      When it comes to the United States and "democracy" -- with friends like these, willing to undermine democratic processes again and again -- as an American, I am appalled and ashamed and reminded of our own (barely) contested election of 2000 which ushered in so much our current crop of "interevcentionists" and neocon, the direct descendents (and in fact some of the same people) as escaped their "just desserts" from Iran Contra and similar "extra-legal" overeach by a unitary executive. Our eagerness to declare conflict in other countries as beyond the reach of democratic processes bodes badly for our own democracy, imho.

  • US Economic Policy in Afghanistan Doomed it: From Dogmatic Privatization to Neglect of Rural Sector
    • Susan Sunflower 01/31/2014 at 10:28 pm

      Really really makes me wonder what we've been up to in Afghanistan for the last few years.... however it may help explain the "sudden" surge in severe malnutrition popping up all over ... though I doubt the children of the rural poor make it to the big city hospitals which are "at a loss" to explain it.

      link to nytimes.com

      I find myself increasingly alarmed at our apparent lack of competence, our inability to achieve just-about-anything ... we apparently have been unable even to ensure that sufficient humanitarian aid is being delivered to keep the at-risk children fed.

      Thanks for the article. I've read that our intense road-building has had the paradoxical effect of bringing the war and instability to rural areas previous so remote as to be for the most part untouched. Those same roads, in theory, might have made at least the transportation of humanitarian food aid easier. I though the linked article above was extraordinary for what it never mentioned -- Yes, it's a mystery.

  • Fear is Driving Diplomacy on Syria, not Humanitarianism
    • Susan Sunflower 01/20/2014 at 2:21 pm

      It looks to me as if, from the American POV, this was supposed to be Assad's Rambouilet, which the UN by issuing the invite to Iran thwarted. At the moment, it looks like the US and Britain are threatening to pull out -- line in the sand for the UN to withdraw Iran's unconditional invite. (The invitation was supposed to be conditional on Iran accepting the demand, in turn, that Assad accept the demand for a transitional government.

      I don't think Assad is remotely "desperate" enough to do so, although he's willing to call elections in June. He's not willing to allow rebel-affliates unelected representative powers in Syria's government prior to those elections.

      The rebels, I think, are blustering and making a great show of Bravado that they - phtoeey -- want no part of any interim government and do not even want Assad present at this meeting ... which is frustrating since without a negotiated settlement most of the rebels, barring a collapse of the
      Assad regime, will likely be forced to flee into exile with as much family as they can manage.

      While I cannot be certain, it appears that the American-centric press is making the rebels a larger, more cohesive and more legitimate bargaining partner -- shades of the "rebels" of Libya.

      Thinking good thoughts

  • Taking on al-Qaeda: Syria's Uprising within an Uprising
    • Susan Sunflower 01/19/2014 at 11:46 am

      While I wish this reorganization or alignment well, on the eve of Geneva 2, I fear it too closely a "death bed confession" in an attempt to jockey for a better post number. Being the "not-Al-Qa’ida" candidate is less important than being willing and able to make promises wrt the treatment/inclusion of Syria's non-Sunni, non-Arab populations, as it is their purge that has lost the generic "rebels" a great deal of support.

      The following rather undoes and makes mute whatever 'hope" one might try to find in the above:

      "" “Geneva II not only means nothing to us, we consider it hostile to us, and whoever wants to sit at the table with the regime is an enemy of the Syrians inside Syria”, [a highly-placed source close to the IF’s leadership] said. “We will take names and they will be tried in our courts as traitors.”

      Thanks for publishing. I've printed this out. It's very helpful to have some concrete names individual and groups, however, quickly reconfigured or disbanded they may end up be. Thanks again.

  • Why the US needs Electric Cars: Saudi Arabia threatens Pivot away from US
    • Susan Sunflower 10/23/2013 at 9:41 am

      Juan, I am perplexed by the theatricality of recent Saudi behavior. This "hissy-fit" or "tantrum" behavior might well be seen in the west as "losing face" and certainly suggest Saudi's announcing FAILURE to get the US on board with its ambitions, rather than frustration.

      Alternatively, are they actually saving face by shifting the blame to the United States and the (perennial and safe target) the UN? They certainly are making clear and publicizing the scope of their (thwarted) ambitions -- no one anywhere can doubt that they rival Israel in having Iran in their sights, moving beyong rivalry and animus.

      How legally entangled and stable is the USA's claims of the KSA and its oil? It was anticipated (I think) that both Iraq and Libya would provide insurance/backup/reserve capacity, something that not only (as far as I am aware) to materialize, nor did the US even appear to be attempt to do so.

      The importance of the US favorite nation status with the Saudis and the fundamental and critical importance of abundant and cheap oil to the American economy has been stress so often and for so long, it's hard not to dread the next shoe dropping... however, if this is largely for KSA's domestic regional audience and if the KSA is otherwise obligated to fulfill US oil requirements, this again may be face-saving.

      Finally, how do we distinguish between anti-KSA forces (Saudi and Yemeni) from Al-Qa’ida at this point? Saleh discovered the gold mine of US funding and hardware and personnel to be reaped by transforming his multiple and varied insurgent movements into Al-Qa’ida. Failing to make these distinctions based on these groups defined objected and their lineage again creates an outsized boogie man of unclear Al-Qa’ida ties, much less shared objectives, particularly internationally.

      Is renouncing the U.S. and the U.N. in this fashion also sop to the more radical anti-American Saudi population? As with Al-Qa’ida, how much of this is directed to the "local" audience. With the KSA facilitating Al-Qa’ida in so many regional conflicts, to what degree is it still the "near enemy"?

  • Kerry signals US Intervention in Syria, but to What End?
    • Susan Sunflower 08/27/2013 at 6:26 pm

      IMHO, Seamus Milne of the Guardian made an important, easily overlooked point.

      Until now, the western camp has been prepared to bleed Syria while Obama has resisted pressure for what he last week called more "difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment". Now the risk to US red line credibility seems to have tipped him over to back a direct military attack.

      But even if it turns out that regime forces were responsible for Ghouta, that's unlikely to hold them to account or remove the risk from chemical weapons. More effective would be an extension of the weapons inspectors' mandate to secure chemical dumps, backed by a united security council, rather than moral grandstanding by governments that have dumped depleted uranium, white phosphorus and Agent Orange around the region and beyond.

      In any case, chemical weapons are far from being the greatest threat to Syria's people. That is the war itself and the death and destruction that has engulfed the country. If the US, British and French governments were genuinely interested in bringing it to an end – instead of exploiting it to weaken Iran – they would be using their leverage with the rebels and their sponsors to achieve a ceasefire and a negotiated political settlement.

      Guardian: An attack on Syria will only spread the war and killing.

  • Obama's Limited Options: Bombing Syria unlikely to be Effective
    • I was listening to CNN on Friday ... they made it sound as it Obama was shamefully tardy in failing to have acted already, y'know "decisively" ... they seem to have become the McCain Network. ... nevermind that the last gas attack investigation is unfinished but wasn't looking all that great for the rebels.

      Gee, the Libyans only had to warn of an impending massacre of 6000 in Misrata (which we then savior like "prevented")

      Our official outrage is selective and disproportionate ... We don't care about Mazar al Sharif and we don't care about 2000 dead POW afghans, or untolled victims of Iraqi death squads, but by god we care about some alleged nerve gas deployed by someone.

    • alarmingly, large scale migration of Kurds into Iraq was reported last week

      link to voanews.com

      BEIRUT — An estimated 30,000 Syria refugees, most of them Kurds, have fled in the last three days to Kurdistan areas of Iraq or on the border waiting to be allowed access, according to United Nations aid officials.

      The U.N. officials warned Monday that the exodus shows no signs of slowing down and that it is straining their resources as well as those of Iraqi relief agencies.

      which may have some tertiary destabilizing effect on the Shiite Iraq government ....

      My impression had been that the Kurdish area had been relatively stable, being sufficiently remote from much of the fighting ... yeah, that was a few months ago.

  • Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship
    • Pre-charge, pre-trial and other extrajudicial punishment and harassment, "just because we can" -- as Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras have experienced for years -- along with all the victims of "stop and frisk" -- keeps you in your place and lets you know "who's boss." See also criminalizing photography and other recording of public actions by police, security guards, whomever has the authorities in their pocket.

  • Egyptian Police Clear Brotherhood Sit-Ins, at cost of Scores of deaths, injuries
    • Although the NYT is currently unavailable, I thought this opinion piece from the weekend worthwhile, not just wrt to Egypt, but wrt all would-be revolutionaries.

      The American Revolution was a relatively simple affair, the French much messier and more filled with "lessons."

      link to nytimes.com

      My heart goes out to Egypt as hopes are again dashed and worse.

  • Defecting Saudi Prince: Royal Family in Panic at Arab Revolts, Thousands imprisoned
    • Susan Sunflower 08/13/2013 at 10:27 am

      In the reporting, on the recent "uptick" in drone strikes in Yemen, was included the following:

      link to articles.washingtonpost.com

      SANAA, Yemen — At least seven suspected militants from Saudi Arabia were among the alleged al-Qaida members killed in Yemen in a recent wave of U.S. drone strikes, senior Yemeni officials said Friday, suggesting that Saudis are increasingly crossing the border to carry funds or seek terrorist training.

      and

      The senior Yemeni officials who said the seven Saudis were among the victims of the drone attacks said intelligence suggested the foreigners had crossed the border between the neighboring countries to either ferry in money to the terror group or to train in al-Qaida camps.

      “Al-Qaida is especially recruiting tech-savvy and well-educated Saudis,” one of the senior security officials said.

      He added that the terror group also is bringing in Pakistanis, who are explosives experts. He cited Ragaa Bin Ali a Pakistani bomb maker who was killed in a drone strike.""

      It's hard to know, however, if the report of Saudi deaths are (cough) accurate and/or if those individual were fighting *with* AQAP in the Yemeni conflict or preparing for Saudi attacks on the Saudi Kingdom.

      I wonder if the covert Saudi supporters of the Taliban and Al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan/Pakistan are also financially supporting AQAP. Risky business, imho.

  • India, China Defy US Congress' War on Iranian Oil
    • As I understand it, the American embargo on Japanese oil imports constituted an "act of war" often ignored in the American mythology that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor "out of the blue" and/or "for no good reason."

      It is the "habit" of the United States to attempt to crippling the economy of a sovereign nations it has disagrements with, which unfortunately usually ends up affecting the general population, particularly the poor. Are our sanctions on Iran then an "act of war" and/or does this constitute collective punishment?

      The legality is disputed. The morality at bit less so, end justifying means, etc.

  • How Much Blood Money does the US Pay to Families of Innocent Drone Victims? It's Classified (Currier)
    • Susan Sunflower 08/13/2013 at 6:21 pm

      Actually, I've not heard of blood money being paid by the U.S. in Yemen. I'm doubtful we have anyone "on the ground" capable of delivering same.

      The only reference I found to blood money was money paid by the Saleh government when the relative of an official was accidentally killed in a 2010 drone strike (which didn't stop them from retaliating). [ link to csmonitor.com ]

      "Our reaction [to the presence of drones] is like any Yemeni’s. It is a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and a crime committed against the Yemeni people," says Ahmed al-Shabwani, whose brother, former deputy governor of the Marib Governorate Jabr al-Shabwani, was accidentally killed in a May 2010 US drone strike. Even after being paid blood money by the Saleh regime, the Al Shabwani family carried out attacks against Marib’s oil and power infrastructure demanding that the Yemeni government stop cooperating with the US drone and missile strikes.

      I'm not sure how much the Yemeni government "cares" or how much they are affected by unhappy families of (poor)victims.

      Rather like AQAP, I suspect having suvival "issues", they have bigger fish to fry.

      According to cite from FAIR (from today) the government has had a history of concealing drone deaths: link to fair.org

  • "After the Ruler undermined Democracy, the people wanted the Military..." Egypt 1952 (video)
  • Top Ten Things that don't Make Sense about NSA Surveillance, Drones and al-Qaeda
    • I'm baffled. Last I heard, Ayman al-Zawahri was not giving orders in Yemen or the rest of North Africa -- he considered part of the failed "old guard" who had brought disaster and disrepute on the most radical "Islamist" elements (the ones who kept escalating the number of type of Muslim it was okay to slaughter until they managed to critically alienate the general population).

      Ayman al-Zawahri was like an out-of-touch Madam DeFarge issuing marching orders and to-do list to an army that was a shadow of its former self (not unlike Bin Laden before his death).

      Unrealistic demands, easy to ignore. I wonder what has changed, if anything, but Ayman al-Zawahri has been issuing orders and fatwas for over a decade, much much longer ... bizarre.

  • Afghanistan: If a White House Report on a Massacre isn't Released, did the Massacre Happen? (Currier)
    • Susan Sunflower 08/01/2013 at 11:02 am

      My memory is that Lindh was discovered, wounded, in the aftermath of the riot, a surprise. By accounts, the riot was triggered when one prisoner set off a hand grenade that he had managed to smuggle in, despite having been searched and disarmed along with the rest of the prisoners. Some prisoners then were able to access a poorly secured arsenal, but many remained unarmed and under fire from sentries on the compounds walls. They retreated into the bowels of the fort where attempts were made to literally flush them out by flooding ...

      Frustratingly, Wikipedia has been edited, but I recall learning that there had been a similar massacre of prisoners by placing them in shipping containers in that region several years earlier during the civil war, a massacre by this method was not "unheard of" -- I can't find which side was massacred at that time, however, there was a history of victory massacres in that region between Taliban and regional warlords.

    • The number of dead/murdered at Dasht-i-Leili is most often estimated to be 3000.

      For those willing to consign these deaths to the dustbin of history, consider that the U.S. was in a position rather similar to that of Sharon during the massacre at Sabra-Shatila.

      There was CIA personnel present at the battle at the Qala-i-Jangi facility where several hundred of these prisoners were held immediately prior to be placed in the shipping containers (where John Walker Lindh was taken into custody and Johnny "Mike" Spann, (CIA) was killed, and melee ensued that was not only filmed but was received "close air support" from JSOC (on prisoners trapped in a secured courtyard of the facility -- fish in a barrel).

      We have dragged our feet and allowed evidence to remain unsecured, degrading in the elements for the last 12 years.

      Whoever a tribunal might find responsible, this was a war crime.

  • Aljazeera's Conspiracy Theory about Obama and Egypt is Brainless Mush
    • Susan Sunflower 07/11/2013 at 1:50 pm

      consider:

      NYT: Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi

      link: link to nytimes.com

      quote:

      Mr. Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men and a titan of the old establishment, said Wednesday that he had supported an upstart group called “tamarrod,” Arabic for “rebellion,” that led a petition drive seeking Mr. Morsi’s ouster. He donated use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of the political party he built, the Free Egyptians. He provided publicity through his popular television network and his major interest in Egypt’s largest private newspaper. He even commissioned the production of a popular music video that played heavily on his network.

      “Tamarrod did not even know it was me!” he said. “I am not ashamed of it.”

      yes, there's more ....

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • Susan Sunflower 06/14/2013 at 8:37 pm

      I think it also seems horribly familiar, after all,to many of us old enough to remember the endless multi-factioned civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990) ... which ended (with a brief look at Wikipedia) as far as I can tell with Syrian occupation which ended in 2005 ... Lebanon was a cosmopolitan Jewel of the Mediterranean and banking center of the Middle East, irrc.

    • Susan Sunflower 06/14/2013 at 8:29 pm

      cnn: U.S. military to step up presence in Jordan in light of Syria civil war // link to edition.cnn.com

      fox: US training Syrian opposition forces in Jordan for months, sources say

      Read more: link to foxnews.com

  • Dear US Government: Your 'Terror' map of the Muslim World is from the Time of Shakespeare (Kurzman))
    • Susan Sunflower 06/03/2013 at 10:01 am

      and, with all resepct for those who died and were injured and lost family on 09/11, a truly stunning lack of sense of proportion ... it's like we're tearing down the house because someone saw a mouse or two .... and apparently we're not going to be done until it's leveled ... maybe then we'll set it on fire to add to our carbon emission contribution to world well-being ...

    • Extremely discouraging ... it's beyond tin-eared ... just as so many congresscritters appeared to take pride in their ignorance about who's who in the Sunni/Shia conflict in Iraq, the endless continuing conflation of the Taliban and Al-Qa’ida ... always these cries that the "good Muslims" must denounce the "bad guys" coupled with evidence like this presented, that no one really cares and we're still stuck on an American crusade against Islam... as if anyone remembered the Crusades ...

      It really is too bad ... in many ways the current fundamentalist expansionism reminds me of the Crusades ... Islamic this time ... Irony of ironies ... the reestablishment of the caliphate is an idealized pipedream, much like returning to Eden or "our roots" ... Most cultures, even the Chinese, likely look back longingly to some better time -- I think it was idealism of Ancient Greece when I was a high schooler.

      Regardless, it is too forgiving to call this sloppiness ... if "loose lips sink ships" this sort of misrepresentation of Islam and Islamic extremism beings to my mind the WWII anti-Jap anti-Kraut American propaganda ... oh yes, and the Rape of Belgium.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Things really are going to hell in a handbasket ... subopoenas for reporters, denied by the attorney general who signed the orders ... just when you think it cannot get worse ...

      On the "bright side" -- I suspect the potential "homegrown jihadis" everyone fears so are probably no better educated than most Americans and would fail to be as outraged by this as they might be.... regular Muslims, I suspect, would just sigh and feel a bit more hopeless.

  • America's 'Mission Accomplished' Legacy to Iraq: Sectarian Violence Mounts with 95 Dead
    • Susan Sunflower 05/21/2013 at 10:09 pm

      It is striking how silent the American government and media remain wrt Saudi and the other Sunni/Wahhabi/Salafi military interventionism -- either the ad hoc migration of would be soldiers -- to Iraq, to Libya, to Afghanistan, increasingly now to Syria.

      While the threat of "terrorism" and remembrances of 09/11 are still endlessly invoked as an American rallying cry, country after country seems to be falling (cough, almost like dominos, cough) to the influence of conservative fundamentalism, by default in many instances, the religious being the best organized and oldest of the still-standing after upheaval "political" parties, default because anything, even despots are preferred over what appears to be anarchy, and the real threat of hunger and lack of security.

      Libya appears to have decided to follow Iraq's disastrous lead and ban from government service all member of the Gadaffi regime (I have read going back some 40 years and including dissidents and minorities HE recruited, much as Saddam advanced selected Shiia, to positions of prominence, as a gesture of national unity and diversity).

      Our Saudi news is about women drivers and bicyclists. Our government appears to be still stuck supporting the enemy of our enemy ....

  • Egypt; New Demos; Obama Expresses Alarm; and al-Azhar Clerics condemn Constitution
    • Susan Sunflower 12/07/2012 at 1:55 pm

      My question is whether the refusal of the the Islamic Studies Academy of the prestigious al-Azhar Seminary to play the role the new constitution wants to give them provide a "cover" for Morsi to retreat without losing face?

      I had read that fractures within the Muslim Brotherhood were anticipated to result as a result of Morsi's power grab, but in the last week or so, have seen/heard nothing further wrt to this; however, if the Seminary has sufficient prestige, this move by them could also provide cover for "we will never retreat" members of the MB as well and encourage everyone to "get back to the drawing board" as it were -- which the anti-Morsi (secularist, pro-Mubarek, anti-Mubarek, mix-and-match) crowd seems unwilling to consider even discussing at this point.

      Startling the number of commentors over at the NYT and elsewhere from self-identified "Cairo" insisting that Egypt is not ready for democracy apparently preferring a military "rescue" -- having declared democracy's failure.... baby thrown out with bath water; cut off nose to spite your face ...

  • Morsi's Second Coup Provokes Mass Protest in Egypt
    • Susan Sunflower 11/24/2012 at 12:44 pm

      Yes, I think we should welcome the demonstrations as legitimate protest against this sort of executive abuse of power (although I'm not sure what other avenues Morsi had to try to avoid delegitimization of the constitution writing committee) but avoid cheerleading for Morsi's fall and the government's failure -- as the American press notoriously did during the "Green Revolution" in Iran.

      There's something immoral about sitting in the comfort of our homes, cheerleading for civil war in another country, particularly one that, wrt Iran, what would be lopsided and doomed and bloody.

      Hopefully, some form of reconciliation will emerge to allow Morsi to roll-back much of this ... this has similarities to Iraq's difficulties in forming a national government/writing a constitution/holding a meaningful election in the face of myriad special interests using their boycott power. It gonna take some time.

  • Blaming Gen. Petraeus for the Wrong Mistakes: Remembering Afghanistan (Cook)
    • Susan Sunflower 11/20/2012 at 1:24 am

      Seamus Milne and others (Adam Hochfield, notably. but others too) have been laboring to de-romanticize colonial era. Some how in the backlash against the 1960's (and the French Revolution), there has arisen a blinked "good old days" nostalgia about some "progressive" colonial movement (usually but not always British) in which "we" (I'm an American) -- imperfectly but with "good itent" -- at least raise the colonized (heathens) above their squalor.

      As Howard Zinn, iirc, said, "We judge others by their actions; ourselves, by our intentions."

      Bernard Lewis, Nigel Ferguson and others believe somehow that we have some "god given" and/or dynastic mission to impose "enlightenment values" on lands and people to whom, in fact, ideas of "equality" under god or the sky, is not just foreign, but far from self-evident...

      I think much of "american exceptionalism" is based on the enlightenment "self-evident" assumption of equality ... while I passionately believe in it, I am unsure how to convince other cultures of the validity of this concept, certainly not by subjugation or decimation.

      We have strayed so far from the idea that "all men are brothers under the skin" ... so far from the idea that all people share values -- like love and protectiveness of family and hope for the future -- more important than ideology and independent from idiology -- a place of "common ground" ....

      Where we are is not sustainable ... the extremists seize and hold the stage ... I am despondent.

    • I suspect this author never bought into the army adopting either counterinsurgency OR nation building as its mission.

      I recall under McChrystal fairly early on that troops were not.happy to pause to consider before calling in close air support, which they seem to have felt necessary to do at the slightest provocation. (I'm curious about the percentage of patrols needing air support and the relative use of air support by our coalition partners).

      Accepting that COIN failed, many have said it was doomed with so few troops which, if true, is an even more damning indictment of Petraeus' willingness to send troops on a futile mission -- however, the Obama/Petraeus surge in Afghanistan was supposed to be a new "smarter" and more humane beginning. Most Americans never noticed or cared that COIN was so quickly abandoned.

      Could it work? Not in Afghanistan, not with this Army.

  • Juan Cole: Real Petraeus Failure Was Counter-Insurgency in Iraq, Afghanistan (Democracy Now!)
    • What followed the failure of "COIN" was "targeted killing" the effects of which, in this article, had/have the potential of leaving no one left for the United States or the Karzai government to credibly negotiate with ...

      Doubtless you have been following, and better understand, the teeter-totter state and history of the various failed/subverted attempts at negotiation ... I lost track and found myself uncertain who to believe about any of this, but Scahill's article stands:

      THE NATION: Killing Reconciliation

      The US strategy seems to be to force the Taliban to the table through a fierce killing campaign. According to the US military, over a ninety-day period this past summer, US and coalition Special Operations Forces killed or captured more than 2,900 "insurgents," with an estimated dozen killed a day. Between July 4, when Gen. David Petraeus assumed command in Kabul, and early October, according to the military, US and Afghan Special Operations Forces killed more than 300 Taliban commanders and more than 900 foot soldiers in 1,500 raids. "This is precisely the kind of pressure we believe will lead to reconciliation and reintegration" of the Taliban, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently.

      In Afghanistan, Taliban commanders are fond of characterizing their fight to expel the United States and its allies with the phrase, "You've got the clocks, we've got the time." While US leaders are struggling to define what victory would look like in Afghanistan, the forces they are fighting are not. "We have two goals: freedom or martyrdom," says Taliban commander Salahuddin. "If we do not win our freedom, then we'll die honorably for its cause." The continuing US targeted-killing campaign and renewed airstrikes ordered by General Petraeus seem only to be further weakening the already fragile Karzai government. In plain terms, the United States' own actions in Afghanistan seem to be delivering the most fatal blows to its counterinsurgency strategy and its goal of winning hearts and minds. "I think that the Americans are already defeated in Afghanistan, they are just not accepting it," says former Taliban official Zaeef

      Scahill has not updated this report. I do not know how many widows and orphans have been created by the policies that followed the failure of COIN. These are the sorts of policies that result in further impoverishment and bands of unsupervised male children, attaching themselves as "child soldiers" in hopes of being fed -- a scenario that Afghanistan has miraculously avoid in its 30 year civil wars as a result of a family/clan social structure that has managed to, largely though hardly entirely, absorbs those widows and orphans into an extended family.

      So little reporting on the quality of life of Afghans, except that after 10 years of highly expensive American occupation, they are apparently still dirt-poor, food-uncertain, too often unvaccinated and largely illiterate, facing another winter.

      So, what have the last two years been about beyond "saving face" for the Obama Administration -- shades of Johnson and Vietnam,avoiding ignominious withdrawn on his watch -- happy days, he outwaited American patience and second chances.

      It is rumored that the generals want a stay-behind force of 25,000 (with of course the independent contractors required to support them), y'know, for advisors and trainers ...

  • Real Petraeus Issue was Evaluation of Afghanistan
    • Susan Sunflower 11/11/2012 at 3:13 pm

      I think -- but now realize I don't know (and don't have time at the moment to research) the model for COIN was/is guerrilla warfare -- as outlined by Che Guevara in his book by that name and by the diaries and Little Red Book of Mao Zedung as well as the NLF in Vietname ... in both conflicts, the revolutionary guerrilla army made allies of the local population by being honest and reliable partners and promoting local welfare, etc.

      Che's Bolivian adventures were unsuccessfu, irrc, because the presence of guerrillas brought the wrath of the American back CIA-enabled Bolivian, in part on a quest to kill Guevara.

      Al-Qa’ida in Iraq failed (at least initially) because although their bombmaking expertise and endless supply of martyrs was appreciated, they were bossy and intrusive in the lives of Sunni Iraqis who had no desire to live the rigid life they advocated, so there were turf wars and falling-outs.

      The Taliban eventually won control over the warlords because they were honest and reliable not only in business but also in adminstering justice over local matters (which is part of their current hold on Afghanistan whose weak/corrupt central government cannot be relied upon to adjudicate local disputes/crimes)

      It's all about people and interpersonal relationships over time. It would be difficult to overcome the mistrust/power imbalance of an "occupying force" such as the United States, but even in Afghanistan, various members of the NATO coalition had sufficiently DIFFERENT levels of success and acceptance to make even Afghanistan worthy of study to see what works ... however, revolutionary success of small number of foreign-to-the-region guerrillas I think is the larger model.

    • Petraeus was not forced, but chose, to implement a variety of COIN with "the army he had" which likely differed considerably from the army he imagined.

      Problems with lack of discipline and high level of accepted racism and other bigotry would make COIN damn near impossible. In fact, a couple of recent studies state that most of the "insider attacks" have been the result -- not of Taliban infiltration -- but of cross cultural disrespect issues.

      Even before Iraq, in Afghanistan, a number of other coutries refused or were very reluctant to cooperate iwth American "cowboys" becasue they believed close proximity was dangerous to their health. This dangerous/recklessness was repeated in Iraq -- The Spanish in Najaf, the British in the South felt endangered by the reckless disregard for civilian lives/property and disrepectful behavior of American troops.

      After the Khadahar Sura (attendees having placed themselves at risk to even attend) in anticipation of expansion of COIN into that region, in which the elders strongly objected ot the plan -- McCrystal was quoted as saying, oh, well, we'll be proceeding anyway, their approval is not necessary, or words to that effect.

      Reports on the ground in Marjah were strikingly reminiscent of Vietnam -- Every family had taliban ties, American troops could not tell who was taliban and who was not, individual farmers who cooperated with the Americans were punished by the Taliban, the Americans being unable or unwilling to protect them.

      The Petraeus resignation has taken virtually all the attention away from the massacre (Robert Bales, Panjwai Massacre) -- although the likelihood of an outcome significantly different from that of Haditha is probably a longshot.

    • Susan Sunflower 11/10/2012 at 4:24 pm

      As far as I can tell, most people never noticed that we rather quickly abandoned COIN

      NYT: 07/02/2009: In Tactical Shift, Troops Will Stay and Hold Ground in Afghanistan

      NYT: 02/21/2010: U.S. Commander Describes Marja Battle as First Salvo in Campaign.

      Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the United States Central Command, said Sunday that the battle being fought in the Taliban stronghold of Marja was the “initial salvo” in a military campaign that could last 12 to 18 months

      NYT: 08/01/2010: Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan

      Many Americans who had wearied of Afghanistan by 2008 had their hopes raised for a "better outcome" by the promise of a new, better, smarter administration which included the "genius" of David Petraeus.

      I'm not sure COIN can possibly work for an occupying force in a foreign culture, speaking a very foreign language, etc. with inadequate manpower -- however -- my memory of that period was that the the first failure was to win the "hearts and minds" of our own troops who were not at all happy to get any closer to a "native population" they neither trusted or liked.

      It was self-serving of the Obama Administration to allow Petraeus to fail-upward. The cancellation of the Congressional Hearings on Benghazi will only fan the flames of an "outrage" already exaggerated beyond belief.

  • Republicans Tip world off to covert CIA Role in Libya
    • Susan Sunflower 11/03/2012 at 11:36 am

      I found the documents Issa "leaked" online here ... there are a few blacked out lines, I don't know when those redactions were made. I haven't been able to review all 120 pages ...

      issa's leaked documents.

      No, I don't think Issa "should" have leaked these documents, but I'm not sure if their designation prohibited him from doing so.

      The father of one of the men killed at the CIA compound attack seems to be part of the "engine" for the cover-up conspiracy theory that the Obama Administration has been trying to "cover-up" their failure to provide sufficeint security. It appears to me that he has sympathizers who have had ready access to relevant documentation, in some cases, apparently before the State Department was aware of those same documents (communications/email wrt security).

      I don't see any deliberate coverup but the Administrations inability to get ahead of the story sufficiently to respond quickly to the reveals made by their detractors is puzzling and disappointing. I am disappointed to see Democrats using this story to "play politics" after weeks of decrying same by Republicans.

      I'm with the people who believe that even with "more security" the compound(s) would have been vulnerable to the ferocious attack that occured. Hindsight 20/20 is worthless.

    • NYT: 09/24/2012: Deadly Attack in Libya Was Major Blow to C.I.A. Efforts

      "" American intelligence operatives also assisted State Department contractors and Libyan officials in tracking shoulder-fired missiles taken from the former arsenals of the former Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces; they aided in efforts to secure Libya’s chemical weapons stockpiles; and they helped train Libya’s new intelligence service, officials said.

      Senior American officials acknowledged the intelligence setback, but insisted that information was still being collected using a variety of informants on the ground, systems that intercept electronic communications like cellphone conversations and satellite imagery. “The U.S. isn’t close to being blind in Benghazi and eastern Libya,” said an American official. ""

      I have read in multiple sites that the CIA group was involved in securing heavy weapons from militias -- yet, not from whom exactly (usual suspects or others) or by what methods. (Apparently, FOXNEWS and perhaps others has been reporting that Stevens and the CIA were transporting seized heavy weapons -- MANPADS specifically -- from Libya to Lebanon to be covertly then "donated" to the Syria Rebel Cause, a claim I heard very shortly after the attack but only yesterday found reference to it being circulated by FOXNEWS).

      Finally wrt "names" of individuals -- The United States is not an occupying force in Libya (like we were/are/could be considered in Afghanistan or Iraq), so it is uncertain just how much danger those "collaborating" with the US would be in. We are told that the USA's popularity in Libya is high, especially in Benghazi. Doubtless these is jockeying for favor, false tips and accusations in an attempt to use American influences against one's enemies and rivals (as we saw endlessly in Afghanistan). That certain militias were providing security to the diplomatic compounds was probably readily apparent. The identification of the second compound as CIA was like suspected and/or assumed.

      In the original reports on the ground, lists of duty/pay rosters to locals providing security were found unsecured, in the rubble.

      Like the Taliban's apparently enpty threat of revenge against "collaborators" named in the WikiLeaks Afghan files, it is likely that those who might conceivably harm those named in Issa's documents, have more pressing matters to deal with. Apparently the female human rights worker was featured in stories on the internet about her sponsored visits to the United States. I suspect the CIA has had a covert presence in Libya for a long time, quite possibly aiding and abetting "dissidents."

  • A Post-Mortem on Muslim Rage: What did the reaction to the Islamophobic Trailer Really Tell Us? (Abootalebi)
    • Susan Sunflower 10/12/2012 at 11:01 pm

      In the run-up to Bush's invasion of Iraq, I attended a very large (for Denver) anti-war demonstration ... memorable was the woman ahead of me who complained her companion that the policeman had failed to return her smile ... what a bad attitude she thought he had ... it was a beautiful weekend morning ... she was upset that he failed to "validate" her exercise of her first amendment rights ...

      Also, just as an addendum to previous post and this article, Wikipedia sez:

      Afghans became aware that their feelings were being exploited by militant groups such as the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami. Deutsche Welle reported: "Ahmad Jawed, a protester from Herat, said it was wrong to respond to the burning of the Koran with violence. 'Those who have used violence in the past days are harming the Afghan people. Unfortunately, some politically-motivated groups are exploiting the peaceful intentions.' 'We not only condemn the US for the burning of the Koran but also those who are committing crimes in the name of the Koran and its desecration,' he stated angrily. Yunus Fakoor, a political expert in Kabul, said radical religious groups were pouring oil on the fire for their own purposes. 'This is not a defense of faith. They are exploiting the religious feelings of people.'"[28]

      Wikipedia: 2012 Afghanistan Quran burning protests

      Personally, I would not demand that anyone conceal/hide their anger ... however, looking at models of nonviolence ... this may be worthy of consideration ...

    • Susan Sunflower 10/12/2012 at 6:00 pm

      Western coverage of Muslim demonstrations is extremely selective ... while sighs are heard and heads are shaken and extensive coverage given to demonstrations wrt to Danish Cartoons and American movies or burnt Korans and soldiers urinating on Muslim corpses .... the ongoing peaceful demonstrations against the American Occupation of Afghanistan have been ignored for years.

      In Pakistan, all sorts of issues result in thousands of demonstrators in the streets -- and -- if you get thousands of individuals mobilized and upset, people tend to get hurt, particularly when there are counter-demonstrations or deliberate provocation by outsiders.

      In this report, most of the deaths seem to have resulted from an armed minority faction within one of the demonstration attacking the police, elsewhere, the police shot demonstrators. Flags were burned. Two movie theatres were burnt to the ground. And these were among the MOST violent demonstrations with 10,000 participants. CBC: Pakistan protests against anti-Islam film leave 19 dead. The security of the Pakstan protestors rests with, as the author notes, the Pakistan civil society/government, social institutions and the rest. Deaths in sports riots are not covered here. PAKISTAN STATE TIMES: Egypt charges 75 people in deadly soccer riot (75 DEAD). There will always be the provocateurs, the hot heads and the opportunistic delinquents exploiting such venues for their own purposes, i.e. looting, vandalism.

      Similarly, the riots associated with the burning of the Korans are summarized here aljazeera: Deadliest day in Afghanistan's Quran protests

      Seven protesters were killed on Friday in the western city of Herat, where protesters tried to storm the US consulate. Another protester died in the Pol-e-Khomri area of northern Baghlan province. Two deaths were also reported in the eastern province of Khost.

      Although news reports of these demonstration that occurred in MANY MANY cities, the deaths are generally isolated and most appear to have been killing of demonstrators by the "authorities" -- not some anarchic melee, threatening women and children and other innocent bystanders.

      American ignorance is extraordinary ... many believe that this "extremism" is not just part of, but the very essence of Islam -- always has been, always will be, immutable, integral ... and that's not true now, nor in the past, nor likely in the future. Yet, as Islamophobia is decried by all "right thinking Americans" ... the one-size-fits-all stereotypes are reinforced continuously. There simply aren't enough muslims in the United States to provide a counternarrative.

      With the Benghazi attack ... there were similar generalizations ... that sharia-al-magreb was pronounced somehow equivalent to Al-Qa’ida of the Arab Peninsula (or any other Al-Qa’ida or any other Sharia Know your Ansar-al-sharia).

      THEN, because the attack was assumed to be the work of "Al-Qa’ida," no other reason for or background to the the attack was felt necessary. They hate us, nuff said.

      Despite much mention of some presumed 09/11 anniversary connection, I remember (and googling find) no pattern of 09/11 anniversary attacks -- it was assumed that this attack was somehow commemorative of an attack 11 years ago ... as if, 09/11 (which so many Afghans have no knowledge of at all) were some all-important date in the lives of Libyans. Maybe it was significant, maybe it was coincident.

      I found most interesting that the possibility that the attack could have / might have been the work of Gaddafi "dead-enders" was NEVER mentioned. The idea that there was any possible non-religious basis for any of this outrage was dismissed. The perpetuation of this "clash of civilization" myth continues.

  • The Shameful Politicization of the Benghazi Consulate Attack
    • Susan Sunflower 10/12/2012 at 4:37 pm

      the identity of the "rebels" in Libya is vague, they do not, as far as I have read, appear to be monolithic or even cohesive, and yet, they are described as "rebels' much as the Mujahadeen was referred to as "freedom fighters" .. one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter ...

      We spent more than a decade trying to promote rebellion against Saddam Hussain in many ways, and yet certainly Iraqi "dissident" (of whom there were many) were similarly not monolithic, much less cohesive, in fact were almost completely unable to work in common cause.

      Hence, until I get some more answers as to whom we supported and why ... they will remain "rebels" except when I'm really in a bad mood when I will call them "freedom fighters."

    • Yes, the Libya intervention was regime change in of "humanitarian aid" clothing and TeamObama is anxious for it to succeed ... and for it's rough spots and failures to receive as little attention as possible

      The actual aid mission took considerably longer and cost much more than was anticipated. Our "rebels" were less capable of consolidating their victory, holding territories, etc.

      Obviously the problem with rogue militias continues.

      I have difficulty with the "fog of war" excuse for the very very slowly evolving (and vastly changing) stories told by state -- quite a number of people were successfully evacuated has access to telephones and internet ... creating a "mob protesting the film" where there was NONE ... a story refuted by the president I believe 2 days later, but which STATE held onto for nearly a week if not longer, is deliberate obsfuscation ...

      Saying the FBI was investigating, when in fact it was determined it was too dangerous for ANYONE (other than reporters apparently) to even secure the abandoned compound.

      Issa is an idiot. He's missing what in my opinion is the bigger story and all the unanswered questions dating back to before we (and NATO) intervened ... what assets did we have on the ground that made coming to the rescue of the "rebels" so urgent ... or does Team Obama have its own cowboys with dreams of liberating the oppressed ... see also Afghanistan and Iraq ... Iran ... etc

    • The "shameful politicalization" actually, imho, began with Rice and the State Department's attempt to appear "in control" in the face of this successful attack.

      By using the anger anti-muslim film as a cover, a politically convenient "clash of civilization" meme, the State department reinforced just that. Anyone whose "news" is limited to American media was told for days that outrage over the film has spawned this violent attack ... in fact, in several venues, I had to repeatedly remind people that "demonstrating" is not "rioting" and that many, even most, of the anti-film demonstration were not violent, either to people or property.

      There was much outrage and disgust on this side of the Atlantic that those people were angrily demonstrating, shouting "frightening" words -- as if such "free speech" were not one of our proudest freedoms.

      As the demonstrations were expanding that weekend, I listented a state department representative asserting that these demonstrations were ONLY about the movie, that they did not represent anger wrt any deeper historical or economic or geopolitical disagreements.

      No, this was all about religious Muslims angry about a film -- how silly, how infantile, how intractable they are.

      Now, I think that intolerance is Islam's Achilles heel and likely to hobble economic and social development in many Islamic countries who will use religion to justify the maintenance of castes, and the subjugation of women AND the self-exile of many of their best and brightest because of the dangerousness of independent and innovative thought.

      However, the State Department attempted to shield itself from criticism by hiding behind the drapes of the ever popular Islamophobia clash-of-civilzation stereotypes.

      I don't know what to think about the following:

      Tripoli Post 09/10/2012

      On September 11th, the day he died, Mr Stevens wrote to Washington officials detailing a dispute involving the leaders of two prominent Benghazi militias who were responsible for security in the city.

      The two men, Wissam bin Ahmed and Muhammad al-Gharabi, claimed that the US was lobbying for centrist politician Mahmoud Jibril to become Libya's Prime Minister.

      They said that if he won the vote, they 'would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing,' according to Mr Stevens.

      Despite that warning, Mr Stevens did not ask for more US troops, and commented that Benghazi officials believed the city was becoming safer.

      The Irish "The Independent" cast detailed doubt on Rice's simplistic explanation of events within a day or two... the State Department's obvious stonewalling was shameful, imho.

  • Controversies over Younis assassination in Libya
    • Susan Sunflower 07/29/2011 at 11:28 am

      Al-Jazeera: General's death puts Libyan rebels in turmoil

      link to english.aljazeera.net

      long article, imho, worth a full read

      Abdel Fattah Younes has been subject of much scrutiny and scepticism among anti-Gaddafi Libyans.

      The death of rebel military commander Abdel Fatah Younes has thrown a wrench into efforts to organise the makeshift opposition army and risks putting Benghazi, and perhaps the wider effort to oust Gaddafi, into disarray.

      Younes was the subject of much scrutiny and scepticism among anti-regime Libyans both in the country and abroad since he became the highest-profile government figure to defect to their side, on February 20, after five days of increasingly bloody protests in Benghazi and elsewhere in the country.

      Though the opposition National Transitional Council quickly made Younes chief of staff of the ragtag rebel armed forces, a power struggle ensued between Younes and longtime exile Khalifa Hifter, a former general in Muammar Gaddafi's army.

      For much of March and April, control of the rebel army seemed to pass back and forth from Younes to Hifter. Sometimes it seemed neither was in control.

      Backgrounder on Hifter: from McClatchy from March --

      link to mcclatchydc.com

      Hifter sort of arrived in classic "ex-pat will be your leader with our approval" fashion and almost immediately vanished from most news reports after word that he had lost favor with the rebels ... well apparently you can't keep a good man down. How much he benefits from this killing remains to be seen but it sounds from Al-Jazeera that conflicts and rivalries have been an ongoing issue.

  • NATO Strike on Command Center kills Qaddafi Son
    • Susan Sunflower 05/01/2011 at 11:13 am

      yet -- according to Al-Jazeera English last night, "He (Libyan spokesman) said the compound that was hit was in the Garghour neighborhood." with the suggestion this was the son's residence.

      Yet, Nato report states: "In a press release issued early on Sunday, NATO said it had staged air strikes in Tripoli's Bab al-Azizya neighbourhood but did not confirm Libyan claims that strongman Gaddafi's youngest son and three grandchildren were killed.

      "NATO continued its precision strikes against Gaddafi regime military installations in Tripoli overnight, including striking a known command and control building in the Bab al-Azizya neighbourhood shortly after 1800 GMT Saturday evening," the statement said.

      link: link to english.aljazeera.net

      I don't have a Libyan or Tripoli map to tease out neighborhood boundaries and titles ... but ...

      fwiw, I'm eagerly awaiting Susan Rice's 'proof' or justification of claims made to UN delegates ...

  • Crackdowns Against Arab Spring Continue
    • Susan Sunflower 04/04/2011 at 8:58 pm

      But isn't the important question wrt Saleh and Yemen, once again, the Saudi's?

      So, are we again doing the Saudi's bidding by broadcasting our disvowal of Saleh or (doubtful) are we "defiantly" indicating that we will no longer prop up the Saudi-"friendly" Saleh government ....

      Has there been any further explanation/confirmation/details wrt the Asia Times/Pepe Escobar contention that there was an American/Saudi quid pro quo wrt Bahrain and Libya?

      Again, how does the international press blow?

  • Westbrook: Half-Measures in Libya will Fail
    • Susan Sunflower 04/04/2011 at 4:50 pm

      Actually, my impression is that vast numbers of younger Americans cannot imagine a situation in which it would be appropriate/"necessary" for them (or their children) to don uniforms and fight ... apparently that's what 40 years without a draft and with endlessly more sophisticated "look ma, no hands" weaponry has brought.

      I do not want to think of the savagry those people might condone to keep their children off the battlefield... while I suspect the idea that a draft "could" be reinstated would be met with endless legal challenges and possibly violence in the streets. How quaint, the idea that citizens might be legally required to serve in the military, how last century!

    • I agree strongly that the lack of an array of options was and remains "fishy" ...

      however, it appears that job #1 wrt to gaining American public support whether in some larger reality -- in view of our two other major wars in progress and overstretched military and budget deficit, etc. -- or -- as may well be the case wrt getting the U.S. military to sign-on with the plan) having no boots on the ground was widely reported as "critical" and "proof" that we were NOT entering a third (likely) protracted war -- look ma, no hands! (see also Pakistan).

    • Susan Sunflower 04/04/2011 at 10:07 am

      "We" seem to be ignoring our own tawdry history of failed regime change over the last 50+ years ... most folks have enough sense of some sort "national identity" to recognized and resent "outsiders" taking the reins...

      Apparently Mr. Heftar (recently of Virginia, USA) didn't play (sufficiently) well with others:

      Making matters worse, the men could hardly stand one another. They included Khalifa Heftar, a former general who returned recently from exile in the United States and appointed himself as the rebel field commander, the movement’s leaders said, and Omar el-Hariri, a former political prisoner who occupied the largely ceremonial role of defense minister.

      “They behaved like children,” said Fathi Baja, a political science professor who heads the rebel political committee.

      Little was accomplished in the meetings, the participants said. When they concluded late last week, Mr. Younes was still the head of the army and Mr. Hariri remained as the defense minister. Only Mr. Heftar, who reportedly refused to work with Mr. Younes, was forced out. On Sunday, though, in a sign that divisions persisted, Mr. Heftar’s son said his father was still an army leader.

      The "no boots on the ground" is merely for appearances ... see also our "secret" war in Pakistan (where there are similarly few but substantial and growing "boots" -- contractor) and our "secret" drone program (where boots are largely unnecessary except possibly for delineating "targets") ... I have no idea if these "light footprint" efforts are somehow cheapers. I doubt that's to be assumed.

      The European socioeconomic self-interests needs to be teased and explored a bit. The "Libyan rebels are racists" meme is still being repeated blindly, along with fears of "Al-Qa’ida" and "sharia" ... as always, so much depends on who is controlling the dictionary, in charge of which "definition" is being used.

      I'm not sure if the offer by Qadaffi's sons amounts of a hill of beans or is just more vamping, playing for time ...

      Given Obama's self-interest in a second term, I'm guessing that once again "principals" (whatever those might be said to be) will lose out to fairly rapid "pragmatism" (and avoiding more humiliation in the military arena) ...

      stay tuned.

      nyt link: link to nytimes.com

  • Cole/ Van den Heuvel on Libya: Nation Podcast
    • Susan Sunflower 03/30/2011 at 8:33 pm

      Juan -- although my extreme reservation regarding this mission remain, I am grateful to you for standing up and being "present" to man the "pro" side on this issue.

      My fears wrt "our" potential-like-always overreaching seem more likely to me this afternoon with the CIA finding, debate wrt "arming the rebels" (and all that ripples out from such a proposal) ... and yet, I do believe that sometimes it is admirable to take the risk and make the dangerous choice to wade into a situation like this.

      Again, thank you. (I will continue to try to think good and positive thoughts.)

      I'd love to know the mood in France, Italy, etc. and what's up with the Arab League and the African League

  • Libyan Liberation Movement Strikes Back as NATO Comes to the Rescue
    • let me clarify, Gaddafi's supporters need to be at the table ... Gaddafi's rule, I believe, is already over wrt "legitimacy" .... However, having watched America's terrible terrible missteps wrt Iraq, the punitive debaathificaiton, the dreadful husbanding of the drafting a constitution process, the acceptance of the election results which virtually all Sunni's boycotted, the aiding and abetting of Shi'ia death squads, etc. ... all seemingly in a "it's their turn now" posture wrt to the Shi'ia population we "liberated" and put into power.

      The United States did something similar in Afghanistan by utterly banning the Taliban (and reactivating the warlords)...

      There is a desire for sea change ... to "throw the bums out" ... but this can create an unwinnable societal chasm imho.

      I was unclear and I did not mean that Qadaffi should be in a position to negotiate his return to power ... but that, pragmatically, his clans, his supporters should not be shunned or excluded.

    • Susan Sunflower 03/26/2011 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks for the clarification ... reporting HAS been very confusing and "contentious" (with a great deal refutation of what "the other guy" said and agenda pushing) ... it feels like plate-spinning trying to keep an open mind with few seemingly reliable nonpartisan sources

    • Susan Sunflower 03/26/2011 at 12:54 am

      Jason and Super390 --- Yes, I had an interesting "conversation" this afternoon about how these "rebels" are, according to several sources, likely Al-Qa’ida supporters (according to Qadaffi and some info regarding the nationality of those who migrated to Iraq to fight our occupation) which is actually neither here-nor-there ...

      All revolutionary forces have to transition from the energizing fighting-against stance, to the infinitely more difficult governance, growing-a-nation role.

      I said I thought the idea that "we" were protecting these pro-Al-Qui'eda rebels from genocide at the hands of our partner in the Global War on Terror was the kind of America I was raised to believe in ... (I still don't "support" this intervention, but I am willing to hope for best-possible-outcome)

      Yes, I find all sorts of folks go all pear-shaped, balking completely at the idea of self-determinism for the Arab/Moslem Middle East/Afghanistan.

      There are good reasons to doubt that true Wahabbi/Salafi strict sharia (of Taliban ilk) would take hold -- even if it achieves some serious representation in society and the government. Most people, the world over, really do not want their personal business inspected and judged, regardless of how religious and/or pious they wish to appear and/or believe others SHOULD be. (This was part of why Iraq was an Al-Qaida failure -- the Iraqi's wanted the technical assistance and balked at the religious policing)

      Shades of China's cultural revolution -- such "reformers" lose their charm and power quickly -- even if they do enormous damage in that short term -- unless a repressive regieme is willing to devote its fortune to keeping "the people" prisoner.

      I suspect that any new regime tempted to enact too extreme policies will recognize ahead of time that they will face some serious market and social constraints. I regret that we "took out" the Taliban in 2002 (incomplete as that "victory" has proven to be) -- it precluded their evolution. Would they have survived? I think they would have been forced to evolve. Between local and global (nonviolent) forces, I suspect their rigid intransigence and bizarre defiance would eventually pall ... the costs being just too high.

    • It is my recollection (perhaps flawed) that in Libya peaceful demonstrations were quickly met with armed suppression.

      If this "war" was the result of French/British/American machinations, what does that make the rebels or was their status transformed, delegitimized, when they asked for help?

      I've seen people commenting elsewhere that their (the rebel's) tactical miscalculation is not "our" problem ... that they SHOULD have organized better, thought ahead, etc. I suspect such comments are attempts to justify NOT making any effort -- something like "survival of the fittest" or "learning process" -- and allowing "nature to take its course" -- in this case Qadaffi following through on his promise to exact vengeance definitively.

      Yes, Libya is tribal ... so to deliberately seek to depopulate other clans can, I think, legitimately be called "genocidal." The intention to decimate a Libyan clan may not stir your heart ... but it still "counts" ...

      Personally, I've been expecting to hear whispered allegations that the "rebels" received prior CIA backing/financing and/or Blackwater/Xe training ... though their disorganization and lack of skill suggests otherwise. Gosh, perhaps they simply succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and didn't realize they had "overstepped" ... possibly because "they" was never an organized entity ... Should we have instead sat back on our comfy couches and watched Qaddafi punish them?

      Yes, it has felt like this middle east chaos was becoming a spectator sport ... shameful.

    • I am dismayed by the lack of "solidarity" or even vague "rooting for the underdog" I am seeing in the various website I visit wrt to the Libyan rebels ... is this because they do not have the access/infrastructure to allow the twitter/facebook exposure to make their story "real" and immediate. Do the rebels have popular support in, say, France or Italy?

      I have been rather sickened by the self-centered objections to the United States' involvement in the NATO mission (a mission I had and continue to have real concerns about wrt motives and outcomes -- but not based on Obama's misuse of CIC powers or our national debt or crumbling infrastructure or some conjectured plot to control Libyan oil).

      I do not mean to suggest that it is "wrong" to question any of that -- or to question what the game plan, exit strategy might be or be shocked at the mixed messages being received from NATO -- however, I have found myself thinking that the ever-expanding-list of objections to intervention in Libya echo many of the reasons Bill Clinton believed he could not act wrt Rwanda.

      Oh, and yes, I am still actively interested in whatever became of those 100,000 missing men used to justify NATO'S Kosovo intervention ...

      Lack of transparency and consistency of message not only by the Obama Administration but also by Security Counsel and NATO have hurt "support" for this mission which has been compounded by inadequate "nonpartisan" journalistic backgrounding -- most everything I have read has been pushing one agenda or another (and there are, I estimate, at least a half-dozen frames for this story).

      I had and have many misgivings and doubts wrt this mission ... I hope that the involvement of the African Union, representing Qadaffi, an offer he has accepted, will lead to negotiated settlement, or at least a start of negotiations sooner rather than later. The legitimacy of all that comes "after" will be strengthened if Qadaffi survives and his clan(s)/supporters included at the table.

      Thank you Dr. Cole for generally neither cheerleading or deploring this mission.

  • Arab League Requests UNSC to Impose No-Fly Zone
    • Susan Sunflower 03/13/2011 at 1:36 am

      oh gosh, never mind ...

    • Would it be unconscionably cynical to wonder if they approved this unanimously because they KNEW the UN Security Council will never approve NATO action?

      With all the arms we've sold some of these countries, and all the advice and training we've given their militaries ... why do they "need" NATO to do this again? (Not that I particularly want to risk some regional world war equivalent.)

  • Arab League May support No-Fly Zone, as Qaddafi Retakes Territory
    • Susan Sunflower 03/12/2011 at 2:35 pm

      CNN BREAKING NEWS: Arab League unanimously backs Libya no-fly zone, asks U.N. Security Council to impose one, Oman's foreign minister says.

      watch what happens ....

      is already too late to do what it's 'spose to do?

      can it be implemented quickly enough, forcefully enough to "save lives"? assuming that's the justification

      or is it a ploy, merely an attempt to force Gadhafi to quit?

  • Taliban Attack 2 US Bases
    • Susan Sunflower 08/29/2010 at 11:26 am

      I found the Taliban video an extraordinary counterpoint to Wikileaks Collateral Murder. Really stunning and thought provoking -- these are the forces who we are most definitely NOT "bringing to heel." The quiet discipline, the pretty-much utter seriousness, the palpable solidarity of this little group. I am unable to find the full video -- extended link says not available in "your area" (USA, I presume). Thanks again, always.

  • US Military Mission in Iraq ends not with a Bang but a Whimper
    • thanks for the Saudi News --

      I was happy to read of the meet-up between Alwai and Al-Sadr in Syria next week -- My memories of the latter extending a hand to the Sunni's before high-tailing it back to Iran and studies are warm ones ... Looking for any Al-Sadr-Saudi stories via Google I found your entry from March

      5. Sadr declines to condemn Saudi Arabia or Saudi money in Iraqi politics as long as that money helps elect nationalists who will work for a US withdrawal; he points out that he has visit Saudi Arabia, and condemns the friction between Shiites and Sunnis;

      There must be re-enfrancisement of the Sunni's for there to be any hope of peace ... sounds likes hands are being extended which is excellent. The devil will be in the details of making restitution for those displaced and "squattered" upon.

      In the article re the confab in Syria, I read that Al-Sadr is still a wanted man in Iraq stemming irrc from 2007 (though it might have been 2008) -- an Al-Maliki warrant? -- there's an open warrant for his arrest.

      It will be good when we are more absent.

  • Taliban influence Spreading in Afghanistan
    • What's up with the Saudi's? I remembered yesterday that there was concern that if -- in Iraq -- the Sunni population was too harshly subjugated, suffered too much -- the Saudi's being Sunni might some how intervene -- obviously that never happened. Once again, having the Saudi's as an ally is apparently worthless.

      I was concerned that the "surge" in Afghanistan might inspire a corresponding migration of wannabe from Europe and Africa -- a second coming, incarnation of the valiant mujahadeen who drove out infidels -- then the soviets, now the americans -- but I have heard nothing to indicate such as migration. The Saudi's also supported the mujahadeen (I confess I'm uncertain of their relationship with or reaction to the ascendency of the Taliban).

      Are they sitting on their proverbial hands? As some "defender of the Sunni faith." I wonder if this inaction, impotence will only further diminish their stature, increase the impression that they are "our" poodles in the eyes of their own disaffected youth. Apparently they refused to aide in Karzai-Taliban talks unless the Taliban "turns over" Bin Laden (Feb 2010 msnbc) when Karzai and King Abdullah met in London.

      Illness?

  • War is Theft: Pentagon cannot account for $8.6 Billion of Iraq's Reconstruction Funds
    • Susan Sunflower 07/28/2010 at 9:02 am

      Fred Kaplan (and others notably the WSJ) have highlighted our "can't win for losing" results wrt to finally getting the hydrolectric dam operating at better capacity (we were responsible for building the dam back in 1974), confounded by the Taliban collecting the monthly electricity fees resulting in -- according to Kaplan/WSJ -- the Taliban getting credit for the electricity being turned on (and the power to turn it off and/or divert it to their advantage) while the Americans are blamed when electricity fails. Which begs the question of WHY in this vast impoverished, corrupt country we are charging people for this electricity since it appears to merely create yet another "revenue stream" to be abused, diverted, etc. Not to mention, the well-known inherent "unreliability" of power grids which become obviously ripe targets for sabotage.

      The environmental consequences of all those gasoline generators occupation have brought to both Iraq and Afghanistan gives pause as well -- noise, exhaust, even less efficient use of fossil fuels -- oddly, I find myself wondering which are the field tested "preferred brands." Suspect they aren't American made.

      link to slate.com

      The project has doubled the plant's electrical output, much of it to Helmand province, where U.S. forces are now engaged in a protracted fight with Taliban insurgents. The idea is that improving the Afghan people's lives (something that a more reliable flow of electricity would do) might rally them to support the Afghan government (on whose behalf we've made this investment) and steer them away from the Taliban (who, the people would see, can't give them what they need).

      The problem is that the Taliban control vast swaths of the province, including much of the power grid. So they collect the monthly electricity bills—going door to door to do so—and use the money to fund the war against us.

      And because the Taliban are out there collecting the bills (and sometimes siphoning off the power and redirecting the lines away to more cooperative households), they get the credit for the electricity, too.

      (unsure of my html so I'll leave it there)

  • Taliban Grant Renegade Afghan Soldier, Killer of 3 British Troops, Asylum
    • Susan Sunflower 07/14/2010 at 10:23 am

      I have realized again that I have no idea what the Taliban's "basic platform" is -- besides -- some vague tribal/religious/gang protection-racket affliliation. Do most agricultural workers tend their own plots or are they sharecroppers? Is poverty so entrenched that the "serfs" in this scheme are simply hopeful of a better, fairer, more honest "master"?

      I have wondered if comparison can be made between the Taliban and the Mafia (and probably any number of other gang/militia settings)-- You don't need to be member to live in an area under their influence. You may even despise them, though -- unless willing to relocate and risk your life -- you wouldn't inform on them. Over time, it's possible in times of difficultly you might need their help and/or, just as likely, find yourself on the run from the same.

      Karzai fears that that "local militia" model will lead to a rise (re-institution?) of the warlord model. Have the warlords actually lost power? Can they be seen as competing "gangs" who form alliances, also run "protection" rackets, not only for people and businesses, but goods and services?

      I still feel there is a gaping hole in our understanding of how everyday Afghanistan gets along, how it "ticks." I've read (although of course it is disputed) that Soviet/Communist agrarian reform was popular. Has this been erased?

      I wonder if the Afghan city mouse and country mouse inhabit the same country.

  • June Deadliest Month for NATO in Afghanistan;
    Congress cuts Civilian Aid by $4 bn.
    • Susan Sunflower 07/02/2010 at 7:24 am

      Ikea has halted investment in Russia citing corruption ...
      with amazing stories

      quote " Ikea said Tuesday that it was suspending further investment in Russia, apparently because of pervasive corruption and demands for bribes.

      The announcement came after a rare statement by Ikea’s 83-year-old founder in a radio interview that Ikea had decided not to solve problems by slipping money under the table

      snip

      In a statement, Ikea’s Russia director cited the “unpredictability of administrative processes” in Russia as the basis of the decision. Outside experts said that was the company’s way of describing a pattern of bribe-taking and shakedowns by Russian officials that had become intolerable. "" unquote

      NPR, I think, had a gruesome and mindboggling account of their attempts to build a flagship store in Moscow -- when ready for opening they were unable to get the electricity turned on.

      link to nytimes.com

      I am suspicious that "corruption" has become a fig-leaf excuse for a multitude of sins in which we are complicit -- If only it weren't for the corruption, we sigh. Like cleanliness or the need for most people to work on improving their spelling or arithmetic, it's a universally recognized and shared "outrage" that in Afghanistan (and in many poorly managed 3rd world countries), by my recollection, has been legendary for decades if not centuries.

      What is gained by undermining Karzai by blaming this all on his very weak, corrupt, inept, self-serving (I've learned the Karzai buzz words) centralized government? The Russians seem equally "incapable" of dealing with it. -- It's not really "like the weather" -- it's man-made and seems to work very well for many people in many situations in the short-term, in the long term, it's is genuinely debilitating.

      Now, about those alleged suitcases of cash -- shall we rejoice it's not shrinkwrapped palates of newly minted $100 bills?

    • the "corruption" video makes us look pathetic -- after almost 10 years, we can't enforce contracts because they are in another language? because receipts and records are not available -- shit -- send in a few thousand $100 (or $300) lap tops and give Babel-fish and/or Rosetta Stone a few millions to create translation-helper / translation training programs. Have the Chinese and Indian monopolized all the "good" translators?

      I was also uncertain if the $00.30 of every $1.00 of reconstruction funds that actually goes to reconstruction means that a $10,000 bridge repair ends up costing over $30,000 or if we end up with a crappy inadequate, shoddy or unfinshed $3,000 bridge repair. Not to mention the unmentioned "jobs" our reconstruction created and what secondary/tertiary effect they may be having. (When I read that the Afghans want us to stay -- I find myself wondering what their "legitimate" economy would consist of if we decamped.

      If we are ultimately paying $30,000 for a $10,000 repair job -- we are part of the problem and have obviously learned nothing from the rampant thievery we allowed, aided and abetted in Iraq. I suspect when there is competition among thieves to see how much they can extort and just how little work they can get away with actually paying for.

      Where I live the conventional wisdom is that most home renovations cost twice as much and take twice as long as agreed upon -- even with a signed contract -- is this corruption or just the way of the world? Ae cost "overruns" the result of giving contracts to people who deliberately "bid" below costs, and then adjust costs after the contract has been secured. Are we (and our subcontractors) actually reinforcing bad practices by paying what amounts to "bonuses" for work behind schedule or abandoned?

      Dexter Filkins on Charlie Rose said that corruption in Baghdad was so bad that a bribe was required to be allowed to enter the airport -- how much of a bribe? not mentioned. did he pay it? not asked (I assumed he did, he made his flight and it could go on his expense account as a gratuity) -- was that briber back the next day? you betcha. If he work a red suite , a jaunty hat and white gloves, would he have been less offensive as a "self-appointed" doorman who sized up each person's ability to pay as they approached him. Is it a tip or a gratuity? Did Filkin's report this to ANYONE? Not that he mentioned. But I suspect he will be repeating this story for the rest of his life -- how bad was corruption in Baghdad? It was so bad ....

  • 7 NATO Troops Killed;
    as Karzai is Said to Dicker with Insurgents;
    and Panetta Scoffs
    Taliban Rejoice in McChrystal Firing
    • Susan Sunflower 06/28/2010 at 11:06 pm

      thanks so much -- I may have to read this entry several times before I will be able to recognize the names and places, but I too appreciate the details. I've realized for a long time that all this talk of "the Taliban" was possibly even deliberately obscuring a much more complicated social reality. Even the reports from Marjah in the NY Times indicated that most families have "Taliban" kin -- despite repeated polls showing that "the Taliban" are despised.

      I have wondered about our sources of information -- whether the voices of the common rural folk are EVER heard and factored into the pronouncements of public opinion. I doubt the ambitions and desires of the tiny powerholding, affluent movers and shakers are either "altruistic" nor their concerned shared by the masses trying to keep body and soul together. I wonder if the average person has enough money and opportunity to be affected by "corruption" or if this is primarily a concern of the powerful and affluent (the original trickle down economics, if you're lucky enough to have kin in on the gravy train). Speaking of which, wasn't part of the base of power for the Taliban that they were "honest" in comparison to the warlords?

      Disturbing to read of the polio outbreak. I gather hunger is all too common as well.
      What are OUR priorities, beside avoiding casualties and "disgrace"?

      Anyway, thank as always -- Susan

  • Karzai Defeats Obama 2-1
    • Susan Sunflower 05/13/2010 at 12:57 pm

      We seem to come closer to the apparent matter of difference -- Karzai believes that progress can only be made if some sort of peace can be negotiated while TeamAmerica somehow persists in believing that perpetual war of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" variety will do the trick -- which "trick" that might be and more importantly "when" are unanswered existing in some pie-in-the-sky day when they stand up so we can stand down.

      Afghanistan is not Iraq -- In Iraq, the citizenry had living memory of a functioning government and a (relatively) civil society based (more or less) on rules of law. This is not the case in Afghanistan where more-or-less despotic fiefdoms seem to be the "ruling" priniciples/principals.

      I suspect that Karzai realizes that combatting "corruption" is a matter of shoveling shit against the tide in a country whose primary economic activity (beyond foreign aid based largesse) is the narcotic business -- growing, processing, distributing, banking, investing. It's hard (if not impossible) to combat all those people with suitcases full of cash operating at all levels -- See also Colombia.

      Infrastructure investments in alternative crops or electrification -- for instance -- are exercises in futility if they simply become the chess pieces in a never-ending turf war.

      This is our beef with Karzai. Funny how "we" who have never had even a major battle on our own turf -- except 09/11 but only if we stretch various definitions enormously -- within living memory are so eager to sacrifice the lives of others, those locals of foreign lands we claim to be "helping."

      As was asked on Maddow's show last night -- Explain to me again exactly why aren't we fighting in Pakistan? (I think we all know the answer to that little question.)

  • Police: Shahzad has no Links to Taliban; Clinton Remarks Produce Firestorm in Pakistan
    • I would recommend Robert Wright's column "The making of a Terrorist" in today's NYT -- less for his rational reasonable words, more for the irate response of so many to that same reasonableness. (At least one letter writer suggests that the Times Square Bomber "had to go through with it" or face dire consequences from Al-Qaeda and that his half-assed bomb represented ... well, you get the point) -- Tea Leaves.

      IMHO, there is going to be a succession of smokescreens to keep any actual discussion or news from Af-Pak at bay. The last few days have been notable for contradictory headlines and scoffing at the White House for "playing nice" with Karzai -- so well has the demonization of Karzai succeeded -- support for McCrystal's surge is faltering and there has, by reports (see TomDispatch, irrc), already been a surge (or two) within the surge, as the ephemeral nature of "our" success in Marja triggered various red alerts.

  • Salisbury: Times Square Rorschach Test
    • Susan Sunflower 05/10/2010 at 11:48 am

      It's disturbing how tightly they cling to a narrative that has never "fit" very well. It apparently took 09/11 to convince that "terrorism" could be carried out without state sponsorship (which did not stop us from invading Afghanistan, of course). The state-actors have been replaced by various great-man evil-doers, Anwar al-Awlaki being the "new Bin Laden" apparently with vast alarums being sounded wrt real-life American muslims being "converted" to terrorism, always somehow "in league" with Al-Qaeda. I've been anticipating ad hoc wannabe acts since 09/11 and simply marvel that there have been none of consequence.

      Cynically I wonder if creating an "all roads lead to Anwar al-Awlaki" narrative is not being created to rationalize his assasination. Some people insist that he brainwashed Hasan, for instance, part of the superhuman power of the evil doers, rather than the more likely evolution that Hasan sought our Al-Awlaki because that was where his thoughts were leading him. It is hard to mock the idea that we are at war with Islam when so many non-muslim Americans seems to not only believe this is true but that Islam represent some sort of existential threat , even as Af-Pak flounders and is so easy to ignore, as civilian casualties mount and quality of life goes down the toilet -- oh, an opposition the occupation swells "the taliban's" ranks (the taliban being the inaccurate one-size-fits-all name for the opposition)

      Obama and British Petroleum must be thanking their lucky stars for this this "the system worked!!!!" diversion -- this poorly conceived and executed amateur hour attempt (I'm tempted to call it a stunt) has eclipsed the ecologic catastrophe being unfolded. News that the planned "capping" failed before it could even be implemented is "below the fold." or off the front page entirely -- And now the Kagan nomination ... the Tennessee floods also apparently are not receiving the attention they deserve.

      We are not being well served by our news industry. This is narrative is all too reminiscent also of the make the profile fit the "suspect" molding of Bruce Ivins into a master criminal Anthrax mailer, when previous prime suspect Stephen Hatfill managed to clear himself.

  • Allawi's Secularists call for Caretaker Gov't, New Elections
    • Susan Sunflower 04/29/2010 at 6:59 pm

      Allawi as I understand it won over Sunni voters by being a secularist and being a nationalist (not in Iran's pocket, as Maliki is seen to be) -- Apparently they also as a block decided to make their electoral presence felt -- so they came out to vote in great numbers.

      I was asking about the census recently and I am also surprised that a minority which has continually shrunk from day one of our invasion when it was portrayed as being just somewhat less a percentage of the population conmpared to the oppressed Shi'ia majority -- something like 50% shi'ia, 40% sunni , 10% kurd, irrc -- slipping all the way down to a frequently cited 20% for the last few years, post-debaathification, etc.

      Several million Iraqi's (who I suspect are probably mostly Sunni) are holed up in Syria and Jordan and elsewhere in the Sunni sphere (not in Shi'ia Iran thank you very much) and while they were supposed to be counted in the census, I have yet to hear the results.

      In any event, it may be that the discrepancy wrt "voter turnout" made "all the difference." (Oddly enough this critical census was the reason we initially delayed elections back when Allawi was last in power -- it was then delayed a few years and verrry slowly completed .) Fishy - no?

      I'm not sure how Allawi is being reckless here -- Imho, it is Maliki who by demanding expanded recounts and going along with day late-dollar short after the fact disqualification of candiates is courting trouble -- creating a "dead space" for bad-actors to exploit.

      ymmv

  • Disqualifications of 'pro-Baathists' throw Iraq into Political Uncertainty
    • Susan Sunflower 04/28/2010 at 9:54 am

      After all of the much publicized outrage over the Iraqi election "irregularities," I often cannot find this EVOLVING story on the front pages, despite the STAR billing of our perennial designated bad-guy Challabi, in there representing HIS interests as usual.

      I would have thought that Allawi's "victory" -- as a nationalist and secular bloc would have been championed by American interests -- afterall, he was a CIA asset and was our handpicked interim ruler. Interestingly enough back then, many Iraqis feared he would foment a coup to become "strong man" in the vaccum of Saddam's absence. Remarkable the difference 5 or so years make.

      Appreciate the updates! Have the long-awaited, much-delayed census results ever been released?

  • Blog Migration
    • Susan Sunflower 04/11/2010 at 10:42 pm

      Best wishes for smooth sailing on this upgrade. I too like the "uncluttered" look (and larger font). I'll check back tomorrow. Don't forget to sleep (and eat) -- tinkering can be so very engrossing! Thanks for all.

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