Later On

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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

You get what you pay for: US Military and Civilian Budgets

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In the US, people work to support the military, not themselves — that’s based on the relative distribution of tax dollars spent on the military vs. social services, the social safety net, and civilian services and infrastructure. Judd Legum writes in Popular Information:

A new report from Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, shared exclusively with Popular Information, reveals how decades of enormous military spending have reshaped the federal government and the U.S. economy. Today, more than half of all discretionary spending is spent on defense, military personnel make up the majority of federal government employees, and private military contractors are a leading force in the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, “investments in infrastructure, healthcare, education, and emergency preparedness” have been crowded out.

The numbers are startling. There are about 3.5 million people who work for the federal government, including civilians and uniformed military personnel. 72% of all federal workers are “defense-related,” including Department of Defense civilians, uniformed military personnel, and the Department of Veterans Affairs staff. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services employs 4% of federal civilian workers. The State Department, tasked with using diplomacy to avert wars, employs 1%.

The Department of Defense has a budget of $849 billion in the current fiscal year, and more than half is funneled to military contractors. About 30% of this money goes to just five firms: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrup Grummond. Billions are awarded without competitive bidding. In 2020, for example, only 10% of Lockheed Martin’s contracts were subject to competition. Despite the massive sums of money involved, “we know surprisingly little about how they spend these funds, what kinds of jobs and pay are supported, which sub-contractors are paid and how much.” All five companies spend in excess of $10 million annually lobbying the federal government.

Today, “military contracts are distributed to every congressional district and nearly every county in the U.S.” According to the report, this isn’t an accident. Military contractors understand that “spreading out contracts means buying and gaining political support.” The strategy produces “more constituents and more politicians fighting to win or maintain those contracts for the sake of jobs.”

But military spending comes at a cost. Since 2015, the U.S. has added more than $300 billion to its annual defense spending. That is equivalent to the annual cost of providing universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year-olds, 2 years of free community college for high school graduates, and health insurance for uninsured Americans — combined.

The situation described in the report is likely to worsen following the recent passage of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, which reduces most discretionary spending for two years while allowing defense spending to continue apace.

“U.S. taxpayers have gotten what they’ve paid for, which is an economy that is devoted to the military, both in terms of spending and in terms of jobs,” the author of the study, Dr. Heidi Peltier, concludes. The following is a transcript of Popular Information’s interview with Peltier, edited for length and clarity.

LEGUM: You describe in the report that, today, both the federal government and, to a certain extent, the economy overall, is dominated by military spending. When did this dynamic begin?

PELTIER: Until recently, [the defense budget] would go up during wartime and down during peacetime. And what we’re seeing in recent years is that it keeps going up even when we’re not at war. So with the exit from Afghanistan and the winding down of the Iraq war, we really should be seeing military spending going down. And yet we continue to see increased military budgets.  So that is something that I think has changed over the last 20 years in the post-9/11 era.

LEGUM: Many politicians and pundits argue that the United States is not spending enough on the military. One of the arguments that I see centers around purchasing power. The argument is that we spend more than the next 10 or 11 countries combined on our military, but that distorts reality because it’s much cheaper for the Chinese to pay for things. What would you say to that?

PELTIER: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2023 at 5:29 am

100 Years Ago, A Woman Told The World How Pointless Their Wars Were

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Jessica Wildfire writes at OK Doomer:

Is it necessary to feed the people of Europe… to get the wheat out of Russia? Then in heaven’s name, let us have warm water harbors in order to get that wheat out of Russia.

— Jane Addams, “The Revolt Against War,” 1915

More than a hundred years ago, an American woman traveled through war-torn Europe interviewing ordinary people about the first world war. She wasn’t just another journalist. She was a social worker and a nonprofit director. She didn’t take sides. She didn’t sell propaganda.

She just listened.

She learned a few things.

First, she figured out that every nation thinks they’re “fighting to preserve its own traditions and its own ideals from those who would come in and disturb and destroy those high traditions and those ideals.” Every nation believes they’re doing the right thing, even if they lie to justify it.

She also figured out that nobody really wants to fight. The soldiers sure as hell don’t want to be there. Only a tiny minority revels in the violence. Most of them are scared to death. They’re hiding their fear. They believe they have no choice but to fight. That’s what they’ve been told.

Finally, she figured out that countries don’t really fight over ideology. They don’t fight for democracy. They don’t fight over politics. They don’t fight over religion. Those aren’t the real reasons for wars.

They’re excuses.

This woman figured out that countries actually fight over resources. They want another country to share its ports, land, or raw materials. They feel excluded or threatened by each other. They struggle to meet the needs of their own people. So they either provoke a war, or they just invade. If these countries could sit down and discuss how to share their resources without letting their politics or religion get in the way, then the wars wouldn’t happen.

If nothing else, they wouldn’t last as long.

This woman became relatively famous for her humanitarian work and public speaking. But when she started talking about war, the press turned on her. They smeared her. They questioned her patriotism.

Organizations expelled her.

She became a pariah.

The world decided this woman was a moron just trying to cause trouble and make a name for herself. Instead, they decided it was a better idea to keep fighting. In the end, nobody really won that first war.

Nothing really changed.

Instead of giving up, this woman continued to serve humanity. She worked under the president, overseeing relief aid to “the women and children of enemy nations.” She published a book about it, Peace and Bread in a Time of War. About two decades later, the same conditions this woman talked about led to another, even more destructive war. This war centered around a genocide.

After the end of that war, the world finally came around to the idea that maybe nations should try to work together instead of constantly competing over resources and making threats. That idea worked for a little while, at least until rich countries decided to start building empires again.

Almost nobody remembers this woman, even though she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, just a couple of years before Hitler became chancellor of Germany. The committee seemed to realize the world was heading toward another war. Maybe they thought giving this woman an award would redeem her and get the nation’s leaders to listen. She died from cancer four years later.

She’s erased from most history textbooks now. Students never learn about her. At best, she’s a footnote—maybe a paragraph.

Instead, they learn that the assassination of some minor aristocrat catapulted Europe into war. They learn the excuses for the war, but not the reasons. Sometimes they learn the reasons for the second war, but mostly they learn that we beat some genocidal super villain.

If that’s what Americans have been learning for the last hundred years, it’s no wonder they can never see past their own excuses. They support one war after another, each time convinced they really are the good guys this time. They’re desperate to relive war stories that never even happened.

I often think about how different the world would look if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 June 2023 at 7:37 pm

Propaganda rarely looks like this

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Caitlin Johnstone has an interesting column in Consortium News, in which the above video appears (along with three other very interesting videos). I think the video understates the role of good journalism —  for example, I have recently read of various legislation passed based on reporting in ProPublica and Judd Legum’s Popular Information. On the other hand, I certainly do not see much reporting on the basic flaws of capitalism — that decisions are made solely on how they affect profits, with clear examples of how that leads to danger to the public and the environment (by long trains, for example, or by not providing paid sick leave for food works — both of which have been reported but not the basic flaw in capitalism that led to those bad outcomes). Nor do journalists talk much about the damage from the ethos of “rugged individualism” and how we fare better with a cooperative community spirit — cf. barn-raising.

Nonetheless, the video is interesting — and this video has more on Chomsky’s ideas of manufacturing consent. When we talk about “manufactured consent,” that does not mean that everyone must conset — just enough people with enough power to determine the country’s direction. One might call it “manufactured effective consent,” with dissenters having no power to affect the decisions. For example, I did not consent to the US invasion of Iraq. In fact, I strongly opposed that invasion. But they did it anyway. James Fallows, who certainly has a greater voice than I, wrote a lengthy article in the Atlantic offer a strongly reasoned argument against the invasion.

But in the meantime, a coterie of newspapers, politicians, and influencers — including the NY Times, which was a big booster of the invasion — were beating the drums to go to war, and go to war we did, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and also instituted systematic torture of suspects as US policy. No one has been held accountable for any of that.

Still, the overall thrust of Johstone’s column is worth your consideration. She writes:

People in the English-speaking world hear the word “propaganda” and might tend to think of something that’s done by the governments of foreign nations that are so totalitarian they won’t let people know what’s true or think for themselves.

Others might understand that propaganda is something that happens in their own nation, but think it only happens to other people in other political parties. If they think of themselves as left-leaning they see those to their right as propagandized by right wing media, and if they think of themselves as right-leaning they see those to their left as propagandized by left-wing media.

A few understand that propaganda is administered in their own nation by their own media, and understand that it’s administered across partisan lines, but they think of it in terms of really egregious examples such as weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or babies being taken from incubators in Kuwait.

In reality, all are inaccurate understandings of what propaganda is and how it works in Western society. Propaganda is administered in Western nations, by Western nations, across the political spectrum — and the really blatant and well-known examples of its existence make up only a small sliver of the propaganda in which our civilization is continuously marinating.

The most common articles of propaganda — and by far the most consequential — are not the glaring, memorable instances that live in infamy among the critically minded. They’re the mundane messages, distortions and lies-by-omission that people are fed day in and day out to normalize the status quo and lay the foundation for more propaganda to be administered in the future.

One of the forms this takes is the way the Western political/media class manipulates the Overton window of acceptable political opinion.

Have you ever noticed how when you look at any mainstream newspaper, broadcast or news website, you never see views from those who oppose the existence of the U.S.-centralized empire? Or those who want to close all foreign U.S. military bases? Or those who want to dismantle capitalism? Or those who want a thorough rollback of the creeping authoritarianism our civilization is being subjected to?

You might see some quibbling about different aspects of the empire, some debate over de-escalating against Russia in order to better escalate against China, but you won’t ever see anyone calling for the end of the empire and its abuses altogether.

That’s propaganda. It’s propaganda in multiple ways: it . . .

Continue reading.

One thing that would protect us against propaganda is to teach every citizen, starting at a young age, critical thinking skills. (Edward DeBono developed a good program that begins in first grade and goes through elementary school, and it has proven effective in many schools.) However, I don’t believe that will happen in the US. The US has no national curriculum and the many thousands of school districts have the power to decide many aspects of curriculum (even though states do try to impose some curricular standards. What kills the teaching of critical thinking skills to young children is that, when they learn those skills, they start to practice them, and many parents do not like that. The children begin to question things the parents do not want questioned, and often parental pressure will kill the program.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2023 at 6:35 pm

Ukraine’s small stealth submarine may change naval warfare

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A vessel moored to a dock in a harbor. has a dull black finish with two yellow stripes. A rounded pod has two attached extensions pointed forward on either side. There is not deck, nor any viewports. It has the look of an alien spaceship.

Jesus Diaz has a fascinating and lengthy article in Fast Company about a new approach to submarine warfare:

In the Arabian Desert—somewhere past the end of Dubai—a small band of misfits claim to have built the submarine of the future in the middle of an ocean of sand. Hanging from a heavy industrial crane inside an industrial warehouse, the black silhouette of the machine feels biological and menacing, almost alive as its creators put in the last touches before its virgin voyage.

Its name is Kronos. And according to its chief designer, Ukrainian engineer Alexander Kuznetsov, founder of Highland Systems, it may change naval warfare forever.

If traditional large submarines are the slow-moving bombers of the sea, Kronos is a stealth jet fighter, capable of maneuvering at fast speeds, turning on a dime, and sneaking behind big enemy ships to disable them with torpedoes and even sink them with magnetic mines. Its design is intended to have it lie on the ocean seabed, listening to its sensors, like a predator patiently waiting for its prey. 

These are lofty claims, but if Kronos performs as Kuznetsov and his team expect, it has a chance of disrupting war at sea the same way drones have in the air and a new generation of easy-to-use, hit-and-run weapons have on land. As Matthew Sweeney—a commander in the U.S. Navy and professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island—tells me in a video interview, everything Highland Systems proposes is feasible on paper. Ukraine, however, is at war now.


Submarine design has remained ostensibly the same since the end of the 19th century, when the Spaniard Isaac Peral invented the first fully capable military submarine. From the diesel U-boats that terrorized Allied convoys during World War II, to the modern nuclear-powered attack submarines that can unleash a storm of atomic missiles over the planet at the turn of a key, they are all tubes, powered by hybrid diesel-electrical engines or nuclear reactors.

Envisioned to operate in deep waters, current military submarines can patrol the oceans for months at a time. They are powerful and deadly, but huge, and they maneuver quite slowly. One example: An operation like a crash dive—which means submerging from the surface as fast as possible to avoid attack—took a World War II-era submarine about 30 seconds. A modern, Ohio-class nuclear sub takes up to five minutes to fully submerge.  

Their size comes with a host of other problems. Submarines are laborious to turn. The average submarine going at full speed has a turning radius that ranges from 750 to 1,500 feet. And they need a considerable amount of water to operate at all. Even smaller vessels—like anti-submarine hunter-killers, designated as SSK—have a minimum operating depth of 650 feet, according to the U.S. Naval Institute, because they need to have space under their keel.

Kronos is designed to be the performance opposite of a traditional submarine. Its intentionally small and stealthy design is meant to enable it to creep close to shore, or enemy vessels, firing pinpoint torpedos and dropping mines to cause devastation more like a drone than a U-boat. Instead of needing a crew of 100 to operate like submarines of today, Kronos can be handled by a single brave pilot and carry up to eight special operations commandos. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including more photos.

Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2023 at 5:58 am

Obituaries for Nuremberg Prosecutor Erase His Beliefs About the U.S.

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John Schwarz reports in The Intercept:

BENJAMIN FERENCZ DIED last week at the age of 103. Ferencz was the last surviving member of the team of prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, which led to the convictions of many top Nazi officials and since been understood as the exemplar of justice for war crimes.

Ferencz served in the U.S. Army during the war and in its aftermath investigated the conditions at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Dachau concentration camps. He spent the rest of his life advocating for the creation of an international criminal court and accountability for war criminals generally.

These facts appear in his obituaries. What’s missing from all of them in major outlets — including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, and the Associated Press — is Ferencz’s belief that top members of the George W. Bush administration, including Bush himself, should have been tried for war crimes for the Iraq War.

This is not obscure, difficult-to-obtain information. In 2002, the Times published a letter to the editor from Ferencz stating that “a preemptive military strike [on Iraq] not authorized by the Security Council would clearly violate the UN Charter that legally binds all nations.” In December 2003, Ferencz said in an interview, “The invasion by the U.S. of Iraq, I think, would also qualify under the Nuremberg principles as a violation of international law. … If you’re going to have that kind of a factual situation as we have in Iraq, I think the first trial should be a trial which is absolutely fair and should include all the principle perpetrators and planners of the crimes which occurred.” Ferencz wrote the foreword to a 2009 book titled “George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes.” He also wrote the foreword for another book, “Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.”

Yet the Times published an almost-2,000 word obituary for Ferencz without mentioning this. It somehow includes the sentence, “Critics say the [International Criminal Court] has focused on prosecutions in Africa while American wars have not even been investigated,” without mentioning that one of the most vociferous critics of this was Ferencz.

The Post’s obituary for Ferencz is 1,500 words long and mentions that after Nuremberg, he “devoted much of the rest of his life to the cause of international justice.” It also quotes Ferencz at Nuremberg as saying, “Death was their tool and life their toy. If these men be immune, then law has lost its meaning, and man must live in fear.” But there’s nothing about Iraq.

The BBC informs us that “[i]n his later years, he became a professor of international law and campaigned for an international court that could prosecute the leaders of governments found to have committed war crimes, writing several books on the subject.” There’s no mention of Iraq and Bush.

Ferencz’s Iraq perspective also goes unmentioned in Reuters. The Guardian found space to tell us, “Guided by his motto, ‘Law, Not War,’ Ferencz was still giving television interviews last year – arguing that those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine must be brought to trial.” His words about Iraq do not appear anywhere.

CNN likewise mentions Ferencz’s words on Ukraine, but not Iraq. NPR said nothing about Iraq not once, but twice. The list continues with CBSBloomberg, the New York Daily News, the Guardian again, the Associated PressUPI, the Jewish Telegraphic AgencyLe Monde, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, and the New York Sun.

Yahoo News does manage to say that . . .

Continue reading.

The U.S. cannot handle the truth.

Later in the article:

One thing worth remembering in this context are the famous opening remarks at Nuremberg by Robert Jackson, the chief justice:

If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2023 at 2:12 pm

Pottery and Purpose

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A bearded man sits at a table next to three beautiful vases he has made.

Adrian Weiss writes for the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:

The first time I sat down at a pottery wheel my life changed.

Two years ago, after a decade in the Army that included three deployments to Afghanistan and Syria, I was facing the long-term health impacts of military service. Head injuries from parachute jumps and an improvised explosive device blast left me with a host of neurological and vestibulocochlear deficits. Despite treatment, the migraines, difficulties with balance, and constant nausea persisted.

I was also facing challenges in making the transition back to a life at home.

When I went into the Army, I was a young man who loved to work out and backpack in the woods. Over the next 10 years, working out became something else entirely: I did it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be strong enough to carry my friends to safety. And years of forced ruck marches had drained the enjoyment out of hiking.

Living in North Carolina after my last deployment, I had no hobbies or interests unrelated to my military life. I also had to grapple with not being physically capable of doing things that I once loved. I felt adrift and without purpose. Many who leave the military experience the same feelings. Military life is a constant barrage of purpose. Every action is nested within a commander’s intent, which is in turn nested within a higher commander’s intent, and so on. Purpose—even if the purpose doesn’t make sense—and your identity as a soldier dominate every aspect of your life: interactions with family, your sleep, your exercise.

Looking for an activity that we could do together, my wife signed us both up for a pottery class at the local community college. I immediately took to wheel throwing: the persistent attention to spin and balance, the continuum between friction and mobility, and between earth and water.

I fell in love with the idea of creating millennia-old forms of craft and industry with simple tools and my own hands. I started making bowls and mugs, but I rapidly became enthralled with making Greek amphora and vase forms from antiquity.

Pottery making proved to be   . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article, he mentions The Iliad, and it made me think that perhaps he had read Jonathan Shay’s book Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, about Shay’s experience in working with veterans suffering from PTSD. (This book, along with another book by Shay, is included among the books I find myself repeatedly recommending.)

Written by Leisureguy

8 April 2023 at 2:20 pm

Analysis of Twitter algorithm code reveals social medium down-ranks tweets about Ukraine

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Musk really is in the bag for Russia. Yahoo News reports:

After Twitter made the code for its algorithm open source at noon Pacific Time on March 31, users began to pick through it, and discovered that tweets judged to be about Ukraine were down-ranked – meaning users were less likely to see them in their feed.

Read also: Musk’s SpaceX asks Pentagon to finance the work of Starlink in Ukraine

Twitter user Aakash Gupta (@aakashg0) got together with a group of others to sift through the code for the algorithm and discovered the secrets to boosting your follower numbers on the site – as well as the fact that like topics judged to be “misinformation,” the topic of Ukraine is highly down-ranked.

Anecdotally, Twitter users who post frequently on Ukraine topics had noticed less engagement with their accounts since Musk took over the platform in October last year. Musk’s own position on support for Ukraine is ambiguous.

While Musk has aided Ukraine by providing it with Starlink satellite Internet terminals, which the country has used to keep communications up and running for both military and civilians during Russia’s full-scale invasion, some of his other public positions regarding the war have come in for criticism – even from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Read also: FT reports disruptions to Starlink Internet connections for military on the frontline, Elon Musk responds

Musk in early October last year tweeted a “peace plan” for Ukraine that highly favored Russia’s position, and a poll of users asking whether “the will of the people” should decide if seized regions remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia.

Zelenskyy himself fired back with a twitter poll asking “which Elon Musk do you like more?”: “One who supports Ukraine” or “One who supports Russia.”

Read also: Elon Musk’s tweets on Russian invasion of Ukraine spark social media scandal

Musk replied that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2023 at 6:58 pm

The Atlantic Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Iraq War With Lavish Falsehoods About Iraq War

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Jon Schwarz writes in The Intercept:

THE U.S. MEDIA has recently been filled with retrospectives on the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. Most of these outlets eagerly helped the George W. Bush administration sell the war, publishing lavish falsehoods about how Iraq posed a terrible danger to the U.S. (It did not.)

So you might hope that in the past two decades, the same publications have learned the most basic facts about Iraq — and would steer clear of publishing obvious and stupendous errors yet again. You would hope in vain.

One incredible example appeared in a March 13 article in The Atlantic by David Frum, who is best known for serving as a speechwriter for President Bush and coming up with the phrase “axis of evil” in the 2002 State of the Union address. Frum is now a staff writer at The Atlantic, which is probably the most prestigious magazine in America behind the New Yorker. The Atlantic is forthrightly endorsing Frum’s fabrication and will not respond to basic questions about it.

As you may have heard, Bush’s case for war was that Iraq had programs to produce “weapons of mass destruction” — that is, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. In his article, “The Iraq War Reconsidered,” Frum tells us in the first paragraph that Iraq was found to possess “an arsenal of chemical-warfare shells and warheads.”

This is false. You don’t even need to know the details to understand why.

Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, never said a word about this arsenal of chemical weapons that Frum says were discovered by the U.S. This means there are two possibilities:

  1. Iraq did have an arsenal of chemical weapons, thus totally vindicating Bush and Cheney and proving that they were right about the most famous political issue on Earth. However, they never mentioned this because they’re super-modest.
  2. Iraq did not have an arsenal of chemical weapons.

If you’d like to understand this subject in detail, you can read this long explanation I wrote a few years ago. But the basic story is this:

Iraq deployed a huge quantity of chemical weapons during its war with Iran in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Iraq turned over almost all its chemical munitions to United Nations inspectors, and they were destroyed.

However, Iraq lost track of some of those weapons. It was not intentionally hiding them before the U.S. invasion on March 20, 2003; just the opposite. As we now know from the CIA’s $1 billion investigation of the weapons of mass destruction issue, in December 2002, Saddam Hussein’s regime ordered Iraq’s military to “cooperate completely” with the renewed U.N. inspections. Commanders established committees “to ensure their units retained no evidence of old WMD.”

Nonetheless, while occupying Iraq, the U.S. stumbled upon about 5,000 old shells from the 1980s. According to Charles Duelfer, who headed the CIA inquiry, “Keeping in mind that they used 101,000 munitions in the Iran-Iraq War … it’s not really surprising that they have imperfect accounting. I bet the U.S. couldn’t keep track of many of its weapons produced and used during a war.”

Indeed, this is true: The U.S. military lost $1.2 billion of material during just the first year of the Iraq War. It’s also true about chemical weapons specifically. In 1993, a significant quantity of chemical munitions from World War I were discovered in what’s now one of the toniest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court justice, grew up just a few blocks from the site. In other words, even the most dangerous weapons can be lost in the most unlikely places. The cleanup was still going on decades later, at a cost of more than $250 million.

In fact, lost chemical weapons from World War I continue to be located across the world. During the same period the U.S. was finding 5,000 Iraqi chemical munitions, about the same number were discovered in Europe, mostly in Belgium and France.

Duelfer, asked for his perspective on The Atlantic’s claim, responded via email: “I disagree with [Frum’s] characterization of residual CW stuff as ‘an arsenal.’ What was found were militarily useless remains left over from production during the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam did not know it was around.”

You’d think, well, case closed. All that’s necessary is to notify The Atlantic of its mistake, and they’ll correct it. Obviously they believe in adhering to the most basic standards of honesty.

Nope. In response to questions, Anna Bross, The Atlantic’s senior vice president for communications, emailed,  . . .

Continue reading.

Some people learn from experience, some do not, whether through inability, stubbornness, or calculated refusal.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2023 at 7:21 am

The AR-15 was made for war, the goal being to inflict death or traumatic injury. It is not a civilian weapon

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James Fallows has written some good articles describing how the AR-15 bullet was designed to tumble and rip apart flesh to increase the damage of the wound. It is a war weapon, not a hunting weapon. Update: And see also his article in Breaking the News, “The AR-15 Is a Weapon of War.”

N. Kirkpatrick, Atthar Mirza, and Manuel Canales have a well-illustrated article (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post about the weapon Republicans want the public to have. It begins with illustrations; the text starts:

The scenes of chaos and terror are all too familiar in America.

The AR-15 fires bullets at such a high velocity — often in a barrage of 30 or even 100 in rapid succession — that it can eviscerate multiple people in seconds. A single bullet lands with a shock wave intense enough to blow apart a skull and demolish vital organs. The impact is even more acute on the compact body of a small child.

“It literally can pulverize bones, it can shatter your liver and it can provide this blast effect,” said Joseph Sakran, a gunshot survivor who advocates for gun violence prevention and a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

During surgery on people shot with high-velocity rounds, he said, body tissue “literally just crumbled into your hands.”

The carnage is rarely visible to the public. Crime scene photos are considered too gruesome to publish and often kept confidential. News accounts rely on antiseptic descriptions from law enforcement officials and medical examiners who, in some cases, have said remains were so unrecognizable that they could be identified only through DNA samples.

As Sakran put it: “We often sanitize what is happening.”

The Washington Post sought to illustrate the force of the AR-15 and reveal its catastrophic effects.

The first part of this report is a 3D animation that shows the trajectory of two different hypothetical gunshots to the chest — one from an AR-15 and another from a typical handgun — to explain the greater severity of the damage caused by the AR-15.

The second part depicts the entrance and exit wounds of two actual victims — Noah Pozner, 6, and Peter Wang, 15 — killed in school shootings when they were struck by multiple bullets.

This account is based on a review of nearly 100 autopsy reports from several AR-15 shootings as well as court testimony and interviews with trauma surgeons, ballistics experts and a medical examiner.

The records and interviews show in stark detail the unique mechanics that propel these bullets — and why they unleash such devastation in the body. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) The illustrations are worth viewing.

Republicans have strongly stated that not only will they take no action to regulate these guns — in fact, they are doing the opposite. At the state level, Republican legislators have passed laws so that anyone 18 years of age or older can purchase an AR-15 and carry it in public with no training required. The victims of this war are the public. Schools in the US routinely have active-shooter drives because the threat is everywhere all the time. Republicans do well when the public lives in fear.

Here are the GOP legislators who get the most cash from gun rights groups — not bribes, exactly. “Campaign contributions.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2023 at 1:19 pm

The Iraq War: A Personal Remembrance of Dissent

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David Corn has a newsletter article in Our Land that brings back memories:

Twenty years ago, it was a lonely time in Washington. That is, lonely for anyone—particularly a journalist—who questioned the Bush-Cheney’s administration rush to war in Iraq. I was one such person, doing so in columns and media appearances. In the months prior to the US invasion of Iraq, as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their comrades in and out of government beat the drums for war, only a few reporters and pundits in the capital challenged their argument that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; was tied to al Qaeda, the perpetrators of the horrific 9/11 attack; and posed a direct and immediate threat to the United States that could only be neutralized by full-scale war. In the aftermath of September 11, with patriotism rampant and fear affecting much of the land, few denizens of the commentariat wanted to buck the consensus for war.

I was then the Washington editor for The Nation magazine and no expert on the Middle East. But it was clear that many of the folks pushing the country to war were also no experts on the Middle East and likely would not wage war wisely or manage post-invasion Iraq competently. Consequently, it seemed obvious that an all-out attack on Iraq ought to have been a true last resort. First, the UN weapons inspection teams searching for WMDs should have been permitted to complete their mission. Then, if military action was deemed necessary, limited options or strikes ought to have been considered before a full conquest of Iraq was green-lighted. Short-circuiting the inspections, which had unearthed no significant WMDs or weapons programs, seemed foolish. Moreover, many of the administration’s claims that Saddam was loaded to the gills with WMDs and working covertly with al Qaeda were disputed by experts within and outside the federal government. Even worse, Bush and his crew talked little of their post-invasion plans. One did not have to be an experienced foreign policy professional or military strategist to fret that the war—predicated on contested accusations—could be a disaster.

Yet in post-9/11 Washington, not many pundits or politicians wanted to get in the way of the stampede toward war. (About half of the Democrats in the House and Senate voted for a measure granting Bush the authority to invade Iraq. And many prominent leaders of the liberal intelligentsia were on the side of war.) Most aggravating was that support for the coming war was often based on uncritical acceptance of the administration’s prevailing spin. At one dinner party, a close friend (and a well-known reporter) said there was no choice but to support the pending invasion because maybe Saddam possessed WMDs and opposing the war would brand one as not fully committed to American security. “You’ve got to be for this,” he said.

A few weeks before the invasion, I was doing a radio appearance with another friend who was working for an important newspaper. (He’s now a prominent media figure who has been a passionate foe of Trumpism.) He confided that he was uncertain how to assess the Bush administration’s argument for war. But, he said, since New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was for it, he, too, supported the attack. At the time, Friedman had an odd stance. He believed a war would ignite progressive change throughout the Arab world, though he noted he was “troubled” that Bush was justifying the war by falsely alleging Saddam was allied with al Qaeda. “You don’t take the country to war on the wings of a lie,” Friedman insisted. Nonetheless, this important influencer backed the invasion. I was disheartened to see my friend, a smart fellow and usually an independent thinker, cede his opinion to Friedman. But like many in Washington, he decided that sticking with the herd provided adequate cover.

An aside: Two months into the war, Friedman asserted in an interview with Charlie Rose that the invasion was a necessary response to 9/11, despite the fact that Saddam had nothing to do with that attack: “We needed to go over there basically and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that [terrorism] bubble. And there was only one way to do it…What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?…Well, suck on this.’”

Suck on this? That was the level of thought that fueled backing for the war.

In the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, it was tough to counter the fearmongering, magical thinking, and unsophisticated analysis that drove the cheerleading for war. During the run-up to the invasion, I appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show with Bill Kristol, the godfather of the neoconservative movement and a leading advocate for clobbering Iraq. I pointed out that the WMD inspections in Iraq could be useful in preventing Saddam from reaching the “finish line” in developing nuclear weapons. Kristol responded by exclaiming, “He’s past that finish line! He’s past the finish line!” He was saying that Saddam already had his mitts on a nuclear weapon, bolstering the White House’s assertion that Saddam presented a nuclear threat to the United States.

But Saddam wasn’t past any “finish line.” There was no evidence he possessed nuclear weapons. The UN inspectors had so far found no sign of an Iraqi program to develop them. (Post-invasion reviews confirmed Saddam had not been running a nuclear weapons project.) But in those dreadful months before the invasion of Iraq, the proponents of for war could say anything—and get away with it. The day before we jousted on O’Reilly’s show, Kristol declared that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2023 at 8:41 pm

“George W. Bush misrepresented our work at CIA to sell the Iraq invasion. It’s time to call him what he is: ‘A liar.'”

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Mattathius Schwartz reports in Business Insider:

Two former CIA officials spoke to Insider before the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. They gave a firsthand account of the George W. Bush administration’s attempts to misrepresent intelligence and assert a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. In fact, the evidence assembled by the CIA suggested that no such connection existed.

 One of these false connections was a supposed meeting that had occurred between Mohamed Atta, the chief 9/11 hijacker, and Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague. In December 2001, then-Vice President Dick Cheney went on “Meet the Press” and falsely claimed that the meeting was “pretty well confirmed.” A 2003 CIA cable states that “not one” official within the US government had evidence that the Prague meeting actually happened. Nevertheless, it became a key part of the administration’s public case for launching the Iraq invasion on March 20, 2003, a conflict that would cost an estimated 300,000 lives.

The officials’ combined years of service at CIA totals up to more than four decades. Their identities are known to Insider, and are referred to below by pseudonyms due to the sensitivity of their positions. Their discussion has been edited for brevity.

Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and John McLaughlin did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Alice: Nobody in Washington comes out and calls Bush a liar. Everybody is too polite. They use some other term for what he did. But he lied. I want to be clear about what I mean by that. He knew what he was saying was not true. He took judgements from the intelligence community that were very uncertain, judgements that we put out there with very clear caveats — “we believe Iraq is continuing its nuclear program, but we have a low degree of certainty, blah blah blah” — he would just come out and state those things as fact. He did this over and over again. Just like Cheney saying that Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, as a fact. When the truth was, there was a great deal of doubt about it. It was our job at CIA to stand fast, to keep those ridiculous notions under control. And we tried. But there was only so much we could do. The White House wanted a justification for the invasion. The closest they came was this alleged, and apparently nonexistent, help that Iraq gave al-Qaeda [via Atta] in bringing about the attacks. So they tried to trace any kind of contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Bob: Meanwhile, our Iraqi analysts were saying, quite truthfully, that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime were so far apart in their ideologies — Saddam was a pure secularist, al-Qaeda was a messianic vision of a caliphate and self-consciously Islamic, at least purportedly. That is like cats and dogs, you can’t mix those. Of course, Saddam knew al-Qaeda was in his country. He knew everything that happened in his country. As a matter of simply staying in power he had to know. So it’s perfectly natural that he would know who was al-Qaeda and what they were up to and that kind of thing. But this was not a working relationship. It was about surveillance.

Alice: Today, people say that Bush was looking to justify the invasion of Iraq. He wasn’t. What he was looking for is something different — selling points. The decision to invade had already been made, and there was not any intelligence that was going to change their opinion. So this was not an effort to justify the war. It was an effort to sell the war publicly. That’s an important distinction. The Bush administration was very explicit about their Iraq obsession almost immediately when they took power.

Bob: There was a group of analysts who were looking at the hijackers. Many of us were Russia analysts — for them, the Arab field was totally new. Pretty soon it became clear that the administration was focused on this alleged meeting between Atta and Iraqi intelligence in Prague. We couldn’t substantiate it. The hope was expressed pretty clearly to us, early on, that we could find something. The White House was obsessed with finding any evidence at all.

Alice: A lot of that pressure on the agency comes down through the briefers. They come back from their meetings with the president and other senior officials, give feedback. On a contentious issue you might go to a meeting upstairs on the seventh floor, with the briefers, where everybody is in the room. Once, I was writing a PDB [item for the President’s Daily Brief] on what going into Iraq would likely do to our terrorism cooperation with allies. The message I got back was, the president doesn’t want to hear about this. Iraq was a done deal.

Bob: They were all saying that. I mean, the US was moving our forces over to the Middle East big-time. You’re not going to waste all that fuel and transport power and then listen to Saddam. British intelligence realized it first. They essentially said, “My god, these people are going to invade. It doesn’t matter what we write. It doesn’t matter what their own intelligence analysts tell them about the consequences. They’re going to invade.”

Alice: I remember just totally . . .

Continue reading. Criminals, and they got away with it.

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 7:44 pm

Where Are They Now?: The Pundits Who Got Iraq Wrong

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Pundits get paid for the words they write even when those words are worthless — or even worse than worthless: not just wrong, but wrong in a way that cost lives. Parker Molloy presents a rogues’ gallery of mendacious pundits who were so wrong about the US invasion of Iraq but never acknowledged any error and continue to exude words and opinions to this day. Molloy writes in The Present Age:

I was 16 years old when the U.S. invaded Iraq — old enough to have a general sense of what was happening in the world, but too young and ignorant to actually do anything about it. As then-recent graduates of my high school enlisted in the military or got involved in political activism on college campuses, I became more interested in what had already been a lifelong obsession of mine: the news media. 1

I distinctly recall being astounded by the certainty of both reporters and pundits. Things like whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or the capabilities to create them) were treated as foregone conclusions by many in the news, and opposition to the invasion was openly talked about as being “anti-American.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading through 2002-2003 newspapers and blog posts, and I wanted to take a look back at some of the pro-war takes of the time. The lack of TV clips has to do with my lack of media monitoring tech that I’d have otherwise checked out.

Where are they now? Mostly still churning out ignorant takes that will affect the lives of millions of people.

One would think that cheering on the disaster that was the Iraq invasion would be a career-destroying mistake. As it turns out, the opposite seems to be true. Anyway, let’s look back at some of the terrible pro-war opinions (this is nowhere near a comprehensive list, but feel free to drop additional examples in the comments and I’ll try to go back to add them if I can — stick to media voices, please, as we all know that many politicians on both sides of the aisle were publicly in support of the invasion).

Matthew Yglesias, writer at Slow Boring and co-host of the Bad Takes podcast

Looking At The Situation…” by Matthew Yglesias, personal blog, March 31, 2002:

I think the administration has things exactly wrong in trying to solve the Israel situation as a precursor to moving on Iraq. The only way a negotiated settlement will be possible there is if Arafat feels that his position is weakening. The only way for that to happen is for the other Arab leaders to start becoming less supportive of him. The only way for that to happen is for our Arab “allies” to recognize that US-Saudi, US-Egyptian, US-Qatari, etc. relations are two way streets, not just an endless dialogue about what we need to do to prop up their regimes.

What better way to show that than to go do something they really, really don’t want us to do like, say, invade Iraq?

Plus, if we invade Iraq, we can create at least one reasonable regime in the area. If some “moderate” government get toppled (or just become outright hostile) as the worriers always worry, then we can just topple them again and set up some more supportive regimes.

Fareed Zakaria, CNN host and Washington Post columnist

Invade Iraq, But Bring Friends” by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, August 4, 2002:

The threat Iraq poses is not overwhelming–yet. Saddam’s chemical and biological arsenal is difficult to use. He has rarely cooperated with terrorists in the past, and there is no evidence that he has any links with Al Qaeda. But he is a potential threat, particularly if he manages to acquire nuclear weapons, which is certainly his goal. Pollack makes a persuasive case that given leaky sanctions, at some point the world will have to deal with Saddam, nuclear-armed and dangerous. Why not now, when he is weak?

Still, a pre-emptive invasion of a country gives one pause. But there is another massive benefit to it. Done right, an invasion would be the single best path to reform the Arab world. The roots of Islamic terror reside in the dysfunctional politics of the region, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence. For reform to spread, the Arab world needs a success story. It needs one major country that embraces modernity, maintains its identity and inspires the region, just as Japan did for East Asia.

Iraq could be that country. Before it became a playpen for Saddam Hussein’s gruesome ambitions, it was one of the most secular, advanced, literate and civilized countries in the Middle East. Alone in the Arab world, it has both water and oil–a developed river-valley civilization and natural-resource wealth. Were Saddam’s totalitarian regime to be replaced by a state that respected human rights, enforced the rule of law and created a market economy, it could begin to transform that world.

Anne Applebaum, staff writer at The Atlantic

You Can’t Assume a Nut Will Act Rationally” by Anne Applebaum, Slate, October 1, 2002:

Although I dislike the modern tendency to compare every mad dictator to Hitler, in this narrow sense, the comparison to Saddam might be apt. Are you sure Saddam would not risk the destruction of his country, if he thought, for some reason, that he or his regime was in danger? Do you want to wait and find out? In my view, Saddam’s personality—which I would really like to see more carefully and more frequently dissected by people who know him and his regime—ought to be as much a part of the debate about whether to intervene as his putative nuclear arsenal. We really don’t know whether deterrence will work in the case of Iraq. Megalomaniacal tyrants do not always behave in the way rational people do, and to assume otherwise is folly.

Moving away from substance, back to public relations: If I have any real qualms about the potential war in Iraq, they are not so much about the central issue—should we fight or should we not (I think, with caveats, that we should be prepared to do so)—but about the peculiar way in which the administration has until now gone about making its case for the war. There have, it is true, been a few . . .

Continue reading. There are more.

And yet, at the time, it was perfectly clear to me and to many that the case for an invasion had NOT been made, and the Bush Administration’s “evidence” was suspiciously thin and unsupported (for example, the aluminum tubes that Bush claimed were for atomic enrichment were — at the time — evaluated simply to be for making rockets). I was reading Knight-Ridder, which poked holes in the Administration’s arguments, and James Fallows wrote a feature article for the Atlantic that argued (soundly) against the invasion. But there were too many cheering on the (stupid, costly, and evil) war that killed so many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (those the US was claiming to “save”). We were Russia; Iraq was Ukraine — as George W. Bush admitted in a slip of the tongue even as Joe Biden tries to erase the whole war from history (“no invasion of another country by 100,000 troops since WW II” except for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the US invasion of Iraq).

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 5:05 pm

The Iraq Invasion 20 Years Later: It Was Indeed a Big Lie that Launched the Catastrophic War

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In Mother Jones David Corn describes how President George W. Bush, Vice-President Cheney, the Bush cabinet, and complaisant pundits lied the US into a war that too hundreds of thousands of lives and got away with it, facing no accountability at all. He writes:

Before there was Donald Trump’s Big Lie, there was George W. Bush’s Big Lie.

Twenty years ago this week, Bush and his sidekick Vice President Dick Cheney launched a war against Iraq. They greased the way to this tragic conflagration with the false claims that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that directly threatened the United States, and that he was in league with al Qaeda, the perpetrators of the horrific September 11 attack. Their invasion, which led to the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians—and the violence and instability in the region that resulted in ISIS—is now widely considered to have been a strategic blunder of immense proportions. Three months before he died in 2018, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), a leading advocate of the war and the post-invasion troop surge, published his final book, The Restless Wave, which included a self-damning verdict: “The principal reason for invading Iraq, that Saddam [Hussein] had WMD, was wrong. The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it.”

Other one-time cheerleaders for the Iraq war have voiced regret and, occasionally, shame. In a 2018 book, Max Boot, an analyst who was once deeply ensconced in the world of neocon foreign policy, wrote, “I can finally acknowledge the obvious: It was all a big mistake. Saddam Hussein was heinous, but Iraq was better off under his tyrannical rule than the chaos that followed. I regret advocating the invasion and feel guilty about all the lives lost.” Three years earlier, New York Times columnist David Brooks, who had been a loud (and naive) beater of the war drums in 2003, opined[T]he decision to go to war was a clear misjudgment.” Last week, in the Atlantic, David Frum, the pro-war speechwriter for Bush who coined the “Axis of Evil” phrase that justified targeting Iraq (and North Korea and Iran), noted the decision to invade was “plainly” unwise and that the war was a “misadventure.”

Let’s give one or two hurrahs for those who can declare they got it wrong. Yes, this conclusion is now obvious, given that no significant WMDs were found in Iraq after American bombs and troops were unleashed on the country and that the invasion, contrary to the assurances of the Bush-Cheney administration and its cocksure neoconservative allies, did not trigger a flowering of democracy in the Middle East.

Yet it’s one thing to acknowledge a misstep in policy judgment; it’s quite another to admit to abetting a fraud. Many of the Iraq War regretters insist they pursued the war in good faith predicated on solid assumptions and propelled by genuine concern for US security. What they don’t confess to is being part of an effort to purposefully bamboozle the American public and whip up support for the war with scare-’em tactics and disinformation. Frum, who has become a pal of mine during the Trump era, provides a good example. In his essay, he challenges the Bush-lied-and-people-died view, noting, “I don’t believe any leaders of the time intended to be dishonest. They were shocked and dazed by 9/11. They deluded themselves.”

This self-delusion argument—we believed what we said—is often packaged with the contention that the Bush-Cheney crowd rendered their decisions on the basis of flawed intelligence that stated Iraq had WMDs,  and, thus, these leaders did not intentionally misrepresent the threat.

But this is a phony narrative. The intelligence assessments that suggested Iraq possessed significant amounts of WMDs and was close to developing a nuclear weapon—produced under tremendous pressure from the Bush White House—were often disputed by experts within the intelligence community. (And later, but before the invasion, these findings were challenged by UN WMD inspectors who were scrutinizing Iraq.) Yet Bush, Cheney, and their top aides (Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, and others) embraced these problematic evaluations, as well as assorted and unproven (or disproven) reports, in order to justify the case for war and—here’s the key point—oversold these findings to the public. Meanwhile, they issued overwrought statements about the supposed threat from Iraq that either were unsupported by the faulty intelligence or utterly baseless. In short, Bush and Cheney did lie, and those that marched with them toward war were part of a campaign deliberately fueled with falsehoods. (At one point, Bush even discussed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair concocting a phony provocation that could be used to start the war.)

In our 2006 bookHubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq WarMichael Isikoff and I chronicled numerous instances when Bush and his lieutenants mischaracterized the WMD threat and the purported (but largely nonexistent) tie between Saddam and al Qaeda. Let’s start with  . . .

Continue reading. And read the whole shameful story.

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 12:54 pm

Why the Press Failed on Iraq and How One Team of Reporters Got It Right

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John Walcott reports in Foreign Affairs:

Twenty years ago, the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and eliminate the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) officials said he had. Getting the American public to support a war against a country that had not attacked the United States required the administration to tell a convincing story of why the war was necessary. For that, it needed the press.

I was Knight Ridder’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief at the time, and among other duties handled our national security coverage. This gave me a front-row seat to Washington’s march to war and the media’s role in it. As the Bush administration began making its case for invading Iraq, too many Washington journalists, caught up in the patriotic fervor after 9/11, let the government’s story go unchallenged. At Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, we started asking questions and publishing stories that challenged the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had an active WMD program and ties to al Qaeda. One thing that set Knight Ridder’s coverage apart was our sourcing—forgoing senior officials in Washington for experts and scientists inside and outside the Beltway and more junior staffers and military officers much closer to the relevant intelligence.

Such an approach also would have helped U.S. policymakers. The failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show what happens when top officials ignore their subordinates or assemble their own teams of analysts to confirm their biases—and when journalists become stenographers for them. Unfortunately, 20 years on, there is little evidence that the Washington press corps has learned this lesson. If anything, today’s bleak media environment has only made it harder to get the story right.


On the morning of September 11, 2001, as a pillar of smoke rose from the Pentagon across the Potomac, Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau set out, like our competitors, to confirm what we all suspected—that al Qaeda was behind the attacks. We were an experienced group of journalists, with years spent developing sources in the intelligence community and the military. I had reported and edited for NewsweekThe Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News and World Report.

Knight Ridder also had two superb national security reporters in Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, who later were reinforced by Joe Galloway, arguably the greatest war correspondent of the Vietnam era. Other news organizations also had formidable talent, along with larger staffs, bigger budgets, better reputations, and broader reach. Yet in the early days after 9/11, they didn’t seem to be noticing the red flags that the Knight Ridder team already had started seeing.

The first flag appeared just days after the attacks, when Strobel came back to the office and reported that Bush administration officials had been discussing not only the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan, but also Iraq. That made little sense. Saddam’s history of supporting terrorism was less compelling than that of the dictators Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya or Hafez al-Assad of Syria, not to mention Iran’s ayatollahs. Saddam had given Abu Nidal, one of the most notorious Palestinian terrorists, limited support—but had expelled him in 1983. Abu Nidal returned to Iraq in 2002, only to die under mysterious circumstances. Some U.S. intelligence officials thought Saddam ordered his death in an attempt to deprive the United States of one casus belli.

Although some senior administration officials began trying to link Saddam to al Qaeda, their more knowledgeable subordinates in the intelligence community and the State Department were questioning why bin Laden, a Salafi extremist, would link arms with Saddam, a secular ruler whose likely heirs were his two booze-swilling, skirt-chasing sons, Uday and Qusay.

In the days and weeks after the attacks, there were early warnings that something was amiss. They were easy to spot if you were looking for them, but few people in the upper levels of the Bush administration or at other major news organizations, riding the patriotic wave sweeping the country, were looking.

We were. On September 22, 11 days after the attacks, Strobel reported that some administration officials and outside experts were skeptical that Iraq had played any role in them. On October 11, he reported that nevertheless, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy U.S. secretary of defense, had dispatched a former CIA director, James Woolsey, to Wales to search for evidence that Saddam was linked to an earlier attack on the World Trade Center. A senior U.S. official told Strobel that Wolfowitz and others at the Pentagon were “seized” with the idea that Iraq was behind the attacks.

That same month, Washington reporters covering the story began receiving . . .

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Zero accountability for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Zero.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2023 at 7:43 pm

Two decades later, it feels as if the US is trying to forget the Iraq war ever happened

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Stephen Wertheim writes in the Guardian:

Two decades ago, the United States invaded Iraq, sending 130,000 US troops into a sovereign country to overthrow its government. Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, voted to authorize the war, a decision he came to regret.

Today another large, world-shaking invasion is under way. Biden, now the US president, recently traveled to Warsaw to rally international support for Ukraine’s fight to repel Russian aggression. After delivering his remarks, Biden declared: “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country – since world war II, nothing like that has happened.”

The president spoke these words on 22 February, within a month of the 20th anniversary of the US military’s opening strike on Baghdad. The White House did not attempt to correct Biden’s statement. Reporters do not appear to have asked about it. The country’s leading newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post, ran stories that quoted Biden’s line. Neither of them questioned its veracity or noted its hypocrisy.

Did the Iraq war even happen?

While Washington forgets, much more of the world remembers. The flagrant illegality of bypassing the United Nations: this happened. The attempt to legitimize “pre-emption” (really prevention, a warrant to invade countries that have no plans to attack anyone): this mattered, including by handing the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a pretext he has used. Worst of all was the destruction of the Iraqi state, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,600 US service members, and radiating instability and terrorism across the region.

The Iraq war wasn’t the only law- or country-breaking military intervention launched by the US and its allies in recent decades. Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya form a tragic pattern. But the Iraq war was the largest, loudest and proudest of America’s violent debacles, the most unwarranted, and the least possible to ignore. Or so it would seem. Biden’s statement is only the latest in a string of attempts by US leaders to forget the war and move on.

Barack Obama, who came into the White House vowing to end the “mindset” that brought America into Iraq, decided that ending the war was good enough. “Now, it’s time to turn the page,” he said upon ordering the withdrawal of US forces from the country in 2011. Three years later, he sent troops back to Iraq to fight the Islamic State, which had risen out of the chaos of the invasion and civil war. It fell to Donald Trump to harness public outrage over not only the war but also the refusal of elites to hold themselves accountable and make policy changes commensurate with the scale of the disaster.

Tempting though it is to look forward, not backward, the two are not mutually exclusive. And it might not be possible to reach a better future without understanding and appreciating why past attempts failed.

Ukrainians are now paying part of the price for western misdeeds. Russia’s invasion was an act of blatant aggression. Moscow violated the UN charter and seeks to annex territory as part of an explicitly imperial project (in this respect unlike America’s war in Iraq). Few people outside Russia have genuine enthusiasm for Putin’s effort. Yet, much of the world sees the conflict as a proxy war between Russia and the west rather than a fight for sovereignty and freedom.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, approximately 58% of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2023 at 12:46 pm

The Unlearned Lessons From the War in Iraq

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This article by Spencer Ackerman in The Nation bears a pointed subheading: “You don’t have to reflect on a war if that war doesn’t end, let alone pay reparations for your crimes.”

eave it to George W. Bush to misspeak his way to the truth about the Iraq War that he launched 20 years ago. Last May, in a speech addressing Ukraine, he lambasted Vladimir Putin’s “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.”

Bush, stammering, quickly corrected himself but then conceded the point, murmuring, “And Iraq, too. Anyway…” His audience laughed awkwardly, allowing the former commander in chief, then 75, to deflect the significance of the moment with a senility joke.

It was indicative of how deeply the United States has avoided reckoning with the barbarism of invading, occupying, and privatizing Iraq, a reckoning that might have cast Putin’s war in an uncomfortably familiar light. Instead, Iraq demonstrates an innovation in American imperial amnesia: You don’t have to consider the lessons of a war if that war doesn’t end—let alone pay reparations for those you killed, tortured, and displaced.

There are all manner of differences between Ukraine and Iraq, but little difference in the imperial ambitions of their invaders. Both the US and Russia resorted to violence to bring a resource-rich country within their sphere of influence, and both underestimated the will and capacity of locals to resist. Whether phantom weapons of mass destruction or phantom Nazi regimes, the invading power resorted to paranoid pretexts to justify a war of aggression in unambiguous violation of the United Nations Charter. But where Bush claimed breaching the charter would strengthen the international order, Putin, unburdened by global hegemony and its necessary posture of lawfulness, didn’t bother with such ridiculous assertions.

Two other key differences concern Russia’s inability to take Kyiv and the support Ukraine enjoys from the NATO juggernaut. But both Putin and Bush found their militaries placed within a crucible while hawkish voices back in the metropole, seized with fears of humiliation, demanded escalation. Little wonder Bush found himself unable to remember which war he was discussing.

Bush’s escalation, the 2007–8 troop surge, never produced the promised political reconciliation among Iraqis. Instead, it entrenched Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who persecuted the disempowered Iraqi Sunnis. But because it substantially reduced US troop deaths, the surge produced something subtler: a narrative that the Iraq War, after five agonizing years, had been functionally resolved—although to stay resolved, US troops, paradoxically, needed to remain in Iraq. It was a useful contradiction, forestalling not just an unambiguous defeat but the prospects for reconsidering what Barack Obama once called “the mindset that got us into war in the first place.” Now the only lessons of the war would be operational. And so Obama exported the surge to Afghanistan and pursued a new war in Libya, all while troops remained in Iraq.

In 2011, a fractious Iraqi parliament declined to extend legal protections to the remaining US forces, prompting Obama to recall the troops. Many in US national security circles decried the withdrawal as a failure of Obama’s diplomacy rather than as a verdict on the viability of a US presence from Iraqi leaders willing to work with Washington. When the Islamic State conquered Mosul in 2014, the blame in Washington went to the withdrawal, not the war that created ISIS’s parent entity, Al Qaeda in Iraq. . .

Continue reading.

And just look at the article in the next post.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2023 at 12:37 pm

The Fallen of World War II

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This is a fantastic video.

Written by Leisureguy

24 February 2023 at 8:42 pm

GOP’s mission to split the US

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Heather Cox Richardson:

We awoke this morning to news that President Joe Biden was in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he pledged “our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” Air raid sirens blared as Biden and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky walked through the streets during the U.S. president’s five-hour stay.

As National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters, Biden’s visit was the first time a U.S. president has visited “the capital of a country at war where the United States military does not control the critical infrastructure”…in other words, an active war zone. Biden traveled in a special mission plane from Germany to Poland, then took a train from Poland to Kyiv. To make sure there would be no attacks, the U.S. notified the Russians that Biden would be in Kyiv, but a Russian MiG 30 flew from Belarus during Biden’s visit, triggering air raid sirens.

According to Sullivan, Biden felt it was important to visit Kyiv at the anniversary of the 2022 Russian invasion. The image of Biden and Zelensky standing together sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin, as David Rothkopf put it in the Daily Beast: “I am here in Kyiv and you are not. You not only did not take Kyiv in days as some predicted, but your attack was rebuffed. Your army suffered a humiliating defeat from which it has not recovered.”

Just under a year ago, the global equation looked very different. On February 4, 2022, Chinese president Xi Jinping hosted Russian president Vladimir Putin on the opening day of the Winter Olympics. The two men pledged to work together in a partnership with “no limits” in a transparent attempt to counter U.S. global leadership and assert a new international order based on their own authoritarian systems.

At the time, Russia was massing troops on its border with Ukraine but fervently denied it was planning to invade. On February 24, 2022, Russian tanks rolled across the border and Russian planes covered them in the air. Biden remembered that Zelensky called him and said he could hear the explosions as they spoke. “I’ll never forget that,” Biden said. “The world was about to change.” When Biden asked what he could do to help, Zelensky said: “Gather the leaders of the world. Ask them to support Ukraine.”

And over 50 nations stepped up to make sure the rules-based international order in place since World War II, which prevents one country from attacking another, held. Those backing Ukraine against Russian aggression have squeezed Russia with economic sanctions and supported Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. As Biden said today, standing next to Zelensky: “Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

Biden pledged another $460 million in aid to Ukraine, emphasizing that U.S. support for the country is bipartisan.

Biden mourned the cost Ukraine has had to bear, but championed its successes. “Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map,” Biden said, but “Putin’s war of conquest is failing. Russia’s military has lost . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 February 2023 at 11:14 am

The Sy Hersh effect: killing the messenger, ignoring the message

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Responsible Statecraft is new to me, but it seems extremely good, and I have signed up for their newsletter. Just look over the reports at that link.

The specific story here is Kelley Beaucar Vlahos’s report on Sy Hersh and his story on the destruction of the Nordstream pipeline. That report begins:

Absolute crickets. That is the sound in the major mainstream media — both foreign and domestic — following the charges by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that the United States led a covert operation to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022.

The story, released on Hersh’s new Substack last week, unleashed a Twitter war between Hersh’s defenders and detractors, but a simple Google search belies a dearth of mainstream coverage, with only brief reports by BloombergAgence France PresseThe Times (UK) and the New York Post (a conservative holding of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire). The Washington Times editorial board, also squarely on the right, wrote sympathetically about it on Monday, and Newsweek has covered it as well.

All other newspapers of record — the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal — and European outlets — BBC, the Guardian, and most German newspapers (an interview on Berliner Zietung dropped late Wednesday ) —  have ignored it. Tucker Carlson and other hosts covered it on FOX News, another Murdoch staple, but the rest of the cable news circuit — CNN, MSNBC — are seemingly on board with what appears to be a total MSM blackout.

Maybe not an entire blackout: Business Insider published an unflattering report topped with this unwieldy headline: “The claim by a discredited journalist that the US secretly blew up the Nord Stream pipeline is proving a gift to Putin.”

Moving outside of this relative void to social media and Substack, there appears to be two primary lines of open attack against Hersh’s reporting, which details the story of a covert unit of expert U.S. Navy divers, directed from the very top of the Biden administration, engaged in sabotage plans that were set into motion “in December of 2021, two months before the first Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.”

First, critics are seeking to discredit Hersh, who has spent the last 50 years embarrassing the U.S. government with myriad exposes (many of them published in major outlets like the New York Times and New Yorker). His most prominent revelations include the My Lai massacre by U.S. troops in Vietnam, the massive CIA spy program against Americans called Operation Chaos (for which the New York Times called him the “Teller of Truth”) in 1974, and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in 2004. Nevertheless, detractors accuse him of engaging in conspiracy theoriessloppy reporting, and bad sourcing.

Second, they point to what appears to be “single sourcing” in Hersh’s Substack report (though he is much more ambiguous about this in his interview with Radio War Nerd this week). Additionally, Twitter and Substack sleuths, using OSINT (open source intelligence,) say they’ve found holes in the details (like the class of minesweeper ship involved and where it was located the day Hersh claims the explosives were planted) that cast doubt on his entire story.

But the questions raised about Hersh and his reporting (appropriate or not) do not explain the lack of mainstream coverage of his extremely detailed, 5300-word article, which under any other circumstances should have opened the floodgates of journalistic inquiry. Here remains an extraordinary mystery: Who blew up the Nord Stream pipelines, which run from Russia to Germany, are majority owned (51 percent) by Russian Gazprom, along with German, Dutch and French stakeholders, and had at one time accounted for 35 percent of the energy the EU was importing from Russia (via Nord Stream 1)?

Additionally, is Hersh correct in highlighting statements from U.S. officials, from Biden on down, as possible tell-tale signs that they wanted to take down Nord Stream 2 long before the Russian invasion? Did Washington have an interest in cutting it off, and would it have gone so far as to sabotage it and then blame the attack on Russia? Why did top State Department official Victoria Nuland say she was “gratified” it was now “a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea”?

Germany, Sweden, and Denmark are reportedly  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 11:42 am

How a Super Bowl whitewash of Tillman cover-up was a helpful reminder

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Pat Tillman was shot to death by US troops in a friendly-fire incident, a fact that the military worked hard to conceal — a prime component of the military conception of “honor” being to lie immediately and over time. (That is not the common understanding of “honor” and honorable behavior, but the military, which prides itself on its “honor” consistently lies about its errors and shortcomings.)

Hunter DeRensis reports in Responsible Statecraft:

On Super Bowl Sunday, over 113 million people tuned in live to watch the Philadelphia Eagles face off against the Kansas City Chiefs on the gridiron. When the third most watched television event of all time ended, those millions took to social media to complain about the anticlimactic holding penalty that concluded the game.

But others went to social media to object to the opening of the Super Bowl — the invocation of the late Pat Tillman.

Before kickoff, the National Football League aired a short video eulogizing Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals safety who left his burgeoning sports career to join the U.S. Army Rangers following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“[He] ultimately lost his life in the line of duty,” narrates actor Kevin Costner, before shifting the focus of the video to the Pat Tillman Foundation scholars who participated in the opening coin toss.

For viewers who knew the full story of Pat Tillman, this was a grievous whitewashing.

First deployed to Iraq during the first days of the invasion, Tillman was then sent to Afghanistan where on April 22, 2004 he was tragically killed in a friendly-fire incident. But that’s not what the U.S. military told the public (or his family).

Within days, it became apparent this was a case of accidental fratricide. But, concerned about a public relations backlash following the inadvertent death of such a high-profile recruit, the chain of command manufactured a narrative where Pat Tillman was killed heroically in battle. They forged witness testimony, attempted to pass off a fake autopsy report, and even awarded Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for his “gallantry” against “enemy fire.” His uniform, body armor, and diary were destroyed contrary to all regulations.

The cover-up went at least as high as Lieutenant General Philip Kensinger, then-Chief of the Army Special Operations Command. There’s open debate about when U.S. Central Command head John Abizaid learned the truth and what responsibility he shared.

For Pat’s family, it was over a month after his media-engrossed funeral services when they learned the truth. As father Patrick Tillman Sr. told The Washington Post in May 2005: “After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.”

Men more concerned with saving face for a failing war than common decency sullied Pat Tillman’s legacy, and contorted a narrative around him he never asked for. By all accounts, Pat was kind, humble, intelligent, courageous, and well-intentioned. According to his brother and other members of his unit, Pat had conflicting feelings about the utility of the Global War on Terror, and referred to the invasion of Iraq as illegal.

Materially, the NFL’s video tribute is correct; Pat Tillman was killed in the line of duty, and deserves as much respect as if he had died on the battlefield. Accidents, equipment malfunctions, negligence, and yes, even friendly fire, are risks a soldier incurs when they sign up.

But what instinctually offended viewers on Sunday was how a truncated version of Tillman’s death feeds a false narrative about what he was doing there and how our government operates.

We’re a month away from the 20-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq that Pat Tillman played an unhappy part in. This war occurred because the White House conceived of a preemptive attack justified around fabricated intelligence that violated both domestic and international law. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 11:31 am

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