The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Monday, May 5, 2008

Commentary for Monday, May 5, 2008

I don't have time to do a full post today, call this a drive-by link list. Here are some important essays that I highly recommend. -- C

First, this analysis by Nir Rosen focusing on the relationship among Iran, Iraq and the United States. It's far too complex to be represented fairly by any brief excerpt, but in keeping with our tradition here I'll give you one for flavor:

Ridiculously, Kagan and his wife, both of whom have only gone on official tours of Iraq with US Army babysitters, and neither of whom know Arabic, described the recent clashes in Basra as an operation initiated by the "legitimate Government of Iraq and its legally constituted security forces [against] illegal, foreign-backed, insurgent and criminal militias serving leaders who openly call for the defeat and humiliation of the United States and its allies in Iraq and throughout the region."

Why anybody even hires or publishes Kagan on the Middle East is a mystery, but there is nothing legitimate in the government of Iraq, it provides none of the services we would associate with a government, not even the pretense of a monopoly on violence, it was established under an illegitimate foreign military occupation and it is entirely unrepresentative of the majority of Sunnis and Shiites who are opposed to the American occupation and despise the Iraqi government.

Moreover the dominant parties in the government and in those units of the security forces that battled their political rivals in Basra and elsewhere are the ones closest to Iran. The leadership of the Iraqi government regularly consults Iranian officials and is closer to Iran than any other element in Iraq today. Moreover, the Americans have always blamed their failures in Iraq on outsiders, Baathists, al Qaeda, Iranians, because they refuse to admit that the Iraqi people don't want them. So Iran is a convenient scapegoat to explain the strength of the Sadrists, a strength actually resulting from the fact that they are a genuinely popular mass movement.

Tom Engelhardt also offers his take on the nonsensical and self-contradictory U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran. As above, you need to read it, not depend on the excerpt.

In the wake of the President's 2007 surge, the U.S. military is now officially allied with 90,000 Sunnis of the so-called Awakening Movement, mainly former insurgents, many of them undoubtedly once linked to the Baathist government U.S. forces overthrew in 2003. Meanwhile, American troops are fighting the Shiite militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, a cleric who seems now to be living in Iran, but whose spokesman in Najaf recently bitterly denounced that country for "seeking to share with the U.S. in influence over Iraq." And they are fighting the Sadrist Mahdi Army militia in the name of an Iraqi government dominated by another Shiite militia, the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, whose ties to Iran are even closer.

Ten thousand Badr Corps militia members were being inducted into the Iraqi army (just as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was demanding that the Mahdi Army militia disarm). This week, an official delegation from that government, which only recently received Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with high honors in Baghdad, took off for Tehran at American bidding to present "evidence" that the Iranians are arming their Sadrist enemies.

So, right on cue, official Bush Administration transcriptionist Michael Gordon shows up on the front page of the New York Times, in the highly unconvincing guise of a reporter, to quote anonymous administration officials saying that Iran is behind attacks on U.S. troops, based on -- get this -- the interrogation of four captured Iranians. We already know how the U.S. interrogates people. Here's Glenn Greenwald on the latest from Michael GoebbelsGordon. And again, an excerpt just for a taste:

Like clockwork, the administration's most stalwart surge supporter/journalist -- the New York Times' Michael Gordon -- has a lengthy article today bolstering the administration's war-justifying accusations against Iran. It claims in the lead sentence that "militants from the Lebanese group Hezbollah have been training Iraqi militia fighters at a camp near Tehran," and that "the training, the Americans say, is carried out at several camps near Tehran that are overseen by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Command, and the instruction is carried out by militants from Hezbollah, which has long been supported by the Quds Force."

As usual with Gordon's articles, nothing is done here other than uncritically repeating Bush administration claims under the cover of anonymity. Virtually every paragraph in this article is nothing more a mindless recitation of uncorroborated assertions which he copies from Bush officials and then weaves into a news narrative, with the phrase "American officials say" tacked on at the end or the phrase "according to officials" unobtrusively interspersed in the middle . . .

My own comment: If administration officials believe this, and want the public to know it, they should call a press briefing, publicly identify themselves, and present their evidence. The only reason to leak it anonymously to a single reporter is so they won't have to back it up. And why does the Times grant them anonymity to do this? They aren't blowing the whistle on their superiors, they're issuing officially approved administration propaganda as they were instructed to do. So tell us their names, why don't you?

As you may have noticed, it all fits together. Scott Ritter, who doesn't have a crystal ball but who has been right before, thinks that Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran is already set, maybe for October, maybe sooner. Certainly they're catapulting the propaganda, and the corporate media are fully cooperative. Two out of three of the presidential candidates are for it as well, and they are both U.S. Senators. So I don't know what's going to stop it.