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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East

May was the most violent, the deadliest month in Iraq for years

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The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.

The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.

The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…

Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…

Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…

On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.

One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.

But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.

The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.

It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.

The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Widespread distrust of US extends beyond Middle East — even our closest ally thinks we are a bully!

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Think this only showed on US television?

American influence on the world stage is being sapped by widespread distrust of US intentions, not just in the Middle East and south Asia but also among traditional European allies, according to a survey of global opinions.

Suspicion of America outweighed faith in its good intentions by large margins in the Arab world and Pakistan, and even its heavyweight European ally Germany was more sceptical than trusting, a YouGov survey found. British and French opinion was more positive but still deeply divided.

Negative Arab and Pakistani perceptions of America as overweening and untrustworthy clearly pose a daunting foreign policy challenge for the Obama administration. The fact that 78% of Pakistanis questioned by YouGov said they did not trust America to act responsibly underlines Washington’s serious lack of soft power in the region as it attempts to extricate itself from Afghanistan.

Attitudes towards the US in the Arab world were nearly as negative. Those respondents in the Middle East and north Africa who said they trusted America were outnumbered by more than two to one by those who said they did not, and 39% said they did not trust America at all.

Perhaps just as worrying for Washington is the lukewarm support among western European allies. More Germans questioned in the YouGov survey voiced misgivings than trust in the US. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of past wariness, French opinion was somewhat warmer: just over half of the French poll respondents trusted America, against 40% who did not.

The so-called special relationship between the US and Britain emerged from the survey as distinctly lopsided. There was widespread American affection for its close ally, but the sentiment was only partly requited, reflecting deep British ambivalence about America’s powerful role in world affairs…

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm

What Must Be Said – by Gunter Grass

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

But why have I kept silent till now?

Because I thought my own origins,
Tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,
meant I could not expect Israel, a land
to which I am, and always will be, attached,
to accept this open declaration of the truth.

Why only now, grown old,
and with what ink remains, do I say:
Israel’s atomic power endangers
an already fragile world peace?

Because what must be said
may be too late tomorrow;
and because – burdened enough as Germans –
we may be providing material for a crime
that is foreseeable, so that our complicity
wil not be expunged by any
of the usual excuses.

And granted: I’ve broken my silence
because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy;
and I hope too that many may be freed
from their silence, may demand
that those responsible for the open danger we face renounce the use of force,
may insist that the governments of
both Iran and Israel allow an international authority
free and open inspection of
the nuclear potential and capability of both.

Günter Grass’s poem provokes outrage – among all the same people who always defend Israel’s policies. I don’t think his position requires any sort of radical politics in the United States. A simple rejection of imperial expansion, racist and bigoted policies both internal and external to the nation of Israel, a further rejection of nuclear blackmail by the rightwing governments that have infected the politics of that nation since the assassination of their last hope for peace – is adequate.

Most of the world will not find this poem offensive. Most of the world shouldn’t be called anti-semites by the most bigoted defenders of Israel’s policies and politics. We’re clear in our own minds of the differentiation between human beings whose ethnic background is as Jews – no matter what nation calls them citizen – and the domestic and foreign policies of the nation of Israel.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 6, 2012 at 2:00 am

The American Festival of Lies about the Middle East

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The heart of American foreign policy

The historian Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a brutally clear-eyed piece in The National Review, looking back at America’s different approaches to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan and how, sadly, none of them could be said to have worked yet.

“Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades,” Hanson wrote. “Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan. What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.”

And that is why it’s time to rethink everything we’re doing out there. What the Middle East needs most from America today are modern schools and hard truths, and we haven’t found a way to offer either. Because Hanson is right: What ails the Middle East today truly is a toxic mix of tribalism, Shiite-Sunni sectarianism, fundamentalism and oil — oil that constantly tempts us to intervene or to prop up dictators.

And Israel’s quest for lebensraum.

This cocktail erodes all the requirements of a forward-looking society — which are institutions that deliver decent government, consensual politics that provide for rotations in power, women’s rights and an ethic of pluralism that protects minorities and allows for modern education. The United Nations Arab Human Development Report published in 2002 by some brave Arab social scientists also said something similar: What ails the Arab world is a deficit of freedom, a deficit of modern education and a deficit of women’s empowerment.

So helping to overcome those deficits should be what U.S. policy is about, yet we seem unable to sustain that…

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Written by Ed Campbell

March 26, 2012 at 10:00 am

U.S. spy agencies see no move by Iran to build a nuclear bomb

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Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.

Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

…There is no dispute among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran has been enriching nuclear fuel and developing some necessary infrastructure to become a nuclear power. But the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies believe that Iran has yet to decide whether to resume a parallel program to design a nuclear warhead — a program they believe was essentially halted in 2003 and which would be necessary for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. Iranian officials maintain that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes…

Not that fact has the slightest effect on the ideology of American chickenhawks.

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Written by Ed Campbell

February 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Obama OK’d the secret delivery of bunker buster bombs to Israel

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U.S. Air Force F-15E drops a GBU-28 “Bunker Buster” 5,000-pound Bomb

President Obama secretly agreed to sell Israel 55 bunker-busting bombs, according to a Newsweek report…

With the sale of deep-penetrating bombs called GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators, Obama is satisfying a weapons request Israel first made during the Bush administration.

Israel’s request for bunker-busters in 2005 was denied. At the time, the Defense Department had frozen most military sales to Israel because of concerns Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China. Pentagon officials apparently had a change of heart…

Even some of the hawks from the George W. Bush administration grudgingly give Obama credit…”If you say to the White House, ‘Obama has been very unfriendly to Israel,’ they say, ‘What do you mean? It’s the best military-to-military relationship ever.’ And that part is true,” says Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East policy at the National Security Council. “If you look at the trajectory from Clinton to Bush to Obama, the military relationship has gotten steadily stronger. I don’t think Obama changed the trajectory, but he certainly didn’t interfere with it, and it continued under him.”

The bunker busters were a significant breakthrough. The Israelis first requested the sale in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. In 2007, Bush informed then prime minister Ehud Olmert that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010.

The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the secret decision.

Secret decisions stroking the Israeli government are nothing new in any White House. One can only hope that the promises of change – someday – will mean our government is turning away Israel’s quest for Lebensraum. Who knows? That might even include being honest with all American voters, as well?

Written by Ed Campbell

September 29, 2011 at 6:00 am

Arizona manages to turn the weather into an event for bigots

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The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term..?”

Dust storms are a regular summer phenomenon in Arizona, and the news media typically label them as nothing more than that. But the National Weather Service, in describing this month’s particularly thick storm, used the term haboob, which was widely picked up by the news media.

Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”

Obviously, they’re right.

Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.

Bigots will go to amazing lengths not only to be offended; but, to enforce their bigotry upon everyone else. Whether you ordered Freedom Fries in the Congressional cafeteria after the French government was bright enough to ignore George W’s call for a crusade in Iraq – or adult enough to carry on acknowledging that we have an American-born president in the face of racists and their nutball cousins’ paranoid prattle – accepted terminology from a craft, science or trade is the preferred and legitimate guide for language.

Leave bigotry to the professionals. We already have sufficient numbers of that Kool Aid Klan.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

All non-Africans have at least a touch of Neanderthal

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If your heritage is non-African, you are part Neanderthal, according to a new study in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution…This latest research confirms earlier findings.

Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal’s Department of Pediatrics and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center conducted the study with his colleagues. They determined some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals, but only in people of non-African heritage.

“This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred,” Labuda was quoted as saying in a press release. His team believes most, if not all, of the interbreeding took place in the Middle East, while modern humans were migrating out of Africa and spreading to other regions…

Neanderthals possessed the gene for language and had sophisticated music, art and tool craftsmanship skills, so they must have not been all that unattractive to modern humans at the time.

“In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that previous results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts,” Labuda said.

This work goes back to nearly a decade ago, when Labuda and his colleagues identified a piece of DNA, called a haplotype, in the human X chromosome that seemed different. They questioned its origins…

David Reich, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, added, “Dr. Labuda and his colleagues were the first to identify a genetic variation in non-Africans that was likely to have come from an archaic population. This was done entirely without the Neanderthal genome sequence, but in light of the Neanderthal sequence, it is now clear that they were absolutely right!”

The modern human/Neanderthal combo likely benefitted our species, enabling it to survive in harsh, cold regions that Neanderthals previously had adapted to.

“Variability is very important for long-term survival of a species,” Labuda concluded. “Every addition to the genome can be enriching.”

Someone should explain that to the populist puritans still marching to the George Wallace drum from decades past. Meanwhile -

The admixture and uniting of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon streams in comparatively modern hominids is something that many students of ethnology felt would be proved sooner or later. Some thought reluctance to accept the work offered by Professor Labuda was prompted more by hopes of “purity” than reality. Folks have to understand that human beings have sex with just about anyone, anytime, anywhere – given the opportunity.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 19, 2011 at 6:00 am

Eisenhower Research Project totals our war decade at $4 Trillion

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The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have likely cost the United States $4 trillion, and have sent damaging “ripple effects” across the American economy, according to researchers at Brown University.

While President Obama recently put the price tag for the wars at $1 trillion, researchers at the nonpartisan Watson Institute for International Studies says they will cost up to four times as much.

“While most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet,” the researchers wrote.

“Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars,” they found. “A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.”

The “human and economic costs,” however, will stretch for decades, with “some costs not peaking until mid-century,” the report concludes, pointing to the care of war veterans. “Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed.”

While top Pentagon officials downplay the role the wars’ costs and the size of the annual Defense Department budget have had in the nation’s economic downturn, the researchers see a connection.

The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases,” the Brown scholars found, “and those effects have been underappreciated.”

Veterans appreciate the cost of course. And they will live for many years with that cost engraved in their minds and on their bodies. Congress and the rest of our political establishment would rather focus on causing pain – rather than its alleviation or avoidance.

They will prate and piddle about over budgets and bills, avoiding any confrontation over stuff like what is a productive program to spend money on – education or healthcare – because it might get in the way of their follow-on career in the corporate world.

Oh, and BTW. Fiscally “responsible” liars in Congress who all voted to authorize this crap and whine today about the need to diminish the federal deficit – this circlejerk of death and destruction is equal to almost 30% of the whole deficit. No negotiations, No questions about debt ceiling.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 1, 2011 at 2:00 am

Conference of Mayors wants American troops [and $$$] home

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Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles & Elizabeth Kautz, Burnsville, MN

Acknowledging it is out of the ordinary for city mayors to take a stand on military policy, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution Monday calling for an early end to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is not a war resolution,” said the newly elected president of the group, Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“What we wanted to make clear,” he told reporters afterward, is that “the best way to support and honor those troops is to give them a job when they come back home…”

The Conference of Mayors last addressed American military policy when it called for an end to the U.S. war in Vietnam, and some mayors expressed concern that the current resolution could be taken badly by the troops now deployed…

Other mayors pushed ahead, saying there are economic problems in the United States with a more pressing priority than the massive spending on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq…

Mayors then proposed and approved amendments changing the wording to express support for U.S. troops and acknowledging what was called the need for a strategic, stable pullout of American forces. With those changes, the mayors then approved their resolution with a call to “bring these U.S. war dollars home.”

Still – it ain’t too bad for local politicians some of whom probably were elected to bring change and aid to their cities – and expected [silly people] to be backed up by Congress.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 21, 2011 at 2:00 am

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