Thursday, December 29, 2011

Saving Iraq:? Allawi, Hitchens, Davies, etc

Saving Iraq?

The title of the December 28, 2011 New York Times op-ed by three Iraqi politicians: “How to Save Iraq From Civil War” (see below) and the editor’s pull quote: “Unless America pushes for a unity government, violence will destroy us,” ably summarizes the gist. It would seem that in order to get their op-ed printed, the authors had to pretend that that they believe that the U.S. actively wants Iraq to succeed. But as they well know that is not correct on at least three counts, the third being recent history.

First: Would a successful and independent Iraq be good for Israel?
Second: Would an independent Iraq cohere with the permanent war agenda of Bush-Cheney-Obama?
The relevant history
The history of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 has been one of great accomplishment from the occupiers’ point of view: the sectarian division of the country in order to insure civil war and the ongoing destruction of the country. Why else was Paul Bremer sent to head the occupation forces  in 2003 other than to oversee the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the de-Bathification Program, ensuring that  there would be no competent people to promote  the civil life of the country?  He was also  well-placed to oversee the dirty tricks and special forces operations which were responsible for the instability and sectarian warfare—which continues to this day.

Just this  week (12.22.11)  a series of coordinated terror attacks killed more than  60 people. (

Coordination in these cases is often the signature of the kind of competence and resource rich assets associated with professional operatives of  agencies like the CIA, known to the corporate (and almost all of the alternative) media as Al-Qaeda (al-CIA duh). Link TV, a cable TV news program in Arabic with English translation, interviewed a man in the Baghdad  street who asked in connection with this latest attack:  “Who wants to kill the Iraqi people? We need to know.”  

Questions to the late lamented Christopher Hitchens regarding the destruction of the Iraqi Museum of Antiquities in the early days of the U.S. invasion evidently hit a nerve because he answered uncharacteristically defensively (or maybe not so uncharacteristically when it came to Iraq) in his otherwise  brilliant memoir Htich-22 with a reply approximating Donald Rumsfeld’s response to similar questions: “Stuff happens.”

As good a writer and controversialist as Hitchens was, I couldn’t help noticing that he avoided evidence that  U.S. forces had the wherewithal to prevent looting had this been their mission; that they  were warned at very high levels months before the invasion to secure the Museum and other treasures; that military commanders on the ground made a point of allowing if not encouraging  mobs to trash the Museum and many other critical sites such as the University, government buildings, key infrastructure installations, etc.

One might have hoped that Hitchens’s enthusiasm for removing Saddam would have been tempered by clear evidence that regime change was only part of the larger purpose of destroying, for a very long time, the possibility of civil life for the Iraqi people. This was achieved largely by promoting civil war in Iraq, and torpedoing reconstruction, and ditto reconciliation. Similarly Hitchens gracelessly acknowledged and ineptly defended the charge that the Iraq invasion was a giant step towards permanent war.

Nicholas J.S. Davies, author of Blood on our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq in a timely nine-page summary of his book for Z Magazine  (January 2012) explains that it wasn’t the U.S. “Surge” that reduced the violence in Iraq. He writes: “In fact, U.S. occupation forces and their allies were the perpetrators of most of the violence in Iraq throughout the war, and their invasion and occupation of Iraq was the cause of all of it. It was therefore entirely possible at any point for the occupation forces to achieve a reduction in violence by scaling back their own operations, as they finally did after the ’Surge’ in 2008.”

Davies’s testimony helps us understand how to read the very last sentence of the NYT op-ed:
“Unless America acts rapidly to help create a successful unity government, Iraq is doomed.”
“ How to Save Iraq From Civil War,”New York Times, 12.28,11
Ayad Allawi, leader of the Iraqiya coalition, was Iraq’s prime minister from 2004-5. Osama al-Nujaifi is the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament. Rafe al-Essawi is Iraq’s finance minister.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ronald Bleier: Malthus and 7 Billion: Three Letters to the Media

 In October 2011 I posted a letter to the New York Review of Books regarding media references to Thomas Malthus in connection with world population reaching the 7 billion mark. In the end, I wrote three such letters to the NY media. Afterwards I decided to post all three letters within a little essay (about 3,500 words), which touched on population related issues. I also included reference to Malthus’s theory that the principle of population was the fundamental driving force that underlay the persistence of war in human civilization.

The article: "Malthus and 7 Billon: Three Letters to the Media" is available on the International Society of Malthus website:
 In the following segment from my article I reflect on the broad, wall-to-wall, political spectrum arrayed against Malthus’s teachings.

Excerpt from “Malthus and 7 Billon: Three Letters to the Media”

Malthus Excoriated


Among the more powerful institutions arrayed against Malthusian views would seem to be the pro-natalist Catholic Church. To this day the Church opposes most forms of birth control and advocates unrestricted births and tacitly promotes the repression of women. One can surmise that their authoritarian and patriarchal policies derive from the perception that maintaining the immiseration and illiteracy of so many helps to promote the continuance of their wealth, power and influence.

Ironically or otherwise, the Catholic Church is joined in its refusal to address the consequences of nature’s limits by many on the left including socialists, Marxists and many anarchists who believe that considerations of ever clearer signs of nature’s backlash is not the proper way to look at the problem. Rather they are disposed to believe in “systemic” approaches, with each sectarian element favoring one “system” or another. They tend to start from the fundamental notion that by some means or another—nature, God, etc.—there will always be sufficient supply of food and the means of subsistence. The answer they believe is the implementation of fair and just systems of distribution.

Yet, from a Malthusian perspective, too often such “systems” seem to ignore the day-to-day costs of production and distribution and the requirement to somehow pay for those costs. Many seem to ignore the imperatives of scarcity that drive powerful individuals and institutions to secure the interest of elites at the expense of the rest.  In Malthusian theory, such traits evident in the rich and powerful as unrestrained selfishness, ruthlessness and unmotivated malignancy are symptoms rather than the fundamental causes of evil and misery.

Karl Marx saw Malthus’s teachings as a threat to his own desiderata of a more or less equal per capita division of resources and he favored a system outlawing private property in favor of communal ownership. In all his writings, Marx only devoted about a page of vituperation to Malthus, excoriating him as a plagiarist and as a stooge of the privileged, especially the landed gentry. Marx’s collaborator, Fredrich Engels, at least had the self-assurance to address the central issue Malthus raised of limits to growth. According to Engels, Malthus was proved wrong by the very existence of the lands west of the Mississippi River, which, he believed, demonstrated that humanity would never be bound by an insufficiency of resources.
Read More

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Hisham Matar: Who said Gaddafi had to go?

Readers may be interested in the views of American born Libyan author Hisham Matar (In the Country of Men, Anatomy of a Disappearance) on whether or not Gaddafi had to go. Matar responded in the London Review of Books to Hugh Roberts's long (12,000+ words) article
with the letter below in the 1 December 2011 edition.
I understood that Gaddafi was guilty of any number of crimes but I had little idea of the charges that Matar makes against him.
I gather the alleged crimes of Gaddafi are still a controversial issue on the left.

Who said Gaddafi had to go?
Letter by Hisham Matar

For 42 years Libyans endured the contempt and violence of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. It subjugated the press, closed down unions and weakened the independence of the courts. It dismantled civic institutions and hanged students by the neck from the gates of the university. Executions of critics in public squares and sports stadiums were broadcast on national television. In a country with a population smaller than that of the City of London, tens of thousands disappeared or were imprisoned. Journalists who dared break the silence were found dead.

It is extraordinary how in his very long essay Hugh Roberts excludes any mention of this history (LRB, 17 November). It makes one wonder whether he knows the country at all. His objection to Nato’s support of the Libyan revolution causes him to lament the end of the dictatorship. With an air of ethnocentric contempt he disregards the will of the Libyan people. Indeed, he even disapproves of calling the deposed leader a dictator, and offers Gaddafi’s comical Green Book the respectability of a serious political theory that, according to Roberts, ‘drew many ordinary Libyans into a sort of participation in public affairs’. Really? What ‘sort of participation’ was possible when every independent agency and organisation was subdued? Although Roberts prefers to judge Gaddafi by his words and not by his actions, he mysteriously excludes any mention of the speeches Gaddafi delivered after 17 February promising to ‘exterminate’ the demonstrators. Just as baffling is the derogatory tone in which he refers to those ‘young men … careering up and down’. He means the men who led the battles that ousted the dictator. In more than 12,000 words Roberts succeeds in expressing no sympathy for, let alone solidarity with, a people’s legitimate aspiration for justice and freedom. Shame.

Hisham Matar
New York