Category Archives: Iraq

Foreign Troops: What is too Close for Comfort?

Tensions in the skies. RT presented a news story of the United States intercepting a fleet of Russian bombers off the Alaskan coast. Four Russian Tu-95 bombers, accompanied by Su-35 and MiG-31 fighters jets, flew from Siberia toward Alaska where they were shadowed by US F-22 fighters. The US and NORAD admitted that the Russian planes stayed in international airspace and did not enter American sovereign airspace.

Siberia and Alaska are close. At its narrowest point the Bering Strait separates Russia and the US by only 88.5 km (55 mi), so it wouldn’t take long upon leaving one coastline to approach the other country’s coastline.

As for the tensions, they were attributed to the Russian bombers and fighter jets being “too close for comfort.”

Siberia and Alaska are very close, but the South China Sea is quite distant from the continental US and US Pacific territories. Nonetheless, the US sends its warships into the South China Sea — this to the consternation of China.

If China were to send its warships through the Straits of Florida would the US reaction be muted?

The provocations have their impetus in former president Barack Obama’s Pivot to Asia, which has been an abysmal failure, as it has failed to prevent the rise of China.

Another failed US foreign policy objective was to prevent the Democratic Republic of Korea from becoming a nuclear state. US belligerence toward the government in the north of the Korean peninsula has not been effective in causing the North Koreans to cower. While US president Donald Trump has taken steps to engage North Korea, it has been mixed with hyperbolic threats and bombast.

The US, with South Korea, practices decapitation exercises targeting the leadership of the nearby DPRK — a country that is also distant from the continental US.

The examples of the US being too close for the comfort of other nations are myriad.

Russia is one country indignant at America provocations near its borders. Back during the Ronald Reagan administration, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev received a promise that NATO would not advance “one inch to the East.” The US reneged on its promise and has expanded ever closer to Russia, placing missiles and basing soldiers nearby.

Presently, in Syria the US is not just nearby; it is physically ensconced on the sovereign territory of Syria. There the uninvited and unwelcome US troops are helping to plunder Syrian oil.

US troops are also unwelcome in Iraq, which told the US troops to leave the country. Trump responded by threatening to impose sanctions against Iraq. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resistance to the US troop presence has caused the evacuation of some US bases in Iraq.

Following 9-11, the US invaded Afghanistan when it failed to turn over the accused mastermind Osama bin Laden. The Taliban said they would consider surrendering bin Laden to the US if the US provided evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. However, the US refused to provide evidence, and subsequently the US finds itself militarily mired in Afghanistan approaching 20 years onward, and at a cost approaching $1 trillion dollars.

From Asia to Africa. The US meddling in the backyards of other countries is spread far and wide. No matter that Africa is another continent across the Atlantic from the US. US forces are involved in the fighting in Somalia, Kenya, Niger, and other African countries.

From Africa to South America. Trump has deployed US warships to the waters near Venezuela. Then, in early May of this year, there was a bizarre attempt to overthrow the elected government in Venezuela and capture president Nicolás Maduro. The coup attempt ended in utter ignominy for the would-be coupists, which included two former US special forces soldiers. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, a self-confessed and proud liar, stated, “There was no US government direct involvement in this operation.” [italics added] Makes one wonder exactly what the indirect US government involvement was.

Later in May, Trump warned Iran and Venezuela to not engage in trade with each other. Nonetheless, both countries, already under US sanctions, ignored the threats and Iran dispatched five tankers loaded with gasoline to help Venezuela. Despite the thousands of kilometers that Iran is from the US, it still has to contend with the presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf.

In Closing

Hypocrisy is defined as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.”

Given the fact that the US reacts aggressively to the presence of foreign militaries that it considers too close for comfort, how ought one view the juxtaposition of the US military to countries that do not appreciate the presence of the US military?

Foreign Troops: What is too Close for Comfort?

Tensions in the skies. RT presented a news story of the United States intercepting a fleet of Russian bombers off the Alaskan coast. Four Russian Tu-95 bombers, accompanied by Su-35 and MiG-31 fighters jets, flew from Siberia toward Alaska where they were shadowed by US F-22 fighters. The US and NORAD admitted that the Russian planes stayed in international airspace and did not enter American sovereign airspace.

Siberia and Alaska are close. At its narrowest point the Bering Strait separates Russia and the US by only 88.5 km (55 mi), so it wouldn’t take long upon leaving one coastline to approach the other country’s coastline.

As for the tensions, they were attributed to the Russian bombers and fighter jets being “too close for comfort.”

Siberia and Alaska are very close, but the South China Sea is quite distant from the continental US and US Pacific territories. Nonetheless, the US sends its warships into the South China Sea — this to the consternation of China.

If China were to send its warships through the Straits of Florida would the US reaction be muted?

The provocations have their impetus in former president Barack Obama’s Pivot to Asia, which has been an abysmal failure, as it has failed to prevent the rise of China.

Another failed US foreign policy objective was to prevent the Democratic Republic of Korea from becoming a nuclear state. US belligerence toward the government in the north of the Korean peninsula has not been effective in causing the North Koreans to cower. While US president Donald Trump has taken steps to engage North Korea, it has been mixed with hyperbolic threats and bombast.

The US, with South Korea, practices decapitation exercises targeting the leadership of the nearby DPRK — a country that is also distant from the continental US.

The examples of the US being too close for the comfort of other nations are myriad.

Russia is one country indignant at America provocations near its borders. Back during the Ronald Reagan administration, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev received a promise that NATO would not advance “one inch to the East.” The US reneged on its promise and has expanded ever closer to Russia, placing missiles and basing soldiers nearby.

Presently, in Syria the US is not just nearby; it is physically ensconced on the sovereign territory of Syria. There the uninvited and unwelcome US troops are helping to plunder Syrian oil.

US troops are also unwelcome in Iraq, which told the US troops to leave the country. Trump responded by threatening to impose sanctions against Iraq. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resistance to the US troop presence has caused the evacuation of some US bases in Iraq.

Following 9-11, the US invaded Afghanistan when it failed to turn over the accused mastermind Osama bin Laden. The Taliban said they would consider surrendering bin Laden to the US if the US provided evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. However, the US refused to provide evidence, and subsequently the US finds itself militarily mired in Afghanistan approaching 20 years onward, and at a cost approaching $1 trillion dollars.

From Asia to Africa. The US meddling in the backyards of other countries is spread far and wide. No matter that Africa is another continent across the Atlantic from the US. US forces are involved in the fighting in Somalia, Kenya, Niger, and other African countries.

From Africa to South America. Trump has deployed US warships to the waters near Venezuela. Then, in early May of this year, there was a bizarre attempt to overthrow the elected government in Venezuela and capture president Nicolás Maduro. The coup attempt ended in utter ignominy for the would-be coupists, which included two former US special forces soldiers. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, a self-confessed and proud liar, stated, “There was no US government direct involvement in this operation.” [italics added] Makes one wonder exactly what the indirect US government involvement was.

Later in May, Trump warned Iran and Venezuela to not engage in trade with each other. Nonetheless, both countries, already under US sanctions, ignored the threats and Iran dispatched five tankers loaded with gasoline to help Venezuela. Despite the thousands of kilometers that Iran is from the US, it still has to contend with the presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf.

In Closing

Hypocrisy is defined as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.”

Given the fact that the US reacts aggressively to the presence of foreign militaries that it considers too close for comfort, how ought one view the juxtaposition of the US military to countries that do not appreciate the presence of the US military?

The Narrative of the Leakers: Collateral Murder and the Assange Indictment

When the superseding indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia against Julian Assange on May 23, 2019, there was one glaring omission.  It was an achievement, it might even be said the achievement, that gave the WikiLeaks publisher and the organisation justified notoriety.  Collateral Murder, as the leaked video came to be called, featured the murderous exploits by the crew of Crazy Horse 1-8, an Apache helicopter that slew 11 people on July 12, 2007 in east Baghdad.  Among the dead were Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and a driver and fixer, Saeed Chmagh.

As WikiLeaks announced at the time, “Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack.  The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers.  Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.”

It is worth remembering at the time that the current stable of media outlets, including the New York Times, preferred to see something rather different: that the video was purposely edited by WikiLeaks to convey maximum public impact while giving the impression of US venality in battle.  Patriotism, and the blinding of the record, comes first.

This conveniently sidestepped the vacillations taking place in the Pentagon over the incident and its recording.  Dean Yates, who was Reuters Baghdad chief at the time, recalls in horrid vividness the unfolding events, including the seizure of Namir’s cameras and the US military statement: “Firefight in New Baghdad.  US, Iraqi forces kill 9 insurgents, detain 13.”

As Yates, who has been painfully silent over this episode, told the Guardian, “The US assertions that Namir and Saeed were killed during a firefight was all lies.  But I didn’t know that at the time, so I updated my story to take in the US military’s statement.”

On the return of the tampered cameras, no evidence of insurgent activity, or clashes with US forces, were evident. Yates and a Reuters colleague subsequently met two US generals responsible for overseeing the investigation, all off record, of course. They were told of the request by Crazy Horse 1-8 to engage “military-aged males” supposedly armed and acting “suspiciously”.  Photographs of AK-47s and an RPG [Rocket-propelled grenade] launcher, where produced.  Yates was left wondering “how much of that meeting was carefully choreographed so we could go away with a certain impression of what happened.”  For a time, he conceded, “it worked” with poisonous effect.

What niggled was the revealing of some footage from the camera of Crazy Horse 1-8, a miserly three minutes.  Cue the permission sought by the Apache to engage on seeing Namir crouching with his long-lens camera, supposedly mistaken for an RPG.  The appearance of the van later in the scene, ostensibly to assist, was airily dismissed by the generals as an act of aid for insurgents.  Yates, disturbed, was left with the mistaken impression that Namir had somehow been responsible for his own demise and those of his companions.

In the meantime, Reuters persisted in their vain attempts to secure the full video, even as they continued good faith off-the-record meetings with the US military for reasons of safety. Yates wished to break the arrangement on the video; his superiors thought otherwise.  The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder began to show.  Sleeplessness crept it.  When the video was released on April 5, 2010, Yates was with his family walking in Cradle Mountain national park, Tasmania.

The video casts a shadow over the indictment, despite being a screaming omission.  It is crude, expressive, and unequivocal in disclosing a war crime and its cold blooded execution. It codifies a form of deliberate, incautious violence.  It reveals breathtaking cruelty at play: “Look at those dead bastards; “Nice”; “Good shoot’n”.  As Christian Christensen remarked, “These particular images were, in many ways, the crystallization of the horrors of war.”

Barrister Greg Barns, a tireless advisor to the Australian Assange Campaign, claimed it to be “very much part of the broader prosecution case [because of what it illustrates about the US rules of engagement] and it is one of the many reasons to oppose what is happening to Assange”.

Australian politicians otherwise unaccustomed to distract themselves from the teat of the US imperium have also noted the potency of the video, and the act of evading it in the indictment.  “The omission of the leaked Collateral Murder footage from the indictment surprised me,” suggested Australian Greens Senator Peter Whish Wilson of the Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group, “but on reflection of course it’s not in the US government’s interests to highlight their own injustices, deceit and crimes.”  The effort to indict Assange for espionage charges is fatuous but dangerously calculating: to bury a narrative; to make history, at least as it is told by the leakers, disappear.

Iran:  Socialist, Internationalist, Powerful and Determined

I refuse to describe Iran as a victim. It is not. It is one of the most influential and strong-minded nations on Earth.

When facing mortal danger, its people unite, harden themselves and get ready to face invaders, no matter how threatening they might be.

Iran determined despite attacks

Iran is home to one of the oldest and deepest cultures in the world, and it’s precisely this culture that helps Iranian people to survive the most frightening moments.

And one such moment is sadly right now.

*****

U.S. battleships are sailing right next to the Iranian territorial waters. One mistake, one false move, and war could erupt, engulfing the entire region in flames. Iran is a proud nation, and it takes its independence extremely seriously.

Right now, the country is facing one of the most unjust embargos in human history. It is being punished for nothing; or more precisely, for sticking to all the points of the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as The Iran Nuclear Deal, which it signed in 2015 with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany, and which the United States abandoned, without providing any logical explanation. While not particularly happy about the U.S. withdrawal; Germany, France and U.K. are doing all they can not to anger their senior partner, and its leaders in Washington.

Add COVID-19, and inability of the country, due to sanctions, to buy medical equipment, at least in the West, and you have the perfect scenario for a national calamity and even for imminent collapse.

Or more precisely, anywhere else this would be the case, but not in Iran!

After receiving terrible blows from the West, one after another, Iran has never fallen to its knees. It has never abandoned its internationalist and socialist course (socialist, with Iranian characteristics), and it has preserved its dignity.

What it has managed to achieve is amazing, nothing short of heroic, given the circumstances.

*****

If you look at the latest, 2019 HDI (Human Development Index, compiled and published by the UNDP), Iran is in the High Human Development bracket, and only 3 steps from the Highest Human Development group of countries. Which is thoroughly amazing, given the above-mentioned sanctions, embargos and constant military intimidations.

In Tehran, monument to nuclear scientists murdered from abroad

Whenever I visit Iran, I am astonished by its public spaces, cultural institutions, public transportation, fountains, comfortable trains… The country is functioning well, showing incredible grace under pressure. Its television channel – PressTV – is one of the most important anti-imperialist news outlets in the world. I don’t see extreme misery, or homelessness, there. Iranians are polite, well-educated and proud. They have to deal with complex exchange rates, which I do not understand. Whenever I pay in a café or taxi, I simply extend my hand full of local currency, and I never get cheated. Things are solid and reassuring there; I feel it and really appreciate it.

Iran is an internationalist country. Not unlike Cuba or Venezuela, who are its long-term allies. Even when injured, itself, it helps others, those who need solidarity even more. This can never be forgotten, particularly in places like Latin America, or Syria.

Hezbollah, Iran’s close ally in the Middle East, is fighting the most dangerous terrorist groups in Syria; those groups that have been injected there by the West, but also by Washington’s allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But Hezbollah is also essentially the only social net for the poor in Syria’s neighbor – Lebanon. And not only for the Shi’a Muslims, but also for the disadvantaged Sunni citizens, for the Christians, and non-believers. Whoever is destitute in Lebanon comes to Hezbollah for assistance. I was based in Beirut for five years, and I know what I am talking about. All this, while the Lebanese elites are burning money in Paris, in Nice, in the nightclubs of Beirut, driving their lavish cars through the slums. And the more Iran and Hezbollah help the region, the more frustrated, outraged and aggressive the West gets.

Look at Palestine. When it comes to the liberation of the Palestinian people from the long and brutal Israeli occupation, the Gulf countries just talk and talk. In the end, some of them side with the West and Israel. The closest, the most determined allies of the long-suffering Palestinian people in the region, are, without doubt, Iran and Syria. That, everybody in the Middle East, knows, and it is only “a secret” to Westerners.

In Afghanistan, particularly in Herat, I witnessed long lines of Afghan people in front of the Iranian consulate. Devastated by the NATO occupation, Afghanistan is in despair, rated as a country with the shortest life expectancy in Asia, and the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) on the Asian continent. Tens of thousands of the Afghan people have been travelling to Iran in search of jobs. Without Iran, Herat would most likely starve to death. And now, Iran is searching for ways, (together with China and Russia), how to help Afghanistan to find a political solution, and send the NATO forces packing.

For years, all the Socialist countries of Latin America could always rely on Iran. Be it Bolivia, before the legitimate government of Evo Morales was overthrown, or Cuba and especially Venezuela. Iran has been building social housing, it was helping with oil technology, and with many other social essentials.

Iraq and Iran, two great nations, in the past brutally pitched against each other by Washington, are once again cooperating, working together. The Western occupation has already thoroughly ruined Iraq (as it has ruined Afghanistan), historically one of the richest countries in the region. However, more positively Iran gets involved in neighboring Iraq, the more aggressively the West behaves. It now habitually crosses all the lines of acceptable behavior. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike murdered Iran’s national hero, General Quasem Soleimani, while he was travelling right near the Baghdad International Airport.

For years now, Iran has been standing shoulder to shoulder with Russia, China, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba; the nations which are openly and bravely deterring the aggression and brutality of Western imperialism.

Iranian cinema, world famous. Filming on the streets

It seems that no matter what the West tries to do, Iran cannot be broken. Despite the embargos and sanctions, it demonstrates that it is capable of producing and shooting satellites into space, or of producing its own medical equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While the nation creates its great scientific and technological achievements, Iranian filmmakers keep producing their cinematic masterpieces. What a nation!

Unfortunately, all this is hidden from the eyes and ears of the public, both in the West and in the client states. There, Iran is portrayed as a “threat”.

*****

Look at this irony. On April 30, 2020, Reuters released a report about the German move to ban Hezbollah:

Last December, Germany’s parliament approved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all activities by Hezbollah on German soil, citing its “terrorist activities” especially in Syria.

On a trip to Berlin last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped Germany would follow Britain in banning Hezbollah. Britain introduced legislation in February of last year that classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

When the West says “Terrorist activities, especially in Syria”, what it really means is “fighting the terrorism injected by the West and its allies, into Syria”. Everything is twisted, perverted and turned upside-down by the propaganda outlets operating out of the United States, Europe, Israel and the Gulf.

“Terrorist activities” outside Syria, also means supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence, as well as at least moral support for Syria in its attempts to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an occupation which has never been recognized, even by the United Nations. It also means helping Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Latin American countries, which are brutalized (or should we say ‘terrorized’) relentlessly by Washington and its allies.

This is precisely the logic and lexicon which was used by German propagandists during WWII to describe resistance forces in its colonies. Freedom fighters and partisans were labeled as terrorists in France, Yugoslavia, Ukraine.

*****

Even the otherwise mainstream newspaper – The Independent – published on May 1, 2020 a report critical of the bizarre U.S. scheming against Iran:

The United States is pushing ahead with a scheme to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran that is due to be lifted in October as part of the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago.

To force the extension, Washington will attempt to lobby the Security Council to continue the arms embargo, which bars weapons sales to or from Iran.

But it also is making what legal experts and diplomats describe as a convoluted argument that it is still part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action it left, and hence able to use one of its provisions to “snapback” the embargo.

This weird political somersault has been, according to The Independent, criticized even by one of Washington’s allies, the French President Emmanuel Macron:

China and Russia have already vowed to use any means to block the US plan. France’s Emmanuel Macron has been working behind the scenes to sabotage the Trump scheme because of what it sees as an attempt by the White House to destroy international legal norms, said a well-placed European diplomat.

France, the U.K., Germany and other EU countries are not necessarily happy with Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran, but their outrage is far from being moral indignation. Iran is big and it is far from being poor. European companies are losing billions of euros in trade because of the sanctions. For instance, in the recent past, two Iranian airlines were ready to purchase large numbers of brand-new Airbus aircraft, in order to compete with Qatar Airways and the Emirates. Such plans collapsed because of the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the almost immediate imposition of new, senseless but brutal sanctions against Teheran. Now even Mahan Air, a civilian airline, is facing sanctions, allegedly because of its flights to Venezuela, and to several Middle Eastern destinations.

*****

Now, many are perhaps wondering what triggered in the West such hate towards Iran?

There is a well-hidden (again, in the West) secret regarding Iran: “It is a Socialist country. Socialist with Iranian characteristics.”

In his latest and by all means ground-breaking book about Iran (“Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism”), which our publishing house Badak Merah will be publishing later in May 2020, an Iranian author and the PressTV Paris chief correspondent, Ramin Mazaheri, passionately defends the Iranian socialist concept:

I think that if open-minded leftists would simply become aware of the facts and… modern socialist interpretations of Iran’s policies – many of which I’m sure are being presented in English for the first time – I’m sure that they would not be waiting breathlessly for the collapse of the Middle East’s greatest bulwark against imperialism and capitalism.

It is urgent that Western leftists understand that the reversal of Iran’s popular, democratic revolution would have incredibly negative ramifications for the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, and thus the global anti-imperialist movement, and it certainly would be the cruelest loss for Islamic Socialism, which is taken quite seriously in the Muslim world even if atheistic Trotskyism cannot even discuss the concept without resorting to insults.

And, of course, a counter-revolution in Iran would be a major blow for global democracy, as there is no doubt that the Iranian People support their revolution, constitution and unique system in a democratic majority.

Like Russia and China in Euro Asia and in Asia, like Venezuela, Cuba and before the coup, Bolivia, Iran is spreading hope and revolutionary optimism in its entire part of the world. And it is an extremely wounded part of the world where hope is absent but desperately needed.

Spreading hope – that is never forgiven by the Western empire which, like some gigantic and sadistic prison warden, constantly demands submission while spreading depression and fear.

In the entirety of modern history, Iran has never invaded, never attacked anyone. Iran is a peaceful nation. But at the same time, it is a powerful, brave and proud country.

The United States and its turbo-capitalist regime understand brutal force, only. They do not comprehend, do not appreciate cultural nuances, let alone depth. Pity! There is so much to learn from Iran and its culture.

Iran will not attack anyone. That is clear as is proven by history. But if physically confronted, it will defend itself, and its people. It will fight, well and bravely.

The West should know: if it triggers a war with Iran, the entire Middle East will be consumed by terrible fire.

*****

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook,  a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Arabs, UN Must Move to Swiftly Protect the Status of Palestinian Refugees

‘Heinous racism,’ is how the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor described a recent decision by Lebanese authorities to bar Palestinian refugee expats from returning to Lebanon.

Lebanon’s restrictions on its ever-diminishing population of Palestinian refugees is nothing new. However, this event is particularly alarming as it may be linked to a long-term official policy regarding the residency status of Palestinian refugees in this Arab country.

Many were taken aback by a recent Lebanese government’s order to its embassy in the United Arab Emirates, instructing it to prevent Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes in Lebanon.

Tariq Hajjar, a legal advisor to the Euro-Med Monitor said in a statement that “the circular includes heinous racial discrimination against Palestinian refugees holding Lebanese travel documents.”

Hajjar rightly insisted that “the holder of this document should receive similar treatment to the Lebanese citizen.”

Indeed they should, as has been the practice for many years. Otherwise, there is no other place where these refugees can possibly go, considering that Lebanon has been their home for decades, starting in 1948 when Israel forcefully expelled nearly a million Palestinians from their historic homeland.

Refugees, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, should be treated with respect and dignity, no matter the political complexity of their host countries. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon cannot be made an exception.

Last April, the Palestinian Association for Human Rights called on the United Nations to provide financial assistance to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees, indicating that due to the coronavirus pandemic, a whopping 90 percent of all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have lost their jobs.

Under discriminatory Lebanese laws, Palestinian refugees are not allowed to practice 72 types of jobs that are available to Lebanese nationals. This is merely one of many other such restrictions. Thus, employed Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (the vast majority of whom are now unemployed) have been competing within a very limited work market.

A large number of those refugees have been employed at the various projects operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Many of those who were lucky enough to receive university degrees opted to leave the country altogether, mostly working in the teaching, engineering, banking, and medical sectors in Arab Gulf countries.

However, due to the coronavirus, the severe financial hardship suffered by UNRWA and to new Lebanese government regulations, all doors are now being shut in the face of Palestinian refugees.

For thousands of those refugees, the only remaining option is sailing the high seas in search for a better refugee status in Europe. Yet, sadly, tens of thousands of those refugees are now living a miserable life in European camps, or stranded in Turkey. Hundreds drowned while undertaking these perilous journeys.

According to a recent survey by  the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics, conducted jointly with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, only 175,000 (from nearly half a million) Palestinian refugees still reside in Lebanon.

That said, the Palestinian refugee tragedy in Lebanon is only a facet in a much larger ailment that is unique to the Palestinian refugee experience.

Syria’s Palestinian refugees arrived in the country in waves, starting with the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine during the ‘Nakba’, or Catastrophe. Others fled the Golan Heights after the Israeli invasion in 1967. Many more fled Lebanon during the Israeli 1982 invasion.

The relatively safe Syrian haven was ruptured during the ongoing Syria war started in 2011. UNRWA’s mission, which allowed it to provide the nearly half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria with direct support was made nearly impossible because of the destructive war, and the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled the country or became internally displaced.

The devastating impact of the Syrian war on Palestinian refugees was almost an exact copy of what had transpired earlier during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the case of Iraq, where most of the country’s 35,000 refugees fled, the Palestinian refugee crisis was particularly compounded. While Palestinians enjoyed a permanent residence status (though no ownership rights) in Iraq before the war, they were still not recognized as refugees as per international standards, since UNRWA does not operate in Iraq. Post-2003 Iraqi governments exploited this fact to the fullest, leading to the displacement of the country’s Palestinian population.

Since its advent, the US Administration of President Donald Trump has waged a financial war on the Palestinians, including the cutting of all aids to UNRWA. This infamous act has added layers of suffering to the existing hardships of refugees.

On May 5, UNRWA, somberly declared that it only has enough cash to sustain its operations until the end of the month.

The truth is that, long before Trump targeted the UN agency, UNRWA has functioned for over 70 years with an inherent vulnerability.

UNRWA was established exclusively with a UN mandate that provided the organization with a “separate and special status” to assist Palestinian refugees.

Arab governments, at the time, were keen for UNRWA to maintain this ‘special status’ based on their belief that lumping Palestinian refugees with the burgeoning world refugee crisis (resulting mostly from War World II) would downgrade the urgency of the Palestinian plight.

However, while that logic may have applied successfully in the immediate years following the ‘Nakba’, it proved costly in later years, as the status and definition of what constitute a Palestinian refugee remained historically linked to UNRWA’s scope of operations.

This became clear during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but, especially, since the start of political upheavals and subsequent wars in the Middle East in the last decade.

This is precisely why the US and Israel are keen on dismantling UNRWA, because, according to their logic, if UNRWA ceases to operate, the Palestinian refugee ceases to exist with any status that makes him/her unique.

Such precarious reality calls for an urgent and creative solution that should be spearheaded by Arab countries, UN-registered NGOs, and friends of Palestine everywhere.

What is needed today is a UN-adopted formula that would allow the legal status of Palestinian refugees under international law to remain active regardless of  UNRWA’s scope of operation, while providing Palestinian refugees with the material and financial support required for them to live with dignity until the Right of Return, in accordance to UN Resolution 194 of 1948, is finally enforced.

For the rights of Palestinian refugees to be maintained and for the Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria scenarios not to be repeated, the Arab League must work within the framework of international law – as determined by the UN General Assembly – to safeguard the Palestinian refugees’ legal status which is currently under an unprecedented attack.

Palestinian refugees must not have to choose between forfeiting their legal and unalienable right in their own homeland and accepting a life of perpetual degradation and uncertainty.

Pandemic Revisionism: The George W. Bush Whitewash

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful.  And so are we.  They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people.  And neither do we.

— President George W. Bush, August. 5, 2004

Hatred is disorientating, and becomes, over time, a form of enduring fanaticism.  The attacks on US President Donald Trump tend to fall into this camp.  Much criticism of his often grotesque conduct, from his conversion of high office to a social media spectacle of grabs and interruptions, to his whole lowering of the tone, is warranted.  He has brought locker room morals and the ethics of the US corporate boardroom to the White House.  In the annals of the US presidency, he will not favour well, but nor should he necessarily be seen as a singular catastrophe.  There are other worthier contenders for the court historians to consider.

One of them must be George W. Bush who, true to his misspoken words, never stopped thinking about new ways of harming the US and its people.  This was a president who declared with confidence that there could be such things as an “Axis of Evil” in international relations; that the map of the Middle East needed to be rewritten in blood – yet again – on an adventurist, schoolboy hunch; and proclaimed a Global War on Terror with a sort of mad glee that tolerated an extra-judicial culture of torture, renditions and CIA black sites.  “My blood was boiling,” he writes in that painful, and for the most part hopelessly unreliable, read Decision Points.  “We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass.”  This was not a quest marked by the need for sound evidence, be it Saddam Hussein’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction, or forged links between Baghdad and al-Qaeda.  When destroying a country, stubborn motivation can resist the evidentiary brief.

Domestically, Bush’s tenure oversaw a bloating of the national security state, fattened by inefficient and intrusive surveillance coupled with the use of imperial styled powers that disparaged the workings of Congress.  Air pollution standards were reduced; logging of wilderness areas encouraged and naff intrusions of religion into policy witnessed.

In responding to Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating natural events in US history, the president distinguished himself by continuing his vacation at his expansive Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas before cutting it short.  Once committed in response, he could never dispel the image of detachment from the catastrophe.  Praising the bungling performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown (“you’re doing a heck of a job”) did not help.

At the helm of the US imperium for eight years was a person of questionable cognitive heft and permanent frat boy immaturity, who had an entertainingly defective grasp of language (entrepreneur not being a French word; misunderestimated, and all that) and a tenuous hold on reality.  During his time in office, dark forces led by Vice President Dick Cheney pulled strings and encouraged this manqué president.  A sense of the impression he left on the United States could be gathered by the fact that the country got its first black president, elected not for being necessarily irresistible in offering small change but for not being Bush.

In retirement, he has been treated as a harmlessly mild, doddery recluse, dedicated to peaceful pursuits, such as painting.  Along with his wife Laura, they are sharing what they have described as “the afterlife in their promised land in Texas”.

From this world of the afterlife, Bush has suddenly piped up.  The deaths and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were just too much for him to ignore.  In a video posted by the George W. Bush Presidential Centre, the credentials of sainthood and leadership were offered to rolling images of the United States.  “We are not partisan combatants.”  Pieties aplenty choke the performance.  “We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God.  We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”  He noted that Americans need to “be compassionate” and “creative in our outreach”.  Remember to show empathy and kindness, those “essential, powerful tools of national recovery.”

The response to this sop-filled intervention by Bush has been one of reputational restoration.  They have come from the usual circles: starry-eyed thespians and celebrities, many of them centrist or slightly tilted to the left of politics; many, if not Democrats then those with Democratic allegiances.  Andy Worthington had already detected this trend in 2018.  Trump’s place in the White House had caused many to lose their heads, with “a bizarre propensity, on the part of those in the centre and on the left of US political life, to seek to rehabilitate the previous Republican president, George W. Bush.”  They ranged from the former First Lady, Michelle Obama (“a beautiful, funny, kind, sweet man”) to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who, last year, kept company with the Bushes at a sporting fixture.  “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean I’m not going to be friends with them.”  Best forget what he did.

The COVID-19 video performance has induced another round of emetic showering.  Debora Messing, for one, gushed at the show. “A REAL president,” she tweeted.  Former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill exercised her tear ducts.  “In a million years I never thought I’d be crying watching this, thinking how much better we’d all feel if Bush were president today.”  Historian Seth Kotlar was captured by “nostalgia”, not necessarily for Bush “but for Presidents who genuinely tried to speak to the entire nation, not just a part of it.”

Trump preferred a different reaction and predictable focus: himself.  Bush, he fumed, “was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history.”  That little matter called the impeachment proceedings still rankles.  But Bush, it seems, continues to slide into that place of history where minds atrophy and hagiography quells reality.

Surgeon General Links COVID-19 to 9/11

“This will be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.”  That was U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on April 5, touring the Sunday morning shows to warn of the worst week yet for pandemic death in the United States.

During these interviews, the Surgeon General also managed to show off his mask-making skills, an unwitting allusion to the fact that — contrary to the spectacular events of 1941 and 2001 (not to mention his own previous “guidance” against the efficacy of face masks) — we are far more likely on the brink of a 1918 moment.  Not that the Surgeon General’s mission was to raise awareness of pandemics past.  Instead, Adams’ appearances were wholly in keeping with the Trump regime’s pivot to an ominous war footing media strategy following the March 11 “National Emergency” declaration — after, of course, previously downplaying the COVID’s threat to the country’s health.  Mixed messaging is trending pretty hard these days…

The comparison to the 1918 influenza catastrophe is both more topically relevant, given the kind of emergency, as well as more historically significant.   According to consensus estimates, 675,000 Americans died during the 1918-19 pandemic.  Despite a recent scaremongering model predicting as many as 1.2 to 2 million deaths from the current coronaviral outbreak, it appears that the sheer number of fatalities will be far less this time.  It should also be noted that the U.S. population has tripled during the last hundred years.  In other words, despite the botched initial response to this novel coronavirus, the United States is considerably ahead of the “Curve” in relation to the 1918 flu. Even the briefly touted worst case scenario for the current coronaviral flu falls far short of U.S. Army Surgeon General Victor Vaughn’s 1918 concern that “If the epidemic continues its mathematical rate of acceleration, civilization could easily disappear from the face of the earth.”  This time around, not even the most morbid of forecasts have suggested anything like an extinction event.  The Apocalypse will have to hold its horses — at least for now…

So, there’s some good news in this historical comparison of the two pandemics; we’re all still going to die, but more than likely not because of this novel pathogen, the COVID-19.  Nevertheless, there’s another factor to consider in this virological context.  One hundred years ago, the United States was manifestly on the rise, whereas today, America is evidently in decline.  To use a boxing metaphor:  the 1918 influenza “haymaker,” staggering though it was, did little to impede the relentless onslaught of the “American Century,” while a flurry of jabs — initially dismissed as mere feints — from the COVID-19 has the American Leviathan on the ropes, and the canvas is calling.  How is this possible?

To rephrase and re-focus Surgeon General Adams’ unwittingly uncanny linkage a click:  America never left “our 9/11 moment.”

Back in 2001, if not for the 9/11 event and its anthrax annex, the collapse of Enron would have been the Story of the Year.  Enron had been the poster child of a financially driven “Boom!” economy.  By the time the NYC Trade Towers and the Pentagon were struck, out of a clear blue sky, the almighty Stock Market had already been quietly slumping, and the sham of Enron was about to be unmasked for the fraud that it was (See:  Alex Gibney’s “Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room,” 2005).  Enron’s free fall showed that fakery and swindling were really the order of the day on Wall St — not to mention Pennsylvania Avenue, and the rest of Washington, DC.  While the “New American Century” had gotten off to an obviously disastrous start, the dubiously elected Bush 2 regime, which was practically inert on the day of those fateful attacks, proceeded to make things much worse in the wake of 9/11.

Slapped into reaction, America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in quick succession.  These pointless and unwinnable wars soon morphed into defense industry gravy trains costing trillions of dollars.  Among other delusionalisms at the time, Americans were told that Iraqi oil would pay for that invasion; it never did.  In fact, the price per gallon of gasoline actually doubled between 9/11 and the peak of Iraq-Attack-Two in 2006, amounting to an undeclared war-time gas tax on the average American.  Many a clever economist has failed to note this radical, and ironic, price spike in a commodity so basic to the fossil fuel-driven United States.  Was it, perchance, merely an unintended consequence of the war?

In other domestic news, 0% financing became the rage, encouraging a shook-up consumer-citizenry to splurge in a post-9/11 climate of “shock and awe.” For its part, Wall St was allowed to indulge in toxic financial instruments like “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” tied to an ever more precarious “subprime mortgage market.”  All of this crazy credit and debt-based speculative activity finally melted down into the famous financial crash of 2008, the second coming of which we are experiencing now.

Against this grim backdrop, the previously obscure Barack Obama was voted into office.  Obama had promised “Change,” but only managed to deliver more “paper,” as the Federal Reserve turned to the money printing presses to bail out the big failing banks.  Wall St was saved! — but with no “change” for the little guys and gals. Ever the smooth functionary in his caretaker role, Obama signaled to Wall St that their “free for few” could continue, unfettered…

Today, the bailout business is booming again, but this time with a small twist: Main St is being thrown back a few crumbs by the fake, financialized economy, even as the big stakeholders take most of the cake, just like in 2008. Presumably, this helicoptering of crumbs will forestall some form of a citizens revolt, which may be inevitable, given that 22 million Americans — a truly staggering number — have lost their jobs in the first 4 weeks since Trump’s national emergency declaration, with millions more to soon follow.  Under the cover of this novel coronavirus, the Debt-cult of post-9/11 America, led by the Fed, is reaping the whirlwind it has sown, with most Americans left holding an increasingly empty bag.

Wither the way out of this dire Scylla and Charybdis strait, caught between a pandemic and possible national bankruptcy?  If history, and especially recent history, is any guide, things can get a whole lot worse…

In a way to begin again:  Historically, War and Pestilence go hand-in-hand, or, horse-to-horse, to pursue an equestrian to apocalyptical metaphor. “Chariot!  Taxi! Uber!”  So it’s right there, at the beginning of the western literary tradition, in Homer’s Iliad, the opening lines, declaring the Wrath of Achilleus.  Well, the well-benched Achaeans investing the citadel of “oriental” Troy (a.k.a. Ilium), had been there 9 circling years, with no positive return (Nostos?) on their investment to show for it; and, furthermore, were confounded by a plague wasting their idle ranks, which were hostilely ringed around Troy.  Who knew “Whatever for?” this mad adventurous war was still for?

Today, the masked-mad-Max-man of the World, the Lone Ranger United States, is somewhat in the role of Achilleus, and sidelined by the COVID-19, however much this disease-aster was brought upon itself by its own self or selves, truths be told!  Not that Donald J Trump’s anyone’s Agamemnon — except that Agamemnon’s far from the strongest leader in the western literary tradition; indeed, he’s a distinctly bipolar, moody figure, a fact which lightly re-invites the Trump analogy…

So, who is the “Achilleus” figure in the COVID-19 registrar?  Probably the Death Star, also known as the Pentagon.  Remember:  the American Leviathan’s been thrust upon the ropes of ever thinning Finance, and Betsy Ross has been laid off, which means that the Flag’s a no masking position, so to speak, based on Betsy’s whereabouts, which are currently unknown, even to the Gates-Bezos-Jimmy Buffet-to-Zuckerberg crowd, even though their surrogates will social-media about it all day, including the likely hideouts of Betsy Ross during this global-national health crisis, and everything else besides…

In 1918, a plague of disproportionate lethality followed quickly upon a war that was never expected to yield the same — and yet it did, beyond everyone’s expectations, which were only considered to be “realistic” until the realistic actually happened.  Historians rarely connect the influenza to the Great War that epigraphed it.  Whatever else the current crop of Historians think, pandemic flu is a “Thing”;  not necessarily John Carpenter’s, which is another “Thing,” whatever anyone thinks about that movie, or cinematic photo-play, as pre-COVID films may now in the future be known by.  The “Thing” has changed, and it’s a Trickster virus.  No one’s safe, but everyone’s OK.  That’s the deal.  People die every day, but no one really knows why.  Every death is a question mark:  or, is it just a death? Did the United States of America just invade Saudi Arabia, or is that simply another fake news story?  After all, there was an “imminent threat,” some sources from Iran reported…

War is the Disease!  This is the headline that we all must understand, sooner rather than later…

Iraq War Lies Still Cause Pervasive Distrust of UK State

With anti-statist paranoia and acts of vandalism now part of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, in one outrageous video sent to me by a friend (I will not produce it, due to the responsibility to prevent the spread of false information) a British man denounced the virus as a hoax. What is most shocking is that he included (17 years on!) an appeal to the fact the Iraq War was based on lies.

The continued disbelief towards any government statements and guidance shows, despite attempts to put Tony Blair’s shame to rest or somehow apologize for his supposed mistakes, the grave injustice of the Iraq War has still not been resolved. Instead, the failure to punish Blair sent the message that deception and conspiracy are the rule rather than the exception for the statists, with Tony Blair only being an example of what the British state continues to be. The image of the craven, dishonourable, lying villain who once led the Labour Party has only grown more in people’s minds every year Blair continuously eluded punishment. Rulers believed they ruled over goldfishes, but the citizens have not forgotten anything. On the contrary, their suspicions have only grown to target ever more politicians.

It is the role of the state to calm the people, to possess agencies and departments that offer the most impartial and well-intentioned information. Throughout the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, there is no doubt that the British government has indeed been true to its word. Its guidance has been appropriate, its measures aimed genuinely to save the resources of the National Health Service. However, it is not enough to tell the truth sometimes. If the rages of the citizenry are to be appeased, the government must refrain from deception at all times. If it can’t, its downfall must be witnessed by that same citizenry or their distrust will only increase and their cooperation will decrease.

It is a fact that the British government has not sufficiently apologized for the 2003 War on Iraq, nor offered sufficient compensation to its victims. Its supposed investigation of the crime in the Chilcot Inquiry is considered to be a farce by anyone remotely interested in seeing the issue addressed properly. The criminals even continue to be celebrated and followed dearly by other politicians, and their criminal policy continues to remain in effect the policy of the state as the “war on terror” still fails again and again year after year, decade after decade, civilian death after civilian death. That continued trail of terrorism and destruction is, as far as Britain’s involvement is concerned, still the fault of Tony Blair and other staunch pro-US individuals in the British political scene.

The best way to put an end to the distrust towards the state, both at home and abroad, is to clean the stain of dishonour – to sacrifice our former great statesman for the greater good of stability and order. Clearly, as a man who took great leaps and risks in the interests of national security, Blair himself would be the first to support the proposition as follows. The appropriate solution has already been trialled by the British Parliament in the case of other citizens whose terrorism was undeniable. Tony Blair and the others of his former cabinet should be quickly stripped of British citizenship, deported to Iraq as terrorists, and forced to face justice in the courts in that country. Once this selfless sacrifice for our country clears up our image around the world and actually protects us (unlike the pointless loss of so many brave soldiers) Americans may be then inspired to deport George W. Bush and other selfless patriots who are so willing to give their lives for the cause of national security.

In the interests of long-term internal stability, there needs to be a proper acknowledgment by the British state that the 2003 War on Iraq was an unprecedented crime based entirely on lies and deceit, and its criminal perpetrators must be investigated by an appropriately empowered committee and brought to justice. As well as continuously infuriating Muslims across the world, our inexplicable failure to make Tony Blair pay the price has the potential to turn entire generations of British people against the state, as they view almost everything it says with suspicion.

Letting politicians lie with impunity and allowing them to wander freely for years afterwards is undoing centuries of accumulated trust in political institutions within only decades, and is far more damaging to society than allowing individual soldiers to get away with war crimes. It sets the state against the people in a way that is very difficult to resolve. In the end, it entails elevated risks to government employees and others forced to act on the front lines as the public face of liars despite also being victims of these liars. One cannot even deliver the most basic policies without facing constant distrust, and the constant and increasingly common refrain that the government is lying. Such distrust ultimately leads the government employees to sympathize more with the disgruntled citizenry and less with their employer, too, creating many hairline fractures running to the very foundations of what the state actually is.

At one point or another, it is the job of a state to be pragmatic. As with this virus, the state must take decisions that serve a greater order and a greater good, and not necessarily what is comforting. Tony Blair is not useful in the UK, and would be a useful agent for Britain’s safety if placed on trial in Iraq. Whatever the outcome, it would help protect the lives of all British people around the world, who would be at decreased risk of terrorist activity. It would help restore the trust British people have in their government, and would deflate wild and potentially harmful conspiracy theories. It would function as a genuine apology for what we did, and there would be no doubt that there are consequences for abusing one’s office to tell lies.

12 Ways the U.S. Invasion of Iraq Lives On In Infamy

While the world is consumed with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, on March 19 the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by ramping up the conflict there. After an Iran-aligned militia allegedly struck a U.S. base near Baghdad on March 11, the U.S. military carried out retaliatory strikes against five of the militia’s weapons factories and announced it is sending two more aircraft carriers to the region, as well as new Patriot missile systems and hundreds more troops to operate them. This contradicts the January vote of the Iraqi Parliament that called for U.S. troops to leave the country. It also goes against the sentiment of most Americans, who think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, and against the campaign promise of Donald Trump to end the endless wars.

Seventeen years ago, the U.S. armed forces attacked and invaded Iraq with a force of over 460,000 troops from all its armed services, supported by 46,000 UK troops, 2,000 from Australia and a few hundred from Poland, Spain, Portugal and Denmark. The “shock and awe” aerial bombardment unleashed 29,200 bombs and missiles on Iraq in the first five weeks of the war.

The U.S. invasion was a crime of aggression under international law, and was actively opposed by people and countries all over the world, including 30 million people who took to the streets in 60 countries on February 15, 2003, to express their horror that this could really be happening at the dawn of the 21st century. American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was a speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, compared the U.S. invasion of Iraq to Japan’s preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and wrote, “Today, it is we Americans who live in infamy.”

Seventeen years later, the consequences of the invasion have lived up to the fears of all who opposed it. Wars and hostilities rage across the region, and divisions over war and peace in the U.S. and Western countries challenge our highly selective view of ourselves as advanced, civilized societies. Here is a look at 12 of the most serious consequences of the U.S. war in Iraq.

1. Millions of Iraqis Killed and Wounded

Estimates on the number of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely, but even the most conservative estimates based on fragmentary reporting of minimum confirmed deaths are in the hundreds of thousands. Serious scientific studies estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died in the first three years of war, and about a million by September 2007. The violence of the U.S. escalation or “surge” continued into 2008, and sporadic conflict continued from 2009 until 2014. Then in its new campaign against Islamic State, the U.S. and its allies bombarded major cities in Iraq and Syria with more than 118,000 bombs and the heaviest artillery bombardments since the Vietnam War. They reduced much of Mosul and other Iraqi cities to rubble, and a preliminary Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report found that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in Mosul alone. There are no comprehensive mortality studies for this latest deadly phase of the war. In addition to all the lives lost, even more people have been wounded. The Iraqi government’s Central Statistical Organization says that 2 million Iraqis have been left disabled.

2. Millions More Iraqis Displaced

By 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that nearly 2 million Iraqis had fled the violence and chaos of occupied Iraq, mostly to Jordan and Syria, while another 1.7 million were displaced within the country. The U.S. war on the Islamic State relied even more on bombing and artillery bombardment, destroying even more homes and displacing an astounding 6 million Iraqis from 2014 to 2017. According to the UNHCR, 4.35 million people have returned to their homes as the war on IS has wound down, but many face “destroyed properties, damaged or non-existent infrastructure and the lack of livelihood opportunities and financial resources, which at times [has] led to secondary displacement.” Iraq’s internally displaced children represent “a generation traumatized by violence, deprived of education and opportunities,” according to UN Special Rapporteur Cecilia Jimenez-Damary.

3. Thousands of American, British and Other Foreign Troops Killed and Wounded

While the U.S. military downplays Iraqi casualties, it precisely tracks and publishes its own. As of February 2020, 4,576 U.S. troops and 181 British troops have been killed in Iraq, as well as 142 other foreign occupation troops. Over 93 percent of the foreign occupation troops killed in Iraq have been Americans. In Afghanistan, where the U.S. has had more support from NATO and other allies, only 68 percent of occupation troops killed have been Americans. The greater share of U.S. casualties in Iraq is one of the prices Americans have paid for the unilateral, illegal nature of the U.S. invasion. By the time U.S. forces temporarily withdrew from Iraq in 2011, 32,200 U.S. troops had been wounded. As the U.S. tried to outsource and privatize its occupation, at least 917 civilian contractors and mercenaries were also killed and 10,569 wounded in Iraq, but not all of them were U.S. nationals.

4. Even More Veterans Have Committed Suicide

More than 20 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day—that’s more deaths each year than the total U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Those with the highest rates of suicide are young veterans with combat exposure, who commit suicide at rates “4-10 times higher than their civilian peers.” Why? As Matthew Hoh of Veterans for Peace explains, many veterans “struggle to reintegrate into society,” are ashamed to ask for help, are burdened by what they saw and did in the military, are trained in shooting and own guns, and carry mental and physical wounds that make their lives difficult.

5. Trillions of Dollars Wasted

On March 16, 2003, just days before the U.S. invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney projected that the war would cost the U.S. about $100 billion and that the U.S. involvement would last for two years. Seventeen years on, the costs are still mounting. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated a cost of $2.4 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of the Iraq war at more than $3 trillion, “based on conservative assumptions,” in 2008. The UK government spent at least 9 billion pounds in direct costs through 2010. What the U.S. did not spend money on, contrary to what many Americans believe, was to rebuild Iraq, the country our war destroyed.

6. Dysfunctional and Corrupt Iraqi Government

Most of the men (no women!) running Iraq today are still former exiles who flew into Baghdad in 2003 on the heels of the U.S. and British invasion forces. Iraq is finally once again exporting 3.8 million barrels of oil per day and earning $80 billion a year in oil exports, but little of this money trickles down to rebuild destroyed and damaged homes or provide jobs, health care or education for Iraqis, only 36 percent of whom even have jobs. Iraq’s young people have taken to the streets to demand an end to the corrupt post-2003 Iraqi political regime and U.S. and Iranian influence over Iraqi politics. More than 600 protesters were killed by government forces, but the protests forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign. Another former Western-based exile, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the cousin of former U.S.-appointed interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, was chosen to replace him, but he resigned within weeks after the National Assembly failed to approve his cabinet choices. The popular protest movement celebrated Allawi’s resignation, and Abdul Mahdi agreed to remain as prime minister, but only as a “caretaker” to carry out essential functions until new elections can be held. He has called for new elections in December. Until then, Iraq remains in political limbo, still occupied by about 5,000 U.S. troops.

7. Illegal War on Iraq Has Undermined the Rule of International Law

When the U.S. invaded Iraq without the approval of the UN Security Council, the first victim was the United Nations Charter, the foundation of peace and international law since World War II, which prohibits the threat or use of force by any country against another. International law only permits military action as a necessary and proportionate defense against an attack or imminent threat. The illegal 2002 Bush doctrine of preemption was universally rejected because it went beyond this narrow principle and claimed an exceptional U.S. right to use unilateral military force “to preempt emerging threats,” undermining the authority of the UN Security Council to decide whether a specific threat requires a military response or not. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general at the time, said the invasion was illegal and would lead to a breakdown in international order, and that is exactly what has happened. When the U.S. trampled the UN Charter, others were bound to follow. Today we are watching Turkey and Israel follow in the U.S.’s footsteps, attacking and invading Syria at will as if it were not even a sovereign country, using the people of Syria as pawns in their political games.

8. Iraq War Lies Corrupted U.S. Democracy

The second victim of the invasion was American democracy. Congress voted for war based on a so-called “summary” of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was nothing of the kind. The Washington Post reported that only six out of 100 senators and a few House members read the actual NIE. The 25-page “summary” that other members of Congress based their votes on was a document produced months earlier “to make the public case for war,” as one of its authors, the CIA’s Paul Pillar, later confessed to PBS Frontline. It contained astounding claims that were nowhere to be found in the real NIE, such as that the CIA knew of 550 sites where Iraq was storing chemical and biological weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated many of these lies in his shameful performance at the UN Security Council in February 2003, while Bush and Cheney used them in major speeches, including Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. How is democracy—the rule of the people—even possible if the people we elect to represent us in Congress can be manipulated into voting for a catastrophic war by such a web of lies?

9. Impunity for Systematic War Crimes

Another victim of the invasion of Iraq was the presumption that U.S. presidents and policy are subject to the rule of law.  Seventeen years later, most Americans assume that the president can conduct war and assassinate foreign leaders and terrorism suspects as he pleases, with no accountability whatsoever—like a dictator. When President Obama said he wanted to look forward instead of backward, and held no one from the Bush administration accountable for their crimes, it was as if they ceased to be crimes and became normalized as U.S. policy. That includes crimes of aggression against other countries; the mass killing of civilians in U.S. airstrikes and drone strikes; and the unrestricted surveillance of every American’s phone calls, emails, browsing history and opinions. But these are crimes and violations of the U.S. Constitution, and refusing to hold accountable those who committed these crimes has made it easier for them to be repeated.

10. Destruction of the Environment

During the first Gulf War, the U.S. fired 340 tons of warheads and explosives made with depleted uranium, which poisoned the soil and water and led to skyrocketing levels of cancer. In the following decades of “ecocide,” Iraq has been plagued by the burning of dozens of oil wells; the pollution of water sources from the dumping of oil, sewage and chemicals; millions of tons of rubble from destroyed cities and towns; and the burning of huge volumes of military waste in open air “burn pits” during the war. The pollution caused by war is linked to the high levels of congenital birth defects, premature births, miscarriages and cancer (including leukemia) in Iraq. The pollution has also affected U.S. soldiers. “More than 85,000 U.S. Iraq war veterans… have been diagnosed with respiratory and breathing problems, cancers, neurological diseases, depression and emphysema since returning from Iraq,” as the Guardian reports. And parts of Iraq may never recover from the environmental devastation.

11. The U.S.’s Sectarian “Divide and Rule” Policy in Iraq Spawned Havoc Across the Region

In secular 20th-century Iraq, the Sunni minority was more powerful than the Shia majority, but for the most part, the different ethnic groups lived side-by-side in mixed neighborhoods and even intermarried. Friends with mixed Shia/Sunni parents tell us that before the U.S. invasion, they didn’t even know which parent was Shia and which was Sunni. After the invasion, the U.S. empowered a new Shiite ruling class led by former exiles allied with the U.S. and Iran, as well as the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region in the north. The upending of the balance of power and deliberate U.S. “divide and rule” policies led to waves of horrific sectarian violence, including the ethnic cleansing of communities by Interior Ministry death squads under U.S. command. The sectarian divisions the U.S. unleashed in Iraq led to the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the emergence of ISIS, which have wreaked havoc throughout the entire region.

12. The New Cold War Between the U.S. and the Emerging Multilateral World

When President Bush declared his “doctrine of preemption” in 2002, Senator Edward Kennedy called it “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.” But the world has so far failed to either persuade the U.S. to change course or to unite in diplomatic opposition to its militarism and imperialism. France and Germany bravely stood with Russia and most of the Global South to oppose the invasion of Iraq in the UN Security Council in 2003. But Western governments embraced Obama’s superficial charm offensive as cover for reinforcing their traditional ties with the U.S. China was busy expanding its peaceful economic development and its role as the economic hub of Asia, while Russia was still rebuilding its economy from the neoliberal chaos and poverty of the 1990s. Neither was ready to actively challenge U.S. aggression until the U.S., NATO and their Arab monarchist allies launched proxy wars against Libya and Syria in 2011. After the fall of Libya, Russia appears to have decided it must either stand up to U.S. regime change operations or eventually fall victim itself.

The economic tides have shifted, a multipolar world is emerging, and the world is hoping against hope that the American people and new American leaders will act to rein in this 21st-century American imperialism before it leads to an even more catastrophic U.S. war with Iran, Russia or China. As Americans, we must hope that the world’s faith in the possibility that we can democratically bring sanity and peace to U.S. policy is not misplaced. A good place to start would be to join the call by the Iraqi Parliament for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

• This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws: A Humanitarian Message

Protester’s sign decries sanctions, “a silent war” (Photo Credit: Campaign for Peace and Democracy, 2013)

U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.

Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment.

For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline.

The devastated economy and worsening coronavirus outbreak now drive migrants and refugees, who number in the millions, back to Afghanistan at dramatically increased rates.

In the past two weeks alone, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran, increasing the likelihood that cases of coronavirus will surge in Afghanistan. Decades of war, including U.S. invasion and occupation, have decimated Afghanistan’s health care and food distribution systems.

Jawad Zarif asks the UN to prevent the use of hunger and disease as a weapon of war. His letter demonstrates the  wreckage caused by many decades of United States imperialism and suggests revolutionary steps toward dismantling the United States war machine.

During the United States’ 1991 “Desert Storm” war against Iraq, I was part of the Gulf Peace Team, – at first, living at in a “peace camp” set up near the Iraq-Saudi border and later, following our removal by Iraqi troops, in a Baghdad hotel which formerly housed many journalists. Finding an abandoned typewriter, we melted a candle onto its rim, (the U.S. had destroyed Iraq’s electrical stations, and most of the hotel rooms were pitch black). We compensated for an absent typewriter ribbon by placing a sheet of red carbon paper over our stationery. When Iraqi authorities realized we managed to type our document, they asked if we would type their letter to the Secretary General of the UN. (Iraq was so beleaguered even cabinet level officials lacked typewriter ribbons.) The letter to Javier Perez de Cuellar implored the UN to prevent the U.S. from bombing a road between Iraq and Jordan, the only way out for refugees and the only way in for humanitarian relief. Devastated by bombing and already bereft of supplies, Iraq was, in 1991, only one year into a deadly sanctions regime that lasted for thirteen years before the U.S. began its full-scale invasion and occupation in 2003. Now, in 2020, Iraqis still suffering from impoverishment, displacement and war earnestly want the U.S. to practice self-distancing and leave their country.

Are we now living in a watershed time? An unstoppable, deadly virus ignores any borders the U.S. tries to reinforce or redraw. The United States military-industrial complex, with its massive arsenals and cruel capacity for siege, isn’t relevant to “security” needs. Why should the U.S., at this crucial juncture, approach other countries with threat and force and presume a right to preserve global inequities? Such arrogance doesn’t even ensure security for the United States military. If the U.S. further isolates and batters Iran, conditions will worsen in Afghanistan and United States troops stationed there will ultimately be at risk. The simple observation, “We are all part of one another,” becomes acutely evident.

It’s helpful to think of guidance from past leaders who faced wars and pandemics. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-19, coupled with the atrocities of World War I,  killed 50 million worldwide, 675,000 in the U.S. Thousands of female nurses were on the “front lines,” delivering health care. Among them were black nurses who not only risked their lives to practice the works of mercy but also fought discrimination and racism in their determination to serve. These brave women arduously paved a way for the first 18 black nurses to serve in the Army Nurse Corps and they provided “a small turning point in the continuing movement for health equity.”

In the spring of 1919, Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton witnessed the effects of sanctions against Germany imposed by Allied forces after World War I. They observed “critical shortages of food, soap and medical supplies” and wrote indignantly about how children were being punished with starvation for “the sins of statesmen.”

Starvation continued even after the blockade was finally lifted that summer with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Hamilton and Addams reported how the flu epidemic, exacerbated in its spread by starvation and post-war devastation, in turn disrupted the food supply. The two women argued a policy of sensible food distribution was necessary for both  humanitarian and strategic reasons. “What was to be gained by starving more children?” bewildered German parents asked them.

Jonathan Whitall directs Humanitarian Analysis for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. His most recent analysis poses agonizing questions:

How are you supposed to wash your hands regularly if you have no running water or soap? How are you supposed to implement ‘social distancing’ if you live in a slum or a refugee or containment camp? How are you supposed to stay at home if your work pays by the hour and requires you to show up? How are you supposed to stop crossing borders if you are fleeing from war? How are you supposed to get tested for #COVID19 if the health system is privatized and you can’t afford it? How are those with pre-existing health conditions supposed to take extra precautions when they already can’t even access the treatment they need?

I expect many people worldwide, during the spread of COVID – 19,  are thinking hard about the glaring, deadly inequalities in our societies, wonder how best to extend proverbial hands of friendship to people in need while urged to accept isolation and social distancing. One way to help others survive is to insist the United States lift sanctions against Iran and instead support acts of practical care. Jointly confront the coronavirus while constructing a humane future for the world without wasting  time or resources on the continuation of brutal wars.