Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ebb Tide VI: Does Gwynne Dyer Have A Crystal Ball?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Another time, another planet: Years ago and miles away, I used to read Gwynne Dyer as much as possible. He wasn't always easy to find, but I did my best. That was before Dyer spoke his mind about 9/11.

Now a local weekly in my area carries his column, and they give it away for free! But it's worth the price, so I don't usually read any of it.

I made an exception recently, though, having caught a glimpse of Dyer's headline on the way to the recycling box. For some reason, I couldn't avoid peeking at what he had to say about "Obama and Iraq".

Here's the column in its entirety; my comments follow.

Obama and Iraq | by Gwynne Dyer | February 23, 2008
I knew the US presidential race was over last week when my son preemptively announced that he had lost his bet with me: Hillary Clinton was not going to be the Democratic candidate. The question of whether Barack Obama can beat John McCain is still open, according to the opinion polls, but it probably won't stay open long once the two men go head to head. McCain has many attractive qualities, but he is 71 and Obama is 46.

McCain is also a Republican in a year when the US is heading into a recession after eight years of a Republican administration. Even more importantly, he is committed to continuing a war in Iraq that most Americans just want to leave behind. Curiously, this means that the two men with the greatest potential influence on McCain's political future are Osama bin Laden and Moqtada al-Sadr.

The one thing that could swing the 2008 election in favour of the Republicans is another large-scale terrorist attack on the United States. If al-Qaeda has any ability to provide that attack, it will certainly do so, for Osama bin Laden is well aware that his greatest recruiting tool in the Arab world is the American military presence in Iraq. But it is unlikely that al-Qaeda has any significant presence within the United States.

Moqtada al-Sadr is a more interesting case. He is the leader of the Mahdi army, the biggest Shia militia in Iraq, and he has just extended his unilateral ceasefire against American troops and rival militias for another six months. His two main objectives in life are to evict the US from Iraq and to gain control of the Iraqi government, and the first is a necessary preliminary to the second.

So long as the US presidential election promises to result in an administration pledged to withdraw from Iraq, he doesn't have to lift a finger. But if by August it looks like McCain has a chance of winning, then Moqtada al-Sadr has every incentive to end his ceasefire and launch a mini-Tet offensive against US troops. The point would not be to win. It would be to remind American voters that Iraq is a quagmire that they should leave really soon.

So one way or another, Barack Obama is almost certain to be the president of the United States by January of next year. He has hedged his commitment to withdraw American troops from Iraq in various ways from time to time, but there is little doubt in most people's minds that he really intends to do it. What will the Middle East look like after the Americans are gone?

Not just gone from Iraq, either. There are currently US military bases of one sort or another in almost every country along the south-western (Arab) side of the Gulf, but with Iran emerging as the new great power of the region, many of the host countries will soon be asking the Americans to leave. They don't fear invasion by Iran; they fear internal destabilisation if Iran incites their own Shia minorities against them. So keep Tehran happy by sending the Americans home.

Iraq, contrary to all the predictions of disaster, will probably be all right after the withdrawal of US troops. It will never again be the secular, female-friendly society of the past, and it will take at least a decade to recover from the economic devastation of the embargo, the invasion and the occupation, but it won't break up.

Most of the smaller ethnic and religious minorities have fled from Iraq or been killed, and the larger groups -- Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds -- have mostly retreated into homogeneous districts and neighbourhoods, so there's not much left to fight about except along the boundary between Arab Iraq and Kurdistan. It's even possible that the more or less democratic system imposed by the US occupation will survive the departure of the Americans.

Iran will indeed emerge as the new paramount power of the Gulf, but its actual influence even over predominantly Shia Iraq will be quite limited. Farther afield, the notion of a dangerously radical "Shia crescent" running through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is sheer nonsense: Shias are a minority in Lebanon, and a very small minority in Syria. It is mainly the US State Department that promotes this fantasy, with the aim of scaring Sunni Arab states into a new, US-dominated alliance against Iran.

The real fall-out from the US invasion of Iraq is the greatly heightened prestige of Islamist revolutionaries throughout the Arab world. Whether this will ever result in a successful Islamist revolution in a major Arab country remains to be seen -- they have been trying and failing for thirty years now -- but the odds have probably shifted somewhat in that direction.

And the big loser of this decade's events is Israel, which must now deal with a strengthened Iran, a Gaza Strip under Islamist control, and a United States in retreat from the Middle East. It still faces no serious military threat from its neighbours, but its political options are significantly narrower than they were.

It's not much of a headline: "Small, Nasty War in Iraq Ends; Middle East Largely Unaffected." But then, history often works like that. The equivalent headline in 1975 would have read: "US Defeated in Vietnam; No Wider Consequences."
Small, nasty war? No wider consequences? History often works like that? Is it just me .. or is this utterly beyond refutation? I don't mean "irrefutable"; I mean "worthless".

In order to take this analysis seriously, you would have to believe that the Democratic nomination brawl is over. Nobody else thinks that, as far as I can tell. The only two things that are certain, to my knowledge, are that it's too soon to tell, and that Hillary Clinton will fight tooth and nail, way down and very dirty, for as long as the outcome is in doubt. But Gwynne Dyer knows what will happen, because his son said so -- a month ago. One sure sign of a great journalist is reliable sources.

You'd have to believe that the American voters will actually choose the next president. We're 0 for 2 since 2000. What makes you think this time will be any different?

You'd also have to believe that Barack Obama, who couldn't even muster the cojones to deflect a stupid smear attack against his pastor, could withstand the barrage of slime that would come at him if he actually pulled all the American troops out of Iraq -- and you'd have to believe that he would react to the barrage by withdrawing all the rest of the American troops from all the rest of the Middle East!

Welcome to Gwynne Dyer's fantasy world ... in which Iraq -- with more than a million dead, more than four million displaced, and under a ceaseless cancerous and mutagenic attack from countless tons of depleted uranium -- is not regarded as "the big loser". That honor goes to Israel, even though Dyer freely admits that even if every American GI left the Middle East tomorrow, Israel would not face any serious military challenges -- but its "political options" would be "narrower". Well, what's a million dead bodies, and four million refugees, compared to narrower political options?

Everyone has his or her own opinion. In my opinion, to even imagine a headline like "Small, Nasty War in Iraq Ends; Middle East Largely Unaffected", you would have to be grossly misinformed and/or deliberately spinning. I'm not putting my money on the former.

Nominations for the "Stupidest Or Most Deceitful Political Analysis Of The Year" award are still open, but the competition is getting awfully stiff.

Speaking of stiff, I wonder what Gwynne Dyer's been drinking, and whether I should try some.

Probably not.


Ebb Tide V: Robert Parry Looks At Barack Obama And Sees Michael Douglas

Monday, March 24, 2008

Veteran journalist Robert Parry has done fantastic work on a number of important fronts; see, for instance, Iraq War As A War Crime (Part One), and don't forget (Part Two).

But he frustrates me because he won't talk about 9/11 in any terms other than the official story, he never mentions any issues relating to election integrity, and his take on the Democratic nomination process has been bizarre -- and increasingly so.

Bob Parry quite rightly points out deceit and gamesmanship when it comes from Hillary Clinton. But he seems to have a blind spot when the same tactics come from Barack Obama -- who has never quite managed to make me stand and cheer. But when Bob Parry looks at Obama, he sees ... Hollywood!

Thus, "Obama's 'Michael Douglas Moment'"
Barack Obama’s speech on race – both laying out the nation’s multi-sided racial resentments and pointing to a path beyond them – might be called his “Michael Douglas moment,” reminiscent of the speech near the end of “The American President.”

In the climactic scene of that 1995 movie, the President (played by Douglas) responds to political attacks against his girlfriend over an old photograph of a burning American flag and to insinuations about his own alleged lack of patriotism reflected in his American Civil Liberties Union membership.

After weeks of political maneuvering in his pursuit of a second term – and finally fed up with the attack politics of his opponent, Bob Rumson – the President bursts into the press room to denounce the smears and to renounce his own politics of equivocation.

“We have serious problems to solve,” Douglas says, “and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-age, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. …

“We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people. And if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up.”
Well, that's just about the way I saw it ...

Except that Obama didn't get serious -- he changed the subject!

And he didn't denounce the smears -- he capitulated to them!

And he didn't renounce his equivocation -- he wallowed in it!

Other than that, Bob Parry's analysis is ... well ... let's just say his introduction didn't contain any misdirection.

I left him a long comment at his blog, and since it took me quite a while to compose it, and since it lays out my thoughts a bit better than any of my recent posts here, I thought I might share it with you.
It makes me sad to say this, Mr. Parry, but I cannot understand how an observer as intelligent and as experienced as you could fall for this.

I do understand that we all see things differently and we all form our own opinions. But to me it seemed as if Obama played his "race cards" for just long enough to put everyone in a warm and fuzzy mood, but not quite asleep, and then while nobody was looking he threw the truth under the bus.

Facts are facts, are they not?

Jeremiah Wright, September 16, 2001, Chicago:
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end. He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said America's chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

What in the name of heaven is wrong with this? Is there a single assertion of fact here that is incorrect? If anything, Reverend Wright's list is too short. He left out Guatemala. He left out Vietnam. He left out death squads in El Salvador. On and on it goes.

Barack Obama, March 18, 2008, Philadelphia:
the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
This is one lie after another; let's look at only the last of them:

Do "the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam" emerge from a cosmic void? Can the United States really continue to bomb and invade and destroy one foreign country after another without ever releasing any "chickens" that might someday "come home to roost"?

Operation Cyclone

Beginning in 1979, Americans working secretly through the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, as well as some other Middle Eastern allies, recruited and trained terrorists; armed and funded them; motivated them with extremist Islamic propaganda; and infiltrated them into Afghanistan via Pakistan.

The object was to hassle the Soviets, to lure them into invading Afghanistan. The American-trained terrorists were known as "mujahadeen" at the time, and in the USA they were called "freedom fighters". Their modern offshoots have names like "Taliban" and "al Qaeda".

The damage these groups have done is almost immeasurable. We hear about al Qaeda all the time although they don't attack here. That's because they attack in Pakistan. And elsewhere. In Pakistan alone in 2006 there were more than 600 terrorist attacks in which more than 900 people were killed. In 2007 the numbers were even higher. That's just one country. We think we know about terrorism. We know nothing.

Operation Cyclone was started during the Carter administration. It was a brainchild of Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Carter, Brzezinski, and the other supposedly "pro-human rights" Democrats thought nothing of fomenting terrorism in one foreign country, exporting it to another and using it to attack a third.

Is this not a war crime of the highest magnitude?

Zbigniew Brzezinski is now a foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama. So tell me: How much hypocrisy does it take for Barack Obama to say what he has said about the conflicts in the Middle East? How can he dismiss America's long and gruesome record of crimes against humanity so easily?

How can we possibly hope for peace or justice or unity in the face of such mendacity?

Barack Obama essentially wasted 37 minutes of our time telling us how unfortunate it was that Jeremiah Wright was an older black man who grew up harboring certain resentments that are no longer relevant, or something to that effect.

He turned the whole story into an issue of race, when the basic question was "Why did you sit through his sermons? Why did you stay in his church?" and the correct answers would have been "Because he's a good man who loves God and his country, and because was telling us the truth!"

"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism."

Barack Obama should have repudiated his foreign policy advisor, not his pastor.

Horrifying: Obama's Brilliant Speech Of Hope And Unity Scares Me Half To Death

The Sermon Obama Repudiated Was One We All Needed To Hear
My comment has not produced a response. As far as I know, it hasn't even caused a single mouse to click. If that changes, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I'll continue to read Consortium News. But when it comes to the Democratic primaries, I'll be getting my "independent investigative journalism" elsewhere.


fifth in a series


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