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Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

The map is not the territory

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 8, 2015

I’m a big fan of information presented visually, graphically. As you might know, my other blog is political, and I’ve been working on a column in part on the Kurdish social experiment in Western Kurdistan, or Rojava. I ran into these excellent maps detailing the balance of political/military forces in Syria and Iraq put together by Thomas van Linge. The two maps below are reproduced from Pieter Van Ostaeyen‘s website. These two maps are remarkable in what they reveal(Jabhat al-Akrad as combatants for instance), and when compared to previous maps, reveal the rapid change of events in the region.
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Posted in Iraq, maps | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Oh, for fuck’s sake

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 13, 2014

For the moment, ignore that we went to war in Iraq in 2003 on the excuse that Saddam Hussein had WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) fully expecting that US troops would be greeted as liberators, to be showered with flowers and candy. For the moment, forget that the Iraq we had invaded almost disintegrated into a Sunni/Shi’ite civil war, with the northern Kurds standing on the sidelines, until the US military surge in 2007 temporarily shored up the situation on the ground, leaving all the old ethnic/religious tensions firmly in place. For the moment, pretend that neo-conservative predictions that the US/Iraq war would produce liberty and democracy not just in that country but throughout the region weren’t entirely idiotic.

Let’s consider just one set of factors of this fucked-up mess that the US left when America officially ended military operations in Iraq in 2011 and withdrew US troops.

Here are several maps charting the ethnic/religious divisions in Iraq:
iraq-disintegrationiraqi.ethnic_75512407_iraq_ethnic_groups_624<Ethnic:religious

When the US declared “mission accomplished” for a second time in 2011, the majority Shi’ite government held power in Baghdad with the minority Sunni population bridling under this arrangement, and the Kurds enjoying relative autonomy in the north. Enter ISIS, the radical Sunni movement for an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This al-Qaeda affiliate is more popular, more determined, more uncompromising and more violent than al-Qaeda itself, intent upon establishing a sharia-governed Islamic Caliphate from Lebanon through Iraq. Here are maps charting the activity of ISIS through 2014:
_69928349_syria_control_20.09.13_624mapw-Iraq_ISIS_75481316_iraq_isis_control_624_v3ISIS Actual Sanctuary June 2014w-EthnoIRAQ_75514982_iraq_isis_976CitiesControlledByMilitants20140614_MAM914

Here are maps indicating the general territory currently controlled by the ISIS as of June 2014:
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And here is a map representing the Islamic Caliphate that is the ultimate goal of ISIS:
ISIS-Wilayats-thumb-560x408-2998ISIS Caliphate

Let me restate matters. In 2011, when the US declared victory in Iraq, ceased military operations and withdrew its troops, the nation of Iraq was nominally a democracy under Shi’ite control and heavily influenced by Iran, with al-Qaeda decimated, on the run, and its leader Osama bin-Ladin dead. Now, in 2014, ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is fully resurgent and militarily on the move while Iraq totters on the brink of complete collapse. Hell, the whole region remains profoundly unstable, teetering on the brink of total social chaos and bloody violence. Forget Left or Right. Anybody up for some serious war crimes trials?
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Here’s the BBC’s ongoing coverage of the STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ.

[A WORD ON THE MAPS: Treat each series of multiple maps as a slide show, and try to build up a multi-layered, close to 3D image of the situation they separately are two-dimensionally attempting to portray. Merge the information the maps have in common, and accumulate the unique information each map provides.]

Posted in American Empire, American intervention, Baghdad, Democrats & Republicans, Federal Government, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, life, maps, military intervention, neocon, neoconservative, neoliberalism, politics, US military | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The legacy of American involvement

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 3, 2013

It’s a clear enough chart:
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Which belies any statement that “the US intervention in Iraq is over,” or that “the Iraq war is over,” or that “Iraq is at peace,” or that “there is now an inclusive and democratic Iraq in place.”

What we have, now that the United States has ended formal military intervention in the region, is an ongoing, full-scale civil war in Iraq. Sunnis versus Shi’ites, with massive civilian casualties on all sides, and minority religionists being wiped out or forced to immigrate.

This is the immediate legacy of American involvement in Iraq. There is blood on the hands of every individual in every US administration since George W. Bush first invaded Iraq. Too bad there aren’t going to be any war crimes trials.

Posted in American Empire, American intervention, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, life, military intervention, United States of America, US military | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 4 (Foreign policy, privatized)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 6, 2007

Here’s a reprint, in full, from the New York Times. You might be asked to subscribe if you click on the link. The accompanying graphic is excellent.

———

Foreign Policy, Privatized
By ALLISON STANGER and OMNIVORE
Published: October 5, 2007

WHILE most Americans are aware of the controversy over the role of the private security company Blackwater in Iraq, probably few understand that armed contractors in Iraq are just the tip of an iceberg. Across the globe, in everything from diplomacy to development to intelligence, contractors are a major American presence, and only a small fraction of them carry weapons. American foreign policy, to a great extent, has been privatized.

The charts below, based on figures from the Federal Procurement Data System, tell the story. In 2005, federally financed contractors were working in every United Nations-recognized country except Bhutan, Nauru and San Marino.

It has become conventional wisdom to blame the Bush administration for the “hollowing out” of government, but this misses the mark. While contract spending has more than doubled since 2001, serious federal efforts to outsource began under President Bill Clinton.

Nor is contracting necessarily bad: United States money creates jobs for the local population, and humanitarian organizations like Save the Children, CARE and Catholic Relief Services have relied heavily on dollars from Washington. Outsourcing can play to America’s strengths, exploiting our capacity for innovation, flexibility and efficiency.

Yes, as we have seen in Iraq, hiring contractors can lead to severe problems with accountability and fraud. And while steps like making contractors liable for civil penalties may manage some symptoms, they will not cure the disease. We need to devise far better ways of overseeing contractors worldwide.

Some are tempted to turn back the clock and reassert traditional government authority, denouncing private-sector greed and the “coalition of the billing.” But that would be a terrible mistake, for outsourcing is in part a rational response to the new possibilities of the information age. The challenge will be to manage creative forms of collaboration between government and the private sector in ways that serve the public interest.

Allison Stanger, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, is writing a book on the privatization of American power. Omnivore is a graphic design firm in New York City.

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Posted in Allison Stanger, Blackwater, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, New York Times, news, Omnivore, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, The privatization of foreign policy, US military | 3 Comments »

The privatization of war, part 3.9 (Blackwater aids terrorists)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 22, 2007

In one of the more amazing stories to date, Blackwater is being investigated by Federal prosecutors for illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq that may have been sold on the black market and then wound up in the hands of terrorists. So, there’s a distinct possibility that, when Blackwater contractors are under attack in Iraq, they’re being fired upon with their own weapons. You can’t make this stuff up!

Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater aids terrorists, Blackwater back at work, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, military contractors, military privatization, news, politics, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, terrorists, US military, weapons smuggling | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.7 (Business as usual)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 21, 2007

This should come as no surprise, but Blackwater is back at work in Iraq. The US government is allowing Blackwater operations “limited to essential missions only outside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.” This is being done in consultation with the Iraqi government, according to the BBC. Wonder who and how much the US had to bribe to get this deal?

Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater back at work, Blackwater banned, Business as usual, Green Zone, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.5 (CIA shut down in Iraq)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 19, 2007

Movements of key CIA station personnel in Baghdad—along with most State department diplomats and teams building police stations and schools—have been frozen for the second day in a row, according to a State department source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Essentially, the CIA, State department and government contractors are stuck inside the International Zone, also known as “the Green Zone,” in Central Baghdad. Even travel inside that walled enclave is somewhat restricted.

So reads an article by Richard Miniter on Pajamasmedia.com. Apparently, the CIA, State Department, and government contractors all rely on Blackwater for security.

“By jamming up Blackwater, they [the Iraqi government] shut down the movements of the embassy and the [CIA] station,” a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not cleared to talk to the press. 

Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, Pajamas Media, Pajamasmedia, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, State Department, US military | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.2 (Blackwater banned)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 18, 2007

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The Iraqi government has suspended Blackwater’s license to operate, and demanded that the company leave the country, as a result of a firefight in which several civilians and a police officer were killed (story here). Blackwater contractors (read mercenaries) were protecting a convoy of US State Department officials when they supposedly came under attack and, according to the Iraqis, started firing indiscrimately at surrounding civilians. The Iraqi government has said it is considering prosecuting Blackwater employees for the deaths, and that it will review the status of all Private Security Firms in the country as a result of the incident. Here’s a profile of Blackwater from the BBC.

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Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, US military | 2 Comments »

The privatization of war, part 3

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 18, 2007

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Here’s a collection of recent articles and stories, all on private contractors becoming more prominent in Iraq as that war is progressively privatized.

First off is an On The Media radio story, “Have Gun Will Travel,” that comes with four related newspaper articles.

Then there is this quite extensive Christian Science Monitor story, “Silent surge in contractor ‘armies'” by Brad Knickerbocker, about private contractors in Iraq, and how their role will likely grow more prominent as the US draws down its troops.

Finally, The Monthly Review offers a very long Marxist analysis by James M. Cypher of the privatization of the US military that sees it as part of the shift from Keynesianism to Global Neoliberalism in the US economy.

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Posted in Blackwater, Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, From Military Keynesianism to Global Neoliberal Militar, Have Gun Will Travel, Iraq, Iraq War, James M. Cypher, Keynesianism, military contractors, military privatization, neoliberalism, NPR, On The Media, private contractors, private security contractors, privatization of war, Silent surge in contractor armies, The Monthly Review, US military | Leave a Comment »

Speaking of Iraq

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 29, 2007

This war was not thought through. It was not only mismanaged, it was an historic strategic blunder to begin with.

— Patrick J. Buchanan, “The Retreat of the GOP Old Bulls,” 6/26/07

I’m an avid reader of political propaganda, left, right, and wingnut. You’re as likely to find me perusing David Horowitz’s FrontPageMagazine as scanning AlterNet. I usually find the neocon stuff insufferably arrogant and not a little rabid. In contrast, I’m often impressed with the integrity, though not the arguments, of old-school conservatives. Despite the man’s pro-life, homophobic, anti-immigrant, love-it-or-leave-it nationalism, Pat Buchanan has nailed the Iraq war with a realism that is commendable.

Posted in AlterNet, David Horowitz, Iraq, Iraq War, neocon, neoconservative, paleoconservative, Patrick J. Buchanan, politics | Leave a Comment »

All the news that fits

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 12, 2007

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What? No front page story on Paris Hilton’s latest travail?

Well, it is the Guardian Weekly after all. I just wanted to highlight a few items in this week’s edition (June 8-14 2007, Vol. 176 No 25).

— Jean-Jacques Bozonnet has a fascinating story on the Italian state. (“Torrent of criticism has Italian politicians fearing implosion”) Apparently, the Italian political apparatus is ten times the size of its neighboring European countries. A local business leader is quoted as saying: “The cost of political representation is equal to that of France, Germany, the UK and Spain together. The party system alone costs taxpayers 200m euro a year, compared with 73m euro in France.”

— A day in the life of an anonymous private security contractor in Iraq entitled “It’s the wild west: we’re a taxi service with guns.”

— A reprint from the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein entitled “US middle class doing just fine.” I think I’ll run down a copy of the study in question as it flies in the face of most things I’ve experienced about the American economy.

— “Danger: upheaval down under,” an opinion piece by Will Hutton of the Observer, details striking parallels between the political climate in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, with an emphasis on the state of the social-democratic Left. Here’s two salient quotes: “One answer is being provide by a nascent Australian progressive think-tank, Per Capita. The left has to invest in people, design markets so that companies deliver public-interest outcomes, extend the polluter-pays principle to every form of economic activity where private companies do not pay for the damage they generate and start to develop a story about promoting individual wellbeing. It is a fine wish-list, and the ambition can hardly be faulted. The question remains: how?” And there’s Hutton’s concluding paragraph: “It is not that the right has a better or even good answer to the questions of our times. It is that the modern left, unless it is prepared to say something concrete about how it wants the economy to look in the future and takes steps to shape it, has little to say either. And if it’s the incumbent government, the consequences is staring it in the face.”

— A whole secti0n on the “G8 and the world.” It asks the rhetorical question: “Developed nations’ leaders have promised to give poorer states a better deal. Are they delivering?” The answer is, no.

— A cyberpunk flavored story about how RFID tags are being used to help make sense out of the baffling confusion that is Tokyo. (“Tagging Tokyo’s streets” by Michael Fitzpatrick) “The city with no street names.”

— A well-deserved savaging of Don DeLillo’s latest novel which I think applies to most of the man’s pretentious oeuvre. (“An inevitable DeLillo, an unoriginal DeLillo” by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post)

It’s still probably on the newsstands, in case you’re interested.

Posted in Australia, Britain, Don DeLillo, G8, Guardian Weekly, Iraq, Italian politics, Italy, life, New Zealand, news, Paris Hilton, private security contractors, RFID, the Left, The Observer, Tokyo, Washington Post | Leave a Comment »