“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Battle for Afghanistan - William Dalrymple - Return of a King

One man out of eighteen  thousand British that left Kabul six days earlier made it to Jalalabad:

The First Western War In Afghanistan Was An Imperial Disaster'
April 25, 2013 3:26 AM

Almost any news article about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan may mention past foreign armies that came to the country and went down to defeat. Our next guest explores one of the most famous defeats of all. Our story begins in 1839. Two powerful empires, Great Britain and Russia, were caught in a military chess match, trying to outmaneuver one another for dominance of Central Asia.
The writer William Dalrymple has taken an unusually deep look at what happened next. His new book "Return of a King," details British efforts to win Afghanistan by putting an ousted Afghan monarch back on this throne.

WILLIAM DALRYMPLE: It is the greatest imperial disaster the British Empire ever suffered. It makes Yorktown seem like a picnic in the park.

INSKEEP: Yorktown meaning Britain loss of their empire in the United States.

DALRYMPLE: Exactly. It is a total wipeout of an entire army, the army of the most powerful empire in the world at that time.

INSKEEP: And if you read any history of the British Empire, you get an account of this. It is horrifying, no matter how many times you read it, and yet you, in this history, end up taking a different approach to the story. We normally read about it from the perspective of the bumbling and ultimately defeated British army.

DALRYMPLE: Correct. The key, it seemed to me, if you were going to revisit what is one of the, as you say, the great sort of old chestnuts of imperial history, was trying to - with the Afghan side, too. And I traveled all around Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, gathering Afghan accounts. And it turned out there's a very, very rich sea of Afghan primary sources about this war.
This is for the Afghans what Washington is to you guys. For the British, I suppose, the Battle of Trafalgar or Waterloo is for us. This is the great national liberation struggle.

INSKEEP: What kind of documents are there in Afghanistan, after all these years of war, that you can find from the 1830s and '40s?

DALRYMPLE: Well, bizarrely, there's extremely well-preserved national archives in Afghanistan. The Taliban may go around knocking down the museums, but they don't knock down the archives. But the richest sources I found were two extraordinary epic poems written immediately after the war, rather like the "Song of Roland," these are kind of almost mythologized, but containing lots of interesting information about Afghan attitudes to the British, and so on.
There's one called the "Jangnama," there's another called the "Akbarnama," after the leading Afghan freedom fighter of that time. Indeed, the main diplomatic enclave in Kabul today is still called Wazir Akbar Khan, after the man who defeated the British. There's also - and this is, in a sense, the richest thing I found, I think - was the autobiography of the man the British installed.
INSKEEP: Okay. So you were able to gather historical documents to get the facts from the Afghan point of view. You had these epic poems to provide color commentary, and you discover a central character who becomes more than a name, this guy that we would think of as a puppet ruler who was installed. But Shah Shuja was originally a legitimate king of Afghanistan, right?

DALRYMPLE: He was - I mean, today, we think of Afghanistan as this poor, benighted country riddled by war. But in the Middle Ages, Afghanistan was one of the great centers of culture in the region. And Shah Shuja is very much, in a sense, the last ebb of this moment. He's a great admirer of gardens, a connoisseur of poetry. He's an enormously civilized figure, and by the standards of the time, merciful and lenient and liberal.

INSKEEP: But in the early 1800s, he lost his job.

DALRYMPLE: This guy - who has inherited the remains of his grandfather's empire at the age of only 17 - he's kicked out. He takes refuge in British India, where the British tuck him away and give him a pension, realizing that this guy could be useful in the future. Then, with the Great Game building up between Britain and Russia, there's competition for Asia between these two European land-based empires.

INSKEEP: The British going out of their base in India, which they controlled, and the Russians, of course, spreading across Asia from the north.

DALRYMPLE: Exactly that. And they both realize, if you look at the map, that these two empires are going to converge somewhere in the middle in the Hindu Kush, in this unmapped, unknown territory in the middle of Asia.

INSKEEP: And so the British decide they need to get an army in there first.

DALRYMPLE: They do. And it's an absurd undertaking, because at this point, the British and the Russians are still about 1,000 miles apart. Nonetheless, the British do this extraordinary, epic invasion of Afghanistan. They go around the sides of the Punjab. They go up the Indus, through the Bolan and Khojak passes.
They drag this artillery up mountainsides, and they actually get to Afghanistan. They hardly fight a battle, but they lose a quarter of their force to dehydration and bad planning and starvation, and it's this hellish march. Such is the surprise when they turn up in Afghanistan. The rulers of Kandahar flee. They take Kandahar without a shot being fired.
Shah Shuja is installed in his old palace in Kabul. It looks as if it's a huge success. You have a whole winter when the British are just going shooting and ice skating and taking the foxhounds out for exercise.

INSKEEP: Renting houses in town in Kabul.

DALRYMPLE: It's a very familiar scene, and everyone seems to be happy. But then a year later, the Afghans become so alienated by the British troops' whoring and drinking and misbehaving in Kabul, the country rises up as one. The British have no intuition that this is coming. They're taken completely by surprise. And it's very, very quick. The first day, the British deputy governor, Alexander Burns, is killed in his house.
He's taken the girlfriend of one of the Afghan leading noblemen, and this nobleman attacks his house. Such is the ease with which he kills the deputy governor. They then go on to capture the arms and the ammunition of the British force, which has stupidly been left in an isolated position outside the main British cantonment. And this siege then begins.
The British governor in charge of the whole force goes out to negotiate, is shot dead by the negotiating party. So the British have lost their general, their governor. They're surrounded. They have no money. They have no arms. They have no option but to surrender.

INSKEEP: And things only get worse from there. And this is one of the things that I wonder, because it's a question that has resonance today, as we think about the recent war in Iraq or we think about the war in Afghanistan. One of the questions people have to ask is: Is this just a tactical problem? Are we fighting a good war that we're just not doing very well, or is it a fundamentally strategic problem? Is this a war where we shouldn't be there at all?
Which was it for the British?

DALRYMPLE: I think, in both cases, it's both. The British are led by an incredibly incompetent general and their civilian forces directed by an incredibly incompetent governor. So partly, it's strategic error. But it is true that the Afghans have never liked being ruled by foreigners. They never liked being ruled by non-Muslims.
It's difficult enough for an Afghan to unite all the different tribes, all the different ethnicities, all the different forms of Islam. And a combination of idiotic leadership, a lack of understanding of the country and arrogance and overconfidence means that when the British go into retreat, 18,000 men, women and children leave the British fortress on the 6th of January, 1842. Six days later, one man alone makes it through to Jalalabad.

INSKEEP: There's even a famous painting of it, of this last British soldier barely managing to stay on his horse.

DALRYMPLE: Lady Butler's famous picture, yes. But for the British, this is one of the great iconic images of the 19th century.

INSKEEP: But let's go back to the Afghan perspective. This defeat for the British was celebrated by the Afghans.

DALRYMPLE: Exactly. I mean, for the Afghans, this is nothing short of miraculous. You know, the British may regard this as the great sort of brave defeat, but for the Afghans, this is the center of their national myth, this idea that they will see out any invader, that they will kick them out sooner or later. They did it to the British. They did it to the Russians. And now, in their view, they're about to do it to the Americans.
INSKEEP: The latest book by William Dalrymple is "Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839 - '42." Mr. Dalrymple, thanks very much again.

DALRYMPLE: Thank you, Steve.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, general manager of Al Arabiya, wrote on April 14 that Maliki was another Saddam, except for one key detail: Iran's support. "Maliki is practically another Saddam. But Maliki surpasses Saddam because he is protected by Iran and he has double the funds of Saddam, who was besieged during most of his years in power.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Is Looking More And More Like A Dictator

Apr. 28, 2013, 4:50 PM 

There used to be a joke Iraqis told about television: There are only four channels, and Saddam is on every one of them.

Now Saddam's long dead, it's a decade later, and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has openly censored the media.

It's just one in a long line of steps Maliki has taken to consolidate power.
Al Jazeera and nine other stations have lost their licenses to broadcast in Iraq. The Maliki government indicates the recent spate in sectarian violence, and the media's perceived stoking of such violence, as their reason for revoking the licenses.

Al Jazeera responded with astonishment, arguing that they cover "all sides" of every story.

"We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq," the statement said.

Maliki's aggressive political steps date back to his initial move toward power in 2006. He's staffed the higher positions of government with Shia loyalists, and distanced his government from Sunni and Kurdish leaders.

He's also created "extra-constitutional security bodies" — so-called by Marissa Meyer at the Institute for the Study of War — bodies designed to give him a direct chain of command over security forces, a command that conveniently side-steps the Ministries of Defence and Interior.

Such consolidations allowed him to take an unprecedented move: what Maliki claims was an arrest, but what many call an assassination attempt on Iraq's former finance minister. Luckily, and predictably, Rafi Issawi was under the protection of the powerful Abu Risha clan and avoided his fate, whatever it might have been.
Aside from being a long-time head of state, Issawi was a relatively new federal government's olive-branch symbol to the Sunni minority. Issawi is part of that minority — notably, the ruling class beneath Saddam's Iraq. Placement of religious leaders in state positions is common practice in the Middle East, and a sign of solidarity in religiously driven culture.

Issawi's protectors, The Risha Clan, arose during the Sunni Awakening, largely credited with turning the tide of war in Iraq. 

In the end, Risha smelled the attempt coming and fled.

His resignation and subsequent criticisms just days before the attempt could have been that proverbial straw to Maliki's camel. During an interview with a local news affiliate in Ramadi:
"Unfair representation of Iraq’s diverse groups in ministries, government institutions and state security, the issue of security, detention policies ... the fact that the most sensitive state institutions are today administered by proxy, the monopolization of all state security agencies (which are becoming more and more sectarian in nature), and the blatant persecution of the Sunni Arab community in the security sectors and elsewhere, such as in higher education."
Several bombings have occurred in the last month, including the bloodiest day since last autumn, when 62 died on the anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq. Maliki says the bombings are pushing the country toward all-out civil war, and he may be right.

On the other hand, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, general manager of Al Arabiya, wrote on April 14 that Maliki was another Saddam, except for one key detail: Iran's support.

"Maliki is practically another Saddam. But Maliki surpasses Saddam because he is protected by Iran and he has double the funds of Saddam, who was besieged during most of his years in power," Al-Rashed wrote.

A recent LA Times article about Maliki used the headline, "The Great Divider."
The first line: "Iraq is on its way to dissolution, and the United States is doing nothing to stop it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Iraqi Fighters in Syria:

Syria nerve gas claims undermined by eyewitness accounts

Description of attack in which six rebels died adds to uncertainty about claims that sarin has been used in the conflict

The Observer, Saturday 27 April 2013 18.01 EDT

New questions have emerged over the source of the soil and other samples from Syria which, it is claimed, have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, amid apparent inconsistencies between eyewitness accounts describing one of the attacks and textbook descriptions of the weapon.
As questions from arms control experts grow over evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a limited scale on several occasions, one incident in particular has come under scrutiny.
While the French, UK and US governments have tried to avoid saying where the positive sarin samples came from, comments by officials have narrowed down the locations to Aleppo and Homs.
Last week the Obama administration suggested that Syrian government forces may have used the lethal nerve gas in two attacks. Opposition fighters have accused regime forces of firing chemical agents on at least four occasions since December, killing 31 people in the worst of the attacks.
A letter from the British government to the UN demanding an investigation said that it had seen "limited but persuasive evidence" of chemical attacks, citing incidents on 19 and 23 March in Aleppo and Damascus and an attack in Homs in December, suggesting strongly that samples were taken at these locations.
A US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Los Angeles Times, appeared to confirm that one of the samples studied by the US was collected in December – suggesting that it too originated in Homs.
According the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, "sarin is a nerve agent that is one of the most toxic of the known chemical warfare agents. It is a clear colourless liquid … generally odourless and tasteless".
But eyewitness accounts of that attack, in which six rebels died and which were reported at the time by the Associated Press described "white smoke" pouring from shells that "smell[ed] … like hydrochloric acid".
The suggestion that one of the sarin-positive samples may have originated in Homs has added to the growing confusion surrounding the claims made with different degrees of caution by the Israeli, French, UK and US governments in recent days.
According to the US and UK governments, "miniscule" samples recovered by opposition sources and passed on to western intelligence agencies have shown traces of sarin. No other agents have been mentioned.
While the contradictions between the eyewitness accounts and traces of sarin in the samples may well be attributable to the confusion of battle, it underlines the uncertainties around the claims, which have included questions about whether some of the videotaped symptoms are consistent with sarin exposure.
Reflecting just how little is known about the circumstances in which people may have been exposed to chemical agents in Syria, President Barack Obama has said: "Knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn't tell us when they were used, how they were used. We have to act prudently. We have to make these assessments deliberately." Obama warned in December that the Assad regime would face "consequences" if it were disclosed that chemical weapons had been used.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Pigford Pig Fest.

The great farm robbery

By Washington Times April 5, 2013 6:50 am         

Two years ago, an editorial in The Washington Times demanded an investigation of the billions of dollars in payouts to blacks who asserted that they were wrongly denied subsidized farm loans. Congress conducted no investigation, and the Obama administration recently promised at least $1.3 billion to women and Hispanics who asserted that they, too, had been victims of U.S. Department of Agriculture discrimination. Before any new claimant classes race to court, it is time to recognize the profound flaws in the archetype for absolving USDAs alleged sins.
When the Clinton administration settled the initial class-action lawsuit, named after Timothy Pigford, the original claimant in 1999, analysts expected only a few thousand legitimate claims. However, more than 90,000 blacks asserted that they were wrongly denied farm loans or other USDA benefits in the 1980s and 1990s.
This was surprising because there were at most 33,000 black- operated farms nationwide in that period. But that number itself was wildly inflated by USDA methodology. Anyone who sells more than $1,000 in agricultural commodities the equivalent of 150 bushels of wheat or one horse is categorized by USDA a bona fide farmer.
The vast majority of those 30,000-plus black-operated farms were either hobby farms or part-time endeavors. Half of black-operated farms in the mid-1980s had gross sales of less than $2,500 per year and almost 90 percent had gross sales of less than $20,000, according to a 2001 report by the Land Tenure Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Small farms are far less efficient and productive than large-scale farms, which helps explain why average farmers (both white and black) with less than $20,000 in annual sales consistently lost money every year in the 1980s.
Then there were the claimants who merely "attempted to farm." David Frantz, one of the lead counsels for the Pigford claimants, explained in late 2010 how the settlement class vastly expanded. reported: "The case is not limited to those who were farming, Mr. Frantz added, but included those who were prevented from farming because they did not get USDA loans. 'I personally worked with many, many young individuals who went through that, Mr. Frantz said. 'A typical scenario would be that 'I was born and raised on a farm, and then I went into the Army after high school. When I came back, I wanted to get back into farming, and I went to the Farm Service Agency to get a loan so I could rent some land. My uncle was going to rent me 250 acres, so I was going to raise beans. I went to get a loan, and they turned me down. Thats a very common scenario."
According to Mr. Frantz, "I was going to raise beans" is sufficient grounds to demand and receive $50,000 in restitution from fellow Americans. Some Pigford claimants were lavishly compensated because they did not receive subsidized loans for which they never applied. In other cases, black farmers were certified as discrimination victims because USDA refused to give them a new subsidized loan after they failed to repay prior subsidized loans.
The Pigford settlements may also have involved "massive fraud and cynical political opportunism," according to Peter Kirsanow, member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. As early as 2004, then-Rep. Marion Berry, Arkansas Democrat, warned his constituents that "some organizations are attempting to profit from black farmers by extorting funds in exchange for the promise of filing a claim under Pigford.... I am concerned by methods used by some to wrongfully profit off of false claims against USDA."
National Review noted in 2011: "John Stringfellow, a farm-loan supervisor covering six Arkansas counties, called Pigford 'the largest scam against federal taxpayers in the history of the United States, saying that among the 800 or so claims he personally received, more than 80 percent had never applied to USDA assistance programs, nor farmed at all."
The federal government has been lax in policing in part because Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pledged to Pigford claimants that they would see the "federal government standing not as an adversary, but as a partner."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that most of those claims were "evaluated based solely on the information submitted by the claimants and, as a result, the adjudicator of these claims has no way of independently verifying that information." It was as if requiring clear evidence would have simply compounded the damage from the original discrimination.
When Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack announced another round of payouts to Pigford claimants in 2010, he declared, "We have worked hard to address USDAs checkered past so we can get to the business of helping farmers succeed." Mr. Vilsack ignores the ultimate Pigford fallacy: that USDA loans are magic beans that automatically turn recipients into successful farmers. In reality, legions of farmers went bankrupt in the 1980s because they received too many subsidized loans, according to the GAO. Farmers Home Administration chief Vance Clark told me in 1988 that some loan applicants "dont even possess the basic farming ability they are selling used cars and they decide to come to us and become a farmer." Still, Congress pressured USDA to shovel out loans to uncreditworthy borrowers, and many recipients financially destroyed themselves as a result.
If the Obama administration wants to truly help both taxpayers and farmers, it should abolish subsidized USDA loans. "No handouts and no favoritism" is an equal opportunity policy that would do justice to Americans of all races, creeds and occupations.
James Bovard is the author most recently of a new e-book memoir, “Public Policy Hooligan" (Sixth Street Books, 2012).

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

The U.S. had never menaced or quarreled with any of the Muslim powers. As Jefferson later reported to the State Department and Congress, "The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners."

Monday, Jul. 05, 2004

Thomas Jefferson: The Pirate War: To The Shores Of Tripoli
By Christopher Hitchens

Within days of his March 1801 inauguration as the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson ordered a naval and military expedition to North Africa, without the authorization of Congress, to put down regimes involved in slavery and piracy. The war was the first in which the U.S. flag was carried and planted overseas; it saw the baptism by fire of the U.S. Marine Corps--whose anthem boasts of action on "the shores of Tripoli"--and it prefigured later struggles with both terrorism and jihad.
The Barbary States of North Africa--Algiers, Tunis, Morocco and Tripoli (today's Libya)--had for centuries sustained themselves by preying on the maritime commerce of others. Income was raised by direct theft, the extortion of bribes or "protection" and the capture of crews and passengers to be used as slaves. The historian Robert Davis, in his book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800, estimates that as many as 1.25 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved. The Barbary raiders--so called because they were partly of Berber origin--struck as far north as England and Ireland. It appears, for example, that almost every inhabitant of the Irish village of Baltimore was carried off in 1631. Samuel Pepys and Daniel Defoe both mention the frightening trade in their writings; at that time, pamphlets and speeches by survivors and escaped slaves had a huge influence on the popular imagination. James Thomson's famously rousing 1740 song Rule Britannia, with its chorus about how Britons "never shall be slaves," was a direct allusion to the Barbary terrorism.
Jefferson was appalled by this practice from an early stage of his career. In 1784 he wrote to James Madison about the Barbary depredations, saying, "We ought to begin a naval power, if we mean to carry on our commerce. Can we begin it on a more honorable occasion or with a weaker foe?" He added that John Paul Jones, the naval hero of the Revolutionary War, "with half a dozen frigates" could subdue the slave kingdoms of North Africa.
The year 1784 saw the American brig Betsey, with her crew of 10, captured by a Moroccan corsair while sailing with a cargo of salt from Spain to Philadelphia. Soon after, Algerian pirates grabbed the Dauphin and the Maria on the high seas of the Atlantic and took their crews captive. The situation was becoming worse because the British fleet had withdrawn protection of American vessels after the former colony declared its independence, and the U.S. had no navy of its own. Secretary of State John Jay decided to do what the European powers did and pay tribute to the Barbary sultans in exchange for safe passage as well as for the return of captured American slaves.
America's two main diplomats at the time were John Adams in London and Jefferson in Paris. Together they called upon Ambassador Abdrahaman, the envoy of Tripoli in London, in March 1786. This dignitary mentioned a tariff of three payments--for the ransom of slaves and hostages, for cheap terms of temporary peace and for more costly terms of "perpetual peace." He did not forget to add his own commission as a percentage. Adams and Jefferson asked to know by what right he was exacting these levies. The U.S. had never menaced or quarreled with any of the Muslim powers. As Jefferson later reported to the State Department and Congress, "The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners."
Jefferson's recommendation was that the Administration refuse any payment of tribute and prepare at once to outfit a naval squadron to visit the Mediterranean in strength. Ultimately, he proposed, America should arrange for an international concert of powers composed of all those nations whose shipping and citizens were preyed upon. "Justice and Honor favor this course," he wrote, adding that it would also save money in the long run.
Adams agreed with the sentiment but did not think the recommendation was feasible. Congress at that time was in no mood to spend money for a fleet. Jefferson, however, never let the subject drop. In 1787 he approached Jones, who was down on his luck in Paris, out of work and having woman troubles as usual. Would Jones be interested in a job offer from Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, who Jefferson happened to know was looking for an admiral? That admiral's task would be to clear out the Turkish fleet from the Black Sea, on Russia's southern border.
Why would Jefferson want to act as recruiter for a European monarch? First, because he wanted to keep Jones employed and give him the type of combat experience that would befit the potential chief naval commander of the United States. Second, because three of the four Barbary States--Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis--were part of the Turkish, or Ottoman, Empire. Britain, which rather encouraged the Barbary powers to attack American ships, used Turkey as a counterweight in its war against Catholic powers on mainland Europe. Why shouldn't the U.S. reply in kind by discreetly helping Russia make life hard for the Turks?
Jones set off for St. Petersburg in May 1788, presented the Empress with a copy of the new U.S. Constitution, took command in the Black Sea and inflicted some hard blows on the Turkish fleet. He proposed going to the source by leading a Russian fleet into the Mediterranean, where it could interrupt Ottoman shipping between Constantinople and Egypt. For all this activity on the "infidel" side, Jones was rewarded by having a price put on his head by the ruler of Algiers. Meanwhile, however, he fell from favor at Empress Catherine's court and began to lose his health. Jefferson did not know this and had since become Secretary of State. In this capacity, he persuaded President George Washington to commission Jones to lead a delegation to Algiers, empowering him to give an ultimatum to the ruler. The package containing the commission and the instructions arrived in Paris only days after Jones had died there, in July 1792, from jaundice, nephritis and pneumonia. But Jefferson was still not discouraged.
The next year, 1793, saw Jefferson's retirement as Secretary of State and his withdrawal to Monticello. Like many of his temporary "resignations," this one was well timed. It meant that he did not have to express an opinion in the congressional debates on the military budget. Many of his Republican colleagues opposed the expense, as well as the principle, of having a permanent army and navy. The Federalist supporters of Adams, furthermore, desired a larger military budget in order to conduct hostilities against revolutionary France, a regime for which Jefferson felt sympathy. But by staying out of the political battle and biding his time, Jefferson ensured that when the hour struck for his own project, he could call on a fleet that Adams had built for him. In 1794, partly moved by the letters from American sailors held in Barbary dungeons and slave pens, Congress authorized the building of six frigates, three of which--the Constitution, the United States and the Constellation--were already completed. In July 1798 funds were approved for a Marine Corps as well.
Jefferson became President in early 1801, shortly after Yusuf Karamanli, the ruler of Tripoli, unwisely issued an ultimatum to the U.S.: If it did not pay him fresh tribute, he threatened, he would declare war on America. The new Commander in Chief coolly decided to let the ultimatum expire and take the declaration of war at face value. He summoned his new Cabinet, which approved the dispatch of a naval squadron and decided not to bother Congress--which was then in recess--with the information. He did not, in fact, tell the elected representatives of his plans until the fleet was on the high seas and too far away to be recalled.
Over the next four years, in what Jefferson laconically described as a "cruise," the new American Navy bombarded the harbors of Algiers, Morocco and Tunisor threatened them with bombardment--until the states gradually agreed to cease cooperating with Karamanli. The Tripoli government, however, remained defiant and even succeeded in boarding and capturing the Philadelphia in 1803. That led directly to an episode that, as Henry Adams records in his history of the two Jefferson administrations, used to be known to every American schoolboy. In February 1804, Captain Stephen Decatur Jr. sailed straight into Tripoli harbor and set on fire the captured Philadelphia. In August 1804 he helped rescue its crew from a gruesome imprisonment, bombarded the fortified town and boarded the pasha's own fleet where it lay at anchor. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, Decatur is said by legend--and by some eyewitnesses--to have slain the very officer who, some hours before, had killed his brother, Lieut. James Decatur.
This rescue was inspiring news for the folks back home and other captives and slaves in North African hands, but the event was almost eclipsed by another daring raid the following year. In April 1805, Captain William Eaton put together a mixed force of Arab rebels and mercenaries and American Marines, and in a maneuver that has since been compared to that of the charismatic T.E. Lawrence, led a desert march from inland that took Tripoli's second city, Derna, by surprise. Lieut. Presley O'Bannon of the Marine Corps hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the captured town, and the Marine anthem preserves his gesture to this day.
That did not bring the conflict to a complete close, but it signaled the beginning of the end. Over the next few years, all four of the Barbary States signed treaties with America renouncing piracy, kidnapping and blackmail. Algiers had to be bombarded a few more times, and there was an awkward moment during negotiations in Washington when the Tunisian representative, Sidi Soliman Melli Melli, made it clear that he expected to be amused at public expense by some ladies of the night. (Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison were able to arrange an off-the-record State Department budget for that purpose, thus demonstrating that they understood the facts of life.)
Taken together with some of Jefferson's other ambitious and quasi-constitutional moves--the Louisiana Purchase and the sending of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the West--the Barbary war exposed him to some Federalist and newspaper criticism for his secrecy, high-handedness and overly "presidential" style. But there was no arguing with success, and some historians believe that just as Jefferson was able to make use of Adams' Navy, so Madison, when he became President, was able to deploy Decatur's Navy, battle hardened and skillful, in the sterner combat of the War of 1812. Those who like to look for lessons for today might care to note that Jefferson did not act unilaterally until he was satisfied that European powers would not join his coalition and that he did not seek to impose a regime change or an occupation of the Barbary States. And those who ponder the ethics of history might take a crumb of comfort from the fact that though he could not bring himself to abolish slavery in the U.S. and even supported its retention in Haiti, Thomas Jefferson at least managed to destroy it somewhere.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Declare that diplomacy and war will be dictated by red lines and inevitably someone will pick up a red magic marker.

The Real Red Line?:
Foreign Policy:"Obama first said in August: 'We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.' Many have interpreted this line to mean that if Assad moved or used chemical weapons, Obama would act. ...  But it seems ... that the key words in Obama's August statement were 'a whole bunch.' And if you read between the lines of the White House's letter to several senators today, that still seems to be the real red line, assuming it actually exists, because the letter stresses that the purported use in question was, or may have been, 'on a small scale.'"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Containment Conundrum

After Iraq and ten years on, US revisits containment policy

On the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq it's worth reflecting on whether containment - rather than intervention - is Washington's preferred option in dealing with crises, writes Richard Gowan.

The 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war has inspired numerous articles about the follies of military interventionism. Yet the war also represented a huge defeat for an alternative strategy for dealing with dangerous states: containment. Throughout the Cold War, the US and its allies had aimed to contain the Soviet Union. Despite frequent internal disagreements over this strategy, it worked. 
Containment arguably worked in Iraq too. After the 1991 Gulf War, the US had attempted to keep Saddam Hussein under control through sanctions and occasional limited military strikes. UN inspectors successfully investigated and ended Iraqi programs to build weapons of mass destruction, even if the Bush administration based its case for war on the presumption that Saddam simply had to be cheating.
Yet this successful containment strategy came at a heavy cost. As the American scholar Joy Gordon notes in "Invisible War," an excoriating history of the effort to contain Iraq, studies suggest that "at least 500,000 children under age five who died during the sanctions period would not have died under the Iraqi regime prior to sanctions." The international coalition that had driven Iraqi forces out of Kuwait splintered and the US and UK were increasingly isolated in defending the sanctions regime up to 2003.

Containment back on the agenda...

Iraq appeared to signal that the US was no longer satisfied with containment as a strategy for dealing with enemy regimes. Interventions in Iran and North Korea seemed all too possible. Yet 10 years on, containment is back as one of America's preferred strategic options. The Obama administration has strived against persistent criticism from Israel to contain rather than strike Iran. The US and its European allies have pursued a strategy of "everything but force" in dealing with Syria, putting heavy sanctions on Damascus and repeatedly raising the war at the UN, but effectively ruling out intervention. 

These choices reflect the Obama administration's engrained desire to avoid falling into the military traps of its predecessor. Yet containment remains an exceptionally difficult strategy to implement correctly.
In the Syrian case, Western governments are increasingly dissatisfied with the results of their "everything but force" posture so far. Britain and France have come out in favor of arming the Syrian rebels, although other European governments are nervous about this option. The US has ramped up non-lethal assistance to the rebels, but there have been a growing number of recent stories about unease within the White House about the lack of progress toward ousting President Bashar al-Assad.

...but does it really work?

On Iran, the US is trapped between Israel (deeply concerned about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Tehran) and Russia and China (suspicious that Washington will eventually opt for regime change). Although European governments have cooperated with the US to ratchet up sanctions, doing significant harm to the Iranian economy, concerns about their humanitarian effects are growing. This week the Guardian newspaper reported that "Iranian doctors and pharmacists have warned that hospitals across the country are facing difficulties finding the drugs used during life-saving surgery."  Western diplomats do not want to repeat the disastrous impact of the Iraq sanctions, but will still face criticism.

In the meantime, US efforts to contain North Korea - which include close cooperation with Beijing on UN sanctions aimed at the regime - could backfire. Under international pressure, Pyongyang has threatened open warfare. This is mainly bluff and bluster, but the situation could escalate dangerously.

So while the Obama administration has leant heavily on containment strategies in many of the hardest cases on its agenda, it is not clear if they are all diplomatically sustainable. On Syria, a faction of Western powers - heartily supported by Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar - could switch to more aggressive support to the rebels. The fragile consensus with Moscow and Beijing over how to deal with Iran may break down. North Korea may explode. Containment is often a highly risky strategy.

It is also a harder strategy for Washington and its allies to apply than it was in the 1990s, when the US and UK were able to drive sanctions policy toward Iraq over objections from non-Western countries. Since then shifts in global trade and finance means that non-Western powers, especially China, have far greater leverage over sanctions regimes, as the complex negotiations over Iran show. Cuts in the US defense budget may make it harder to keep up the long-term deterrent and policing functions that American forces have played in the Persian Gulf, Korean Peninsula and other potential flashpoints.
Containment conundrum

But are there serious alternatives? The Bush administration, having experimented with interventionism in Iraq, shifted back to more cautious policies in its later years.  In Bush's second term, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued strongly against attacking Iran. While Obama hoped to mix containment with engagement in dealing with Iran, his outreach achieved little. 

So one decade after the US signaled its discontent with containment by invading Iraq, it remains a standard default option. The long effort to contain Iraq from 1991 to 2003 was a humanitarian disaster and a diplomatic mess. But the war that followed reinforced the case for containment elsewhere. Another crisis in the Middle East or in Korea could discredit containment in American strategic debates once again. But for now Washington will stick with it, if only because there are often no better ideas.
Richard Gowan is an Associate Director at the NYU Center on International Cooperation and a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Neocon Legacy in Iraq: A 2011 estimate reported that there were 4.5 millions Iraqi orphans, 70 percent of whom lost their parents after the US and UK 2003 invasion.

The Psychological Impact of the Iraq War
Posted By Orkideh Behrouzan 
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 2:57 PM 

Anniversaries of invasions, occupations, and cease-fires are reminders that wars never end. The 10th anniversary of the U.S. led-invasion of Iraq prompted discussions about the damage that long-term occupation and violent conflict cause. Yet with few exceptions, these debates lack a willingness to engage with the psychological afterlife of wars for Iraqi civilians or recognition of international responsibility toward the psychological burden that awaits Iraqi society. When the subject of mental health is part of the debate, it is mostly from the military perspective: the mental wellbeing of veterans and soldiers has been a focus of media, academic, and governmental attention, whether noting increases in violent behavior among soldiers or rising rates of suicide (with 349 active member suicides in 2012, a 16 percent increase since 2011), depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But, as with estimates of more easily quantifiable physical casualties, journalists, researchers, and policymakers do not seem to have a reliable estimate of civilians' and displaced persons' psychological state. 
Understanding the psychological impact of war on civilians is important because wars change a society's relationship with the future. War conditions create memories and wounds that outlive the wars themselves. Their images and sounds persist in art, economics, politics, and private lives through multiple generations. They create corrosive memories that take decades to work through. But they also resonate, belatedly, in higher rates of physical and mental illness. They create social and psychological conditions that are often obscured in the way we write history. On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and as we find ourselves in a perpetual discussion of future military interventions, these are the kinds of wounds that should concern us all.
The problem with psychological afterlife of wars is that they fall through cracks of more pressing wartime concerns. It is only after the dust settles and physical wounds begin to heal that psychological ones surface in their entirety. It is in part due to this delay and temporal dissonance that raising the issue of long-term psychological aftermath of sustained and perpetual military interventions has sadly been sidelined in policymaking and analysis. But they shouldn't be, precisely because of their undeniable impact on the outcomes of both endeavors. These questions are at the core of what policy is meant to address.
In psychiatric terms, war memories are often measured by incidence of mental illnesses such as PTSD and depression (and via Western diagnostic standard manuals such as the DSM-IV). Translating what wars leave behind in collective memory onto the sanitized vocabulary of psychiatric diagnostics such as these reduces history to artifacts of clinical symptoms. The question that instead needs to be at the forefront of any discussion about military interventions is what it means for a "liberated" society, as well as for the global community in their relation to them, to live in conditions of constant rupture; to be "liberated" while experiencing enduring loss and grief caused by the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers; or to be children growing up in exploded neighborhoods and looted houses, internalizing and suppressing wartime anxieties. Similarly, in our analysis of violence (as associated with PTSD), we need to foreground its complex moral trajectories and the psychological cycle of outrage that belies it. In evaluation of successes and failures, scholars and policymakers have a responsibility to recognize these intricacies, beyond logistics and statistics, and to resist the urge to reduce a people's wellbeing to the toppling of a regime.
Causing physical displacements, broken families, physical disability, and long-term psychological repercussions, wars shape individuals' experiences in ways that cannot be easily mapped onto convenient clinical diagnostics such as PTSD. Nor can these experiences be dismissed as mere matters of individual disorder. They embody explicitly collective experiences and therefore have a historical function.
To better understand the historical impact of these experiences, we need to remember lessons from past conflicts in the region. In neighboring Iran, over 20 years after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, different generations of civilians and veterans are suffering from internalized anxieties, nightmares, and memories that go beyond individual DSM-IV listed diagnoses. As with all wars, anxiety prevails during the struggle and contributes to both resilience and problems with demobilization and reintegration. Yet, wartime anxieties are often replaced with postwar dysphoria once there is time to reflect, and when lost promises of wars come to surface. In Iran, there are over 60,000 civilian victims of chemical warfare who continue to suffer from physical and psychological disorders. Moreover, a generation of children who grew up during war struggle with psychological and physical issues from birth defects to rising rates of suicide, drug abuse, and depression. This is not to depict a society devoid of hope, nor is it to attribute health issues to a single cause. The point is that these complexities integrate into collective memory, and weave into everyday relationships, generational identification, cultural forms, and expressions of nationalism. The speed with which the rest of the society -- and the world -- has moved on is not lost on the war-inflicted. Iranians collectively feel that the world turned a blind eye to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people and the deaths of over a million people in both countries. They call for recognition of their struggles, and accountability for those responsible for them. To medicalize all of that (i.e., treating individuals for alleged depression or PTSD) is a double-edged act: providing individual relief (if it works), at once depoliticizes war memories that are, in their essence, socio-political phenomena. No pill can remedy inherited resentment. 
We could expect similar yet distinct trends in Iraq once new generations of war children become adults. The Iraq War, in its experience of suffering, represents less deviation than continuity. Prior to 2003, Iraqi society had already been in a state of intense infliction for decades due to the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq War, the 1991 Gulf War, and the decade-plus sanctions. Since 2003, several studies have reported alarming mortality, disability, and displacement rates. A 2011 estimate reported that there were 4.5 millions Iraqi orphans, 70 percent of whom lost their parents after the 2003 invasion. That scenario alone constitutes a public health emergency, demanding provisions for long term physical and psychological care. A generational shift in the future of these children is possible, where wartime experiences will be worked into their future understandings of community, kinship, nationalism, and resilience. There will be distinct truth claims and demands for recognition of suffering. Attempting to normalize and medicalize the collective Iraqi experience of war leaves no room for a society's long-term struggle with memories of the war and emotions that they invoke.
At the most basic level, there is a pressing need to integrate psychiatric care into post-war plans, particularly now that Iraq's healthcare infrastructure is severely damaged and half of Iraqi doctors have left the country. Yet the question of mental health is not solely a question of individual treatment; the clinical apparatus of psychiatry cannot single-handedly respond to social discord brought on by war. To reduce the Iraqi experience to the convenient diagnosis of PTSD would not only be to erase the war and occupation's social and political afterlife, but it will also fail policymakers and health practitioners in their therapeutic aspirations.
Even if health policy insists on operating within a so-called PTSD framework, there is need for a broader understanding of its collective and generational manifestations. The PTSD paradigm in its clinical and therapeutic sense aspires to forget, to rid of excess and painful memory. Yet, we know from the many wars of the 20th century that collective post-war-psychologies are less concerned with forgetting and more reliant, even insistent, upon remembering. There needs to be room in post-war mental healthcare policymaking for remembering, as part of social and collective processes of healing. Health policymaking should invest in community building inside Iraq as well as in emigrant destination countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. Policy should also prioritize the reintegration and rehabilitation of displaced individuals, particularly women and children, who will be the carriers of the future burden of this war. Building on the capacities of an already powerful oral culture, scholars and policymakers need to facilitate alternative and bottom-up narratives of history, in part for their healing capacities, rather than erasing them. Instead of trivializing acts of witnessing (e.g., in art and literature), policymakers and practitioners should recognize and harness the relevance of these acts to mental healthcare policy. So too, historical accountability is a crucial element in collective conciliation and healing. In other words, post-war health policymaking cannot and should not operate without engaging in processes of remembrance, recognition, and accountability. Above all, international policymakers ought to make sure that they sustain their attention to the Iraqi people's psychological wellbeing beyond this moment.
The internalized, normalized, and assimilated memories of war will come back, belatedly, in pieces and bursts. Not only will they affect individual lives, but they will also shape how a society feels toward, holds accountable, and relates to the world around it. They write an alternative history of loss or neglect; they shape a society's sense of well-being, and can then translate to medical, political, and economic consequences. If the international policy community is concerned with the wellbeing of people, they must attend to internalized anxieties and memories of individuals in post-war societies, not just now, but for decades to come.
Dr. Orkideh Behrouzan is Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Science, Health, and Medicine at King's College London. Contact her at

A million people in and around the city of Paul Revere, of the Lexington and Concord patriots, of Bunker Hill, locked their doors and hid inside because a lone armed teenager with pipe bombs was on the loose.

By: Patrick J. Buchanan
4/23/2013 10:02 AM

“Whatever they thought they could ultimately achieve, they’ve already failed,” says President Obama of the Boston Marathon bombers.
“They failed because the people of Boston refused to be intimidated. They failed because as Americans we refuse to be terrorized.”
Bostonians did react splendidly. From first responders to folks who gave blood, from hospital staffs to the FBI, ATF and state troopers, from the Boston and Watertown cops to the hostage rescue team that talked Dzhokhar Tsarnaev out of that boat.
But did the Brothers Tsarnaev really fail — as terrorists?
On Sunday’s talk shows, a sub-theme was that this had been the “most successful terrorist attack since 9/11.”
For consider what these brothers accomplished.
By brazenly exploding two bombs right at the finish line of the marathon, with TV cameras all around, they killed three and injured, wounded and maimed 178 people for all the world to see.
Within hours, their atrocity had riveted the attention of the nation. Cable channels went wall to wall, as did major networks. By the evening of the attack, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and President Obama had gone live to reassure us they would be apprehended and justice done.
Day two, Obama appeared again as the greatest manhunt in U.S. history was underway. On day four, the FBI released photos, imploring citizens to come forward and identify the men in the white and black caps.
That evening, the brothers murdered an MIT police officer, hijacked a Mercedes van and engaged in a gunfight with Watertown police that left Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead and his brother a fugitive.

On Friday morning, Gov. Patrick went before the cameras to tell a stunned nation he was imposing a lockdown on all of Boston and half a dozen neighboring communities. Red Sox and Bruins games were canceled.
A million people in and around the city of Paul Revere, of the Lexington and Concord patriots, of Bunker Hill, locked their doors and hid inside because a lone armed teenager with pipe bombs was on the loose.
Boston, said The New York Times, was a “ghost town.”
“The scene was extraordinary. The hub of the universe, as Boston’s popular nickname would have it, was on lockdown from first light until near dark Friday. A massive dragnet for one man had brought a major U.S. city to an absolute standstill.
“The people were gone, shops were locked, streets were barren, the trains did not run. The often-clogged Massachusetts Turnpike was as clear as a bowling lane.”
Saturday, all six newspapers this writer receives led with the capture of Dzhokhar. “Frenzied Hunt Paralyzes Boston,” ran the Times banner.
TV and print media are still consumed with the brothers, their motives, their travel history, their Chechen background, their Islamic beliefs. And Washington is in a ferocious debate over whether Dzhokhar should be interrogated at length or read his Miranda rights.
Each side of the gun control and immigration debates claims the marathon massacre and its aftermath validates their position.
On April 15, the day the Tsarnaevs set off the pressure cooker bombs on Boylston Street, there were 40 bombings and shootings across Iraq that took the lives of 75 and wounded 350. No one in the outside world knows the names of those who set off these bombs, and no one cares. And Baghdad was not locked down.
How, then, when these brothers are now as well-known as Timothy McVeigh, if not Osama bin Laden, and they committed an atrocity that mesmerized America for a week, and they forced a lockdown of one of our greatest cities, can it be said that they failed — as terrorists?
Worse may be yet to come.
For, just as some of the perpetrators of the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown massacres found inspiration and exemplars in mass murderers before them, so the Brothers Tsarnaev may have shown the way for those who hate us to go out in their own special blaze of glory.
All true Americans were with the people of Boston last week. Yet there are individuals to whom these brothers are heroes. Lest we forget. Millions across the Muslim world still believe bin Laden struck a blow for them when he sent those planes into the World Trade Center.
Al-Qaida has been growing and gaining recruits since 9/11.
Yet, while Osama targeted the symbols of U.S. economic, military and political power — the Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, the Capitol — the Tsarnaevs hit a “soft target.” They went after innocent people engaged in the purely innocent activity of competing in and watching a sports event.
And from the weapons and bombs they were carrying Thursday night, they were prepared to keep on killing, until killed themselves.
Suicide-seekers going after soft targets such as ballgames, concerts, malls, parades or school events is something other nations have known but we have largely avoided. Our luck may have run out.
Let us pray the Boston Marathon massacre is not the new paradigm for the sick souls within.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”