The New Crusade: America's War on Terrorism
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"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I can't imagine why you'd even ask the question." Donald Rumsfeld, questioned by an al-Jazeera correspondent, April 29, 2003.

"No one can now doubt the word of America," George W. Bush, State of the Union, January 20, 2004.

A Blog by Rahul Mahajan

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February 26, 2007

Weekly Commentary -- A Truly Frightening Development

Apologies for my long hiatus. I broke my ankle on February 7 and have had to deal with many issues. I'm recovering well now and should be back to normal by mid-May.

Once again, Seymour Hersh has uncovered a remarkable and frightening story about the shadowy netherworld of U.S. military and intelligence operations.

It’s not about war with Iran. It is about something almost equally dangerous – a strategic realignment of the United States against Shi’a groups throughout the region, which involves working closely in concert with Saudi Arabia to help numerous extremist Sunni groups.

According to Hersh, Secretary of State Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the division between “moderates” and “extremists” in the Middle East pits Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah on the other – a not very subtly coded way of dividing between Sunni and Shi’a (the Syrian Alawites are an offshoot of Shi’ism and, though a minority, have been in political control for over four decades).

Apparently, with Saudi Arabia’s help, the United States is helping extremist Sunni groups in Lebanon, including some with al-Qaeda-type ideologies and quite possibly affiliations in order to undermine Hezbollah and in Syria is considering flirting with the Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of modern Sunni extremism, which was brutally crushed in 1982 by Hafez al-Assad but has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Iraq is a more complicated case and the picture is murkier. The ill-considered shift to a colonial occupation followed by the ill-considered shift to nominal sovereignty has left the United States fundamentally dependent on cooperation with the Shi’a organizations that form the ruling coalition in the government. In recent weeks, the United States has managed to severely antagonize both the Sadrists and their main Shiite allies, Abdulaziz al-Hakim’s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but things will remain in a state of partial belligerence and partial cooperation.

It is a mistake to take the view of reality held by Hersh’s typical sources – dissidents and mavericks within the U.S. “national security” establishment – as reality, but, on the other hand, there are times when there is no other way to get information about clandestine U.S. operations.

So take this with a grain of salt, but it does appear very credible and it makes at least some sense of the administration’s current stance in Iraq – although that “sense” conceals a vast stupidity verging on insanity.

It is particularly funny to consider the past month’s muddled and garbled claims regarding Iran by the Bush administration in light of this “redirection” that Hersh writes of. Somehow, Iran was the source of “explosively formed penetrators” that are killing U.S. soldiers, even though if Iran is giving weapons to anyone in Iraq it is to the Badr organization associated with SCIRI, which doesn’t fight U.S. soldiers. Somehow, in the fevered imaginations of Bush administration officials, Iran was arming its deadly enemies, the Salafi extremist (i.e., Sunni) groups fighting the United States in Western Iraq, Baghdad, and a few other areas, and also creating mass carnage among Shi’a civilians with spectacular suicide bombings.

Well, Iran is probably not crazy enough to be deliberately aggrandizing groups that are its own sworn enemies and the enemies of Iran’s allies in Iraq. The only country crazy enough, it seems, to repeatedly fund and arm groups that are virulently opposed to it is the United States.

In the 1980’s, this happened in Afghanistan. Working closely with the Saudis, the United States helped to create tens of thousands of extremist militants, spread across the Arab world, many of whom were caught up in a jihadist ideology and were extremely anti-American; among the Afghans, they also gave the most funding to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction, the most ideologically anti-American of all (he is currently an ally of the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan).

20 years later, apparently the United States is doing exactly the same thing all over again, assured that this time there will be no untoward consequences like the creation of al-Qaeda, because the Saudis have assured them that they “can control it.”

Although I remain inclined to believe a serious military attack on Iran is not in the cards, this clandestine lunacy based still on the profound American ignorance of the people and societies of the region bids fair to further polarize and destabilize a very troubled region, lead to much loss of life, and increase the longstanding legacy of hostility toward the United States. A fitting strategy for a group that has been characterized as the “Mayberry Machiavellis.”

February 5, 2007

Weekly Commentary -- Hey, Hey, Ho Ho, Joe Biden's Got to Go

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Surely, even with a firmly established reputation as the man in Washington with the biggest disjunction between his perception of his intellect and his actual intellect, there is some limit to the idiocies that will issue from your mouth?

Surely you learned your lesson after plagiarizing a biographical passage from Neil Kinnock in your 1988 presidential campaign? Or from your nonsensical comment last year to Indian-American supporters that you need a slight Indian accent to shop at a convenience store in Delaware?

Apparently not. And, sadly, the only lesson you are likely to learn from your gaffe regarding Barack Obama is to be more careful in expressing the pearls of wisdom constantly being generated in your oyster-like head.

Instead, how about this lesson: withdraw from the presidential race and try shutting the hell up?

You are an embarrassment, even to a hard-to-embarrass Democratic Party, which boasts such luminaries as former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, whose great experience with corn has enabled him to divine that the Iraqis have a “culture of dependence,” or Hillary Clinton, who had a position on Iraq before she didn’t, and until recently was emphasizing that President Bush should clean up the mess before she takes office in 2009, because she doesn’t want to have to concern her beautiful mind with it.

Let me count the ways, starting with the comment about Obama. It is true that the audio was mis-transcribed – you said he was “the first mainstream African-American” (meaning presumably the first who is running for president) and then, separately, that he was “bright, clean, and articulate” – indeed, a “storybook.” You didn’t mean to suggest that other African-Americans don’t shower. Not exactly. And I’m sure you have respect for Obama – if only because he is incredibly good at making white people respect him.

But this doesn’t mean that your comments were anything but deeply racist. This is a difficult point to communicate – obviously, you’re no Trent Lott, pining for the days of segregation. In fact, the racism on display is more endemic to liberal white America and less specific to you.

All of us “people of color” who are capable of putting words together to make sentences – unlike you, Joe – have been called “articulate” so many times that it’s an inside joke between us. You expressed perfectly the still lingering incredulity of the typical white person that we can actually speak coherently.

At least when people express anti-Semitism by generalized praise for the abilities of Jews, they do it in superlative terms – brilliance, genius, ability to control the world. We get damned with faint praise. Yes, Joe, Obama is “bright” – about 10 times as bright as you and your sorry mess of colleagues in the Democratic presidential campaign. And, from Frederick Douglass to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, even down to Jesse Jackson, when he ran for president in 1984 and 1988, few in American history have matched the eloquence of African-American political leaders.

“Mainstream,” of course, means “supported by white people.” I think everyone understood that.

As for “clean,” although the word surely wasn’t deliberate, it was no accident either. The “dirty n---,” the “dirty Arab,” are still hardly effaced from popular culture and mass consciousness in America.

But you said it aloud, and you should pay for it.

And what about the neglected rest of that New York Observer interview? You were dead on in your criticism of the still superficial and ignorant John Edwards and the radically equivocating Hillary Clinton.

But you have absolutely nothing to offer instead. On the Daily Show, you said that Ms. Clinton is wrong to suggest that we “cap and draw down” the very troops we need to exert leverage in Iraq – the correct position is to “withdraw” troops in order to exert leverage. Huh? As for your support along with Leslie Gelb of a faux partition plan – well, the Iraqis are doing that without your help, thanks very much. The ethnic cleansing and balkanization of Iraq needs no U.S. imprimatur.

Actually, you do have something to offer – the prospect of more occasions where you stick your foot in that mouth that is so sadly disconnected from anything resembling a brain. Or you could just do us all a favor and get the hell out now.

Posted at 10:55 am.
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