US foreign policy

“The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

[…]  These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki. Growing up Sunni Arab was no fun. A later interviewee described his life growing up under American occupation: He couldn’t go out, he didn’t have a life, and he specifically mentioned that he didn’t have girlfriends. An Islamic State fighter’s biggest resentment was the lack of an adolescence. Another of the interviewees was displaced at the critical age of 13, when his family fled to Kirkuk from Diyala province at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil war.

They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods…, filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity but cultural, tribal, and land-based, too.

In that line of thinking, I can’t help but feel “The US is responsible for everything bad” and “The US is a special, exceptional country that has always been a force for good” are two sides of the same coin.

They’re both extremely US-centric views which ascribe agency only to the United States, even though the former ostensibly aims to fight back against US imperialism. But isn’t it ironic both views see the US as the only force with historical agency? Everyone else is supposed to be sitting around waiting to receive US benevolence or malice. American exceptionalism still? No doubt the US is a military juggernaut, but if we really want to understand the various conflicts around the world, we really do have to get out of the mindset that everything is about what the US did or did not do. It needs a critical recognition that there are other countries or non-state actors with their own (sometimes equally unscrupulous) agenda. And US foreign policy interacts with that. 

Far more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas than U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged, a new study by human rights researchers at Stanford University and New York University contends.

The report, “Living Under Drones,” also concludes that the classified CIA program has not made America any safer and instead has turned the Pakistani public against U.S. policy in the volatile region. It recommends that the Obama administration reevaluate the program to make it more transparent and accountable, and to prove compliance with international law.

“Real people are suffering real harm” but are largely ignored in government or news media discussions of drone attacks, said James Cavallaro of Stanford, one of the study’s authors.

Cavallaro said the study was intended to challenge official accounts of the drones as precise instruments of high-tech warfare with few adverse consequences. The Obama administration has championed the use of remotely operated drones for killing senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, but the study concludes that only about 2% of drone casualties are top militant leaders.

— 

David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times; Drone Strikes in Pakistan have killed many Civilians

Only 2% of casualities are actual militants, but we wouldn’t know that since “militant” is now defined by any man over the age of 18. 

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Concerning ISIS, as a non-Muslim I am less interested in labeling “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims” (like I have seen in the press) than I am re-centering the conversation on the foreign policies and imperialism that make blowback so prevalent. In my view getting caught up in the former plays to the oppressor’s hands in legitimizing Western sponsored terrorism of the region and lays the intellectual groundwork for continued military domination.

counterpunch.org
Why is Obama Silent Over the New Congo War? | Shamus Cooke

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to 80 percent of the world’s cobalt, an extremely precious mineral needed to construct many modern technologies, including weaponry, cell phones, and computers. The DRC is possibly the most mineral/resource rich country in the world — overflowing with everything from diamonds to oil — though its people are among the world’s poorest, due to generations of corporate plunder of its wealth.”

The last Congo war that ended in 2003 killed 5.4 million people, the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II. The killing was directly enabled by international silence over the issue; the war was ignored and the causes obscured because governments were backing groups involved in the fighting. Now a new Congo war has begun and the silence is, again, deafening.

President Obama seems not to have noticed a new war has broken out in the war-scarred Congo; he appears blind to the refugee crisis and the war crimes committed by the invading M23 militia against the democratically elected government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

But appearances can be deceiving. The U.S. government has their bloody hands all over this conflict, just as they did during the last Congo war when Bill Clinton was President. President Obama’s inaction is a conscious act of encouragement for the invaders, just as Clinton’s was. Instead of Obama denouncing the invasion and the approaching overthrow of a democratically elected government, silence becomes a very powerful action of intentional complicity on the side of the invaders.

Why would Obama do this? The invaders are armed and financed by Rwanda, a “strong ally” and puppet of the United States. The United Nations released a report conclusively proving that the Rwandan government is backing the rebels, but the U.S. government and U.S. media cartoonishly pretend that the issue is debatable.

The last Congo War that killed 5.4 million people was also the result of the U.S.-backed invading armies of Rwanda and Uganda, as explained in the excellently researched book “Africa’s World War,” by French journalist Gerard Prunier.

In fact, many of the same Rwandan war criminals involved in the last Congo War, such as Bosco Ntaganda, are in charge of the M23 militia and wanted for war crimes by the U.N. international criminal court. The current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, is a “good friend” of the U.S. government and one of the most notorious war criminals on the planet, due to his leading roles in the Rwandan genocide and consequent Congo War.

A group of Congolese and Rwandan activists have been demanding that Kagame be tried for his key role in the Rwandan genocide.

As Prunier’s book explains, the Rwandan genocide was sparked by Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda — from U.S. ally Uganda. After Kagame took power in post-genocide Rwanda, he then informed the U.S. — during a trip to Washington D.C. — that he would be invading the Congo. Prunier quotes Kagame in Africa’s World War:

“I delivered a veiled warning [to the U.S.]: the failure of the international community to take action [against the Congo] would mean that Rwanda would take action… But their [the Clinton Administration’s] response was really no response at all” (pg 68).

In international diplomacy speak, such a lack of response — to a threat of military invasion — acts as a glaring diplomatic green light.

The same blinding green light is now being offered by Obama to the exact same war criminals as they again invade the Congo.

Continue

See also:
The Secret War Between China and the US for Africa’s Oil Riches

Reading Suggestions on the U.S. Marine Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934 

On July 28th, 1915, following the assassination of the Haitian President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, U.S. Marines began a nineteen year occupation of Haiti. Citing anarchy and the need to protect American lives and property, Marines seized control of the country and erected puppet governments to fit with overall U.S. strategic interest in Latin America and the Caribbean basin. More than anything, the occupation permanently removed Haiti from a French (or Franco-German) sphere of influence into an American. 
Historians cite the complex legacies of the occupation. While it did bring important innovations in infrastructure to the country, such projects were mostly achieved through forced labour (corvée) and ultimately, to facilitate the movements of marines in Haiti. Despite some efforts in the schooling and healthcare systems, the lasting benefits of the occupation were minimal. The American intervention in Haiti stands out from other military occupation of the period due to the perverseness of U.S. prejudice and racism towards Haitians. Aside from brutally crushing “cacos” (peasant guerrilla) resistance, the Marines also established Jim Crow like laws to segregate life in places where white Americans could come to close contact with Haitians. All in all, near a hundred years since the occupation, scholars have yet to tell the complexity of this Haitian and American encounter. 

The following reading suggestions help highlight some of the most important themes when reflecting on the period between 1915-1934. 

Iran, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. And Iran is being closely monitored. However, the U.S. still pushes for more, and Iran still faces crushing sanctions and constant threat of war. When the whole world, though, asks Israel to have her nuclear weapons program monitored and to be brought within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the U.S. votes no. For the Iranians, this American U.N. vote must be the most glaring example of hypocrisy of all.
It is alleged that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. It has done no such thing. Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy, repeatedly enunciated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed the hope that the ‘Zionist regime over Jerusalem’ would ‘vanish from the page of time.’ But he didn’t threaten to roll tanks or missiles against Israel, and compared his hopes for the collapse of Zionism to the collapse of Communism in Russia. Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967 and Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. The list of aggressive wars fought by the US, including the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, is too long to detail. So why is Iran being configured as the aggressor?
Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked good …We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long…
— 

Lyndon B Johnson

By 1967, Greece was under a brutal military junta backed by the US from which it did not emerge for seven years.