Barrack Obama, from here on known as Hopey McChangington, has now been elected to be the God King of the United States. Soon, Hopey will be properly anointed as our new commander and chief, dictator of the known universe and all who oppose him shall know his "righteous" wrath. Now our new lord and master will soon have his opportunity to enact all of his plans to save the world and fix all of its problems. When those fail, the excuses will begin and the apologists will attack all the naysayers for their lack of faith in the chosen and his glorious party of goodness. Hopey McChangington will soon drive the final nail in the coffin of "liberal" opposition to the Iraq War and all the others.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
As I was reading Chris Floyd's post today where he refers to a Tacitus quote about how rapaciousness and greed of the powerful are referred to as government, I thought about some of what he's written in the past about the "common good". Most recently, Chris Floyd wrote a piece he discussed how the government has not been used for the "common good". I also remembered a piece I read yesterday by Chris Hedges about the same topic. Also, this corruption of government by powerful interests is not a new Bush-created phenomena, as writers such as Greg Palast have documented. In fact, use of government for the personal aggrandizement and enrichment of the already powerful has been the norm throughout history.
I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that in fact, government is the only viable method for enacting the "common good" that Floyd, Hedges, and other Leftists writers espouse (Left as in socialist in their economics to one degree or another for egalitarian goals and belief in some form of beneficent management of society to keep "greed" from taking over). No other organization even makes sense as they are all exclusive of much of the population. Church groups, unions, guilds, business associations, etc. all at best represent limited cross-sections of society and more likely just members of the individual organizations. Without an organization, the "common good" cannot manifest itself into anything other than just everyone in a society yelling out all their desires at one another.
That's what the "common good" is after all, the desires of society, whether the desire for food, shelter and sleep to keep alive or for rich cultural traditions to fulfill needs and wants not directly related to base survival. All of these desires are generated on an individual level, even ones that are widely shared, such as the national health-care program that is widely espoused on the Left. Most want it because they cannot afford health insurance themselves or out of a so-called desire to aid the needy (so-called because they everyone else to pay rather sacrifice themselves and help the needy). But to stay on topic, if the government, the only organization that can impose on society the social contract to provide the "common good", is corrupt now, in the past and most likely in the future, should not this concept of the "common good" be rethought? After all, if the only force that can enforce the "common good" is normally, if not exclusively, used for the base desires of power and wealth by those who control it, could that not indicate such power may be inherently dangerous?
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Update: It should be: "About Israel Flying Planes Into Buildings!"
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Jundullah is a militant Sunni Islamic group that was founded and operates in Baluchistan. They are known for a strict interpretation of Islam and are known to be behind multiple bombings. What did the U.S. government do about it? Why make them allies in the struggle against the ever perfidious Iran of course. Yes, once again the U.S. government has decided to use radical religious fundamentalists in the pursuit of its policy goals (I haven't listened to that Steve Coll interview, but I am reading the book and it is quite informative for the uninitiated). Jundullah is not the only group to receive aid however, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq and Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, MEK and PJAK respectively, are also believed to be aided as well. Hersh mentioned that Ahwazi groups might be funded as well, but didn't mention any.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
I'm going to end my Somalia series as I've found a blog that devotes itself to Somalia. Unfortunately, it isn't updated that frequently, but Mr. Crigler seems to be a more qualified expert and his seems to be the best blog about Somalia so far. Here's a report from Al Jazeera about the conflict (any little bit I can do to get stories and videos about this crisis more hits):
Monday, June 23, 2008
The great George Carlin died today, a great American who in his own way showed the hypocrisy of American society and the government that afflicts it. He was someone who deserves many tributes, as opposed to that shill Tim Russert. Here's one of my favorite bits his:
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I haven't posted much recently, because of school, work and laziness. I just want to comment about some Arthur Silber articles that I've been reading. Recently, he's been belittling the efforts to stop the Telecom amnesty bill from going through. This is namely because, in the end, it won't make difference because FISA itself is a system that is designed to allow surveillance to be conducted with just a rubber stamp court anyway and the U.S. government and its connected vested interests are more than able to prevent any meaningful punishment to those involved in the domestic spying. Now I can see his point that this is fruitless exercise ultimately because it is not at all reasonable to assume that the guilty will be punished. Their money, and more importantly, connections to the political power structure make them immune to any consequences of their actions, other than perhaps comparatively ridiculous "scandals" regarding extramarital affairs or homosexuality. What I would contend, though, is that his focus for what should really be focus of activism should be, against war with Iran, isn't much better.
The consequences of a war with Iran would be disastrous, but I don't see how action against it would in reality be more than quixotic, even with the best results. What peace movement in America has ever ended war? The Vietnam protest movement didn't do it, that war churned on year after year, even after opposition had already become overwhelming. American involvement did not end until the situation was totally untenable. The great myth of Vietnam, that "Antiwar Unrest Ended the War", is utter fiction, the end of that war was do to different factors entirely. The myth has been perpetuated by many but most importantly, "conservatives" (advocates of America's unilateral intervention in every conflict in American "Interests") and those in military as a Dolchstoßlegende because they have much to gain if Vietnam was only lost due to lack of support on the home front. Their discredited ideas would gain currency once again and further wars could be waged. So even if a large scale movement against a war with Iran could be setup, would even matter? As much as I'd like to think it would make a difference, I seriously doubt it, in part because of essays Mr. Silber has written and what I've seen just in the past year and a half of Congressional behavior. In all likelihood, if it even took off as a major movement, it would merely be co-opted by some scheming opportunist for their own political gain.
Now as much as I wish this wasn't true, I've been reading and learning about foreign policy more and more lately, I haven't seen contrary evidence. Even the collapsed Soviet Union gave rise to a kleptocracy and now a dictatorship. While advocating for abolition of the oppressive and criminal state of the U.S. is all well and good, I'm not holding my breath for that miracle. In the end, a slightly less abusive government is all that can be realistically be hoped for, most unfortunately.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
I'm back from vacation and I thought I would remark on a few incidents I had while I was away. First, I saw the Iron Man movie with my brother and his kids. The movie is a celebration of the military-industrial complex, despite Stark's questioning of his purpose in life after his kidnapping. The Slate review sums it up fairly well, but does miss a few points that I would like to cover. One, the Raza character who leads the Ten Rings terrorist group, the one that captures Tony Stark and the only one even mentioned in the movie, states that he desires to conquer all of Central Asia and perhaps beyond. Though al-Qa'ida, who I assume the Ten Rings is supposed to be a more palatable surrogate for, does wish to eventually take over the whole of the Muslim world, this is not only unrealistic, it conflicts with al-Qa'ida's stated goals. The main reason for resistance in Afghanistan is the same as in Iraq, the people who live there don't wish to be occupied. So the idea that the main problem there is the "Ten Rings' evil doers" are hurting innocent people is ridiculous, not to say the many local warlords have not been doing so, it's that the occupation is causing the problem. That brings me to another point, the actual occupation of Afghanistan is not dealt with at all. American forces are in the movie, but they are not shown fighting the resistance, other than the Ten Rings people. Third, the whole plot point about Obadiah dealing "under the table" being the primary reason for the terrorists getting Stark weapons is profoundly misleading for the viewer. The U.S. government supplied weapons to Afghans throughout their war with the Soviets, through the ISI, to those who now considered terrorists by the U.S., like Gulbuddin Hikmatyar
Of course the quality of the special effects were great and the acting was quite good too, but the movie is still propaganda at its core. It trumpets the righteousness of the War on Terror by ignoring or manipulating the key facts about it, supporting the vision most Americans already have about it. That brings me to the other incident that I wanted to discuss. On Memorial Day I went to a service at a cemetery to mourn those soldiers who have died in the wars the U.S. has been involved it through its history. There were a few different speakers from the local VFW there and they gave the typical nationalistic and "fighting for freedom" talk. But I want to point out some of what the father there brought up when he spoke.
There were two main issues I had with his speech: he described the wars that U.S. has been involved in as flaring up of "evil" and that we should learn from the Romans and take up responsibility for defense of the empire ourselves. He said that "anyone who has seen war would rightly describe it as Satanic" (I think it was "Satanic" or evil, I'm only going on memory here) and while it is true that war is evil, his description of it as evil just flaring up is misleading in that it does not take into consideration the political, economic and social reasons for war and, usually, prior U.S. involvement in said country. This makes it seem as if these people are possessed by evil and need to be exorcised (his is a Catholic after all) with bombs and bullets or that they just "hate us for our freedom". And as for the call to arms to defend the empire, unlike the Romans who relied on local tribes for defense, that can be dismissed when you think about why those tribes were hired by the Roman empire. That reason is because: they were the people who lived there. It's only natural that the people who live somewhere should the same to defend it, the question should be why were the Romans there ruling it? Spreading "civilization" by the point of a sword. The father's analogy was apt in ways he did not intend.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I'm on vacation this week, have been for a few days actually, so no Somalia updates for a while. I've also been messing around with the blog layout. If anyone thinks the new layout is bad or has suggestions, please tell me and I'll keep my tears to a minimum.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
After listening to Scott Horton rant about Truman yesterday I came up with an idea for a new sticker:
Here's some information about Operation Keelhaul. Yet another example of how World War II was not the "good" war. Add to that the recent uncovering of the mass graves in South Korea and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one might think that Truman had no compassion at all for the little people of the world. Nah, he was just a simple feller from Missouri.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Finally the long awaited part 3 of my long Somalia series. Before I get started I should mention that Adan Hashi Ayro was killed in an airstrike. Predictably, civilians also died in the attack, including women and children. The al Shabaab spokesman, Mukhtar Robow Adumansur, stressed that there would be revenge attacks and Ayro's replacement has not been announced. Perhaps the al Shabaab strategic commander, Sheikh Hassan Turki, will take over or Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys will regain more authority. (I'm also going to just include the links within the posts from now on)
The only new bit I found out regarding al-Itihaad al-Islamiya was the Ethiopian incursion to get rid of it. Apparently there were reports of massive looting during that 10 March 1999 raid. It sounds like the group just faded away and didn't have any "official" end.
I found out a bit more about the other suspects (I'm still not sure what makes invasion by proxy an acceptable method for arresting suspects). Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who is wanted for connection to the 1998 U.S. East Africa embassy bombings, apparently had an ally in Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia. Although the U.S. government had multiple opportunities available to catch him, and others in al-Qa'ida, that had refuge in Taylor's regime, it never followed through any of them. Al-Qa'ida was running a money laundering operation by way of the diamond trade and paid Taylor well for taking providing them a safe haven. Also, the linked article also mentions Mohammed was involved in the 2002 Mombasa bombing and the failed attack on the Israeli plane, though it mentions another Mohammed so I'm not sure if they meant Fazul or Atef.
As for Abu Talha Al-Sudani, he is believed to be an explosives expert, to have worked closely with Gouled Hassan Dourad and financed the 1998 embassy bombings. The article also implicates Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in the 1998 embassy bombings as well. Gouled Hassan Dourad is currently one of the "detainees" at Guantanamo and given some of what has been revealed about the treatment there, I'll need to look into there veracity of the claims laid against him as well.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Here's a summary of the crisis in Somalia as of now. An "internally displaced person" is someone who has been forced to flee their home due to the threat of violence to themselves or as the result of a natural disaster. In the case of Somalia, the people are displaced because of the violence from the war there. Remember, these people haven't just moved away from a previous place of residence, they have been violently coerced, one way or another, from their homes and are now homeless. They can only survive on sustenance provided by aid organizations and the kindness of anyone else willing to help them.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I'm starting to get a better idea of how large of an undertaking that I've gotten myself into. I haven't gotten a lot of detail about al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, notably when exactly it came into existence and how and when it ceased to exist. Though I did get a clearer picture of what the Islamic Courts are about. I also found out why Aweys is considered a terrorist. Here's what I found:
Before Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys got involved with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in the 1990's, he was head of al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, or Unity of Islam. Osama bin Laden funded al-Itihaad in the early 1990's to make the country a radical Islamic republic. Al-Qa'ida has been committing attacks from that time onward in Somalia. Bin Laden has been suspected being part of the Black Hawk Down incident and training Aideed's men for the 1998 East African Embassy bombings, however that is in dispute by local Somalis and others. U.S. intelligence officials maintain that al-Itihaad al-Islamiya was also involved in planning the embassy attacks and built a training camp at Ras Kamboni from which fighters escaped to Yemen after 911. Others claim however, Al-Itihaad is more complicated and shouldn't be mistaken as just some terrorist organization. Al-Itihaad was claimed to be quite close to Al Barakaat, which the U.S. further claimed was funding terrorism. That claim seems disputable as well, not least because the company was taken off the terrorist watch list.
After al-Itihaad declined in power (still trying to find out what exactly happened to it), he became the UIC's spiritual leader and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed served as the chairman. UIC militias joined forces through 2004 and 2006 and defeated the warlords who controlled the city. However, they had worked together even earlier in 1999, as the cost endless war and the destruction of the economy weakened the warlords. The courts got most of their money, which they got their arms with and consequently their power, from local businessmen desperate for any law and order. Extremist Islam has not had a very welcome in Somalia traditionally, despite western fears to the contrary, as the courts won't do amputations because it would not be well received among the populace. Outsiders, Saudi Arabia, Libya, UAE, etc., have all tried to get Somalia in line with their own goals in the past through aid, but Somalia only took the money and did what they wanted anyway. Somalis welcomed the courts despite their eagerness to violently punish criminals or deviants, generally considered human rights abuses when done elsewhere, because they brought law and order and defeated the warlords who had so ruined the country for so long. It became the only legal body in Mogadishu to which Somalis could turn for justice and basic court proceedings. Though Islamic, the courts functioned primarily on a clan level, each court only dealing with legal proceedings amongst its own clan.
Here are the articles I put this together from:
Profile: Somalia's Islamist Leader
Islamic Clerics Combat Lawlessness in Somalia
Profile: Somalia's Islamic Courts
U.S. returning to a nightmare called Somalia
US ends Somali banking blacklist
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Steve Bloomfield had an article in the Independent back February, I'm going to use it as my introduction into the current disaster in Somalia. This is primarily part of my effort to learn about what's going on over there and how bad it is. Below is a summary of the article which I will begin to expand upon later. It's getting late, my expanding will have to be the next part.
Somalia: The World's Forgotten Catastrophe Summary
Somalia has been a failed state without any functioning central government since 1991 and had been torn apart by warlords with their clan-based militias. The U.S. had military and the U.N. had peacekeeping forces in Somalia back in 1993 until the Black Hawk Down incident occurred and they pulled out. That mission in which the incident occurred was to catch Mohammed Aideed, one of the biggest warlords in Somalia, and after it failed, Somalia descended back into anarchy. Already, thirteen separate attempts to build a new central government had failed and the newest attempt, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) started in Nairobi in 2004 and made up largely of Mogadishu warlords, has not exactly been a glowing success. The Islamic Courts, meanwhile, were created during the 1990's to provide some law and order to Mogadishu, with 11 across the city by 2006.
By 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts came to rule much of southern and central Somalia but was cast out of power because it had been deemed by the U.S., as Africa diplomat, Jendayi Frazer said, to be ruled by "East Africa al-Qa'ida cell individuals". The U.S. was claiming that the Union of Islamic Courts was harboring: Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was suspected of being part of the 1998 embassy bombings; Abu Talha Al-Sudani, who was suspected of being part of a 2002 Mombasa bombing and a failed attack on an Israeli plane that was to occur at the same time; and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, suspected of the same as Al-Sudani. A leader in the courts and former head of al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, was a suspected terrorist (article doesn't mention why) and Adan Hashi Ayro, who headed the Islamic courts military wing, al Shabaab, trained with bin Laden and was the de facto leader of East African al-Qa'ida. In their obsession with al-Qa'ida, the U.S. decided to work with the same warlords they had fought against back in 1993. The CIA came and bribed the very warlords who drove out the U.S. before to get the al-Qa'ida suspects. It failed, almost predictably, the warlords didn't put much effort into finding them and the courts ended up uniting their militias to rid Mogadishu of the warlords (I'm not sure if they were the "Union of Islamic Courts" yet or just Islamic courts before they defeated the warlords).
Relative peace came to Mogadishu once the courts took over, relative because there were still executions for adultery, a shooting at people watching the World Cup and assassinations of two foreigners. However, that was an improvement and women and children were in the streets so Somalis were willing to let the courts' overzealousness with social policies slide. The U.S. of course didn't like this one bit, even though Somalia is overwhelmingly Muslim, the situation was too Taliban-like for them. So, when the TFG set up shop after the warlords got kicked out of Mogadishu in Baidoa, the U.S., along with Ethiopia, got Abdullahi Yusuf, leader of TFG, to not negotiate when European diplomats tried to get TFG and the Union of Islamic Courts to work together. Ethiopia had troops stationed in Somalia since 2006 to train TFG forces and they were concerned about Somali support of rebel groups in Ogaden state of Ethiopia. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was more than concerned about threats of jihad against Ethiopia as well. Ethiopia had already gone to war twice with Ethiopia and went after Awey's al-Itihaad al-Islamiya in 1996. In October 2006, Jendayi Frazer reportedly told Abdullahi Yusuf that the U.S. would aid in struggle against the courts, so by November when US CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid met Zenawi, the invasion had already been decided upon despite Abizaid's misgivings.
The plan was that U.S. would provide satellite intel, Ethiopia would invade, install the TFG in power and then help with rounding up the American targets, al-Qa'ida members. The invasion was initiated on December 25 2006 and also included a plan to close up the Somali-Kenyan border and station U.S. Navy ships of the coast near by. The invasion was successful at first, the Union of Islamic Courts chairman, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, admitted defeated three days later and the militia scattered throughout Mogadishu. The U.S. carried out its first air strike in Somalia on January 7, 2007, two AC-130 helicopter gunships bombed the small fishing village of Ras Kamboni, which had become an al-Qa'ida camp. A special forces team was sent in to kill any survivors and determine who it was that was attacked.
Though declared a "success", "senior al-Qa'ida leadership" were not killed, only innocent people trying to get rid of mosquitoes. That's confirmed by locals, western diplomats and Nairobi aid officials. The plan to close up the border with Kenya was also a failure (I'm sensing a pattern), however and al Shabaab regrouped within weeks. Its leader, Adan Hashi Ayro, returned to Mogadishu and started to lead the insurgency which has led to the death of hundreds of civilians, injury to thousands more and daily violence in Mogadishu. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Abu Talha Al-Sudani are also believed to be alive despite American assertions to the contrary even after further U.S. airstrikes.
Like the Iraq plan, the Ethiopian invasion was supposed to achieve its goals quickly and pullout, but instead Ethiopia has had to put in more troops because the occupation has gone sour (there's that pattern again). Their October 2007 "surge" has increased their troop levels in Somalia from approximately 15,000 to 30,000 (Ethiopia won't say how many). The African Union (AU) was supposed to send 8000 troops, but only 1600 have arrived (nothing else about this in the article...). Ironically, the invasion and subsequent insurgency has lead to Adan Hashi Ayro to taking over the Islamic courts at the cost of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, so that that they would become a jihadi organization. Aweys didn't get much more grandiose than for a uniting of a "Greater Somalia", but now the courts could be described as "East Africa's al-Qa'ida cell".
Now, the U.S. seems to be placing its bets on northern Somalia, specifically Somaliland and Puntland and funding their intelligence services. Somaliland declared independence in 1991 and Puntland became de facto autonomous in 1998. The intell Americans get from them isn't that great however because of support for the courts there and a lack of discernment on behalf of the U.S. Puntland was where the U.S. made an attack in June 2007 against suspected courts' leaders and was followed by denials about any attack and the hiring of contractors to rebuild the Bosasso in order "to land anything in Bosasso" (emphasis added). John Yates, the US special envoy to Somalia, actually admitted in 2007 that the Somali policy had been disaster and the insurgents were winning (I need to find out when that happened and if he was fired for saying that).
This is the worst period of violence that Somalia has had in twenty years, 600,000 fled Mogadishu last year and 200,000 are living in "squalid impromptu refugee camps" on a stretch of road outside the city. U.N. officials considers it the largest concentration of displaced person on Earth and is the worst humanitarian disaster in Africa, trumping Darfur. Political solutions are not promising. Moderates from the courts have gotten with disillusioned MPs of the TFG and others into the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia. However, it's set up in Ethiopia's sworn enemy, Eritrea, which has been accused of arming the courts and is threatened to be named a "state sponser of Terrorism". TFG divisions also make this difficult, President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, never close, had a falling out $32 million from Saudi Arabia for a national reconciliation conference which Gedi kept for mostly for himself (a comment on Chris Floyd's blog mentions that there's actually more to this). Anyway, he got a deal to live in the U.S., a job at the University of California and he got to keep the money. (The article also has details of people living in the misery of present-day Somalia, the secrecy of America's war there and about the base in Djibouti)