Nowruz, the Iraq War, and my eyeballs

Today is Nowruz, the ancient Iranian holiday celebrating the arrival of spring and, in the Iranian calendar, a new year. That really lovely holiday has unfortunately been marred since 2003 by the fact that it falls on the same day as the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, for which I suppose we should note that no one has ever been held accountable despite the fact that it was a thoroughly criminal act that set of a series of other thoroughly criminal acts perpetrated by the American government.

Yeah, good one bro

As to the third part of the title to this post, well, I just got back from getting dilated at the eye doctor, and even staring at my computer screen for the time it’s taken me to write this has been enough to make me want to scoop my eyes out of my head with a melon baller. So I would invite you to enjoy the post I wrote on this date a year ago, which is short but angry, and includes a link to my own Persian language-inflected attempt at a Nowruz explainer if that’s something you’re interested in reading. And I would say that it is unlikely that I’ll be writing a conflict update this evening–the real conflict, my friends, is with my comically wide open pupils and any source of light. Seriously I expect my eyes will be fine in a few hours but I don’t think that will leave me enough time to actually churn one of those monster posts out tonight. If I’m wrong, I’ll see you later, but otherwise, see you tomorrow.

I suppose it feels like the war is over to most people in the US, which is all well and good, but try telling that to the Iraqi people, who haven’t known so much as a month of uninterrupted peace since the morning of March 20, 2003, when the Project for the New American Century finally got its new American century, the rest of the world be damned (literally). And yeah, Saddam Hussein is no more, and the human race is richer for his demise. But at what cost? At what ongoing cost?

The utterly unnecessary and comprehensively disastrous Iraq War animates a lot of my own views on war and peace, American foreign policy, and the unjustified/unjustifiable deference our political and media discourse still gives to the Professional Experts and Very Serious Pundits who watched the most avoidable foreign policy fiasco in American history unfold before them and did nothing, or else cheered it on. By and large those people haven’t suffered so much as a minor professional inconvenience over their malpractice–they certainly haven’t suffered anything like the Iraqi people have suffered for the past 13 years.

Source: Nowruz, and the Iraq War at 13

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Not even trying anymore

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Whatever this is, it is not a photo of Donald Trump angrily denouncing his running mate for voting to invade Iraq

If you’re like me, and polling shows that you probably aren’t, you put a great deal of emphasis on foreign policy when deciding on a candidate for office, particularly (obviously) when that office is President of the United States. Because we live in a world that has been fundamentally changed, and not for the better, by the increasingly-batshit-in-hindsight decision to invade Iraq in 2003, how somebody approached that issue at the time is very relevant to determining how you think they’ll perform in office today. Republican presidential nominee and former reality TV star Donald Trump has made a lot of hay about Hillary Clinton’s vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and, hey, I get it. It was a lousy vote that speaks to her often worryingly militaristic foreign policy instincts. It should continue to dog her as she pursues the White House.

Trump has also made a lot of hay in this campaign by claiming that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. The revelation that this was a lie has affected his support about as much as all the other revelations of lies that have come out of his mouth, which is to say hardly at all. But now he’s gone and picked himself a running mate, Cotton Hill Mike Pence,

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OK, you try telling them apart, you’re so smart

who, let’s see, also voted to invade Iraq back in 2003, and then later defended the invasion only a couple of months after the generally acknowledged end of the sectarian civil war that it spawned.

Problem, no? Well, let’s just say that, had Mike Pence decided to run for president this cycle instead of waiting around in case the eventual nominee came calling, Trump would surely have used that vote, and subsequent defense, to bludgeon Pence’s electoral hopes into submission. But now that Pence returned his call agreed to run on his ticket, what’s Trump’s comment on his Iraq War-supporting past? The answer will surprise you…no, no it won’t. It’s not in any way surprising:

Let’s go to the transcript: Continue reading

Nowruz, and the Iraq War at 13

First off, belated Nowruz greetings to all of you. As people learn more about Iran I find that there are more and more Nowruz “explainers” out there for people to read, though I’m still partial to the one I wrote back in 2013. This one from NPR is nice, though.

Today is also the 13th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. If you’re looking for some historical analysis of the war and its effects, get back to me when it ends. Because it really never has, banners and aircraft carriers and bulging presidential codpieces aside.

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Yeah, it actually never was, was it?

I suppose it feels like the war is over to most people in the US, which is all well and good, but try telling that to the Iraqi people, who haven’t known so much as a month of uninterrupted peace since the morning of March 20, 2003, when the Project for the New American Century finally got its new American century, the rest of the world be damned (literally). And yeah, Saddam Hussein is no more, and the human race is richer for his demise. But at what cost? At what ongoing cost?

The utterly unnecessary and comprehensively disastrous Iraq War animates a lot of my own views on war and peace, American foreign policy, and the unjustified/unjustifiable deference our political and media discourse still gives to the Professional Experts and Very Serious Pundits who watched the most avoidable foreign policy fiasco in American history unfold before them and did nothing, or else cheered it on. By and large those people haven’t suffered so much as a minor professional inconvenience over their malpractice–they certainly haven’t suffered anything like the Iraqi people have suffered for the past 13 years.

It’s ironically fitting that this war’s anniversary falls on or very near to Nowruz every year. “Nowruz” means “new day” in Persian, or “new light” if you want to really be archaic about it. The idea of turning the page on the past, of giving yourself a clear slate for the coming year, is implicit in the holiday and its commemoration of the world’s annual spring rebirth after another desolate winter. It would be wonderful if we could all turn the page on the Iraq War, but the fighting it began still very much rages on, and once that finally stops its consequences will be with all of us for many more years to come.

A simple question

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200…let’s say 3 Donald Trump angrily denounces 2002 Donald Trump for sort of supporting the Iraq War

Tell me in the comments: did anybody out there actually believe that Donald Trump was telling the truth about this?

For months, Donald Trump has claimed that he opposed the Iraq War before the invasion began — as an example of his great judgment on foreign policy issues.

But in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump said he supported an Iraq invasion.

In the interview, which took place on Sept. 11, 2002, Stern asked Trump directly if he was for invading Iraq.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

Trump has adopted the “I was for it before I was against it” defense, saying that he definitely opposed the war after he started reading about it. Of course, he won’t offer any evidence that he later opposed the war, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I’m not entirely sure this qualifies as a lie, although it’s being framed that way. After all,

I’m pretty sure Trump believes every word that pours out of his mouth, even if it’s objectively untrue. He wouldn’t be Donald Trump if he didn’t.

It’s frankly more offensive to me that the guy with delusions of political relevance talked about whether or not the United States should go to war with the same tone that you might use if your friend asks if you want to meet up at Starbucks.

“Yeah, I guess so.” Your likely 2016 Republican nominee, folks.

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Mythologizing and demonizing the deceased

In addition to being the 36th anniversary of the Iranian seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, today is also the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Israeli named Yigal Amir in Tel Aviv. There are remembrances of Rabin all over the place, many/most of them wondering if his death ended the chances for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This strikes me as a bit of mythologizing. It’s certainly true that Rabin was the last Israeli prime minister who showed any real interest in making peace with the Palestinians, who really understood that Israeli democracy couldn’t survive continued occupation, and maybe if he’d lived longer the Netanyahu Era would somehow have been avoided. He certainly could have been a leader in the Israeli peace movement, a figure around whom those forces could have rallied, and that is something that’s been sorely missing on the Israeli left since his murder.

Rabin (left) with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat at the White House in 1993, signing the first of the Oslo Accords (Wikimedia)

On the other hand, the forces that were arrayed against Rabin by the time of his assassination weren’t limited to fringe settler assassins. He was opposed by virtually the entire Israeli right over his peace plan, and a serious weakening in the Israeli economy had left his Labor Party, and his leadership of the party, in a dire political situation. It’s quite likely that Rabin and Labor would’ve gotten creamed in the scheduled 1996 Knesset elections and history would have proceeded much as it did. Maybe the 73 year old Rabin wouldn’t have lived much longer anyway. The Oslo Accords that Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat negotiated may have died when Rabin was assassinated, but then again there’s plenty of evidence that they were already faltering, and at any rate those accords deliberately punted on some of the most contentious issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict: Continue reading

RNC goes full post-parody

The Republican National Committee issued a press release today that questions Hillary Clinton’s judgment in part because…she voted in favor of the Iraq War.

The press release mostly criticizes her for voting against the surge and supporting the US troop withdrawal in 2011, arguing that she was cowed by the political fallout from that 2002 vote for war. The RNC’s real focus is on what she did after she voted for the war, clearly. But the press release is titled “Wrong At Every Turn,” and its first talking point is “throughout her career, Clinton has always been wrong on Iraq,” so they are unquestionably also criticizing her for voting to authorize the war in the first place. You know, the war that was dreamed up, pushed through, and mismanaged by a Republican administration with the support of just about every Republican in Congress. You couldn’t make this kind of thing up.

"LOL, those guys really sound like idiots!"

“LOL, those guys really sound like idiots!”

I feel like this press release was a wasted opportunity, in that it failed to include the sentence “Hey, Hillary; if we jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?”

Clinton’s Iraq War vote was the wrong vote and it turned out to have been a major lapse in judgment. If you want to cast your vote against her for that reason, I would be the last person to criticize you for it. But what’s the Republican message here? Vote against this person because she was dumb enough to agree with us 13 years ago in voting to authorize a catastrophically stupid war that several of our current presidential candidates still seem to think was a good idea? Yeah, ah, great point guys.

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