Friedman Manages to Forget Why We Went to War in Iraq

The Iraq War was the single largest mistake America has ever made. This is not hyperbole. Iraq had no WMDs and they were not harboring al Qaeda. Saddam Hussein was no threat to the citizens of the United States, nor was he a threat to his neighbors. He was effectively bottled in his country, cowed into a life of oil money decadence.

The dead Iraqis, Americans, and allies, along with the trillion dollar war, were completed wasted. The disgusting sociopaths that ordered the war completely lost their collective sanity after 9/11 and invented phantom objectives from grievances a decade old, totally unrelated to the challenges of the post 9/11 world. The most basic reason we went to war with Saddam Hussein is because the Bush Administration was filled with Cabinet members from Bush Sr’s administration who were pissed we didn’t end Hussein in the Gulf War, advocated most forcefully by a man so heartless he can live without a working one. That Cheney continues to live without a functioning heart is my strongest proof there is no just god.

We brought al-Qaeda to Iraq by invading it. The terrorist organization only entered in the post-invasion chaos caused by the complete lack of planning on the part of the warmongerers. So, for Thomas Friedman to say the Iraq War became a war against al-Qaeda, while true after the fact, is still a lie and a disgusting revision of the highest grade. It wasn’t; it couldn’t have been. The Bush Administration officials can lie all they want, but they all knew al Qaeda was not harbored in Iraq by Hussein. Their best evidence was that some Baathist met with a possible al Qaeda affiliate, once.

Maybe 2004 Thomas Friedman was right, when he said we invaded Iraq capriciously to set an example for other brown Muslim countries to “kick some ass” or whatever semantically correct but vapid, evil words he actually used, but the war was certainly not about democracy building. That was just the side project eventually presented to an American public still shocked and fearful from 9/11.

Claiming this war was a democracy building exercise with whatever “transformations” we only see now that the war happened (but was clearly then and now a war of revenge for old men) is a farce worthy of endless public condemnation. The only words written on the Iraq War should be how useless and tragic it was and will continue to be. Friedman does a disservice to the ignoble history of the war with this drivel. He just can’t bring himself to admit how wrong he was.

One reason the costs were so high is because the project was so difficult. Another was the incompetence of George W. Bush’s team in prosecuting the war. The other reason, though, was the nature of the enemy. Iran, the Arab dictators and, most of all, Al Qaeda did not want a democracy in the heart of the Arab world, and they tried everything they could — in Al Qaeda’s case, hundreds of suicide bombers financed by Arab oil money — to sow enough fear and sectarian discord to make this democracy project fail.

So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them? Thanks to the Sunni Awakening movement in Iraq, and the surge, America and its allies defeated them and laid the groundwork for the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.

Which leads to the “maybe, sort of, we’ll see.” It is possible to overpay for something that is still transformational. Iraq had its strategic benefits: the removal of a genocidal dictator; the defeat of Al Qaeda there, which diminished its capacity to attack us; the intimidation of Libya, which prompted its dictator to surrender his nuclear program (and helped expose the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear network); the birth in Kurdistan of an island of civility and free markets and the birth in Iraq of a diverse free press. But Iraq will only be transformational if it truly becomes a model where Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the secular and religious, Muslims and non-Muslims, can live together and share power….

The best-case scenario for Iraq is that it will be another Russia — an imperfect, corrupt, oil democracy that still holds together long enough so that the real agent of change — a new generation, which takes nine months and 21 years to develop — comes of age in a much more open, pluralistic society. The current Iraqi leaders are holdovers from the old era, just like Vladimir Putin in Russia. They will always be weighed down by the past. But as Putin is discovering — some 21 years after Russia’s democratic awakening began — that new generation thinks differently. I don’t know if Iraq will make it. The odds are really long, but creating this opportunity was an important endeavor, and I have nothing but respect for the Americans, Brits and Iraqis who paid the price to make it possible. Please stop the hackery, Tom. Retire to your fossil fuel guzzling mansion and hold salons with your very interesting 0.1% and cab driver friends.

Even worse, it “didn’t come down” to defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was an affiliate uninvolved in the attacks on 9/11. We could have totally lost in Iraq and still have defeated the al-Qaeda organization responsible for the crime against us. The War on Terror was always about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perversely, that an affiliate group moved into Iraq saved the Bush Administration from the failures it made in deciding to go to war. Because, and everybody take note so we can move on and stop writing apologist crap, those guys never gave a shit about Iraq’s connection to 9/11 or al-Qaeda.

Posted in Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism, The Wars, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Scrobbling?

I had to look this up when I wasn’t sure of its meaning in a Spotify ad. I’m too young to be feel dated.

“So I scrobbled my Best of Peruvian Charango, and nobody listened to it. This makes me very sad.”

Via Wikipedia:

scrobble (third-person singular simple present scrobbles, present participle scrobbling, simple past and past participle scrobbled)

  1. (Internet, slang) To publish one’s music-listening habits via software, as counted events when songs or albums are played, to selected internet services in order to track them over time, out of curiosity and/or to make them visible to others.
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McDonald’s: Just as Difficult to Get Into as Harvard By Percentage

  • Percentage of applicants offered undergraduate admission to Harvard this year:  6.2
  • Percentage of applicants accepted for employment on McDonald’s National Hiring Day in April: 6.2
– from Harper’s Index, June 2011 via TYWKIWDBI

Hard days to an applicant of most any group in America I guess.

Maybe if the other 92.8 percent stopped being so lazy, they’d get that job they applied for at McDonald’s. Or, they should apprentice themselves to a fry cook – Gingrich has big dreams for poor, lazy youth.

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Leaf Blower Wars: Why Rich People Are More Self Absorbed Than the Rest of Us Example 372

Rich people want higher quality leisure. They don’t care if you have to labor harder and longer in your own yard.

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Mooching the Safety Net in a Recession

I really liked this short post in Modeled Behavior a lot, mostly because I agree with it. Karl Smith takes issue with this part of Casey Mulligan’s assertion.

One interpretation of these results is that the safety net did a great job: For every seven people who would have fallen into poverty, the social safety net caught six. Perhaps if the 2009 stimulus law had been a little bigger or a little more oriented to safety-net programs, all seven would have been caught.

Another interpretation is that the safety net has taken away incentives and serves as a penalty for earning incomes above the poverty line. For every seven persons who let their market income fall below the poverty line, only one of them will have to bear the consequence of a poverty living standard. The other six will have a living standard above poverty

. . .

Of course, most people work hard despite a generous safety net, and 140 million people are still working today. But in a labor force as big as ours, it takes only a small fraction of people who react to a generous safety net by working less to create millions of unemployed. I suspect that employment cannot return to pre-recession levels until safety-net generosity does, too.

Mr. Smith ponders why, if the safety net is so great, are quit rates lower in a recession? Indeed! Further, on the benefits themselves, when I see low income shoppers using food stamps at my local grocery, I haven’t been thinking, “You know, this looks a lot better than my current living standard. Time to collect the hard earned rewards of others.”

The other important part of Casey Mulligan’s post, not cited in the link above, is this:

The safety net was not as effective before the recession began. As I explained in my last two posts, government assistance programs have not only supported more people but become more generous, thanks to changes in benefit rules since 2007.

I’m confused by Mr. Mulligan’s assertion that unemployment will only go down when we lower the safety net, because in one of his earlier posts he says this:

But an adjustment almost as important has occurred in the labor force itself: during the recession, people increased their propensity to take advantage of available benefits.

So, in good times, the unemployed and underemployed don’t seek to optimize their safety net benefits, but in recessions they do. This seems to contradict Mr. Mulligan’s earlier assertion that unemployment will not be reduced until the safety net is scaled down. When people feel economically secure, they don’t sit around and gobble down safety net benefits. When they feel insecure, they reach for what they qualify for. People would rather work than live on benefits, but they’d like to maintain their living standard no matter what, so they change their behavior to optimize social benefits when that part time job isn’t cutting it, their job security is threatened, etc.

Mr. Mulligan is right that 140 million of us may be working, but a part time job at Wal Mart is likely an involuntary, substantial downgrade. The expansion of benefits, and their acceptance by the qualifying, is in part a timely reaction to the well documented rise in involuntary part-time employment since the recession, and a frank assessment of household economics. The modern American family has both parents working full time in the majority of cases. If one is unemployed or working part time, such families are in great financial danger, and in such cases it makes sense to expand your budget constraints. It makes sense for the government to provide it. What doesn’t make sense is to say that getting rid of the safety net will shrink unemployment, because if the economy does get better and the past is any indication, people will stop optimizing their safety net benefits, something Mr. Mulligan himself has written about.

Posted in Economics, Justice, Keynesian, Safety Net | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

UC Police Pepper Spraying Stuff

Oh this park is lovely on a Sunday. And my curiously pixelated parasol is exactly what I need to keep the sun out of my faceAAAUAUAAHAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH.

Happy Thanksgiving. is quite good for a meme.

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Why the UC Students Are Protesting

Mother Jones via Balloon Juice: Six years ago, tuition at the University of California was $5,357. Now $12,192. Slated for $22,068 by 2015.

If the tuition increase rises as projected, in ten years, the price of a public education in California per year will increase from less than the price of a used car to a couple thousand less than the per capita annual income of a US worker.

So for a four year degree, California students would be paying more than two years of  future salary where before they would have paid about half of one year’s salary, to graduate to a labor market where youth unemployment is 25% for 16-19 year old students and 18% for 16-24 year old students, which is equal to Egypt’s youth unemployment and Morocco’s respectively, with college degrees of declining market value for men and women.

I am 24 years old. I am lucky to have a job, but that I am lucky and other job seeking youth are not, is not acceptable. American youth don’t have jobs because of policy decisions made against our interests for decades. I’m surprised the protests aren’t bigger.

Additional resource charts:

Decades of stable employment erasedWell, in defense to the Occupy movement, they're about as misunderstood by the American mainstream media as the Arab Spring

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Here We Go: Egypt’s Civilian Cabinet Resigns

I’m pretty protestors want the military rulers to resign and may be ambivalent towards the civilian Cabinet.

Here we go.

The military-civilian crony capitalism regime of Egypt didn’t go away when Mubarak resigned. If these protests move to seek removal of military rule itself, then it is truly demanding a new power structure in Egypt, and it makes sense that the generals are less willing to toss themselves out then they were for tossing Mubarak.

UPDATE: Damnit I just crossed into the usual speculative punditry. I suck.

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Things You Might Find Interesting

Thought of the day: Asking permission to assemble a protest is like asking permission to criticize the government.

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British Government To Admit Economy Too Awful to Reach Deficit Reduction Target

Because of the slow economy, Prime Minister Cameron will announce that Britain will not be able to reduce its structural deficit at target.

I don’t know how many times Paul Krugman and co. can be right about their predictions, and everyone else wrong, before Keynesian economics starts to be applied.

When youth unemployment spirals to 1 million who can’t pay much in taxes because they have no damned money, and 8.1% of the total UK population can’t pay much in taxes because they don’t have jobs, and nobody has any damned money because the Euro zone is close to collapse because Europe doesn’t have enough damned money, then cutting the structural deficit might become impossible – given that (I’m sorry for the repetition)  not enough people have  damned money to pay sufficient taxes in Britain to pay off structural deficits.

The employment minister, Chris Grayling, blamed the eurozone’s troubles for the rise in joblessness. “These figures are bad news. They are … the consequence of what we’re seeing in the eurozone.”

“If you go back four months, unemployment was falling, youth unemployment was lower than 900,000. We’ve seen a big slowdown in the economy I think as a result of the crisis elsewhere.”

But the business secretary, Vince Cable, declined to blame unemployment on the euro crisis, telling Channel 4 News the problem lay in low domestic demand.

“I would certainly not blame the euro-crisis. The problem particularly of youth unemployment is deep rooted and has been with us for a very long time. Our domestic economic conditions are very difficult in large part because of the legacy we have to deal with. I am not trying to look for a scapegoat or a way of escaping responsibility for it.”

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said there was a growing likelihood the OBR would say the recession had inflicted deeper permanent damage than thought: “That is going to be the big judgment for the OBR. How much of what we have seen over the last year do they think is structural and how much do they think is cyclical? Six to nine months ago, there was a lot of disagreement among the macro-economists in the City about what kind of recession it was and how fast we were going to bounce back.

There’s an entire army of economists promoting theoretical frameworks that benefit a small elite of financial managers and political allies, and they have been consistently wrong about every economic development since 2008. It really isn’t that difficult to see when 1 out of 10 people don’t have a job, and 5-6% employment is the norm, governments are going to have a hard time finding revenue to pay down debt.

If you believe in balanced budgets you should be a goddamned Keynesian right now.

Western financiers throughout Europe and North America were given trillions of US dollars of basically free money to stay afloat, and lo – they’re floating now, but those same strategies are dismissed as useless for the demographics unable to peddle influence. Not coincidentally, us non-free money recipients aren’t able to shuffle billions of $$ around the globe.


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