The Shift

by , July 10, 2008

The tectonic plates of the geopolitical landscape are shifting, visibly, as the consequences of our crazed foreign policy are being felt at home and abroad. That alarming crunching sound you hear is the impact of the sudden realization that, in Iraq, the government our troops are fighting and dying for is openly demanding that we leave.

As I’ve written on previous occasions, this has been a long time coming, but now, alas, the moment has finally arrived: the "liberated" peoples of Iraq, under the tutelage of their elected leadership, are now telling us that it’s time to say good-bye. In recent remarks to Arab ambassadors in Abu Dhabi, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the assembled officials:

"The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal."

The U.S. reacted swiftly and negatively, albeit within a framework stressing the areas of agreement between Washington and Baghdad. According to U.S. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos:

"The U.S. government and the government of Iraq are in agreement that we, the U.S. government, we want to withdraw, we will withdraw. However, that decision will be conditions-based."

How telling is it that, apparently, those "conditions" do not seem to include the political conditions on the ground in Iraq, where the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want us out. U.S. casualties, the position of our troops, the number of enemy killed, etc. – all these factors are counted, yet the wishes of the "liberated" Iraqi people don’t count one iota, and this discourtesy is extended to their elected representatives.

Has the world ever known such arrogance in a superpower? Not since the Rome of Nero and Caligula have we seen its like. Yet the Iraqis, bless their hearts, aren’t taking it lying down. When Iraq’s top national security official, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, held consultations with the country’s chief religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in the holy city of Najaf, he had this to say to reporters:

"Our stance in the negotiations underway with the American side will be strong. … We will not accept any memorandum of understanding that doesn’t have specific dates to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq."

Negotiations over the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, and the future relationship between the liberator and the liberated, have been going on for months and seem now to have hit a major snag: the Iraqis want us out, and we aren’t budging. Conflict between Washington and its former puppets is coming to a head, and it isn’t hard to imagine that our next battlefield opponents, after the demise of the "dead-enders" and al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, will be the armed forces of the Maliki government, on whom we have lavished billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

It’s kind of like one of those relationships that, after a while, sours to the point that, instead of getting them little gifts and passing love notes, you’re handing them a restraining order.

As things go badly for the War Party in Iraq, so, here at home, the tide is also turning. Actually, it turned quite some time ago, but you’d never know that from what has been going on in Washington, where any talk of withdrawal is deemed too "radical" to take seriously.

However, some modicum of reality seems to have broken through the solid wall of self-sustaining ignorance that surrounds the Washington crowd with the news that U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen has "sent Israel an unequivocal message stating that Israel does not have a ‘green light’ from the U.S. to attack Iranian nuclear facilities" and that it will not get U.S. support if it chooses to go ahead anyway.

This is clearly an indication that the revolt of the generals – who are horrified by the prospect of another war in the Middle East – is undergoing a "surge" as fresh war clouds darken the horizon. Whether that is going to be enough to tamp down the war cries of the uber-hawks in the Pentagon and their allies in the chattering classes – and the White House – is doubtful, at best, but, on that score, I’ll take what I can get…

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

On a lighter note, check out Robert D. Kaplan in The Atlantic, commenting on the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran:

"Bottom line: precisely because the U. S. dominates the airspace around Iran, it has checkmated itself. Israel will find it very hard to pull America’s chestnuts out of the fire in Iran. An Israeli attack is, in the last analysis, still unlikely. The problem of a nuclear Iran is far from being solved."

The U.S. has checkmated… itself? Doesn’t he mean we’ve checkmated the trigger-happy Israelis, who would unleash a conflagration in the Middle East that would endanger U.S. lives and our national interests? In the Bizarro World of the neocons, however, he’s dead on: since an Israeli attack would be a Good Thing, you see, by opposing it we’re just biting off our own noses to spite our face…

I knew there was something fishy about that news item reporting a "daring" rescue effort by the Colombian military of Colombian and U.S. hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and, as it turns out, the whole thing was an elaborate put-up job. According to a report by the Swiss radio outlet Suisse Romande, instead of "infiltrating" and fooling the FARC high command into handing over the hostages to Colombian military personnel, the Colombians paid a hefty ransom. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"Colombian authorities sought over the weekend to discredit a Swiss academic and former intermediary in talks with a left-wing rebel group who has been linked to a disputed report that officials paid $20 million for last week’s release of 15 high-profile hostages. A Colombian government official who asked to remain unnamed said Sunday that authorities suspect Geneva-based Jean Pierre Gontard was the source for the Swiss radio report last week stating that officials paid ransom for the release of the hostages. …

"With the Colombian government’s permission, Gontard has represented Switzerland in past efforts to broker a peace agreement with FARC rebels. On June 30, the government announced that he and French diplomat Noel Saez had arrived in Colombia to resume those efforts. Two days later, onetime president candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three American defense contractors and 11 Colombian police and soldiers were rescued after spending more than five years in rebel captivity.”

“Gontard has been coming to Colombia for years as Swiss representative of a three-nation team, including Spain and France, that has acted as facilitator for possible talks between the FARC and the Colombian government."

While the Times is careful to couch the story in terms of the Colombian government’s denials, the truth ought to be apparent enough, and, in a sense, their story of "infiltrating" FARC rings true, even in this context, since bribing the enemy is indeed a form of infiltration.

Speaking of FARC, Colombia, and the eternal human comedy, here we have what has to be the ultimate apologia for tyranny coming from none other than the "libertarian" magazine that goes by the moniker Reason:

"So yes, the Uribe government is far from perfect – it is Latin America after all, so we must judge on a steep curve – but as even the left-leaning Guardian acknowledged this week, Uribe is indeed a ‘skilled politician’ who ‘has been able to bring a degree of order, security and prosperity to the country that was scarcely believed possible when he took office in 2002.’"

Aside from the borderline racism embedded in that "it is Latin America, after all" remark, the same sort of nonsense could easily be imagined coming from the lips of a left-wing apologist for Fidel Castro. After all, the guy has given Cubans affordable – free! – health care, and Cuba’s literacy rate exceeds our own. And certainly he’s kept "order." So what’s to complain about? Well, uh, plenty

This is particularly galling coming as it does from Reason, which, in order to prevent itself from becoming just another right-wing mouthpiece, has prided itself on its devotion to civil liberties, particularly when it comes to opposing the War on Drugs – a war that Colombia has been fighting, on behalf of and in league with the U.S. military, for decades, with a notable lack of success. Uribe, for his part, is a known collaborator with right-wing terror squads, and his own ties to the kingmakers of Colombia’s drug cartels are no secret. For the Reasonoids to peddle him as some sort of sympathetic figure is more of the Bizarro "libertarianism" their ever dwindling band of readers has come to expect from them.

Read more by Justin Raimondo