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54% OF AMERICANS DISAPPROVE OF THE FADED CELEBRITY IN CHIEF, ACCORDING TO GALLUP.
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Michael S. Smith: Michael, the Sunni Muslims in Iraq were defeated during the course of the American war against Iraq and now there's been a tremendous development in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Tell us about it.
Michael Ratner: You know, as we've covered on this show many times, I mean probably the most upsetting event of the last was the United States going to war in Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Without discussing Saddam Hussein -- good guy, bad guy, mixed guy -- it was a completely illegal war, a war of aggression killed perhaps a million people. And while the US has supposedly pulled out, they've left complete chaos. And the war's created, you know, complete and utter chaos in Iraq. The place is clearly falling apart at this point. And the latest news is remarkable. The latest news is on the back of the Sunnis taking over over Falluja -- and remember Falluja, that was taken over about six months ago by the Sunnis, but particularly the group is called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- an organization that supposedly was once part of al Qaeda. And Falluja is now under their control -- under Sunnis control. But it wasn't a major city. And it also, you have to recall, Americans -- many Americans were killed in Falluja. US put in a huge amount of money and forces to take it back years ago, they did and now it's gone again. But the big news today which I think is actually shocking and just tells us we have a real problem in the Middle East right now is now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken over the city of Mosul. They came in from Syria -- and remember, these are people who want to put together caliphate [an Islamic state] -- made up at this point of Syria and Iraq -- or at least parts of those two countries. They came over and they've taken over the city of Mosul which is the second biggest city in Iraq, 1.4 million people. And the Iraqi forces, mostly Shi'ite, who were, you know, supporting the government, have fled the city. And so now you're seeing a situation where Iraq not only has the Kurdish part in the north -- which is practically a separate state or is a separate state. Now you have the Sunnis taking over Mosul and Falluja. And the question is what's going to happen now. But I can tell you now, you got chaos. And so when all of you out there think about getting a woman president and Hillary Clinton? Just think this: This is the person who voted for the Iraq War and for what we're seeing in front of us. And this is the person who did it not because she believed in it but because of political expediency. Her expediency has cost a million lives and caused the situation today -- along with many others who voted for this, the media who went for it -- from the New York Times to the Washington Post, etc. This is what the United States has wrought in Iraq.
That discussion is from this week's Law and Disorder Radio, an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights). For any offended by Michael's remarks regarding Hillary, two things.
A) The comments are more accurate than what Stephanie Cutter offered last week on CNN's Crossfire. As Ava and I noted Sunday, it was disgraceful for her to pretend all Congressional Democrats opposed the Iraq War. She had been Ted Kennedy's assistant. The late senator took a brave stand and a public stand against war on Iraq. When Cutter lies and deceives, she cheapens what one of Ted Kennedy's great moments.
B) He could have held her more responsible. Here, we noted repeatedly Hillary wasn't over Iraq when she headed the State Dept. Others didn't make that distinction -- others include Hillary. But I bet, if pressed on it now, as she gears up for a presidential run, she'll make clear she wasn't over Iraq. Until she does, anyone who wants to blame her for the current crises in Iraq can do so. Again, I'm surprised the media hasn't been running with that already.
Actually, there's a third item. She sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008 and may seek it out in 2016. With Iraq being such a tragedy and such a crime, anyone who's run for president or might run for president needs to be asked in depth questions about Iraq. The way Terry Gross probed Hillary on marriage equality is the way Hillary should be probed on Iraq -- the way anyone floating a run for the presidency should be probed.
There are a lot of different takes about the current crises in Iraq so let's move over to noting a few. Mark Thompson (Time magazine) notes:
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may be so brutal it gets kicked out of al-Qaeda, but Maliki is no prize. He has repressed the Sunnis and Kurds, promoted Shi’ite officers in the Iraq military who didn’t warrant higher rank, and refused to share power. He used Iraqi security forces to attack peaceful Sunni protests and sidelined the Sunni Sons of Iraq that played an important role in bringing peace to Anbar province.
“Maliki was primarily concerned not with the military situation, but with his own political power,” says Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “He was deeply concerned that if we had stayed he wouldn’t be able to hold together what he thought he had done during 2010 and 2011, which was put virtually all of the instruments of state power under the authority of the prime minister’s office.”
Also weighing in this week, Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi (ZNet) whose analysis opens:
This week Iraq emerged from the recesses of American memory and became a hot topic of conversation. Alarming headlines about ISIS’s “takeover” of Mosul and their march towards Baghdad have elicited a number of reactions: The most conservative call for direct US military action against ISIS to ensure that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki remains stable in Baghdad. The most liberal lament the ongoing violence and divisions in Iraqi society caused by the US occupation; though they make no attempt distinguish between the violence of ISIS and the violence of the Maliki government.
This range of ideas and perspectives is fascinating, and it says much about American war culture, but mostly for the ideas and perspectives that are omitted from this debate. Entirely absent is the perspective of Iraqis and the issues that are important to them: accountability, independence, and resistance. Moreover, the real complexities of this issue have been lost in a number of the Western media’s favorite binaries: terrorism vs. counterterrorism, good vs. evil, and insurgency vs. stability.
If we dare to take Iraqi voices seriously and think outside of the dominant framework presented to us by the mainstream media, a very different picture of the violence in Iraq emerges and a whole new range of options open up for achieving peace and justice.
On The Reid Report today (MSNBC -- link is video), Joy Reid spoke with NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin and with the Center for a New American Security's Michele Flournoy. Flournoy served in the Defense Dept during Barack's first term.
Michele Flournoy: I actually think the administration is focused on the most important thing which is to engage with all the political parties in Iraq: Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurd -- trying to get to a more inclusive government situation. Remember why this is happening. This is -- this crisis on the ground -- because Prime Minister Maliki has taken a very sectarian approach to government, marginalizing the Sunni population and basically creating a situation where they are turning to and welcoming in Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS. So the core driver of this is political and that's where the first area of focus needs to be and I think the administration is rightly focused there.
Joy Reid: And to your point, this is a problem that has a solution that needs to be noted in Prime Minister Maliki's governance. The Washington Post reports today that the hope for a political solution, essentially what you've just described, are actually dimming. And the Post reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is actually "tightening his hold on power in response to the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq. Negotiations on a new government have been suspended, and instead, Shiite factions who had sought to prevent Maliki from securing a third term in office by aligning with Sunni and Kurdish politicians have thrown their support behind him." That sounds like a devolving situation, not an improving one.
Michele Flournoy: I don't think it's moving in the right direction but I think it's important for the United States and, frankly, all of the neighboring states and the broader international community to say either you come up with a more inclusive approach to government or you're not going to last. I mean, this is something that has to be fundamentally changed at the political level. I think the other thing that we need to be doing is engaging the countries on the periphery, particularly Iran, to exercise restraint, not to pour fuel on the fire by sending in their proxies and sort of simply inflaming what could become a civil war.
The Washington Post report Joy referred to is Liz Sly's "Iraqi premier Maliki gaining strength as Shiites rally behind him." Sly's covered Iraq for many years and for many outlets. She knows the civil war (ethnic cleansing) that gripped Iraq. So there's something we need to note from Sly's article that didn't get mentioned on air:
Sunnis shuddered Tuesday at the news that the body of a Sunni imam and two of his assistants had been discovered in Baghdad’s morgue, four days after they were detained by men wearing government uniforms. The episode echoed the sectarian bloodletting that raged in the middle of the last decade, and it reinforced fears that a new round of killings could be imminent.
In light of that, we'll note Flournoy's closing remarks, "And, again, the message to Maliki has to be either you govern in an inclusive way that's truly representative of the population of Iraq or you need to step aside and let someone else step in who can do that because you're risking renewed civil war if you don't."
Another view? Harlan Ullman (Pakistan's Daily Times) argues things are not at the breaking point in Iraq yet:
First, Iraqi parliamentary elections, held on April 30, have not yet led to the formation of a new government. Maliki’s Dawa Party took a real pasting. Hence, a new government could easily have a more moderate and secular prime minister who could actively reconcile with Sunni and Kurdish moderates.
Second, Iraq’s most powerful politician, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, has called upon all Iraqis to rise to the defence of their country. Even if the ISIS insurgents collect a number of Sunni insurgents and past supporters of Saddam Hussein, they are not a well-equipped fighting force. The balance will shift to government forces now that the initial shock of the onslaught has been digested. Third, if the US is smart, bold and courageous, the threat of ISIS/ISIL, which is real, offers new opportunities in the region. More will shortly follow on that.
She's worked for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and much more. Today, Robin Wright (New Yorker) offers:
Iraqis must become invested in their own political order and risk putting their lives on the line to secure it. Unfortunately, Maliki may not be willing to either cede the powers required for a just resolution or to step aside. His intransigence has sabotaged Iraqi nationalism -- though others share in the blame -- and simply propping him up could eventually be costly. On Tuesday, Maliki defied international appeals for political outreach. Instead, he declared a boycott of a Sunni political bloc and put the blame for Iraq’s disintegration on Saudi Arabia. “We hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that -- which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites,” his government said in a statement. So Washington will have to be bold and blunt with him -- and even consider withdrawing support.
Can Nouri pull together Iraq? Can he reach out to the Sunnis and/or the Kurds? Reuters notes, "Washington and other Western capitals are trying to save Iraq as a united country by leaning hard on Prime Minister to reach out to Sunnis. Maliki met Sunni and Kurdish political opponents overnight, concluding with a frosty, carefully staged joint appearance at which an appeal for national unity was read out."
And that minor moment came about only after days of pressure from the White House.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"