The Left and Iraq: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

nullAlexander Cockburn’s comments about the left’s inability to acknowledge US defeat in Iraq and the bogus ‘war for oil’ thesis are perceptive. But in Tariq Ali and Seumas Milne he has chosen the wrong avatars for this odd belief in the empire’s invincibility. Tariq is a good friend and I have had this conversation with him several times. I know for a fact that he rejects the reductionist ‘war for oil’ argument. (He made his position clear in the Q&A after his recent London Review of Books lecture.) Milne sometimes hews to the establishment left line, but has shown far more independence and courage than some other left luminaries. I’d rather Cockburn had directed his criticism at Noam Chomsky, whose defective and predictable analysis of the Middle East continues to mislead many.

“The US isn’t withdrawing from Iraq at all – it’s rebranding the occupation… What is abundantly clear is that the US , whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City , has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon.” So declared Seumas Milne of The Guardian on August 4.

Milne is not alone among writers on the left arguing that  even though most Americans think it’s all over,  They say that Uncle Sam still effectively occupies Iraq, still rules the roost there.   They gesture at  50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions.  Outside US government forces there is what Jeremy Scahill calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq , swelling up from the present 100,000.  Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000.  Of these contractors 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals, typically from the developing world.  “The advantage of an outsourced occupation,” Milne writes, “ is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq.

Continue reading “The Left and Iraq: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory”

After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb

Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race
Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race

The ‘international condemnation’ of North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday was severely lacking in credibility for its fantastical double-standards, writes Seumas Milne, who argues only radical disarmament can halt their spread.

Here in Scotland the SNP made an attempt to seek support from this same ‘international community’ to rid the country of its nuclear weapons, which are stored in a naval base on the River Clyde. In October 2007 First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, seeking ‘observer status’ as defence is not an area devolved to Holyrood. The renewal of the Trident missiles is set to run into the tens of billions over the next 20 years, with the parent Westminster government insisting this is a necessary “deterrent” to protect “national security interests”. Sadly the list of replies were published last summer showing there to be little international support for this brave move from a minority administration.

This example reflects Milne’s Guardian article nicely I think.

The big power denunciation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons test on Monday could not have been more sweeping. Barack Obama called the Hiroshima-scale ­underground explosion a “blatant violation of international law”, and pledged to “stand up” to North ­Korea – as if it were a military giant of the Pacific – while Korea’s former imperial master Japan branded the bomb a “clear crime”, and even its long-suffering ally China declared itself “resolutely opposed” to what had taken place. Continue reading “After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb”