Category Archives: Iraq

Gruber Or Curveball?

BAB's A List, Foreign Policy, Free Markets, Healthcare, Iraq, Republicans

By Myron Pauli

Ann Coulter, columnist and perpetual Republican apologist, recently wrote an article [1] contrasting “health care expert” Jonathan Gruber with the row over memos leading the US to War with Iraq. Much as I loathe appearing to be defending Obama against Republicans, Ann is very much wrong in exonerating Republican fabrications vs. Democratic ones.

Let me start with Gruber. However arrogant he is and however much his comic book [2] dumbs down health care complexities to sell this to the American voting booboisie—he embodies precisely what politics is about. Koch, Soros, Rockefeller, Adelson, and Bloomberg spend millions on largely retarded 30 second spots like “Smith is a corrupt pedophile who hates whites, blacks, men, women, gays, old folks, Hispanics, Asians and dogs … ” because they work. Politics is the art of dumbing down and dumb usually wins when repeated often enough.

I also have no intrinsic objection to a Ph.D. “expert” economist making money consulting on health care. In fact, if health insurance were deregulated, there would arguably be a market for consultants to help consumers decide between Missouri Aetna, Pennsylvania Kaiser, Idaho Blue Cross, etc. – with various deductible, co-pay, premiums, maximums, waiting periods, PPO’s, HMO’s, HSA’s, ad nauseum to choose from. If Congress cannot read a 2900 page bill, do you expect the average small business owner or truck driver to sort through all the fine print of competing insurance? In fact, there is a market for insurance agents, travel agents, stockbrokers, hedge fund operators, and career consultants who make money off their expertise on complex matters. My objection is only to Gruber seeking his living by using coercion of the taxpayers, rather than in the private sector. Because health care decisions are both complex and personal, they should be the responsibility of free citizens [3].

But if Gruber was peddling semi-socialized Romneycare and Obamacare to the quasi-ignorant masses, what does one say about an Iraqi Shiite conman named Curveball [4] – a failed engineering student, embezzler, and taxi driver who was put up by friends of neocon hero Chalabi to fabricate ludicrous tales of WMD threats to the $70 billion a year American “intelligence community.” This “intelligence community” passed on these fabrications to be amplified repeatedly with leaks confirming rumors confirming “intelligence” on “Iraqi WMD.”

The price of Curveball has so far been $2 trillion of a wasteful war, destabilization of the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and millions of people driven into exile. The Republicans and Democrats could (but most likely will not) permit free markets in health care (but will probably not do it) and thus Obamacare could be a temporary change in raising or lowering premiums, co-pays, deductibles and paperwork. The damage of a Gruber could be a temporary blip. On the other hand, how do you put the Middle East back together after a decade of destruction and destabilization?

The commonality between the Grubers and the Curveballs is that both involve national coercion – the former to get everyone behind coercive health care mandates and the latter used to commit the nation to an endless series of wars. Welfare State and Warfare State are both part of an ever expanding government and ever expanding debt.

As for Republicans vs. Democrats, you have two rival gangs vying for the levers of power without ever reducing either the welfare state or the warfare state. At best, they can both express hypocritical shock that the other side would “lie to the American people.” And the American people go along with the “good cop/bad cop” deception as if in the interrogation room of a Law and Order episode. To reduce critical thinking to arguments of the relative merits of Gruber’s vs. Curveball’s deception is merely to go along with the larger partisan deception.

Gruber and Curveball are just able to make a buck along the way from willing government customers. In physics, a thermodynamic quantity called entropy (related to disorder) always increases. Similarly, as Jefferson noted, “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”

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[1] http://townhall.com/columnists/anncoulter/2014/11/19/isnt-jonathan-gruber-worse-than-the-downing-street-memo-n1921260
[2] http://video.mit.edu/watch/mit-economist-gruber-clarifies-health-care-law-in-a-comic-book-11139/
[3] http://barelyablog.com/only-a-sicko-trusts-the-state-with-his-health/
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curveball_%28informant%29

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Barely a Blog (BAB) contributor Myron Pauli grew up in Sunnyside Queens, went off to college in Cleveland and then spent time in a mental institution in Cambridge MA (MIT) with Benjamin Netanyahu (did not know him), and others until he was released with the “hostages” and Jimmy Carter on January 20, 1981, having defended his dissertation in nuclear physics. Most of the time since, he has worked on infrared sensors, mainly at Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. He was NOT named after Ron Paul but is distantly related to physicist Wolftgang Pauli; unfortunately, only the “good looks” were handed down and not the brains. He writes assorted song lyrics and essays reflecting his cynicism and classical liberalism. Click on the “BAB’s A List” category to access the Pauli archive.


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The War Party Is Coming

Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq

Judging from the move today to ramp up the US’s involvement in Iraq, Michael A. Cohen’s advice to Barack Obama to continue what Cohen deems a “relatively low-key effort” in that country is unlikely. The president, at the behest of the Republicans, has ordered 1,500 additional American soldiers to Iraq.

Writing at Foreign Policy magazine, Cohen urges Obama to make haste and to continuing the push for a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Iran, before the new Senate is sworn in and thwarts such an agreement:

Time, however, is of the essence. With a November 24 deadline fast approaching and the distinct possibility that a GOP-controlled Senate will push for new sanctions on Iran, reaching a deal sooner rather than later — even if it means concessions from the United States, for example, on the number of centrifuges that Iran can maintain — is essential.

MORE.


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UPDATE II: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (‘The Turkish Problem’)

Feminism, Iraq, Left-Liberalism, libertarianism, Middle East, Socialism

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is often dismissed as Marxist–Leninist, or as “a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism.” CNN’s Arwa Damon describes the PKK’s ideology as “an idealistic philosophy, one that combines Kurdish nationalism with certain communist goals, such as equality and communal ownership of property.”

As the movement’s salient ideological features, Wikipedia lists Kurdish nationalism, libertarian socialism, communalism, feminism and democratic confederalism. Still imprisoned by the Turks, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is said to have “abandoned Leninism, leading the party to adopt his new political platform of “Democratic Confederalism” (influenced strongly by the libertarian socialist philosophy of communalism).”

Öcalan himself described the PKK’s idea of governance as follows:

The democratic confederalism of Kurdistan is not a State system, it is the democratic system of a people without a State… It takes its power from the people and adopts to reach self sufficiency in every field including economy.

The PKK, it would appear, leans towards a matriarchy.

You have to be a tinny libertarian automaton not to hope this cohesive people is able, one day, to form a peaceful community of their choosing.

UPDATE I: About “the Turkish problem,” Patrick Cockburn writes this:

… US planes attacking Isis forces in Kobani had to fly 1200 miles from their bases in the Gulf because Turkey wouldn’t allow the use of its airbase at Incirlik, just a hundred miles from Kobani. By not preventing reinforcements, weapons and ammunition from reaching Isis in Kobani, Ankara was showing that it would prefer Isis to hold the town: anything was better than the PYD. Turkey’s position had been clear since July 2012, when the Syrian army, under pressure from rebels elsewhere, pulled out of the main Kurdish areas. The Syrian Kurds, long persecuted by Damascus and politically marginal, suddenly won de facto autonomy under increasing PKK authority. Living mostly along the border with Turkey, a strategically important area to Isis, the Kurds unexpectedly became players in the struggle for power in a disintegrating Syria. This was an unwelcome development for the Turks. The dominant political and military organisations of the Syrian Kurds were branches of the PKK and obeyed instructions from Ocalan and the military leadership in Qandil. The PKK insurgents, who had fought for so long for some form of self-rule in Turkey, now ruled a quasi-state in Syria centred on the cities of Qamishli, Kobani and Afrin. Much of the Syrian border region was likely to remain in Kurdish hands, since the Syrian government and its opponents were both too weak to do anything about it. Ankara may not be the master chess player collaborating with Isis to break Kurdish power, as conspiracy theorists believe, but it saw the advantage to itself of allowing Isis to weaken the Syrian Kurds. It was never a very far-sighted policy: if Isis succeeded in taking Kobani, and thus humiliating the US, the Americans’ supposed ally Turkey would be seen as partly responsible, after sealing off the town. In the event, the Turkish change of course was embarrassingly speedy. Within hours of Erdo?an saying that Turkey wouldn’t help the PYD terrorists, permission was being given for Iraqi Kurds to reinforce the PYD fighters at Kobani.

Interesting analysis.

UPDATE II: A column I wrote on 10/19/2007, fingered Bush for betraying the Kurds. While he doesn’t veer into opinion, Cockburn illustrated a similar dynamic, also in 2007:

… There are 100,000 Turkish troops just across the northern Iraqi border preparing to launch an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan in the hope of eliminating the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The US has labelled the PKK ‘terrorists’ and the Iraqi government – despite the arguments of its Kurdish members – has told the guerrillas to disarm or leave its territory. Iran has denounced the Iranian wing of the PKK as a pawn of Israel and the US, and intermittently shells its camps in the Kandil mountains. The PKK, which led the failed rebellion of the Turkish Kurds between 1984 and 1999 and had been largely forgotten by the outside world, is suddenly at the centre of a new crisis in Iraq. President Bush is due to talk to the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Washington on 5 November to discuss how to deal with the PKK without a Turkish invasion of Iraq being launched. The US army in Baghdad is worried that its supply lines through northern Iraq will be cut if the Turks declare an economic embargo or launch a military attack. …


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UPDATED: ‘At Peace’ In War

Iraq, Just War, libertarianism, Military, Paleolibertarianism

He’s a fine man (inside and out), which is why it is numbingly absurd, if predictable, for a CNN correspondent to have drawn a moral equivalence between Jordan Matson’s mission and that of 100 or so other Americans, who’ve flocked to fight alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

You see, Matson is an American soldier fighting, voluntarily, with the Kurds against ISIS. And he is not part of Rome’s tax-funded Army’s. Rather, after praying “about what to do for a month or two,” Matson resolved to help the Kurds: “For me, it’s for the Kurdish people,” Matson told CNN.

Matson is “from Sturtevant, Wisconsin, a ‘mom and pop town’ as he described it, with just a few restaurants and three gas stations. He worked the third shift at a food packaging company,” before enlisting with the Popular Protection Unit (YPG), “a Kurdish militia set up to protect the Kurdish areas” from ISIS.

Unless they are pacifists—a quality as odious as militarism—libertarians ought to have no issue with Matson: He is risking his own life, doing what he believes in, is fighting a Just War, and is not funded by the American taxpayer.

Although there is no doubt that this man would rush to the aid of his “little platoons” in America—Edmund Burke’s description of a man’s social mainstay, his family, friends, coreligionists, coworkers—there is, seemingly, no place for Matson in an increasingly feminized, manliness-averse, honor-free America:

“Civilian life just wasn’t for me. The normal 9-to-5, I just wasn’t comfortable with it,” he said.

As to why there is no moral equivalence between Matson and ISIS enlistees:

* Matson is a Christian who prays to the G-d of the Hebrews and the Christians. Some of us think that Islam is problematic and that “ISIS is Islam.”
* Matson does not behead, rape, enslave anyone, much less innocent civilians.
* Matson is not fighting an expansionist aggressive war, his is a defensive war against an aggressor.
* Matson is on the side of the only people that has made good on their sovereignty; are westernized and are profoundly pro-American (G-d only knows why).

UPDATE (10/28): Tinny libertarianism, again. From the Facebook thread:

Myron Robert Pauli: Funny thing but I said about the various neocons like Krauthammer and Kristol that they ought to put their $$ where their mouths are and lead volunteers to fight rather than commit a collective national effort. Jordan Matson decided to do as an individual fight against some international evil that he personally cares about – fine for him. It is the policy of forcibly dragging the nation as a whole into imperial efforts that I object to.

Ilana Mercer: Myron Robert Pauli, so ISIS is just some amorphous “international evil.” Don’t lapse again into tinny, “lite libertarianism.”

Myron Robert Pauli: ???? ???? ISIS has not attacked the US. They have attacked Kurds, Shiites, or opposing Sunnis in Syria and Iraq which, last time I check, are not in the US – which makes them external – now perhaps I should have used the word external instead of international. But a non-interventionist policy for a limited-government republic would not “go around searching for monsters to destroy” (John Quincy Adams). So maybe we have a disconnect but I am not sure what you call “lite libertarianism” here – people overseas have the responsibility to defend themselves against the scumbags that attack them but we don’t have an obligation to help them (and it usually is counterproductive when we “help”) but if some individual wishes to help, that is probably fine.

Ilana Mercer WTF, Myron Robert Pauli: From the fact that ISIS has not attacked the US, it does not follow that one is morally neutral as individuals to their deeds against other innocents. We went over this “argument” when I wrote “Masada on Mount Sinjar.” By your “argument,” no individual had the right to mess with the Germans who murdered close on 6 million Jews and others.


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NATO’s Worth Nothing

Europe, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Islam, Jihad, Middle East, States' Rights

Why doesn’t he provide a solution to the siege by the Islamic State (ISIS) of Kobani (or Ayn al-Araba in Arabic), a Kurdish city in the Kurdish regions of northern Syria? He is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, who has issued a dire warning to the West: “dropping bombs from the air will not provide a solution … the time [has] come to ‘cooperate for a ground invasion.’”

Turkey is a NATO ally with a sizable, modern army, quite capable of tackling ISIS. The problem Turkey, the US, the European Union and NATO face stems from these great centralizers’ opposition to the PKK. The PKK is a long-standing Kurdish, separatist movement, which the US, Turkey and the rest aim to eliminate or undermine, for obvious reasons. Statists struggle with secession, separation or States’ Rights.

National Post:

The Turkish leader is strongly mistrusted by the Kurds of Turkey and Syria. Many accuse his government — anxious about Turkey’s own Kurdish separatist movement — of conniving with ISIS and of failing to act to prevent it committing atrocities against the Kurds in Syria. Meanwhile, Washington is becoming increasingly frustrated with its NATO ally. There’s growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to act to prevent a massacre less than a mile from its border,” an unnamed U.S. official told the New York Times. “After all the fulminating about Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe, they’re inventing reasons not to act to avoid another catastrophe. “This isn’t how a NATO ally acts while hell is unfolding a stone’s throw from their border.”

If the US is so cut up about Turkey’s craven indifference to the Kurds, it could collude with NATO members to strip Turkey of its NATO membership, for what that’s worth.

Excoriated though he was, in his attempt to “absolve the US of any guilt in the matter,” to quote an RT expert, Vice President Joe Biden had a point. Via RT:

“our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria,” elaborating that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad,” that they started a “proxy Sunni-Shia war.” Biden went on saying that “they poured hundreds of millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

DER SPIEGEL on the quagmire:

The country has been strangely reserved when it comes to dealing with the Islamic State. It is the neighboring country that is perhaps most threatened by the jihadist fighters, but it has refrained thus far from joining US President Barack Obama’s anti-terror coalition, even if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly hinted over the weekend that it might do so soon. When it comes to combatting the Islamic State and putting an end to the Syrian civil war, Turkey has a key role to play.

The government in Ankara had justified its hesitancy by pointing to the dozens of Turkish diplomats taken hostage by the Islamic State in Mosul. Now that they have been released, however, all eyes are on Turkey to see what responsibilities it might take on. On the way back to Turkey from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan told reporters that his country is now prepared to join the coalition. At the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday he added, in reference to the fight against the Islamic State: “We cannot stay out of this.”


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Back Into The SAME Shiite-Sunni Cesspool

Iran, Iraq, Neoconservatism, War

On “Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over,” courtesy of Peter Van Buren @ The Unz Review:

… The staggering costs of [Iraq] — $25 billion to train the Iraqi Army, $60 billion for the reconstruction-that-wasn’t, $2 trillion for the overall war, almost 4,500 Americans dead and more than 32,000 wounded, and an Iraqi death toll of more than 190,000 (though some estimates go as high as a million) — can now be measured against the results. The nine-year attempt to create an American client state in Iraq failed, tragically and completely. The proof of that is on today’s front pages.

According to the crudest possible calculation, … America’s war of terror resulted in the dissolution of a Middle Eastern post-Cold War stasis that, curiously enough, had been held together by Iraq’s previous autocratic ruler Saddam Hussein. We released a hornet’s nest of Islamic fervor, sectarianism, fundamentalism, and pan-nationalism. Islamic terror groups grew stronger and more diffuse by the year. That horrible lightning over the Middle East that’s left American foreign policy in such an ugly glare will last into our grandchildren’s days. There should have been so many futures. Now, there will be so few as the dead accumulate in the ruins of our hubris. That is all that we won.

… And then came the Islamic State (IS) and the new “caliphate,” the child born of a neglectful occupation and an autocratic Shia government out to put the Sunnis in their place once and for all. And suddenly we were heading back into Iraq. …

… The truth on the ground these days is tragically familiar: an Iraq even more divided into feuding state-lets; a Baghdad government kleptocracy about to be reinvigorated by free-flowing American money; and a new Shia prime minister being issued the same 2003-2011 to-do list by Washington: mollify the Sunnis, unify Iraq, and make it snappy. The State Department still stays hidden behind the walls of that billion-dollar embassy. More money will be spent to train the collapsed Iraqi military. Iran remains the foreign power with the most influence over events.

One odd difference should be noted, however: in the last Iraq war, the Iranians sponsored and directed attacks by Shia militias against American occupation forces (and me); now, its special operatives and combat advisors fight side-by-side with those same Shia militias under the cover of American air power. You want real boots on the ground? Iranian forces are already there. It’s certainly an example of how politics makes strange bedfellows, but also of what happens when you assemble your “strategy” on the run.

Obama hardly can be blamed for all of this, but he’s done his part to make it worse — and worse it will surely get as his administration once again assumes ownership of the Sunni-Shia fight. The “new” unity plan that will fail follows the pattern of the one that did fail in 2007: use American military force to create a political space for “reconciliation” between once-burned, twice-shy Sunnis and a compromise Shia government that American money tries to nudge into an agreement against Iran’s wishes. …

Here we go again.


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