Category Archives: Iraq

America forms coalitions to make money

WHEN the United States talks about coalitions, one should realise that it is all about finance. Not about bringing together countries to fight a war together.

Back in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, George Bush Senior put his foot in it by threatening never to take it lying down. He was forced to go to war, reluctantly. But his secretary of state James Baker made things worthwhile by bringing together a bunch of nations who were prepared to pick up the bills.

The Americans did the lion’s share of the fighting. And the others in the “coalition” paid the bills.

For example, Japan and Germany could definitely not take part in any fighting, given that the constitutions of both countries at the time did not allow them to participate in conflicts. But each gave $US9 billion to the effort. The US ended up with a profit of $US6 billion after collecting $US60 billion and spending $US54 billion.

That alone made the effort to bring the “coalition” together worthwhile.

The US also benefits through the sale of weapons. Practically all the countries which are part of the current “coalition” which has banded together to fight the Islamic State extremists use American weapons.

Presto, all the missiles which get used will have to be replaced. Factor in anything from $US50 million to $US650 million, depending on how sophisticated the missile is. The stocks of companies that are part of the US military industrial complex have soared ever since the conflict erupted and American patriots like Dick Cheney have been watching their bank accounts swell.

America’s Kurdish adventure will end in tears

AT THE end of World War I, many ethnic groups were able to get a patch of land for themselves, with the area and population therein largely dependent on the extent to which they had pleased the imperial powers that came out as victors of that war – France and Britain.

The Kurds were one group that missed the bus and ended up scattered over four countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They are a restless lot and the countries in which they lived often had to keep them quiet by one means or another.

The late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave them a limited measure of autonomy. But there was always the implicit understanding that if the Kurds got too ambitious, then they would be met with blanket slaughter. Dictators like Saddam – and his neighbour, the late Hafez al-Assad of Syria – do not do things by half-measures and for years the Kurds were content to remain within their allocated freedoms.

After the Gulf War of 1991, there was, for a while, protection in the form of western fighter jets that patrolled a no-fly zone; after the war, the Kurds rose up in protest against Saddam in the hope that their long dormant hope for a country would be realised. But they were tricked by the US which, after initially backing them, changed its mind when George Bush Senior realised that a weak Iraq would lead to Iran being the dominant power in the region.

And that the Americans did not like – they have not had much to do with Iran after the events of 1979. So the Kurds had to eat what Australians call a shit sandwich and stay on as part of Iraq.

Now Washington – and its so-called coalition against the extremist Islamic State – is arming the Kurds in order to get them to fight the militants. In doing so, they are setting themselves up for a lot of trouble in the future. The Americans have forgotten what happened after they armed resistance fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. One of the side effects of that policy was a little event that happened on September 11, 2001.

But the Americans have not learnt. If they read their own history books, they will realise that they are incompetents of the highest order when it comes to intervening in foreign countries. Yet they keep doing it over and over again.

In 2003, George Bush Junior invaded Iraq and broke the entire system. The Americans did not merely topple the government, they ripped out the entire bureaucracy and left the country without any functioning systems at all. The results of that have been self-evident over the last 11 years.

After Saddam came to power in a coup in 1969, he realised that he had a mess on his hands, created by the British and French drawing borders at right angles to satisfy the requests of this group or that. And so he ruled with an iron fist and kept the country intact. Anyone who even indicated a mild dislike for him was shot in cold blood.

The Americans released all his controls. And in so doing, they opened the gates for every sectarian group to do what they wanted. Power was given to the Shias and hence the Sunnis took up arms. The Islamic State is just the most extreme manifestation of that resistance – another group that rose up in reaction to American screw-ups.

Internecine warfare between countries or groups in the Middle East is a routine thing. The West should keep out of these squabbles. But the Americans have oil interests in many parts of the region and hence they intervene again and again. No good has ever come of it.

The outcome will be the same this time too.

Rather than sell his budget, Tony is busy grandstanding to boost his poll numbers

WOULD Tony Abbott be indulging in all the grandstanding he is doing abroad if his government had brought down a budget that was, in the main, acceptable to the people and had cleared parliament with a few changes here and there?

One really has to wonder.

After the budget in May, the popularity of the prime minister dropped like a stone. Little wonder that this happened, given that the budget had several measures that would hit the poorer classes. All of it was done in the name of sorting out a budget crisis which the government insisted existed. Financial experts are still trying to find the reason for the use of the word “crisis”.

Three months later, the budget is still hanging around the government’s neck like an albatross. But Abbott’s poll numbers are up as he has grasped every possible chance to boost them.

The poll standings of any leader tend to rise during periods when the country is under threat. So Abbott has manufactured one; the Islamic militancy in Iraq and the emergence of Australian citizens playing a role in it has given him a handy prop.

He’s also announced a data retention scheme – though what will be retained is unclear. Never mind, it adds to security, says Abbott. The presence of the US State Secretary and Defence Secretary this week, for the annual bilateral ministerial talks, hasn’t hurt.

But before that, the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane, killing 298 people including 38 Australians, came as a godsend to Abbott. He fronted up to indulge in some chest-thumping and fuming against Russia, whom he accused of being responsible. The missile that shot down the plane came from an area in Ukraine which wants to revert to Russian control, hence Abbott’s claims.

Abbott made his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, a show-pony of the highest order, take the lead in pushing an UN security council resolution condemning Russia. And as soon as he could, he imposed sanctions on Moscow. Never mind that Russia’s retaliation, which cuts off something like $500 million of imports from Australia, is going to hurt a lot of small farmers.

Now Abbott has dashed off to the Netherlands, to express gratitude to the Dutch for taking the lead in getting the bodies of the plane crash victims back for examination.

Tony is also threatening to send troops to Iraq – for humanitarian reasons, he says, because the Islamic militants there are threatening a tribe called the Yazidis who live in the north. The fact that the US, which has begun bombing the militants to protect the Yazidis, has ruled out sending ground troops doesn’t bother Tony one bit.

There have been plenty of false leads thrown here and there but with the Murdoch media firmly in his pocket, Tony is going places.

And the budget? Oh, don’t bother, that’s Joe Hockey’s baby. Tony has bigger fish to fry.