By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says a Canadian is among those killed…
OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says a Canadian is among those killed in a spate of recent sectarian violence in Iraq.
A string of attacks in the middle eastern country has killed more than 270 people in just the past week.
Baird says consular officials are in touch with the Canadian’s family and are offering assistance.
He says he’s grown “increasingly concerned” about the violence that has rocked Iraqi cities and towns in recent days.
Baird says while the security situation in Iraq has been fragile for years, the most recent violence is “particularly troubling” and risks plunging the country into a civil war.
He says Canada will be monitoring the situation carefully and is urging Iraqi authorities to do all they can to increase security.
Rising tensions between Sunnis and the Shiite-led government in Iraq have burst into a new round of bloodshed recently with scenes reminiscent of some of the worst carnage during the days when the two Islamic sects battled each other as well as U.S.-led forces in the chaotic years after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.
The violence has raised fears the country is sliding back to the brink of civil war amid rising Sunni anger over perceived mistreatment at the hands of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government and dangerous spillover from Syria’s civil war next door, where the two factions are also pitted against each other.
A series of blitz attacks on Monday, stretching from north of Baghdad to the southern city of Basra and targeting bus stops, open-air markets and rush-hour crowds, killed 113 people.
Meanwhile, 20 were killed after a car bomb exploded as Sunni worshippers were leaving a mosque after evening prayers Tuesday in Baghdad. Several smaller attacks struck areas elsewhere in the country earlier Tuesday.
By The Canadian Press and The Associated Press - Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10:55 PM - 0 Comments
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A soldier in the U.S. Army who fled to Canada…
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A soldier in the U.S. Army who fled to Canada to avoid a second tour of duty in Iraq has been sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Kimberly Rivera pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of desertion and was sentenced to the prison term and received a bad-conduct discharge.
The 30-year-old has said she became disillusioned with the U.S. mission in Iraq while serving there in 2006.
During a two-week leave in the U.S. in 2007, Rivera crossed the Canadian border after she was ordered to serve another tour in Iraq.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, April 29, 2013 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An American soldier who fled to Canada after she became…
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An American soldier who fled to Canada after she became disillusioned with the Iraq war is to be court-martialled today.
Kimberly Rivera has been charged with desertion and faces up to five years in prison and a dishonourable discharge if convicted.
Rivera turned herself over to the United States in September last year after facing a deportation order from the federal government which maintained it didn’t believe she would be persecuted in the U.S.
She was arrested, detained and transferred to U.S. military custody as soon as she crossed the border.
By Mike Blanchfield - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:13 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The United States may have been upset and disappointed by Canada’s refusal…
OTTAWA – The United States may have been upset and disappointed by Canada’s refusal 10 years ago to join its coalition to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
But Down Under, no one was surprised when then-prime minister Jean Chretien decided against sending Canadian troops to join those from the U.S., Britain and Australia.
Former Australian prime minister John Howard says he understood Chretien’s aversion to sending his country to war without a United Nations Security Council resolution.
And although Howard didn’t agree, he respected the decision. Continue…
By Karin Laub - Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
BAGHDAD – The Iraqi mobile phone company Asiacell sold a 25 per cent stake…
BAGHDAD – The Iraqi mobile phone company Asiacell sold a 25 per cent stake to investors Sunday, raising close to $1.3 billion in one of the region’s largest share offers in years.
The floatation on the Iraq Stock Exchange was seen as a test of investor confidence in the country.
It could reassure international investors, many of whom remain wary of the risky Iraqi market, influenced by continued sectarian violence and political deadlock.
In the latest violence Sunday, a suicide car bomber joined by other suicide attackers on foot assaulted a provincial police headquarters in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least 15 people and wounding 90 others, officials said.
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
Coordinated attacks across Iraq in Shiite neighbourhoods, security forces, and other targets have killed…
Coordinated attacks across Iraq in Shiite neighbourhoods, security forces, and other targets have killed at least 26.
The town of Taji, once an al-Qaeda stronghold, had the deadliest attack when three explosive-rigged cars went off. Eight died and 28 were injured in the back-to-back blasts.
After the car bombs in Taji, police say the suicide bomber set off his explosive-rigged car in the Shula neighbourhood in northwest Baghdad. One was killed and seven wounded.
In Baghdad’s Karradah neighbourhood, another car bomb went off next to a police patrol. It killed an officer and a civilian, and injured eight.
At least 94 were injured in the attacks across the country.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
On how geography threatens the U.S., makes Africa poor and may alter our economy
American foreign affairs journalist Robert Kaplan, 60, is the author of 14 books, many about U.S. strategic imperatives and the re-emergence of long-standing cultural tensions hidden by Cold War politics. His new book is The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.
Q: You write that the West, especially the U.S., has lately been ascribing too much influence in geopolitics to human agency, especially air power, and not enough to the literal facts on the ground.
A: That’s a fair summation of the book, but it’s much wider than this. Since the end of the Second World War, with the emergence of economics in a big way, of financial institutions, of political science, of international relations, of human rights organizations, of an intellectual global elite that never existed before, geopolitics has been downplayed and especially geography. There’s this feeling that we’ve overcome geography—the global elite talks in terms of, “We can do this and we can do that”—as though it doesn’t matter. This book is a corrective.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 3:17 PM - 0 Comments
The instability that follows Assad’s fall will be felt far beyond Syria
The brazen, mid-morning bombing that struck Syria’s military command on July 18, taking the lives of several of Bashar al-Assad’s top advisers, may not have killed the Syrian president himself, but it is hard to believe he will survive the fallout. That stunning blow was quickly followed by a massive rebel assault on the capital, Damascus, the defections of several key generals and, this week, even the prime minister.
If Assad is toppled, his demise will be roundly cheered. But the consequences will be profound, and will echo beyond Syria, affecting the region’s volatile conflicts, those involving al-Qaeda—whose jihadists are now converging on Damascus—Lebanon, Palestine and Iran.
Sectarian bloodletting is possible in Syria. Lebanon and Iraq, with their complex divides—which know no borders—could easily be sucked in. Violence could drag in Israel.
That makes this Arab Spring revolt so different from Tunisia, Libya, even Egypt. The fight is not playing out in some corner of North Africa but in the heart of the Middle East. Syria’s revolt could be a game-changer. Syria, for decades a key player in the region’s geopolitical games, now finds itself a staging point for the ancient struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam, a fight currently playing out in Aleppo in northwestern Syria between Assad’s Shia loyalists and the Saudi-backed Sunni opposition.
Syria may be on the brink—Assad can no longer trust even his closest advisers. But the real fight has only just begun.
Here’s our nifty infographic that illustrates the ripple effects of instability in Syria in the Middle East and beyond. Click on the image below to open up the full-size graphic:
By Gustavo Vieira - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 7:52 AM - 0 Comments
A string of bomb and shooting attacks has killed at least 63 people in…
A string of bomb and shooting attacks has killed at least 63 people in Iraq on Wednesday, wounding dozens more, according to the Associated Press.
The attacks targeted mainly Shiite pilgrims commemorating the anniversary of the 8th-century death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim. More than 30 people were killed in separate attacks in and around Baghdad, while at least 19 others were killed in the central Iraq city of Hilla. These were the third attacks this week targeting the pilgrimage of hundreds of thousands of Shiites who descend on Baghdad every year on foot for the religious cerimonies.
The violent attacks, the worst since American troops left the country, renewed fears of a sectarian civil war in Iraq.
From the Associated Press (via CBC):
Baghdad military command spokesman Col. Dhia al-Wakeel said Wednesday’s attacks meant to reignite all-out sectarian bloodshed, “but Iraqis are fully aware of the terrorism agenda and will not slip into a sectarian conflict.”
Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but they bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents who frequently target Shiite pilgrimages in Iraq.
By Susan Mohammad - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
The beleaguered region of Iraq is booming, much to the rest of the country’s chagrin
Five months after the U.S. military quit Iraq, the expression on the faces of foreign visitors landing at Kurdistan’s gleaming, new airport for the first time is always the same. After stepping off one of an increasing number of international flights, being ushered past security, with no visa necessary, toward a duty free shop — where a litre of Grey Goose Vodka costs US$27 — the most common response is disbelief.
While much of the country is still plagued by insurgent attacks, and a power struggle between Shia and Sunni Arab political factions threatens to push Iraq to civil war, Kurdistan is thriving, thanks to foreign investment and oil wealth. The Kurds are allocated 17 per cent of Iraq’s total oil export revenue, an enormous sum in a country with some of the world’s largest oil reserves. The semi-autonomous region is governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government, which claimed an eight per cent GDP growth rate last year, nearly topping that of China.
In just a few short years, the region has gone from war-torn and largely ignored by the international community to stable and economically prosperous. Even Canada has taken note. In March, a video of Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared on local TV, wishing Kurds a happy New Year (it’s celebrated on the first day of spring); and in April, Canada’s ambassador to Iraq met with Kurdish officials to discuss co-operation.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 2:44 PM - 0 Comments
Further to this, astute tweeter Steve Lloyd points out that Stephen Harper was specifically addressed in the House about this matter of the CCF and World War II. “The leader of the CCF at the time, who was a pacifist on principle, voted against the declaration of war on Germany in 1939,” Bill Blaikie informed him, “but the rest of the CCF caucus at the time voted for it.” Mr. Harper responded as follows.
Mr. Speaker, I will not debate every historical point. I will just point out that the NDP’s tradition of pacifism has a tendency to go much farther than that. The NDP missed Saddam Hussein in 1991, just as it is missing him today. We all remember that. For much of the cold war, that party missed or downplayed the evil represented by the Soviet empire. As the member concedes, the NDP leader of the day did miss the threat posed by Adolf Hitler. I would concede the CCF voted for the war at the very end. I do not know what it did during the 1930s, but I do remember well my father and grandfather and relatives telling me how during the 1930s people of that persuasion ignored the evils of Adolf Hitler and told them that Adolf Hitler was just helping the German working man and this kind of thing. And it is even today. The NDP has a history of this. At these kinds of moments, it not only has a history of being on the wrong side of the issue, but as it has done in the House today, it targets all its criticisms at the good guys and all its criticisms at what they may do. I urge the NDP to reconsider, to consider how serious the threat of Saddam Hussein is for the world and for Iraq and to stand by the removal of that regime.
Mr. Harper was, that day, making the case for war with Iraq. Indeed, just moments before this exchange with Mr. Blaikie, Mr. Harper had finished delivering his famously plagiarized speech on the issue.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Twice this week—see here and here—Stephen Harper saw fit to lament that a precursor to the NDP hadn’t supported World War II. A Conservative backbencher, Scott Armstrong, was sent up before QP this morning to directly attack JS Woodsworth and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird then repeated the citation in response to an NDP question about extending this country’s mission in Afghanistan (both Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Baird invoking Hitler by name).
It is true that Mr. Woodsworth, leader at the time of the CCF, the party that would become the NDP some 22 years later, opposed Canada’s involvement in the war. Mr. Woodsworth was a pacifist. But he was also the only member of the CCF to oppose the declaration of war. Indeed, he was the only MP in the entire House of Commons who opposed the motion. Major James Coldwell, who would soon thereafter succeed Mr. Woodsworth as leader of the CCF, supported the declaration. As apparently did a young CCF MP named Tommy Douglas.
This is not the first time a Conservative has raised Mr. Woodsworth’s vote as something the current NDP needs to answer for. Here is Jason Kenney, then of the Canadian Alliance, raising the issue in 2003. At the time, Mr. Kenney was advocating for the use of a “credible threat of force” against Iraq.
Meanwhile, Mr. Harper’s reading of history inspired something of a Twitter meme yesterday and the NDP duly sent up Dan Harris before QP today to inform the House of the highlights. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
In his chat with Postmedia last week, the Prime Minister was directly asked about how the justifications for war in Iraq compare to the justifications for war with Iran.
Postmedia: In 2003, you supported the invasion of Iraq based on stopping them getting weapons of mass destruction. Does the same logic apply with Iran?
Harper: In fairness, the two cases are not exactly similar — I think there was more to the case in Iraq than simply the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But that said, obviously the intelligence was flawed in that case and there was considerable debate around that at the time. I don’t think there’s much debate today among informed people about Iran’s intentions and Iran’s systematic progress toward attaining nuclear weapons.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 12:09 PM - 0 Comments
Weapons and training worth $11 billion will help rebuild Iraq’s military, but may also bolster a sectarian regime
The Obama administration in the US plans to sell $11 billion worth of arms and military aid to Iraq, over concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki may be seeking to consolidate power. According to the New York Times, the sale will proceed despite growing concern about Mr. Maliki’s apparent efforts to marginalize Iraq’s Sunni minority. While the US prefers a strong Iraq as a counterweight to Iranian power, some fear bolstering the Maliki regime could backfire if he aligns himself more closely with Iran’s Shiite theocracy. Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for the Pentagon said, “The purpose of these arrangements is to assist the Iraqis’ ability to defend their sovereignty against foreign security threats.” But Rafe al-Essawi, a prominent Sunni politician who is Iraq’s finance minister, said “It is very risky to arm a sectarian army,” and Kenneth M. Pollack, an expert on national security issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said ““The optics of this are terrible.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 8:40 AM - 4 Comments
Sure, he’s pulling troops out of Iraq, but he’s found lethal new ways to flex America’s military muscle
Barack Obama used U.S. air power to prevent a massacre and facilitate the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. He sent a team of Navy SEALS to conduct a secret surgical strike in Pakistan that took out Osama bin Laden, America’s public enemy number one. He sent a Predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, whose extremist preaching was linked to several attempted terrorist attacks against the U.S. All three objectives were achieved without invasion, occupation, or the loss of American lives.
The last decade was dominated by the Bush administration’s “shock and awe” display of U.S. military might, a swagger that descended into a “long war” of occupation and nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq that left thousands of Americans dead and wounded, and cost upward of a trillion dollars. But cold, calculating and nimble, Obama has turned a new page on the projection of American power. His emphasis on technology, intelligence, and leaning on allies is leaving a smaller and less costly U.S. military footprint on the globe, but one that is proving to be just as lethal to its adversaries.
In his first days as President, Obama ordered interrogation techniques cleaned up and the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be closed within a year. Congress objected, and Guantánamo has remained open, but the President has added zero detainees to the inmate population. Indeed, he’s barely taken any prisoners—instead, he has presided over many more drone strikes against terrorist suspects than George W. Bush. He is not waterboarding enemy prisoners who have been removed from the battlefield; he is killing them where they stand. (The administration denies frequent accusations that it is killing militants when capturing them would have been feasible.)
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
After gaining infamy during the Gulf of Mexico spill, the former BP CEO is now drilling for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan
He became infamous during the Gulf of Mexico spill. Now he’s drilling for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Drilling for oil has become an increasingly risky business. Most unexploited reservoirs are either far below the ocean, or in parts of the world where extracting the fossil fuel is either exceedingly expensive (like Alberta’s oil sands), or too dangerous. And Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP, doesn’t seem fazed by any of it.
After leaving BP last year in the wake of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico spill, Hayward recently re-emerged at the helm of a London-based energy investment company that, far from playing it safe, is hoping to strike it rich in one of the most geopolitically challenging places on earth: Iraqi Kurdistan. With Americans still furious about his now infamous Gulf crisis remark, “I want my life back,” Hayward earlier this year joined forces with financier Nat Rothschild, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Julian Metherell and entrepreneur Tom Daniels to create a so-called “blank cheque” investment company. Called Valleres PLC, it promised to buy and run an oil company somewhere in the world—and raised US$2.2 billion. “He is one of the most talented oil executives in the world,” says Karl Moore, a business professor at McGill University. “And some rich people saw that and said, ‘Hey, now we can get this guy to work for us.’ ”
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10:57 AM - 6 Comments
Book by Dick Cheney
Cheney’s unapologetic memoir, which stretches from a modest childhood in Nebraska and Wyoming to his rise as the most powerful vice-president in history, saves its emotional energy for settling scores, especially against fellow members of the administration of George W. Bush. (One of the few tidbits he does reveal: the secure “undisclosed location” to which he was so often consigned after 9/11 was not some cave bunker but often his own home or the woodsy presidential retreat of Camp David.) On policy, Cheney has few regrets. “One of the most significant accomplishments” of Bush’s presidency, he writes, was “the liberation of Iraq and the establishment of a true democracy in the Arab world.”
The book describes Cheney’s outsized influence in the first Bush term and increasing marginalization in the second. While he successfully pushed for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, by the summer of 2007 he could not persuade Bush to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor. “After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.” Cheney saves his harshest words for Bush’s two secretaries of state. He accuses Condoleezza Rice of misleading Bush while fumbling disarmament talks with North Korea (“We were promising rewards for their duplicity”) and naively seeking diplomatic engagement with villains. “In meeting after meeting, it seemed we had to argue against yet another misguided approach from the State Department.” And Colin Powell is painted as a disloyal colleague who criticizes Bush’s policies to others but not to the president’s face.
The world according to Cheney is dangerous and needs American power. When defence secretary Robert Gates tells the Saudis in late 2007 that Bush would be impeached if he took military action against Iran’s nuclear program, Cheney is livid: Gates “removed a key element of our leverage.” But Cheney’s will not be the last word. Rice’s political memoir is due out Nov. 1.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 2 Comments
Debating the impact of the attacks and how it changed Canadian life, laws and liberties
Last week in St. John’s, Maclean’s and CPAC hosted a round-table conversation entitled, “How has 9/11 changed our world?” In this wide-ranging discussion of the emotional, practical, political and cultural fallout in the decade following the attacks, Maclean’s columnists Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells were joined on the stage by David Collenette, Canada’s minister of transport at the time of 9/11 attacks, Sukanya Pillay, director of the national security program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and Tarek Fatah, political activist, author, broadcaster and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. The discussion was moderated by CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen. The following is an edited excerpt.
Andrew Coyne: I don’t know what future historians will make of the grand sweep of September 11 and its place in world history, but there’s no doubt the last 10 years of our lives have been in the shadow of it and very much dominated by it. If there’s one thing that we should certainly remember on this anniversary it is the nature of the threat that al-Qaeda presented and still to some extent presents. It is, I think, unique and new, something new in world history, the combination of the willingness to inflict casualties on just an enormous scale, and the technological capacity married with it. I do think, though, we should, if we’re putting everything in the balance, take stock of the fact that 10 years later we have seriously degraded al-Qaeda’s capacity. We’ll discuss a lot of the pros and cons of how the battle has been fought, but I just want to leave people with the impression that it was a battle worth fighting, and it’s been broadly successful.
Paul Wells: The question before us is how did his happen, and I think it’s a combination of two things, extremism—or, to use a simpler term, evil—on one side, and complacency on the other. The extremism persists, and the complacency is gone, but it’s important to understand what those 19 men in those airplanes were trying to do: they were trying to provoke the West. The nature of asymmetrical warfare is you use the limited means at your disposal to essentially trip up a much larger and more powerful opponent, and to some extent those 19 men have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. We have to keep our vigilance up, we have to keep working. This is not a war that is going to go away just because a zero comes up at the end of the anniversaries. I think we are still in this for a very long time, which is why we have to make sure that, in defending our values, we don’t betray them.
By Michael Petrou - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 2 Comments
Muslims are rising up—for democracy and civil rights. Why bin Laden’s call to extremism has failed.
Osama bin Laden enjoyed talking about his death. And like other hyper-religious Islamists, he claimed to long for it. “So let me be a martyr, dwelling in a high mountain pass among a band of knights who, united in devotion to God, descend to face armies,” he wrote in a poem he recited in a 2003 audiotape.
Bin Laden could embrace dying because he believed the war he had declared on Jews and “crusaders” was bigger than him and any other individual. It would sweep the Muslim ummah, or nation. “I am just a poor slave of God,” he said in December 2001, shortly after slipping away from the American bombardment of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan. “If I live or die, the war will continue.” With God’s grace, he said, the “awakening” had begun.
Now bin Laden is dead, assassinated by U.S. commandos in a May raid on his secret compound deep inside Pakistan. And indeed, the war between al-Qaeda and its many enemies continues. But al-Qaeda’s destructive nihilism is becoming a lonelier and lonelier pursuit. A decade after its most spectacular and murderous success, al-Qaeda is a shrunken shell of what it once was, rejected by increasing numbers of Muslims and even its onetime spiritual allies.
By Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 12 Comments
Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells debate the successes and failures of the world’s response after 9/11 and how safe we are today
ANDREW COYNE: Perhaps the best way to think about the legacy of Sept. 11 is to think of all the things that haven’t happened. Most obviously, there has been no successful terrorist attack on American soil since then—nor any attempted attack originating from Canadian soil. Neither have there been any of the consequences that might well have followed from a second, possibly worse attack, or in some cases were predicted to follow from the first: no wholesale victimization of Muslims, no long, black night of repression of dissent, no cataclysmic clash of civilizations, and so on.
This is of more than theoretical interest. If, 10 years later, al-Qaeda seems a depleted force, there was no guarantee things would turn out that way, nor did it seem likely at the time. Reviewing television footage from the day, what is striking is the sense of bewilderment in the voices of the normally phlegmatic anchormen, as the planes keep dropping out of the sky. Who could blame them? As of about noon that day, you could have told me California had fallen into the sea and I’d have believed you.
The audacity of attacking the world’s most powerful nation in such spectacular, head-on fashion still has the power to shock. More than anything else, Sept. 11 was a show of strength: look what we can do to you, it announced. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Book by Jason Whiteley
Almost from the moment it began in 2003, the American-led invasion of Iraq has spawned a flood of books on its causes and its course, but few have been as enlightening as this one. In March 2004, then-U.S. Army captain Whiteley was appointed governance officer for al-Dora, one of the most volatile districts in the violent Iraqi capital. His job was to establish and foster a local Iraqi-staffed council, one of the dozens expected to become the seeds that would blossom into functioning institutions in a self-governing state. The key problem facing Whiteley was that he represented one of the most hidebound bureaucracies (the Pentagon) ever known in a district with an imminent need for money and jobs, in a culture that functions by personal word of honour and exchange of favours, legal or otherwise.
Whiteley thought he got the message. Two months into his year-long posting, and finding his council was fast losing authority, unable to tap into any of the quasi-legal economic opportunities in its neighbourhood, he led a convoy of three Humvees of troops to a local scrapyard. There, his men seized a dozen drivers about to take a load of shattered Iraqi military equipment off to Turkey, while Whiteley personally tasered the foreman. When the boss arrived, Whiteley hit him up for an ongoing “tax” of $20,000 per shipment (payable to the council). Thus began Whiteley’s brief career as a player in the Iraqi system: known as “Abu Floos” (Father of Money), the captain was considered a man who kept his word and got things done.
It was exhilarating, Whiteley writes, but also a moral swamp. His quick fixes inevitably alienated one group or another, especially in the face of the larger American failure to establish basic order. When he returned stateside at the end of his tour, it was with the same feeling of personal failure and the same desire to leave it all behind that seems to mark the entire occupation.
By macleans.ca - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
At least 59 dead after a series of bombings
A fresh wave of violence in several Iraqi cities has left at least 59 people dead. In the southeastern city of Kut, police said two bombs that went off at approximately the same time killed at least 37 people and injured dozens of others. No one has taken responsibility yet for the attacks, but the car bombs, roadside bombs and suicide bombs all went off in the morning. U.S. army forces are scheduled to leave the country before the end of the year under a deal worked out in 2008. Violence in the country hit a peak in 2006 and 2007 and cooled off until this recent spell. Iraq’s speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, has condemned the attacks.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, July 25, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 32 Comments
After years of foreign wars and interventions, a new mood of isolationism is sweeping America
It took a truck driver from Manchester, N.H., to put the matter succinctly. “Well, I support the U.S. military,” Greg Salts told the arrayed candidates at the Republican presidential debate in the Granite state last month. “But frankly, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs.” Isn’t it time to close some U.S. bases abroad, he asked. A retired navy man named John Brown also wanted to know, “Osama bin Laden is dead. We’ve been in Afghanistan for 10 years. Isn’t it time to bring our combat troops home from Afghanistan?”
Not so long ago, such questions would have come from Democrats and would have been met with charges of disloyalty and taunts of “cutting-and-running” from Republicans. No longer. The Republican presidential front-runner, Mitt Romney, said in that debate, “We’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation.”And the Tea Party darling, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, said the U.S. should never have intervened in Libya. “First of all, we were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack. There was no vital national interest,” she declared. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman went even further, calling for a smaller U.S. footprint abroad. “The deployments are mighty expensive,” he said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “We’re going to have to look at the map at some point and reset our level of engagement and our deployments in some corners of the world.”
Welcome to the new U.S. reality. As discussions of national security morph into a debate over spending and debt in a nation still limping out of the Great Recession, questions are being raised about just how big a military America can afford—and what happens if the global cop walks off the job? And they are coming not just from Democrats, whose President is drastically drawing down troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, but also from Republicans who for a decade had rallied around a hawkish view of America’s role in the world.
To appreciate how far the mood has shifted, consider the November 2007 Republican presidential debate in St. Petersburg, Fla., where candidates such as John McCain and Rudy Giuliani sought to out-hawk one another and were pressed by voters on whether they would “make a permanent long-term military commitment to the people of Iraq?” Giuliani urged Americans to “stay on the offence” and not to put their “head in the sand,” like their opponents. “You’ve got a Democratic debate and not a single one of those Democratic candidates used the word ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ” he declared. That phrase was used four times in the 2007 GOP debate. In the latest Republican contest, it was not uttered at all.
By Claire Ward - Monday, May 23, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 3 Comments
A smoking ban is not that high on the list of Iraqis’ priorities
Just days after hundreds gathered in downtown Baghdad to demand better services and jobs from their government, the Iraqi parliament sat to consider a ban on smoking in many public places. The measure would also force companies to print harsher warning labels, not unlike efforts in many Western countries.
The bill, first introduced and subsequently dropped in 2009, seems to be particularly out of step with the desires of Iraqis, who can buy a pack for just 25 cents. “I don’t think you could overstate how many people smoke in Iraq,” says Jason Whiteley, a 34-year-old soldier from Houston, Texas, who spent a year in Iraq working in governance. “Every 10 metres there’s a fold-out table with people selling cigarettes.” Surely car bombs, regular power outages and widespread unemployment are more pressing.“The Iraqi hierarchy of needs hasn’t yet reached the point where they are talking about luxury regulations like this,” Whiteley told Maclean’s. “It seems like a bit of a reach that it’s an Iraqi idea. It smells a little bit colonial, to be honest.”
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM - 93 Comments
Andrew Potter’s essay on Michael Ignatieff reminded me of the influence Ignatieff had on my own life, well before he entered politics.
In 2002 I faced something of a dilemma. The previous year I had begun my first real job in print journalism at the Ottawa Citizen. It hadn’t started well. No one ever tells aspiring writers that they’ll start their careers covering car accidents and asking distraught parents how they feel about children drowning in their backyard pools. But this is how it begins. I started thinking about a new line of work.
Then al-Qaeda flew jet planes into New York skyscrapers and murdered thousands. I begged my editor to send me to Afghanistan. He did. My career took off. By 2002 I had the sort of job I always wanted: covering foreign news for the National Post.
In the meantime, however, I had applied to study for a doctoral degree at the University of Oxford and was accepted. I saw a looming fork in the road. But in truth I wanted to do both: journalism and academia; the thrill of breaking news and the deeper satisfaction of digging into a topic for weeks or years, rather than hours.
Michael Igatieff, at the time, straddled both worlds. He was a rare academic who wrote lucid and important journalism. On a whim, I sent him an email at Harvard, where he was running the Kennedy School. Continue…