The guilty point fingers while the innocent repeat the past

On July 4, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

shelton_webBy William C. Shelton

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)

As the American enterprise in Iraq collapses, those responsible point fingers at each other. Their specific criticisms may be accurate, but their aim is to distract attention from their own failures, continuing a 116-year-old pattern of arrogantly, ignorantly and violently interfering in other people’s business.

Over the past three weeks, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS, aka the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) has conducted a blitzkrieg, capturing territory from Aleppo in Northern Syria to Diyala, 40 miles Northwest of Baghdad. The Iraqi Army, for which the U.S. paid $25 billion, has largely folded or fled.

As Vice President, Dick Cheney lied us into war, with cooked evidence of “weapons of mass destruction.” He promised that Americans would be celebrated as liberators and that oil revenues would pay for all our war costs. Instead, the intervention replaced a brutal dictator who was a bulwark against Iranian power with a brutal authoritarian who is loyal to Iran.

In a Wall Street Journal column, Cheney now says that it’s all President Obama’s fault because he did not, “negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace.” Cheney omits that fact that his own administration negotiated the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing American withdrawal.

Obama loyalists predictably respond that he did his best with a mess left by the previous administration. If what President Obama did was the best that he could do, then he should never have applied for his current job.

He inherited an Iraq in which Sunnis working with American troops had completely degraded al Qaeda in Iraq, creating the opportunity for an inclusive government. Instead, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrested Sunni Awakening fighters. Thousand of Sunni men disappeared into prison without charges. Al-Maliki’s 2010 electoral commission disqualified more than 500 Sunni candidates. Although the Iraquia List, an alliance with significant Sunni participation, won a plurality in that election, al-Maliki manipulated the judiciary into placing his own Dawa Party in power.

Obama and his aides wanted so much to put Iraq behind them that their tacit support of al-Maliki and their indifference to his sectarian brutality made renewed civil war almost inevitable. While it’s true that the Bush administration executed the SOFA, the Obama administration had an opportunity to modify its terms, leaving a contingent of American troops in place and some American leverage on al-Maliki. But Ambassador Jim Jeffrey says that he and his negotiators received no direction from the White House.

Getting in on the finger pointing, perennial warmongers John McCain and Lindsey Graham condemn the President without acknowledging their own role. Back when Obama had sufficient wisdom to not arm Syrian insurgents who might turn those arms against U.S. allies, McCain and Graham persuaded Saudi Arabia and Qatar to do so.

Qatar financed Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official franchisee in Syria. Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, financed ISIS, al-Qaeda’s bastard child. ISIS is far more vicious than al-Qaeda ever was, rationalizing mass slaughter, crucifixion, beheading, amputation, and oppression of women as religious zealotry. The Saudis are now beside themselves, Prince Bandar has lost his job, and McCain and Graham are ass covering.

The only national politicians who seem willing to discuss the underlying cause for this disaster are those considered to be on their respective parties fringes, like Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.

That case is that, with breath-taking arrogance, American leaders project force into complex situations of which they are shamefully ignorant. The long-term consequences are almost inevitably disastrous.

In 1951, a British company that completely controlled Iranian oil production refused to negotiate an equal share of its profits with Iran. The Iranian Parliament nationalized the petroleum industry, with broad support from the electorate. At the request of the British government, the CIA overthrew the popular and democratically elected President Mohmmad Mossadegh in 1953.

U.S. oil companies got a share of the Iranian action, and Iranians got 26 years of rule by repression and torture, leading directly to the 1979 Islamist revolution. Today, Iran is developing nuclear weapons and supporting terrorist operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Israel.

In 1951 the people of Guatemala, elected Jacobo Arbenz in that country’s first-ever peaceful transition of power. To drive up commodity prices, the American-owned United Fruit Company had kept 85% of its vast land holdings uncultivated, while peasants starved. For years it told tax assessors that the land’s value was $3.00 per acre. When Guatemala undertook a land reform program, the government offered that amount in compensation.

CIA Director Allen Dulles sat on United Fruit’s board of directors. In 1954 the CIA engineered a coup that overthrew the government. The Agency’s internal review of 150,000 captured documents found no trace of the communist influence that it had claimed.

Nevertheless, U.S. Special Forces trained right-wing paramilitary organizations, and a fraudulent election brought military rule. Death squads and the army began a campaign that eventually slaughtered 200,000 political opponents and indigenous people. Guatemala’s children are now the most malnourished in the hemisphere.

In 1970 Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Sihanouk enjoyed the broad support of his people. A band of 6,000 communist guerillas called the “Khmer Rouge” was unable to make much headway.

Sihanouk steadfastly maintained neutrality in the Vietnam War. A coup in 1970 replaced him with General Lon Nol, who took his orders from the U.S. The Khmer Rouge’s ranks swelled nine fold, enabling them to seize power. Their executions, forced labor, and mass starvation killed two million people.

During the 1980s, the U.S. armed the Afghani mujahideen in their fight against Soviet occupation, despite the mujahideen’s Islamist anti-western ideology. With their combat experience and U.S.-supplied weapons, the mujahideen subsequently became the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The pattern repeats itself: Mexico in 1917; Nicaragua in 1926; the Congo in 1960; Chile in 1973; Vietnam from 1955 to 1975; and on, and on. American foreign policy makers lack the humility to acknowledge their ignorance or the discipline to correct it. Their ham-fisted interventions bring mass murder, starvation, and brutal repression while squandering American blood, wealth, and world standing.

In 1905, George Santayana, then teaching at Harvard, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If our leaders are too hubris addicted to learn from the past, can’t we the people stop enabling them?


18 Responses to “The guilty point fingers while the innocent repeat the past”

  1. Johnie Jazz says:

    Let me save everyone some time from having to read Bill’s opinions here by summarizing another of Bills’ piece: some leftist dogma… leftwing view of history…blame Bush…..anti-USA rhetoric… blame Christians… leftist hatred… DNC talking points….blame Bush…..anti-USA rhetoric… blame Christians….I am smarter than you (just ask me)…blame Bush…..anti-USA rhetoric… blame Christians…. Capitalism is bad.. Communism is good…I have all the answers… more leftist tripe….and then the wrap-up…blame Bush…..anti-USA rhetoric… blame Christians and it’s the USA’s fault for all the problems of the world.

    Why the Somerville News/Times gives this leftist simpleton any space is beyond me. His articles and thought process are so slanted as to make anything that comes out of his pie hole or written from his pen predictable and worthless.

    Can we start a fund (maybe another road race for the mayor to PR!!!) to ship him back to Stockton, CA?

  2. not surprising says:

    not surprising at all. blame Dick Cheney/Bush. Who voted for the invasion? yeah, think about it. No mention of all the Democrats, no mention at all. If Bush/Cheney were wrong, they had lots of (D) company!

  3. JAR says:

    My God Bill, you’re starting to sound like someone who’s read Ron Paul’s “A Foreign Policy of Freedom”.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes said that “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of a broader concept, will never return to its original size.”


  4. ritepride says:

    To paraphrase.. “Dwizzle Dwazzle Dwizzle Drome” time for America’s Prioritizes to be at home.

    You have people like Bill Gates who will take an American to court if he uses the Microsoft product in multiple computers instead of purchasing multiple copies, yet at the same time allow companies in foreign countries to place one program into several hundred computers and not say a word. Then he contributes via his charities to these same countries that have ripped off his product and put millions of Americans out of work.

    Where is the American Civil Liberties Union? Oh ya their in Cuba protecting foreign terrorists rights while fellow Americans who need their help don’t get any.

    What’s our lame duck President & Congress doing other than collecting a salary & great benefits?

    Then we have our Massachusetts political gems, Deval – useless, Mawtha – useless & clueless, and a legislature that functions for their own beneficial gain instead of the taxpayers. A mayor, with the aid of the rubber stamping BOA, made the list of 53 worst politicians in the USA.

  5. Esteban says:

    Right on,Riptide. You are correct!!

  6. Bill,

    It really doesn’t matter who we have for a president. The world is dominated by three forces – military, corporations and banking.

    A close friend once shared, “Cheney is a monster”.

    When our country was on the fast track to economic disaster in 2006, he would say, “It’s going to get worse”. As we approached 2009, I realized my friend was right in his worldly perceptions and continues to remain distressed and cynical about Obama’s decisions and poor performance as president.

    Since 911, questions linger. It’s no secret that Britain and U.S. have been colonizing nations for decades. A relative who is now deceased, worked for the govt, would tell my dad, “If the American people knew how many atrocities are committed in the name of freedom, they would never believe it”. Dad would say, “The capitalists only wage war to make money”. As a young girl not understanding those comments shared between the men of the family at the dinner table, I understand their meaning today. A great deal of propaganda is nothing more than fear mongering. It’s the same fear mongering that got us into Iraq after 911 and WMD which killed the same evil dictator who was put into power by the US to steal oil from the Kuwaiti’s. We talk about freedom, but what freedom do we have when our rights are slowing eroded each day. What about the natural resources which are stolen in other countries and somehow gets swept under the self-righteous all-American tundra. When one man and a multi-billion dollar corporation owns the entire global media network, how do we determine fact from fiction?

  7. Brian T says:

    Excellent analysis Bill. Keep it coming.

  8. Roy says:

    Johnie jjazz
    If Bill is so clearly mistaken, it be better use of your time to bring up a mistake instead of spouting vague partisan labels.

    Iraq is clearly an instance of total backfiring of very expensive policy . This mistake is likely going to be even more expsive long term then it has already been. That’s a big deal. Thinking of it in terms of partisan politics is astonishingly weak analysis.

    Bill is criticizing both parties and trying to find out the key point of this whole mess. What ever it may be that is able to propel American foreign policy so effectively and consistently over many yrs to generate the worse possible outcome for the country.

  9. Johnnie Jazz says:

    Roy, Iraq was won – remember the surge? Obama and his nitwit, corrupt minions gave it all back by being a lying incompetent. That’s the bottom line.

    FYI — I am a registered democrat, but this guy is the worst since Jimmy Carter (and he was awful). I vote for the policies and the person; not partisan BS like Bill and you. You guys need to get your hands out of other’s peoples pockets and start getting out more. Maybe turn on something else besides MSLSD, HiffingJoke and the Dailykooks. Broaden you perspective a bit.

  10. rags says:

    Jazz… In an ideal world everyone would vote for policies first – people second, seats would not be gerrymandered and the politicians would actually vote the desires of their constituents… not the party tow line.

    Sadly that is not the case. Unfortunately the only way we could have won Iraq or Afghanistan was to never go there in the first place.

  11. all that jazz says:

    Wow Jazzy, I before I thought you were a mildly informed idiot. Now I realize you are simply a fool incapable of abstract thought, or even capable of seeing obvious things right in front of you. “Iraq was won -remember the surge?” That is easily the most stupid thing I’ve heard in months, including all of your previous posts. Even if “the surge worked,” you can’t claim that as winning. Putting hundreds of thousands of troops in the desert was a finger in the damn, trying to prevent the inevitable from happening. If we choose to stay in Iraq indefinitely, I’m sure we would enjoy “success” in the form of steady American death tolls, which people like you would call a “victory.” The surge happened because civil war was erupting. We pulled out, now the civil war is on again. Would you like us to reinstitute the surge? Even the Republicans aren’t saying that.
    But it’s ok, because you’re really a Democrat, right? So I’m sure you can go and pull up your pre 2008 musings on Iraq? The ones that point out all of Bush’s faults and reveals his administration doomed Iraq from the start?

  12. Ben Gizzy says:

    Tell us the truth about Benghazi!

  13. Johnie Jazz says:

    I was not in favor of going into Iraq, but once you go in you go in to win. Go big. Also, we did win and then hung around too long to nation build to satisfy the namby-pamby leftists. Then the evil-doe terrorists popped up their heads and we then did the surge – we killed lots of them. Win. The country was stabilizing. Obama comes in and immediately gives back all the hard fought gains. Loss. Those are the FACTS.

    Simple plan and solution: Iraqis killing each other again, so don’t bother putting boots on the ground. Initiate massive B52 raids (rolling thunder, baby!) – end the ISIS run of grabbing land. Non-stop bombing until the ISIS controlled areas are parking lots. Day and night make the skies look like one continuous stream of B52s dropping their payloads. Our allies in the area (Saudis, Israelis, Egyptians, etc.) will love us and our enemies will remember to fear us. And Al Qaeda and their ISIS buddies will be blown to bits.

    Question: Why do progressives always try to over-think things and in the end do nothing? Obama needs to be decisive, but instead he’s an amateur and so we’re stuck with him golfing or vacationing whilst the Mid-East explodes and our borders are invaded.

  14. PixiePocahontas says:

    Talk to an American soldier who was lucky enough to come back alive, with or without permanent injury and they will tell you Iraq was a mistake, another war like Vietnam that could not be won.

    Allies, what allies? You mean the WS banking defrauding American and global innocents of life savings, those allies?

    Cheney and Rummy wanted this war for Iraqi oil and the Afghanistan natural gas pipeline. Capitalists wage war to invade and destroy countries for their precious resources. Remember the so called oil partnership with the Saudis and Bush family dynasty? Junior hired CIA daddy’s henchmen to start a war.

    2.5 million sent to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, how many American soldiers lost their lives and returned with no job or quality of life.
    The Middle East is a place which exists without peace. They have been fighting for centuries. It just proves what morons we have making decisions which cost millions of innocent lives, people who never knew freedom and Bush said it could be taught, pack of lies. You teach them freedom while you pillage and destroy? Great plan.

    The UN should have built a wall like China, anyone trespasses is toast. But there are no friends or enemies, only frienemies- today we are friends and business partners, tomorrow we send in the troops. Make us money, we can forgive anything and give you a free pass to hurt anyone, even Americans.
    Don’t forget those $ producing poppies.

  15. JAR says:


    Your statement that “Capitalists wage war to invade and destroy countries for their precious resources.” is largely correct, except for the first word: “Capitalists”. The correct word should be Corporatists. There is a huge difference. Capitalists risk their own money in any endeavor and bear the consequences of failure (or reap the rewards of success). Corporatists risk OTHERS’ money and, if they lose, have their losses socialized. This is why we have ridiculous concepts like “Too big to fail” being shoved down our throats.

    Two things that must be kept in mind regarding the history of warfare: First off, NO WAR in history was ever prosecuted to protect human rights or any of that BS. Wars are, as you say, always about access to resources, be they natural, human, or whatever.

    Secondly–and perhaps more importantly–EVERY WAR since the dawn of history has been paid for, ultimately, through the inflation of the warring nation’s money supply. This has often (actually, usually) led to the debasement of that nation’s currency and its eventual demise. WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc. Look at the timeline of events not just before, but AFTER the war, and you’ll see this pattern repeat itself over and over.

    Capitalists rely on free markets, which would not tolerate un-productive capital for very long, and warfare produces nothing except the hidden tax of inflation, which saps the productivity from people’s labors. Corporatists rely on controlled markets and elimination of competition.


  16. PixiePocahontas says:

    Okay JAR, however, there are many who invest in the mass production of weaponry and such corporations. What do we call them, national and international silent partners? My parents were deeply effected by WWII as thousands of others, words spoken were “Capitalists pigs make war for money”. This was during the late 60’s, so they must have been angry about Vietnam and lamenting about WWII. We didn’t always have corporalists who were running the global economy, this was brought to light after 911.

    I really wish people would realize we no longer have a two party system. Obama, Obama, Obama — he’s just a puppet like the rest before him. Those silent partners making millions on our boys and girls dying are the invisible benefactors. Again, the only three entities ruling the world– banking, military and corporations, who cannot succeed their ill conceived affairs unless in concert working on the same mission.

    Look what they’ve done to Central America over the past 50 years, and you wonder why everyone tries to escape. Guess who puts the dictators in power? Now guess who takes them out? Just ask anyone who’s done research in foreign lands. In many cases, it all starts here. There were some researchers who believed it was our screwed up foreign policies which led to 911. It’s not a good feeling to learn the boogeyman has been sleeping under your bed, does it?

  17. Brian Murphy says:

    Thank you for that refreshing clarity, JAR. And Bill, thanks for yours as well.

    “I was not in favor of going into Iraq, but once you go in you go in to win. Go big.” Uh… Isn’t that exactly what Obama said, Johnnie? He voted against going in and then said that if we were going to do it we would need a lot more troops”

    Johnnie, would you point out anything in this article that is false?

  18. Johnie Jazz says:

    Brian, when Obama did become president (a vote I will regret for the rest of my days!) he managed to lose it by not paying attention to it and the problems that started cropping up. The world is a powder keg because Obama has failed to lead. He’s been the president since 2008 – the buck stops with him as much as he and his minions try to avoid taking any responsibility and finger point at others (this article being an example). Getting tired of Obama not manning up and dealing with things.

    and Bill is just a leftwing, progressive mouthpiece. I don’t bother reading his articles because I know his “points” will be straight line talking points handed to him by the progressives.

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