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Quagmires R Us: Now Adding Libya to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq

7:34 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Dial "Q" for quagmire. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarkably, the US is sending “clandestine” CIA teams into Libya to coordinate bombing runs and to provide contact with the rebels there at the same time that courts in Pakistan are still sorting out how Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country after his blood money payment despite having been placed on the Exit Control List.  Also, Washington is gearing up for a “debate” on drawing down US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military now angling to narrow the options to include only insignificant numbers to be withdrawn.  Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the remaining “non-combat” US troops there, violence in Iraq continues, with 56 killed in a single attack Wednesday.

In Pakistan, the Lahore High Court has given various government offices until April 8 to respond to a petition that has been filed with the court requesting information on how CIA operative Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country despite having been placed on the Exit Control List:

The petition, filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery, requested the court to seek explanation from Federal Law Minister Babar Awan, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, AD&SJ Mohammad Yousuf Aujla and others as to why they facilitated Davis in his acquittal and emergent departure despite the fact that his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

/snip/

The petitioner had stated that the LHC had directed the interior ministry to place Davis’s name on the ECL and the court was also assured by a law officer and the ministry that the order had been complied with.

He had further said that the court order was in place when Davis was released and the LHC had not suspended or withdrawn its order and no such application was filed by any one on behalf of Davis.

The petitioner had therefore alleged that the government and its functionaries released Davis ignoring the order of the LHC through which his name was placed on the ECL.

And yet, despite the ongoing fallout from the CIA’s continuing misadventures in Pakistan, Obama has signed a “finding” allowing CIA teams to enter Libya with assignments that appear to be very similar to Davis’ reported activities in developing targets for drone attacks:

The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.

/snip/

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

/snip/

In addition, the American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities. American officials cautioned, though, that the Western operatives were not directing the actions of rebel forces.

Given the track record of the US in these matters, you can bet that it is only a matter of time until our operatives are engaged not just in “directing the actions” of the the rebels but also actively engaged in the miraculous “training” that always is just on the verge of achieving success, but needs only another Friedman Unit or two to be completed. Of course, we probably also will need some drone strikes to “protect” the rebels and their trainers, too.

At the more mature end of the quagmire process that is beginning in Libya, we are about to move to the next phase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports Thursday morning on the upcoming battle over the extent of troop reductions this summer:

Military leaders and President Obama’s civilian advisers are girding for battle over the size and pace of the planned pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate.

Despite the fact that Obama is the Commander in Chief, Obama is following his usual negotiation strategy by allowing others to set the parameters of the debate:

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon, but some senior officers and military planning documents have described the July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House.

/snip/

As both sides prepare for what they expect to be a vigorous debate, they are seeking ways to achieve their favored outcome by limiting what the other can do. For the military, that means crafting a narrow set of choices, because there is general agreement that reduction numbers need to originate in the field, not be imposed by the White House. But the National Security Council may attempt to impose its own limitations by setting a date by which all the surge forces must be brought home, the officials said.

And how is that going to work out? We only need go as far as Iraq to find out. The “drawdown” there was finalized by redefining the remaining troops as “non-combat”. And that is going just swimmingly:

Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for a bloody siege in Tikrit in which 56 people were killed, Iraqi officials have said.

Tuesday’s attack took place at a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

A fierce gun-battle ended when the attackers – numbering about eight – blew themselves up.

Just how many quagmires do we have to be engaged in simultaneously for the military-industrial-congressional complex to be satisfied?

US, UK Governments Commit to Libyan War Despite Citizen Opposition

5:51 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Another $1 million Tomahawk missile being fired from the USS Stout toward Libya on March 19. (US Navy photo)

While debate in the US drones on about whether Barack Obama needed Congressional approval before launching attacks on Libya, there seems to be little doubt that Congress would have approved the attacks, which cost the US over $100 million on the first day in missiles alone. Taking this action puts the US government directly at odds with its citizens, who favor reducing the defense budget before any “austerity” measures begin to cut Social Security or Medicare. Similarly, a new poll finds that only one in three Britons agree with the attack on Libya, while Parliament voted 557 to 13 in favor of the attack. Why do the US and UK governments push for war while ignoring the peaceful desires of their citizens?

It is admirable on some fronts that both far left and far right politicians have pointed out that Congressional approval is required before military action is initiated. As the New York Times points out:

Some Democratic lawmakers — including Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Barbara Lee of California and Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts — complained in a House Democratic Caucus conference call as the bombing began that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the attack without Congressional permission.

That sentiment was echoed by several Republican lawmakers — including Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland — as well as in editorials and columns published over the weekend and on Monday in conservative opinion outlets like the Washington Times editorial page and National Review.

Sadly, though, this small number of elected officials who are calling for Constitutional requirements to be followed would be vastly outnumbered should the question actually be brought to a vote. A huge majority of US lawmakers would quickly rush to put their names on the record as authorizing these attacks, just as they did in the ill-fated attack on Iraq, where the AUMF passed by votes of 420 to 1 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate. Correction, those were the Afghanistan AUMF votes, Iraq was marginally closer, 296 to133 in the House and 77 to 23 in the Senate [h/t Rebecca Griffin for catching the error]. Even when the citizens do not want war, US elected representatives vote overwhelmingly in its favor.

One only needs to go back less than two weeks to find the latest poll in which Americans came out in favor of reducing defense spending:

A majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from public retirement and health programs, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed.

The poll found 51 percent of Americans support reducing defense spending, and only 28 percent want to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. A mere 18 percent back cuts in the Social Security retirement program.

Yet, with a majority of Americans wanting to cut the Defense budget, President Obama unilaterally decided to engage the country in another war, blowing over $100 million on missiles in the first day alone. From the conservative National Journal:

With U.N. coalition forces bombarding Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi from the sea and air, the United States’ part in the operation could ultimately hit several billion dollars — and require the Pentagon to request emergency funding from Congress to pay for it.

The first day of Operation Odyssey Dawn had a price tag that was well over $100 million for the U.S. in missiles alone. And the U.S. military, which remains in the lead now in its third day, has pumped millions more into air- and sea-launched strikes targeting air-defense sites and ground-force positions along Libya’s coastline.

The politicians in Washington blather about the need to cut Social Security and to remove all federal funding from NPR, while also complaining that they didn’t get to vote in favor of spending another few billions of dollars the US doesn’t have in a war that does not directly affect US security unless that security is defined only by access to oil at low prices.

It is no better in the UK. Politicians there did get the opportunity to vote on involvement in Libya:

The debate focused on Resolution 1973, passed by the United Nations Security Council last week. This authorises “all necessary measures”, short of bringing in an occupying force, to protect Libyan citizens from the Gaddafi regime, which has been fighting rebel forces.

The Commons motion – which was backed by 557 MPs and opposed by 13 – followed a second night of US-led action in Libya, with Col Gaddafi’s sprawling Bab al-Aziziya complex in Tripoli among the locations hit.

And yet, Britons do not want this war:

Only one in three Britons agree with the decision to take military action in Libya, a poll published Monday showed.

The ComRes/ITN poll found that 43 percent disagreed with the action and 22 percent were unsure. Just under half of those surveyed felt military action was an unnecessary risk for Britain to take.

Haunted by the experience of the recent Iraq war and continued losses in Afghanistan, Britons told Reuters they were wary of getting dragged into another lengthy foreign conflict at a time of belt-tightening at home.

When it comes to war, politicians in the US and UK hear only the call to war, not their citizens’ call to avoid war and cut defense spending to decrease deficits.