• When to Speak? Gates Chooses the Coward’s Path

    June 21, 2011 // Comments Off on When to Speak? Gates Chooses the Coward’s Path

    Despite their direct connection to our Constitution and our freedoms, particularly the freedom to speak, Federal employees are often the least likely to exercise those rights.

    Enter Robert Gates, or rather, exit Robert Gates. Gates, first as head of the CIA and then as SecDef, played a significant role in America’s naughty actions over the past years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, Horn of Africa… well, the list goes on and it is likely that the list Gates can make is a lot longer than what we know.

    Yet it is only now, as he leaves office, that Gates is willing to speak up. The story in the New York Times is headlined Looking Back, Gates Says He’s Grown Wary of ‘Wars of Choice’.

    Gates has murmurered that war in Libya might not have been such as good idea. NATO sort of sucks these days, too.

    The AP has Gates saying out loud what a lot of people already knew, that the violence in Iraq is fueled by Iran.

    In a summation statement, Gates said:

    “When I took this job, the United States was fighting two very difficult, very costly wars. And it has seemed to me: Let’s get this business wrapped up before we go looking for more opportunities.

    “If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital US national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go.’ I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”


    (Insert the sound of one person clapping slowly here, ironic applause.)

    It is easy, standing at the door, to suddenly reveal that all these years have been a mistake, that hey, behind the scenes you were wary of the very wars you publicly led. Gates wants it both ways, to be remembered as a loyal Federal wage slave while at the same time wanting history to record him as having known right from wrong. No doubt he has a book deal in the works where he’ll beat that theme to death for more money.

    That is the easy way out. We will be unlikely to ever know what Gates said in private with any accuracy, and so only have his constant stream of public support to assess him by. Like his predecessor in this kind of thing, Robert McNamara, Gates is a coward. McNamara defended publicly and indeed enlarged the war in Vietnam, killing thousands, while privately holding significant reservations about his own actions. He tried to atone for his sins at the World Bank and through a weepy memoir, but one hopes he died a bitter old man as real penance.

    If Gates had even a modicum of guts he would have spoken up long ago, and been willing to pay the price for it, instead of overseeing so many wars of choice he now says he was wary of. So forgive us if we are unmoved by Robert Gates’ recent statements. We’re sure he meant well.

    And happy belated Father’s Day, Bob.

    (Editor’s note: the title of Van Buren’s book, We Meant Well, is intended to be ironic. No need to write in to complain, citizens.)



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    Posted in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Military

    Iraq Democracy Watch

    June 12, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    SecDef Robert Gates brayed that “Something we could not have predicted five months ago is that Iraq would emerge as the most advanced Arab democracy in the entire region.”

    So, in honor of Gates’ proclamation, This Week in Iraqi Democracy is brought to you by the letter F, and the 4,460 American soldiers’ lives wasted in the US war in Iraq:


    — Two rival Iraqi lawmakers came to blows inside parliament on Sunday at a time of rising tension between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite bloc and a rival Sunni-backed alliance.

    — One civilian was killed and four were wounded in a bomb blast in Jihad area in Baghdad, security sources said. “A bomb planted near a football playground exploded, which led to killing one civilian and wounding four,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq.

    — Violence north of Baghdad on Saturday killed 10 people, including five members of a Sunni Arab family slain early in the morning, Iraqi security and medical officials said. In Saturday’s deadliest attack, a primary school teacher and his family were gunned down inside their home in Salaheddin province.

    — Rand Paul took exception to the number of Iraqi refugees who have been granted asylum in the United States. “There’s a democratic government over there, and I think they need to be staying and helping rebuild their country,” he said. “We don’t need them over here on government welfare. Why are we admitting 18,000 people for political asylum from Iraq, which is an ally of ours?” The United States has resettled more than 54,000 Iraqi refugees since 2006 and has given over $2 billion in assistance to displaced Iraqis, according to the State Department.

    — The US Embassy in Iraq is distancing itself from statements made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that led to an Iraqi government spokesman saying the congressman and his delegation are not welcome in the country.

    — “I am protesting against everything because everything is wrong,” said Mohammed Jassim, a 28-year-old jobless protester. Hundreds took to the streets of Iraqi cities on Friday, denouncing what they say was a lack of government progress after a 100-day deadline set by Prime Minister al Maliki expired. The demonstration was overshadowed by a larger rally of some 3,000 people, also at Tahrir Square, calling for the execution of 25 accused insurgents. Many of the anti-government protesters were beaten with sticks.

    — A Shiite militia group in Iraq claimed a rocket attack which killed five US soldiers, a strike that revived security concerns as US forces prepare to pull out at the end of the year. Another U.S. soldier was killed in south Iraq on Wednesday.

    — CNN reported that Iraq liquor store owners fear for their lives amid attacks. “It’s the most dangerous job to have a liquor store in Baghdad because there are many groups against this kind of business, either within the government or outside it,” said Yaqoub, a Yazidi minority that has been a target of insurgents in recent years. “It’s painful to see this happening to our country, ” said 46-year-old Essa, a Christian. “All Iraqis used to live together, and it didn’t matter who was Sunni or who was Shiite, who was Muslim or who was Christian.”

    — In Australia, local media ran a story headlined Betrayed: Jobless Iraqis in Despair, about how three years after they fled Iraq on secret flights, all but a tiny fraction of former interpreters are unemployed and have to rely on government benefits. Many are fearful and highly secretive, believing if their names or faces are made public, militia in Iraq who regard them as traitors for helping Australian forces will carry out reprisals on their relatives.

    — In the US, authorities unsealed a 23-count indictment against two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, KY, on charges that the men allegedly conspired to provide material support in the form of money, weapons and explosives to Al Qaeda in Iraq and that one man plotted to kill Americans abroad. The two men arrived in the United States as refugees from Iraq in 2009.


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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Military