Samir’s Selection 01/02/2016 (p.m.)

  • tags: Iran Iraq war SaddamHussein USsecurity USforeign Kissinger history-forgotten MiddleEast JacquesChirac DonaldRumsfeld

    • the glee with which United States policy makers watched the war, an eight-year storm of steel that killed as many as a million people
    • The most famous line about the war is also the most fatuous. Henry Kissinger is said to have remarked that it was “a shame there can only be one loser.” In fact, they both lost: Few modern wars have so thoroughly broken, traumatized and destroyed both sides, and few have turned out to have had such disfiguring effects on the region or on American foreign policy.
    • The war started small. In September 1980, Saddam Hussein began invading and annexing Iranian territory, in a move that foreshadowed his annexation of Kuwait a decade later.
    • Razoux has consolidated a large number of previous accounts of the war and interviewed key figures, and his book follows the developments with meticulous cataloging of dates and troop numbers, and staggering butcher’s bills of dead and wounded for each advance and counterattack.
    • In a brief offensive in early August 1983, for example, “the Iranians are believed to have sustained 7,000 dead,” Razoux writes. Compare this with about 4,500 American dead in the 10 years after the fall of Hussein.
    • This is the sort of book in which thousands of men are electrocuted while wading across a swamp (an incident that rates three sentences) and an entire Iraqi battalion is “sacrificed” by Hussein so he can test a new nerve agent (an incident that rates one).
    • Hussein sends generals and others who disappoint him to the firing squad, and he maintains a personality cult and internal security apparatus perpetually devoted to pruning back the officer corps and eliminating dissent.
    • Khomeini at least showed regret about the cost of the war to his country. But he enthusiastically sent 80,000 Iranian children to their deaths, with promises of paradise for the martyred. He commissioned a toy company to manufacture gold-colored plastic keys, so kids could wear them around their necks as reminders that their detonation by mines or slaughter by ­machine-gun fire would unlock the gates of paradise.
    • the Iran-contra affair
    • the conflict in Lebanon
    • Jacques Chirac, France’s prime minister before the war, comes across as particularly slimy. Donald Rumsfeld, who as an American envoy met with Hussein several times during the war and showered him with money and weaponry, gives the impression that he had to hold his nose while dealing with the man, but that distaste made him no less useful to Hussein. When Hussein first met Rumsfeld, he presented him with a videocassette of Syrian women chewing the heads off snakes. One wonders whether Rumsfeld still has a copy.
    • (The book translates “peshmerga,” the name used by Kurdish guerrillas, as “literally, ‘freedom fighters,’” when it means “those before death”
    • He rightly compares Iran-Iraq to World War I. But think how little we would understand of Verdun or Ypres with no account from the soldiers themselves, and how little we can hope to know about events as inhumane and terrible as these without the voices of those who suffered through them.
    • The current commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassim Suleimani, was a 31-year-old officer when Iran and Iraq finally agreed to a truce in 1988. His consciousness was forged in that war. Last March, as Iran led efforts in Iraq to take back towns from the Islamic State, Iran distributed photos of Suleimani in Tikrit, Hussein’s childhood home, after weeks of fighting. It is difficult not to notice that he — an Iranian treading confidently on his former archenemy’s turf — is smiling in those photos. To the Iranians, the fight against the Islamic State is a chance, nearly 30 years later, to win Khomeini’s war.
  • tags: Krugman privilege wealth inequality arrogance narcissism selfawareness power politics corruption Obama

    • Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.
    • Modern America is a society in which a growing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and these people have huge political influence — in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came from fewer than 200 wealthy families. The usual concern about this march toward oligarchy is that the interests and policy preferences of the very rich are quite different from those of the population at large, and that is surely the biggest problem.
    • Just to be clear, the biggest reason to oppose the power of money in politics is the way it lets the wealthy rig the system and distort policy priorities. And the biggest reason billionaires hate Mr. Obama is what he did to their taxes, not their feelings. The fact that some of those buying influence are also horrible people is secondary.

      But it’s not trivial. Oligarchy, rule by the few, also tends to become rule by the monstrously self-centered. Narcisstocracy?

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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