United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

BACKGROUND: On the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (or Syria) (ISIL or ISIS)

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For those without the time or patience to peruse it themselves, here is a summary of the information in the Wikipedia article on ISIS.[1]  --  Or, if you prefer, ISIL.  --  The difference hinges on the difficulty of translating the Arabic term al-Sham, which refers not to present-day Syria but so-called 'Greater Syria,' often dubbed 'the Levant' in modern Western literature and encompassing the Eastern Mediterranean region.  --  Either translation is defensible.  --  A few other related sources have also been consulted....

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 June 2014 01:24 Read more...
 

CARTOGRAPHY: The scale of ISIS operations

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The Washington Post published a map on Friday superimposing Iraq and Syria on the eastern United States to give a sense of the scale of operations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which aspires to redraw the map of the Middle East and is now on the attack in Iraq.[1] ...

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NEWS: Iran open to working with US in Iraq to check ISIS, support Maliki

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The Pentagon is blaming the sectarian policies and governance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the aftermath of the U.S. departure in 2011 for the "structural breakdown" of Iraqi military forces, Defense One reported Thursday.[1]  --  A new approach may be in the offing, since many in the Pentagon believe the present situation is not a continuation of the U.S. "mission" in Iraq.  --  "In the halls of the Pentagon, many service members are disappointed that Iraq has spiraled out of control," Stephanie Gaskell said.  --  "But many agree with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who said in January that U.S. troops had completed their mission in Iraq."  --  War makes strange bedfellows, and there is so much concern in Tehran about the turn recent events have taken in Iraq that the Iranian leadership is open to "the possibility of working with the United States to support Baghdad," Reuters reported Friday.[2] ...

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NEWS: US response to Iraq crisis expected 'within a few days'

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The White House is "scrambling" to counter the dramatic success of this week's sudden ISIS offensive in Iraq, but "the frenzy of activity has yet to produce a tangible American response," the New York Times reported late Thursday.[1]  --  The Associated Press reported that the president "was expected to decide on a course of action within a few days."[2]  --  Airstrikes and the shipment of weapons seem likely; "There were no calls for putting American troops back on the ground in Iraq, and Obama's advisers said the president had no desire to plunge the U.S. back into a conflict there," Julie Pace and Lara Jakes said....

Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 15:12 Read more...
 

ANALYSIS: Architects of Iraqi disaster telling us what to do now -- will we never learn?

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Here they come: the claims that Barack Obama is to blame for the mess in Iraq.  --  According to Robert Parry, such claims are "a direct consequence of the failure to enforce any meaningful accountability on the neocons and others who pushed the Iraq War."[1]  --  "The same pundits and pols continue to shape U.S. public opinion today and are dominating the narratives on Iraq and Syria," despite the fact that they were responsible for the catastrophic disaster that is Iraq....

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NEWS: Kurds seize Kirkuk after Iraqi troops flee; Iraq 'on the brink of disintegration'

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Iraq is "on the brink of disintegration," and Kurdish forces seized Kirkuk after Iraqi government troops abandoned the important northern oil city, the Washington Post reported Thursday.[1]  --  In the White House, President Barack Obama (now being blamed by many for having abandoned the country the U.S. invaded in 2003) said his "national security team is looking at all the options," the New York Times reported.[2]  --  "I don't rule out anything," he said.  --  While the U.S. president hesitated, "[t]here were unconfirmed reports that Iran, an ally of Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government, had sent Revolutionary Guards into Iraq to help him fight the Sunni militants.  --  The Times of London, in its account, said the Iranians included a 150-member unit of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force."  --  But "Iraqi Shiite militia leaders contacted in Baghdad said they knew of no such assistance from Iran." ...

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 23:42 Read more...
 

NEWS: 'At least half a million' flee after 'sudden collapse of the Iraqi army'

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In May Iraq asked the U.S. to bomb ISIS "staging areas" with drones or warplanes, but "so far, the administration has signaled that it is not interested in such a direct American military role," the New York Times reported Wednesday.[1]  --  According to the Wall Street Journal, which "was the first to report the request," the White House "is mulling several options, 'including the possibility of providing "kinetic support" for the Iraqi military,'" NBC News reported.[2]  --  But this is like applying a Band-Aid to an amputated limb, given that Iraq is seeing a major military collapse:  the London Guardian reported that "two divisions of Iraqi soldiers -- roughly 30,000 men -- simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters."[3]  --  "At least half a million residents of northern Iraq are reported to be on the move, with most attempting to flee to the Kurdish far north where border officials were overwhelmed and expecting refugee numbers to increase sharply in coming days," Martin Chulov, Fazel Hawramy, and Spencer Ackerman said.  --  Save The Children called it "one of the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory."  --  The border between Syria and Iraq is "increasingly irrelevant."  --  "Statements released by the group claimed that the assault on Mosul was the beginning of the end of the Sykes Picot agreement -- the post-colonial settlement which in 1916 enshrined the nation states of Syria and Lebanon and influenced the drawing of the Jordan and Iraq borders.  --  ISIS commanders say they are fighting to destroy the post-Ottoman nation state borders and restore a caliphate that submits to fundamentalist Islamic law." ...

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COMMENTARY: For what? For what?

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Michael Moore's thoughts and feelings on the fall of Mosul are eloquently expressed.[1] ...

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 01:15 Read more...
 

NEWS: Mosul, Iraq's 2nd-largest city, falls to ISIS

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Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, has fallen to ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [or 'the Levant'], formerly known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq).  --  Iraqi forces defending the city "apparently crumbled," and thousands of residents are on the roads, fleeing the region.  --  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "ordered a state of emergency for the entire country and called on friendly governments for help, without mentioning the United States specifically," the New York Times reported.  --  ISIS's stated goals are "erasing the border with Syria and establishing an Islamic state that transcends both," Suadad al-Salhy and Tim Arango noted.[1]  --  The Christian Science Monitor called the fall of Mosul a "crushing defeat for not only Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's security policies but for Iraqi politics as a whole."[2]  --  "The scale of the catastrophe . . . can't be overstated," Dan Murphy said.  --  He characterized the ISIS military as "well-organized and armed."  --  The Washington Post recalled that Mosul "was once held out as a success story for the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Iraq."[3]  --  Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan said that ISIS now "controls what amounts to an unofficial state across swaths of the north and east from which government forces have been ejected." ...

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TRANSLATION: 'This grotesque reform must be opposed' (Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

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In an entry posted on his blog on Saturday and translated in toto below, Front de Gauche co-leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon posted his reasons for opposing the proposed administrative reorganization of France proposed by French President François Hollande.[1] ...

Last Updated on Monday, 09 June 2014 06:19 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: Angry, unhealthy debate on Bergdahl manipulated by media pros

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On Saturday Donna Brazile refuted nine of the dubious assertions fueling the uproar over the release of an American soldier held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  --  She marveled at viciousness of "a media firestorm . . . the likes of which we have rarely seen," but said that it was "fed by misinformation, misplaced anger, and passion" and that she saw "evidence . . . of a public lynching of Sgt. Bergdahl, based on information now revealed as selectively fed to the public by skillful media professionals."[1]  --Mark]

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 June 2014 07:02 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: 'The backlash against globalization has arrived' (Nouriel Roubini)

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On Saturday, noted economist Nouriel Roubini added his voice to those who see parallels between the 2010s and the 1930s.  --  "As in the 1930s, when the Great Depression gave rise to authoritarian governments in Italy, Germany, and Spain, a similar trend now may be underway."[1]  --  Major political consequences are coming:  "If income and job growth do not pick up soon, populist parties may come closer to power at the national level in Europe, with anti-E.U. sentiments stalling the process of European economic and political integration.  Worse, the euro zone may again be at risk:  Some countries (the United Kingdom) may exit the E.U.; others (the U.K., Spain, and Belgium) eventually may break up."  --  Roubini concluded with a grave warning:  "In the 1930s, the failure to prevent the Great Depression empowered authoritarian regimes in Europe and Asia, eventually leading to World War II. . . . Today’s backlash against trade and globalization should be viewed in the context of what, as we know from experience, could come next." ...

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ANALYSIS: France's Front National: 'Hard to define, shifting & unformed, inconsistent'

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In a nuanced analysis of France's Front National, the BBC's Hugh Schofield said Thursday that the far-right party "has an unresolved contradiction at its heart.  --  It may seek to be mainstream, but the belief in something more radical -- a revolutionary return to 'national values' -- has never entirely gone away."[1]  --  The party's baggage is heavy and alarming:  "Its origins lie in the Catholic, monarchist right that never accepted the republic.  --  That strand in French politics led the anti-Semitic campaign against Captain Alfred Dreyfus; fought Communists in the 1930s; ranted against Freemasons and Jews; joined the collaborationist Vichy regime during World War II; fought a rearguard battle against Algerian independence."  --  But "[r]ight now everything is conspiring to make [Marine Le Pen's coming to power in Paris] seem possible." ...

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COMMENTARY: 'China-Russia strategic alliance fundamental fact of 21st century'

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Never mind that a billionaire ended up in Ukraine's presidency as a result.  --  Officially, the U.S. claims the overthrow of the Yanukovych régime was the heroic expression of the popular will.  --  But as Pepe Escobar sees it, that narrative is just pablum for the masses (if they happen to be paying attention).  --  "The putsch in Ukraine -- part of Washington's pivot to 'contain' Russia -- just served to accelerate Russia's pivot to Asia, which sooner or late would become inevitable."[1]  --  The U.S. doesn't have much to show for its recent wars.  --  "China is buying at least half of Iraq's oil production -- and is investing heavily in its energy infrastructure.  --  China has invested heavily in Afghanistan's mining industry -- especially lithium and cobalt.  --  And obviously both China and Russia keep doing business in Iran.  --  So this is what Washington gets for over a decade of wars, incessant bullying, nasty sanctions. and trillions of misspent dollars." ...

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TRANSLATION: A left analysis of European election results in France: nothing can stop the Front National

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Front de Gauche leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has a very dire view of the significance of the May 25 European election results in France, in which the far-right Front National party won a percentage of the vote (24.85%) that was higher than that of any other.  --  For Mélenchon, the handwriting is on the wall.  --  "[B]ecause the dynamic is with her, nothing any more can block Madame Le Pen's way," Mélenchon said.  --  Mélenchon posted his views on Friday on his blog; they are translated in their entirety below.[1] ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 May 2014 06:39 Read more...
 

NEWS & COMMENT: Obama affirms belief in American exceptionalism

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Speaking at West Point on Wednesday, President Barack Obama declared that his foreign policy is grounded in the hubristic theology of American exceptionalism.  --  "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," CNN said he told graduating cadets.[1]  --  CNN referred to this religiously grounded theory as "a tenet of conservative ideology."[1]   --  COMMENT:  Obama's American exceptionalism is a licentious variant of the doctrine.  --  It allows an imperial president to pursue whatever good (and goods) he declares to be imperative to the national interest, even as it condones and sometimes inspires evils like torture, the Iraq war, mass surveillance, nuclear weapons, and militarism.  --  Obama said that "American values and legal traditions don't permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders."  --  But since he signed the 2012 NDAA, he apparently thinks they do allow the indefinite detention of people inside U.S. borders....

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NEWS: Ukraine's Poroshenko unleashes heavy weapons at Donetsk airport, killing dozens

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"[W]hen a group of around 200 separatist fighters attempted to seize [the Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine] in the early hours of Monday morning they met with serious resistance, including air strikes," the London Guardian reported Tuesday.[1]  --   "[T]he airport appeared to be a red line for the Ukrainian authorities, and when a group of around 200 fighters attempted to seize it in the early hours of Monday morning they met with serious resistance, including air strikes" and, for the first time, "heavy weaponry," Shaun Walker said.  --  The Ukrainian interior minister said the airport was "completely under control," and said Ukrainian forces had taken "no losses."  --  Reuters said that "more than 50 pro-Russian rebels" had been killed.[2]  --  Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro "Poroshenko and other leaders in Kiev may have calculated that the election, by bestowing legitimacy on the authorities, makes it harder for Putin to justify intervention," Sabina Zawadzki and Gabriela Baczynska said.  --  Wednesday's New York Times reported that among the rebels' wounded were "Chechen soldiers of fortune" from inside the Russian Federation.[3] ...

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 05:09 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: Military infographics -- an appreciation

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Some people gratify their sense of wonder by watching birds.  --  Others marvel at botanical forms, or star-gaze.  --  Then there are those whose taste for contemplation demands something more complex, something combining the tang of the sublime and the complexity of phenomenology with a soupçon of action-oriented fantasy.  --  Paul Ford, a 40-year-old writer and programmer, is one of those, so some nights he likes to "get the kids to bed, pour a drink, and search the web for military-produced PDFs in order to look at the amazing graphics within them."[1]  --  You should try it, too, if you have a taste for generalization and conceptualization -- for philosophy, really -- and a gnawing sense that things are changing fast.  --  Professional philosophers or armchair metaphysicians are not the ones effecting these analyses.  --  No, they're agents of the national security state being paid to imagine future warfare, and they're "operating at a conceptual level beyond every other school of thought except perhaps academic philosophy, because [the United States Military] has a much larger budget."  --  Ford's introduction to this genre is a blog piece entitled "Amazing Military Infographics: An Appreciation." ...

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NEWS & COMMENT: Memorial Day weekend takes Barack Obama back to Afghanistan

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On Sunday, instead of fine-tuning the foreign-policy address he intends to make Wednesday at West Point, President Barack Obama flew to Afghanistan.  --  "Thank you for your extraordinary service," USA Today said he told the troops assembled to hear him.[1]  --  The president talked to them about 9/11:  "That's why you're here."  --  He said they've "helped to prevent attacks and save lives back home."  --  COMMENT:  In fact the U.S. military adventure in Afghanistan has cost, not saved, lives.  --  More than 2,300 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan.  --  There is no reliable estimate of the total number who have died.  --  Originally dubbed in 2001 "Operation Infinite Justice," it was later renamed "Operation Enduring Freedom."  --  At more than three times World War II, "Operation Infinite Endurance" would have been more apt.  --  In his Memorial Day message to the nation, President Obama said he was speaking "as our war in Afghanistan ends."  --  But since both candidates in June's presidential runoff in Afghanistan have "pledged to move ahead with the security pact with the U.S.,"[2] don't bet on it....

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BACKGROUND: How Hungary became a one-party state inside the EU

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The case of Hungary shows what a threadbare fiction representative democracy is becoming in our increasingly neo-Orwellian 21st-century corporatocracies.   --  In the land of Liszt ingenious "new authoritarians" have "figured out how to use the weapons of neoliberalism against their opponents" to set up a one-party state, the Nation reported in a lengthy background piece posted on May 6.[1]  --  When Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party came to power in Hungary in 2010, it used its majority to rewrite election laws.  --  Thus in 2014 Fidesz was able to turn 45% of the popular vote into a two-thirds majority in parliament and the ability to amend the country's constitution at will.  --  Yet from 2010 to 2014 the number of Hungarians who actually voted for the party declined by 21%.  --  Fidesz's modus operandi is a crafty legalism, "stitching together perfectly normal rules from the laws of various E.U. members into a monstrous new whole," Kim Lane Scheppele explained.  --  Fidesz has found a use for financial austerity, too:  the purging from government payrolls of those hostile or unsympathetic to it.  --  At the same time it has taken control of mass media.  --  "In a public lecture in Washington, D.C., last December [2013], former Soviet-era dissident (and post-communist mayor of Budapest) Gábor Demszky said that the current Hungarian government has created a system that is more repressive than the communist government of the 1980s.  --  When challenged by Anna Stumpf of the Hungarian Embassy, who asked how he could possibly make that comparison, Demszky answered simply, 'I have lived in it.'"  --  More and more Hungarians are voting with their feet and leaving the country.  --  Perhaps as many as 5% have left over the past four years, Scheppele said.  --  The European Union's response has been ineffective.  --  Orbán even used the period in 2011 when Hungary held the E.U.'s rotating presidency to "ram his new Constitution through the Hungarian Parliament over the objections of the opposition," and "from the position of the rotating presidency . . . block[ed] any substantial European action against him."  --  Legalistic measures to discipline Hungary have been tried, but Orbán and his cohorts have come up with even more legalistic ways to evade them.  --  COMMENT & ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:  Viktor Orbán, who is obviously something of a political genius, is now 50 years old.  --  Early in his political career, he turned a radical student organization into a populist center-right party and then organized a coalition that governed Hungary from 1998 to 2002.  --  At 35 he was the country's youngest prime minister in history.  --  By aggressively pursuing neoliberal policies, he won the attention and support of international forces of the right, visiting George W. Bush in the White House and winning the Freedom Award of the American Enterprise Institute.  --  He lost power in 2002 to Hungary's Socialist Party.  --  But Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, when the Socialists were in power, and the Socialists were discredited when the E.U. compelled them to impose austerity measures in return for an IMF bailout of Hungary during the Great Financial Crisis.  --  Orbán and his party were able to return to power.  --  They give every apearance of being determined to stay there....

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NEWS: Putin signs 30-year, $400bn natural gas deal with China

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The U.S. is not the only country pivoting toward Asia.  --  On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing for an official visit, the London Guardian reported.[1]  --  It was a visit that bore fruit:  the two countries "signed a 30-year, $400bn (£237bn) deal for Gazprom to deliver Russian gas to China in a deal that underscores Russia's shift towards Asia amid strained relations with the West."[2]  --  An energy expert said that "Russia's new pipeline to China will increase competition for natural gas from 2018 and will most likely increase the cost we pay for natural gas here in the E.U."  --  "Earlier this month, Russia reportedly lifted an informal ban on foreign ownership of strategic assets, apparently opening the way for Chinese companies to take part in developing the gas fields and pipeline," Alec Luhn and Terry Macalister said....

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:20 Read more...
 
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Meeting schedule

United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).

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