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Cole writes: "The revelation by the Washington Post's Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima that the car-bomb assassination of Hizbullah commando Imad Mughniyah in Damascus in 2008 was a joint CIA/ Israeli Mossad operation comes at an awkward time for Washington."

Members of Hezbollah carry the coffin of Imad Mughniyah during his funeral in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008. (photo: Wael Ladki/Bloomberg News)
Members of Hezbollah carry the coffin of Imad Mughniyah during his funeral in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008. (photo: Wael Ladki/Bloomberg News)


Ironies of Empire

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

02 February 15

 

he revelation by the Washington Post’s Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima that the car-bomb assassination of Hizbullah commando Imad Mughniyah in Damascus in 2008 was a joint CIA/ Israeli Mossad operation comes at an awkward time for Washington.

The administration of George W. Bush did not target Mughniyah because of his alleged involvement of past actions against the US, such as the Beirut embassy bombing and the carbombing of the Maine barracks there in 1983. Rather, Bush was angry about the killing of 5 US soldiers in Iraq’s Karbala in 2007 by a Shiite group trained by Hizbullah, training he suspected Mughniyah was directing from Damascus.

That 2007 operation in Karbala that killed the 5 US troops was carried out by the League of the Righteous (LOTR), a guerrilla group that had hived off in 2006 from cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite Mahdi Army militia. The US gained intelligence that the League of the Righteous was being trained in making roadside bombs and guerrilla tactics by Lebanon’s Hizbullah, at the direction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. In the period 2006-2011, the League of the Righteous claimed to have carried out 6,000 attacks on US forces in Iraq. This seems to me exaggerated; they were probably only 3,000 or so strong. In any case my recollection is that in Al-Anbar Province in 2006 alone, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other Sunni groups launched 10,000 attacks a month, so these LOTR Shiite activities (only about 100 attacks a month, including sniping, throughout the country) were minor in comparison.

After the US departure from Iraq in 2011, the League of the Righteous developed a civil political wing and ran for parliament. It supports, more strongly than does Sadr’s group, the Iranian form of theocracy or rule by a leading cleric.

So here’s the kicker. The League of the Righteous is now one of the more effective fighting forces on the Shiite side in Iraq, backing up the lackluster Iraq National Army (also now mostly Shiite) against Daesh/ ISIL or ISIS. The campaign to save the Shiite Turkmen of Amerli from Daesh was spearheaded by LOTR last fall. The effort received close air support from… the United States Air Force. LOTR and other militias took Jurf al-Sakhr in October– a Sunni town formerly under the thumb of Daesh. Likewise, the US is allegedly providing weaponry, or having weaponry provided to, the Shiite militias– even heavy weaponry like a tank (see today’s entry from Niqash below).

These developments signal that the Israeli and US struggle with Hizbullah is not white hats versus black hats where all the lines are clearly drawn. Mughniyah, deemed in 2008 a danger to US troops in Iraq, helped train the very forces with which the United States is now de facto allied against the phony ‘caliphate’ of Daesh’s Ibrahim Samarrai in northern and Western Iraq. And to the extent that LOTR, the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, all Shiite militias, were attacking al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (which morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and then Daesh over time), there was a sense in which the US had an alliance of convenience with them even in 2008. That the League of the Righteous pointed their guns both at their arch-enemy (the Islamic State of Iraq) and at their sometime ally (the US) just shows how complicated and contradictory that world of violence, guerrilla operations, ethnic cleansing, and illegal military occupation was.

Washington in the past 15 years, with its violation of the UN Charter and numerous treaty obligations and its casual assassinations and torture (all contravening US statutes), helped unleash a vast wave of violence on Iraq– displacing millions to this day, and setting the stage for massive campaigns of ethnic cleansing and the rise of Daesh religious extremism (there was no al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda offshoots in Iraq before Bush invaded).

In that world, it is frankly not easy to see the Bush administration, with its illegal war of aggression on and military occupation of oil-rich Iraq, as the good guy. Mughniyyah inflicted a lot of damage on US interests; but those interests in Iraq, at least, were so murky and dark that he may have sometimes had international law (which allows for resistance to foreign military occupation) on his side at a time that Washington decidedly did not. And now, the force he trained at the cost of his life is an ally of convenience with the very agency that rubbed him out (and personnel of which he had earlier rubbed out).

There must be a more lawful and ethical way for the US to proceed in the world than this.


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+43 # Linda 2015-02-02 10:21
The USA ( CIA ) needs to stop supporting Israel in the genocide and occupation of Palestinian land .This country used to be morally fit, now it has turned into the bully on the block assinating leaders of other countries who don't bow down to them . What happened to the country I loved and was proud of ?
 
 
+7 # ReconFire 2015-02-02 13:55
Quoting Linda:
The USA ( CIA ) needs to stop supporting Israel in the genocide and occupation of Palestinian land .This country used to be morally fit, now it has turned into the bully on the block assinating leaders of other countries who don't bow down to them . What happened to the country I loved and was proud of ?


I agree with you're first sentence, but you must be alot older than me (no offense if you are). This country hasn't been morally fit since before WW2.
 
 
+3 # RLF 2015-02-04 07:36
The US was assainating leaders of south american countries for 100 years.
 
 
+1 # RLF 2015-02-04 07:36
The US was assainating leaders of south american countries for 100 years.
 
 
+17 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-02-02 10:44
More proof that nations can become dangerously insane.
 
 
+28 # REDPILLED 2015-02-02 10:47
Juan Cole wonders: "There must be a more lawful and ethical way for the US to proceed in the world than this."

Empires are never lawful nor ethical, by their very nature. As long as the U.S. empire exists, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of both international and Constitutional laws, as well as of morality, will continue to be the norm.
 
 
+4 # Caliban 2015-02-03 10:18
Empires? Illegality and unethical political behavior do not depend on imperial status.
 
 
+34 # bbaldwin2001 2015-02-02 10:47
George Bush and Company will go down in history as the most lawless regime the USA has ever had. There was over reaction to anything "enemies" of the USA were doing. Now look what we have - a middle east being destroyed by a bunch of thugs and low i.q U.S., British Empire, and left over Iraq and Iran citizens. In other words the middle east is being destroyed because George Bush and company went in after 911. I hope I see the day that he and Cheney are brought up on high crimes and misdemeanors along with the other thugs that were in his regime.
 
 
+29 # Citizen Mike 2015-02-02 11:12
I used to think that Nixon was the worst possible president and that the greatest danger to democracy in our nation's history was Joe McCarthy's witch-hunt. But this-all is much worse and vastly more contrary to everything good this nation used to stand for.
 
 
0 # dandevries 2015-02-03 18:00
"George Bush and Company will go down in history as the most lawless regime the USA has ever had. . ."

. . . until the next one comes along . . .
 
 
+26 # reiverpacific 2015-02-02 11:41
"In that world, it is frankly not easy to see the Bush administration, with its illegal war of aggression on and military occupation of oil-rich Iraq, as the good guy." -Well, "Duh"!
That's the understatement of the decade: -talk about soft-pedaling a glaring truth!
What d'you expect from a hubristic, neocon-led, SCOTUS-selected usurpation of an administration figureheaded by an internationally incurious ignoramus who once replied to Colin Powell, when informed that he'd be dealing with both Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq "O'; I thought they were all Arabs"!
The US has plenty deficiencies within it's own shores which could be resolved without aggression, usurpations, interference and invasion of other nations and regions it doesn't even begin to understand, given the wealth at it's disposal, mostly stuck at the top of an increasingly imbalanced pyramid, eventually destined to collapse.
All Americans should be required to travel and learn another language in their youth, teens or early adulthood -and not guided either. Every young person I've met who has done service in JFK's Peace Corps, has been a credit to the country.
But that's the last thing the Neocons want; they need a somnambulistic and compliant populace, infotained to passivity, insularity and fear of "the other", to assure their very existence!
Every murder, invasion or aggression into another nation's affairs is a recruiting trumpet call to anti-American groups worldwide and justifications for extremes.
 
 
+16 # Walter J Smith 2015-02-02 11:55
Greed trumps ethics in every decision that it matters - as long as the bipartisan consensus is involved. The NeoCons, leading the GOP in the Greed Wars, and the NeoLibs, leading the Dems in the Greed Wars, are that very consensus's heart.

The real question is rather when will the conservatives decide what they want to conserve and begin articulating what they want to conserve, and when will the liberals decide and articulate what they want to liberate.

Until then, the War Party of Greed wins every vote exploiting those confusions; these NeoAmericans win for the War Party of Greed.
 
 
+22 # Archie1954 2015-02-02 12:29
Thank you for this article. I have been saying as much about US illegal actions for many years and been roundly castigated for it by Americans who think it is America's right to do as it pleases anywhere. Unfortunately I believe these Americans are the product of a dysfunctinal, immoral and brutal society.
 
 
+3 # tm7devils39 2015-02-02 15:18
You got that correct! (I almost said 'right' but that's a four letter word)
 
 
+6 # JLischin 2015-02-02 12:39
It is a complex and frequently dangerous world. America's history includes an abundance of wonderful as well as horrific acts both overt and covert. The urge to identify good guys and bad guys reflects understandable human needs that won't be met through a close look at reality. Trying to conduct foreign policy in light of history, ethics, realpolitik and compelling national interests is a complex balance without the luxury of clean morality. Objectivity the US invasion of Iraq was morally worse than 9/11. No one who says that is electable. Obama has a responsibility to protect vital American interests including national security and economic wellbeing. He also should elevate our foreign policy to meet a higher ethical standard. And he has to survive domestic politics. I don't agree with all his choices. We've never had a president that I always agree with. He meets my standard of trying to do what's right, trying to do what's possible and vastly better than his monstrous immediate predecessor.
 
 
+3 # tm7devils39 2015-02-02 15:37
So what is his excuse now...he's a lame duck and the repugs own both chambers. What better time to grab the moral high ground by trying and convicting the most treasonous exec branch(Bush II) our country has ever experienced. If he doesn't he has reneged on his oath of office and thereby becomes part and party to the crime.
I looks like the word 'moral' has become a four letter word in all aspects of political endeavor.
 
 
+4 # mgwmgw 2015-02-02 14:10
So, where should America go from here? Undoing the past is not possible.
 
 
+9 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-02-02 14:21
War is (very) profitable for some. Get the "neocons" and their corporate sponsors out of "our" government. Obama just proposed over $500 billion for next years defense. All that does is fund suffering for the benefit of corporate profits. And, of course, justifies "protecting" us from ALL the people/countrie s we have pissed off. We don't have a friend left. WAKE UP AMERICA.
 
 
+1 # socrates2 2015-02-02 23:46
As long as foreigners (and the empire's proxies) whose resources the Empire extracts fight forever wars of attrition, the empire will remain "strong." Divide and conquer, it's called. And it works.
The day these poor folks wake up, stop to reflect and realize who has been setting them at each others throats (and profits immensely from its actions) will be the day the chickens come home to roost. 9-11 was an such an event. That re-doubled the empire's efforts in triggering civil wars all over the map-from Iraq to Egypt to Libya to Syria to Afghanistan to...
You get the point.
Be well.
 
 
+5 # Rockster 2015-02-03 02:27
Just wondering if it's possible for a nation to become addicted just like an individual can ? It sure seems like our culture is deep in the throes of multiple addictions right now. There is the obvious one to cheap oil, gas , energy without longterm accountability . Then there's this need to outspend every other country in the world in armaments by huge margins. We must have all our over abundance of consumer goods. And our obsession with pleasuring ourselves as the highest priority. So how does a addict get off just one serious addiction? It ain't pretty. How does our entire culture free itself from multiple debilitating addictions? One despairs but we do know that the first step is admitting the truth. We are out of control and have been quite content to walk with the Hypocrites ! Perhaps more and more citizens are willing to at least look at the actual facts and talk in forums like this one about starting to walk towards truth . It seems that it will be a long very tough journey but...