Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* TEN YEARS ON …
By River, Baghdad Burning
April 9, 2013 marks ten years since the fall of Baghdad. Ten years since the invasion. Since the lives of millions of Iraqis changed forever. It’s difficult to believe. It feels like only yesterday I was sharing day to day activities with the world. I feel obliged today to put my thoughts down on the blog once again, probably for the last time.
In 2003, we were counting our lives in days and weeks. Would we make it to next month? Would we make it through the summer? Some of us did and many of us didn’t.
Back in 2003, one year seemed like a lifetime ahead. The idiots said, “Things will improve immediately.” The optimists were giving our occupiers a year, or two… The realists said, “Things won’t improve for at least five years.” And the pessimists? The pessimists said, “It will take ten years. It will take a decade.”
Looking back at the last ten years, what have our occupiers and their Iraqi governments given us in ten years? What have our puppets achieved in this last decade? What have we learned?
We learned a lot.
We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair- it takes the good people. Even in death you can be unlucky. Lucky ones die a ‘normal’ death… A familiar death of cancer, or a heart-attack, or stroke. Unlucky ones have to be collected in bits and pieces. Their families trying to bury what can be salvaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a wonder they are not red.
We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands.
We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.
We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.
We learned that it’s not that difficult to make billions disappear.
We are learning that those amenities we took for granted before 2003, you know- the luxuries – electricity, clean water from faucets, walkable streets, safe schools – those are for deserving populations. Those are for people who don’t allow occupiers into their country.
We’re learning that the biggest fans of the occupation (you know who you are, you traitors) eventually leave abroad. And where do they go? The USA, most likely, with the UK a close second. If I were an American, I’d be outraged. After spending so much money and so many lives, I’d expect the minor Chalabis and Malikis and Hashimis of Iraq to, well, stay in Iraq. Invest in their country. I’d stand in passport control and ask them, “Weren’t you happy when we invaded your country? Weren’t you happy we liberated you? Go back. Go back to the country you’re so happy with because now, you’re free!”
We’re learning that militias aren’t particular about who they kill. The easiest thing in the world would be to say that Shia militias kill Sunnis and Sunni militias kill Shia, but that’s not the way it works. That’s too simple.
We’re learning that the leaders don’t make history. Populations don’t make history. Historians don’t write history. News networks do. The Foxes, and CNNs, and BBCs, and Jazeeras of the world make history. They twist and turn things to fit their own private agendas.
We’re learning that the masks are off. No one is ashamed of the hypocrisy anymore. You can be against one country (like Iran), but empowering them somewhere else (like in Iraq). You can claim to be against religious extremism (like in Afghanistan), but promoting religious extremism somewhere else (like in Iraq and Egypt and Syria).
Those who didn’t know it in 2003 are learning (much too late) that an occupation is not the portal to freedom and democracy. The occupiers do not have your best interests at heart.
We are learning that ignorance is the death of civilized societies and that everyone thinks their particular form of fanaticism is acceptable.
We are learning how easy it is to manipulate populations with their own prejudices and that politics and religion never mix, even if a super-power says they should mix.
But it wasn’t all a bad education…
We learned that you sometimes receive kindness when you least expect it. We learned that people often step outside of the stereotypes we build for them and surprise us. We learned and continue to learn that there is strength in numbers and that Iraqis are not easy to oppress. It is a matter of time…
And then there are things we’d like to learn…
Ahmed Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Jaafari, Tarek Al Hashemi and the rest of the vultures, where are they now? Have they crawled back under their rocks in countries like the USA, the UK, etc.? Where will Maliki be in a year or two? Will he return to Iran or take the millions he made off of killing Iraqis and then seek asylum in some European country? Far away from the angry Iraqi masses…
What about George Bush, Condi, Wolfowitz, and Powell? Will they ever be held accountable for the devastation and the death they wrought in Iraq? Saddam was held accountable for 300,000 Iraqis… Surely someone should be held accountable for the million or so?
Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn’t forget what this was about – making America safer… And are you safer Americans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about attacks on your embassies and diplomats? Why is it that you are constantly warned to not go to this country or that one? Is it better now, ten years down the line? Do you feel safer, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of the way (granted half of them were women and children, but children grow up, right?)?
And what happened to Riverbend and my family? I eventually moved from Syria. I moved before the heavy fighting, before it got ugly. That’s how fortunate I was. I moved to another country nearby, stayed almost a year, and then made another move to a third Arab country with the hope that, this time, it’ll stick until… Until when? Even the pessimists aren’t sure anymore. When will things improve? When will be able to live normally? How long will it take?
For those of you who are disappointed reality has reared its ugly head again, go to Fox News, I’m sure they have a reportage that will soothe your conscience.
For those of you who have been asking about me and wondering how I have been doing, I thank you. “Lo khuliyet, qulibet…” Which means “If the world were empty of good people, it would end.” I only need to check my emails to know it won’t be ending any time soon.
* THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION LAYS OUT THE TRUE BLUEPRINT FOR THE FUTURE OF EVERY EUROPEAN COUNTRY
By Tyler Durden, zerohedge
Cyprus was the beginning. Next: every other country with a banking system in which non-performing loans are soaring (cough Slovenia cough) as a result of imploding consumer cash flows, and which needs a financial sector “resolution”, which includes, among others, impairment of liabilities courtesy of the new non-template template (and which is now spreading to European interbank deposits). And they all have Cyprus to look to because it will be the benchmark.
Luckily, earlier today as part of its just released “Assessment of the public debt sustainability of Cyprus“, the European Commission was kind enough to spell out in very clear terms just what the fate of virtually every European country will be going forward.
For the gruesome details we go straight to paragraph 10 where we read…
In accordance with the [insert insolvent European country’s name] authorities policy plans, major financial institution will be downsized combined with extensive bail-in of uninsured depositors, and a set of wide-ranging temporary capital controls and administrative measures. The programme is envisaged to build the foundation for sustainable growth over the long run. Nevertheless, in the short run, the economic outlook remains challenging. Real GDP is projected to contract by [insert massive amount] cumulatively in 2013-14. Short-run economic activity will be negatively affected by the immediate restructuring of the banking sector, which will impact on net credit growth and by additional fiscal consolidation measures. Temporary restrictions required to safeguard financial stability will hamper international capital flows and reduce business volumes in both domestic and internationally oriented companies. The bail-in of uninsured depositors will cause a loss of wealth, which will reduce private consumption and business investment. This, compounded by the impact of fiscal consolidation already undertaken and new measures agreed, will result in a sharp fall in domestic demand. Little reprieve can be expected from exports amid uncertain external conditions and a shrinking financial service sector. […]
* CYPRUS DEAL HURTS CREDIBILITY ALL AROUND
By Stephen Fidler, WSJ
Never in the field of government bailouts have so many lost so much credibility over such a small sum of money.
That is one of the critical conclusions being drawn as the dust settles from last month’s Cyprus bailout. Negotiating rescue packages for bankrupt governments is never easy. But in the wake of the chaotic talks and confidence-damaging proposals, it has become clear that all of those involved were losers.
This may matter for the future. The institutions involved—the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the governments of the euro zone—must continue to work together to manage countries in existing bailout programs and any future rescue packages. The bruising experience of Cyprus—where for the first time in the euro zone’s financial crisis depositors took losses—won’t make that task easier.
“There are absolutely no winners from the Cyprus agreement. Every major country and institutional constituency has been hurt, creating the potential for even more toxic and difficult negotiations going forward,” said Mujtaba Rahman, director at Eurasia Group in New York. […]
* HALKIDIKI: WHERE NEITHER NUMBERS NOR PEOPLE THRIVE
By Leonidas Oikonomakis, RoarMag
“Come and invest in Greece! Don’t worry about those rebellious local communities; we will safeguard your investments, all in the name of development!”
There’s a book by Francesco Guccini and Loriano Macchiavelli in which a “spirit” comes down from the Apennine mountains to sabotage the Bologna-Florence railway. Nobody knew who it was and it became kind of a legend among the workers, because the sabotage was a revenge for an explosion in a tunnel that cost the lives of many of their co-workers.
There’s another similar story that Ivo Andric narrates in his “Bridge on the Drina”: the Bosnian peasants are obliged by the Ottoman central authority to take up forced labor in order for a bridge to be constructed over the river. At some point the peasants rebel and, under the leadership of a certain Radislav from Uniste, decide to sabotage the construction. So at nights, they go and destroy what is built during the day, or make the equipment “disappear” — into the river of course. They spread the rumor that the vilas (fairies) of the water just don’t want the bridge to be built.
That’s what last month’s events in Halkidiki in Northern Greece reminded me of…
On the night of the 16th of February, a group of around 40 people who are against the construction of the Eldorado Gold’s gold mine in their area, attacked the Company’s (yes, in Greece I think we should start talking in such terms these days) working site in the Skouries forest. Armed with shotguns and their faces covered with pasamontañas, they set the Company’s equipment and cars on fire while allegedly holding hostage the two security guards, dousing them with petrol and threatening to set them on fire if they reacted. After that, the masked saboteurs disappeared as rapidly as they had appeared. […]
* WE CAN SOLVE THE CRISIS IN EUROPE. TOGETHER
* THE ERODING PREMIUM ON TRUTH AND TRUST
By Charles Hugh Smith, OfTwoMinds
The premium in America has shifted from truth to self-serving distortion, and from trust to manipulation.
The premium we place on truth and trustworthiness is self-evident. Truth is uniquely productive feedback from the real world. Truth (including factual data) is indispensable, for it alone enables us to correct errors, learn from mistakes and improve our effectiveness and communication.
We pay a premium for trust because the cost of dishonesty and artifice is steep.Would you pay more to buy a used car from someone you trust? If you place no premium on trustworthiness, then you buy the “great deal” used car you found online: oops, the “new” battery was spray-painted black, the crankcase leaks, the engine is shot and doesn’t pass smog, and the certificate of ownership is forged.
The premium on truth and trust is eroding under the constant onslaught of officially manipulated data and markets, and a vast array of distortions and propaganda designed to serve the interests of ruling Elites and key constituencies.
We all know the negative premium placed on fact: telling the truth will get you fired. And not just in the corporate world: politicians from the President on down all worship at the altar of the carefully distorted unemployment rate.
The officially sanctioned lying and manipulation are now shameless. Never mind that millions of people have become statistical phantoms (i.e. not in the workforce) to generate that low rate, and college graduates working 3 hours a day (if they’re called in at all) are gleefully counted as employed, as if there is no difference between a full-time job and a marginal one.
President Obama is touting rising auto sales as proof of the “recovery” (and implicitly, of his wise stewardship), studiously avoiding the fact that these stupendous auto sales are the result of offering low-interest rate auto loans to marginal borrowers with near-zero collateral (i.e. skin in the game).
How did blowing a credit bubble and securitizing the debt turn out last time? […]
* WEALTH INEQUALITY IN AMERICA
* CARMEN REINHART: “NO DOUBT. OUR PENSIONS ARE SCREWED.”
By Tyler Durden, zerohedge
“The crisis isn’t over yet,” warns Carmen Reinhart, “not in the US and not in Europe.” Known for her deep understanding that ‘it’s never different this time’, the Harvard economist drops the truth grenade a number of times in this excellent Der Spiegel interview. Sweeping away the sound and fury of a self-serving Federal Reserve or BoJ, she chides, “no central bank will admit it is keeping rates low to help governments out of their debt crises. But in fact they are bending over backwards to help governments to finance their deficits,” and guess what, “this is nothing new in history.”
After World War II, all countries that had a big debt overhang relied on financial repression to avoid an explicit default. After the war, governments imposed interest rate ceilings for government bonds; but, nowadays, she explains, “monetary policy is doing the job. And with high unemployment and low inflation that doesn’t even look suspicious. Only when inflation picks up, which is ultimately going to happen, will it become obvious that central banks have become subservient to governments.”
Nations “seldom just grow themselves out of debt,” as so many believe is possible, “you need a combination of austerity, so that you don’t add further to the pile of debt, and higher inflation, which is effectively a subtle form of taxation,” with the consequence that people are going to lose their savings. Reinhart succinctly summarizes, “no doubt, our pensions are screwed.”
This will take 3 minutes to read – read it. Understand what she is saying.
… governments are incapable of reducing their debts and that central banks are now stepping up to resolve the crisis themselves. In the end, she argues, everyday savers will pay the price.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Reinhart, central banks around the world are flooding the markets with cheap money in order to spur economies and support governments. Are these institutions losing their independence?
Reinhart: No central bank will admit it is keeping rates low to help governments out of their debt crises. But in fact they are bending over backwards to help governments to finance their deficits. This is nothing new in history. After World War II, there was a long phase in which central banks were subservient to governments. It has only been since the 1970s that they have become politically more independent. The pendulum seems to be swinging back as a result of the financial crisis.
SPIEGEL: Is that true of the European Central Bank as well?
Reinhart: Less than for other central banks, but yes. And the crisis isn’t over yet — not in the United States and not in Europe. […]