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By In this since 2004
Middle East Middle East|Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’ Tehran's Turn
Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’
By Tim Arango
July 15, 2017 Image Members of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a mostly Shiite militia group, at their post at the Iraqi border with Syria.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times BAGHDAD — Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran.
A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border.
And that’s not even the half of it.
Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership.
When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.
From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.
In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.
Over the past three years, Americans have focused on the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, returning more than 5,000 troops to the country and helping to force the militants out of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.
But Iran never lost sight of its mission: to dominate its neighbor so thoroughly that Iraq could never again endanger it militarily, and to use the country to effectively control a corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean.
“Iranian influence is dominant,” said Hoshyar Zebari, who was ousted last year as finance minister because, he said, Iran distrusted his links to the United States. “It is paramount.”
The country’s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. But Iraq is only part of Iran’s expansion project; it has also used soft and hard power to extend its influence in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, and throughout the region.
Iran is a Shiite state, and Iraq, a Shiite majority country, was ruled by an elite Sunni minority before the American invasion. The roots of the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, going back almost 1,400 years, lie in differences over the rightful leaders of Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. But these days, it is about geopolitics as much as religion, with the divide expressed by different states that are adversaries, led by Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other.
Iran’s influence in Iraq is not just ascendant, but diverse, projecting into military, political, economic and cultural affairs.
At some border posts in the south, Iraqi sovereignty is an afterthought. Busloads of young militia recruits cross into Iran without so much as a document check. They receive military training and are then flown to Syria, where they fight under the command of Iranian officers in defense of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
Passing in the other direction, truck drivers pump Iranian products — food, household goods, illicit drugs — into what has become a vital and captive market.
Iran tips the scales to its favor in every area of commerce. In the city of Najaf, it even picks up the trash, after the provincial council there awarded a municipal contract to a private Iranian company. One member of the council, Zuhair al-Jibouri, resorted to a now-common Iraqi aphorism: “We import apples from Iran so we can give them away to Iranian pilgrims.”
Politically, Iran has a large number of allies in Iraq’s Parliament who can help secure its goals. And its influence over the choice of interior minister, through a militia and political group the Iranians built up in the 1980s to oppose Mr. Hussein, has given it substantial control over that ministry and the federal police.
Perhaps most crucial, Parliament passed a law last year that effectively made the constellation of Shiite militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s security forces. This ensures Iraqi funding for the groups while effectively maintaining Iran’s control over some of the most powerful units.
Now, with new parliamentary elections on the horizon, Shiite militias have begun organizing themselves politically for a contest that could secure even more dominance for Iran over Iraq’s political system.
To gain advantage on the airwaves, new television channels set up with Iranian money and linked to Shiite militias broadcast news coverage portraying Iran as Iraq’s protector and the United States as a devious interloper.
Partly in an effort to contain Iran, the United States has indicated that it will keep troops behind in Iraq after the battle against the Islamic State. American diplomats have worked to emphasize the government security forces’ role in the fighting, and to shore up a prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who has seemed more open to the United States than to Iran.
But after the United States’ abrupt withdrawal of troops in 2011, American constancy is still in question here — a broad failure of American foreign policy, with responsibility shared across three administrations.
Iran has been playing a deeper game, parlaying extensive religious ties with Iraq’s Shiite majority and a much wider network of local allies, as it makes the case that it is Iraq’s only reliable defender.
A Road to the Sea
Iran’s great project in eastern Iraq may not look like much: a 15-mile stretch of dusty road, mostly gravel, through desert and scrub near the border in Diyala Province.
But it is an important new leg of Iran’s path through Iraq to Syria, and what it carries — Shiite militiamen, Iranian delegations, trade goods and military supplies — is its most valuable feature.
It is a piece of what analysts and Iranian officials say is Iran’s most pressing ambition: to exploit the chaos of the region to project influence across Iraq and beyond. Eventually, analysts say, Iran could use the corridor, established on the ground through militias under its control, to ship weapons and supplies to proxies in Syria, where Iran is an important backer of Mr. Assad, and to Lebanon and its ally Hezbollah.
At the border to the east is a new crossing built and secured by Iran. Like the relationship between the two countries, it is lopsided.
The checkpoint’s daily traffic includes up to 200 Iranian trucks, carrying fruit and yogurt, concrete and bricks, into Iraq. In the offices of Iraqi border guards, the candies and soda offered to guests come from Iran.
No loaded trucks go the other way.
“Iraq doesn’t have anything to offer Iran,” Vahid Gachi, the Iranian official in charge of the crossing, said in an interview in his office, as lines of tractor-trailers poured into Iraq. “Except for oil, Iraq relies on Iran for everything.”
The border post is also a critical transit point for Iran’s military leaders to send weapons and other supplies to proxies fighting the Islamic State in Iraq.
After the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, swept across Diyala and neighboring areas in 2014, Iran made clearing the province, a diverse area of Sunnis and Shiites, a priority.
It marshaled a huge force of Shiite militias, many trained in Iran and advised on the ground by Iranian officials. After a quick victory, Iranians and their militia allies set about securing their next interests here: marginalizing the province’s Sunni minority and securing a path to Syria. Iran has fought aggressively to keep its ally Mr. Assad in power in order to retain land access to its most important spinoff in the region, Hezbollah, the military and political force that dominates Lebanon and threatens Israel.
A word from Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s powerful spymaster, sent an army of local Iraqi contractors scrambling, lining up trucks and bulldozers to help build the road, free of charge. Militiamen loyal to Iran were ordered to secure the site.
Uday al-Khadran, the Shiite mayor of Khalis District in Diyala, is a member of the Badr Organization, an Iraqi political party and militia established by Tehran in the 1980s to fight against Mr. Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.
On an afternoon earlier this year, he spread a map across his desk and proudly discussed how he helped build the road, which he said was ordered by General Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for foreign operations. General Suleimani secretly directed Iran’s policy in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in attacks carried out by militias under his control.
“I love Qassim Suleimani more than my children,” he said.
Mr. Khadran said the general’s new road would eventually be a shortcut for religious pilgrims from Iran to reach Samarra, Iraq, the location of an important shrine.
But he also acknowledged the route’s greater strategic significance as part of a corridor secured by Iranian proxies that extends across central and northern Iraq. The connecting series of roads skirts the western city of Mosul and stretches on to Tal Afar, an Islamic State-controlled city where Iranian-backed militias and Iranian advisers have set up a base at an airstrip on the outskirts.
“Diyala is the passage to Syria and Lebanon, and this is very important to Iran,” said Ali al-Daini, the Sunni chairman of the provincial council there.
Closer to Syria, Iranian-allied militias moved west of Mosul as the battle against the Islamic State unfolded there in recent months. The militias captured the town of Baaj, and then proceeded to the Syrian border, putting Iran on the cusp of completing its corridor.
Back east, in Diyala, Mr. Daini said he had been powerless to halt what he described as Iran’s dominance in the province.
When Mr. Daini goes to work, he said, he has to walk by posters of Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, outside the council building.
Iran’s militias in the province have been accused of widespread sectarian cleansing, pushing Sunnis from their homes to establish Shiite dominance and create a buffer zone on its border. The Islamic State was beaten in Diyala more than two years ago, but thousands of Sunni families still fill squalid camps, unable to return home.
Now, Diyala has become a showcase for how Iran views Shiite ascendancy as critical to its geopolitical goals.
“Iran is smarter than America,” said Nijat al-Taie, a Sunni member of the provincial council and an outspoken critic of Iran, which she calls the instigator of several assassination attempts against her. “They achieved their goals on the ground. America didn’t protect Iraq. They just toppled the regime and handed the country over to Iran.”
The Business of Influence
The lives of General Suleimani and other senior leaders in Tehran were shaped by the prolonged war with Iraq in the 1980s. The conflict left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, and General Suleimani spent much of the war at the front, swiftly rising in rank as so many officers were killed.
“The Iran-Iraq war was the formative experience for all of Iran’s leaders,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization. “From Suleimani all the way down. It was their ‘never again’ moment.”
A border dispute over the Shatt al Arab waterway that was a factor in the hostilities has still not been resolved, and the legacy of the war’s brutality has influenced the Iranian government ever since, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons to its policy in Iraq.
“This is a permanent scar in their mind,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a lawmaker and former national security adviser. “They are obsessed with Baathism, Saddam and the Iran-Iraq war.”
More than anything else, analysts say, it is the scarring legacy of that war that has driven Iranian ambitions to dominate Iraq.
Particularly in southern Iraq, where the population is mostly Shiite, signs of Iranian influence are everywhere.
Iranian-backed militias are the defenders of the Shiite shrines in the cities of Najaf and Karbala that drive trade and tourism. In local councils, Iranian-backed political parties have solid majorities, and campaign materials stress relationships with Shiite saints and Iranian clerics.
If the Iraqi government were stronger, said Mustaq al-Abady, a businessman from just outside Najaf, “then maybe we could open our factories instead of going to Iran.” He said his warehouse was crowded with Iranian imports because his government had done nothing to promote a private sector, police its borders or enforce customs duties.
Raad Fadhil al-Alwani, a merchant in Hilla, another southern city, imports cleaning supplies and floor tiles from Iran. He slaps “Made in Iraq” labels in Arabic on bottles of detergent, but the reality is that he owns a factory in Iran because labor is cheaper there.
“I feel like I am destroying the economy of Iraq,” he said. But he insists that Iraqi politicians, by deferring to Iranian pressure and refusing to support local industry, have made it hard to do anything else.
Najaf attracts millions of Iranian pilgrims each year visiting the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali, the first Shiite imam. Iranian construction workers — many of whom are viewed as Iranian spies by Iraqi officials — have also flocked to the city to renovate the shrine and build hotels.
In Babil Province, according to local officials, militia leaders have taken over a government project to set up security cameras along strategic roads. The project had been granted to a Chinese company before the militias intervened, and now the army and the local police have been sidelined from it, said Muqdad Omran, an Iraqi Army captain in the area.
Iran’s pre-eminence in the Iraqi south has not come without resentment. Iraqi Shiites share a faith with Iran, but they also hold close their other identities as Iraqis and Arabs.
“Iraq belongs to the Arab League, not to Iran,” said Sheikh Fadhil al-Bidayri, a cleric at the religious seminary in Najaf. “Shiites are a majority in Iraq, but a minority in the world. As long as the Iranian government is controlling the Iraqi government, we don’t have a chance.”
In this region where the Islamic State’s military threat has never encroached, Iran’s security concerns are mostly being addressed by economic manipulation, Iraqi officials say. Trade in the south is often financed by Iran with credit, and incentives are offered to Iraqi traders to keep their cash in Iranian banks.
Baghdad’s banks play a role, too, as the financial anchors for Iraqi front companies used by Iran to gain access to dollars that can then finance the country’s broader geopolitical aims, said Entifadh Qanbar, a former aide to the Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, who died in 2015.
“It’s very important for the Iranians to maintain corruption in Iraq,” he said.
The Militias’ Long Arm
For decades, Iran smuggled guns and bomb-making supplies through the vast swamps of southern Iraq. And young men were brought back and forth across the border, from one safe house to another — recruits going to Iran for training, and then back to Iraq to fight. At first the enemy was Mr. Hussein; later, it was the Americans.
Today, agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards openly recruit fighters in the Shiite-majority cities of southern Iraq. Buses filled with recruits easily pass border posts that officials say are essentially controlled by Iran — through its proxies on the Iraqi side, and its own border guards on the other.
While Iran has built up militias to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, it has also mobilized an army of disaffected young Shiite Iraqi men to fight on its behalf in Syria.
Mohammad Kadhim, 31, is one of those foot soldiers for Iran, having served three tours in Syria. The recruiting pitch, he said, is mostly based in faith, to defend Shiite shrines in Syria. But Mr. Kadhim said he and his friends signed up more out of a need for jobs.
“I was just looking for money,” he said. “The majority of the youth I met fighting in Syria do it for the money.”
He signed up with a Revolutionary Guards recruiter in Najaf, and then was bused through southern Iraq and into Iran, where he underwent military training near Tehran.
There, he said, Iranian officers delivered speeches invoking the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the revered seventh-century Shiite figure whose death at the hands of a powerful Sunni army became the event around which Shiite spirituality would revolve. The same enemies of the Shiites who killed the imam are now in Syria and Iraq, the officers told the men.
After traveling to Iran, Mr. Kadhim came home for a break and then was shipped to Syria, where Hezbollah operatives trained him in sniper tactics.
Iran’s emphasis on defending the Shiite faith has led some here to conclude that its ultimate goal is to bring about an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. But there is a persistent sense that it just would not work in Iraq, which has a much larger native Sunni population and tradition, and Iraq’s clerics in Najaf, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the world’s pre-eminent Shiite spiritual leader, oppose the Iranian system.
But Iran is taking steps to translate militia power into political power, much as it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and militia leaders have begun political organizing before next year’s parliamentary elections.
In April, Qais al-Khazali, a Shiite militia leader, delivered a speech to an audience of Iraqi college students, railing against the United States and the nefarious plotting of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Then, a poet who was part of Mr. Khazali’s entourage stood up and began praising General Suleimani.
For the students, that was the last straw. Chants of “Iran out! Iran out!” began. Scuffles broke out between students and Mr. Khazali’s bodyguards, who fired their rifles into the air just outside the building.
“The thing that really provoked us was the poet,” said Mustafa Kamal, a student at the University of al-Qadisiya in Diwaniya, in southern Iraq, who participated in the protest.
Mr. Kamal and his fellow students quickly learned how dangerous it could be to stand up to Iran these days.
First, militiamen began threatening to haul them off. Then media outlets linked to the militias went after them, posting their pictures and calling them Baathists and enemies of Shiites. When a mysterious car appeared near Mr. Kamal’s house, his mother panicked that militiamen were coming for her son.
Then, finally, Mr. Kamal, a law student, and three of his friends received notices from the school saying they had been suspended for a year.
“We thought we had only one hope, the university,” he said. “And then Iran also interfered there.”
Mr. Khazali, whose political and militia organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, is deeply connected with Iran, has been on a speaking tour on campuses across Iraq as part of an effort to organize political support for next year’s national election. This has raised fears that Iran is trying not only to deepen its influence within Iraqi education, but also to transform militias into outright political and social organizations, much as it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“It’s another type of Iranian infiltration and the expansion of Iran’s influence,” said Beriwan Khailany, a lawmaker and member of Parliament’s higher-education committee. “Iran wants to control the youth, and to teach them the Iranian beliefs, through Iraqis who are loyal to Iran.”
When a group of Qatari falcon hunters, “including members of the royal family, were kidnapped in 2015 while on safari in the southern deserts of Iraq, Qatar called Iran and its militia allies — not the central government in Baghdad.
For Mr. Abadi, the prime minister, the episode was an embarrassing demonstration of his government’s weakness at the hands of Iran, whose proxy militia Kataibb Hezbollah was believed to be behind the kidnapping.
So when the hostage negotiations were about to end, Mr. Abadi pushed back.
Around noon on a day in April, a government jet from Qatar landed in Baghdad, carrying a delegation of diplomats and 500 million euros stuffed into 23 black boxes.
The hunters were soon on their way home, but the ransom did not go to the Iranian-backed militiamen who had abducted the Qataris; the cash ended up in a central bank vault in Baghdad.
The seizure of the money had been ordered by Mr. Abadi, who was furious at the prospect of militias, and their Iranian and Hezbollah benefactors, being paid so richly right under the Iraqi government’s nose.
“Hundreds of millions to armed groups?” Mr. Abadi said in a public rant. “Is this acceptable?”
In Iraq, the kidnapping episode was seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty and emblematic of Iran’s suffocating power over the Iraqi state.
In a post on Twitter, Mr. Zebari, the former finance minister, who was previously foreign minister, called the episode a “travesty.”
Mr. Zebari knows firsthand the power of Iran over the Iraqi state.
Last year, he said, he was ousted as finance minister because Iran perceived him as being too close to the United States. The account was verified by a member of Parliament who was involved in the removal of Mr. Zebari, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering Iran.
Mr. Zebari, who recounted the events in an interview from his mountainside mansion in northern Iraq, said that when President Barack Obama met with Mr. Abadi last September at the United Nations, the American leader personally lobbied to save Mr. Zebari’s job. Even that was not enough.
Mr. Abadi now finds himself in a difficult position. If he makes any move that can be seen as confrontational toward Iran, or as positioning himself closer to the United States, it could place a cloud over his political future.
“He had two options: to be with the Americans or with the Iranians,” said Izzat Shahbander, a prominent Iraqi Shiite leader who once lived in exile in Iran while Mr. Hussein was in power. “And he chose to be with the Americans.”
Mr. Abadi, who took office in 2014 with the support of both the United States and Iran, has seemed more emboldened to push back against Iranian pressure since President Trump took office.
In addition to seizing the ransom money, he has promoted an ambitious project for an American company to secure the highway from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, which Iran has opposed. He has also begun discussing with the United States the terms of a deal to keep American forces behind after the Islamic State is defeated.
Some are seeing an American troop commitment as a chance to revisit the 2011 withdrawal of United States forces that seemingly opened a door for Iran.
When American officials in Iraq began the slow wind-down of the military mission there, in 2009, some diplomats in Baghdad were cautiously celebrating one achievement: Iran seemed to be on its heels, its influence in the country waning.
“Over the last year, Iran has lost the strategic initiative in Iraq,” one diplomat wrote in a cable, later released by WikiLeaks.
But other cables sent warnings back to Washington that were frequently voiced by Iraqi officials they spoke to: that if the Americans left, then Iran would fill the vacuum.
Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador in Iraq from 2007 to 2009, said that if the United States left again after the Islamic State was defeated, “it would be effectively just giving the Iranians a free rein.”
But many Iraqis say the Iranians already have free rein. And while the Trump administration has indicated that it will pay closer attention to Iraq as a means to counter Iran, the question is whether it is too late.
“Iran is not going to sit silent and do nothing,” said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician who has good relationships with both the Iranians and Americans. “They have many means. Frankly, the Americans can’t do anything.”
Just a quick question.... there is so much talk all over the media as they are pre-programming us to accept, even LOVE the idea of our society going absolutely CASHLESS.
As usual, the young folk will just love it because it's soooo convenient and handy to pay for everything with your smart phone....or with an implanted chip in your hand (Mark of the Beast, anyone??).
As usual, the young folk will not immediately understand that going cashless will immediately cause everyone to lose their personal power in the matrix-like system, run by technocrats and A.I.
No more free trading or bartering...every little transaction noted and stored...great for taxation departments, but potentially also great for controlling people.
Talk about current control measures.... Already the globalists at Google have enlisted the aid of the Chinese Government to help them with their best communist advice on how to censor the internet, Facebook and Youtube.
People like Alex Jones and Drudge report are being targeted. Wikileaks is being lableled as FAKE NEWS...when really... all Wikileaks contains is FACTS and FILES...they are not news stories...
SO HERE WE ARE.....all hoping for an RV...but there is a race going on to stop the use of CASH altogether..... wouldn't it be ironic if an awesome RV happened after all use of cash has been stopped or banned?? There would be nowhere to take your Dinar bills. If cash is still being used in Iraq, I guess you could take a plane and fly to Iraq and cash it THERE.
Some feedback, please folks? What do you all reckon about this. Cheers from Downunder!
While Hillarious is running off at the mouth about Trumps $900 million loss, The Donald is once again having to defend himself. Most people don't understand this aspect of the tax code which Trump took advantage of and think he cheated on his taxes that allowed him to pay little or no taxes on the subsequent years.
No matter how you feel about this, Trump had every right to claim a large loss for the 1998 tax year there by allowing him to legally take a credit loss each year till it zeros out. In this case it took about 18 years to zero out.
i know this because I used the same carry over credit on my taxes on a home that I owned while living in Las Vegas about ten years ago. This was about the time of the housing bubble as I got caught up in it. In 2006 I decided that I was going to move back to upstate N.Y. On a July afternoon when the temperature got up to 117 that day. The heat was just to much for me to stay there any longer. By April of 2007 I had a moving truck outside of my new home of 3 years loading up my worldly possessions. I had made arrangements for a management company to handle the renting of my home in northwest Vegas. My mortgage payment on that home was about $1,300.00 a month. Later in 2007 the Vegas economy started to tank. As time went on it became more difficult to keep tenants in my home and harder to find new ones.
it wasn't to much longer before I started getting behind on my mortgage payments. I went to consult a CPA for advice and he laid the cards out on the table. Under his advice I decided to walk away from the mortgage and let the bank take the house. When I bought the house it was worth $295,000.00. and after laying out $100,000.00 for the down payment I still owed the bank about $195,000.00. You know the old saying "You can't get blood out of a stone." and this is the way it was for me. 2008 was a rough year and by the end of the year, the bank was demanding all the money I owed. I basically threw my arms up and said I give up.
The $100,000.00 down payment and the monthly payments I made to the bank till I couldn't pay anymore came to about $125,000.00 in losses. According to the tax code I was able to claim $25,000 against my income taxes starting in 2009 until the balance reached zero. I legally paid zero income taxes to the federal and state government. Trump did the same thing on his losses for 1998 that I did in 2009. The tax code is so complex that there are possibly many thousands of people that are not aware of the many legal loopholes. Therefore, there are a lot of people that cry foul when they hear about Trump using this legal loophole.
There are also many middle income people that can use this tax doge but are unaware of it. Also, it is important to know that this code gives many rich people like Trump the ability to claim the loss while giving them the chance to start over by building up a new business that will hopefully employ people. I consider this whole situation with Trump and his $950 + million loss all moot now. Let's move on to something else now.
Okay, so why am I posting this? I watched an interview with Doug Casey & Peter Schiff concerning Peter's father Irwin that is serving a very stiff 13 yr prison sentence - That interview led me by interest to watch a video of Doug Casey concerning "HIS" views on voting - I was absolutely in agreement with so much that he said but pushed it aside until I read Ezrapounds thread earlier this morning -
We are cursed if we do and cursed if we don't -- It reminds me of an old wise tale "If you get up I'm going to beat you with this stick. If you keep sitting there I"m going to beat you with this stick" ----- so what do you do? I have my answer do you have yours?
Doug Casey's Top Five Reasons Not To Vote
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/22/2012 23:42 -0400
Submitted by Doug Casey of Casey Research,
L: Doug, we've spoken about presidents. We have a presidential election coming up in the US – an election that could have significant consequences on our investments. But given the views you've already expressed on the Tea Party movement and anarchy, I'm sure you have different ideas. What do you make of the impending circus, and what should a rational man do?
Doug: Well, a rational man, which is to say, an ethical man, would almost certainly not vote in this election, or in any other – at least above a local level, where you personally know most of both your neighbors and the candidates.
L: Why? Might not an ethical person want to vote the bums out?
Doug: He might feel that way, but he'd better get his emotions under control. I've thought about this. So let me give you at least five reasons why no one should vote.
The first reason is that voting is an unethical act, in and of itself. That's because the state is pure, institutionalized coercion. If you believe that coercion is an improper way for people to relate to one another, then you shouldn't engage in a process that formalizes and guarantees the use of coercion.
L: It's probably worth defining coercion in this context. I know you agree with me that force is ethical in self-defense. A murderer I shoot might feel coerced into accepting a certain amount of hot lead that he did not consent to, but he intended the same, or worse, for me, so the scales are balanced. What you are talking about is forcing innocent, non-consenting others to do things against their wills, like paying taxes that go to pay for military adventures they believe are wrong, etc.
Doug: Right. The modern state not only routinely coerces people into doing all sorts of things they don't want to do – often very clearly against their own interests – but it necessarily does so, by its nature. People who want to know more about that should read our conversation on anarchy.
This distinction is very important in a society with a government that is no longer limited by a constitution that restrains it from violating individual rights. And when you vote, you participate in, and endorse, this unethical system.
L: It's probably also worth clarifying that you're not talking about all voting here. When you are a member of a golfing club and vote on how to use the fees, you and everyone else have consented to the process, so it's not unethical. It's participating in the management of the coercive machinery of the state you object to, not voting in and of itself.
Doug: Exactly. As Mao correctly said, "The power of the State comes out of the barrel of a gun." It's not like voting for the leadership of a social club. Unlike a golfing club or something of that nature, the state won't let you opt out.
L: Even if you're not harming anyone and just want to be left alone.
Doug: Which relates to the second reason: privacy. It compromises your privacy to vote. It gets your name added to a list government busybodies can make use of, like court clerks putting together lists of conscripts for jury duty. Unfortunately, this is not as important a reason as it used to be, because of the great proliferation of lists people are on anyway.
Still, while it's true there's less privacy in our world today, in general, the less any government knows about you, the better off you are. This is, of course, why I've successfully refused to complete a census form for the last 40 years.
L: [Chuckles] We've talked about the census. Good for you
Doug: It's wise to be a nonperson, as far as the state is concerned, as far as possible.
L: Not to digress too much, but some people might react by saying that juries are important.
Doug: They are, but it would be a waste of my time to sign up for jury duty, because I would certainly be kicked off any jury. No attorney would ever let me stay on the jury once we got to voir dire, because I would not agree to being a robot that simply voted on the facts and the law as instructed by the judge –
I'd want to vote on the morality of the law in question too. I'd be interested in justice, and very few laws today, except for the basic ones on things like murder and theft, have anything to do with justice. If the case related to drug laws, or tax laws, I would almost certainly automatically vote to acquit, regardless of the facts of the case.
L: I've thought about it too, because it is important, and I might be willing to serve on a jury. And of course I'd vote my conscience too. But I'd want to be asked, not ordered to do it. I'm not a slave.
Doug: My feelings exactly.
L: But we should probably get to your third reason for not voting.
Doug: That would be because it's a degrading experience. The reason I say that is because registering to vote, and voting itself, usually involves taking productive time out of your day to go stand around in lines in government offices. You have to fill out forms and deal with petty bureaucrats. I know I can find much more enjoyable and productive things to do with my time, and I'm sure anyone reading this can as well.
L: And the pettier the bureaucrat, the more unpleasant the interaction tends to be.
Doug: I have increasing evidence of that every time I fly. The TSA goons are really coming into their own now, as our own home-grown Gestapo wannabes.
L: It's a sad thing… Reason number four?
Doug: As P.J. O'Rourke says in a recent book, and as I've always said, voting just encourages them.
I'm convinced that most people don't vote for candidates they believe in, but against candidates they fear. But that's not how the guy who wins sees it; the more votes he gets, the more he thinks he's got a mandate to rule – even if all his votes are really just votes against his opponent. Some people justify this, saying it minimizes harm to vote for the lesser of two evils. That's nonsense, because it still leaves you voting for evil.
The lesser of two evils is still evil.
Incidentally, I got as far as this point in 1980, when I was on the Phil Donahue show. I had the whole hour on national TV all to myself, and I felt in top form. It was actually the day before the national election, when Jimmy Carter was the incumbent, running against Ronald Reagan.
After I made some economic observations, Donahue accused me of intending to vote for Reagan. I said that I was not, and as sharp as Donahue was, he said, "Well, you're not voting for Carter, so you must be voting Libertarian…"
I said no, and had to explain why not. I believed then just as I do now. And it was at about this point when the audience, which had been getting restive, started getting really upset with me. I never made it to point five.
Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.
That same audience, when I pointed out that their taxes were high and were being wasted, contained an individual who asked, "Why do we have to pay for things with our taxes? Why doesn't the government pay for it?"
I swear that's what he said; it's on tape. If you could go back and watch the show, you'd see that the audience clapped after that brilliant question. Which was when I first realized that while the situation is actually hopeless, it's also quite comic…
Doug: And things have only gotten worse since then, with decades more public education behind us.
L: I bet that guy works in the Obama administration now, where they seem to think exactly as he did; the government will just pay for everything everyone wants with money it doesn't have.
Doug: [Chuckles] Maybe so. He'd now be of an age where he's collecting Social Security and Medicare, plus food stamps, and likely gaming the system for a bunch of other freebies. Maybe he's so discontent with his miserable life that he goes to both Tea Party and Green Party rallies to kill time.
I do believe we're getting close to the endgame. The system is on the verge of falling apart. And the closer we get to the edge, the more catastrophic the collapse it appears we're going to have.
Which leads me to point number five: Your vote doesn't count. If I'd gotten to say that to the Donahue audience, they probably would have stoned me. People really like to believe that their individual votes count.
Politicians like to say that every vote counts, because it gets everyone into busybody mode, makes voters complicit in their crimes. But statistically, any person's vote makes no more difference than a single grain of sand on a beach. Thinking their vote counts seems to give people who need it an inflated sense of self-worth.
That's completely apart from the fact – as voters in Chicago in 1960 and Florida in 2000 can tell you – when it actually does get close, things can be, and often are, rigged. As Stalin famously said, it's not who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes.
Anyway, officials manifestly do what they want, not what you want them to do, once they are in office. They neither know, nor care, what you want. You're just another mark, a mooch, a source of funds.
L: The idea of political representation is a myth, and a logical absurdity. One person can only represent his own opinions – if he's even thought them out. If someone dedicated his life to studying another person, he might be able to represent that individual reasonably accurately. But given that no two people are completely – or even mostly – alike, it's completely impossible to represent the interests of any group of people.
Doug: The whole constellation of concepts is ridiculous. This leads us to the subject of democracy. People say that if you live in a democracy, you should vote. But that begs the question of whether democracy itself is any good. And I would say that, no, it's not. Especially a democracy unconstrained by a constitution.
That, sadly, is the case in the US, where the Constitution is 100% a dead letter. Democracy is nothing more than mob rule dressed up in a suit and tie. It's no way for a civilized society to be run. At this point, it's a democracy consisting of two wolves and a sheep, voting about what to eat for dinner.
L: Okay, but in our firmly United State of America today, we don't live in your ideal society. It is what it is, and if you don't vote the bums out, they remain in office. What do you say to the people who say that if you don't vote, if you don't raise a hand, then you have no right to complain about the results of the political process?
Doug: But I do raise a hand, constantly. I try to change things by influencing the way people think. I'd just rather not waste my time or degrade myself on unethical and futile efforts like voting. Anyway, that argument is more than fallacious, it's ridiculous and spurious.
Actually, only the non-voter does have a right to complain – it's the opposite of what they say. Voters are assenting to whatever the government does; a nonvoter can best be compared to someone who refuses to join a mob. Only he really has the right to complain about what they do.
L: Okay then, if the ethical man shouldn't vote in the national elections coming up, what should he do?
Doug: I think it's like they said during the war with Viet Nam: Suppose they gave a war, and nobody came? I also like to say: Suppose they levied a tax, and nobody paid? And at this time of year: Suppose they gave an election, and nobody voted?
The only way to truly delegitimize a corrupt system is by not voting. When tin-plated dictators around the world have their rigged elections, and people stay home in droves, even today's "we love governments of all sorts" international community won't recognize the results of the election.
L: Delegitimizing evil… and without coercion, or even force. That's a beautiful thing, Doug. I'd love to see the whole crooked, festering, parasitical mass in Washington – and similar places – get a total vote of no-confidence.
Doug: Indeed. Now, I realize that my not voting won't make that happen. My not voting doesn't matter any more than some naïve person's voting does. But at least I'll know that what I did was ethical. You have to live with yourself. That's only possible if you try to do the right thing.
L: At least you won't have blood on your hands.
Doug: That's exactly the point.
L: A friendly amendment: you do staunchly support voting with your feet.
Doug: Ah, that's true. Unfortunately, the idea of the state has spread over the face of the earth like an ugly skin disease. All of the governments of the world are, at this point, growing in extent and power – and rights violations – like cancers. But still, that is one way I am dealing with the problem; I'm voting with my feet. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It's idiotic to sit around like a peasant and wait to see what they do to you.
To me, it makes much more sense to live as a perpetual tourist, staying no more than six months of the year in any one place. Tourists are courted and valued, whereas residents and citizens are viewed as milk cows. And before this crisis is over, they may wind up looking more like beef cows. Entirely apart from that, it keeps you from getting into the habit of thinking like a medieval serf. And I like being warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.
L: And, as people say: "What if everyone did that?" Well, you'd see people migrating towards the least predatory states where they could enjoy the most freedom, and create the most wealth for themselves and their posterity. That sort of voting with your feet could force governments to compete for citizens, which would lead to more places where people can live as they want. It could become a worldwide revolution fought and won without guns.
Doug: That sounds pretty idealistic, but I do believe this whole sick notion of the nation-state will come to an end within the next couple generations. It makes me empathize with Lenin when he said, "The worse it gets, the better it gets." Between jet travel, the Internet, and the bankruptcy of governments around the world, the nation-state is a dead duck. As we've discussed before, people will organize into voluntary communities we call phyles.
L: That's the name given to such communities by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his book The Diamond Age, which we discussed in our conversation on Speculator's Fiction. Well, we've talked quite a bit – what about investment implications?
Doug: First, don't expect anything that results from this US election to do any real, lasting good. And if, by some miracle, it did, the short-term implications would be very hard economic times. What to do in either case is what we write about in our big-picture newsletter, The Casey Report.
More important, however, is to have a healthy and useful psychological attitude. For that, you need to stop thinking politically, stop wasting time on elections, entitlements, and such nonsense. You've got to use all of your time and brain power to think economically. That's to say, thinking about how to allocate your various intellectual, personal, and capital assets, to survive the storm – and even thrive, if you play your cards right.
L: Very good. I like that: think economically, not politically. Thanks, Doug!
Doug: My pleasure.
Irrespective of whether one agrees with Doug's politics, his investing record speaks for itself. And just like him, the analysts and editors at Casey Research dig deep in their respective fields and are blunt in their assessments. One thing many agree that the US will have to face, no matter the outcome of the presidential election, is its growing debt crisis.
Deputy for the National: the task of monitoring the national front-Abadi, and claims the blocks after the formation of theBy yota691
Deputy for the National: the task of monitoring the national front-Abadi, and claims the blocks after the formation of the government
Friday, 29 August / August 2014 07:33
Said Deputy for the State of Law coalition WIN in the National Alliance, on Friday, that the task of Prime Minister-designate Haider Abadi compaction national ranks to form a government of national partnership and a strong consistent serve all political parties
He said Ahmed al-Khafaji told all of Iraq [where] that "there are some claims by the political blocs, including Article 140 and the oil and gas law is not necessary to be resolved before the formation of the government, but should be on the political blocs to look at the formation of the next government and then the government can discuss these claims" .
Fonder Khafaji political blocs to soften its demands in order to accelerate the formation of the government. "
The Iraqi political blocs conducting dialogues after naming committees negotiating to form a government, with Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi told a news conference his first after commissioning held last Monday that "negotiations with the political blocs positive and constructive and stressed Abadi on "the necessity of putting the political blocs, its members in government as soon as possible, "he said, adding that" the government absorb all the energies and includes all the ingredients we need in the coming period to promote trust between the political blocs. "
It is said that more than half of the month specified in the constitution to form a government after commissioning Abadi has ended and stayed 10 days in front of him to accomplish Almanmh.anthy 2