Tag Archives: Iraq

Welcome to Camp Reality!

Post dedicated to John, who came up with the name Camp Reality.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re from an authoritarian country whose dictatorial leaders rob the population of the nation’s natural wealth, squirreling it away in Western banks and real estate. It’s so bad that you had to leave your homeland. But, as it turns out, the regime you fled publicly attacks the United States and blames economic problems on being “surrounded by enemies?” Now, every time you try to explain the plight of your people to American leftists who are in many cases fighting for the same social justice you’d like to see in your country, you’re accused of being a secret millionaire, billionaire, or a dupe of the CIA. You try to explain why the sources they are using are worthless and you suggest other info, but they act as though their access to internet makes their opinion equal to yours, even if they’ve never had so much as a passport. Is there anything you can do? NOW THERE IS! 

You can recommend your friends take a very special summer vacation to Camp Reality (TM)! At Camp Reality, they won’t be able to hide from the truth using the internet and confirmation bias to pick sources of information which confirm their worldview. No, here at Camp Reality, they’ll get the most realistic hands-on experience of living under a 21st century authoritarian kleptocratic regime! Inspired by the groundbreaking work on racism by Jane Elliot, Camp Reality teaches people who live in the privileged West who like to live vicariously through countries, regimes, and people they may never have encountered in person what it’s actually like to live under those regimes they have deemed to be “anti-imperialist” simply due to public rhetoric and propaganda.

After signing an extremely detailed 45-page legal waiver which temporarily suspends any rights they might have under their own government, entrants to the camp will have their choice of three different “difficulty levels” based on three different types of real-world authoritarian regimes.

 

Level 1: Easy Mode

This mode is designed to replicate conditions in a 21st century soft dictatorship, specifically the Russian Federation. In the early days you’ll experience chaos as corrupt officials and police either fail to protect your property or actively help criminal groups. After week one, attendees may breathe a sigh of relief when a new leader promises to bring stability. All seems well and you’re prospering until you start to realize that the old gangsters have just been replaced by new ones, and now the state becomes more and more overbearing. Eventually the “economy” starts to decline, the leader changes the constitution so he doesn’t have to leave office, and suddenly you can be facing criminal charges for sharing a joke on social media. If you speak out, you’ll be deemed a traitor who hates your country, often by simulated leaders whose own simulated family members live in luxury in Europe. Hopefully your business doesn’t get raided by someone connected or wiped out when the leader starts a needless war and invents “counter-sanctions” in response to the sanctions he provoked with his own short-sighted actions.

Level 2: Hard Mode

This mode is modeled after countries like Venezuela. Your leader endlessly rants about “Yankee imperialism” while his cronies skim money out of the state oil company and stash it away in Yankee banks and real estate. After a while, the store shelves are empty and you’ll spend at least one whole week trying to scrounge for food. You’ll get a chance to tell simulated Western social media users about the conditions in your country, only to be told that you’re just some “millionaire who lost his land” or a dupe of the CIA calling for military intervention for “regime change.” These people will then bombard you with articles from “your” country’s state media and the state media outlets of government friendly regimes to tell you what’s really happening.

Level 3: NIGHTMARE! 

This mode is based on Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. We ask that attendees choosing this mode please read the legal waiver very thoroughly and wear comfortable, NON-FLAMMABLE clothing.

After surviving attending Camp Reality, your friends and family members will have learned a valuable lesson in empathy and how social justice without internationalist solidarity can often be a slippery slope to fascism. But don’t take our word for it, read these testimonials from actual attendees of Camp Reality!

“Since I came of age around 2003, I used to compare every international crisis to the Iraq invasion of that year. After attending Camp Reality, I learned that not every regime the US government criticizes is really just trying to fight for its people against the influence of transnational corporations. As it turns out, some regimes really do just suck, and criticism from the US government isn’t the same as openly advocating for a massive invasion as the Bush administration clearly did in late 2002 to early 2003!”    -Carla, 32,  Hard Mode

 

“I used to think the only reason Western media was so critical of Putin is because he made Russia strong again and he opposed NATO. After spending a month in a simulated regime modeled after Putin’s I realized that NATO encirclement was really just an excuse for authoritarian measures and for why my country lagged behind Europe despite massive wealth in natural resources. I also learned that when I posted about this online, I was accused of being a traitor and a Western agent even though I really just wanted to see my country succeed. I think the best touch was how when I brought up problems, people would tell me about something terrible in America as though that had any relevance to the issue I was trying to discuss. It’s the same thing I used to do online!”   –Ryan, 26, Easy Mode

 

“Oh God! Oh God! I…I…I can’t….I don’t even…Who, who are you? Am I safe? Is this safe?!”    –Meghan, 28, NIGHTMARE!

So why delay? Tell your insufferably edgy little shit of a cousin to put their money where their mouth is today and send them to CAMP REALITY!

What About Iraq Indeed

Recently I saw another reminder of an issue that I haven’t devoted a lot of time to in the past, but which deserves attention. Russia’s involvement in Iraqi Kurdistan (aka the Kurdish Regional Government) is a story often overshadowed by the campaign in Syria and the occupation of Ukraine, but it’s a good idea to keep it in mind.

What involvement are we talking about? As usual it’s a matter of oil and gas, Russia’s bread and butter. Russia has become one of the biggest investors in Iraqi Kurdistan’s energy industry, apparently. I knew that Gazprom was there several years ago, but apparently so is Rosneft. In fact, according to the article Russia is moving in to fill a gap that was left by the US as it got out of Iraq.

That is quite interesting because we all know that the Putinophile’s favorite answer to any criticism of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy is “WHAT ABOUT IRAQ?!” Realistically, they already pissed away their right to use that when they decided to invade and occupy another country under false pretexts, just as Bush had done in Iraq. But the story about Kurdistan is just a reminder that Putin’s criticism of US actions in Iraq were always bullshit. Putin’s economic boom in the 2000’s was largely due to high oil prices. Putin had a win-win situation; criticize the war for political capital, reap the benefits of the war. But even if you say Putin had no control over oil markets (fair enough), he has certainly benefited from the toppling of the Baathist regime, which opened Iraqi Kurdistan up for investment.

Of course this doesn’t make Russia share responsibility for what the US did in Iraq, but the truth is that Putin never really cared. In his eyes, the invasion must have confirmed what he already believed- that a rules-based world guided by concepts like human rights and democracy was nothing but a sham, a velvet glove over an iron fist. In Putin’s 19th century worldview, invading Iraq was just realpolitik. Thus he saw him self justified in invading and occupying Ukraine.

The lesson here is one I learned long ago, even before I was totally wise to the Kremlin’s propaganda tactics. I’d see RT hosting some guest who would talk about the evils of US foreign policy, but you’d never see any criticism of Russia’s own foreign adventures (though they were far more modest at the time). That felt disturbing, and made me shy away from voicing my own criticisms of the West when in the company of Russians, because I didn’t feel any reciprocity. As one friend described conversations with a Russian mutual acquaintance- “When I talk about all the problems in America, her eyes light up, but when it’s her turn, she doesn’t have much to say.”

It’s different in many other countries. In Ukraine, I hate my government, they hate their government, I hate their government too, and we both hate the Russian government as well. There’s a kind of solidarity there. With pro-Kremlin Russians though, you’re a hero when you’re condemning the aggression of the United States, but you’re a neocon Banderite Nazi the second you start applying the same logic and criticism to the Kremlin. Some folks like to bask in the attention they get from pro-Kremlin Russians for voicing the former criticism, but the fact is that those giving the attention see them as traitors, as defectives who for some reason don’t know they’re supposed to cheer for their team. There is zero respect for such people in Russia. In fact, even Russians who aren’t pro-regime tend to see such enthusiastic Putinophiles as somewhat insane.

So just keep all this in mind when they say play the “what about Iraq” card. We who have been consistent on this issue have the right to criticize the American and British governments for that aggression. Putin’s fanboys don’t. They’re defending his aggression in Ukraine, either explicitly or implicitly. The truth is that as one Twitter follower pointed out- Russia actually won the Iraq War. America did the fighting, and they reaped the benefits.