Showing posts with label War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War. Show all posts

Friday, February 17, 2023

Racist Ukrainians

I don't eat meat. I never ate pork. I have never liked eggs. Can't stand them. I find eggs' texture, look, and taste disgusting, along with their very concept. Eating chicken ova? Yuck. No thanks. However, if I were starving I wouldn't be so picky.

If some Good Samaritan offered me a hot plate of ham sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs, I would graciously accept the food. I wouldn't throw it back at the Good Samaritan as if the food were raw sewage. It wouldn't be my preference but it would keep me alive. That's important.

One would think that Ukrainian refugees, running for their collective lives from their war torn country, would be happy to be allowed into another nation to live. One would think they'd be wise enough to keep minor complaints to themselves. One would be wrong. Apparently some Ukrainians really hate Black people and Asian people--and aren't shy about making this known.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Lithuania Cancels Covid Vaccine Donation To Bangladesh

Say you are at home. An earnest young woman knocks on your door. She has a petition for you to sign. The woman is also taking donations; a $50 minimum is suggested. 
Perhaps she wants to stop Evil Megacorp Inc. from committing environmental crimes. Maybe she's concerned about sexual, gender, or racial politics. Or maybe this is about a local recall election.

But you have no money to donate. You can't support the cause publicly. Maybe your spouse or parent(s) work(s) for Evil Megacorp Inc. Maybe your local representative has threatened police harassment of petition signers. Maybe you prefer avoiding politics. You don't sign the petition or give money. Angered, this canvasser produces a Molotov cocktail, lights it, and tosses it thru your open door, yelling that "You're either with us or against us!!

Or say the canvasser leaves. But the canvasser's husband runs the local sanitation service. No one will pick up your garbage--unless you sign the petition. Are you and your children surviving on church charity? The canvasser's brother-in-law is the church preacher. The preacher tells you that church charity is for petition signers. So you and yours can starve--unless you sign the petition.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Russia and Ukraine War: Quick Thoughts

I hope that the Russia: Ukraine War ends soon with minimal loss of life. In most cases war is an obscenity. 
However, it's impossible not to notice the tremendous implicit bias in the war's media coverage. 
Some pundits have expressed shock and horror that war is occurring in Europe. 

The unspoken feeling is that Europeans should be more advanced than this, not like those other "uncivilized" people of the world. For those other people, evidently, life really should be 'nasty, brutish, and short.' 
One journalist recently made this explicit. I doubt that he has any special animus against people who aren't white or European. He just takes it for granted that such people aren't as advanced or as civilized as his (presumably white) audience.

There are deadlier wars currently occurring in Ethiopia and Yemen. There are people losing their lands and lives in a slow motion strangulation in Palestine. Western powers drop bombs on people in Syria and Somalia with a disregard for civilian casualties. Boko Haram is still kidnapping and murdering people in Nigeria. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Waverly Woodson: D-Day Hero

My maternal grandfather was a WW2 Veteran. Unfortunately by the time I was old enough to be interested in such things I didn't see him that often. He was gone way too soon as far I was concerned. I can still get stories about him from other relatives but it's not really the same as getting it direct from the source.
I don't know if my grandfather was ever in combat. I do remember the seemingly HUGE rifle that he brought home. Memory is important. And it's because of the importance of memory that Joann Woodson, the 90 year-old widow of WW2 D-Day hero Waverly Woodson, is fighting to ensure that her late husband receives all the praise and commendations that he should have received during his life, including the Medal of Honor.
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – For years, a widow has been fighting for recognition of her late husband's heroism during D-Day. Waverly Woodson Jr. was one of an estimated one million African Americans who served in World War II, including 2,000 who were at Normandy. All served in segregated units and their contributions are often overlooked. Joann Woodson, 90, wants everyone to know the sacrifice her husband made when he stormed Omaha Beach 75 years ago as a medic.

"He said that the men were just dropping, just dropping so fast. Some of them were so wounded, there was nothing that you could do but just give them a few little last rites," Woodson said.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

President Obama: No Boots On the Ground In Syria!

One of the things that drives me crazy in any sort of relationship whether it be professional or personal is when someone changes their mind and/or does the exact opposite of what they said they were going to do. That's bad enough. But hey people change. Facts on the ground change. That's life. I can deal with that. We all have to deal. But, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken what can make me spit on my hands, hoist the black flag and start running berserk is when the person who has just changed their mind or reversed themselves has the sheer audacity to lie to your face and tell you that no they're not changing their mind. You just misunderstood them. Apparently you are just that stupid. It's not their problem that you apparently have a leaky brain. Actually they should get a medal for having to deal with your dumb behind. When dealing with people like this, black is white, up is down and good is evil. It literally does not matter what sort of proof you have of the person making declarative statements that they weren't going to do something. You can provide signed and notarized triplicate forms of the person telling you to do or not do something. Rest assured that none of that matters. The person will simply ignore reality until you agree that yes they were right all along. These folks are odious pious devotees of the Church of Cover Thy A$$. No matter what they are always right. If they predicted rain yesterday but it doesn't rain then as far as they were concerned they didn't predict rain. They are always right. Bottom line. It's easier to avoid these sorts of people in my personal life but unfortunately they are tremendously over represented among upper management and Presidents.

Remember that President Barack Obama made definitive statements that he would not put boots on the ground in Syria. Period. End of story. Also remember that after a rather public Hamlet like internal debate President Obama tried and failed to get Congress to authorize ground troops in Syria. Now in a functioning republic that's the end. Unfortunately we lack a functioning republic. We have one in which Presidents (Obama wasn't the first and won't be the last) have seized for themselves the right to attack, bomb and invade countries without any sort of Congressional permission. So yesterday we saw White House spokesman mouthpiece Josh Earnest announce that US Special Forces troops would be on the ground in Syria (they're probably already there). According to Mr. Earnest this didn't contradict the President's prior assertions. Also according to Mr. Earnest this didn't fall under the War Powers Act. Mr. Earnest claimed this was legal despite the fact that the government of Syria didn't invite US Special Forces. Mr. Earnest claimed that the 2001 AUMF gave the President all the authority he needed. That the President believes that a law created for one country and one organization gives him authority to interfere in another country without Congressional or for that matter United Nations approval is telling.

Anyway, here is what the President said on a prior occasion. His hardcore defenders, just as they did with the "If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor" statements will likely tie themselves in knots as Earnest did yesterday, trying to find some obscure loophole that apparently justifies this change. I'm tired of this. There aren't any good options in Syria. Nobody has clean hands. Some of the people we're assisting are Al-Qaeda affiliates. Others are considered terrorists by our NATO Turkish allies. It's okay if the President changed his mind. But he should admit that he changed his mind. Don't p*** on my head and tell me it's raining. And he should get Congressional approval before sending in troops. That is the law, even if no one bothers to obey it any longer. One of the really infuriating arguments which Earnest and presumably President Obama tries to put across is that if Congress doesn't do what the President wants (in this case give him an authorization for military action in Syria) then he has the right to act because Congress has "failed". Again, that is not how our system works.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Recap: The First Democratic Debate

Five democratic candidates for President of the United States took the debate stage in Las Vegas last night to face off over the issues for the very first time. Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O'Malley introduced themselves to the American people and then got down and dirty in the political mud.

No topic was off limits. Gun control. Hillary Clinton's Emails. Benghazi. Syria. Russia. The Economy. Black Lives Matter. The candidates covered it all. Well, at least some of them did, and that is where we have a problem, if you don't like your candidates chosen for you.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clearly had more debate prep than any of the other candidates on the stage. And by debate prep I mean Clinton's failed 2008 run when she endlessly debated then Senator Barack Obama despite having no chance at the nomination, and Clinton and Sanders' storied histories in the halls of Congress. As for the other candidates, they barely registered in the key arguments being put forth in the debate. It was the Hillary and Bernie show.

One of the most contentious issues early on was gun control. The gloves came off between the old Senate fellows. Hillary Clinton said Bernie Sanders wasn't tough enough on gun control. Bernie tried to argue that there is a difference in the perception of guns in rural areas versus more urban areas, and while he is technically right, that technicality doesn't matter when you consider the students and teachers of Sandy Hook were teaching and learning in a rural area when they were massacred by a madman.

The debate on gun control quickly devolved into a debate about war and who would be a better Commander in Chief. Hillary Clinton was painted as too quick to press the button considering her voting record on Iraq. Bernie Sanders was painted as a pacifist, and the other three candidates pontificated about how they would have voted had they been in Congress, and what they will do once they become the President of the United States. Only Jim Webb could really speak about what it's really like to be at war considering his Marine background, but he squandered his chance to silence, and then complained that he didn't get enough time to speak.

From war the natural progression of the debate led to Syria, Russia, and Benghazi. This brought the marquee moment of the debate when Senator Bernie Sanders exclaimed, "We're tired of hearing about the damn emails." Hillary Clinton appreciated the vote of support from her socialist rival. The debate carried on and came to two of my favorite topics. Let's start with the economy.

On this topic the Democrats did what the Democrats always do. They blamed the Republican. In this case they blamed Bush. The campaign tactics of 2008 and 2012 when Obama ran were employed in earnest with a couple new twists. When the conversation turned to restoring Glass-Steagall all the candidates supported the move except Hillary Clinton. I wonder why? The obvious and only reason that Mrs. Clinton cannot support the restoration of the one piece of legislation that would keep investment banks separate from commercial/community banks is because it is the key piece of legislation her husband took pride in dismantling in the name of deregulation, trimming the fat, cutting the tape, and balancing the budget. While I'm sure President Clinton was well meaning in his actions back in those roaring 90s, it got us Millennials a lot of heartache in the aughts.

Instead of supporting the restoration of Glass-Steagall Mrs. Clinton promoted the failed pansy bill that is Dodd-Frank and promoted progressive capitalism with checks and balances. Bernie Sanders called her on her B.S. and Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb wept. Or at least they should have for their silence.

Last night's debate was hosted by CNN in conjunction with Facebook. That means questions were taken from real people to see if the candidates truly know what's going within the pulse of the country. The first question posed was a simple one, but an important one (especially to this here blogger) "Do Black Live Matter or Do All Lives Matter?

All of the candidates stated why Black Lives Matter. Whether they believe in the movement and goals of the grassroots civil rights campaign or not they gave politically correct answers. All except for maybe Jim Webb. He stumbled around his work with the Black community and came up with I've been working with African Americans and their situation... Mr. Webb, what exactly is our situation?

The Black Lives Matter questions raises a broader issue, not just among the Democratic candidates but for the entire 2016 campaign on both sides of the aisle. Unless the next President is Ben Carson, then our next President will be forced to have a "black agenda." An agenda President Obama could not, does not, and can not outwardly have for the simple fact that he is Black. For the first Black President to have an explicitly Black agenda, while necessary, will be to some too explicitly racist and at very least pandering. I know. The psychology of our country is backwards. However, what Obama had to do through Attorney General Eric Holder, and now Attorney General Loretta Lynch Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump can do on their own. They can put forth a plan to promote the equality of minorities among the greater hegemony and by "pandering" if you will they get the minority vote they are looking for.

It's still a long road to go for both the Democrat and Republican ticket, and though I hate to admit it Hillary Clinton was the strongest candidate at the podium last night. I don't like her sense of entitlement, and I don't care for her deceptive scandals but she did make several compelling arguments and the other candidates, save for Bernie Sanders didn't put up much of a fight against her machine. Especially Martin O'Malley. He's running for Vice President. I'm sure of it.


1. What did you think of the Democratic candidates' debate performance?
2. If the election were today who would you vote for?
3. Do there need to be more candidates in the race?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hiroshima: War, Peace and Memory

"When you got an all out prize fight, you wait until the fight is over, one guy is left standing and that's how you know who won." -Al Capone from The Untouchables.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. A few days later will see the 70th anniversary of the subsequent atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Each bombing immediately killed as many as 80,000 people in each city by most estimates. There would be many other people who would die later from wounds, radiation and cancers. The bombings finally convinced the Japanese Emperor Hirohito to drop most of his terms for surrender (over the vociferous objection of the military although like most so-called royalty being self-serving Hirohito requested to retain royal prerogatives). The other three conditions for surrender which the Emperor and the military leadership had previously insisted upon were (1) no military occupation of Japan (2) Japan would try its own war criminals (3) Japan would disarm itself. These conditions were obvious non-starters to the US though I would argue that the ensuing occupation was much easier than Japan had any reason to expect.

In any event the idea that one bomb could destroy one city made a huge impact at the time and obviously in the decades since then. There were some people at the time of the atomic bombings who thought that they were unnecessary if not criminal in nature. These weren't just people outside of the military either. Whether for moral or other reasons some leaders within the military and political establishment weren't sure that the use of the atomic bombs was justified. Others saw no problem with using the new weapon. Surely it was no different than the first person using a gun against an overconfident swordsman. If you're at war and have superior technology you use it. The Japanese surrender made a US invasion unnecessary and thus saved American lives. Before the atomic bombings, the Battle of Okinawa lasted almost 90 days and saw unbelievably vicious fighting and atrocities by both sides, including rape and deliberate targeting of civilians. The US lost around 14,000 marines and soldiers while the Japanese lost at least 77,000 troops. From this battle, both sides took the lesson that the invasion of Japan would be something close to an exterminationist undertaking. Now counterfactuals are always just that. No one can say for sure what would have happened. Some people have accepted the narrative that the atomic bombings were war crimes for which the US should be ashamed. Others say that we must work to rid the world of all nuclear weapons.

A very very very long time ago I used to think that the atom bombs were indeed criminal and likely racist in their application. But that was before I read Slaughterhouse-Five and researched the firebombing of Dresden. And later on (in my dissolute youth I was a WW2 buff) I learned all about the firebombing of Tokyo. More people died in the Tokyo bombing than died in Hiroshima. Does it really make a moral difference if someone is immediately turned to ash by a nuclear device or is incinerated or suffocated by a non-nuclear bomb? I don't see that it does. And certainly a nation that committed the Nanking Massacre has no room to point fingers about civilian casualties. The decision of moral import is whether or not to bomb a largely civilian area (though there were a high number of soldiers in Hiroshima). Once that decision has been made, everything else is just details. War, particularly total war, can and does often devolve to starkly utilitarian considerations. If you can break the enemy's morale and destroy his industry you can prevent well armed and supplied motivated soldiers from showing up at the front. If the enemy has no vehicles or communication or oil or gasoline then he can't effectively fight. More of his soldiers die or surrender and more of yours stay alive. That's the theory anyway. After the war it was discovered that aerial bombing of civilians had less of an strategic impact than many people had assumed. It just terrorized people and made them angrier. Nevertheless the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been the exception that proved the rule. Fear broke through the insane Japanese military code. Hirohito finally saw reason and surrendered, thus saving countless lives. 

The atom bombs were horrible events. We should work to make nuclear weapons unthinkable. The US needs to stop its addiction to war and cease its arms exports. Everyone on this planet should work for peace whenever possible. But in 2015 the US has no reason to think of Hiroshima or Nagasaki as criminal actions. Japan started it; the US finished it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

War on Syria??

Syria has been undergoing a bloody civil war. Over 100,000 people are said to have died. There are numerous rebel groups which are opposed to the Assad regime. However these groups are not exactly all a ragtag bunch of reluctant revolutionaries who sadly took up the gun and look forward to ending the war to return home and peacefully live out their days on a Tatooine moisture farm. Many of them are a pretty nasty bunch, who when they aren't enjoying such activities as cannibalism on government troops or gang rapes of women (and boys/men/girls too for that matter), are often seeking ways to impose Islamic rule over the previously secular Syria. Well that is Sunni Islamic rule. The Assad regime, despite being secular, is from the Alawite branch of Islam, and is considered akin to apostate or heretic by some fundamentalist Sunnis. This conflict isn't only a political revolution but also has ethnic and religious undertones. This last is of course being funded and fanned by our very good friends, the Saudis. Ironically of course the Muslim Brotherhood and associated groups, whom we claim to despise in Egypt, form some of the opposition in Syria. So does Al-Quaeda. Hezbollah, a Lebanese primarily Shia group, has come to the aid of the Syrian regime, without asking the Lebanese people if that was a good idea. Israel has bombed what it claimed were Syrian weapons transfers to Hezbollah. Iran and Syria have threatened Israel. Syrian Kurds, unpopular with and worried by all of the sides in the conflict have been fleeing to Iraq. Well, that is they've been fleeing to the northern portion of Iraq, which is heavily ethnically Kurdish and has enjoyed a sort of de facto home rule from the rest of Iraq. Greater numbers of Kurds could eventually pull Iraq back into a new civil war if the northern section gets emboldened to declare formal independence. Syrian refugees of all ethnicities and faiths have been fleeing the country. Both the rebels and the government have committed atrocities.

Allegedly the Syrian government used chemical weapons. I doubt that claim. It wouldn't make sense as they've been winning the war as of late. There are some issues with the evidence, not least of which is that the Secretary of State can only publicly offer youtube videos as casus belli. It's unclear as to who used chemical weapons and even if they were used. Still anything is possible. The US may or may not attack Syria in the next few days or even the next few hours. I don't know. I'm not invited to the meetings where those decisions are discussed. Neither are you in all likelihood.

This is, to quote noted foreign policy expert Yogi Berra, deja vu all over again. I don't have time or interest frankly to list all of the arguments against US involvement. You can read some of them here in the post on Libya. I'm trying to write shorter posts anyway.

No I will just raise a few issues here.
First off I agree with the man who said this :
The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent
Imagine if we had such a person in office today
  • By what authority does this President muse attacking Syria?
  • Next what is the point of attacking Syria? What is the US interest? Syria has not attacked the US. I have no doubt that the US can successfully drop bombs/fire missiles anywhere in Syria with zero or minimal US casualties. Then what?
  • What is the political impact of bombing Syria? Is that going to make Russia and China more or less amenable to listening to us on issues where we need their assistance? Will other countries decide that they need to either upgrade their air defense forces or more likely go nuclear? After all, you must have noticed although North Korea has a fat crazy dumpling of a Fearless Leader, nobody is talking about bombing North Korea. North Korea has nukes and deliberately gives off the impression that they're itching to use them.
  • Does the fact that Russia is moving additional warships to the Eastern Mediterranean concern anyone? 
  • The American people are overwhelmingly against it. Is that of any interest to politicians?
  • There are many violent struggles in the world, including some against rulers we support. What makes this one our business?
  • If the US does attack Syria would it be time to just drop the pretense and admit that some of us don't think that the people in the Middle East are smart enough to run their own affairs?
  • Do the people claiming that only a barbarian uses chemical weapons feel the same about nuclear weapons usage? If not why not? Why is it okay to incinerate people and not okay to gas them? Similarly why is it a bad thing to line up people against a wall and gun them down but just fine to drop bombs on them from three miles up and never see, hear or smell the effects of what you do? Are chemical weapons worse than depleted uranium usage? Why or why not?
None of this is meant to defend the Syrian government. But I'm not sure Syria is any nastier than Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Bahrain or any of the other nations funding the rebels for their own reasons. The Middle East is not exactly a region known for toleration of peaceful dissent. And no matter how they gained power there are few governments anywhere in the world who won't respond in kind when peaceful dissent turns violent. I say if other countries wish to intervene in Syria and likely bring about either a new military dictatorship or a fundamentalist Islamic state they are free to spend their own money, resources and lives. I'm not seeing why the US needs to be involved. And thanks to democratic blowback over a rush to judgment in Iraq, it looks like the UK may be prevented from tagging along this time as well. I think that it's past time that Congress put its foot down and wrestled back war making authority from the Executive Branch. But as always I could be woefully wrong. Let me know.

What's your take? 

Should the US do something? 

Was there a chemical attack? 

Do we owe something to the Syrian people?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

President Obama's Kill List: Murder Incorporated Drones

Obama kills children. I meant to write on this last week but due to work requirements I had to table it. Let's get back to some serious questions. You may not have noticed it what with all the media's fawning over the President at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the President's oh so brave announcement that he supports gay marriage that made some people fall out in Messianic ecstasy or the sudden Democratic "discovery" and "shocked outrage" (just in time for the November election) that the US income and wealth distributions have continued to ever more sharply tilt toward the well off but the undeclared war of worldwide drone attacks that the President has sanctioned and directed has continued. It's worse than I thought and probably worse than any of us know. 

No, while Democratic partisans were girding themselves for holy war over the pressing issue of forcing the Catholic Church to underwrite birth control for middle class women, hunting out homophobic heresies among comedians and preachers or stating with a straight face that a federal mandate to give money to huge corporate insurers without price controls was actually a progressive position, the Obama Administration was taking the so-called war on terror (a term it avoids because Bush used it) to a level of lawlessness and violence undreamed of by President Bush. The most striking aspect of Obama's first term has been not the ugliness with which some low-information racist voters oppose him, but the extent to which Obama's policies around war and civil liberties have been a continuation, well really a degradation, of Bush programs. 

That's right. There may be some mild debate among the elites on homosexual marriage or abortion but when it comes to killing or spying on people without warrant, judicial or congressional oversight, this Administration fits perfectly with the previous one. You can vote for a Republican and get war or vote for a Democrat and get war. Yummy. What great choices we have in our duopolistic plutocracy.
The New York Times, which is generally supportive of President Obama, recently did an expose of the Murder Incorporated campaign which the President is personally overseeing in contravention of law and morality. It is quite lengthy but I strongly urge you to take some time, okay a lot of time, and read it here.
Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program. This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants. But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.

I am the law!
Did you get that? Everybody who looks like a terrorist is a terrorist so there haven't been many civilians killed because we only kill terrorists. The President said so. So it must be true. This is hogwash!!! The fact that a Black man is saying it doesn't change that fact. It shows how ridiculously premature and insane it was to give Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. But hey I'm sure that the families of those killed from afar by our brave philosopher warrior-king will take solace in knowing that their loved ones were either terrorists or up to no good. And it's not like the Third World is running out of people so what's the big deal, right? Every male we kill is a terrorist until someone can POSTHUMOUSLY prove otherwise. Hmm. Isn't that the EXACT same mentality of the NYPD supersized steroid gobbling thug who rousts, harasses or kills black men? You're black so you must be up to something. And even if you weren't doing anything wrong this time well let this arrest/insult/beatdown be an example to those who were. This is the mindset that is processing the Global War on Terror, uh excuse me Overseas Contingency Operation. 
But some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist “signature” were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official.  Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued. Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well. “We are not going to war with Yemen,” he admonished in one meeting, according to participants. His guidance was formalized in a memo by General Jones, who called it a “governor, if you will, on the throttle,” intended to remind everyone that “one should not assume that it’s just O.K. to do these things because we spot a bad guy somewhere in the world.”Mr. Obama had drawn a line.  But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when C.I.A. analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence.  And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory. Today, the Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. Officials say the criteria are tighter than those for signature strikes, requiring evidence of a threat to the United States, and they have even given them a new name — TADS, for Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes. But the details are a closely guarded secret — part of a pattern for a president who came into office promising transparency.
Future Terrorist Stopped!!!
Whoa Nelly... The Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. This is amazing. So we don't even need to know your name, what your alleged crime was or who you are. All we need is that some soft bureaucrat or politician without the stones to put his own life on the line gives an order, no doubt while munching on arugula salad or sipping decaf latte, and halfway around the world another human being is blown to bits. What a country we live in. How wonderful it is that a President's courage can be written down in the blood of other people's children. Historians will doubtless write admiring biographies detailing President's Obama's steadfast grim determination to stay the course in the face of absolutely no serious political opposition on this issue.

But hey he's a good guy because he's trying to get people to drive Volts and help women in their struggle for "reproductive justice". Perhaps this is just what President Obama had in mind when he said that after he was elected that this would be the moment when the planet began to heal. I think his idea of healing the planet and mine are somewhat different but what do I know. Maybe you really can bring peace to the world by dropping bombs on brown and black people you don't like. I had a much longer diatribe planned but this is long enough already. If you really think these actions are just fine there's not much I can write to convince you otherwise. I'll just make a few final points and stop since work beckons. 
  • Drone attacks on countries with whom we have not declared war are a particularly odious and dare I say cowardly way of conducting foreign policy. The Constitution lays out a clear road map to declaring war. I don't care what other Presidents did in the past. You either do the right thing or you do not. 
  • The US is setting a very very bad precedent here. Does the US think it's the only country with grudges to settle with so-called terrorists? Do you know the name Luis Posada Carriles? If you don't then you should. He is a terrorist with a very long history of violence against Cuban and Venezuelan people, including an airliner bombing. But as far as the US military and intelligence community is concerned, he was killing the right people so he is a popular fixture among the insane right-wing Miami Cuban-American community. Cuba and Venezuela would very much like to get their hands on him but the US has refused. Now what do you think would be the US response, what would be your response, if one or both of those countries started a series of drone attacks across south Florida, killing dozens or even hundreds of people until they got Carriles? And when the US protested, Cuba responded "Hey well, people knew who this guy was. The way we see it, anybody hanging around him was a terrorist so we won't lose sleep or apologize over what we did. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs so quit your crying."
  • The US is making more enemies than it is killing with these drone attacks. Again, what would you do if someone starting shooting at your relative's wedding because they had information that your second cousin twice removed was there. And he was a bad guy. But let's say your cousin wasn't there and scores of your relatives and friends and their children were wounded and killed. Chances are you wouldn't be in a joyous mood. In fact you might be so angry and desperate that you and some other like minded people would get together to plan a little payback. It might take a while. It might happen two decades later and then just like with 9-11 naive and historically illiterate Americans would wonder why "they" hate us. It's already starting to happen
  • It is of course I'm sure a mere coincidence that one of Obama's earliest big money contributors just happens to be the billionaire Lester Crown, a previous chairman of and primary stockholder in General Dynamics, which wouldn't you know, makes drones. How lucky Crown is then, that the politician he supported has increased demand for his company's product. 
The NYT story is only concerned with process and how this might play politically. The NYT is not that concerned with the number of children killed. If Bush or Cheney had been overseeing this program I suspect there might have been a different tone to the article. The ugly truth about this though is that the Times story not withstanding this system of extra-judicial murder and unsanctioned war is something that is deeply bi-partisan. Neither major party presidential candidate would stop this program. In my view, neither man is worthy of being President or has much use for either the Constitution or basic morality. Many people who got on their high horse and attacked President Bush over Guantanamo, torture, assassinations or cherry picked intelligence are quiet as church mice now that it's their guy sitting in the big seat. There are a few brave consistent souls, Ralph Nader for one or Jeremy Scahill, who have the integrity not to change their beliefs about murder, based on which party the President claims. Good for them. There's something rotten in America's soul when these actions pass without comment. Should we get a President Romney I don't want to hear a mumbling word from some snide slug of a delinquent Democrat who has, post-election, miraculously rediscovered his or her dedication to constitutional limitations on Presidential actions. Not. One. Word.
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure. If today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us' but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.'" -Abraham Lincoln
What's your take?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Let's bomb Iran!!!

You may have noticed that Iran is in the news a lot lately. Israel Someone has been murdering their nuclear research scientists while various politicians in the United States and Israel and elsewhere are pounding the drums for war. The cause? Well they say that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb and will attack Israel. Therefore we (by which they mean the US) must attack Iran immediately otherwise it's just like 1939 all over again and we (by which they mean the US) are appeasing Hitler. The President, mistakenly in my view, spoke before AIPAC on Sunday, where he said that he was willing to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Monday to presumably make more of these arguments and attempt to get even firmer commitments of war. After all, before the election is when Netanyahu's influence over President Obama will be at its peak.

There are many problems with this line of logic. Honestly I am too disgusted and too busy with other things today to go off into a long essay about this. I am trying to write shorter pieces anyway. So let's just stick to a few pertinent facts here.
  1. According to the US NIE estimates of 2007, 2010 and the most recent, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. Period.
  2. The same malicious mendacious miscreants who lied us into war over Iraqi WMD are currently saying the same things about Iran. Of course even a broken clock is right twice a day but given that the costs of war are immense and these malicious mendacious miscreants are known to be liars, one should at the very least check what they say to see if it passes the smell test. And if you lean closer for a good whiff, I think you're going to smell rotten eggs. Again.
  3. Iran has not attacked the United States.
  4. Israel has nuclear weapons of its own.
Netanyahu, a senior Israeli official actually had the chutzpah to accuse an AMERICAN general of saying something "that served Iran's interests." Now I am hardly the most jingoistic fellow around but in my view if you're taking American money (which Israel is to the tune of over $3 billion in official aid each year) then you need to keep a civil tongue. Where the hell does some foreigner get off talking about an American military leader in such a way?

So to reiterate, a foreign client state (with the help of domestic warmongering neocons, chickenhawks, and neo-colonialists) is trying to bully the United States into greenlighting its attack or preferably making its own attack on Iran. Didn't we JUST go through this? As any dog trainer will tell you when a dog pulls on the leash you must immediately adjust its attitude so that it understands that you, not it, are the one in charge. Otherwise you're gonna get pulled every which way when you go for walks. It is easiest to correct this when the dog is a puppy. Doing so when the dog is full grown and stronger than you is quite painful for you and the dog. But corrected it must be. It's long past time that the US gave Israel a collar pop and stopped moving. The Israeli right wing doesn't seem to understand who's holding the leash in the relationship. Or maybe I don't understand...

Do I think that the mullahs in Iran are nice people? Of course not.
But the world is full of countries run by people that are not so nice. I don't think it's the job of the United States to run around overthrowing governments that it doesn't like.

War with Iran is not in the interest of the United States. We don't need increased gasoline prices. We don't need more body bags coming home.  We don't need to spend billions more on war. We don't need another occupation. And unless I missed something China and Russia are not on board with attacks on Iran. Feeling misled by the US war on Libya, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution on Syria. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Will they go along with an attack on Iran?

Something has gone very wrong in the American body politic. Another war of choice should not even be up for discussion at this point. I think that because of the volunteer Armed services, the incredible amounts of firepower that we possess and the good fortune to mostly have avoided battle in this country, most people don't have any understanding of the costs of war. Our idea (non-military) of war is something in which the other side does all of the dying. From a purely pragmatic point that may be a good thing but most of the people who think that probably aren't worried about their children being born deformed from depleted uranium usage, their daughters turning to prostitution to provide for the family, or having to worry about getting clean drinking water.

Am I the only person who remembers this quote???

"War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

1) Do you think either the US or Israel should or will attack Iran this year?
2) What impact would a possible war with Iran have on the fall election?
3) Will an attack on/war with Iran prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program or make it more likely?
4) Why don't we have an off switch for wars anymore?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Obama's Indefinite Detention Bill

President Obama is poised to sign a bill (The National Defense Authorization Act-NDAA) which really honestly leaves me almost unable to write because I'm so angry. To put it mildly this is a very bad bill.
It codifies and regularizes indefinite detention of American citizens without trial within the United States of America. Yes that's right. Theoretically you could be minding your own business, running your blog, sending naughty IM's to your SO, chatting with various people across the blog-o-sphere and suddenly jackbooted black helmeted thugs could break down your door, tase you and seize your pc and other private effects and documents, blind you, gag you and prevent you from hearing anything and leisurely drag you off to the local military base (or as far as I know private detention center) where military or national security personnel could keep you imprisoned for as long as they like.

Lawyers? Warrants? Habeas corpus? Bump all that!!!! Of course I'm sure that they wouldn't like torture you or threaten to torture your loved ones because that would be illegal. And with the effective right to a speedy trial guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment , your rights to due process and protection against self-incrimination guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment and especially your protection against warrantless arrest and search guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment you can certainly tell the large humorless men with guns and nightsticks that as they have NO right to hold you you're walking out of there. Yes.

Of course before they start the waterboarding they will probably inform you that under the NDAA the country just collectively squatted and relieved itself over the Bill of Rights. The military, law enforcement and national security personnel don't need to worry about such quaint details anymore. And if THEY don't YOU certainly don't.

It is ironic that people from across the political spectrum from left-wing black nationalists to white racist paleocons to right leaning libertarians to classical liberals to radical socialists can all see the dangers in this bill, soon to become law. Unfortunately the larger American citizenry doesn't see the danger because otherwise something like this would never have been passed in the first place. Certainly the bipartisan Beltway elite don't care because as they well know this bill is not aimed at THEM. It's aimed at YOU.

Laws like this are usually passed because politicians claim to want to keep us safe. The problem is there is no such thing as complete safety. And by trying to reach it you inevitably attack freedom. We all know the Benjamin Franklin quote.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
But it's worse than that. It's not just well-intentioned people making mistakes out of fear. President Obama may or may not possess the discipline and wisdom to use "responsibly" the powers granted in this new bill. But what about future Presidents? Based on his statements about arresting judges who rule in ways that he finds faulty do you think a President Gingrich could be trusted not to indefinitely detain a few "pointy headed liberals" he doesn't care for? Would a future President Chris Christie find it amusing to indefinitely detain national union leaders who wouldn't sign on to his Social Security plan?  Would a future feminist President order a dismantling of the men's rights movement? Heck, were I President, could I be trusted not to immediately detain Gloria Allred?

Seriously the point is that NO ONE should have to ask those kinds of questions. The entire point of this republic is that no one (wo)man should have that power. Power is supposed to be limited and split among the three branches of government-with the balance held by the people. When one branch of government (or one person) has that kind of power the temptation to use it against political enemies is overwhelming. The act of doing so becomes inevitable. It's not just cheap hyperbole to say that this is the twilight of the republic. On this issue it doesn't matter whether it's Bush or Obama. They are both horrible on civil liberties. Frankly, Obama is sliding into "worse" territory.

There is an excellent analysis of this bill's dangers by legal scholar Glenn Greenwald here. I implore you all to go read it in full as he has the legal knowledge which I lack to put all this into depressing perspective. Some highlights

  • The NDAA codifies into law indefinite detention
  • The NDAA does not exclude American citizens
  • The NDAA permanently expands the scope of the War on Terror.
What’s particularly ironic (and revealing) about all of this is that former White House counsel Greg Craig assured The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer back in February, 2009 that it’s “hard to imagine Barack Obama as the first President of the United States to introduce a preventive-detention law.” Four months later, President Obama proposed exactly such a law — one that The New York Times described as “a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free” — and now he will sign such a scheme into law.
So far I've only seen one national political figure who has the stones to speak out against this new bill. You may not like him for other reasons but on this issue he's dead on target.

Ron Paul speaks out.

h/t Jonathan Turley

1) Do you think President Obama will sign this bill? If so why?
2) Are civil liberties a concern for you personally? Why or why not?
3) Do you think American citizens should be immune from military detention without trial?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A State Called Palestine

The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, will submit a bid for Palestinian statehood to the UN Security Council this week. The US will veto this application. The US has been working diplomatically to prevent Abbas' move. The US claims that "unilateral" actions are unhelpful though somehow it never seems to get too upset about unilateral Israeli actions. Abbas has a fallback option of submitting an application for UN observer membership (similar to the Vatican) to the UN General Assembly. This can't be vetoed. Either way, a Palestinian state would have greater access to international treaties, organizations and courts. This worries Israel. The US and its allies have tried to persuade some UN states to vote against the application, though it is conceded that a General Assembly vote offers the Palestinians a better chance of success.

In either case, the Palestinians do not have the military strength to evict the Israeli Army and Israeli settlers from a Palestinian state. The Palestinians lack the latest and greatest in land mines, fuel air bombs, automatic shotguns, cluster bombs, small arms, helicopter gunships, jet fighters, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, tear gas, bulldozers, tanks, mortars, depleted uranium munitions, unmanned drones, motion detectors, sniper rifles and other weapons which Israel either lovingly obtains from the US or produces on its own.

On cue, several US elected representatives or Presidential candidates have started to agitate to cut off aid to any Palestinian state and/or to the UN. As some Western commentators or politicians have cynically pointed out, any declaration of statehood-whether it is a formal UN Security Council resolution or the lesser General Assembly version will not change anything for the Palestinians. Israel is not ending the occupation so why bother going thru with it?
Give Peace a Chance
One could just as easily ask the people who say this, if you aren't worried about an independent Palestine, why are you so desperately trying to prevent Abbas from making good his promise to submit the application?

The answer is pride and arrogance on the one hand, desperation on the other. The US doesn't wish to be embarrassed by vetoing the Palestinian drive for independence at the same time it is mouthing pieties about the Arab Spring. It just wants the Palestinians to bleed peacefully and hopefully fade away into irrelevance. Israel doesn't want to admit to what exactly it's been doing in the occupied territories-which is why the state and its supporters diligently work to prevent any information from getting out. Apparently, the Palestinian Authority has finally realized that Israel has absolutely no intention of ending the military occupation. NONE. As the Wikileaks documents made clear not only does Israel not wish to end the occupation, its concept of a Palestinian state is at most a "state" which cedes control over its airspace, radio frequencies, immigration policies, boundaries and water rights to Israel, is disarmed, and allows Israeli troops to enter at any time to arrest or kill "terrorists"-in other words, no state at all. 

When you are dealing with someone who is so confident in their total control and superiority over you that they see no need to even throw you a face-saving crumb, at some point you will do something, ANYTHING, to make the point that you're here, you matter, you're human and you intend to resist. The negotiations have dragged on, halted, restarted and are currently stopped. But one thing that has been a constant in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the establishment of new Israeli settlements and the growth of existing ones. There are over 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, roughly triple the number that was there when the "peace process" started.
Israelis "negotiating" with a Palestinian woman.
It is difficult to overstate how humiliating this is to the Palestinians and how corrosive it is to negotiation. If we intend to share a pizza and I continuously take more slices from your portion while mumbling through mouthfuls that "We need to continue the negotiations", eventually you will stop the "negotiations". You will attempt to either physically prevent me from eating the rest of your food or find someone who can. Otherwise there will be nothing left to share. Actions speak louder than words.

The US is the only state which could make Israel do something it doesn't want to do, which is why some Palestinians were actually happy to see President Obama elected. They believed that perhaps there was finally a US President who could be a fair broker. These people soon learned that that wasn't the case.

  • The settlements are illegal under both the Geneva Conventions and previous UN resolutions. The Palestinians sought a new UN Security resolution stating this. The US vetoed it.
  • When President Obama said that the settlements needed to stop, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave him the finger and said settlements would continue. President Obama backed down.
  • When Vice-President Biden visited Israel the Israelis took the opportunity to announce new settlements. President Obama backed down. 
  • When President Obama mentioned that the 1967 border needed to be the basis of negotiations, Prime Minister Netanyahu threw a temper tantrum and stated that there would be no going back to 1967 lines under any circumstances. Just so no one would misunderstand he publicly lectured President Obama on this and proceeded to share his opinion with the US Congress. President Obama backed down.
A blind man can see that here the tail is wagging the dog. As even pro-Israel NYT columnist Thomas Friedman belatedly and ruefully admits, there is a very strong US pro-Israel lobby that plays hardball against anyone who doesn't obsequiously prostrate themselves before the throne of reactionary Israeli stances. As he puts it "..This has also left the U.S. government fed up with Israel’s leadership but a hostage to its ineptitude, because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N."

Obama and Abbas will meet today. The US wants Abbas to back down for some vague promise to restart negotiations. He may well do that. He doesn't strike me as the bravest man. 
But as one man once said "There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair." We will see if Abbas is ready to stand up and be counted. Ironically Hamas and some other Palestinian activists and intellectuals oppose Abbas' gambit, decrying it as futile and as ceding rights to land inside pre-1967 Israel. In this view Abbas is implicitly (and perhaps explicitly?) recognizing Jewish hegemony in Israel. Politically Abbas is under pressure to show Hamas and the Palestinian people that he can actually win something.
I think that the settlements are so thoroughly embedded in the West Bank that the Palestinians would be smarter to agitate for equal rights in a unitary state-a la South Africa. If Apartheid South Africa can change then so can Israel. I don't think a West Bank state is viable.
A brave Israeli soldier defends himself against terrorists
But then again I don't have to worry about not being allowed to drive on a road in my own neighborhood. I'm not surrounded by military checkpoints and humiliated for fun by bored soldiers. I'm not being used as a test subject for new crowd control technologies. There are no crazed armed-to-the-teeth settlers defacing my place of worship, shooting my children, or tearing down my olive trees out of pure malice. I haven't gone to a demonstration and been shot at with live ammo. I haven't had my legs broken for throwing rocks. I haven't visited a theater and had it raided by the Israeli Army. I don't have execution squads looking for my brother and killing my father by "mistake". So it's easy to pontificate from over here what the Palestinians should do. Like anyone else they're probably trying to do the best they can.

Will Abbas defy the US and submit a UN application? 
If he does this what will this mean for the Palestinians?
Is a US veto the right move?