mike_c's Journal - Archives
A scary thought just occurred to me. I'm at a loss to understand Obama's embrace of the Afganistan "war" in practical terms. Sure, we can argue all day long about the POLITICAL consequences of admitting the futility and ending it, of admitting it is a criminal enterprise, whatever-- but that entails accepting that we are killing our own service men and women, as well as countless (and largely uncounted) Afghans for no better purpose than preserving the vanity of our leaders. There must be a practical reason as well as a political one.
One that gets aired regularly is Afghanistan's purported wealth of natural resources and it's location astride a potential pipeline route for extracting fossil fuels from the Caspian region. But accepting that means turning a blind eye to all those U.S. service personnel being involved in what is essentially piracy, and makes the deaths of Afghans even more difficult to justify. Theft of resources for American corporations is a longstanding plank in U.S. foreign policy, of course, and should never be ruled out when American boots and guns are on the ground, but still, it's hard to imagine the spinning a democratic party administration would have to engage in to sell this. I don't discount it for a minute, but the attraction would have to be pretty shiny to justify this misbegotten war on that account alone.
That led me to wonder what present, practical underpinning might be so compelling that even a democratic president-- who gave every indication during his political rise of having principles that would interfere with wholesale slaughter for naked greed or for mundane political cover-- would be compelled to prosecute an unjust war. It occurred to me that in the present economic downturn, the military industrial complex might be the United States' single biggest remaining economic force. Without much large-scale heavy or light manufacturing left in this country except the auto industry, and that being at least partly on the ropes and facing an uncertain future in any event, what economic drivers might the administration rely on to counter the unemployment and recession that is gripping the nation? Government spending, of course, but where does the government spend most of its money? On the Pentagon, which provides a broad bore money pipeline directly to the corporate wings of the military-industrial complex.
Dumping money into the economy via the MIC serves lots of additional purposes as well. It rewards the already wealthy and powerful, keeping them happy. The opposition party, which is generally a much more effective opposition party than the democrats are when they're the "loyal opposition," supports it almost without question. It reinforces existing power structures and relationships rather than threatening them with reform.
I know some DUers will argue that there aren't any underlying justifications, that the stated justifications are sufficient: defeating the Taliban, stabilizing a puppet government, denying a haven for al-Qaeda. But all of those justifications are transparently impractical or unachievable. Few are fooled by them, so they're just eye-wash and sound-bite material to gloss over the real reasons we're spending billions of dollars a month to stay in the clusterfuck.
While I don't doubt for a minute that there are ridiculous and shallow political forces at work protecting the reputations of failed U.S. leadership AND naked greed for Afghan resources in play-- there's no reason any of these justifications for war are mutually exclusive-- I wonder whether it has also occurred to Obama and his advisers that America's wars are among the few major economic drivers we have left. Has ignoring Ike's warnings about the MIC and shadow government led us to the point where they are them most important growth industries we have left?
...significant-- and rapid-- demobilization of the U.S. military, or at least its current incarnation.
In his recent speech, president Obama called for ending America's dependence upon petroleum. Although that's certainly a laudable goal, some have pointed out that simply calling for it and actually accomplishing it are so deeply divided from one another that the call for accomplishing it, without any specifics about how or where to begin that gargantuan work, is essentially meaningless. Just more political rhetoric. Pablum for the masses, who are gullible enough to swallow anything as long as American Idol doesn't suffer significant interruptions.
How are we going to reduce our dependence upon oil? If there are answers out there, why are we still dependent? The reason, of course, is that there aren't many good answers yet, or even any barely adequate ones. At this point, we have few genuine choices other than to continue dependence upon oil, or return to nineteenth century technology and industry.
But the most telling thing that Obama didn't say during his vague and unsatisfying speech was that the biggest U.S. customer for petroleum-- one of the biggest such customers in the world-- has no intention of reducing its dependence upon oil. The U.S. military is one of the largest consumers of oil on Earth, and one of BP's biggest customers.
Military infrastructure is entirely dependent upon petroleum fuels. Planes don't fly, ships don't steam (mostly), armor doesn't roll, and troops do not fight for long without oil and other fossil fuels. There are no broadly viable alternatives in the works presently, so the only way to significantly reduce U.S. dependence upon fossil fuels is to shut down much of the most pressing thirst for them-- and that means the U.S. military. Converting the military to some other energy source will take multiple generations, and we don't have that kind of time left UNLESS the U.S. continues to use its military and its foreign policy to bully and conquer our way to control of as much the world's remaining oil as we can. That seems to be the current strategy. It is not working. It will never work. It's a prescription for disaster and collapse.
The only way to make rapid progress toward reducing petroleum dependence is to start by standing down the biggest and most voracious military on the planet. Ours.
Obama isn't talking about that, so he isn't talking about real solutions that might begin to help us today. If he's not talking about real solutions, he's shining us on, yet again. Smooth talking, without substance. Mr. Obama, put some concrete action behind your proposals. End the wars, bring the troops home, cut the Pentagon budget to a tiny fraction, stand down the hardware and demobilize all but a few of the personnel, and stop the raging oil thirst that is destroying our environment. The time has come to decide between bombs and pelicans, between a future we can live in or a poisoned and polluted planet where corporations rule, the military does their bidding, and the best growth futures are in killing machines.
U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan NOW, and the rest of the world TOMORROW!
We can't leave because chaos will ensue. Only our beneficence and civilizing influence keeps the WOGs from slitting one another's throats for a biscuit.
The eighteenth and nineteenth century imperialists invoked moral arguments too, all the while raping and pillaging their way around the globe. Make no mistake-- U.S. motives in Afghanistan are no different.
Addressing your "points:"
Yes, chaos will ensue if we withdraw. That's what happens when we start unjust and terribly asymmetric wars for profit. We fuck things up, and they stay fucked up for a long while to remind us and the rest of the world that American exceptionalism is not a good thing. That's called a CONSEQUENCE, and if follows the general rule that actions have them. Sometimes we learn from them. Apparently that's not easy.
Chaos will ensue no matter when we withdraw, just as it did in the vacuum following the Soviet withdrawal-- it is just a question of when that will happen, and how many unnecessary deaths will be caused in the interim. The longer we wait for the inevitable, the worse the consequences will be. Remember Vietnam? Remember the Soviet experience in Afghanstan (and the British, etc)? It will not end well, no matter how long we prolong it.
You admit that we cannot undo what we've done. So why keep trying? It's time to admit the mistake and pack our shit up and go home, hopefully with some international mea culpa and some war crimes tribunals to help purge the bitter memory.
You refer to the Taliban having a "warm relationship with al Qaeda." There is no such "warm relationship." The Taliban is an entirely Pashtun movement, tribal in scope, with no international aspirations at all-- and it had even fewer concerns about international affairs ten years ago. I don't like the Taliban, but that's utterly beside the point. They are not only Afghanistan's and Pakistan's collective problem, they're well supported by many in the region, perhaps most, and besides, when did we become the arbiter's of other people's religion or politics? Oh yeah, that's the white man's burden again....
How much more revenge do you want against innocents for 9/11 attacks-- which NO AFGHANS participated in or had anything to do with? How many more people do you want to kill for something they had no part in? We have killed thousands more than were killed in New York City. What's the acceptable kill ratio for innocent brown people? When we reach 10-to-1, will that be enough? 100-to-1? 1000-to-1?
As for a "nuclear armed Taliban," you've made the case for preemptive warfare, i.e. the Bush doctrine. Because letting the fundamentalist influence grow in Pakistan might result in things we fear sometime in the future-- if they happen at all-- we have the right to go to war and kill people who haven't threatened us in any way, because if we don't kill them now, they might become a threat some time in the future. That is fucking insane. It's the classic justification for genocide, among other things. And it goes so hand-in-hand with neo-colonialism, and the white man's burden in Asia.
Reading Tim Dickinson's article in the Rolling Stone made me realize how brilliant and devious the republican electoral strategy is, whether consciously devised or simply the result of evil intuition. Angry, dissatisfied voters usually piss hardest on the party in power during midterm elections. For the republicans, that means the shortest and most direct route back to power is to insure an angry and dissatisfied electorate. And partisanship provides the perfect cover-- it even gets the democrats to participate in their own slaughter. Clever devils.
Here's the link to Dickinson's article in RS:
Only a year ago, the Republican Party had been given up for dead. Top GOP strategists despaired that their party — decimated by two consecutive bloodbath elections — was leaderless, dominated by Southern conservatives and lurching rightward into irrelevance. "The Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned his colleagues. "In politics, there's a name for a regional party: It's called a minority party."
The GOP's resurrection has not come on the strength of transformative ideas that can actually solve the nation's problems: Republicans continue to peddle warmed-over Bush — from bankruptcy-inducing tax cuts to the privatization of Social Security. Instead, it has been achieved through what one party strategist admits is "tactical small-ball." The GOP game is as simple as it is hypocritical. First: Reject every Democratic proposal — including some of the exact same initiatives that Republicans championed under Bush — while branding the consensus-seeking Obama as a radical leftist. Second: Stoke populist fury over exploding deficits, even though they're the fallout of eight catastrophic years of Republican rule. (President Bush inherited a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion and left behind a forecasted deficit of $3 trillion.) Three: Promise to fix what's wrong with Washington — despite having waged an all-out war to make government appear as broken as possible.
It has come to this: The unreconstructed party of Jack Abramoff and Dick Cheney is now making the cynical bet that it can win a "change election" of its own this year by drafting a new "Contract With America," focused on initiatives for "good governance" and accountability. And come November, that bet might just pay off. "Does the Republican Party lack a clear leader? Absolutely. Do they lack a positive message? Of course. Do their demographics suck? Yeah," says Cook. "But in a midterm election, none of that matters. Because midterm elections are a referendum on the party in power. And to throw one side out, you've got to throw the other side back in."
...from the head down. It's still going on, and-- in my opinion-- still accelerating. One of the biggest dominoes of them all is about to fall. The California school systems, once among the best and most progressive in the world, have been under managerial and legislative assault for decades. I never thought I'd be teaching here while the California Master Plan for Education was systematically dismantled, but it is happening right before our eyes.
Part of the problem is that "fiscal conservatism" is too often linked with utter disdain for intellectualism and education-- conservatives and their lackeys fear an educated populace deep down in their bones, and they fundamentally distrust people who are better educated than themselves. In their hearts, they cannot stand the notion that poor people's children are getting a decent education at public expense. They hate the thought that minorities, and everyone else they look down upon, are given an honest shot to better themselves through education. That such betterment benefits everyone is utterly lost on them because they don't care about anyone other than themselves, and all they see is that everyone elses' betterment leaves them looking more and more archaic.
Masquerading behind mantras like "accountability" and "efficiency"-- the latest is "deliverology"-- they are systematically undermining one of the greatest experiments in public education ever-- and one of the most successful, in real terms. It was so successful that it has taken decades of constant assault and erosion to begin bringing it to its knees, but that day is coming. This academic year the California State University-- the people's university, founded upon a guarantee of affordable access to excellent education for all citizens-- the CSU began turning qualified Californian citizens away because the funding base has finally been undercut to the degree that the system can no longer serve it's primary target population. It is the largest university in the world, and it is now on life support. One can argue that this is because of the larger California budget crisis, but the fiscal crisis is only the final straw in a haystack full of bad management and outright hostility toward higher education-- in one of the U.S. states that has demonstrably reaped some of the best benefits of accessible, quality education.
The assault really began with Proposition 13, but the system was so good-- and so well defended by public service and educator's labor unions-- that it has taken this long, and the concerted efforts of legislators and corporate management junkies, to finally begin choking the life out of it.
First, let me say that I'm all for digital media, long term databasing of literary works, and especially print-on-demand publishing. I think those are all great technologies. I even think digital readers are just fine for anyone who wants to use them-- reading is reading, and it's always better for intellectual development and growth than passive activities, IMO.
Still, there is much more to a book than its contents. Books are objects that directly embody the knowledge and the stories they contain. One glance at a book is often sufficient to understand the nature of its contents-- its subject-- and to classify them in personally meaningful ways: "this is useful to me now," "this isn't useful," "this looks entertaining," or whatever. You just can't do that with computers and digital readers without destroying their primary reasons for existing. At the very least you need to get into the data files themselves-- the object is generic. Computers are universal tools-- digital media storage makes them universal books, but real books have specific identities that are an integral part of how we use them and why we like them. Universal books strip that identity away in the interest of being whatever the reader wants them to be. In the process, I think, they lose something difficult to articulate, but very real and powerful.
I read and write (and think) for a living, and there are presently six open books and about a dozen closed ones on my desk, within easy reach. There are several hundred more on the shelves behind me, many hundreds more at my home. I interact with the INFORMATION contained within those books constantly, but I've never been interested in swapping them for a digital reader, like Amazon's Kindle or the like, even though the information content would arguably be identical and the package would be "convenient," if small size is the best measure of convenience. I like the books though, not just the information they contain.
Print on demand technology is OK in some applications. The academic materials I provide to students typically constitute a small book's worth of information that they print in bits as the semester progresses. That is convenient in a temporary setting, but the objects they create-- usually three-ring binders stuffed with loose pages-- lack permanence, and more to the point, they lack CRAFT. A book is not just a collection of pages-- it is an artifact, made well or poorly, but distinct from its contents. I have admirably well-made books that contain useless information, or what I think of as low-quality information, and I have crappy, falling apart books that are so important that I use them frequently, struggling to keep the pages together and cursing the publisher who performed such shoddy work. Books have human histories beyond those of their authors and readers.
I just don't think electronic readers will ever really replace books, and publishers are kidding themselves if they think the market for real books will disappear. I love my books. I have little use for an electronic reader. Give me real paper pages, precisely printed, folded, sewn, and cut, bound between heavy cover boards and covered with cloth or leather. I love the end papers, the ribbons added to keep the spines neat, and the precision of the cover material's corner folds. I don't just read books-- I hold them, smell them, and feel them. No Kindle can ever replace that.
I keep reading horror stories about atrocities committed by health insurance corporations-- social atrocities, such as creating an entire class of Americans permanently relegated to poverty or doomed to illness and death, and economic atrocities like paying massive executive bonuses and dividends while raising rates precipitously, grinding the middle class under their boot heels while making record-breaking profits for their investors and executives. These are the signs of a fundamentally greedy industry whose business model amounts to extorting as much as can gotten from their "subscribers" while they are healthy enough to keep the net flow of assets running out of subscribers pockets and into their investors', then discarding them as soon as possible afterward.
Sure, the various democratic health care reform proposals offer some partial solutions to some of the specific abuses of the insurance industry, but they don't-- and can't-- address the real problem, which will simply continue to fester. The medical insurance industry is like an association of vampires. They have to keep the herd of potential victims healthy enough to maintain their resource, but if the herd ever does well, it's only because the blood-suckers left some spare resource untapped. Wasted, in their view. The ultimate business model that most corporations follow, and that the medical insurance industry exemplifies, requires them to take as much as the subscribers can live without, and as long as there is a steady supply of new subscribers, or the existing subscribers can be squeezed a little harder, there are essentially no upper limits on the potential "growth" of industry profits. Patching a few of the most offensive holes in the system won't ever change the greed that is at its heart, and that drives its corporate decision making. If allowed to continue on their present trajectory, medical insurance corporations will continue to evolve toward the point where EVERY scrap of resource not necessary for keeping their subscribers-- victims, really-- just healthy and happy enough to keep them working, so that they're a sustainable resource, every scrap that's left to allow the middle class to exist, is wasted profit from their perspective, and their executives will ultimately be punished by their investors if they don't wage permanent war on the working class.
They're seeking an optimum harvest model, folks, and we are the resource they're exploiting.
Health care reforms that leave medical insurance companies with a means to remain profitable are not genuine reforms. They are a bill of goods being offered to the American people by leaders who seek to maintain the status quo, which seems quite lucrative if you happen not to be part of the resource herd, or even if you just can't admit to yourself that you're one of the herd. For most of us though, the current health care reforms will do some good for some people, while most continue to be squeezed until they have nothing left to lose. That isn't "reform." It's just "new and improved" product marketing for the gullible masses.
...but I can't help but feel familiar with him after reading his suicide letter. He was almost the same age as I, and it sounds like we've had some similar experiences. I'm not Joe Stack-- I've came to this point in my life pissed off but not despairing, and rather than taking my life, I'm more likely to just leave it behind and go try something less stressful.
But I still feel a lot of empathy for Joe Stack, and his complaints about the state of U.S. government and of society resonate with me.
There are lots of threads on DU condemning what Stack did. There are threads debating whether he is a right wing terrorist or a left wing terrorist, whether he's a tea bagger at heart or an anarchist. I don't want to debate any of those questions in this thread because I don't think they are very important questions, frankly. I'm not interested in assigning blame, or in "my side" dodging it.
I'm moved by Stark's anger about what has happened to the U.S.-- and I admit to sharing that anger. His voice resonates with me even if his hatred of the IRS is less of an issue for me than my anger about U.S. foreign policy and corporate culture. The society we are creating in this country is not a good one. Joe Stark makes me ask myself what I'm doing about that. I have some easy answers, but I need to take a longer look at some of the harder ones. Maybe we all do.
What Stark did was wrong, and it ultimately took away any hope he might have ever had for genuine redress of his grievances. But my friends, we don't make the rules anymore, or at least not many of them. Most of the means for redressing our common (and not so common) grievances have been made "wrong" by the institutions that seek to protect their interests against the people's interests. Most of the ways we have to fight back are illegal now, or socially unacceptable, or not what our employers want, or whatever. Change does not come easy, and The Man resists it with all the force of The State.
Stark's last words were about socialism and capitalism, about whether we take care of one another or elevate naked greed to a virtue. Make no mistake that in that struggle, the institutions of the state and of the people who want to maintain the status quo are arrayed against us.
I don't think I would have liked Joe Stark. The gulf of personality seemed too wide between he and I, at least judging by the comments he left behind. But I think we were pretty much on the same side.
Or it could drive a stake deep into its heart, anyway. The most often cited rationale for employers providing insurance in the first place is the notion-- supported by data if I'm not mistaken-- that employee health increases productivity and profits, at least to a point. The point being the break even point, where those increases in productivity are offset by egregious increase in employee insurance costs, a point most businesses passed long ago.
But if the individual mandate passes, corporations will get to have their cake and eat it too. They'll get the covered work force whether they provide coverage or not because the law makes it the employee's responsibility to provide their own coverage if their employer elects not to. There will be few incentives left for employers to provide coverage if their savings from not providing it far outweighs the cost to them-- and the government will have transferred an obligation to pay that cost to the workers themselves.
Labor unions will grouse about it, of course, and some might even keep employer provided insurance alive, for a while, but as costs rise the same economic relationship will drive insurance costs closer and closer to the tipping point where paying them is not worth ANY gain companies might get from their labor contracts otherwise.
If that's not a stake in the heart of the last hope for health care for working people, I can't imagine a worse one.
President Obama laid out his plan to defend our national interest by refocusing our efforts on three clear goals: defeating al Qaeda, stabilizing Pakistan, and breaking the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan.
National interest: I dispute that the war in Afghanistan serves our national interest. It certainly does serve the interests of the energy corporations, the "defense" industry, and the Pentagon. The subtext is that the national security is at risk if we don't "finish" the war in Afghanistan, but that is patently absurd. Afghanistan has never threatened the U.S. and will not in the foreseeable future. It is a feudal territory, a nation in name only with little or no central political organization and no coherent military force. It's population is primarily subsistence agricultural-- it's a nation of goat herders, farmers, tribal members, and petty warlords. It is NO threat to the U.S. national security or interest except as noted above-- the energy industry wants a natural gas pipeline through central Asia, the MIC wants the trainloads of money they're transferring from the Treasury, and the Pentagon gains political power whenever the nation is "at war." Even with medieval goatherds.
Our own intelligence reports there are few, if any, al-Qaeda in Afhanistan, certainly fewer than 100. There are currently 65,000 troops fighting those "fewer than a hundred al-Qaeda" in Afghanistan, and we're sending 30,000 more, and asking allies to pony up even more. That is absurd in the extreme. The emperor is naked, folks. There is NO al-Qaeda threat worth mentioning in Afghanistan.
Stabilizing Pakistan? Mission creep? Only empires (or aspiring emperors) target other, sovereign nations for military stabilization when they don't like their internal affairs. In any event, this is an impossible task.
Breaking the Taliban's momentum? No one likes to discuss the Bush administration decision to attack Afghanistan and depose the Taliban, in contravention of international law-- that decision was formalized on Sept. 10, 2001. The day BEFORE 9/11. A decision driven mainly by economic interests. The anti-Taliban bluster of post-9/11 allowed that clandestine decision to be hauled out and run up the flag pole, but it's still morally bankrupt. The Taliban had NOTHING to do with 9/11, they have no international agenda, and even the weak excuse that they sheltered bin Laden fails to acknowledge that they offered to turn him over to an impartial government-- if the U.S. would only provide some evidence against him-- that's the norm for international extradition requests. The U.S. refused, preferring war and invasion to negotiation and peace. Oh, and that natural gas pipeline.
Biden's email pumps all the patriotic jingoism, but conveniently sidesteps the truth in every way possible. And that's only the first sentence!
Let's look at the second sentence:
...the President has authorized the rapid deployment of 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan, with a firm commitment to begin bringing our troops home in 2011.
Firm committment? What's the administration really committing to? An end date to the war? No, it's just as utterly open ended today as it was two years ago-- and eight years ago. Obama has used a neat rhetorical device to promise something without really promising anything. He made no committment to EVER actually ending the war, and the history of U.S. conflicts does not bode well when the administration promises to end them by becoming much more deeply involved.
I'll wager you this: U.S. troops will still be fighting in Afghanistan ten years from now unless the Afghans defeat us-- unlikely, at least militarily-- or unless the U.S. public grows tired enough to demand a real change. But Obama's "promise" is utterly worthless because it ultimately promises NOTHING.
It's a clean break from the failed Afghanistan policy of the Bush administration, and a new, focused strategy that can succeed.
It's a continuation of the failed Bush policies in all but name-- so much so that it's endorsers include Lindsey Graham, Newt Gingrich, and Karl Rove. Do you really think any of those people would stand and cheer for a repudiation of the Bush doctrine in Afghanistan? Calling it different does not make it so, except maybe in American politics, where the same old bull-in-a-china-shop international thuggery can be made to pass for "a new, focused strategy" as easily as the emperor can change clothes.
It's all utter BS and lies.
...to describe their efforts to participate. Will you be enlisting? If you're too old to enlist or otherwise unacceptable to the military, will you be trying to join the civilian effort in Afghanistan? If you've already served in the military, but are qualified to re-enlist, when will you be doing so?
If you're a parent, will you be urging your children to join the military to help with the important work of empire that needs to be done in Afganistan? Will you be volunteering to help support the effort some other way, such as sending additional money to the Pentagon? The nation's treasury is straining, folks!
Let this be a thread in which all DU supporters of the president can describe the sacrifices they intend in support of the war in Afghanistan, so the rest of us can thank them for their service to America!
I'll start, but I'm actually implacably opposed to the war so I'll be looking for opportunities to volunteer support for the antiwar effort, and I'll be volunteering to support alternative candidates for president in 2012, but that's just me. Nonetheless, my partner's son joined the Marines a couple of weeks ago, so like it or not, we'll be sending some cannon fodder as well!
We read this morning that President Obama has given the orders to escalate the war against Afghanistan, initially by sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops in a phased 12-18 month deployment.
Many DUers have noted that this action is consistent with Obama's campaign statements. Others have countered that the situations in the U.S., Afghanistan, and the rest of the world have changed since the campaign, or simply that we know more about the truth of those situations now than we did then, and the truth on the ground does not warrant greater involvement.
My personal belief is that the war against Afghanistan has ALWAYS been wrong-- that it was begun in a national spasm of anger over 9/11 that targeted the Afghans unfairly-- to this day, we are not aware of a single Afghan being involved with the 9/11 attacks in any direct sense. More to the point, it's a war of aggression, and an international crime against humanity. Its primary reason for going on is that butt-loads of money are being diverted from the Treasury to the "defense" industry and the Pentagon. Perpetual war for perpetual profits.
But at any rate, whether Obama pledged to escalate the war or not, I want to know how many DUers actually support the escalation. How many support deeper involvement in Afghanistan, for whatever reason. The questions are simple and straightforward: do you support the escalation (and would you have supported it no matter what Obama said), or do you oppose it (again, regardless of Obama's campaign remarks). Is the war itself a good thing for America or a bad thing?
I've been terribly disappointed by many of the Obama administration's policies and decisions during the last several months, and in particular with the direction-- or lack of changing direction-- that many of his policies embrace. But none disturbs me more than his decision to endorse and continue the Bush administration's efforts to hide the evidence of war crimes against Iraqis and Afghans detained by American occupiers.
I have little doubt that he is correct in characterizing photos of barbaric detainee treatment as liable to "inflame anti-American sentiment." What he is missing, I think, is that anti-American sentiment in much of the world, where for-profit war creates brutal military operations against civilian populations and imperialist occupation, is already justifiably terrible, and that stonewalling U.S. war crimes will only make it worse. World opinion is not likely to get any better unless the United States shows the rest of the world that it has the will to confront its past injustices and to atone for them.
The first step is acknowledging the crimes, without dissembling. Releasing those photos is essential, not simply because it is cathartic, but because it specifically identifies the crimes and in many cases, if not most, the people who committed them and the circumstances in which they were committed. That is the first step toward holding those responsible accountable, and toward making restitution to the victims.
We MUST publicly investigate, charge, try, and punish everyone responsible for barbarism committed in our names. Doing so in secret is not much better than not doing it at all-- we must face the world, admit our crimes, and accept responsibility. That is the ONLY thing that will begin to heal anti-Americanism in the middle east and much of the rest of the world. We must shine a bright light on our military's crimes, and upon the civilian leadership that planned and abetted those crimes. If we try to keep them hidden, no amount of actual justice will be enough to undo the damage done by the cover up.
We must also publicly examine the foreign policy that drives such barbarism. In full sunlight.
Justice is a community endeavor-- it is shared catharsis for wrongdoing and restitution to the injured. Secret justice is almost as bad as no justice at all-- without community participation, there is no catharsis, no possibility of starting anew. Not as long as anyone remembers the injustice. Secret justice is justice denied, for all intents and purposes. Even worse, the absence of illumination is liable to conceal the lack of any justice whatsoever, a truth that will not be lost on ANYONE.
The only way to prevent that is by shining the brightest light possible, and to face it.
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant." --U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
...in the democratic party.
I'll admit, I've not been a stalwart party supporter since the Clinton years when I began to feel a strong disjunct between my liberalism and the nation's direction. Still, I had hopes for the democratic party, and as a liberal, I really wanted some political representation. It's not just that the democratic party ignores liberals-- the truth is far worse. The party uses us, then betrays us. It asks us to support democratic candidates and political agendas, but it never reciprocates. Not in my lifetime, at least, and I've been paying attention since I began voting in the early 1970s.
We've been used again. Now we're being betrayed.
Despite arguments from party apologists that Obama is taking a pragmatic approach to the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, the undeniable truth is that most Americans, and certainly all but the most incomprehensible liberals, want America out of those wars and that we voted for Obama because we saw him as the best way to accomplish that. Admittedly, he never promised outright to end them. He has always equivocated, but even among his most ardent supporters there was always the baseline assumption that "Obama will end Bush's unnecessary wars." I was assured of that in this forum many times during the campaign.
Now we're told that his only real promise was to "try" to end "combat operations" by 16 months after assuming office, and that the definitions of "try to end" and "combat operations" are just as difficult for him to pin down today as the definition of "sex" was difficult for Bill Clinton to be unequivocal about. We are being betrayed.
Further, we're learning that he's always thought it would be "necessary" for American troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely for a host of other purposes, not "combat" per se, but with the slippery definition of "combat" in question, the role of American military forces in Iraq can be changed at the stroke of a definition. We are being betrayed.
What Obama said or didn't say isn't really the issue here, either. Let's be clear about that. The real issues are the nature of the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unequivocal desire of Americans to be rid of them.
The wars are crimes against humanity. They are illegal and immoral. They are wars of aggression. There is no gilding that can make them look otherwise. Americans-- and their allies-- fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are war criminals by definition. There was no justification for invading either country, no justification for aggression against the people of either country, no reason that justifies their wholesale murder by Americans. Since the Clinton years we have killed close to two million Iraqi civilians, and it's hard to say, at this point, whether Clinton or Bush holds the record for murdering the greatest number. But that too isn't really the point either.
There is simply no possible justification for continuing either war in any form. They are crimes, plain and simple. We-- Americans-- are war criminals and our crime is ongoing. We must stop it. We cannot restore our innocence-- it is far too late for that, but we can stop the crime before more people die and more of Iraq and Afghanistan are destroyed. Every day that we continue the wars compounds our guilt. Every day. We are being betrayed.
It's also true that there is no good reason to continue this crime for 16 months or perhaps indefinitely except to massage the pride of the guilty. Do we tell bank robbers or kidnappers that they have to stop in 16 months? Of course not. We demand that criminals face the consequences of their crimes, and the first step is always ceasing the crime if it is still in progress.
Finally, the real point is that Americans did not elect Barak Obama to continue the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan for 16 more months, or longer. Liberals-- the folks the democratic party has so consistently betrayed for at least the last twenty years-- certainly did not work for Obama in order to keep those crimes against humanity going. We are being betrayed.
We want an end to American crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan. We want our government to hear OUR voices, rather than the voices of the already guilty clamoring for more war, longer war, more blood, greater destruction. We want to be heard, rather than betrayed yet again.
Mr Obama, stop the wars.
Posted by mike_c in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Wed Jan 30th 2008, 03:19 PM
The primary system is broken. People in four states-- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida trimmed the field of democratic candidates and removed my first and second choice for president before I, and the majority of the rest of the country, even got a chance to express our opinions. I'm left with a candidate that I can't support under any circumstances and another candidate who I have no faith in or passion for whatsoever. A candidate I would happily work to defeat and one that I can't whip myself into any enthusiasm for no matter how hard I try. A candidate who represents corporations instead of real people and one that seems more interested in being "historic" than changing the direction of a flailing government in crisis.
I don't get to vote for any of the candidates who might have actually represented my interests. I don't blame this on the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida. I blame it on the democratic party, on the entrenched political interests who put their own success before the best interests of the national constituency, and most of all, I blame the corporations who are the real beneficiaries of my disenfranchisement. Especially the media, whose endless mediocrity and punditry turned the most important presidential election in my lifetime into a horserace. The media that has consistently refused to give real issues of public and global consequence anywhere near as much consideration as who's got the best haircut or who said what about whom. The media that steadfastly refused to cover the candidates with the greatest potential to make significant changes in the trainwreck this nation has become.
I never got to vote for a candidate who represents me, or the ideals that are meaningful to me. America does not need a Hillery Clinton or a Barack Obama-- hell, it probably doesn't need a John Edwards or a Dennis Kucinich, although they would have been a step in the right direction. America needs a George Washington, a Thomas Jefferson, another Tom Paine or an Alexander Hamilton. It needs leadership committed to throwing out the rotten garbage wherever they find it. It needs revolutionary change, not a different flavor of the same ol' corporate rule. It needs someone who will heed Eisenhower's warning and toss the MIC into the gutter of political and economic history, along with its Pentagon toadies and its captains of industry. I never got to vote for someone who might work for me, instead of for CNN, Fox News, General Electric, Haliburton, Blackwater, and MacDonald Douglas.
I'm left with someone else's choices-- choices who are not even majority choices yet, but who have been annointed as the ONLY democratic party choices available to me even though the process of "majority decision" has barely begun. The system has allowed a tiny minority to decide for us all, and we will undoubtely be told that the eventual democratic party nominee has "majority" support. "Get over it, dude-- you're just all sour grapes because your candidate didn't win." No, I'm all sour grapes because I didn't even get a chance to vote for "my candidate." This is NOT democracy.
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