“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
Not Your Sweetie pointed me to a righteous rant that Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report made about the left’s capitulation to Obama. Glen thinks that Obama is not the lesser evil. He is the evil. But the problem remains that many voters on the left are quite willing to let him get away with murdering America because they are fixed on intentions. I couldn’t say it any better so I will let Glen do the honors:
Who is the Effective Evil? I haven’t even gotten into his actual term as president, much less his expansion of the theaters of war, his unique assaults on International Law, and his massacre of Due Process of Law in the United States. But I want to pause right here, because piling up facts on Obama’s Most Effective Evils doesn’t seem to do any good if the prevailing conversation isn’t really about facts – but about intentions.
The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. Heintends to the Right Thing – or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It’s all supposed to be about intentions. Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street’s most fundamental interests.
But, the whole idea of debating Obama’s intentions is ridiculous. It’s psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.
I have no doubt that New Gingrich and Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of my people – of Black people – than Michelle Obama’s husband does. But, that doesn’t matter. Black people are not going to roll over for whatever nightmarish Apocalypse the sick mind of Newt Gingrich would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama’s economic Apocalypse in Black America. There was been very little resistance. Which is just another way of saying that Obama has successfully blunted any retribution by organized African America against the corporate powers that have devastated and destabilized Black America in ways that have little precedence in modern times.
Obama has protected these Wall Streeters from what should be the most righteous wrath of Black folks. To take a riff from Shakespeare’s Othello, “Obama has done Wall Street a great service, and they know it.” He has proven to be fantastically effective at serving the Supremely Evil. Don’t you dare call him the Lesser.
He is the More Effective Evil because Black Folks – historically, the most progressive cohort in the United States – and Liberals, and even lots of folks that call themselves Marxists, let him get away murder! Yet, people still insist on calling him a Lesser Evil, while he drives a stake through Due Process of Law.
I have not spoken much about the second half of Obama’s first term in office. That is the period when the Left generally becomes disgusted with what they call his excessive “compromises” and “cave-ins” to Republicans. But that is a profoundly wrong reading of reality. Obama was simply continuing down his own Road to Austerity – the one he, himself, had initiated before even taking office. The only person caving in and compromising to the Republicans, was the Obama that many of YOU made up in your heads.
Yep, pretty much. Obama never was that guy the left thought he was. He left it all to the imagination and flattered his fan base and love bombed them. What we need now is an intervention for the left to deprogram them. This faith in Obama and the Democrats to somehow hold the line or make it right flies in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary. This religion is bad for you. You know it but you keep going to the altar and making sacrifices for it anyway. Find a new church before you waste more of your life pining for a paradise that they promise but never intend to deliver.
So, Glen has all the stuff about who Obama really serves pretty much nailed down. Then he pivots and starts catering to his base. This one is anti-war. This is where I despair.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as anti-war as anyone on the left and always have been but I’m also a rational being. Let me assure you that I have every reason to want the wars to end because my only brother is serving in Afghanistan. So, the sooner we stabilize and pull out, the better. But I don’t want to leave the region in worse shape than when we invaded. Let’s put the blame for the terrible state of affairs where it belongs, with Bush/Cheney. Destabilization was their goal, I think. That guarantees that we will have to stay in central Asia for a long time. And Pakistan is a nuclear powderkeg run by Islamacists who are just slightly more sane than their neighbors to the west. Getting out of Afghanistan was never going to be easy in the best of circumstances. Iraq is a different story. Let’s just leave already. Iran is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. If Israel wants to go there against our warnings, let them do it on their own dime. I’m sick of catering to Israel and their own extremist base.
But I am sickened by the response of the left to Syria. Darfur got a lot of attention a few years back and everyone remembers what happened to Bosnia and Rwanda. But there are children in Syria who are being maimed and are dying in pain without treatment, murdered by their own government who has turned its guns on civilians and I am watching the left cross its arms and tighten its lips and turn a cold shoulder to this suffering. What would it take for them to want to call NATO airstrikes? How many Syrians will have to die? How many reporters and Syrian activists will have to die? The uprising in Syria has taken its toll of foreign correspondents who die from lack of access to medical care as they sneak in and out of the country to cover events or are killed by those events. And remember that the Syrian uprising is part of the Arab Spring. Why would we want to curtail that? I’m sorry, but people are people. I don’t care what their political views are, butchering young human beings is morally wrong. If it’s wrong for a soldier to go on a rampage against Afghanis, it’s just as wrong to leave Syrians to their fates unaided.
There is a point where anti-war activism makes no sense. The lack of compassion is astonishing. But even if they had a point about their complete, adamant, unmovable resistance to intervening on behalf of other human beings, they are going about it all wrong. To end the wars, you must end the economic war in this country first. That war is commanding all of our attention at this time. There will not be a popular movement in this country to end the wars right this very minute until working people stop worrying about how they are going to keep a roof over their heads and feed their kids. You don’t have to think back too many years to remember that the anti-war movement was much stronger and got better press back when the economy was stronger, before the financial collapse of 2008. The collapse has sucked the oxygen out of the that fight. Anti-war activists will not get the sympathy of the public if the average person thinks they are out of touch with when war is not a priority for them at the present time.
This is the Shock Doctrine in all its regalia. Naomi Klein should be all over this. Marshall your troops against the economy, re-establish control of your own government and then the wars will end and no sooner.
If you are truly anti-war, you are wasting your time attending meetings and drafting resolutions about how to end the wars over there. Focus your attention at home on the economy and holding the Democratic party accountable. It always was and always will be the economy stupid.
Lorenda Starfelt passed away last Tuesday. She was 56. Her death was announced by her husband Brad Mays yesterday on Correntewire where Lori posted under the name Basement Angel. Long time readers of this blog will remember Brad and Lori as the filmmakers who documented the dispossessed of the 2008 primary elections. I met them on several occasions. Brad was a loose cannon and Lori was his voice of moderation. She was beautiful with a dazzling smile and captivating eyes. Brad says she died of uterine cancer that had spread to her liver. I never knew she was sick. I am very sorry to hear that she has died. Her voice will be missed.
Lori intuitively understood the people who defected the Democratic party for the Tea Party. She knew that racism had very little to do with it. She knew that the Tea Party is rallying its supporters with false messages but at least it gives them answers. The Democrats have abandoned its base, liberals and working class and the well educated unemployed. We shouldn’t be surprised that the movement conservatives behind the Tea Party are picking some of them up. In one of her last posts at Corrente, she posted this clip from an interview that the Commonwealth Club did with Noam Chomsky:
I have mixed feelings about Noam. I can’t argue with the points he made in this segment. He understands the way the powerful elite has used language to pit the working people of the world against each other while they make off with the loot. And he’s right to criticize those of us on the left for failing to get our act together to deliver a different message. But in an ironic way, he’s part of the problem. For all of his justifiable criticism of the failures of the Obama administration, which he must known were coming if he was paying attention to the language of Obama’s 2008 campaign, he was willfully blinded to considering any of the other Democratic candidates as better options. He didn’t like any of them, he says. Noam reminds me of the people back in 2000 who thought there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats. Well, there isn’t much difference now but back then there was. Maybe Bill Clinton didn’t turn out to be the uber liberal that Chomsky and others like him were hoping for but there was a world of difference between him and the Republicans. In the same manner, there was a world of difference between the top two Democrats who ran. One lead from deeply held left of center principles; the other was just a brand who walked and talked like the finance industry that footed the bill for his campaign. The difference between them had everything to do with who was backing them. (Next time, pay attention.)
Noam’s weakness seems to be that he’s stuck in the 60’s, reliving the civil rights movement, Cold War and Vietnam. Sometimes, I just want to smack him. No one likes war and no one on welfare would prefer it to a well paying job. The last thing we should do to help people on welfare is make it necessary for them to receive it. Has he forgotten that poor people on welfare tend to live in the low rent parts of town, because that’s all they can afford? That concentrations of poor people tend to perpetuate generational poverty, substandard educations and hopelessness? No, Noam, we don’t want that. We want government to help poor people by helping them get jobs. There is a role for government but welfare isn’t a goal. It’s a stop gap on the way to something better.
What would Noam think of the air strikes on Libya? For the most part, he’s right about the unnecessary wars we’ve been saddled with. Iraq was a sham that many Americans were tricked into pursuing. But the war in Afghanistan? I’m sorry, we needed to go into Afghanistan after 9/11. The fact that the Bush administration screwed up the country after the invasion does not alter the necessity of going there. A country can’t allow a ragtag group of terrorists to attack it and then turn the other cheek. It sends a bad signal to the rest of the world, which despite our civilizing evolution of the past century is still barely holding itself in check from ripping itself to pieces for power and natural resources.
This morning, we joined the French and other countries in attacking Libya as an impressive cultural shift continues to ripple across north Africa and the middle east. Radio Free Europe sums it up:
The British and U.S. strikes came after French warplanes fired the first shots on March 19, destroying government tanks and armored vehicles in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
The campaign, called “Odyssey Dawn,” currently involves forces and equipment from the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Italy, and Denmark. It is the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It followed a decision on March 19 in Paris by Western and Arab leaders to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya in order to prevent Gaddafi from carrying out attacks on civilians and opposition forces.
In an audio message broadcast on state TV, the 68-year-old Qaddafi remained defiant, saying he was prepared to defeat the Western forces in what he said would be a “long, glorious war.”
“You are unjust, you are the aggressors, you are beasts, you are criminals. Your countries are against you. There are protests everywhere in Europe, in America against the steps you’re taking against the innocent Libyan people,” Qaddafi said. “The people are with us, even your people are with us. All the people on Earth are against you. You will fail like how Hitler failed, Napoleon failed, Mussolini failed. All tyrants fall under the feet of the people. This is the era of the people and the great [Qaddafi] revolution.”
Uh-huh. Maybe Qaddafi should cut back on the hot sweet tea.
If you are a person of principle, ideally, you want to allow the peoples of these countries to determine for themselves what their government should be and encourage them from the sidelines. But the possibility that civil unrest threatens to destabilize the world’s economies might also make you want to act when a divided country starts to spiral out of control towards years of violence. Better to pick a side, preferably the anti-dictatorship one, and aid it. In this case, timing is everything. Be swift and thorough.
I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which American politician has been the driving force behind arguing for and assembling the allies for an air strike. Hint: Ditherers don’t do it. Unfortunately, unbiased reporting on foreign policy at the NYTimes is spotty, which brings me to the paywall issue announced last week.
While I admit to being a regular NYTimes reader, lately, I have been disappointed and a little shocked by what I read there. Last week’s coverage of Japan’s struggle with their nuclear reactors was breathless and hyperbolic while reports of the dead, missing and displaced was muted. For the “paper of record”, it was disgraceful. Meanwhile, anti-government bias there is becoming obvious. Maybe the editors aren’t aware of the degree to which they have conformed to the anti-government point of view. But today, their blurb on the frontpage to their editorial on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget parrots the movement conservative line that “Governor Cuomo is right to argue for spending cuts” even while it laments that the wealthy in the state are not going to be compelled to cough up more in taxes. Who decided that the spending cuts are the right thing to argue? Did we poll the residents of New York, consult with leading economists, call up some historians? And this article on the sea walls of Japan that didn’t hold back the tsunamis is just downright bizarre. Not only is the “government programs are wasteful; private industry initiatives are dazzlingly perfect!” messaging obvious, it’s worked into the piece in particularly awkward ways. It’s almost like the editors took the original writing from the bureau in Japan and made it work for the Goldman Sachs readers. Sometimes, I read an article and think *I* could have written it. Recent writing in the NYTimes doesn’t have the same quality as it did even a couple of years ago. The prose seems clumsy and amateur, even a little bit dumbed down.
So, while I love Paul Krugman and will find a way to get my fix, I’m not inclined to pony up more money for a paper that seems to be evolving towards the clueless “creative class” readers and Wall Street crowd. For one thing, soon I won’t be getting a steady paycheck so wasteful government spending in my house is strictly forbidden by real budgetary constraints. Besides, it’s not like the NYTimes has gone out of its way to cover those of us educated unemployed or working class stiffs. The union busting moves in Wisconsin were definitely downplayed and even Krugman is puzzled over the way we, the degreed unemployed, are being ignored and forgotten.
The NYTimes is marginalizing itself. It’s becoming a paper for Mike Bloomberg types and their minions. The little people who still get the “dead tree” version will have access at no additional charge but if you have internet access, why the heck would you get a hard copy? It just piles up in the recycling bin. And if you’re not printing on as much paper, why charge $15.95/month for the electronic version? Presumably, with the exception of the bandwidth, the costs of printing the paper have gone down. Is the NYTimes just following the herd of other corporations that have given in to MBAs and consultants who don’t know the business they are asked to manage? Cater to the money and tell them what they want to hear. Screw the news, even if it is your core business. By the time journalism is just a fleeting memory at the NYTimes, the business guys will have taken the money and run.
The NYTimes lost my subscription with the Judy Miller incident. They’re not getting it back simply because they have international news bureaus, especially if those news bureaus can’t write what’s going on without passing through a political filter. I’ll have to get my news from more international sources from now on.
Thank goodness Brooke is a budding polyglot.
I was planning on a regular Sunday news round up, but I’m running late and some juicy stories have already been covered today. So I thought I’d go after the front page story in today’s NYTimes.
As with some presidents in the past, LBJ and Nixon come to mind, Obama has been pursuing a secret or shadow war for some time. This shadow war has purportedly been against Al Qaeda in Yemen and Pakistan and a few other places, and has been driven by the CIA along with our military. There is often some partnering with various groups where we fight. We saw some of this come out in the wikileaks papers. And we’ve seen some small reporting of this in the main stream media.
Today the NYTimes has a front page article about Obama’s shadow war. I’ll include some passages, but take a look at the article as a whole. One thing that really struck me in the article that includes reports of mistakes or collateral damage including leaders on our side of the “war” (central to fighting Al Qaeda) and large numbers of women and children, is that they don’t appear to criticizes this operation in any real sense. They talk about it as if it were just another policy or some possibly reasonable thing that Obama should be doing. There is no outrage, no holding his feet to the fire, no investigation of it as an illegal war, which it clearly is. It’s yet another clear sign that there is no main stream media that includes actual, real journalism.
Anyway, back to the story:
At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.
But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.
The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.
The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.
The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.
While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.
Of course with any sort of shadow war with little accountability there are ramifications:
The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.
The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.
For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.
And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.
Remember Obama’s campaign promise, he liked Blackwater’s use in our wars and he promised he would also use them and expand their uses wherever he could. He said it plain as day. He told the truth.
The report continues:
The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.
Notice they are killing people they suspect are “plotting” future attacks. Yes, you read that right. Even more than was true with Bush II, this new nobel peace prize president is mass murdering people he suspects may plot future attacks.
But wait, there’s more. There is a discussion of how this parallels the cold war with the Soviets, and then continues:
And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.
In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.
Yes, you read that right. We are using some of the same players involved in creating Al Qaeda are involved in creating the next groups. And in killing other groups. After all, they did such a good job before.
Unfortunately these operations of course have some minor consequences:
The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.
The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.
As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.
A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.
An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.
Yes, Obama did that. We did that.
We are conducting a secret, shadow war that is killing countless people, doing immeasurable damage to people’s lives. We are creating generations of new terrorists. We are doing evil. All under Obama. Not because he inherited anything from Bush. But because that’s what he wants to do.
Treat this as a new/open thread. Feel free to discuss this or other topics.
Filed under: abuse of executive power, Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Diplomatic Nightmares, government, The Middle East, U.S. military, Worst President Ever | Tagged: illegal war, Obama's war, shadow war, war | 100 Comments »
This was the lead story – front-page, above-the-fold-in yesterday’s edition of USA Today: Obama’s war: Deploying 17,000 raises stakes in Afghanistan.
I found this striking because almost every other news venue was covering economic issues, devoting attention either to the slightly expanded mortgage-holder relief program that the Obama administration is beginning to push or the new requests for billions of dollar in corporate welfare requested by GM and Chrysler.
Like most Americans, I cannot judge how much of a threat to international or national peace the Taleban continues to pose: I simply do not have access to the relevant information. But I do think we need to keep an eye on foreign military adventures as we ride the all-too-adventurous roller-coaster of economic affairs.
This deployment to Afghanistan, while not at all expected, is scheduled to occur before any draw downs in troops in Iraq. That’s worrisome. But what is also worrisome is the tendency Presidents have to use military buildups to jumpstart the economy. How will be know whether the build-up in Afghanistan addresses national security (we have the same Secretary of Defense we had under the George W. Bush administration) or whether it is serving as a locus of unquestionable spending, rather like Operation Desert Shield during the George H.W. Bush term or Grenada during the Reagan years?
For those of us who would like to see government spending meant to help the economy concentrated on domestic infrastructure, rebuilding our own country rather than ravaging another one, how will we hold this administration accountable for assuring us that it is not using the good old military-industrial complex and the new tactic of shouting “terrorist” to siphon funds to the special interest groups that will push for military spending in Afghanistan but who have little or no interest in domestic improvements?
Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, newly-selected President George W. Bush was enjoying a fairly decent approval rating of between 50-60%. Then, as he so heartlessly stated, he won the “trifecta.” And America was frozen in time, much as Bush was frozen for several minutes in that Florida classroom after the second of the two World Trade Center towers was hit.
After those attacks, George Bush had the full support of nearly every American – and, of our allies across the world, including Iran, which was led by a much more moderate faction at the time. And what did he do with this political capital? He spent it – and made sure that we would be mired in the 20th Century for the entire length of his Reign of Error.
Bush used Bin Laden’s attacks as an excuse to push America into a bizarre “war on terror.” This was, he warned, going to be a war that would take many years and be unconventional in its approach. What he did not tell us is that the “war on terror” would be used as an excuse to seize an unprecedented amount of executive power, invade a country that did not attack us first, and would actually INCREASE the strength of Al Qaeda and the number of terrorist attacks around the world.