Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unjust War Meets ‘Christian Politics’

Blessed Be the Bellicose? Jesus Would Weep

By Tony Norman
Beaver County Peace Links via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jan 17, 2012 - Last week, video footage of four U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters went viral. With the exception of a handful of morally dead ideologues on the right, the reaction to the video was one of revulsion at home and fury abroad.

As Americans, we were reminded that just because we choose not to pay attention to the war in Afghanistan, we share moral complicity for wars fought in our name. The callousness of the four Marines wasn't unprecedented. Relative to the toll on civilian lives in three countries because of American drone attacks, public urination on enemy corpses pales in comparison as a war crime.

In a widely read essay in The Washington Post, war correspondent Sebastian Junger astutely pointed out that a "19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it's OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one."

Mr. Junger and others point out that these young Marines grew up hearing the contentious policy debates about "enhanced interrogation" and the rationalizations for torture laid out by the Bush administration after 9/11. The soldiers Mr. Junger has written about in the theater of war "are very clear about the fact that society trains them to kill, orders them to kill and then balks at anything that suggests they have dehumanized the enemy they have killed."

As much as we refuse to condone what they did, the soldiers have a visceral reaction to our hypocrisy, too. So, where does a nation turn for a sense of moral clarity and enlightenment during these troubled times? Should it be left to journalists like Mr. Junger to tease out the moral implications of wetting down enemy corpses with splashes of uric acid? Where are our religious leaders, trained as many of them are supposed to be, in the subtleties of god-craft and moral reasoning?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Honor the Message, Honor the Man

Occupy: Resurrecting

Rev. King's Final Dream

By Leo Gerard
United Steel Workers

In public squares across the country, Occupy protesters honor Rev. Martin Luther King's memory on this holiday devoted to him. Their tribute is more meaningful and enduring than the granite monument that President Obama dedicated to Rev. King in Washington, D.C. last year.

That's because the Occupiers are pressing for a cause -- economic justice -- that Rev. King had embraced in the months before his assassination in 1968. And they're pursuing it with the technique he advocated - nonviolent protest.

Rev. King's final crusade, his Poor People's Campaign, and the Occupiers' championing the nation's 99 percent are remarkable in their similarities. It's tragic that in the 44 years since Rev. King launched his campaign for an economic Bill of Rights that the nation's poor and middle class have lurched backward instead of forward. It's hopeful, however, that a whole new generation of idealists has taken up the dream of economic justice.

In the year before Rev. King was gunned down, he persuaded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join him in a movement devoted to securing for all citizens the basic needs that would enable them to pursue the American Dream, to pursue happiness. He believed every able-bodied person should have access to a job with a living wage. And he believed every American should have decent housing and affordable health care. Without economic security, he said, no man is free.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Madness and Disaster: No War with Iran!

What are We to Make of The USA,

Israeli, Iranian Dance Of Death?

By Bill Fletcher
Progressive America Rising via

Jan 15, 2012 - In watching the USA/Israeli vs. Iranian tensions play out, I found myself thinking about the similarities with the British/Argentine war in the early 1980s over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Talk about a useless, purposeless war. Except for one thing. The ruling elites of both countries needed it.

In the early 1980s the Argentine military government was in trouble and they knew it. Their regime was unraveling and they desperately needed a means to hold things together. Presto!! They began a pseudo-nationalist campaign to regain control over the desolate Falkland/Malvinas Islands that were occupied by Britain (since 1833). Hoping to distract the Argentine population from the economic crisis that combined with the savagery of the military dictatorship, the junta carried out a military operation that under other circumstances would have been the basis of a comedy. Unfortunately the loss of life that accompanied this war was nothing to laugh at.

Britain, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, needed its own distractions. The Falklands/Malvinas Islands did not possess any strategic importance to Britain but a nice little war did hold importance. A quick, dirty, little war could, and did, distract the British population from its own political and economic difficulties. It also represented an opportunity for the citizens of a dying empire to reassert themselves, much in the way that a bully picks on a weak neighbor in order to reinforce their own feelings of superiority.

There were no good-guys in that war. It was a war that should never have happened.

In today's situation the USA, Israel and Iran all need distractions. All three countries have been in the midst of severe economic crises. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have protested economic conditions in an unprecedented display of antipathy toward the Israeli political establishment. Iran has been unsettled ever since the emergence of the massive opposition "Green Movement," that followed the questionable elections of 2009. The political challenges faced by the Iranian theocracy accompany growing economic challenges which preceded Western-imposed sanctions (though have been accelerated by those sanctions). And, of course, we in the USA are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The USA cannot really afford a war with Iran (though this will not necessarily stop the US from initiating one), a point demonstrated just this past week with Obama's announced cuts to the Pentagon, the clear result of the impact of the aggressive US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel, which claims an existential threat from Iran, knows full well that such a threat does not exist. The only nuclear power in the Middle East is Israel, and any threat to Israel from Iran would be met by a terrible response from both Israel and the USA. But carrying out an attack or encouraging the USA to carry out an attack on Iran would both distract the Israeli population from domestic concerns as well as provide a cover for Israeli military operations closer to home, such as against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against Hamas in the Gaza.

A war with Iran would be a disaster for everyone. For the Iranians, war would be used, much as with the Argentine junta thirty years ago, to clamp down on dissent and wrap everyone in the flag of nationalism. It would be a chance to breathe more life into what appears to be a dying, reactionary theocratic regime that has carried out brutal repression for years, all the while claiming to be an anti-imperialist force.

A war would create greater instability in the Middle East and more than likely encourage some countries that currently do not possess nuclear weapons to seek them in a hurry!

Such a war could very likely lead to an even deeper global economic crisis if the Straits of Hormuz are blocked by the Iranians, thereby cutting off about 20% of the world's oil. It would also be a war that the West cannot, literally, afford to conduct.

There are many reasons to believe that a war will not happen precisely due to the potential catastrophe. That said, there are elements in all three countries that wish to militarily settle accounts with someone on the other side and/or find an opportunity to use "patriotism" - the last refuge of scoundrels, according to 18thcentury British author Samuel Johnson - as a means of suppressing domestic conflicts, particularly the growing demands for political and economic justice.

Let's not get hood-winked. Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Madness in High Places: End It Now!


Preventing the Coming War with Iran

By Tom Hayden

During the past decade, this writer has remained skeptical about prospects of a US-supported war against Iran. The potential costs outweighed the benefits. Now, as the 2012 election year unfolds, I am not certain. The political and geo-political dynamics underscore the growing threat of war.

It’s not that Barack Obama wants an airstrike against Iran, whether by the Israelis, the Americans, or the Israelis with covert US support. My respected friends Juan Cole and Mark Weisbrot are not so sure. They think Obama is laying the groundwork, and may be right. Obama hardly needs another war with unknown costs and consequences. But presidents are not all-powerful, and Obama can be forced to acquiesce unless there is a sharp increase in serious public opposition. As Trita Parsi, director of the National Iranian American Council, told DemocracyNow on January 12:

“We may very well end up in a situation in which, rather than the governments controlling the dynamic, the dynamics will control the government...this could escalate into a full-scale war.”

Here’s the dynamic at work:

First, the Israeli government and the powerful Israeli lobby, in evaluating the Arab revolutions in Egypt and beyond, are extremely concerned that time is against them. They perceive the diplomatic efforts of the Palestinians to secure United Nations recognition as a mortal peril, and went to great extremes to pressure Obama to threaten a veto of the Palestinian bid. This was an overreaction inimical to US interests, leaving the Obama administration extremely isolated from the rest of the world on these issues. Employing a US veto threat played into the hands of all those in the Palestinian and Islamic worlds who believe that armed struggle is the only path open to them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Defense Cuts: Not What We Meant

Obama's Pentagon Strategy:

A Leaner, More Efficient Empire


By Charles Davis and Medea Benjamin
Beaver County Peace Links via Alternet

Jan 9, 2012 - In an age when U.S. power can be projected through private mercenary armies and unmanned Predator drones, the U.S. military need no longer rely on massive, conventional ground forces to pursue its imperial agenda, a fact President Barack Obama is now acknowledging. But make no mistake: while the tactics may be changing, the U.S. taxpayer – and poor foreigners abroad – will still be saddled with overblown military budgets and militaristic policies.

Speaking January 5 alongside his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the president announced a shift in strategy for the American military, one that emphasizes aerial campaigns and proxy wars as opposed to “long-term nation-building with large military footprints.” This, to some pundits and politicians, is considered a tectonic shift.

Indeed, the way some on the left tell it, the strategy marks a radical departure from the imperial status quo. “Obama just repudiated the past decade of forever war policy,” gushed Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, calling the new strategy a “[s]lap in the face to the generals.”

Conservative hawks, meanwhile, predictably declared that the sky is falling. “This is a lead from behind strategy for a left-behind America,” cried hyperventilating California Republican Buck McKeon, chairman the House Armed Services Committee. “This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs.” In McKeon’s world, feeding the war machine is preferable to feeding poor people.

Unfortunately, though, rather than renouncing empire and endless war, Obama’s stated strategy for the military going forward just reaffirms the U.S. commitment to both. Rather than renouncing the last decade of war, it states that the bloody and disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan – gently termed “extended operations” – were pursued “to bring stability to those countries.”