Thursday, August 14, 2014

Clinton vs. Obama, Iraq and ‘The Long War’ Theory

This photo is believed to be the ISIS forces moving into the Anbar province of Iraq in January 2014. (Photo: Associated Press, 2014)This article was republished by The Nation on August 13, 2014.

Tom Hayden on the Alternatives in Iraq

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

Aug 12, 2014 - Hillary Clinton's flapping of her hawkish wings only intensifies the pressure on President Barack Obama to escalate US military involvement in the sectarian wars of Iraq and Syria. Domestic political considerations already are a major factor in forcing Obama to "do something" to save the Yazidis, avert "another Benghazi," and double down in the undeclared Long War against Islamic fundamentalism.

Clinton certainly was correct in arguing that Obama's statement "don't do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle of US foreign policy. Instead of offering a new foreign policy, based for example on democracy, economic development and renewable energy however, Clinton lapsed into the very Cold War thinking she once questioned in the Sixties.

America's long war on jihadi terrorism should be modeled on the earlier Cold War against communism, Clinton said. We made "mistakes", supported many "nasty guys", did "some things we're not proud of", but the Cold War ended in American triumph with, "The defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism."

Ignoring the new Cold Wars with Russia and China, Clinton's nostalgic vision is sure to be widely accepted among Americans, including many Democrats. She ignores, or may not even be familiar with, the actual Long War doctrine quietly promulgated during the past eight years by national security gurus like David Kilcullen, the top counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq.

Put simply, the Long War theorists have projected an eighty-year military conflict with militant Islam over an "arc of crisis" spanning multiple Muslim countries. Starting with 9/11, the Long War would continue through twenty presidential terms. In Kilcullen's thesis, Iraq is only a "small war" within a larger one. Since a war of such duration could never be declared officially, the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] stands as its feeble underlying justification.

Obama has made cautious attempts to separate himself from the Long War doctrine and even seeks to narrow or revisit the AUMF. But Obama has never named and or criticized the doctrine, presumably for fear of being accused of going soft in the War on Terrorism. Obama's true foreign policy leaning is revealed in his repeated desire to "do some nation building here at home", which many hawks view as a retreat from America's imperial role. They prefer, in Clinton's words, the posture of "aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward," rather than being, "down on yourself."

While expanding US drone attacks, intervening in Libya and Yemen, and now escalating again in Iraq, Obama has emphasized another foreign policy direction that is disturbing to hawks. Obama repeatedly argues, “There is no military solution…" to the very wars he has engaged in, or tried to disengage from. That rational observation apparently is too "radical" for a government with the largest military in the world.

Clinton thinks the better approach is a little more muscular intervention - arming the Syrian rebels, for example, combined with some "soft power" on the ground.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Against U.S. Escalation in Iraq

Kurdish fighters, including women, dig in to take on ISIS theocrats

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links via

August 7, 2014 - The Obama administration seems poised to bomb insurgent-controlled areas of Iraq in another escalation of the deepening quagmire. The administration's reason is "humanitarian", a rationale which could have been given countless times before. Air strikes are unlikely to block the offensive by the extremists of ISIS who are bent on forming a sectarian Sunni Caliphata in the territory they have seized in Syria and Iraq.

If Obama uses U.S air power he will be rejecting a war powers resolution passed by 300 House of Representative members last week which requires a report to Congress and a limited timetable before an authorizing vote is required. Obama already has dispatched several hundred U.S troops as "advisers" to the faltering Baghdad army already trained and financed by US taxpayers. A majority of Democrats oppose executive action without congressional hearings and approval. Rep. Jim McGovern, primary author of the House resolution, predicted that military action might take place during the congressional recess.

The alternative is not "surrendering to terrorism", as the War Lobby claims. In Obama's calculation, apparently, it is simpler to fire bombs and missiles at the war zone than to threaten the authoritarian al-Maliki regime in Baghdad with a cutoff in funds unless they reach a power-sharing accommodation with the Sunni and Kurdish minority communities. Al-Maliki's stubborn insistence on disenfranchising and rounding up thousands of Sunnis in Iraq drove many of them into their present alliance with ISIS in the vast swath of territory linking southern Syria and northern Iraq. As long as al-Maliki remains in power, Iraq's Sunnis will have no incentive to rebuild a power-sharing state

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Unwavering Support of Israel Harms U.S. Interests, Encourages Extremism

By Rashid Khalidi

New York Times Op-Ed

Aug 6, 2014 – The blatant partiality of the United States in favor of Israel has already turned the words “peace process” into a bitter joke. Over many decades, American indulgence of Israel has blighted prospects of any resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians. Consequently, occupation has been entrenched and Israeli colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has metastasized, going from under 200,000 illegal settlers in 1991 to over 600,000 today.

This partiality only increases when Israel goes to war. By guaranteeing Israel impunity in its military actions, the United States has contributed massively to the bloodshed in Gaza in recent years and in Lebanon in 2006. With $3.1 billion in military aid annually, Israel already has overwhelming superiority in firepower, thanks to top-of-the-line U.S. weapons, such as F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles. Beyond this, it enjoys U.S. intelligence support, as is shown by the latest revelation in the Edward Snowden documents of high-level cooperation between U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies against “Palestinian terrorism,” U.S. arms resupply during battle (spare parts for missiles and 120-millimeter mortar rounds and 40-millimeter grenades were delivered immediately last week) and wall-to-wall diplomatic backing, such that the Security Council has been virtually immobilized for weeks.

The United States is so closely aligned with Israel as to be effectively a co-belligerent. It is thus not fit to serve as a peacemaker. One is sorely needed to end the human tragedy for the 1.8 million Palestinians of Gaza, who have been besieged and blockaded for nearly eight years, and many of whom have seen their homes destroyed three times since 2008 by massive Israeli firepower. This firepower is either used indiscriminately, or to purposely inflict suffering on civilian populations and infrastructure, along the lines of the “Dahiya doctrine” enunciated by Gen. Gadi Eiszenkot (currently Israeli deputy chief of staff) after Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon.

The United States has shown time and again that it does not care about Palestinian rights. But if the United States cares about Israel, it should realize that supporting its subjugation of the Palestinians will be disastrous not only for the victims of this oppression, the rule of law and for vital U.S. interests, but also for the Israeli people.

Continued U.S. encouragement of Israeli violations of international humanitarian law will further embolden the brazen currents of far-right ethnocentric racism permeating Israeli society, and encourage more brutal military actions like those just inflicted on Gaza. This in turn can only inflame extreme and reprehensible reactions, whether in the form of international jihadi militancy, crude anti-Semitism or blind terrorism against civilians.

This is why the United States must decide if it wants to be on the right side of history on one of the 21st century’s most important moral and legal issues.

 Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, is the author of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Investing in Weapons, War, and Obama


By Nicolas J.S. Davies

Beaver County Peace Links via Z-Net

April 17, 2012 - Americans who went to the polls in 2008 believing that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for peace, now face the prospect of a presidential election in which both major party candidates will be openly wedded to endless war, cold-blooded “targeted killings,” record military budgets, and the systematic violation of U.S. and international law.

The only gains people of conscience can make in national elections this year will be to elect more real progressives to Congress, people like veteran journalist and activist Norman Solomon in California and Wenona Baldenegro in Arizona, a Navajo who would be the first Native American woman in Congress. The corporate media have made sure that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) remains the best kept secret in American politics as it has quietly grown from 6 members in 1991 to 76 members today. CPC co-chair Raul Grijalva was even named the “most valuable representative” in Congress in 2011 by the Nation magazine.

But no grass-roots movement can challenge the auction of the highest public office in the land in 2012. Since Lewis Powell wrote his infamous “Powell Memo” in 1971, big business has consolidated and expanded its control of American politics exactly as he urged it to do. American corporations divert small portions of their profits to public relations and advertising firms to apply the same techniques to politics that they use to sell the products of their commercial monopolies to the public, while Democratic and Republican Party leaders enthusiastically embrace their privileged role in a system that former President Carter has described as “legalized bribery.”

The Republican primaries have shed light on Mitt Romney’s vulture fund background and Sheldon Adelson’s legalized bribery of Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, there has been little scrutiny of the interests behind the person who is already governing the United States.

In 2008, Senator Obama out-solicited Senator McCain by more than two to one: $748 million to $354 million. Less than 10 percent of Obama’s funds were raised by trade unions and only 24 percent came from donors who gave $200 or less, compared with Ron Paul’s 39 percent and Dennis Kucinich’s 56 percent. Even George Bush raised 26 percent of his funds from small donors in 2004, so Obama’s much-vaunted reliance on small donors was a deceptive PR stunt, not a new paradigm in grass-roots democracy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

America's Massive National Security State Is the 4th Branch of Government


Who rules Washington?

By Tom Englehardt

Beaver County Peace Links via Tom Dispatch

August 3, 2014 |   As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary.  That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material.  Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach.  Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power.  Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington.  Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.

All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II.  It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort. 

Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply.  In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power.  So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country).  In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings -- about 17 million square feet of space.”  And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.