Monday, December 28, 2015

Is Hillary Clinton a Neoconservative Hawk? What Iraq and Libya Decisions Tell Us About Her Foreign Policy

By Paul Rosenberg
December 27, 2015
Two election cycles after losing the Democratic Party nomination because of her Iraq War vote, Hillary Clinton finally seems to have put it behind her. In fact, with the latest wave of ISIS hysteria, her hawkishness is seen by some as a plus. At the same time, striking a balance, a good case can be made that, though she did vote to authorize the Iraq War, she would never have started it herself if she had been president.
John Kerry made that very same argument back in 2004, in fact. AsKevin Drum described at the time [3], the media was echoing the Bush campaign spin, presenting Kerry’s position as confused and ludicrous at best, and as inconsistent flip-flopping at worst. But actually his position was a familiar one to them:
[T]hey know very well that there are lots and lots of liberal hawks and other former war supporters who have exactly the same position: pressuring Saddam was good, inspections were good, and eventually war might have been good too.
But Bush blew it: he failed to rally world opinion, he failed to get the Arab world on our side, he failed to let the inspections process run its course, and he failed to plan properly for the postwar occupation. The result is a loss of American power and prestige, a diminished chance of Iraq becoming a pluralistic democracy, and an al-Qaeda that’s been given a second lease on life thanks to George Bush’s Queeg-like obsession with Saddam Hussein.
You’ll note that there’s nothing new in the idea that invading Iraq benefited the Jihadi cause. Liberal hawks may have been mistaken, but not nearly as much as the neocons, whose trap they fell into. So has the liberal hawk position finally been fully vindicated? Is Hillary Clinton finally in the right place, at the right time?
Electorally, perhaps. But in terms of actually having a working policy? That’s a whole different story. After all, Clinton herself pushed hard for a similarly flawed regime change strategy in Libya—Conor Friedersdorf even compared her role [4] in Libya to Cheney’s in Iraq. Hyperbolic? Yes. But he did have a point. As summarized [5]by Joel Gillin at the New Republic, she did get carried away with questionable intelligence, over-focused on deposing a long-time U.S. bogeyman, and failed to give sufficient consideration to the depths of difficulties that would follow afterwards. All of which allowed the broader jihadi threat increased opportunity to spread.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bernie Sanders’ Refreshingly Sane Foreign Policy

By Sean Illing,
Salon via Alternet

In his speech last week, Sanders said what every presidential candidate ought to say about ISIS and the Middle East.

Bernie Sanders’ economic populism and domestic agenda receive a lot of attention, and they should – he’s a unique and important voice on these fronts. But Bernie’s refreshing sanity on foreign policy gets overlooked far too often. This is especially problematic given the most recent Paris attacks and the renewed emphasis on national security.

Sanders gave a major speech last week at Georgetown University, the central theme of which was democratic socialism. Understandably, much of the coverage focused on Sanders’s efforts to situate his brand of socialism in the broader American tradition. However, Sanders also used his speech to talk about our foreign policy dilemma in the Middle East.

His remarks were what we’ve come to expect from Sanders: honest. Because he doesn’t spin the way other politicians do, Sanders brings a kind of clarity to this conversation, a clarity that’s desperately needed in our current climate. Conservatives will likely dismiss Sanders as a dovish liberal who doesn’t understand foreign policy, but that’s because they don’t want to hear what he has to say.

In the speech, Sanders makes clear that he understands both the crisis and the complicated political realities on the ground. “The United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime,” Sanders said, and we must “create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies from flourishing. But we cannot – and should not – do it alone.” [Emphasis mine].

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thomas Merton Center honors Congresswoman Barbara Lee

20151109JHLocalAward02-1 Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif.: "It's only through peace and justice will we achieve the American dream for everybody."

John Heller/Post-Gazette

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif.: "It's only through peace and justice will we achieve the American dream for everybody."


By Peter Smith

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. received scorching criticism in 2001 as the only U.S. legislator to vote against the resolution authorizing military force after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At the time, she warned of the unintended consequences of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which empowered force against nations, organizations or individuals that carried out the 9/11 attacks or helped those who did, “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States” by such groups.

Fourteen years later, the legislation remains in effect and has been used by presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to justify military actions not only in Afghanistan and against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda but against other militants as far afield as Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

For speaking out early against the far-reaching consequences of the act, and for other actions promoting peace, Rep. Lee received the 2015 Thomas Merton Award for peace and justice work on Monday from the Thomas Merton Center.

She is the 43rd annual recipient of the award. Past recipients have included environmentalist Bill McKibben, activist Noam Chomsky and journalist Jeremy Scahill. The center held its annual dinner Monday night at the Sheraton Station Square. The center and the award are named for the late Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk and author of dozens of books on peace, the environment and relations between races and religions.

Ms. Lee “is a prophet ... that speaks the truth about what has to be done no matter what the consequences,” Bonnie DiCarlo, past president of the center, said at an afternoon news conference.

Ms. Lee said she and more than 150 other members of Congress have now been pushing for a repeal of the 2001 act as well as the 2002 act authorizing force in Iraq, which the Obama administration has used to authorize military strikes against the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. She said the Syria action, for example, should get a specific authorization from Congress today.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Confessions of an Israeli Traitor


The occupation is destroying our own society, too

By Assaf Gavron
October 23, 2015
Washington Post
Assaf Gavron's latest novel, "The Hilltop," is out in paperback.

A Palestinian argues with Israeli policemen during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron this month. (EPA/ABED AL HASHLAMOUN)
I was an Israel Defense Forces soldier in Gaza 27 years ago, during the first intifada. We patrolled the city and the villages and the refugee camps and encountered angry teenagers throwing stones at us. We responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Now those seem like the good old days.
Since then, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has seen stones replaced with guns and suicide bombs, then rockets and highly trained militias, and now, in the past month, kitchen knives, screwdrivers and other improvised weapons. Some of these low-tech efforts have been horrifically successful, with victims as young as 13. There is plenty to discuss about the nature and timing of the recent wave of Palestinian attacks — a desperate and humiliated answer to the election of a hostile Israeli government that emboldens extremist settlers to attack Palestinians. But as an Israeli, I am more concerned with the actions of my own society, which are getting scarier and uglier by the moment.
The internal discussion in Israel is more militant, threatening and intolerant than it has ever been. Talk has trended toward fundamentalism ever since the Israeli operation in Gaza in late 2008, but it has recently gone from bad to worse. There seems to be only one acceptable voice, orchestrated by the government and its spokespeople, and beamed to all corners of the country by a clan of loyal media outlets drowning out all the others. Those few dissenters who attempt to contradict it — to ask questions, to protest, to represent a different color from this artificial consensus — are ridiculed and patronized at best, threatened, vilified and physically attacked at worst. Israelis not “supporting our troops” are seen as traitors, and newspapers asking questions about the government’s policies and actions are seen as demoralizing.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Obama Just Signed a Blank Check for Endless War in Afghanistan And one congresswoman is not having it.


By John Nichols

The Nation

Oct 15, 2015 - Barbara Lee has always had the clearest vision when it comes to the US role in Afghanistan—and the rest of the world.

The California congresswoman cast the sole vote in the US Congress against the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a veteran congressional aide and legislator who has a long history of highly engaged and thoughtful involvement with global issues, Lee did not oppose responding in appropriate and necessary ways to genuine threats to the United States. But she feared the open-ended authorization would become a blank check for endless war in the targeted country of Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Lee was right. On October 7, 14 years after the launch of the Afghanistan War, she noted that it has become “our nation’s longest war” and said that “sadly, there seems to be no end in sight. Despite a war-weary public, calls continue to keep more U.S. troops in Afghanistan for many more years.”

On Thursday, President Obama listened to the calls for more war—as opposed to the wise counsel of the congresswoman who has so consistently been correct in her assessments of the folly of endless war making in distant lands.

“This war has already cost our nation too much.” —Congresswoman Barbara Lee

The president, who was elected with the strong support of Congresswoman Lee and other war foes, announced that the planned withdrawal by US forces from Afghanistan would be suspended. Instead, current troop levels of roughly 10,000— along with the full capacity for air strikes, like the October 3 one that devastated the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz—would remain in place through 2016. While Obama suggested that the Afghan military is “fully responsible for securing their country,” his decision to maintain US troops levels effectively guarantees that the United States will remain deeply involved in Afghanistan until after the president leaves office in early 2017.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Israel-Palestine: Jimmy Carter: There is Zero Chance for the Two-state Solution

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visits the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. © Pool/Pool

The US has withdrawn from tackling the Middle East's most intractable problem, says the former President

By Bronwen Maddox

Prostect / UK

Aug 13, 2015 - “At this moment, there is zero chance of the two-state solution,” said Jimmy Carter, giving his bleakest pronouncement yet on the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock to which he devoted much effort while President of the United States, and even more time since then.

“These are the worst prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians for years,” he said, adding that he didn’t think that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, “has any intention” of making progress towards the goal, the thrust of international efforts for decades, of the creation of a separate state for the Palestinians alongside Israel. After John Kerry’s efforts as Secretary of State to broker a deal, which collapsed in the spring last year, the “US has withdrawn” from the problem, he reckoned. 

Carter, US President from 1977 to 1981, spoke to Prospect on the launch of his new book (his 29th), A Full Life: Reflections at 90, and just shortly before the operation that revealed he had cancer, and that it had spread. He is arguably the best recent case of a president who gained in stature after he left office, and this crisp survey of the arc of his life and passions shows why. It is a reminder of the strength of the moral views of someone described as “more of a missionary than a legislator”; his lack of fear in voicing them on the global stage, and his enduring lack of interest in political compromise.

His controversial and uncomfortable presidency, after narrowly defeating Gerald Ford, was dogged by clashes with the Democrat-controlled Congress. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, incredulous that the born-again Christian from Georgia stopped serving alcohol at the White House, and furious at how Carter, the former Governor of Georgia, put Georgians in key posts, became an insurmountable obstacle when the President refused on principle to reward potential supporters on Capitol Hill with bills containing “pork” (favours for local projects). That blocked many of his idealistic projects on energy, the environment and water, leaving the Egypt-Israel peace accords struck at Camp David as one of the landmarks of his time in office.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Unheralded Force That Helped Win the Iran Deal and Reshape US Foreign Policy

By Ben Wikler
Huffington Post

Sept 17, 2015 - At midnight tonight, the clock stops. The congressional review period for the Iran nuclear deal expires, and the opponents of the deal officially lose their chance to torpedo the landmark foreign policy achievement of the Obama era. Thanks to 42 Democratic and Independent Senators, the GOP-driven sabotage bill never even reached the president's desk, and the United States has moved off of the path to war with Iran.

It's a moment worth marking: the visible sign of a tectonic shift in the politics of American foreign policy.

The Iran deal's political survival means many things at once. It signals the decline of AIPAC and the Likud lobby, a masterfully executed vote-whipping operation driven by the White House, Dick Durbin and Harry Reid in the Senate, and Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. David Price, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett in the House.

But it also means something more, something largely missed in the many write-ups of how the victory was forged. The success of the Iran nuclear deal marks a crescendo of a politically mature constituency for peace and diplomacy. It's a milestone in the ascendancy of a grassroots movement stirred to action by the Iraq war that has been building steadily since, a force that will shape the politics of war and peace in 2016 and the years beyond.

In mid-July, when the seven-country negotiations finally ended and the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was unveiled, today's moment of victory was anything but assured. A front-page New York Times story detailed a $20 million campaign plan, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to sink the deal. Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman helmed another $10 million attack, while neoconservative hawks ranging from Joe Lieberman to Dick Cheney geared up to join the fray. The deal's opponents promised -- and pundits expected -- a 2009 Tea Party-style uprising during the August congressional recess that would send members of Congress running for cover.

As the Washington Director of, I experienced the D.C. effort to support the deal from the inside. On paper, the pro-diplomacy coalition looked hopelessly outgunned. The coalition of nuclear policy experts and peace advocates who were lobbying Congress couldn't come close to matching the resources of the hawks. The widespread assumption was that the GOP would pass a resolution of disapproval through both houses of Congress. Our modest and urgent goal, then, was to retain enough Democrats to sustain a presidential veto. I remember a fierce private debate about whether we should give up on the Senate entirely and focus all of our energy on the House.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why the Military-Industrial Complex is Bad for the Working Class

They Are All Implicated: In the Grip of a Permanent War Economy

By Seymour Melman via Counterpunch

March 15, 2003 - Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, every major aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.

Civilian manufacturing industries are being swept away as a war-focused White House and a compliant Congress sponsor deindustrialization of the U.S. (1) They favor production--in Mexico and China, where government powers bar independent unions. As production of both consumer goods and capital goods is moved out of America, unions and whole communities are decimated. Ghost towns are created across the country. That process is far along in industries that once invented machine tools, radios, and even TV's. Now the decay proceeds in "new economy" industries like computers and "Palm" type devices. The U.S. firms that sell such equipment typically assemble components that are manufactured elsewhere.

Capital goods have special importance in all this, for those are the tools and machines used to produce everything else. Jon Rynn has calculated that by 2004, 50% of all the production equipment required in the United States will have to be imported, mainly from Germany and Japan. (2)

Meanwhile, government financing is lavished without stint to promote every kind of war industry, and foreign investing by U.S. firms. The war priorities have depleted medical and education staffs. U.S. medical planning now includes programs to recruit large numbers of nurses from India. (3) Shortages of housing have caused a swelling of the homeless population in every major city. State and city governments across the country have become trained to bend to the needs of the military--giving automatic approvals to its spending without limit. The same officials cannot find money for affordable housing.

The Permanent War Economy of the United States has endured since the end of World War II in 1945. Since then the U.S. has been at war--somewhere--every year, in Korea, Nicaragua, Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan--all this to the accompaniment of shorter military forays in Africa, Chile, Grenada, Panama.

So it should come as no surprise that there is no public "space" for dialogue on how to improve the quality of our lives. Such topics are subordinate to "how to make war". Congress under both Republican and Democratic control has voted the same war priorities into the federal budget.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reject the NeoCon War Party’s Effort to Warp Your Mind

Listen, It’s Still Their F**king Fault: Bush, Cheney, Neo-Con Drivel, and the Truth About Iraq and ISIS

By Paul Rosenberg

Salon via alternet

April 10, 2015 - Foreign policy is already looming much larger in the 2016 election than it did in 2012. When Obama ran for re-election, the inescapable fact that Osama bin Laden had been killed on his watch (after Bush had admittedly lost interest in him) essentially foreclosed any serious foreign policy challenge from the Republicans. Hence the profound silliness of their Benghazi obsession, and Obama’s cool, detached debate invitation to “Please proceed…”

But the trajectory of resurgent international conflict during Obama’s second term—epitomized by ISIS, though not limited to it—has already infused the 2016 election with much higher levels of foreign policy concern. If 2012 was all about trying to blame Obama for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular domestic economic catastrophe, then 2016 is shaping up—at least in part—to be about blaming him for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular foreign policy catastrophe, either. It will only be further complicated by the fact that Obama himself won’t be on the ballot—the more hawkish Hillary Clinton almost certainly will.

At the moment, Obama’s historic nuclear deal with Iran is center stage, but the much more widespread geopolitical problem typified by (though not limited to) ISIS has a much more pervasive political influence. Case in point: the emergence of ISIS, with its provocative spectacles of violence have unexpectedly renewed American’s willingness to send troops to fight overseas [3], completely forgetting that this was precisely bin Laden’s reason for 9/11 in the first place: to lure the U.S. into a “holy war” with Islam. Election year dynamics being what they are, there’s no telling how badly this could turn out. So before we go off and blow several trillion dollars [4] recruiting the next wave of terrorists, perhaps it would be a good idea to reconsider what we did the last time around.

First, though, an observation about framing arguments. Republicans, naturally, want to blame the rise of ISIS on Obama, which is absurd. Three extremely foolish actions undertaken by Bush were absolutely crucial for the emergence of ISIS: First, by responding to 9/11 as an act of war, rather than a crime, Bush gave al Qaeda and its future ISIS off-shoots the holy war and the status of holy warriors they so desperately craved, but could never attain on their own. Second, by invading Iraq—which had nothing to do with 9/11, and was actually a counter-weight both to al Qaeda(ideologically) and to Iran (both theologically and geo-strategically)—Bush destabilized the entire region, creating a tinder-box of multifaceted incentives for sectarian violence.  Third, by disbanding Iraq’s Sunni- and Bath-Party-dominated army, Bush both ensured an intense power struggle and civil war in Iraq (with vastly more power in Iran-friendly Shiite hands) and provided Sunni terrorist ideologues with hardened, experienced military command personnel. (The government Iraq ended up with, and the subsequent U.S. withdrawal, were also results of Bush policy which Republicans have tried to blame on Obama, but they were relatively late-stage decisions, severely constrained by these earlier disastrous decisions.)

The combined effect of all three Bush actions was to turn Iraq into a virtual hell—along with various portions of several other countries as well.  America had one 9/11, one massive loss of 3,000 innocent civilian lives, and that was enough for us to lose all sense of proportion, restraint, and good judgment. Why should the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan respond any better? How many Middle East civilians have died in America’s “war on terror” as a result? How many 9/11s worth? And what difference does that number make?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Great Game in Afghanistan: The US Is Losing China

Afghani President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five

Afghani President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five "circles" of importance. (Photo: US Institute of Peace)

By Dilip Hiro

Tom Dispatch

April 1, 2015 - Call it an irony, if you will, but as the Obama administration struggles to slow down or halt its scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan, newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is performing a withdrawal operation of his own. He seems to be in the process of trying to sideline the country’s major patron of the last 13 years -- and as happened in Iraq after the American invasion and occupation there, Chinese resource companies are again picking up the pieces.

In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan was the focus of “the Great Game” between the imperial powers of that era, Britain and Czarist Russia, and so it is again.  Washington, the planet’s “sole superpower,” having spent an estimated $1 trillion and sacrificed the lives of 2,150 soldiers fighting the Taliban in the longest overseas war in its history, finds itself increasingly and embarrassingly consigned to observer status in the region, even while its soldiers and contractors still occupy Afghan bases, train Afghan forces, and organize night raids against the Taliban.

In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five circles of importance.  The first circle contains neighboring countries, including China with its common border with Afghanistan, and the second is restricted to the countries of the Islamic world.

In the new politics of Afghanistan under Ghani, as the chances for peace talks between his government and the unbeaten Taliban brighten, the Obama administration finds itself gradually but unmistakably being reduced to the status of bystander. Meanwhile, credit for those potential peace talks goes to the Chinese leadership, which has received a Taliban delegation in Beijing twice in recent months, and to Ghani, who has dulled the hostility of the rabidly anti-Indian Taliban by reversing the pro-India, anti-Pakistan policies of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

How to Influence Afghans

Within a month of taking office in late September, Ghani flew not to Washington -- he made his obligatory trip there only last week -- but to Beijing. There he declared China “a strategic partner in the short term, medium term, long term, and very long term.” In response, Chinese President Xi Jinping called his Afghan counterpart “an old friend of the Chinese people,” whom he hailed for being prepared to work toward “a new era of cooperation” and for planning to take economic development “to a new depth.” (Continued)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The War Party Bares Its Fangs on Iran

The Iran Regime Change Act of 2015

by Jon PerrFollow

Daily Kos

March 29, 2015 - When it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, the United States is rapidly approaching a point of no return. The P5+1 talks are coming down to the wire even as the participants express cautious optimism that a deal could be inked as soon as Sunday. But if the negotiations in Geneva fail or if their opponents in Congress succeed in blowing them up, leaders of both U.S. political parties will have to quickly come up with a plan B to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear device.

To put it another way, all those who have sought to sabotage an agreement will have to put up or shut up. The Congressional Republicans who invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to torpedo the Iranian talks, the 47 GOP Senators who wrote the leadership of the Islamic Republic threatening to block sanctions relief for Tehran, the 367 House members who penned a similar letter to President Obama, the bipartisan supporters of the Corker-Menendez bill and virtually the entire 2016 Republican presidential field will have to put their money where their mouths are.

And the amount of that money could be as much as $2 trillion over a decade. Thousands of U.S servicemen and women, as well as American civilians, could be the casualties of a conflict that might well spread beyond the region. To ensure that Iran can never develop nuclear weapons, that's the possible price tag in blood and treasure for an American invasion and occupation of Iran that would require "a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."

Perhaps President Obama's foes on both sides of the aisle would like to bring that package up for a vote in Congress. Call it the "Iran Regime Change Act of 2015."

Of course, you'd never know about any of these risks listening to those who casually chant, "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." (Continued)

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Neocon Admits the Plan to Bomb Iran


Exclusive: The neocon Washington Post, which wants to kill the talks aimed at constraining Iran’s nuclear program, allowed a contrary opinion of sorts onto its pages – a neocon who also wants to collapse the talks but is honest enough to say that the follow-up will be a U.S. war on Iran, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

March 16, 2015 - Not exactly known for truthfulness, U.S. neocons have been trying to reassure the American people that sinking a negotiated deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program would be a painless proposition, but at least one prominent neocon, Joshua Muravchik, acknowledges that the alternative will be war – and he likes the idea.

On Sunday, the neocon Washington Post allowed Muravchik to use its opinion section to advocate for an aggressive war against Iran – essentially a perpetual U.S. bombing campaign against the country – despite the fact that aggressive war is a violation of international law, condemned by the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal  as “the supreme international crime.”
Neoconservative theorist Joshua Muravchik. (Photo credit: Joshua Muravchik)

Given that the Post is very restrictive in the op-ed pieces that it prints, it is revealing that advocacy for an unprovoked bombing campaign against Iran is considered within the realm of acceptable opinion. But the truth is that the only difference between Muravchik’s view and the Post’s own editorial stance is that Muravchik lays out the almost certain consequences of sabotaging a diplomatic solution.

In his article headlined “War is the only way to stop Iran” in print editions and “War with Iran is probably our best option” online, Muravchik lets the bloody-thirsty neocon cat out of the bag as he agrees with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hysterical view of Iran but recognizes that killing international negotiations on limiting Iran’s nuclear program would leave open only one realistic option:

“What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality. … Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons. Nor would the stiffer sanctions that Netanyahu advocates bring a different result. …

“Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes, although an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does. … Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary.”

Typical of the neocons, Muravchik foresees no problem with his endless bombing war against Iran, including the possibility that Iran, which Western intelligence agencies agree is not working on a bomb, might reverse its course if it faced repeated bombing assaults from the United States.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The US is Heading Into a Heavily Militarized Future

By Tom Englehardt
Beaver County Peace Links via TomDispatch

Feb 17, 2015 - I never fail to be amazed -- and that’s undoubtedly my failing.  I mean, if you retain a capacity for wonder you can still be awed by a sunset, but should you really be shocked that the sun is once again sinking in the west? Maybe not.

The occasion for such reflections: machine guns in my hometown. To be specific, several weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced the formation of a new 350-officer Special Response Group (SRG). Keep in mind that New York City already has a police force of more than 34,000 -- bigger, that is, than the active militaries of Austria, Bulgaria, Chad, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Laos, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe -- as well as its own “navy,” including six submersible drones. 

Just another drop in an ocean of blue, the SRG will nonetheless be a squad for our times, trained in what Bratton referred to as “advanced disorder control and counterterror.”  It will also, he announced, be equipped with “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns -- unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” And here’s where he created a little controversy in my hometown.  The squad would, Bratton added, be “designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

Now, that was an embarrassment in liberal New York.  By mixing the recent demonstrations over the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others into the same sentence with the assault on Mumbai and the Charlie Hebdo affair in France, he seemed to be equating civil protest in the Big Apple with acts of terrorism.  Perhaps you won’t be surprised then that the very next day the police department started walking back the idea that the unit would be toting its machine guns not just to possible terror incidents but to local protests.  A day later, Bratton himself walked his comments back even further. (“I may have in my remarks or in your interpretation of my remarks confused you or confused the issue.”)  Now, it seems there will be two separate units, the SRG for counterterror patrols and a different, assumedly machine-gun-less crew for protests.

Here was what, like the sun going down in the west, shouldn’t have shocked me but did: no one thought there was any need to walk back the arming of the New York Police Department with machine guns for whatever reasons.  The retention of such weaponry should, of course, have been the last thing to shock any American in 2015.  After all, the up-armoring and militarization of the police has been an ongoing phenomenon since 9/11, even if it only received real media attention after the police, looking like an army of occupation, rolled onto the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in response to protests over the killing of Michael Brown.

In fact, the Pentagon (and the Department of Homeland Security) had already shunted $5.1 billion worth of military equipment, much of it directly from the country’s distant battlefields -- assault rifles, land-mine detectors, grenade launchers, and 94,000 of those machine guns -- to local police departments around the country.  Take, for example, the various tank-like, heavily armored vehicles that have now become commonplace for police departments to possess.  (Ferguson, for instance, had a “Bearcat,” widely featured in coverage of protests there.)

Since 2013, the Pentagon has transferred for free more than 600 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, worth at least half a million dollars each and previously used in U.S. war zones, to various “qualified law enforcement agencies.” Police departments in rural areas like Walsh County, North Dakota (pop. 11,000) now have their own MRAPs, as does the campus police department at Ohio State University.  It hardly matters that these monster vehicles have few uses in a country where neither ambushes nor roadside bombs are a part of everyday life. (Continued)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bill O'Reilly and Fox News Call for Holy War Against ISIS

By Zaid Jilani
Beaver County Peace Links via AlterNet

Feb 18, 2015 - Last night, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly finally gave ISIS what it wants: a declaration that the West and Middle East are, indeed, in a holy war.

In a segment titled, “The Holy War Begins [3],” O'Reilly used the recent murders of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians to slam President Obama's approach to ISIS, and quoted a list of religious leaders, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who warned that ISIS threatens “civilization, everything that is decent and noble about humanity. It is a worldwide crisis that cannot, must not, be ignored.”

O'Reilly then ran through the gamut of this week's right-wing complaints about Obama. These ranged from critiques of the State Department's Marie Harf's statement [4] that ISIS cannot be defeated solely with military means, to a bizarre critique [5] that the White House somehow did not recognize that the 21 Egyptians murdered by terrorists were Christian. He concluded with the statement that “the Holy War is here and unfortunately it seems the president will be the last one to acknowledge it.”

His comments seem to be the climax of weeks of agitation [6] from Fox News and other right-wing commentators about Obama avoiding the phrase “Islamic extremism” when talking about ISIS and other terrorists. “Say it, Obama, 'Islamic,'” instructed [7] Fox News contributor Michael Goodwin. Fox contributor Todd Starnes invoked the biblical [8] “Lake of Fire” in counter-terrorism strategy. Christian evangelist Franklin Graham appeared on Greta Van Susteren's show to explain [9] that Obama just had too much affinity for Islam:

    His mother was married to a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. Then she married a man from Indonesia. He was raised in Indonesia. Went to Islamic schools. I assume she was a Muslim. So his whole life, his experiences have been surrounded by Islam. He only knows Islam. And he has given a pass to Islam. He is refusing to understand the evil that is in front of him

What O'Reilly and others at Fox seem to be missing is that there's a pretty good reason no world leader here in the West or in the Middle East has accepted the frame that we're in a “holy war”: it's exactly what ISIS wants.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Uncle Sam: Anti-Terror Leader or Terrorist Breeder?

By Luo Jun

Feb17, 2015 - On the world stage, the United States has assumed anti-terror leadership since the deadly Sept. 11 attack in 2001, yet underneath its glossy surface, Uncle Sam seemed to have a secret identity as a terrorist breeder.

In a display of leadership and power, the White House will convene an international conference on fighting violent extremism on Thursday, bringing together government officials from around 60 countries.

The summit aims to "highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the U.S. and abroad to commit acts of violence."

That all seemed right and proper, given the rising threats of terrorism and violent extremism across the world and the deadly attacks in Western countries in recent months, but the key to realizing the goal of such a summit is missing.

Washington paid little attention to exploring the root causes of terrorism, which should be deemed intriguing, as the latest villain on its black list, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, originated not in Iran or the DPRK, both "enemies" of Washington, but in Iraq, a state "freed" and "democratized" by the U.S. itself.

It is also thought-provoking that the IS militants drew much of their fighting experience from the West-involved war in Syria, where the Western bloc has supported rebels in their efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It would be a never ending war on terror if Washington failed to find and eliminate the root causes of terrorism and extremism.

To admit it or not, Uncle Sam has effectively played the role of a terrorist breeder, when the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria turned the region into a burning battleground with no peace, security and stability in sight.

The U.S. military operation might be clean and swift, but its political plan for those states dragged into a civil war was awkward, which backfired and created dangerous swamps of turmoil that provided breeding ground for terrorism.

It is high time that Washington take the opportunity of Thursday's conference to discuss with global partners and review past counter-terrorism strategies and policies, so as to reflect upon past mistakes and improve the ability to address such threats.

Any violent and extremist acts targeting civilians should be condemned in the strongest term and perpetrators brought to justice.

As counter-terrorism has become a responsibility of the international community as a whole, closer global cooperation, based on the United Nations Charter and a unified standard, is necessary to jointly secure regional and global peace and security.

Monday, February 2, 2015

War Is the New Normal


Seven  Deadly Reasons Why America’s Wars Persist

By William Astore

Feb 1, 2015 - It was launched immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when I was still in the military, and almost immediately became known as the Global War on Terror, or GWOT.  Pentagon insiders called it “the long war [4],” an open-ended, perhaps unending, conflict against nations and terror networks mainly of a radical Islamist bent.  It saw the revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, buried in the aftermath of defeat in Vietnam, and a reinterpretation [5] of that disaster as well.  Over the years, its chief characteristic became ever clearer: a “Groundhog Day [6]” kind of repetition.  Just when you thought it was over (Iraq [7], Afghanistan [8]), just after victory (of a sort) was declared, it began again [9].

Now, as we find ourselves enmeshed in Iraq War 3.0, what better way to memorialize the post-9/11 American way of war than through repetition.  Back in July 2010, I wrote an article for TomDispatch on the seven reasons [10] why America can’t stop making war.  More than four years later, with the war on terror still ongoing, with the mission eternally unaccomplished, here’s a fresh take on the top seven reasons why never-ending war is the new normal in America.  In this sequel, I make only one promise: no declarations of victory (and mark it on your calendars, I’m planning to be back with seven new reasons in 2019).

1.  The privatization of war: The U.S. military’s recourse to private contractors [11] has strengthened the profit motive for war-making and prolonged wars as well.  Unlike the citizen-soldiers of past eras, the mobilized warrior corporations [12] of America’s new mercenary moment -- the Halliburton [13]/KBRs (nearly $40 billion [14] in contracts for the Iraq War alone), the DynCorps [15] ($4.1 billion to train 150,000 Iraqi police), and the Blackwater/Xe/Academis [16] ($1.3 billion in Iraq, along with boatloads of controversy [17]) -- have no incentive to demobilize.  Like most corporations, their business model is based on profit through growth, and growth is most rapid when wars and preparations for more of them are the favored options in Washington.

"Freedom isn’t free," as a popular conservative bumper sticker puts it, and neither is war.  My father liked the saying, “He who pays the piper calls the tune,” and today’s mercenary corporations have been calling for a lot of military marches piping in $138 billion in contracts for Iraq alone, according to [18] the Financial Times.  And if you think that the privatization of war must at least reduce government waste, think again: the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated in 2011 that fraud, waste, and abuse accounted for up to $60 billion [19] of the money spent in Iraq alone.

To corral American-style war, the mercenaries must be defanged or deflated.  European rulers learned this the hard way during the Thirty Years’ War of the seventeenth century.  At that time, powerful mercenary captains like Albrecht von Wallenstein [20] ran amok.  Only Wallenstein’s assassination and the assertion of near absolutist powers by monarchs bent on curbing war before they went bankrupt finally brought the mercenaries to heel, a victory as hard won as it was essential to Europe’s survival and eventual expansion.  (Europeans then exported their wars to foreign shores, but that’s another story.)

2.  The embrace of the national security state by both major parties: Jimmy Carter was the last president to attempt to exercise any kind of control over the national security state.  A former Navy nuclear engineer who had served under the demanding Admiral Hyman Rickover [21], Carter cancelled the B-1 bomber and fought for a U.S. foreign policy based on human rights.  Widely pilloried for talking about [22] nuclear war with his young daughter Amy, Carter was further attacked for being “weak” on defense.  His defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1980 inaugurated 12 years of dominance by Republican presidents that opened the financial floodgates for the Department of Defense.  That taught Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council [23] a lesson when it came to the wisdom of wrapping the national security state in a welcoming embrace, which they did, however uncomfortably.  This expedient turn to the right by the Democrats in the Clinton years served as a temporary booster shot when it came to charges of being “soft” on defense -- until Republicans upped the ante by going “all-in” on military crusades in the aftermath of 9/11.

Since his election in 2008, Barack Obama has done little to alter the course set by his predecessors.  He, too, has chosen not to challenge Washington’s prevailing catechism of war [24].  Republicans have responded, however, not by muting their criticism, but by upping the ante yet again.  How else to explain House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in March [25]?  That address promises to be a pep talk for the Republicans, as well as a smack down of the Obama administration and its “appeasenik [26]” policies toward Iran and Islamic radicalism.

Serious oversight, let alone opposition to the national security state by Congress or a mainstream political party, has been missing in action [27] for years and must now, in the wake of the Senate Torture Report fiasco (from which the CIAemerged [28] stronger, not weaker), be presumed dead.  The recent midterm election triumph of Republican war hawks and the prospective lineup of candidates for president in 2016 does not bode well when it comes to reining in the national security state in any foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

'American Propagander'

Six ways Paul Reickhoff’s “American Sniper” column deeply bothers this American veteran

By Emily Yates

When I first laid eyes on the guest column Paul Rieckhoff wrote about “American Sniper,” I thought I’d read the byline wrong. This has to have been written by the Department of Defense, I thought, before scrolling back up. When I saw that the founder and chief executive officer of America’s largest corporately-sponsored veterans’ organization did indeed pen this post, it concerned me on a deep level. How could a veteran of his stature speak this favorably about a movie that many of my fellow veterans found completely disgusting, even propaganda-like in nature? The only unifying factor I found was that Rieckhoff and the DoD both seem to share a propensity for cleverly exploiting veterans. Here are six ways in which Rieckhoff, like the DoD, supports the oversimplification of the Iraq War and its effects on veterans and Iraqis.

1. He claims that when talking about the Iraq War, “simple is better”

“Simple is better when something is so overwhelming, so complicated, so distant,” Rieckhoff says of “American Sniper” blithely, with all the persuasive powers of the Ministry of Truth. In his opening paragraphs (if you can call them paragraphs), he announces that “the single best work of film about the Iraq War ever made” is “not a complex film.” He states unabashedly that, in his opinion, the Iraq War’s “best” cinematic telling thus far can be encapsulated for the American public through the “storytelling, action, emotion, production and performance, attention to detail and especially the frighteningly accurate soundscape” of a simple, “very black-and-white view” of the entire conflict. He goes on to say that this was not his view of the war, which apparently means that in his view, the “single best work of film about the Iraq War ever made” reflects essentially the same perspective that the government has been desperately pounding into American brains like so many weapons of mass destruction. Never mind the fact that Rieckhoff’s casually blowing off every single other work of film about the Iraq War – he’s actually calling for more of the black-and-white view that got the movie’s protagonist to buy into his mission in the first place. He names the “power” of the movie as its “focused simplicity.” He applauds director Clint Eastwood’s efforts to make his film just like one of the classic Hollywood Westerns – which is exactly nothing like the actual Iraq War.

      Every veteran knows that each of our war experiences are different. It’s vastly irresponsible for Rieckhoff, who makes a six-figure salary off the backs of the veterans in his organization, to fail to highlight the need for complexity and gray area when discussing a conflict that has been debated and protested by veterans and civilians alike for 13 years now. Now, more than ever, the complexity of the Iraq War and its context must be examined. Refusing to call for more context in a blockbuster film about an ongoing conflict only makes sense if Rieckhoff’s main interest is to keep recruiters’ hands full of young, prospective snipers, and keep his organization full of veterans whose needs were never intended to be met by the government that sent them off to war. Don’t think about the complexity of the war, he croons, just look at all the shiny pictures.

2. He wants Americans to be entertained by the Iraq War

“Most of America is tired of hearing about Iraq. But now, they’re at least open to being entertained by it.” The first sentence is an aggressively ignorant statement, considering that Rieckhoff can’t even claim to speak for “most” veterans, let alone “most” Americans. That’s bad enough for me to throw up in my mouth a little, but in the second sentence, when he implies that Americans ought to be “open to being entertained” by an ONGOING, U.S.-led conflict, he almost made me throw my computer at a wall. The exact opposite of what American veterans need is for our experience to be  entertainment fodder for a deliberately-misinformed public. Our war experiences need to be examined critically for their permanent effect on our individual and societal psyche – not gaped at on a big screen for the financial benefit of Hollywood big shots. Claiming that going to see a big-budget action movie is an acceptable alternative to “hearing about Iraq” from news outlets and from actually listening to veterans’ accounts of widely varying combat experience is misguided at best, and deceptive at worst. The best way to keep Americans from being interested in the actual Iraq War is to tell them that a hyperviolent, oversimplified action flick about a sociopathic killer is the one movie that “may bring civilians closer to [veterans] than anything else.” For Rieckhoff to claim such a thing is to do a great disservice to every veteran who’s ever had a differing experience of the war, and yet still must return home to a nation full of people who can’t wait to ask us that most-hated question, “So … did you kill anyone?”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We Are a Chickenhawk Nation, Blindly Worshiping the Military; Wasting Enormous Amounts on Useless Military Hardware

By Allegra Kirkland
Beaver County Peace Links via AlterNet

Jan 9, 2015 - It’s common knowledge that the U.S. devotes more money [3] to our defense budget than any other industrialized nation. But just how much we spend is remarkable. This year, we're on track to spend over $1 trillion on national security, after factoring in nuclear weapons funding, military pensions and “overseas contingency funds,” in addition to the Pentagon’s $580 billion operating budget. In total, this figure accounts for about 4 percent of the United States’ income—double what most other countries spend. Yet all of this budgetary bloat has done nothing to advance our strategic interests in countries like Syria and Iraq. In an investigative piece [4] in the most recent Atlantic, James Fallows explains why.

“The Tragedy of the American Military” convincingly makes the case that the deepening divide between the military and the American public is the reason we spend such absurd sums on the tools and technology of war. We have, Fallows argues, become a “chickenhawk” nation: blindly supportive of our troops and perma-ready to deploy them, yet distantly removed from the consequences of these costly geopolitical games. The vast majority of Americans don’t have personal ties with any service members, and politicians are petrified of the political risks of seeming unsupportive of the military (the House Armed Services Committee passed [5] the most recent defense budget by a vote of 61-0). According to Fallows, this potent combination of emotional distance and hero worship means we avoid “the caveats or public skepticism we would apply to other American institutions, especially ones that run on taxpayer money.”

The problem isn’t just how much money we spend on national security, but what we spend it on. In a tightly bound circle of favors, the military asks for a tremendous amount of funding, congressional leaders eager to gain new defense contracts in their districts grant it, and the contractors whose livelihoods depend on selling massive amounts of new weaponry rake in millions. This is why so much is allocated toward developing updated models of existing technologies, despite the Pentagon's lack of adequate funding for veterans’ care, training and pensions.

One such example is the F-35 fighter jet. The F-35 is intended to replace the A-10, a durable, inexpensive plane that has been used by the American military since the Vietnam War. There’s no urgent need to phase out the A-10. These planes have proven to require minimal upkeep, and we already have thousands stockpiled. So why are we on track to spend $1.5 trillion—the same estimated cost as the entire Iraq war—to replace them with the expensive and unreliable F-35? Because top military brass insists the A-10s are outdated. Because 1,200 defense contractors received commissions to develop this new technology. And because, as Fallows points out, “the general public doesn’t care.”

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The New Iraq War Is Doomed

Photo: Kurdish Militia Fighting ISIL

After years of lies and senseless military conflict, we must oppose US escalation in Iraq

By Reese Erlich

Beaver County Peace Links via al-Jazeera

Dec 30, 2014 - The latest iteration of the Iraq War is already starting to escalate. The day after Christmas, U.S. forces and its allies hit the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with 31 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Three thousand U.S. military advisers are now authorized to accompany Iraqi troops into combat, while American helicopter pilots fly combat missions over Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Secretary of State John Kerry want to keep open the option of officially dispatching combat troops.

In northern Iraq, many Sunni and some Shia political leaders told me they remain suspicious about renewed American involvement. This came as no surprise. The United States, after all, invaded Iraq only a little more than a decade ago on the false pretense of eliminating weapons of mass destruction. Its new stated aims seem to many to be almost as implausible.

In August a U.S. diplomat rattled off to me the three original justifications for the new war: stopping the immediate slaughter of minorities fleeing attacks by ISIL, protecting American military personnel in the northern city of Erbil and keeping ISIL from overrunning the Kurdish region.

None of those rationales hold up under scrutiny.

Larger goals

First, despite alarmist claims, ISIL lacks the ability to overrun the Kurdish region. It could never occupy an area in which 8 million Kurds live and tens of thousands are organized into well-trained militias.