Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Why risk war with Russia over Ukraine?

November 15, 2019

The impeachment hearings are about allegations of President Donald Trump’s interference with the criminal justice system in Ukraine..

How and why did the United States become so deeply involved in Ukraine in the first place?  The video above of an interview of Prof. Stephen F. Cohen, a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, gives a good background of this.

The conflict in Ukraine stems from a U.S. effort to draw Ukraine into an anti-Russian alliance, and from a military coup in 2014 that brought an anti-Russian government to power in Ukraine.

The Russia of Vladimir Putin is not a country I would want to live in.  There are too many unsolved murders of investigative journalists and opposition leaders, too much wealth in the hands of corrupt oligarchs, too much power in the hands of secret intelligence agencies.

But Putin is not paranoid to see a threat to Russia in an American-dominated Ukraine.  Look at a map of the greatest advance of the Nazi armies during World War Two, and then look at a map of a NATO including Ukraine and Georgia and you’ll see why.

President Zelensky of Ukraine is a political unknown who was elected by an overwhelming majority on a promise to seek peace with Russia.  He is hemmed in by his dependence on U.S. aid, and by the anti-Russian faction, including neo-Nazis, in the Ukrainian government.

President Trump wants to be a peacemaker and he also wants to dominate.  But he lacks the knowledge, skill or constancy of purpose to pursue either peace or power effectively.

His foreign policy is incoherent.  He is like a drunkard staggering along a sidewalk, sometimes to in the direction of peace, sometimes in the direction of war.

But when he staggers in the direction of peace, he bumps up against a wall—the war hawks in the Pentagon and CIA and in Congress.  So the likelihood is that he will wind up in the gutter and blunder into war.

The USA and Russia are the main nuclear powers.  Each has the power to totally destroy the other.  I don’t think that President Trump or President Putin desire to go to war, but the present confrontation along Russia’s borderlands creates a danger that it could happen anyway.

LINKS

Ukraine for Dummies by Ray McGovern for Consortium News.  A timeline of recent Ukrainian history.

Why Are We in Ukraine? by Stephen F. Cohen for The Nation.

We’re More at Risk of Nuclear War With Russia Than We Think by George Beebe for POLITICO.

Trump, the Kurds and the forever wars

October 9, 2019

Kurds protest Trump troop withdrawal plan (Getty Images)

Getting into is easier than getting out of.

(Old saying)

If something cannot go on forever, someday it will stop.

 (Stein’s Law)

We can endure neither our disorders nor the cures for them.

(Livy, History of Rome)

One of the promises made by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign was to wind down U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Every time he tries to keep this promise, he gets so much resistance from war hawks in Congress and inside his administration that he backs down.

Not that President Trump is a lover of peace.  His preferred method of waging war is to try to starve other nations into submission through economic sanctions, as with Venezuela and Iran.  Economic war is real war, and produces real suffering, and creates its own type of danger of blowback.

Nor is troop withdrawal without adverse consequences.  Pulling American troops out of Syria will leave U.S. allies in Kurdistan open to attacks by Turks and by the Assad government, not to mention a possibly revived Islamic State (ISIS).

Donald Trump, in his usual thoughtless way, forgot about the Kurds when he announced the Syrian troop withdrawal and tweeted a lot of silly things when he was reminded of them.  I have no idea what happens next.

I try to free myself of the habit of seeing foreign conflicts as a fight between good guys and bad guys.  But I can’t help rooting for the Kurds.  They practice religious tolerance.  They don’t massacre civilians.  The Kurdish community in Rojava is attempting a radical experiment in democracy.  If somebody smarter than me has a plan for guaranteeing safety for the Kurds, I would be all for it.

I think it was Daniel Ellsberg who said that the American goal in Vietnam after 1965 was to postpone defeat until after the next election.  I don’t see any purpose in keeping troops in the Middle East or Afghanistan other than postponing admission of defeat until after the next election.

As in Vietnam, withdrawal will result in death and misery for many, especially for those who supported U.S. forces.  But withdrawal at some point is inevitable.  The only question is how to minimize the harm.  It would take a wiser and braver statesman than Donald Trump to answer that question.

Update.  It appears that President Trump doesn’t intend to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria—only to move them out of the way of the Turkish forces moving into the Kurdish-held areas.

LINKS

Damned if we do.

Eight Times the U.S. Has Betrayed the Kurds by Jon Schwartz for The Intercept.

In which I try to make some sense of Donald Trump’s Middle East policy by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Not Just Ethnicity: Turkey v. Kurds and the Great Divide Over Political Islam and the Secular Left by Juan Cole for Informed Comment [Added 10/10/2019]

The Annihilation of Rojava by Djene Bajalan and Michael Brooks for Jacobin.  [Added 10/10/2019]

Damned if we don’t.

Is Trump At Last Ending Our Endless Wars? by Patrick J. Buchanan.

Trump Pulling U.S. Forces Out of Syria? by Kit Knightly for Off-Guardian.

America Doesn’t Belong in Syria by Doug Bandow for The American Conservative.  [Added 10/10/2019]

Why the Syrian Kurds Aren’t Necessarily Out Friends by Scott Ritter for The American Conservative.  [Added 10/13/2019]

Whistleblowers, leakers and spies

October 7, 2019

A spy is someone who provides information of military, diplomatic or political significance to a hostile foreign power.

A whistleblower is someone who reveals secret information about crimes and bungling to the general public.

A leaker is someone who reveals selected secret information to the general public in order to further some goal of the organization he or she works for.

In general, governments pursue whistleblowers with much greater ferocity than they go spies, while leakers are rewarded.

President Trump’s confidential conversation with Ukraine President Zelensky was revealed by a leaker, not a whistleblower.  Unlike with a whistleblower such as Chelsea Manning, there is no attempt by the CIA to track down and punish the leaker.  That shows it was an authorized leak.

Just as one of the benefits of red tape is to give power and prestige to those who can cut it, one of the benefits of classified information is to give power and prestige to those empowered to reveal it.

What would be the motive of the CIA is trying to promote impeachment of President Trump?  No doubt one is that CIA officials, like many members of the American public, regard Trump as a dangerous and unpredictable loose cannon.

But there also is the possibility that Trump just might wind down the wars in the Middle East and end the new cold war with Russia.  From the CIA’s perspective, that would be a great threat.  Much better, from their standpoint, to have Mike Pence in the White House.

If a future President Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or some libertarian Republican tried to make peace, that also would be regarded as a great threat, and no doubt would be met with a CIA attempt to undermine them.

LINKS

The Ukrainegate Whistleblower Isn’t a Real Whistleblower by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.  As usual, Taibbi hits the nail on the head.  Highly recommended.

A Weak Whistleblower, a Ridiculous Impeachment by Peter Van Buren for The American Conservative.  Van Buren, a former career State Department employee, lost his job and was threatened with prosecution for writing a book about the bungling of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Onward, Christian Soldier: Imagining a Pence Presidency by Barbara Boland for The American Conservative.

U.S. is unprepared to wage war or make peace

September 13, 2019

It’s been a long time since the United States has won a war.  Fred Reed, a Vietnam veteran and former military correspondent, wrote a good article earlier this week on why this is so.

There are a lot of reasons, but the basic one is that the U.S. government is not serious about war because American survival has not been at stake in any recent conflict.  This may not always be true.

President George W. Bush, listening to the advice of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, launched invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under the illusion that victory would be quick and relatively easy.  By the end of his administration, he learned his lesson.  He fired Rumsfeld, stopped listening to Cheney and began troop withdrawal from Iraq.

President Barack Obama did not quite have the nerve to completely wind down Bush’s interventions and be the one to have to admit defeat.  He did try to improve relations with Iran and Cuba.  But mostly he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked to other ways of waging war—drone strikes, targeted assassinations, Special Forces operations and arming foreign fighters to serve as U.S. proxies.  Of course the foreign fighters had their own goals, which weren’t necessarily U.S. goals.

President Donald Trump so far has not shown the nerve to completely wind down Bush’s and Obama’s interventions and thereby be the one to admit defeat.  He has at least talked about improving relations with Russia and North Korea, although with Trump, it is hard to know what he will do next.

Mostly he and his advisers have looked to yet another way of waging war—economic sanctions, a seemingly cruel but safe war tactic that can do much harm as bombings and arming proxy fighters.  But economic warfare is a two-edged sword.

The power of the U.S. to impose sanctions rests on the fact that the world does business in dollars.  Targeted U.S. enemies are looking for alternatives to the dollar and, once they succeed, the U.S. will be as vulnerable to sanctions as any other country—maybe more so, if we Americans are as dependent on global supply chains as we are now.

We Americans need a government that can make peace with the rest of the world.  We have gotten so used to war that this is hard to imagine.

LINKS

Unused Militaries by Fred Reed for The Unz Review.  Why the world’s most expensive military is unprepared for serious war, in specific detail.

Trump’s Afghanistan ‘Peace” Will Be Vietnam All Over Again: A Mess American Leaves Behind by Col. Andrew Bacevich for Common Dreams.  Not primarily an anti-Trump article, but a reflection by a Vietnam veteran and retired career military officer on the human suffering caused by U.S. interventions.

The U.S. Massively Underestimates the Trade War Blowback by Robert Berke for OilPrice.  A financial analyst reflects on the economic costs and unexpected consequences of waging trade wars.

When did American democracy lose its way?

August 28, 2019

The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use, and be authorised to use, in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.  

He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.  He doesn’t have to check with anybody, he doesn’t have to call the Congress, he doesn’t have to check with the courts.

==Dick Cheney, Fox News, Dec. 21, 2008

We Americans live under a government whose executive has the power to attack foreign countries, order assassinations and kidnapings, imprison people without trial, commit crimes and prosecute those who reveal those crimes.

When did this start?  The historian Garry Wills, in his 2010 book BOMB POWER: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, argued that it began with the Manhattan Project.  The creation of the atomic bomb set the pattern for exercise of vast power in secret, without legal authority, with national security as the justification.

General Groves, the organizer of the project, operated without authorization from Congress and outside the norma military chain of command.  He spent billions of dollars back when that was real money.  He authorized major industrial facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington, plus the research and test facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico.  All this was done without knowledge of the public (although spies told the Soviet government about it.)

The original purpose was to develop an atomic weapon before Hitler’s scientists did.  When Germany was defeated, that purpose became moot. The purpose became the justification of the project’s existence.

If Groves had not had a uranium bomb to drop on Hiroshima and a plutonium bomb to drop on Nagasaki, he might have been court-martialed, or at the very least, subjected to a congressional investigation, for usurping power and wasting the government’s money.

On the contrary, the atomic bomb became the core of postwar American military strategy.  Congress lost its authority to declare or refuse to declare war.  A decision to respond to an attack, nuclear or otherwise, had to be made within minutes.

Only the President controlled the Bomb and, by extension, the fate of the world with no Constitutional check.  The President came to be regarded not as Chief Executive of one of three branches of government, but as Commander in Chief of the whole nation.

The secret Manhattan project set a precedent for the vast secret powers of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and the rest of the national security state.  Congress’s power of financial oversight was shut off by a veil of secrecy..

It is true that the U.S. government has a history of suspending civil liberties in times of war, but, prior to World War Two, life returned to normal after the war ended.

 In the nuclear age, the shooting war against Germany and Japan morphed into a global struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union.  And when the Soviet Union fell apart, the Cold War morphed into a supposed war against terror that had no defined enemy.

The wartime footing became a constant in American life.  Only the designated enemies changed.

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What if Hitler had been assassinated in 1930?

August 21, 2019

What if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated in 1930?  How would history have been changed?

I believe there would have been no Second World War in Europe.  The more than 20 million troops who died in battle and more than 20 million civilians who were killed would have lived out their natural lives.  But the consequences after that?  A mixture of both good and bad..

Some say history might not have been changed all that much.  They say some other Nazi, such as Goebbels or Goering, would have stepped into Hitler’s shoes.   And that leader, they add, might not have made Hitler’s mistakes.  A more capable leader might have won the war.

Adolf Hitler

I don’t think so.  The Nazi party was organized around the cult of Hitler’s personality.  It wouldn’t have been so easy to find a substitute with his charisma.  I don’t think any of the others would have had his ability to maneuver his way into the chancellorship, then leverage that power into absolute dictatorship and lead a reluctant German officer corps into war.

In the absence of Hitler, Germany might well have become an anti-semitic right-wing dictatorship anyhow, like Poland, Hungary and other European countries.  The German government might have included a few Nazis.  Germany certainly would have re-armed and resumed its place among the great European powers.

But the German generals did not want to go to war with Britain and France.  We now know they would have attempted a coup if the Allies had resisted the remilitarization of the Rhineland or the annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  If Hitler had not tamed them, they would not have consented to starting a general war in Europe.

After the war, the German generals claimed they might have won if Hitler had not rejected their advice on strategy and tactics.  But Hitler had a better strategic sense than they did.  He recognized that without a dependable source of oil, the blitzkrieg tactic would have stalled, because it depended on large numbers of motorized vehicles moving quickly.  He prioritized the invasion of Ukraine and the Caucasus, but the main objective of his tradition-bound generals was Moscow, the enemy capital.

 No Hitler, no Second World War in Europe.  What follows from that?

There would have been no atomic bomb in 1945 or perhaps.  Without a Hitler, there would have been no reason to undertake such a project.

Only the United States had the wealth and industrial power to undertake the Manhattan Project, and even then, the project would not have succeeded without the help of European refugee scientists.

There probably would still have been a Pacific War between the United States and Japan.  The cause of that conflict was the U.S. oil embargo against Japan to enforce a demand that Japan withdraw its forces from China.

Rather than comply with that demand, Japan seized the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), the only important source of oil in the Far East.  The Japanese attempted to neutralize British and American forces by conquering the Philippines, capturing Britain’s Singapore base and bombing the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Even though the United States would have lacked an atomic bomb, there would have been no need for an American invasion of the Japanese islands.  U.S. forces could have bombed and starved the Japanese into submission without an invasion and without nuclear weapons, probably with as much or more loss of Japanese lives than in the actual war.

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Lessons from Hitler’s rise to power

August 6, 2019

Benjamin Carter Hett’s THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic is a month-by-month account of the politics of the years leading up to the Nazi conquest of power in Germany.

Hett described how Hitler went from 2.8 percent of the popular vote in the 1928 elections to 37.6 percent in 1932,  how he leveraged Nazi voting strength to make himself chancellor by legal means in 1933 and how all pretense of legality ended in the “night of the long knives” in 1934.

That was when Hitler destroyed all remnants of legality by simply ordering the execution-style murder of his opponents, including dissidents in the Nazi party.

Adolph Reed Jr. said in an Interview that Hett’s book is not only good in itself, but it throws light on contemporary U.S. politics.  In fact it does have lessons for the present-day United States, although not in a straightforward or obvious way.

A number of European countries, following defeat in World War One and with middle classes threatened by powerful Communist movements, became right-wing dictatorships.  Fascist Italy led the way.

Germany followed a different path.  A Communist revolution was crushed by a government supported by Social Democrats.   Socialists then joined forces with the Catholic Center Party and moderate conservative parties to form a democratic government.

The democratic coalition worked for a number of years.  The economy recovered.  Inflation was curbed.

Germany became a model for democratic socialism.  Labor unions were powerful.  The government provided compulsory wage arbitration and a strong social safety net.  Homosexuality and abortion were legal.

But, like today’s USA, Weimar Germany struggled with the issue of globalization vs. economic nationalism.

One big issue Weimar Germany had in common with the present-day USA was the question of globalization vs. economic nationalism.

The governing coalition accepted the need to pay reparations for Germany’s supposed guilt for starting World War One and to back their currency with gold.  Both were seen as the price of participating in the world economy.

The right-wing nationalists, including the Nazis, objected to these policies because they denied Germany the means to pay for rearmament and a large army.  They also objected to globalization on principle.  The Nazis wanted to end reparations, abrogate international trade treaties, limit foreign trade and make Germany as self-sufficient as possible.

The refugee crisis was another big issue.  An estimated 1.5 million refugees entered Germany between 1918 and 1922.  Most of them were Germans from former German territory in France and Poland, and many were refugees from Bolshevik Russia, but a lot of them were Jews.

Many Germans worried about their country’s inability to secure its borders. The Nazi position was to expel all refugees and also all Jews, refugees or not.

Weimar Germany had its own version of identity politics, which however was based on social class and religion rather than race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.  By identity politics, I mean politics based on an affirmation that your own group is good and other groups are bad, rather than politics based on getting what you and your group want.

The identity group to which the Nazis and other right-wing nationalists appealed were the rural and middle-class German Protestants.  The American and British image of Weimar Germany is based on Berlin, but more than a third of Germans lived in villages of fewer than 2,000 people.  Rural Protestants tended to be highly religious, respectful of authority and nostalgic for the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm.

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Hitler lost WW2 because he ran out of gas

July 12, 2019

I came across an interesting history video that explains how access to oil was Adolf Hitler’s main goal in World War Two, how it determined his strategy and why his failure to achieve that goal doomed Nazi Germany to defeat.

It provides good food for thought, both about history and today’s geopolitics.  Here is an outline of what it said.

Adolf Hitler believed that Germany could not be a powerful or even an independent nation so long as it depended on imports for food and energy.  His long-range goal was to acquire the farmland of Ukraine and the oil of the Caucasus for Germany.

Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 was a step toward that goal.  If Britain hadn’t declared war on Germany in 1939 or had agreed to a truce in 1940 or 1941, he might have succeeded.

The United States during that period produced 70 percent of the world’s oil.  Most of the rest came from the USSR and Venezuela.  Even after Germany conquered most of Europe, including the oil fields of Rumania, the British blockade remained in place.  Germany was cut off from the oil of the USA and Venezuela and the USSR did not supply enough to meet its requirements.

Germany’s blitzkrieg strategy depended on tanks and other motorized vehicles operating on a broad front.  But Germany lacked enough oil of its own to conduct long campaigns.

The German army “demotorized” in order to provide enough fuel for the tanks.  It used horse-drawn vehicles to move supplies.  Messengers rode bicycles rather than motorcycles.  It also used an expensive process to synthesize oil from coal, even though coal supplies also were limited.

This meant Germany had a limited time in which to invade Soviet Russia and obtain the oil it needed.   Otherwise it would run short of the fuel needed to power its tanks and trucks.

That is why Hitler did not plan for a long campaign, and why he wanted his generals to concentrate on the Caucasus rather than Leningrad and Moscow.

The 1941 invasion failed.  After that Germany had one last chance of victory—by using what fuel reserves it had in 1942 to make one last stab at Maikup and Grozny in the Caucasus while conquering Stalingrad so the Soviets could not transport oil up the Volga River from refineries in Baku.

Lack of fuel was why Hitler ordered troops to stand fast and hold the line at all costs rather than allowing his generals to engage in a war of maneuver.

If the Nazis had succeeded, Russia would have been cut off from both the oil of the Caucasus and the Ukraine breadbasket.  Soviet forces would have been hard put to find the means to keep on fighting in 1943 and 1944.

But the Nazis failed.  From then on, Germany’s only goal in fighting was to prolong the war in hope of a negotiated peace.

All this shows that while Hitler was evil, he was not a madman—at least not where military strategy was concerned.  He understood strategy better than his generals.

It also shows the British blockade and American oil were as important to victory as the actual fighting by the Red Army.  If Winston Churchill had not become Prime Minister in 1940, Britain might have made a separate peace with Germany, and the German army would have had the fuel it needed to blitzkrieg Russia.

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At last, the House stands against undeclared war

June 20, 2019

The House of Representatives yesterday voted to deny President Trump the power to start an undeclared shooting war with Iran.

The House voted, 226-203, to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution of 2001, which was intended to authorize military action against Al Qaeda, but has since been used to justify military interventions that have nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

The House vote was on an amendment to the $1 trillion military appropriations bill a $1 trillion military appropriations bill that included an amendment repealing the AUMF.  It was a strict party-line vote, with all but seven Democrats all in favor and Republicans all opposed.

It will now go to the Republican-controlled Senate.  It’s likely the Senate will remove the amendment; if so, there would have to be some sort of reconciliation process before the appropriation bill became law.

I don’t think the anti-war cause is hopeless.  A number of Republican Senators have misgivings about undeclared war.  The Senate passed a resolution with bipartisan support to deny U.S. funding for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen, but this was vetoed by President Trump.

Repeal of the AUMF wouldn’t be a total solution to the problem.  It wouldn’t prevent covert war and economic war.  There were reports of a big explosion earlier this month at an Iranian oil storage facility, which may have been sabotage.

The Iranian government has said that if Iran is prevented from shipping oil through the Strait of Hormuz, nobody else will be able to ship either.  That’s a credible threat, and would be disastrous to the world economy if carried out.

The House vote is an important first step in Congress reasserting its Constitutional war powers authority and heading off a war with Iran.  It is, however, only a first step.

LINKS

House votes to repeal Authorization for Use of Military Force while Trump reportedly urges representatives to tone down rhetoric on Iran by Tim O’Donnell for The Week.

Iran Tensions: House votes to repeal 9/11 era law used to authorize perpetual war by Tara Golshan for Vox.

Explosions Rock Iran’s Largest Port As Oil Products Catch Fire by Julianne Geiger for OilPrice.com

Declassified: The Sino-Russian Masterplan to End U.S. Dominance in Middle East by Yossef Bodanksy for OilPrice.com.

Why Would Iran Attack Tankers? by Ian Welsh.

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War, power and the clothing of men

June 12, 2019

These drawings are copied from About Face by Nate Powell for Popula.

Click on About Face to see the rest of the sequence.

War, power and the clothing of men (2)

June 12, 2019

Click on About Face for the previous part of this sequence.

LINKS

 About Face by Nate Powell for Popula.

A veteran and historian responds to Nate Powell’s “About Face” by Sam Duncan for Popula.

The Sum of All Beards by Adrian Boneberger and Adam Weinstein for The New Republic.

Who will resist new regime change wars?

June 8, 2019

How Liberals Came to Embrace War As the Only Option by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela by Teddy Ostrow for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Trump’s Venezuela War Hawks Are Freaking Out Congress by Matt Laslo for VICE News.

If the US is going to war with Iran, Congress needs the evidence by Steven Simon and Richard Sokolsky for POLITICO.

Senate fails to override Trump veto on Yemen by Marianne Levine for POLITICO.

Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – and the Media Is Out to Kill Her Chances by Philip Giraldi for Strategic Culture.

Democrats Running for President Waking Up to the Danger of War With Iran by Alex Emmons, Akela Lacy and Jim Schwartz for The Intercept.

How did we come to accept regime change wars?

June 8, 2019

We Americans have come to accept “regime change wars” as normal.  But they aren’t.  They are what the United Nations Charter and various UN resolutions define as wars of aggression.

I remember the Cold War and how we thought of the Soviet Union as the aggressor nation that scoffed at international law.

Click to enlarge.

Now our government is the one that thinks it has the right to attack or overthrow governments that displease us and improve our version of “democracy”—a democratic government being defined as one that supports U.S. policies.

The U,S. government is waging economic warfare against Venezuela and Iran while threatening military attack.  The purpose is to make Venezuela accept a President chosen by the United States and to make Iran unilaterally disarm.

Neither government has threatened or harmed Americans.  Their offenses are to oppose U.S. policy in Latin America and the Middle East, and to keep the world’s largest and third largest oil reserves from being controlled by the United States.

Yet this has somehow come to be accepted as normal.  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is regarded as an eccentric, or worse, because she is one of the few who opposes making war against countries that haven’t harmed us.

The Charter of the United Nations, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1945, declares military aggression to be a crime. Article 2 said, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of force against the territorial integrity of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg stated that aggressive war was “the supreme international crime.”

In 1950, the UN General Assembly condemned “the intervention of a state in the internal affairs of another state for the purpose of changing its legally established government by the threat or use of force.” It also resolved the “any aggression, whether committed openly or by fermenting civil strife, in the interest of a foreign power or otherwise, is the gravest of all crimes against peace and security throughout the world.”

I think most Americans thought these resolutions were aimed at the Soviet Union, which we thought was the world’s main aggressor.

The two main wars fought by the United States during the Cold Wa era were in Korea, where U.S. forces defended the Seoul government against an attack from without, and in Vietnam, where U.S. forces defended the Saigon government against a revolutionary movement supported from outside.

Secretly, of course, and sometimes not-so-secretly, the Central Intelligence Agency plotted coups in Iran, Guatemala, Chile and many other countries.

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Nonviolence in the service of imperialism

May 27, 2019

I first learned about Gene Sharp in 2011, when I learned that his writings on nonviolent fighting were used as a tactical handbook by the Arab Spring protesters.

When the Mubarak regime in Egypt and others accused Sharp of being a tool of the Central Intelligence Agency, I dismissed this a typical dictator blaming protests on outside agitators.

Gene Sharp, in 2009

But a writer named Marcie Smith presented evidence that Sharp worked with “defense intellectuals” who used non-violent struggle as one more means of bringing about regime change.

Sharp began his public life as a pacifist.  He went to prison during the Korean Conflict for opposing the draft.  Later he was secretary to A.J. Muste, the leading American pacifist, and supported anti-war protests in Britain.

He conceived the ambition of working out strategy and tactics for non-violence comparable to the thinking of Clausewitz on war and Machiavelli on political power.

He obtained a research appointment in 1965 with the Center for International Affairs, often called the CIA at Harvard, through the influence of Thomas Schelling, noted for his ideas about game theory and nuclear war.

Other members of the Center were cold warriors Henry Kissinger, McGeorge Bundy and future CIA director Robert Bowie.

Later, in 1983, Sharp founded the Albert Einstein Institution, which was independent of the government, but received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, Ford Foundation and International Republican Institute.

The Albert Einstein Institute, according to Smith, supported non-violent struggles against dictators that the U.S. government was trying to overthrow, while ignoring dictators that were friendly to the U.S.

Sharp is dead, so there’s no way to ask him what he had in mind.  My guess is that he hoped to influence the United States and other governments to substitute non-violent struggle for armed struggle.  If so, this was naive.

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Syrian Kurds attempt utopia in a war zone

April 11, 2019

Click to enlarge.  Source: edmaps.com.

The Kurds are among the few factions in the struggles in Iraq and Syria that I root for.  They fight not only for their own freedom, but they office refuge to other persecuted sects and ethnic groups as well.  They respect women’s rights.  They are stalwart fighters against the Islamic State (ISIS).  They do not practice terrorism themselves.

While all these things are true of the Kurdish leaders in both Iraq and Syria, the Kurds in northern Syria—Rojava—go further.  They are followers of the late Murray Bookchin, an American anarchist thinker, and have created a functioning society based on feminism, ecological awareness, minority rights and radical local democracy.

I first heard of Murray Bookchin when reading about the Kurds, and afterwards read and made many posts about Bookchin’s great work, The Ecology of Freedom.

Click to enlarge.  Source: infoshop.

The Kurds are a nation of about 30 million people who, after the 1919 Peace Conference, found themselves partitioned among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.  About 15 million of them live in Turkey, where they are denied the right to use the Kurdish language or follow their national customs.  The breakdown of order in Iraq and Syria has enabled them to set up their own autonomous regional governments.

Debbie Bookchin, Murray Bookchin’s daughter, wrote in the New York Review of Books how Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party, read The Ecology of Freedom while in prison in Turkey.  Partly inspired by Bookchin, he adopted a philosophy he called “democratic confederalism.”

Kurds in northern Syria in 2014 adopted a Charter based on that philosophy.  It calls for “a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, centralism and the intervention of religious authority in public affairs.”

Communes of 30 to 200 families elect delegates to neighborhood or village councils, which elect delegates to municipal or district councils, which elect delegates to regional councils.

It is required that women comprise at least 40 percent of elected bodies.  Woman and non-Kurdish minorities are co-chairs of administrative bodies.

The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, formerly known as Rojava, guarantees the right of citizens to teach and be taught in their own languages.  It ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and abolished the death penalty.

Debbie Bookchin acknowledged charges of child soldiers, uprooted Arab villagers and other human rights violations.  But she went on to say to point out that the Kurds are creating their new society while fighting a war, dealing with shortages caused by a blockage and taking in thousands of refugees.

The current threat, she wrote, comes not from the government of Turkey, which has long repressed its own Kurds and is determined to stamp out the autonomous Kurdish community along its southern border.

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Is there a real peace candidate in the race?

April 8, 2019

The Black Agenda Report carried a good article evaluating the political records of all the announced Democratic candidates on issues of war and peace.

Peace activists Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J.S. Davies wrote that Senator Bernie Sanders’ record is by far the best.  He voted against military spending bills 16 out of 19 times since 2013.

He opposes a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Syria and opposes military intervention in Venezuela.  He’s a leader is trying to get Congress to invoke the War Powers Act to stop U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen.

The biggest blot on his record is his support for the expensive and useless F-35 fighter project, in order to create jobs in Vermont.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a National Guard officer who served in Iraq, is an outspoken opponent of regime change wars and one of the few to oppose the new arms race with Russia.  But she voted in favor of military spending bills 19 out of 29 times, and has been a consistent supporter of expensive weapons systems.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand deserve consideration.  Warren sponsored a resolution to renounce U.S. use of nuclear weapons except as retaliation for a nuclear attack.  Gillibrand has the second-best record of opposing proposed military budgets.

The spiritual writer Marianne Williamson is the only declared candidate who wants to dismantle the military-industrial complex and transition to a peace economy.  Politically, that is a fringe position.  It is realistic only in terms of what is actually needed.

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White nationalism and the war on terror

March 18, 2019

The attack on innocent Muslims in New Zealand by white nationalist terrorists was a horrible thing.

I make no excuse for white nationalist terrorists, or any other kind of terrorist.

But I also note that many more innocent Muslims have been killed as a result of the U.S. war on terror than by all individual white nationalist terrorists combined.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have been killed, and millions made homeless as a result of the U.S. regime change wars.  Many more have died in Libya and Syria as a result of regime change rebellions backed by the United States.   The Saudi attack on Yemen, with U.S. advisers and U.S. weapons, has produced the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.  The Trump administration has decided to stop reporting on civilian casualties from U.S. air strikes.

This is not, of course, to make light of the Christchurch attack.  The blood on the hands of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump does not wash any blood off the hands of Brenton Tarrant.

LINKS

Circles of Identity, Circles of Violence by Ian Welsh.

Eight Thoughts on the Christchurch Attack by Caitlin Johnstone.

Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  Good insight into Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto.

Radicalization and Degeneration by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.  More insight.

The U.S. air war on Somalia

March 15, 2019

Hat tip to Bill Elwell.  Source: Stats for The Nib

The U.S. Senate did a good thing the other day by invoking the War Powers Act for the U.S.-backed war in Yemen.  But why stop there?  It’s not just regime change wars that we Americans need to withdraw from.

LINK

American military intervention in Somalia (2007-present) Wikipedia article.

Escalation in Somalia is a foreign policy failure in progress by Bonnie Kristian for Reason magazine.

Trump’s Backward Move on Drone Civilian Casualties by Daniel R. Brunstetter for Consortium News.

U.S. Air Strikes in Somalia Kill Civilians, Amnesty Report Says by Amanda Sperber for The Intercept [Added 3/19/2019].

Eight Dem lawmakers pledge to end ‘forever war’

March 5, 2019

Eight Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have signed a pledge to act to bring America’s “Forever War” to “a responsible and expedient conclusion.”

The pledge was also signed by Rep. Mark Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna and Rashida Tlaib; and Senator Jon Tester, who’s considered a moderate, but was elected on an anti-war platform.

The pledge reads as follows:

The United States has been in a state of continuous, global, open-ended military conflict since 2001.  Over 2.5 million troops have fought in this ‘Forever War’ in over a dozen countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Somalia, and Thailand.

I pledge to the people of the United States of America, and to our military community in particular, that I will (1) fight to reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of U.S. foreign policy and independently debate whether to authorize each new use of military force, and (2) act to bring the Forever War to a responsible and expedient conclusion.

I applaud the signers of this resolution.  I also point out that the words “responsible and expedient” are doing a lot of work.  Was the U.S. exit from Vietnam “responsible and expedient”?

President Nixon said he wanted “peace with honor,” but this was not achievable. Those who supported the U.S. cause suffered a terrible vengeance.  But I don’t see how this could have been avoided by prolonging the war even longer than it was.

There aren’t any good choices for the U.S. military in winding down its wars.  Innocent people will suffer no matter what.  There is no substitute for victory, and victory in these wars is out of reach.

This is a good reason not to start new wars.

One important point about the resolution is that it mentions Yemen, Somalia and other wars in which U.S. is involved without large-scale commitment of troops.

The resolution was sponsored by Common Defense, an organization of anti-war veterans and military families.

LINK

Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez and Other Lawmakers Sign Pledge to End America’s “Forever Wars” by Alex Emmons and Ryan Grim for The Intercept.

War Weary: Why Washington Needs to Bring Its Troops Home by Doug Bandow for The National Interest.

Talkin’ Bout My Generation: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman by Alan Brown for Tor.com.  The Forever War is the title of a classic science-fiction novel by Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman.

Bernie’s progress

February 28, 2019

Of all the announced U.S. presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the one who is unequivocally on the side of American working people (including but not limited to the “white working class”).

He has done more than any of the others to provide a rallying point for those who support labor in its battle with the oligarchy of wealth.

I wish he also was a peace candidate.  He’s moving in a good direction, he’s closer to being a peace candidate than anyone in the field except Tulsi Gabbard, but he does not challenge the U.S. neoconservative foreign policy in the same way that he challenges neoliberal economic thinking.  At least not yet.

LINKS

Six Thoughts on Bernie 2020 by Caitlin Johnstone.  Excellent.  She says it all.

Foreign Policy Distinguishes Bernie Sanders in 2020 by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic.  The case for Sanders.

Think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the same?  They aren’t by Bhaskar Sunkara for The Guardian.

The peril of repealing arms control treaties

February 8, 2019

The danger of all-out nuclear war is two-fold.  One is that a leader of a nuclear-armed nation may launch a first strike in hope that the target nation will not be able to retaliate.  The other is that the leader of a nuclear-armed nation may think another nuclear nation has launched or plans a first strike.

Although neither the American and the Soviet/Russian governments has been willing to give up the option of all-out war, the two governments have over the years made treaties to make all-out war less likely.

But since the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. government has moved backwards.  President George W. Bush withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002.  President Donald Trump has announced the U.S. will withdraw from the INF (intermediate nuclear force treaty.  There is a possibility that the strategic arms reduction treaty) will not be renewed in 2021.

Arms control treaties can give a false sense of security.  They do not eliminate nuclear weapons, only stabilize them.  But without such treaties, the danger would be much greater than it is.

ABM Treaty.   The anti-ballistic missile treaty was signed by Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev in 1972, after nearly 10 years of negotiation.  The USA and USSR agreed to limit themselves to 200 anti-ballistic missiles—missiles intended to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles—at two sites.. Later this was reduced to 100 ABMs at one site.  Missile defense against short-range and intermediate-range missiles was allowed.  After the breakup of the USSR, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan agreed to abide by the treaty.

The purpose was to preserve the principle of mutual assured destruction, which was considered a guarantee of peace.  If either American or Soviet leaders thought they had a reliable defense system, they might think they could attack the other nation and then be able to repel whatever weapons weren’t destroyed in the attack.

President George W. Bush canceled the treaty in order to place ABM systems in Poland and Romania.  He said such systems were necessary not just to protect against attack by Russia, but by “rogue nations” such as Iran.

There are grave doubts as to whether these ABM systems would work.  Maybe the best outcome would be that Russian leaders will fear that they might work and NATO leaders will fear they won’t work.

INF Treaty.  Negotiations of the intermediate nuclear force treat were begun by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and completed in 1987 during the George H.W. Bush administration.  The purpose of the treaty was to eliminate Soviet or Russian missiles aimed at European targets and Europe-based missiles aimed at Russia.

The treaty called for a ban on land-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,420 miles).  It did not affect missiles fired from airplanes, ships or submarines, which was to the advantage of the United States, as the leading air power and sea power.  Under the treaty. the U.S. destroyed 346 nuclear weapons and the Soviets destroyed 1,346.

In the early 21st century, Vladimir Putin called for renegotiation of the treaty on the grounds that it did not set limits on other powers, particularly China, with its long land frontier with Russia.  Later Russia reportedly developed and tested an intermediate-range missile, the 9M729, and may have deployed some of them.  Putin claimed that the U.S. ABM system violated the treaty, arguing that nuclear warheads could be fitted on the supposedly defensive missiles.

President Donald Trump announced cancellation of the treaty, based on Russia’s violations.  Critics say that’s what Putin wanted him to do, since it frees Russia from any treaty obligation.

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How could we accept nuclear doom as an option?

February 7, 2019

A friend of mine responded this way to my review / essay on Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, which quoted Bertrand Russell as saying that President Kennedy was “mathematically” worse than Hitler because he was willing to put the whole human race at risk during the Cuban missile crisis.

Thanks for this. I lived through that time too.  I guess that my perspective is a little different, although I see Russell’s point.  Kennedy was a cold warrior, among the coldest. And Khrushchev was as well.  

And while Kennedy would not have launched unless launched upon, he inherited the nukes and he had a hard game to play. The darkest devil was Curtis LeMay, Air Force Chief of Staff, who enthusiastically pushed for bombing Cuba.

Thank God Kennedy resisted, because those tactical nukes in Cuba would have been raining down on us and then both sides would have launched the ICBMs, and we wouldn’t be here.

Kennedy created some of this tension with his ridiculous missile gap rhetoric during the presidential debates–there was no missile gap, at least not one that favored the USSR, and he certainly knew it.

Again, thanks for your review. It was a terrible time, and there have been many close calls since that the general public has been mostly unaware of.

I liken Kennedy to someone who lives in a house with a basement filled with TNT.  He was able to resolve the Cuban missile crisis without letting anyone get their hand on the detonator.  But he never considered the possibility of getting rid of the TNT or the detonator.

Kennedy was a cold warrior.  So was Daniel Ellsberg.  So was I for many years after Ellsberg saw the light.  I never understood the justice of Bertrand Russell’s words during his lifetime.

My thinking back then—and I was not alone in this—was that the world faced a choice of two equal evils.  One was nuclear warfare.  The other was the triumph of totalitarianism.  I did not think it was better to be red than dead.  I admired President Kennedy for managing to avoid a victory for totalitarianism without waging war with nuclear weapons.

I came of age reading the literature of anti-totalitarianism—George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.  I thought there was a real possibility that Orwell’s SF dystopia could come true.  I thought that Soviet foreign policy was equivalent to Hitler’s and that conditions in the USSR in the 1960s were equivalent to conditions under the height of Stalin’s Great Terror.

I continued to believe these things long after I was exposed to facts that indicated otherwise.  It is amazing how hard it can be to change an opinion once you’ve committed to it.

I did not know the U.S. military’s secret estimates that nuclear war could result in the deaths of a quarter or more of the human race.  The thought of “omnicide”—the death of all—did not enter my thinking.   Daniel Ellsberg, by the way, does not advocate total nuclear disarmament, at least not to begin with.  He only advocates disarmament to the point where no country has the power to destroy the human race or human civilization.

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Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine

February 6, 2019

In 1961, the philosopher Bertrand Russell said President John F. Kennedy and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, because of their commitment to nuclear weapons, were worse than Adolf Hitler..

“…Macmillan and Kennedy, through misguided ignorance and deliberate blindness, are pursuing policies which are likely to lead to the extermination of the whole human race,” Russell said.  “Hitler set out to exterminate the Jews.  On a purely statistical basis, Macmillan and Kennedy are 50 times as wicked as Hitler.”

I recently got around to reading Daniel Ellsberg’s 2017 book, THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, which indicates that Russell was basically wright.

Kennedy, like Truman and Eisenhower before him and every President since, was willing to threaten nuclear war.  Ellsberg wrote that this not only could have led to the death of virtually the whole human race, but, on Kennedy’s watch, very nearly did.

I remember the 1950s and the 1960s, and the public’s well-founded fear of nuclear war back then.  The fear has gone away, but the danger hasn’t, as Ellsberg made clear..

The book is in two parts.  The first is a personal history of nuclear policy, leading up to the Cuban missile crisis.  The other is a historical look at how American leaders in World War Two came to regard mass killing of civilian populations as morally acceptable, and how no American leader since then has been willing to give it up.

The Eisenhower administration had a war plan called “massive retaliation.”  That meant that in the case of military conflict with either the USSR or China, the U.S. would implement a plan that called for the nuclear bombing of every town in Russia with a population of more than 25,000, and also every large population center in China.

The Air Force, in response to a query by President Kennedy, estimated that this would result in the deaths of 324 million people in China or Russia through blast and radioactive fallout, which is more than died at the hands of Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined.  It estimated that up to an additional 100 million people in Communist ruled nations in eastern Europe, in allied nations in western Europe and also in neutral nations, depending in which way the wind was blowing.

This amounted to more than 600 million people, a quarter of the human race at that time.

But wait.  There’s more.  The Air Force did not attempt to estimate casualties due to fire.  Nuclear bombing would have set off fire storms that would have made World War Two Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo seem like the victims of children playing with matches. Ellsberg wrote that, if you count direct deaths to fire, a nuclear attack on the Communist bloc would have taken the lives of between one third and one half of humanity.  I can’t get my mind around such an enormity.

All of these estimates were based on a successful U.S. first strike that destroyed the Communist countries so completely that their military would not be able to retaliate.  If that didn’t work, there would have been tens of millions or hundreds of millions of American deaths as well.

Later on certain scientists awoke to the possibility of “nuclear winter”.   Firestorms resulting from a nuclear attack would send so much soot and smoke into the upper atmosphere that they would literally blacken the sky.  The dark layer would be above the clouds, so there would be no rain to wash it down.  It would remain for 10 years or more, making it impossible for plants to grow or for most complex life-forms to survive.

So an all-out nuclear attack could literally be a Doomsday Machine.

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The ‘deep state’ plan to remake Latin America

January 31, 2019

Evidently the Trump administration’s demand for regime change in Venezuela was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.

It is part of a long-range plan to remake Latin America, along the lines of the failed plans to remake the Middle East.  Other targets are Cuba and Nicaragua.

At best, this will result in increased misery for millions of people who have never harmed or threatened us Americans, and an increased flow of refugees.

At worst, it will result in all these things, plus an increased Russian and Chinese presence in Latin America.

By ‘deep state,’ I mean all the U.S. military, intelligence and covert action agencies that set their own policies and operate out of sight of the U.S. public.

LINKS

Venezuelan Coup Attempt Part of US Plan to Remake Latin America by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal for Consortium News.

Sanctions Are Wars Against Peoples by Moon of Alabama.

‘You’re either for us or against us’

January 30, 2019

Every time a U.S. President targets some nation as an enemy, and tries to drag other countries into the conflict, he creates the possibility of a backlash.

“You’re either for us or against us.”  Say that too many times, and the answer is likely to be, “we’re against you.”

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