Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Trump blocked from bringing U.S. troops home

May 20, 2021

Then-president Donald Trump sent a secret memo to the Pentagon after he lost the election pushing them to withdraw US troops stationed around the world, according to a new report.

One of Mr Trump’s closest aides, John McEntee, handed a handwritten note to retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor on 9 November 2020, saying: “This is what the president wants you to do.”

The note said to “get us out” of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It instructed the Colonel to “complete the withdrawal from Germany,” and to “get us out of Africa,” according to new reporting by Axios.

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A lot of people have worried about what happens if you get a reckless President who goes to war on impulse.  Are there legal or governmental mechanisms to stop him?

With President Trump, there was a different problem.  He impulsively tried to end wars.  And there were institutional mechanisms that stopped him.

Writers of an article on Axios told how all through his administration, he wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and how the generals resisted him and told him it couldn’t be done.

It isn’t as if Donald Trump was a consistent lover of peace.  He broke the agreement President Obama and other foreign leaders had negotiated with Iran.  He stopped the normalization of relations with Cuba.

He left the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and opposed renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), thereby increasing the possibility of nuclear war.

But at the same time, he wanted to wind down all the wars that the Obama administration had been waging.

Anytime he made a step, there was something to stop him—some atrocity story, later discredited, or some leak from Pentagon or intelligence source explaining why this would be a disaster.

Then, in his lame duck period, he wanted to order all troops withdrawn from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Germany and “Africa” before Joe Biden was sworn in.

In typical Trump fashion, he at first did not issue the order himself.  Instead he told an underling to tell the generals that was what he wanted.

The generals, quite reasonably, wanted a written order, and after some fumbling the order was issued.  By then, it was too late.

This was being done in secret.  There would have been a rebellion in Congress, not to mention the Washington press corps, if this had been known.

This is partly a story of Trump’s incompetence and weakness.  Recall that the Mueller investigation could not produce evidence that he obstructed the Russiagate investigation because he was never organized enough or forceful enough to actually obstruct anything.

But it is also a story of how Washington is biased toward war.  President Obama was more savvy than Trump, but he didn’t think he was able to overcome the generals’ resistance to ending the war in Afghanistan.

Continuous war is now normal.  It is the default position.  It no longer needs a justification, other than avoiding the humiliation of defeat.  We Americans depend on a war economy to create jobs, generate business profits and fund scientific research.

As in Germany in the time of Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm, as in many South American and Middle East countries today, the military is an independent or semi-independent part of government with its own policy.

President Biden decided to renew START, which would have expired in February.  He set a new deadline with withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, but there are reports that the U.S. will continue to intervene there by means of flying killer drones and covert operations.

Whether he will ramp up the new cold war with Russia and China, or wind down other wars, remains to be seen.  I’m not hopeful, but maybe he’ll surprise.

A President determined to end the forever wars would have to have an iron will.  He would have to face the possibility of being a one-term President.

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The sources and future of U.S. global power

April 20, 2021

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The goals of U.S. power.

With the fall of Communism in Russia in 1991, the USA found itself an unrivaled global power. Two factions in the U.S. governing establishment—the deep state, the establishment, the power elite, call them what you will—decided to keep it that way.

They set policy all through the Clinton, G.W. Bush, Trump and Obama administrations, and they continue to set policy today.

Neoconservatives sought full spectrum military dominance for the United States in every region of the world. Aside from the love of power for its own sake, they thought this would forever secure the United States from any military threat.

Neoliberals sought to give U.S. banks and global corporations access to every region of the world as a source of customers, raw materials and cheap labor. 

This meant suppression of socialist and nationalist regimes that opposed foreign domination of their economies, and, above all, any regime that refused to do business in U.S. dollars.

Other motives are loyalty to alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel and avoidance of the humiliation of obvious defeat.

No doubt there were and are individuals in the U.S. power structure who sincerely believe in using U.S. power to promote democracy, human rights, a “rules-based international order” and the like.  But they are not the decision-makers.  They are only allowed to speak when their ideals happen to coincide with U.S. policy goals.

The sources of U.S. power.

The main source of U.S. power is the dominance of the U.S. dollar in conducting world trade.

This gives the U.S. government the power to borrow money to finance the world’s most expensive military establishment, and not worry about paying it back.

The U.S. Navy dominates the world’s sea lanes, and the U.S. Air Force dominates the air over poor countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.  This allows bombing with impunity.

By using air power and flying killer drones, special operations forces and subsidized foreign fighters, the U.S. military can wage war without large-scale sacrifice of life.

The Central Intelligence Agency has a record of plotting the overthrow of left-wing governments and installing U.S.-friendly dictators.  Latin Americans have a joke: There will never be a military coup in the United States because there is no U.S. embassy in Washington, D.C.

Another source of U.S. power is the thousands of weapons in its nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world.  The only nation with a comparable arsenal is Russia.  This means that no other nation except Russia can rule out the possibility of a nuclear attack.

The power of the dollar also gives the U.S. government control of the financial bottlenecks of world commerce, and impose sanctions and embargoes on foreign countries without having to worry about retaliation.

Much of the world’s commerce flows through the New York money center banks.  This gives New York banks the authority to impound the funds of nations such as Iran and Venezuela.  It also gives federal judges in New York jurisdiction over such things as Argentina’s settlement with his creditors or Ecuador’s fine of Chevron for environmental violations.

The SWIFT system—Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, based in Brussels—is a messaging system used by banks to transfer money and communicate information.  Being cut off from the SWIFT system means being cut off from the bulk of the world financial system, and SWIFT enforces U.S. sanctions.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are dominated by Americans.  They have a record of insisting that debtor countries impose “austerity”—higher taxes, fewer government services, higher prices and lower wages.  The debtor countries have to sell national assets and open up to U.S. and other foreign investors.

The 2014 coup in Ukraine came after the incumbent President decided to take a Russian loan instead of an IMF loan.  The new government took the unpopular IMF loan.

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The threat to U.S. power.

The greatest threat to U.S. power is neither Islamic terrorism, nor Russian subversion, nor China’s growing industrial power. 

It is the replacement of the U.S. dollar as the medium of exchange for doing world business.  Without dollar supremacy, all other sources of U.S. power would collapse.

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Boycott Israel? divest from Israel? sanction Israel?

April 8, 2021

In 2005, some 170 Palestinian civil society organizations—labor unions, professional associations, women’s organizations, resistance committees and others—called upon the world to boycott Israel, divest from Israel and sanction Israel.

Their movement has given rise to a huge backlash.  The British government, some 32 U.S. states and the German cities of Bonn, Frankfurt and Munich refuse to do business with anyone who supports BDS.

The BDS movement has been condemned by the parliaments of Canada, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the Czech Republic, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives.  President Biden opposes BDS, although he says there is a First Amendment right to support it.

The United States is committed to giving Israel $38 billion in military aid over 10 years, starting Oct. 1, 2018.  For decades, the U.S. has given more military aid to Israel than any other country.  In the past few years, it has been second only to Afghanistan. 

What does BDS call for?  And why is it considered so dangerous?  The BDS movement, in its own words, calls for:

1.  Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.  

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.  

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.  

Until Israel accepts these demands, the BDS movement favors boycotts, divestment and sanctions:

BOYCOTTS involve withdrawing support from Israel’s apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.

DIVESTMENT campaigns urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid.

SANCTIONS campaigns pressure governments to fulfill their legal obligations to end Israeli apartheid, and not aid or assist its maintenance, by banning business with illegal Israeli settlements, ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as UN bodies and FIFA (internatiional footfall)

The Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, does not support the BDS movement.  It instead favors boycotts of businesses that actually operate on the West Bank.  Its leaders hope for a two-state solution, in which Israel continues to exist, but Palestinians have genuine sovereignty in their own land.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, does not officially recognize Israel’s right to exist.

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Israel’s barrier wall as of 2011. Click to enlarge.

Let me look into this in more detail

‘Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands”

When Britain in 1948 decided to end its rule of Palestine, the United Nations proposed a partition plan between Jewish and Arab areas. 

The Arab League refused to accept the plan, and troops from Egypt, Jordan (then called Transjordan), Syria and Iraq invaded. 

When fighting ended, Israel controlled all the areas awarded by the UN and much of the Arab areas.  Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip.  About 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven out of Israel into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where most of them and their descendants have remained ever since.

In 1967, after several more wars, Israel wound up in control of these territories. There was talk of a “two-state” solution – that the Palestinians would give up fighting against Israel in return for a greater or lesser degree of self-government on the West Bank and Gaza.

“dismantling the Wall”

The Wall refers to some 300-plus miles of security fence through the West Bank, cutting off Palestinians from some of their land near the border and from access to other land occupied by Jewish settlers.  The International Court of Justice has ruled the fence illegal.

Over the years, some 400,000 Jewish settlers have moved into the West Bank.  They are mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe God has granted them the right to the land.

The settlers have taken possession of scarce water resources.  Even though a UN commission has determined that their settlements are illegal, they have received protection from Israeli forces.

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Is Zionism racist? Should Israel exist?

April 8, 2021

Kibbutz ceremony, 1951 (Wikipedia Commons)

It isn’t possible to understand Zionism without understanding that Jews have a basic, understandable fear of being wiped out.

In medieval times, Christians regarded Jews as Christ-killers.

In modern times, blood-and-soil nationalists regarded Jews as disloyal foreigners.

Both forms of antisemitism were existential threats.

One of the doctrines of Christianity is that Jesus is the prophesied Jewish messiah. The question arises: Why don’t the Jews recognize their own messiah?

One easy answer is that Jews must be an exceptionally wicked people.  And from there, it is an easy to to saying they must be persecuted, killed or expelled.

In modern times, Jews were allowed out of their ghettos to participate in civic life. But a new question arose. The basis of nationhood was blood and soil—a group of people of the same lineage occupying the same territory.

But Jews are of different lineage, and they have no territory.   How do they fit in with modern nationalism?  They don’t.  And from there, it is an easy step to regard all Jews as potential or actual traitors.

This form of antisemitism inspired the Dreyfus case., in which a French Jewish artillery officer was falsely accused of treason.  The older form of antisemitism inspired the Beilis case, in which a Russian factory manager was falsely accused of the ritual murder of a Christian child.

Justice eventually prevailed in both cases, but the founders of the Zionist movement believed that Jews needed a homeland of their own—not just as a refuge from antisemitism, but because they were a nation with the same right to a homeland in which they were in the majority..

That was one of the roots of Zionism.  The other was a fundamentalist religious nationalism, inspired by Biblical prophecies, that links the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.  There are fundamentalist Christian Zionists, based on the same prophecies.

Zionism in its early years was a controversial movement among Jewish people.  Jews in western Europe and North America mostly regarded themselves primarily as Americans, Britons, French, Germans and so on who happened to be a different religion than their fellow citizens.

This changed during the Second World War.  Hitler’s attempted genocide of the Jews was matched by an unwillingness of Allied nations, including the USA, to accept more than a token number of Jewish refugees.  The British government did its best to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine, lest they provoke the Arabs into revolt.

I am old enough to remember the Allied war propaganda during the Second World War.  Hitler’s antisemitism was not emphasized.  Knowledge of the Holocaust was suppressed.  I think now that Roosevelt, Churchill and other Allied leaders feared to give credence to Hitler’s claim that the war was being fought on behalf of the Jews.

After the war, Europe was filled with “displaced persons” camps.  All the DPs had homelands to which they could return, except for the Jews.  So a lot of them headed for Israel.

Invading a country and driving out the inhabitants is now regarded as a crime against humanity.  But if I had been one of those Jewish DPs, I wouldn’t have cared.  All I would have cared about was having a place I could call my own.

Of course, if I had been a Palestinian Arab at the time, I wouldn’t have cared about the plight of the Jewish refugees.  I wouldn’t have seen any reason why I should lose everything because of events in Europe.

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Biden’s bombs and the forever wars

April 6, 2021

America’s Longest War: No Bang, No Whimper by Andrew Bacevich for TomDispatch.

Biden’s Foreign Policy Is Largely Indistinguishable from Trump’s, an interview of Noam Chomsky for Truthout.

The USA is haunted by the specter of fascism

April 5, 2021

There are certain resemblances between the present-day USA and Germany in the last days of the Weimar Republic.

We have an ineffective government that’s unable to deal with major problems or rein in its military.

We have increasing numbers of Americans who’ve given up on trying to change things by means of politics.

Many see no point in voting or following politics. Others think the only hope for change is in street protests.

Along with this is a loss of confidence in all sources of authority—government, religion, science, academia and journalism—and a hunger for something new.

Ross Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times wondering whether the history of the Weimar Republic could repeat.  I think there are other, more likely ways that American democracy could break down, which I will get to.  But let me examine the Weimar script first.

While there are similarities, there also are big differences between Germany 90 years ago and the USA today. 

American political parties don’t have paramilitary auxiliaries.  Neo-Nazis and avowed racists are few.  Compare the turnout for the “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 with the massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year.

But all this could change if there was a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s, particularly if it was accompanied by a humiliating military defeat.

Here’s how things could play out.  This isn’t a prediction, just a possibility.

In the wake of economic collapse, the streets of American citizens are filled with rioters, including extreme radicals and extreme nationalists.  A nationalist demagogue is elected President, and industrialists and the military look to him to restore order.  Congress votes him the power to impose martial law, which he does.  Martial law is never revoked.

The fascist movements in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s arose from a breakdown of social order and a fear of Communist revolution.  The same conditions could arise in the United States, except that revolutionaries wouldn’t necessarily be Communists and the President who imposes permanent martial law wouldn’t necessarily be a nationalist or a right-winger.

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The conservative Christian blogger Rod Dreher sees another path to totalitarianism—a kind of low-level bloodless Stalinism in the name of what’s called identity politics or “anti-oppression” or “wokeness.”

Individuals have every right to define themselves on the basis of race, sex, gender or any other attribute, and band together with others to defend their rights and advance their interests.  I would never deny that people are held back by prejudice, and have a right to organize to overcome discrimination.

The problem is that believers in wokeness have embedded themselves in institutions, and demand not only that people subject to those institutions passively accept their ideas, but actively endorse them. 

They also demand a certain kind of way of saying things, so you can get in trouble by saying  “all lives matter” instead of “black lives matter.”

That’s how the new ideology resembles Stalinism and Maoism.  They, too, demanded not only passive acceptance, but enthusiastic support expressed in a prescribed vocabulary and a required show of penitence for not measuring up.

A recent public opinion poll showed that six in 10 Americans have political opinions they’re afraid to share and three in 10 fear that their political views could harm their job prospects.  Half of all strong liberals would fire a business executive known to have donated to the Trump campaign; three in 10 strong conservatives would do the same to a Biden donor. 

I don’t equate this to Stalin’s mass executions or the Gulag.  But I do think there’s a widespread and well-founded fear of getting into trouble by inadvertently saying the wrong thing or offending the wrong people, and I do see people afraid to speak their minds as I think free Americans ought.

Some people make a practice of searching social media to find things that people have said that could be considered objectionable, and then using this information to attack their reputations and careers.

Dreher fears the emergence of a social credit system like the one in China, where everyone’s every move is tracked through surveillance technology and social media, and people are rewarded or punished according to the acceptability of their behavior.

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The forever wars are on track to continue

March 9, 2021

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President Biden gives no indication of wanting to end the forever wars.  He does not plan to reopen negotiations with Iran or end the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia.  He is going along with a military buildup to confront China and Russia.  All this is bleeding the country dry, and making the United States weaker, not stronger.

LINKS

U.S. military budget: What can global bases do vs. COVID, cyber attacks? by Kim Helmgaard for USA Today.  “The U.S. has enjoyed military dominance for decades.  But in the face of emerging threats, some say a new strategy is in order.”

United States Counterterrorism Operations, 2018-2020 by Stephanie Saveli, etc., for the Costs of War project for Brown University’s Watson Institute.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Biden’s “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Promise Extends to His Foreign Policy by Bernhard for Moon of Alabama.

Rewarding Failure by William Astore for TomDispatch.  “Why Pentagon Weapons Programs Rarely Get Canceled Despite Major Failure.”  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Biden’s Protection of Murderous Saudi Despots Shows the Hidden Reality of U.S. Foreign Policy by Glenn Greenwald.  “That the U.S. opposes tyranny is a glaring myth.  Yet it is not only believed, but often used to justify wars, bombing campaigns, sanctions and protracted conflict.”

New President, Same Old Forever Wars by Jacob Silverman for The New Republic.  “Biden’s air strike in Syria shows how little is going to change about America’s military entanglements in the Middle East.”

The lasting military legacy of the Trump era

December 7, 2020

President Trump lasting military legacy, according to  Michael T. Klare, is not how Trump waged or failed to wage the global war on terror.

It is something far different—the conversion of the U.S. military from a global counterterror force into one designed to fight an all-out, cataclysmic, potentially nuclear war with China and/or Russia.

In the Cold War years, Western strategists generally imagined a contest of brute strength in which our tanks and artillery would battle theirs along hundreds of miles of front lines until one side or the other was thoroughly depleted and had no choice but to sue for peace (or ignite a global nuclear catastrophe).

Today’s strategists, however, imagine far more multidimensional (or “multi-domain”) warfare extending to the air and well into rear areas, as well as into space and cyberspace.  In such an environment, they’ve come to believe that the victor will have to act swiftly, delivering paralyzing blows to what they call the enemy’s C3I capabilities (critical command, control, communications, and intelligence) in a matter of days, or even hours.

Only then would powerful armored units be able to strike deep into enemy territory and, in true Patton fashion, ensure a Russian defeat.  The U.S. military has labeled such a strategy “all-domain warfare” and assumes that the U.S. will indeed dominate space, cyberspace, airspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum.

In a future confrontation with Russian forces in Europe, as the doctrine lays it out, U.S. air power would seek control of the airspace above the battlefield, while using guided missiles to knock out Russian radar systems, missile batteries, and their C3I facilities.  The Army would conduct similar strikes using a new generation of long-range artillery systems and ballistic missiles.

Only when Russia’s defensive capabilities were thoroughly degraded would that Army follow up with a ground assault, Patton-style.

Russia is a nuclear power on a par with the United States, and China also has nuclear weapons.  So the administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called for development of a new generation of unclear weapons, including battlefield weapons.

 It called for the introduction of two new types of nuclear munitions: a “low-yield” warhead (meaning it could, say, pulverize Lower Manhattan without destroying all of New York City) for a Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile and a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.

President Trump scrapped the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which limited short-range nuclear missiles in Europe.  He has refused to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires Feb. 5, 2021—just two weeks after Joe Biden’s inauguration.

At best, this commits the United States to an expensive new arms race at a time when government on all levels is short of money to maintain basic infrastructure and provide for basic needs.  At worst, it threatens a nuclear war that would destroy industrial civilization and a large fraction of the human race.

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Does Trump want peace or war? Does he know?

November 19, 2020

End Three Wars, Then Blow Up Iran? by Matt Purple for The American Conservative. What exactly is going on in the mind of Donald Trump?

Dem war coalition prepares to assume power

November 19, 2020

The New Ruling Coalition Opposition to Afghanistan Withdrawal Shows Its Key Factions by Glenn Greenwald. “An unholy union of the national security state and the neocon-backed and corporate-funded Democratic Party are about to assume power with media-supported Internet censorship a key weapon.”

It’s past time to get out of Afghanistan

November 17, 2020

If President Donald Trump could get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan before he leaves office, this would be a good thing, not a bad thing.

The only reason for keeping them there is so the military can avoid admitting defeat.

I doubt if he can bring it off.  Even if he could, future President Joe Biden would almost certainly send the troops back.

LINKS

Get Out of Afghanistan Now by Doug Bandow for Antiwar.com.

‘Decapitations’ at DOD: A Purge, a Coup or Something Else by Barbara Boland for The American Conservative.

Unelected Officials Overrride the President to Continue Wars, But Only Kooks Believe in the Deep State by Caitlin Johnstone.

Three Cheers for Leaving Afghanistan, No Matter Who Does It by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones [Added 11/18/2020]

A foreign view of U.S. political parties

November 11, 2020

The crazy logic of nuclear deterrence

October 13, 2020

The Soviet Union has come and gone, but the crazy logic of nuclear deterrence lives on.

The threat of nuclear weapons is the ultimate threat, but it is a threat only a madman would carry out.

So for the threat to be convincing. you have to convince your opponent you are a madman.

The best way to convince your opponent you are a madman is to actually be a madman/

The second best way is to act so much like a  madman that nobody can be sure whether you are or not.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un come to mind in this respect.

The risk is that your act is too successful, and your opponent thinks he has no choice but to strike first.

We’re lucky.  Over nearly 70 years, this has not happened.  But it only has to happen once.

LINK

A Game of Nuclear Chicken With Russia and China by Micheal Klare for TomDispatch.

Obama’s legacy is normalization of war

September 15, 2020

The Obama foreign policy was a continuation of the Bush foreign policy by other means.  

It is a mistake to think of Obama’s election as a change of direction, as I and others hoped and expected at the time.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ex-General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO, visited old friends in the Pentagon.  

One of them showed Clark a copy of the long-range strategy.  After a supposidly easy victory in Iraq, U.S. forces would go on to invade Syria, Libya, Somalia and other countries including Iran.

The American public, thinking this had something to do with fighting terrorism, went along with this for a while, but after a while became sick of seeing their sons and brothers coming home in flag-draped coffins for no apparent reason.

Barack Obama, running in 2008, said, “I’m not opposed to wars.  I’m opposed to stupid wars.”  He instead waged “intelligent” wars based on flying killer robots, teams of trained assassins and subsidies to local armed factions who supposedly would serve U.S. purposes.

He did not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and instigated new wars in Libya and Syria.  Yes, there were pro-democratic protests in those countries that provided an excuse for intervention, but the purpose of U.S. intervention had nothing to do with those purposes.

The war in Syria would long ago have died down if not for U.S. forces there, U.S. bombing and U.S. and Saudi subsidies to rebels, many of whom are Al Qaeda rebranded.

The U.S. meanwhile has special forces carrying on war in more countries in Africa, Asia and Latin American than any member of the public and probably any member of Congress knows.  

I don’t know to what degree Obama’s policies represented his sincere conviction and how much he simply acquiesced in what he thought he had to do to protect his political career.  I do give him credit for trying to establish normal diplomatic relations with Iran and Cuba.

On the other hand, his administration instigated a new proxy war in Ukraine.  It engineered the overthrow of an unpopular and corrupt but legitimate government before the incumbent could be removed by means of an election.  This set off a conflict that continues to this day.

I think one purpose of the Russiagate investigations, now largely discredited, was to cancel the possibility that Donald Trump might make peace with Russia.

Donald Trump from time to time talks about winding down wars, but then backs down.  He has stepped up drone warfare and war by economic sanctions, and increased the danger of nuclear war with Russia by canceling important arms control treaties. 

There is no reason to think Joe Biden will be any better.  Normalization of the forever wars is the continuing Obama legacy.

LINKS

Let’s Be Real: President Biden Would Probably Be More Hawkish Than Trump by Caitlin Johnstone.

On Foreign Policy, Biden Is Worse Than Trump by Ted Rall.

Expect More ‘Liberal Interventionism’ Under a Joe Biden Presidency by Derek Davidson and Alex Thurston for Jacobin.

The end of war as we know it

September 12, 2020

A brief history of the arms race

August 6, 2020

Russian bounties: the latest pro-war fake news

July 14, 2020

The newspaper articles on supposed Russian bounties on U.S. troops on Afghanistan have turned out to be—what a surprise!—fake news.

It turns out that the reports originated from unverified Afghan intelligence reports that were passed on to U.S. military intelligence and widely disbelieved by certain other U.S. intelligence agencies.  The Afghan government of course has good reason for fearing U.S. withdrawal from this unending stalemate war.

Although the report has been discredited, it has done its job.  The Trump administration will not draw down troops from Afghanistan this year.

My rule of thumb, ever since the debunking of claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, is to automatically disbelieve any leak from secret intelligence sources by anonymous persons without evidence.  This rule has not misled me yet.

It is a sorry state of affairs when bloggers such as Caitlin Johnstone and Moon of Alabama’s “b,” and relatively obscure news sites such as Consortium News and The Intercept, provide more reliable information than the New York Times.

LINKS

The Latest Russiagate BOMBSHELL Took Just One Week to Be Exposed as Dud | What Was Its Source? by “b” for Moon of Alabama.

BOUNTYGATE: Scapegoating Systematic Military Failure in Afghanistan by Scott Ritter for Consortium News.

Seriously, Get the Hell Out of Afghanistan by Caitlin Johnstone.

House Democrats, Working With Liz Cheney, Restrict Trump’s Planned Withdrawal of Troops from Afghanistan and Germany by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.

The lives that don’t matter

May 24, 2020

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.  (George Orwell, 1946)

The War Nerd: How Many Dead Yemeni Nobodies Does It Take to Equal One Washington Post Contributor?

Death tolls: COVID-19 vs ‘war on terror’

May 1, 2020

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing (via Craig Murray)

Craig Murray, a former British Foreign service officer, had an interesting observation on his blog.

Nobody knows how many people died as a result of the UK/US Coalition of Death led destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and, by proxy, Syria and Yemen.

Nobody even knows how many people western forces themselves killed directly. That is a huge number, but still under 10% of the total.

To add to that you have to add those who died in subsequent conflict engendered by the forced dismantling of the state the West disapproved of.

Some were killed by western proxies, some by anti-western forces, and some just by those reverting to ancient tribal hostility and battle for resources into which the country had been regressed by bombing.

You then have to add all those who died directly as a result of the destruction of national infrastructure. Iraq lost in the destruction 60% of its potable drinking water, 75% of its medical facilities and 80% of its electricity.   This caused millions of deaths, as did displacement.

We are only of course talking about deaths, not maiming. This very sober analysis from Salon makes a stab at 2.4 million for Iraqi deaths caused by the war.

[snip]

There are also the vast unintended consequences. The destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria launched a wave of refugee migration which led to politicial instability throughout Europe and contributed to, among many other consequences, Brexit.

For the purposes of argument, I am going to put an extremely conservative figure of 5 million on the number of people who died as a result of Western military intervention, direct or proxy, in the Middle East.

Now compare that to the worldwide death toll from coronavirus: 220,000.

Let me say that again. Western aggressive wars to coronavirus: 5,000,000 : 220,000.

Or put it another way. The total number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK so far is about half the number of civilians killed directly by the US military in the single city of Mosul.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? There are four horsemen of the apocalypse, and while of course I do not blame people for focusing on the one which is riding at them personally, do not forget the others.  

Coronavirus has not finished killing. But then nor have western wars.

Source: Craig Murray

That’s not all.  U.S. economic warfare against Iran and Venezuela is helping the virus to spread in those countries.

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Trump escalates U.S.-Russia nuclear arms race

February 23, 2020

Source: The Gray Zone.

Far from being an appeaser of Russia, President Trump is ramping up a U.S.-Russian nuclear arms race and greatly increasing a real danger of nuclear war.

The USA has a bad bipartisan foreign policy

February 15, 2020

The so-called War on Terror is bipartisan.

George W. Bush ran in 2000 on a promise to adopt a more “humble” foreign policy.  He said the United States should stop dictating to the rest of the world.

But following the 9/11 attacks, he not only got authorization for an invasion of Afghanistan, whose government had given refuge to Osama bin Laden, the planner of the attacks.

He obtained authorization for an invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, based on false claims that its ruler, Saddam Hussein, was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

General Wesley Clark, the former commander of NATO, said he was shown a plan by the Secretary of Defense shortly after 9/11 that called for invasion of seven countries in five years—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

Barack Obama voted against the authorization to invade Iraq.  But during his administration, the US continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and financed radical Al Qaeda-like militias to overthrow the governments of Libya and Syria.  The U.S. also bombed Somalia and stationed troops in Sudan, among many other countries.

In fact, nobody knows how many countries U.S. forces have bombed or how many they are bombing right now.

Obama did try to ease hostilities with Iran.  He negotiated an end to international economic sanctions on Iran in return for the Iranians renouncing a nuclear weapons development program that never existed in the first place.

Donald Trump is continuing all the wars of the Bush and Obama years, including the ones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, while working up to a possible new war with Iran.

He also is doubling down on the use of economic sanctions, which is a form of war.  The use of U.S. financial power to try to cut off Venezuela and Iran from world trade is the same as surrounding these two countries with ships and troops to prevent trade from getting in.  It creates just as much suffering as other forms of war.

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What the impeachment report really said

February 3, 2020

U.S. Senate holds impeachment trial

Michael Tracey of Real Clear Politics is probably one of the few people who read the House Judiciary Committee’s 658-page impeachment report.

The basis of the report is not just that President Trump abused the power of his office to harm his political rival, Joe Biden.  It is that his pause of military aid to Ukraine was actually a “betrayal of the nation” because it helped Russia.

The rhetoric reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and his “twenty years of treason.”  McCarthy said U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union was not only wrong, but a conscious betrayal by Communist sympathizers, up to and included General George C. Marshall.

The impeachment report contains the same rhetoric.  According to Tracey, the report uses the phrase “impeachable treason” and states, “At the very heart of ‘Treason’ is deliberate betrayal of the nation and its security.”

“Such betrayal would not only be unforgivable,” the report’s explication of treason reads, “but would also confirm that the President remains a threat if allowed to remain in office. A President who has knowingly betrayed national security is a President who will do so again. He endangers our lives and those of our allies.”

This language is then imported into the impeachment articles almost verbatim: “Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

The report mostly uses the word “betrayal” rather than “treason” because treason has a specific Constitutional definition.  Treason consists of fighting for an enemy in time of war or giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy in time of war.  Conviction of treason requires confession by the accused or testimony of two independent witnesses of the treasonous act.

Although the Constitution gives the President the authority to determine foreign policy, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate on treaties and major appointments, the report does not recognize that authority.

 It accuses Trump of going against the official “national security policy” of the United States, which supposedly is determined by the national security bureaucracy and not by the President.

This is consistent, it says, with Trump requesting help from Russians in the 2016 election.  So the Russiagate accusations are folded into the new accusations.

Democrats who voted for these impeachment articles voted not simply to punish Trump for soliciting an investigation of Biden.  Rather, they also voted to impeach him for committing treason at the behest of Russia.

And in turn, they ratified a number of extremely fraught New Cold War assumptions that have now been embedded into the fabric of U.S. governance, regardless of what the Senate concludes.

It’s crucial to emphasize that this is the first impeachment in American history where foreign policy has played a central role.

As such, we now have codified by way of these impeachment articles a host of impossibly dangerous precedents, namely:

1) The U.S. is in a state of war with Russia, a nuclear armed power;

2) the sitting president committed treason on behalf of this country with which the U.S. is in a state of war;

3) the president lacks a democratic mandate to conduct foreign policy over the objections of unelected national security state bureaucrats.

So the articles of impeachment are not just an indictment of President Trump.  They are an attempt to define objection to U.S. war policy as treasonous and not subject to debate.

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The other side of Qasem Soleimani

January 20, 2020

Qasem Soleimani

I knew little about Qasem Soleimani prior to his assassination by drone.  My original reading about him left me with a highly favorable opinion of the man as a military leader.

The other day I read articles by Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, two seasoned Middle East correspondents, on Soleimani’s ruthless side.  I recommend reading their articles for a more balanced view of his record and insight into the complexities of Middle East policies.

LINKS

Was Qassem Soleimani a monstrous kingmaker or simply an enabler? The truth is as murky as Tudor history by Robert Fisk for The Independent.

Blundering Into War: Patrick Cockburn on what Trump doesn’t know about Iran for the London Review of Books.

The problem with Gene Sharp’s nonviolence

January 17, 2020

Gene Sharp

The late Gene Sharp was a political scientists who aspired to be the Clausewitz of nonviolence.

He said you didn’t have to be a pacifist, although he was one, to embrace nonviolence.

He claimed that nonviolent struggle was a tactic, the same as armed struggle, and often a superior tactic.

His great insight was that the power of oppressors comes from being able to compel the obedience of the oppressed.  Once the oppressed lose their fear, the oppressor has no more power.

Of course that only applies to an oppressor who wants to enslave you.  If his aim is to kill you, things are different.  Nonviolence worked for the Danes against Hitler.  It wouldn’t have worked for the Jews.

One great advantage of nonviolence is that its leaders have to inspire voluntary followers.  The leaders don’t have the option, unlike, say, Michael Collins’ IRA or the Vietnamese NLF, of killing members of their constituencies to keep them in line.

I was and still am favorably impressed with Gene Sharp, but I saw him in a new light after reading an article by one Marcie Smith about how the CIA weaponized Sharp’s tactics to take down anti-U.S. governments.

She wrote a second part, which is newly published, about the shortcomings of Sharp’s philosophy as a way of bringing about social change in the USA.

Both articles are long, but important if you are interested in nonviolent action or social change.  They report on a lot of history I hadn’t known.

Afterthought.  I am not a pacifist. I did not object to doing military service.  I believe there is such a thing as a right of revolution.  I am a citizen of a country that was founded on that principle.   But I think revolutionary violence is a last resort, not a first resort or a default choice.

Nonviolent tactics need not have a religious or pacifist basis.  The late Saul Alinsky was a skilled practitioner of nonviolent struggle.

LINKS

Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence (Part One)  by Marcie Smith for nonsite.org.

Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence (Part Two) by Marcie Smith for nonsite.org.

Bloodless Lies by Lorenzo Raymond for The New Inquiry.

Scott Ritter on the Iranian crisis

January 12, 2020