Killing Them Softly

June 15th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Free Association.

The White House says the Libya intervention is not subject to the War Powers Resolution because what the U.S. government is doing there -- sending killer drones and providing intelligence for other NATO air assaults on Qaddafi's forces and residence -- doesn't constitute "hostilities."

Really. The spokesman said that. With a straight face. Read about it here.

As I've long said, if you want to make sense of government statements, keep one thing in mind: They think we are morons.
Atom

[Read the original at Free Association (2011-06-15)...]

Killing Them Softly

June 15th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Free Association.

The White House says the Libya intervention is not subject to the War Powers Resolution because what the U.S. government is doing there -- sending killer drones and providing intelligence for other NATO air assaults on Qaddafi's forces and residence -- doesn't constitute "hostilities."

Really. The spokesman said that. With a straight face. Read about it here.

As I've long said, if you want to make sense of government statements, keep one thing in mind: They think we are morons.
Atom

[Read the original at Free Association ()...]

Revisionist History Day, 2011

May 30th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Free Association.


Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history -- Ussama Makdisi's Faith Misplaced: U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, and watching Emily.




Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order:
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
Atom

[Read the original at Free Association (2011-05-30)...]

Revisionist History Day, 2011

May 30th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Free Association.


Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history -- Ussama Makdisi's Faith Misplaced: U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, and watching Emily.




Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order:
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
Atom

[Read the original at Free Association ()...]

Reasoning in Midstream

March 26th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from The jVerse.

“Reasoning in midstream[1]” is a common phenomenon in public discourse that typically starts right around the time that bombs start dropping or legislation starts being penned in response to a “crisis”. It is the monotonous focus on the present state of a problem–a pending genocide, a health or financial emergency, or a security threat–disregarding the history or context in which the event takes place. In addition to discouraging discussion of root causes, reasoning in midstream also allows for attention to be drawn away from parallel dangers that are still in earlier stages.

By way of an analogy, imagine a society whose diet consists of only Snickers and Coke (a-cola, that is). After forty or fifty years, the toothless, diabetic and morbidly obese nature of the elder generation forces the society to examine the ailments of the worst off and explore possible solutions. Radical dentistry, amputation of gangrenous limbs and liposuction are proposed and touted as the only way to address these epidemics which, apparently, arose from nowhere. Perhaps an underemployed nutritionist suggests a change of diet, but the idea is dismissed as ineffective against the immediate problems faced by the older population.

Of course, without a change in diet, however insufficient against some of the immediate dangers facing some of the population, the problem can’t be checked in any meaningful or sustainable way. There’s most likely not much that can be done to help those that have been eating the lethal foodstuffs for 50 years. In this example, it’s plain (for us) to see that efforts would be most profitably invested in changing the diet to avoid the same problems in those that are currently 5, 15, 25, and 35 years old.

If this society limits itself to reasoning in midstream, however, solutions that aren’t directed at the immediate and spotlighted most critical cases are disregarded entirely. No ultimate causes of the current problem are sought and no thought to preventing future problems of a similar nature is given.

Leaping out of my flimsy analogy and into harsh reality, the most recent example of reasoning in midstream (let’s call it RIM from now on) that I’ve experienced has been around the topic of Libya.

Here, for the first time since Clinton and NATO decimated and subsequently occupied the Balkans, we have a progressive war for progressive goals lead by a progressive administration. This has caused tremendous cognitive dissonance on the left and lead to somber and thoughtful defenses of the necessity of aerial butchery. Where there is hesitation, progressives are plagued by the programmed question: “What possible alternative exists?”

What alternatives indeed? There are no good answers in the moment, because it’s the last 60+ years of malignant foreign policy in the region that have brought us to this terrible, yet easily predicted, outcome. Yet no discussion exists of the historical context of western intervention in North Africa. And so the policy is more of the same–remove the leader and arm some new “legitimate government” that will guarantee the continuity of the status quo.

Whatever happens, say proponents of RIM, don’t let’s think about the other dictators and puppet states, in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Geogria, El Salvador, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc.–I left out the countries that don’t seem to be in immediate peril of revolution–who continue to receive the very same western military aid that has allowed Gadaffi to commit this most recent democide.

The goal of the imperial state and it’s licensed, regulated, and wholly corporately owned mass media is to push aside such radical questions and return us to the case at hand–to RIM. Surely we can’t let this moment pass, this horrible thing happen, surely something must be done . . .

When “something must be done,” we immediately know that we are being asked to support a heaping helping of more of the same upon a people that have had their enemies propped up by western imperialism and their countries and wealth sold out from underneath them to western interests.

Nothing should be done. The violence must end which necessitates not adding to it. The dictators past and future should not be armed by money expropriated from the western working classes. As I discuss in The Winding Up of Violence, places like Libya, and much of the rest of the western controlled world, are like pots of water (two metaphors in one blog post! Noooo!). As long as they are exposed to heat, armaments and violence, from outside the system, they will remain in a turbulent state.

Foreign perturbance must cease, and the region will settle in to a stable state governed by the will of the people living there. This will happen at some point. The amount of harm, destruction and dislocation that will have to be endured is a function of how long it takes for the west to withdraw and cease interference, which is an economic inevitability at this point.

The sooner we cease to reason in midstream, and to see the calls for increased intervention for what they are, the sooner the people of Libya, the Middle East, and the entire world will have an opportunity to craft a peaceful existence for themselves.

Related:

  1. [1] Wes Bertrand describes the process more abstractly in the first chapter of his book Complete Liberty

[Read the original at The jVerse (2011-03-26)...]

Reasoning in Midstream

March 26th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from The jVerse.

“Reasoning in midstream[1]” is a common phenomenon in public discourse that typically starts right around the time that bombs start dropping or legislation starts being penned in response to a “crisis”. It is the monotonous focus on the present state of a problem–a pending genocide, a health or financial emergency, or a security threat–disregarding the history or context in which the event takes place. In addition to discouraging discussion of root causes, reasoning in midstream also allows for attention to be drawn away from parallel dangers that are still in earlier stages.

By way of an analogy, imagine a society whose diet consists of only Snickers and Coke (a-cola, that is). After forty or fifty years, the toothless, diabetic and morbidly obese nature of the elder generation forces the society to examine the ailments of the worst off and explore possible solutions. Radical dentistry, amputation of gangrenous limbs and liposuction are proposed and touted as the only way to address these epidemics which, apparently, arose from nowhere. Perhaps an underemployed nutritionist suggests a change of diet, but the idea is dismissed as ineffective against the immediate problems faced by the older population.

Of course, without a change in diet, however insufficient against some of the immediate dangers facing some of the population, the problem can’t be checked in any meaningful or sustainable way. There’s most likely not much that can be done to help those that have been eating the lethal foodstuffs for 50 years. In this example, it’s plain (for us) to see that efforts would be most profitably invested in changing the diet to avoid the same problems in those that are currently 5, 15, 25, and 35 years old.

If this society limits itself to reasoning in midstream, however, solutions that aren’t directed at the immediate and spotlighted most critical cases are disregarded entirely. No ultimate causes of the current problem are sought and no thought to preventing future problems of a similar nature is given.

Leaping out of my flimsy analogy and into harsh reality, the most recent example of reasoning in midstream (let’s call it RIM from now on) that I’ve experienced has been around the topic of Libya.

Here, for the first time since Clinton and NATO decimated and subsequently occupied the Balkans, we have a progressive war for progressive goals lead by a progressive administration. This has caused tremendous cognitive dissonance on the left and lead to somber and thoughtful defenses of the necessity of aerial butchery. Where there is hesitation, progressives are plagued by the programmed question: “What possible alternative exists?”

What alternatives indeed? There are no good answers in the moment, because it’s the last 60+ years of malignant foreign policy in the region that have brought us to this terrible, yet easily predicted, outcome. Yet no discussion exists of the historical context of western intervention in North Africa. And so the policy is more of the same–remove the leader and arm some new “legitimate government” that will guarantee the continuity of the status quo.

Whatever happens, say proponents of RIM, don’t let’s think about the other dictators and puppet states, in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Geogria, El Salvador, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc.–I left out the countries that don’t seem to be in immediate peril of revolution–who continue to receive the very same western military aid that has allowed Gadaffi to commit this most recent democide.

The goal of the imperial state and it’s licensed, regulated, and wholly corporately owned mass media is to push aside such radical questions and return us to the case at hand–to RIM. Surely we can’t let this moment pass, this horrible thing happen, surely something must be done . . .

When “something must be done,” we immediately know that we are being asked to support a heaping helping of more of the same upon a people that have had their enemies propped up by western imperialism and their countries and wealth sold out from underneath them to western interests.

Nothing should be done. The violence must end which necessitates not adding to it. The dictators past and future should not be armed by money expropriated from the western working classes. As I discuss in The Winding Up of Violence, places like Libya, and much of the rest of the western controlled world, are like pots of water (two metaphors in one blog post! Noooo!). As long as they are exposed to heat, armaments and violence, from outside the system, they will remain in a turbulent state.

Foreign perturbance must cease, and the region will settle in to a stable state governed by the will of the people living there. This will happen at some point. The amount of harm, destruction and dislocation that will have to be endured is a function of how long it takes for the west to withdraw and cease interference, which is an economic inevitability at this point.

The sooner we cease to reason in midstream, and to see the calls for increased intervention for what they are, the sooner the people of Libya, the Middle East, and the entire world will have an opportunity to craft a peaceful existence for themselves.

Related:

  1. [1] Wes Bertrand describes the process more abstractly in the first chapter of his book Complete Liberty

[Read the original at The jVerse ()...]

The Trench Destroyer (1917)

January 21st, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Paleofuture Blog.

This chilling image from the height of World War I appeared on the February, 1917 cover of Hugo Gernsback's The Electrical Experimenter. The excerpt below is from Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future by Joseph Corn and Brian Horrigan.

The design of this mobile dreadnaught, with its steel-tired, spoked wheels, suggests that its inventor may have been influenced by agricultural tractors or perhaps an amusement park Ferris wheel. The trench destroyer also embodies the common goal of military visionaries: maximum offensive power with total defensive security.

 Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

[Read the original at Paleofuture Blog (2011-01-21)...]

The Trench Destroyer (1917)

January 21st, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Paleofuture Blog.

This chilling image from the height of World War I appeared on the February, 1917 cover of Hugo Gernsback's The Electrical Experimenter. The excerpt below is from Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future by Joseph Corn and Brian Horrigan.

The design of this mobile dreadnaught, with its steel-tired, spoked wheels, suggests that its inventor may have been influenced by agricultural tractors or perhaps an amusement park Ferris wheel. The trench destroyer also embodies the common goal of military visionaries: maximum offensive power with total defensive security.

 Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

[Read the original at Paleofuture Blog ()...]

Imperial Doublespeak About Iraq

August 19th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from The Libertarian Standard.

In a series of Orwellian twists, the United States is pulling out (prematurely some say) “all” “combat” troops from Iraq but doubling down (for starters) on mercenaries.

The Obama Administration gets away with “fulfilling” Obama’s promise to end US combat operations in Iraq by removing the last (officially-labeled) combat brigade from the country, yet 50,000 troops will remain until (supposedly) 2011. These 50,000 troops make up 7 “Advise and Assist” Brigades, which are brigade combat teams like the one that just left but with special training, and 2 combat aviation brigades. “The troops are officially there to assist and advise the Iraqi government, but will carry weapons to defend themselves and will join Iraqi troops on missions if requested.”

After 2011, the “military” presence in Iraq is supposed to be “limited to several dozen to several hundred officers in an embassy office who would help the Iraqis purchase and field new American military equipment,” but military officers are saying that “5,000 to 10,000 troops might [still] be needed.”

Meanwhile, “the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000.” Can we really still call security personnel ‘civilians’ or ‘private security’ anymore when they’re working for the state in foreign lands, particularly in a combat zone? They’re mercenaries, troops that are conveniently not part of the official US military. The NYT reporter couldn’t help calling them “a small army of contractors.”

The US is building military bases, fortified compounds, outposts, and the largest “embassy” in the world in Iraq. Iraqi politicians still haven’t been able to come to an agreement and form a government after the last elections, making Iraq vulnerable to a coup if the Iraqi military leadership get too frustrated by the ineffectual, in-fighting politicians. The US empire will not be completely out of there anytime soon.

But hey, “we” won…right?

Related Posts

  1. America’s love affair with generals
  2. The price others pay for our “freedoms”
  3. I Guess It’s the Singer, Not the Song

[Read the original at The Libertarian Standard (2010-08-19)...]

Ygnominious

July 29th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from der Blaustrumpf.

I can’t improve on what Charles Davis thinks of Matthew Yglesias’s “Priorities”:

“From a Keynesian standpoint, I believe that with the economy depressed it’s better to spend the money in Afghanistan than not to spend it.”

Matt Yglesias, Center for American Progress

The above excerpt comes from a post noting the inconsistency of self-styled deficit hawks complaining about the relative pittance spent on social programs and its contribution to the national debt even as they vote in lockstep to drop another $37 billion on a failing nation-building exercise in Afghanistan. And as far as the point goes, it’s a good one…But there’s something wrong — something sick, really — with Ygelsias’ war-as-stimulus argument that strikes me as far more offensive than the fact that some fiscal conservatives are hypocrites when it comes to the National Security State…What you shouldn’t do in a debate over war, at least if you want to maintain your status as a Non-Despicable Person, is argue that bombing and occupying a foreign nation makes good economic sense. Even if it were true as an academic point, it’s grotesquely out of place in a discussion of matters of life and death. War, if it can ever be justified — and I have my doubts — can only be so on the grounds that it is absolutely necessary to protecting human life: there is no other choice, it’s a last resort. Yet Yglesias discusses the continuation of a major, bloody armed conflict as if it were just another jobs program; perhaps not the most effective one to his mind, but hey, it’s better that the federal government spend money on a pointless war than do nothing at all (like actually save money by ending said pointless war).

false dichotomy by charles davis: Beltway liberalism in 24 words.

A pretend war, a real war, it’s all the same to Yglesias, so long as it gives some relatively safe and privileged American his 9-to-5 back.  The broken window fallacy is stupid and destructive enough, but to willingly swap it for some sort of monstrous broken lives fallacy is indeed about as sick and wrong as it comes.


Filed under: economics, War Tagged: charlesdavis, War, ygnominy

[Read the original at der Blaustrumpf (2010-07-29)...]