A few months ago (back in March) I wrote about how people were ignoring what was going on in Iraq. Once President Maliki sort of threw us out, people in the US seemed to think we’d had a complete victory, and that this “Young Democracy” would flourish just as the Bush administration had sold its propaganda to us. It’s amazing to me how gullible the American people are. There was no chance that Maliki was going to do anything in Iraq except become the kind of government that was all they’d known since the advent of Saddam Hussein. It was just going to be Shia authoritarianism instead of Sunni dictatorship. In spite of his promises to the contrary, Maliki has never made any real attempt to include Sunnis in his government. He even went so far as to chase some of them out of the country and throw others in jail. People who were members of Parliament. The Vice President. Sunni fighters were rarely welcomed into the army or the police and lost access to jobs and paychecks to support their families. Support was withdrawn from the members of the “Awakening” which had turned to help the Occupiers. He sent in his “special” troops to break up a peaceful demonstration, and that was the last straw before the latest explosion.
Anger and resentment has been building among the Sunnis since the Americans left. It is not surprising, especially with the turmoil going on in Syria, that jihadi fighters have returned and helped the rebellious Sunni in Anbar province retake Fallujah.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for the marines who fought and gained the city back in 2004. They thought they were doing the right thing. They fought hard, hand-to-hand in many cases, and lost a lot of comrades in the bloodiest of bloody battles. Many came home missing body parts and with severe cases of PTSD. Even so many thought they had done the right thing in answering the call to war. Those responsible for sending them and lying to the American public about Saddam’s connection to 9/11 and his WMD have never been held accountable for their betrayal of the public trust and the trust of their soldiers. The prize those leaders sought was never to be had, no matter what they did to engineer something that looked a bit like representative government in Iraq.
It’s a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.
The New York Times today has an article and a video on the 1971 robbery of a small FBI office in Pennsylvania. The video is stunning:
It brings back an entire era for those of us old enough to remember it. The protesters became paranoid for very good reasons. They knew the FBI was watching everyone it could. The Agency didn’t have the same kinds of tools it does today, but the attitude and the justification for secrecy was the same (“National Security”). The difference was the numbers of people who would not accept that what the FBI was doing was right. People today have let their fears control them and inhibit their objections to the NSA’s shenanigans, but it has taken the same kind of gutsy individual courage to expose the facts as it did then. The only difference is that the Raines and their friends were able to maintain their secret identities for 42 years. Edward Snowden didn’t have that chance. Neither did the reporters who worked with him, because apparently government has become even more paranoid about covering up it secrets than it was during the Nixon/Hoover era. We should give that difference some real deep thought.
Excessive secrecy in government has always led to abuse, but the abuse has so far equally found a way to leak out into public. It makes you wonder why government in a democratic republic like ours keeps trying to pry into the lives of its citizens to protect itself from them, and other phantoms of their imaginations, when its greatest strength lies in openness and truth. Maybe that has something to do with why democracies have never succeeded for long. It’s past the time when Americans and their government let fear overrule common sense.
It’s still happening, and what we get is what seems to me to be very fuzzy logic.
But the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, made clear he would exact a price for consideration in the House, saying that not only would an extension of expired benefits have to be paid for but that it must also be tied to Republican priorities, such as building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, expanding exemptions from the Affordable Care Act and opening energy exploration on federal land.
“One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work,” Mr. Boehner said after the Senate vote. “To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job.”
I just don’t understand how putting the health of the land at risk of permanent damage to create a few temporary jobs on the pipeline, or making the ACA less accessible to ordinary people by giving exemptions to rich people on the lamest of excuses gets us anywhere near creating jobs for the people who want to work and provide for their families. I keep hearing this mantra from conservative politicians everywhere – we have to give corporations and the wealthy tax breaks in order to create jobs. When you look at the results of all the recent tax cutting in states like Ohio, I don’t see where the jobs have come in spite of all the crowing the governor does. The jobs he is so proud of creating came as a result of the stimulus, and had little to do with Kasich’s actual actions. And his Jobs Ohio thing is so secretive it can’t be audited anyone even though it uses taxpayer money. It’s just a program ripe for abuse.
Corporations who got the tax breaks are rolling in cash, but they’re not spending it on factories or hiring workers except very slowly. They’ve been sitting on it. Giving them more breaks won’t make them spend any more. Take a look and unemployment:
Even if we assume the 7% November unemployment number is accurate, why is everyone ignoring the government’s own 13.2% rate of unemployment combined with underemployment” It’s a statistic that most experts agree is the more accurate picture of true unemployment .
And even if more than 200,000 new jobs were created in November, why aren’t we talking about what kind of jobs those are?
Economist and author John Lott reported recently that 96% of the jobs created since January  are crummy part-time jobs.
Billionaire businessman and publisher Mort Zuckerman disagrees . He says 88% of the jobs created this year under Obama are crummy part-time jobs. No matter which figure you believe, the “recovery” is a mirage. This economy is only doing well if you want a job at McDonald’s.
I guess conservative politicians don’t believe in numbers or a reality that’s contrary to their rigidly held doctrines.
It’s coming soon now. Next week we will have the votes in Congress that determine to a large extent whether the US attacks Syria or not. The administration has certainly been trying its best to stir up support both at home and abroad without a great deal of success. The media seems to be behind Senator McCain’s pro-war, pro-rebel stand to a great extent, but the larger public keeps saying, “no”. Little of the mainstream media is skeptical of this possible effort, and the reports that cast doubt on Administration propaganda are mostly ignored. If the President decided to wait for a Congressional decision, he doesn’t seem to have wanted to use it to change his mind, which I hoped for at one point. This morning’s New York Times talks of air raids by US and French planes as well as the missiles to “degrade” Assad’s ability even more. That would mean even more civilian casualties, death, and destruction than there has been already. I fail to see how such a plan would deter the Assad regime from the path it is already on. If it is true, that the regime feels itself as backed into a dire corner between life and death, as I believe it does, it is bound to choose its own survival by whatever means. Nothing much that the West can do aside from wiping the slate clean as in Iraq, will have much effect. All sides in this fight have been incredibly brutal, and to pick one as the incarnation of evil is to misread the people involved and the facts on the ground.
The article also contains this statement:
“They are being pulled in two different directions,” a senior foreign official involved in the discussions said Thursday. “The worst outcome would be to come out of this bruising battle with Congress and conduct a military action that made little difference.”
I think that’s what’s likely to happen anyway, no matter what John McCain and the hawks say. The President has not seemed to want another war, and has tried to reassure people about no boots on the ground. That doesn’t mean he can’t be dragged into more agression. Once begun, military action of any kind has been rather self-perpetuating. If the military action makes little difference, it might cause an uproar here at home among the war party, but it will not change the ultimate outcome in Syria, even if there are cries for more attacks. The Syrians themselves have to sort out what is to become of them. Whoever or whatever caused the deaths by poison gas, our entry into a local civil war will not change the ultimate resolution on the ground. Morality has nothing to do with this other than as a propaganda tool.
Nothing we did in Iraq turned the country into that shining example of democracy that President Bush promised. It only served to make most Iraqis detest us for the foreseeable future.
Much yelling by Kerry about the use of toxic gas in Syria on Damascus’ suburbs and towns. Calling the act “morally reprehensible” Kerry gets up on his high horse and talks of retribution. He should be very careful of what he says in public. We, the US have no high horse to stand on having used cluster bombs, depleted uranium and phosphorous in Iraq. Since the rest of the “international community” (western Europe) said nothing at the time officially about our sins, we got away with murder. I can imagine the ironic laughter burbling up in Iran and Iraq.
The drums are rolling for a military response, which, if Obama lets himself be so persuaded, will either do nothing or lead to a disastrous involvement in the internecine strife going on all over the Middle East. The US really has no dog in the fight now going on in Syria. Weakening Assad will only strengthen the islamists among whom are jihadis with long memories of American atrocities in Iraq. Americans may have forgotten the killings in Fallujah, the abuses of Abu Ghraib, the drone bombings of villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, the abuses of Guantanamo, but the jihadis have not.
Matthew Schrier, the photographer who was captured by a jihadi group in Syria and escaped tells how the gunmen who tortured him reminded him of Guantanamo to justify their treatment of him. What more will they do if the US takes military action against Assad? How much blowback can we expect to see, regardless of our vaunted “security”? What possible good can firing a few missiles at Assad do? Obama has really put himself in an impossible position. There never should have been any talk of “red lines”.
However that may be, why doesn’t anyone seem to consider that in the chaos that now reigns in much of Syria, some sort of an accidental release could have happened? The military could have hit one of its own supply dumps. Rebels might equally have set off the gas inadvertently. Are we not looking for an excuse for war as in Iraq? And why is it always war? There are other ways of solving problems besides reaching for a gun, though in this case it would be difficult. We would be better off if there were no choice to be made. We can’t solve the problems in Syria. We probably can’t solve the problems in the Middle East/ North Africa in general. By our own behavior towards others, not our words, but our actions, over the last 10 years we have dug ourselves into a deep pit of hypocritical ineffectualness.
So we attack Syria militarily in some fashion. What does it accomplish? More death and destruction on top of what has already happened? What does that prove? Big Brave United States bombs a small country in the middle of a civil war. Kills hundreds of innocent civilians from the air. What a marvelous headline that would make! And how on earth would such action “help” anything? And how would it “punish” Assad?
There is talk of “proof” that Assad’s forces let loose the poison gas that sounds all too much like the “proof” of WMD the Bush regime put forth to justify the invasion of Iraq. We know what a disaster that turned out to be. There is no proof this time either, but we should have learned from bitter experience that once the engine of war has been started it’s impossible to stop. Escalation or mission creep will inevitably follow any brief attack that we might make. Think Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and how all those fights began as “small wars”. Are we going to wait for the UN to finish its job this time, or are we going to thoughtlessly rush in again?
Obama is going to have to be particularly stubborn if he is to resist all the pressure being put on him to lead us into another foreign disaster. It bothers me that he has a tendency to yield to so-called experts in an attempt to keep the peace in his administration. It won’t work this time.
Some people bring up a comparison to Kosovo. The former Yugoslavia was a much smaller country, and much less well defended than Syria. It was also not home, however temporarily, to Islamic extremists and jihadis. The “moderates” in the Middle East and North Africa have been fading into the background while the struggle goes on between military and islamic authoritarianism. It is not a struggle that the West should be poking its nose into except in the most subtle and hidden ways to promote what remains of our interests. And for heaven’s sake let’s stop gasping in horror over what has happened in Syria! Think Napalm, cluster bombs, and phosphorous and where those poisons were used and by whom. Think poison gasses given/sold to countries by our own CIA. Above all, think of the possible consequences of any military action we might take. Learn something from the chaos produced by the invasions of Iraq and Libya.
The arm chair warriors will always be there to trumpet their calls to arms far from the dirt, the blood, the dismemberment, the killing and the destruction they wish on those weaker than themselves. Don’t listen for they are the true spreaders of evil in the world.
Note: A tiny item in the NYT today notes that an Iraqi court has ruled unconstitutional the term limits of the President, the Premier and the Speaker of Parliament.
So these worthy gentlemen can keep running for office as long as they wish while edging further and further away from George Bush’s model of “democracy”. Surprise, surprise!
“Yet we now appear to be getting ready to drop a lot of ordnance on Syria — and for a pretty flimsy reason. John Kerry is outraged that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons — or so he believes — but as I’ve noted before, that fact (if true) is not dispositive. Assad’s forces have already killed tens of thousands with good old-fashioned high explosive, which is much more effective than sarin in most cases. Yes, chemical weapons are illegal and yes, there’s a taboo against their use, but going to war solely to reinforce a rather unimportant norm is a poor reason. The fact that Assad is killing innocent people with this particular tool and not some other equally nasty tool is not by itself a reason to get involved.
“What is most striking about this affair is how Obama seems to have been dragged, reluctantly, into doing something that he clearly didn’t want to do. He probably knows bombing Syria won’t solve anything or move us closer to a political settlement. But he’s been facing a constant drumbeat of pressure from liberal interventionists and other hawks, as well as the disjointed Syrian opposition and some of our allies in the region. He foolishly drew a “red line” a few months back, so now he’s getting taunted with the old canard about the need to “restore U.S. credibility.” This last argument is especially silly: If being willing to use force was the litmus test of a president’s credibility, Obama is in no danger whatsoever. Or has everyone just forgotten about his decision to escalate in Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, and all those drone strikes?
“More than anything else, Obama reminds me here of George Orwell in his famous essay “Shooting an Elephant.” Orwell recounts how, while serving as a colonial officer in Burma, he was forced to shoot a rogue elephant simply because the local residents expected an official of the British Empire to act this way, even when the animal appeared to pose no further danger. If he didn’t go ahead and dispatch the poor beast, he feared that his prestige and credibility might be diminished. Like Orwell, Obama seems to be sliding toward “doing something” because he feels he simply can’t afford not to.
“Sad, but also revealing.”:
I’ve just finished reading Peter Maass’ fine piece in the New York Times on Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden. It is at once terrifying and awe inspiring. It is also a fairly accurate diagnosis of what the fear mongering of the Bush era and since has done to whatever was left of American civil liberties. Government suppression of information about its questionable true activities have reached some kind of a nadir in a long history of secrecy and coverups beginning with Vietnam, and perhaps long before then. That American citizens should be forced to go to such extreme lengths to provide the public exposure of government wrongdoing is very scary indeed. It makes me feel as though I should be investigating ways of securing myself against the kinds of intrusion that Poitras and Greenwald have been subjected to, as well as the much more severe retaliation against Snowden and Manning and who knows how many others. The brutality of war has infected all the security branches of our government, to the point at which the government itself becomes the enemy of every citizen who wishes to live in a democratic country that values the freedoms of speech, assembly, and of the press that it brags about to the world but does not practice.
And as an aside, the embassy shut downs have been called off, except for Yemen, and not one thing has happened to any of our embassies or foreign service personnel. How strange!
In the last couple of days I’ve read posts by Englehart, Van Buren, and now Juan Cole (whose post I can’t find). On the NSA etc they seem to agree with what I’ve been saying, and it occurs to me in the light of all the hoopla over the embassy shut downs that the government is desperately trying to distract us from its egregious flouting of the Constitution. Juan Cole wonders if we are waking up to the Soviet Union of America. I suspect we’ve been there since 9/11, and it’s only going to get worse unless more people start to make a great deal of noise.
Senators McCain and Graham went to Egypt to try to “save” the situation. All they did was insult the military and the interim government and destroy the quiet diplomacy Undersecretary Burns was attempting. How, you say? Well, at their press conference, these oh-so-smart and all-knowing Senators said outright that what had happened in Egypt was a coup, and that the Muslim Brotherhood should be let out of prison and house arrest and allowed to participate in the senators’ idea of Democracy. How to start a civil war in one easy lesson! The last thing Egypt needs right now is the return of the Muslim Brotherhood. All the Senators did was undermine the people who actually believe in democracy which the Muslim brotherhood showed under Morsi’s rule that it does not.
It’s quite possible that if the US hadn’t meddled in the first place in 2011 that the Muslim brotherhood never would have been elected. But no, we must rush everyone who’s never had it to instant Democracy! Egypt needs time – time to come together as a country, time to develop the institutions that underlie something like democratic rule. Elections by themselves won’t achieve anything in the winner-take-all minds of recent victims of dictatorship.
- If Obama sent those two idiots to Egypt, he’s getting worse advice than I thought he was, or he’s beginning to lose his mind.
- The drone wars have to stop. All they do is make more terrorists.
- Blanket electronic surveillance has to stop. It’s time we admitted that we have been ruled by fear and get over it.
- Abuse of detainees, no matter where they are held, has to stop, and that includes Manning as well as the Guantanamo detainees.
- Government secrecy and duplicity must return to the status quo ante 9/11.
- Whistleblowers should be tolerated, especially when all they do is expose government stupidity. Embarrassment is no excuse to prosecute people for espionage.
- Where’s our Harry Truman of the 21st Century?
John McCain seems to think he has superior knowledge and ability in foreign affairs than the President or anyone else. He believes in the shoot-from-the hip style that was in vogue during the Bush administration. He’s all for bombing people and forcing them to do what he thinks is right. The only problem with that is, that it didn’t work in Vietnam, it didn’t work in Iraq, and its not working in Afghanistan, so why would it work in Egypt? Someone should cancel his travel budget!
There’s been a lot of uproar about the NSA surveillance of phone and internet usage of practically everyone in the world. It began to look like the argument in favor of limiting those secret powers and providing for greater transparency and legality was winning the day. Then comes this announcement on Thursday that 21 American embassies around the globe will be closed for the immediate future because of some “credible” but unspecified “threat”.
Now there are worries about prison breaks:
“Prison breaks took place in Pakistan on July 31 in a Taliban-led operation, and in Iraq at the Abu Ghraib prison overnight on July 22. Some 500 convicts, among them senior al Qaeda operatives, escaped from Abu Ghraib.
More than 1,100 inmates broke out of a prison on the outskirts of Benghazi on July 27.
Interpol also noted that August was the anniversary of several violent attacks over the past years, including in Mumbai and Nairobi.”
We are also coming to the end of Ramadan (August 7), a time when some attacks in the past have happened, and the beginning of Eid-al-Fitr, a time for Muslims of charity giving and family celebration lasting 3 days.
Is any of this stuff related, or are we seeing something to justify the previous actions of our intelligence agencies? Cynical? Yes! It’s happened so many times before. Someone on NPR last night even mentioned code Orange and code Red in connection with airports, the infamous codes to frighten everyone introduced during the Bush administration that brought us the TSA, its searches, its scan machines, etc. It just smells like a change-the-subject operation to makes us forget about losing our privacy rights.
These are are the countries so far where Embassies and/or consulates will be closed (they are all Muslim countries, except Israel):
“Algiers, Algeria, Sana’a, Yemen; Tel Aviv, Israel; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Ankara, Turkey; Muscat, Oman; Doha, Qatar; Cairo, Egypt; Kabul, Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq; Amman, Jordan; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Manama, Bahrain; Tripoli, Libya; Nouakchott, Mauritania.”
That’s just 18 different countries from a list that supposedly came from an NBC report. You have to watch the news clip to see the list of countries. It certainly sounds a bit scary, but how do we know for sure? Our intelligence folks have cried wolf so many times before. And, in light of the NSA fiasco, how do we know the government is telling us or the world the truth? It’s a stretch.
Here’s the entire list of travel warnings from the State Department:
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
U.S. Embassy Algiers, Algeria
U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan
U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
U.S. Consulate Basrah, Iraq
U.S. Embassy Cairo, Egypt
U.S. Consulate Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Djibouti, Djibouti
U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh
U.S. Embassy Doha, Qatar
U.S. Consulate Dubai, United Arab Emirates
U.S. Consulate Erbil, Iraq
U.S. Consulate Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
U.S. Embassy Khartoum, Sudan
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
U.S. Embassy Manama, Bahrain
U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman
U.S. Embassy Nouakchott, Mauritania
U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Sana’a, Yemen
U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Libya
It includes the consulates and also Jordan, Algeria and Sudan.
That just looks like over wrought self-justification for the “security” agencies to me.
I watched some of Rachel Jeantel’s court testimony yesterday. Yes, she was sometimes hard to understand, but the speech problem was pretty obvious if you were really looking and paying attention. Her answers were short, and sometimes she was impatient with Don West. I thought the way he treated her, badgering and asking the same questions over and over, was poor. His was an obvious effort to confuse her and destroy her credibility in front of a basically all white jury. It was like watching the cultural divide between black and white in this country, the often total lack of empathy and understanding between the groups. She sometimes didn’t understand him, and more often he didn’t understand her (or pretended to). He may have achieved his goal, but I thought his was a pretty disgraceful performance. Watching Trayvon’s parents cry at her treatment was another painful part I suppose juror B37 just missed. At one point Mr. Martin just leans over and shakes his head, then his shoulders start to heave. What torture! How do we bridge the divide when we don’t even speak the same language or even try to?
I’ve also now seen the Piers Morgan interview.
What a contrast! Here she’s wearing makeup, her hair done and with a pretty outfit on. You see the black humor of a good girl who knew her friend very well. But the language is “black talk” – something white America needs to learn, remembering that a lot of the words and phrases we use in “white talk” are just as unintelligible to them. How do we get people to spend some time with each other listening as well as talking, asking questions and learning to understand?
It amazes me that people are so quick to condemn something they’ve seen on the cover of a magazine or heard about through gossip and feel free to say the most awful things about stuff they know nothing about. This week’s cover of Rolling Stone is one example. People just saw that face and went off, or they heard about it and went off. The other is the President’s remarks yesterday on the Trayvon Martin shooting. I doubt that many of them actually listened, but off they went making the most outrageously awful, ugly and prejudiced statements on Facebook. The Media say we’re polarized. I think there may be more to it than that. Both the stories are tragedies for Tzarnaev and his family, and for Trayvon’s family. Are they both victims of the hate that gets thrown around on the internet under a cloak of anonymity? The remarks about Obama’s speech that I saw had little to do with what he said, it was more about the writer’s hatred for him. Todd Starnes Facebook page is an education in right wing nasty looniness. I must be living in some other country where people try to reach across divides and understand each other no matter what their differences. This is what Todd Starnes said that began the discussion:
President Obama is now our Race-Baiter in Chief. His remarks today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible. Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said. He actually said the outcome might have been different if Trayvon had been white.
Folks – we have reached a very dangerous point in this nation when the president of the united states begins to question the judicial system.”
That’s a deliberate misinterpretation of what the President said. He questioned the validity of one particular law, not the entire judicial system.
A kind of “balance” can be had it you also check out Newshounds. At least it’s somewhat better written and more understandable than Starnes’ site. (Why do I read this stuff, anyway?) It’s hard to know what the folks on Starnes’ site actually believe. What would they say if confronted in person about their words? Quite possibly, like the crowds of Obama haters at their rallies.
Another Rolling Stone article that shows the appalling effects of confrontations between people when gun carrying is permitted, especially confrontations between races and folks of different ages. Why does an older white guy pull a gun on a carful of black teenagers whose music, he thinks, is too loud? Would the result have been the same had the carful of teens been white?
Zimmerman is said to have helped the family in a car crash. It’s reported in various places on the internet. Is no one skeptical of this report besides me? The responding officers have reported this, but we’ve heard nothing from the family involved. Z was supposedly with another man & both helped. Is this related in any way to the guy here in Ohio who’s raising money so Z can replace his gun? Somehow, the story of this “rescue” doesn’t fit with the portrait of Z that came out in the trial. I can see him standing by and watching as his friend really helps pull people out of the overturned van, but I can’t see him physically participating. It doesn’t fit with the pudgy, flabby, out of shape guy we saw at the trial. Is it media manipulation to restore a better image? Again, we don’t have enough details to be sure – and that’s a problem all by itself. No amateur video. That’s a surprise. No video from the police. Could it be that his buddies in the police department are trying to clear his name by making some sort of “hero” out of him?
The story is reported on CBS news, Foxx News, and USA Today, but I have seen it nowhere else. I’m still suspicious, even though it also turned up at the LATimes . There are no pictures of him at the scene, though CBS says the “rescued” family identified him. George has friends on the Seminole County police department who reported the incident. They might have an interest in the rehabilitation of his reputation. Why did the rescued couple cancel the interview they were supposed to give? Knowing what we know about what happened in the missing Sunil Tripathi case, and the way the media works these days, I’m going to hang on to my doubts.