Archive for category War
Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.
The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.
In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”
Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.
President Obama says he’s sorry.
Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.
“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.
Media Matters gives us the short version: Liz Cheney: Get Over 2012 And Start Embracing Romneyism. Of course, it was President George W. Bush who originally said “We ought to make the pie higher.”
Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday un-apologetically recycles just about everything that voters rejected in 2012, and claims, without evidence, that “President Obama is the most radical man ever to occupy the Oval Office.”
This is from someone who was part of the Worst Administration Ever, that brought about truly radical right-wing policies from massive tax cuts for the rich to the torture of detainees and an outright war of aggression in Iraq. The Bush administration came close to wiping out the American middle class when the collapse of the financial sector caused U.S. households to lose about $16.4 trillion of net worth.
Jonathan Chait: Liz Cheney Is Even More Bonkers Than We Suspected
Even after four years of bug-eyed right-wing paranoia, Cheney’s op-ed stands out for its utter dearth of the slightest whiff of perspective or factual grounding.
This stuff is getting old. We had legitimate criticisms of the Bush administration’s actual radicalism, and Republicans dismissed it all as “Bush derangement syndrome.” Now prominent Republicans won’t stop ranting about their imaginary “radical” President Obama despite the fact he’s been center-right all along, even to the point of implementing Republican policies. At last year’s GOP convention Clint Eastwood presented a prime-time portrayal of the right-wing, yelling at an empty chair.
PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding (currently $1.2 million).
A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including PFC Manning and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan. Around 50 of the nominations are for organizations. Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II. Nobel Prize winners are usually announced in October.
As we near the tenth anniversary of the USA’s illegal invasion of Iraq, we still haven’t been told a credible reason why it happened. However, a new report by the “Costs of War” project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies totals up the costs of America’s dumbest war.
Among the group’s main findings:
- More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
- The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
- The $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
- The total of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
- Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
- Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
- The $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.
NOW they tell us we need to cut Social Security and Medicare because we cannot afford such extravagances.
Study: Iraq War Cost U.S. $2.2 Trillion, Claimed Nearly 200,000 Lives
Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study
Study: Iraq War Cost More Than $2 Trillion, Killed At Least 134,000 Civilians
UPDATE: Nobody in authority has ever credibly explained why the U.S. invaded Iraq. John Tirman offers his take:
In my view, the Bush regime’s motives were instead about getting rid of Saddam, transforming the Middle East, protecting Israel, and guaranteeing access to oil.
UPDATE: Aaron Belkin adds another possible reason for invading Iraq:
[Karl Rove] anticipated, correctly, that the war would divide the Democrats down the middle, and that the division would benefit the Bush administration politically. An appreciation of the administration’s political motivations deepens our understanding of why the debate over whether to go to war was so dishonest, in that senior officials’ accurate anticipation of a political windfall reinforced their insensitivity to evidence about risks and costs. The decision for war, in other words, was deeply political and deeply cynical. Explanations of the war that overlook the political dimension are incomplete.
Through his lawyer, 25-year-old Army Private Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to 10 charges that include possessing and wilfully communicating to an unauthorized person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. That covered the so-called “collateral murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq; some US diplomatic cables including one of the early WikiLeaks publications the Reykjavik cable; portions of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, some of the files on detainees in Guantanamo; and two intelligence memos.
These lesser charges each carry a two-year maximum sentence, committing PVT Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to “aiding the enemy,” which carries a life sentence. Manning’s court martial is expected to begin on June 3.
For the first time, Bradley Manning explained why he decided to reveal U.S. government secrets to the media.
Manning spoke for over an hour as he read from a 35-page document detailing and explaining his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he “believed, and still believe… are some of the most significant documents of our time.”
…Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to “spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” he said, and “cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.” Manning said he was in sound mind when he leaked, and did so deliberately, regardless of the legal circumstances.
Remarkably, Manning said he first tried to take his information to the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico, before contacting WikiLeaks.
…He said he took “full responsibility” for a decision that will likely land him in prison for the next 20 years — and possibly the rest of his life.
Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.
This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.
Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged Friday he chose to undertake.
This is where we are today. We only learn about government crimes when someone in the know is courageous enough to risk torture and life imprisonment in order to reveal the truth. Consider how thousands of people had access to the same information, but only Bradley Manning did the right thing. By the way, nothing he gave to Wikileaks damaged operational security. The court-martial judge will determine whether publishing evidence of un-prosecuted war crimes amounts to “aiding the enemy.”
Wikileaks Obtains Video of 2007 War Crime (April 5, 2010)
Another horrifying round of attacks on the besieged people of Gaza, just ahead of the Israeli elections. Pam Bailey on AlterNet:
The right to self-defense (most often through “retaliation”) is enshrined in international law and was America’s own first response after it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Why was it ethical for the U.S., but not for Palestinians?
As one young Gazan wrote on Facebook: “When you see your family killed by Israeli soldiers in front of your eyes and you see your house demolished in front of you, you feel so angry that you want to fight back. But once you fight back, you are called a terrorist and the aggressor becomes the victim who has the right of defense.”
Israel started it, again. And the blockade of Gaza continues.
Israel does not accept Palestine’s right to exist, even though it is constantly demanding that everyone, including the displaced and occupied Palestinians, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: The ‘both-sides-are-awful’ dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government. “The temptation to wash one’s hands of the whole conflict is understandable, but US support of Israel is a central force driving it all.”
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began.
That conclusion doesn’t come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, and acquired by Danger Room. According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military — but not all — the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban’s momentum.
…[The] suppressive force provided by the surge did not tamp down insurgent activity to levels seen in 2009, when Afghanistan looked sufficiently dire that a bipartisan consensus of Washington policymakers came to believe that a surge was necessary.
Here is what the Afghanistan “surge” accomplished. It provided the Taliban with more opportunities to attack U.S. and NATO forces.
I’m not going to say that I was real close to my dad when he came back from WWII. If he were alive today, it’s possible I could be, but he never talked about it, mostly drank too much and died early.
My wonderful mother was the breadwinner in our family and kept an amazingly decent roof over our heads, even though she never had a very good job and it has always been harder for women to succeed. This was the fifties and sixties in America.
My mother was exceptional though. She worked two jobs, and landed us a house on the hill with her skills at shear frugality and hard work.
Compare any of this with Romney’s plight:
President Obama gave a great speech at the United Nations General Assembly this morning. The rest of the world wants to believe that America has not abandoned its founding principles, and our President says we have not. If only his actions conformed to the Constitution, I’d be happy to support him.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.
We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.
American foreign policy ought to be on the side of the 99 Percent. Similarly, our government ought to stand up for the 99 Percent of Americans.
Citing Nelson Mandela, President Obama received loud applause.
And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
And he offered this comment on the limits of American power:
Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.
He implicitly rejected the neocon view of a world divided, but failed to address the violence against innocent civilians that is perpetrated by the USA:
A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
…We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.
President Obama concluded (as he began) by citing the example of Chris Stevens, our murdered ambassador to Libya.
And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.
They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.
The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
In his first major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today laid out a vision for international development steeped in Tea Party ideology… Romney …threw some red meat at his base by ticking off unfavorable developments currently faced by the U.S. in the Muslim world, listing among them the fact that “the president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim brotherhood.”
…A foreign policy expert texted me a single word: “Thud.”
The Romney-Ryan campaign achieved a new low on September 11. Willard (“Mitt”) Romney attempted to suggest that President Obama is in league with Arab terrorists, and implied that “American values” include bigotry and hatred based on religious differences. He left the press conference with a self-satisfied smirk reminiscent of the last Republican president. Indeed, Romney’s irresponsible reaction to violence in Libya and Egypt is the surest indication that he plans to repeat the mistakes of George W. Bush.
Because Romney has had almost nothing to say about foreign policy, not enough attention has been focused on who he would appoint to key positions in the White House, Pentagon, and State Department. Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. John Bolton and other rabid neocons head the list.
Bolton is one of eight Romney advisers who signed letters drafted by the Project for a New American Century, an influential neoconservative advocacy group founded in the 1990s, urging the Clinton and Bush administrations to attack Iraq. PNAC founding member Paula Dobriansky, leading advocate of Bush’s ill-fated “freedom agenda” as an official in the State Department, recently joined the Romney campaign full time. Another PNAC founder, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009, wrote the foreword to the Romney campaign’s foreign policy white paper, which was titled, perhaps not coincidentally, “An American Century.” Cohen was a tutor to Bush administration neocons. Following 9/11, he dubbed the war on terror “World War IV,” arguing that Iraq, being an “obvious candidate, having not only helped Al Qaeda, but…developed weapons of mass destruction,” should be its center. In 2009 Cohen urged the Obama administration to “actively seek the overthrow” of Iran’s government.
…Romney’s team is notable for including Bush aides tarnished by the Iraq fiasco: Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush.
There is plenty to criticize in President Obama’s foreign policy, including his conduct of the war in Afghanistan, the failure to close Guantanamo and end preventive detention, the out-of-control drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, the Libya intervention without congressional authorization, and his attempt to retain military bases in Iraq. However, short of starting a war with Iran, it would be hard to imagine how Obama could do as badly as Bush. America’s allies around the world (with the possible exception of Netanyahu’s Israel) see the Obama administration as an improvement. Our relations with Russia and China have gotten better, too.
Far from creating his own crisis as Bush did, Obama was hit with one, the Arab Spring. We can’t know how all that will turn out, and things certainly look bleak at this moment in Egypt and Libya. But Obama did the only things that could be done at the time. Can you imagine the United States siding with Hosni Mubarak against those people in Tahrir Square, or permitting the pre-advertised massacre of thousands in Benghazi?
The world is the world. Obama can’t wave a wand at it. But he can do what he has done, which is to run a sober and responsible foreign policy, not one based on theories developed in think-tank seminars underwritten by some hawkish Israeli billionaire. Obama’s approach to foreign policy is the one that has guided this country at its best moments (which have not, alas, been as frequent as we’d like), and it’s the foreign policy most Americans want.
UPDATE: Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) says President Obama “is apologizing because he didn’t like America.” With friends like Akin, Romney doesn’t need enemies.
UPDATE: Bob Cesca: Mitt Romney Kneejerks Into Another Colossal Blunder (Given an opportunity to look presidential, Romney decided to channel Rush Limbaugh instead)