The GI in question is, of course, Bradley Manning, the young soldier charged with leaking the video of American gunships killing civilians in Iraq, and suspected of involvement in passing thousands of war-related secret documents to Wikileaks.
Manning has been quoted by friends (and the false friend who betrayed him to the authorities) about his motives for his actions. He has said quite plainly that he wanted to show the American people the true nature of the hideous Terror War operations being carried out around the world by their government -- "incredible things, awful things." One of his genuine friends said: "He wanted to do the right thing." Concerning the video of the gunship atrocity, the friend, who had been in contact with Manning, said: "He didn’t want to do this just to cause a stir…. He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again."
These motives are entirely clear, understandable, and imminently sane. In fact, Manning's actions reflect a mind far more healthy and stable than the diseased brains in charge of the War Machine, who compulsively, continually distort reality to an extreme, pathological degree in order to justify -- to others and, presumably, to themselves -- their own murderous, brutal depravity.
Yet it is Bradley Manning who must be examined to see if he is mentally "unstable." Yes, of course, that's it: he must be crazy. Why else would anyone -- especially an American (and a real American, not one of those with, you know, funny names or dark skin), especially a soldier -- want to challenge the authority and embarrass the benevolent leaders who protect us and care for us? To those pathetic wretches afflicted with the pathologies of power, Manning's actions -- courageous, noble, humane -- literally make no sense. Therefore, he must be mentally diseased.
There are also some practical considerations at play here, of course. If Manning were to be declared criminally insane, he could be locked up indefinitely, right away -- no need for a messy trial that might cause more embarrassments for our imperial minders.
In any case, it's good for the prosecutors -- or shall we say, the persecutors -- of Bradley Manning to have the "nuthouse option" in hand among the vast array of "legal" weaponry they are bringing to bear against the young man. And even if the matter proceeds to trial, these stories about Manning's "shaky mental health" will help immunize any unseemly testimony he might give in the dock. Official shoulders will merely shrug at new revelations: "Well, what do you expect? He's crazy, isn't he? He'll say anything." And the corporate media will doubtless shrug along with them.
As the Guardian notes, the Chinese elite -- following the model of the old Soviet Union in its later years -- take the same approach to troublemakers:
They snatched Liao Meizhi on her birthday, dragging her off the street and into a dirty blue van as others held back her husband.
It was only two months later, when a stranger knocked on the door, that her family learned where she had been taken. The man said he had just been discharged from a nearby mental hospital – and that Liao was being held there against her will. Her husband insists she has no psychiatric problems ...
Researchers believe she is among a growing number of people wrongly detained in psychiatric institutions after clashing with local officials. One activist has compiled a database of more than 500 such cases.
Some victims have been held for a decade. Those freed describe being forcibly treated – with electro-convulsive therapy and powerful anti-psychotic drugs – for health problems they never had.
"In the last few years you have been seeing more and more cases involving petitioners and whistle blowers – 'the awkward squad' – [often when] the authorities have tried other punishments or sanctions to make them stop and nothing else has worked," said Robin Munro, author of China's Psychiatric Inquisition and a research associate at SOAS law school. "Finally they really try to scare them to hell by putting them in mental hospitals."
Well, it worked for Jose Padilla, the American citizen snatched, without charges, on American soil, and held, without charges, for years, while being subjected to mind-breaking tortures for his alleged terrorist activities. The charges against him began with dramatically broadcast claims of nuclear terrorism aimed at the US and ended with the broken man's conviction on lesser charges of aiding foreign groups involved in foreign conflicts, far from American shores. Yet even here, the judge in the case declared that "there was no evidence linking [Padilla] to specific acts of terrorism anywhere or that their actions had resulted in death or injury to anyone" -- even as she handed the torture victim a 17-year prison sentence, as Winter Patriot reports.
Manning will perhaps escape the extremities of torture doled out to Padilla; he has at least been formally charged and has access to legal counsel -- something denied to Padilla for years during this torment. But make no mistake: the depraved minds in charge of our morally insane empire seek to break him, one way or another -- as an example to us all.
On Tuesday night, Barack Obama gave a speech from the Oval Office on Iraq that was almost as full of hideous, murderous lies as the speech on Iraq his predecessor gave in the same location more than seven years ago.
After mendaciously declaring an "end to the combat mission in Iraq" -- where almost 50,000 regular troops and a similar number of mercenaries still remain, carrying out the same missions they have been doing for years -- Obama delivered what was perhaps the most egregious, bitterly painful lie of the night:
"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility."
"We have met our responsibility!" No, Mister President, we have not. Not until many Americans of high degree stand in the dock for war crimes. Not until the United States pays hundreds of billions of dollars in unrestricted reparations to the people of Iraq for the rape of their country and the mass murder of their people. Not until the United States opens its borders to accept all those who have been and will be driven from Iraq by the savage ruin we have inflicted upon them, or in flight from the vicious thugs and sectarians we have loosed -- and empowered -- in the land. Not until you, Mister President, go down on your knees, in sackcloth and ashes, and proclaim a National of Day of Shame to be marked each year by lamentations, reparations and confessions of blood guilt for our crime against humanity in Iraq.
Then and only then, Mister President, can you say that America has begun -- in even the most limited, pathetic way -- to "meet its responsibility" for what it has done to Iraq. And unless you do this, Mister President -- and you never will -- you are just a lying, bloodsoaked apologist, accomplice and perpetrator of monstrous evil, like your predecessor and his minions -- many of whom, of course, are now your minions.
I really don't have anything else to say about this sickening spectacle -- which is being compounded in Britain, where I live, by the sight today of Tony Blair's murder-tainted mug plastered on the front of the main newspapers, as he makes the rounds pushing his new book, doling out "exclusive interviews" full of crocodile tears for the soldiers he had murdered in the war crime he committed and the "great suffering" of the Iraqi people which, goodness gracious, he never foresaw and feels, gosh, really bad about. All this laced with venomous comments about his former colleagues -- those who, like Gordon Brown, sold their souls to advance Blair's vision of aggressive war abroad and corporate rapine at home -- along with, of course, earnest protestations of his God-directed good intentions, and his unwavering belief that killing a million innocent human beings in Iraq was "the right thing to do." Pol Pot could not have been more blindly self-righteous than this wretched moral cretin.
I will say again what I have said here many, many times before: What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?
Words might fail me, but wise man William Blum has a few that put the "end of combat operations in Iraq" in their proper perspective. Let's give him the last word here [the ellipses are in the original text]:
No American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured ... the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up ... an army of young Islamic men went to Iraq to fight the American invaders; they left the country more militant, hardened by war, to spread across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia ... a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again.
II. Same Question, Same Answer
The piece below was written in the first few weeks after the invasion. Its scene is the same Oval Office where Barack Obama spoke last night. And the choice offered to the leader in this piece is the same one that Obama has been offered -- and his decision has been the same one taken here, not only for Iraq, but for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and many other places around the world.
The Karamazov Question Variation on a theme by Dostoevsky
A man appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office. He wasn't noticed at first, in the bustle around the desk of the president, where George W. Bush was preparing to announce to the world that the "decapitation raid" he had launched on Baghdad a few hours before was in fact the beginning of his long-planned, much-anticipated invasion of Iraq.
A woman fussed with the president's hair, which had been freshly cut for the television appearance. A make-up artist dabbed delicate touches of rouge on the president's cheeks. Another attendant fluttered in briefly to adjust the president's tie, which, like the $6,000 suit the president was wearing, had arrived that morning from a Chicago couturier. As for the president's $900 designer shoes – which, as a recent news story had pointed out playfully, were not only made by the same Italian craftsman who supplied Saddam Hussein with footwear, but were also the same size and make as those ordered by the Iraqi dictator – they had been carefully polished earlier by yet another aide, even though they would of course be out of sight during the broadcast.
In addition to all of this activity, the president's political advisors and speechwriters were also making last-minute adjustments to the brief speech, while giving the president pointers about his delivery: "Keep your gaze and your voice steady. Project firmness of purpose. Confidence, calmness, character. And short phrases, lightly punched. Don't worry, the breaks and stresses will be marked on the teleprompter."
It's little wonder that no one saw the man as he advanced slowly to the center of the room. He stood there silently, until the sense of his presence crept up on the others. One by one, they turned to look at him, this unauthorized figure, this living breach of protocol. He was, in almost every sense, non-descript. He wore a plain suit of indeterminate color; his features and his skin betrayed no particular race. He had no badge, no papers; how had he come to be here, where nothing is allowed that is not licensed by power?
Then, more astonishing, they saw his companion: a two-year-old girl standing by his side. A mass of tousled hair framed her face; a plain red dress covered her thin body. She too was silent, but not as still as the man. Instead, she turned her head this way and that, her eyes wide with curiosity, drawn especially by the bright television lights that shone on the president.
A Marine guard reached for his holster, but the man raised his hand, gently, and the guard's movement was arrested. The aides and attendants stepped back then stood rooted, as if stupefied, their ranks forming a path from the man at the room's center to the president's desk. The president, brilliant in the light, alone retained the freedom to move and speak. "Who are you?" he asked, rising from his chair. "What do you want?"
The man put his hand tenderly on the back of the girl's head and came forward with her. "I have a question for you, and an opportunity," the man replied. "I've heard it said that you are righteous, and wish to do good for the world."
"I am," said the president. "I wish only to do God's will, as He in His wisdom reveals it to me. In His will is the whole good of the world. What is your question, what is your opportunity? Be quick; I have mighty business at hand."
The man nodded. "If tonight you could guarantee the good of the world – peace and freedom, democracy and prosperity, now and forever; if tonight, you could relieve the suffering of all those who labor under tyranny and persecution, all those who groan in poverty and disease; if tonight, you could redeem the anguish of creation, past and future, now and forever; if tonight, you could guarantee such a universal reconciliation, by the simple expedient of taking this" – here the man suddenly produced a black pistol and held it out to the president – "and putting a bullet through the brain of this little one here, just her, no one else: would you do it? That is my question, this is your opportunity."
With firmness of purpose, the president grasped the pistol and walked around the desk. With confidence, calmness, and steady hand, he pressed the barrel to the girl's head and pulled the trigger. Her eyes, which had grown even wider with her smile at the approach of the nicely dressed man and his rosy cheeks, went black with blood in the instant shattering of her skull. Her body spun round from the force of the shot – once, twice, three times in all – then fell, her mutilated head flailing wildly, in a heap on the floor of the Oval Office.
At that moment, the man faded, like a dream, into nothingness. The aides and attendants, unfrozen, stepped back into their tasks. The room was again a whirl of activity, like a hive. The president – the dematerialized gun no longer in his hand – strode confidently back to his chair. He winked at a nearby aide and pumped his fist: "Feel good!" he exulted.
The speech went off without a hitch. The hair was perfect, the voice steady, the phrases short and lightly punched. No one saw the blood and bits of brain that clung to the president's $900 designer shoes; they were, of course, out of sight during the broadcast.
First published in The Moscow Times on April 20, 2003.
We hear a lot about barbarism and backwardness and bloodthirstiness among the nations of the Middle East, where violent religious extremists are praised and supported -- and often hold state power. A lot of this is hype and misinformation, of course, but sometimes it's all too true. From the Guardian:
An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday. ...
The soldier, who has only been identified as "Captain R", was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.
The manner of Iman's killing, and the revelation of a tape recording in which the captain is warned that she was just a child who was "scared to death", made the shooting one of the most controversial since the Palestinian intifada erupted five years ago even though hundreds of other children have also died.
... The military court cleared the soldier of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident. ...
The army's official account said that Iman was shot for crossing into a security zone carrying her schoolbag which soldiers feared might contain a bomb. It is still not known why the girl ventured into the area but witnesses described her as at least 100 yards from the military post which was in any case well protected.
A recording of radio exchanges between Capt R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child.
In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post's operations room and describes Iman as "a little girl" who was "scared to death". After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot. ....
Palestinian witnesses said they saw the captain shoot Iman twice in the head, walk away, turn back and fire a stream of bullets into her body.
On the tape, Capt R then "clarifies" to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the [security] zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."
At no point did the Israeli troops come under attack.
Well, at least they didn't stone her, did they? After all, Israel is a "bastion of Western civilization" in the midst of all those swarthy savages, isn't it? I mean, can there possibly be a clearer expression of civilization -- especially its ultra-modern Western version -- than Captain R's Aristotelian formulation? It bears repeating -- nay, memorizing, searing deeply into the brain and heart -- for it is clearly the guiding principle of all our glorious terror-fighting democracies today, not only plucky little Israel but also its patron and paymaster, the United States (and the lackey Limeys who trot along at Washington's heels):
Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed.
Even if it's a three-year-old.
Even if it -- this thing, this object, this Other, this creature, this piece of shit -- is a three-year-old.
Kill it. It needs to be killed. Kill it. You need to kill it. A three-year-old? Kill it. It needs to be killed.
Now that, my friends, is civilization.
UPDATE: Here's another shining example of modern-day, Anglospherical Western Civilization in action, this time in the great victorious imposition of civilized values on the grubby little darkies in Iraq. From the Guardian:
The British government has ordered an urgent inquiry into the disappearance of an injured Iraqi child who has not been seen since being placed in the care of UK military medics in 2003.
In one of the most bewildering episodes of the Iraq occupation, Memmon Salam al-Maliki, an 11-year-old boy, disappeared within days of being taken to a British base after he was wounded while playing with unexploded munitions. Although his injuries appeared not to be life-threatening, his family have not seen him since.
The British authorities told Memmon's father that they had sent his son to an American military hospital in Kuwait for further treatment, but have been unable to tell him its location, or provide information about his whereabouts or condition. The US authorities, however, insist they know nothing and say that in the absence of documentation they cannot even be sure he was transferred into their care.
... Memmon's family, meanwhile, say they are deeply distraught, confused and angry. They say there was no reason to believe the boy's injuries were life-threatening, and point out that he was still alive more than a week after the explosion. Until they have proof of his death, they say they must hold out hope that he could be alive.
Memmon was injured in April 2003, shortly after the invasion, while playing with abandoned, unexploded munitions near his Basra home. He suffered a serious eye injury and lost his left hand and several fingers from his right. He was picked up by a passing British convoy and taken to a nearby base for first aid. From there he was transferred to a British military field hospital at Shaibah. What happened next remains unclear.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Defence began to regard the family's appeals as claims for compensation, rather than requests for information about the boy's whereabouts. In its last communication with the family the MoD expressed its sympathy but denied all liability.
Ah yes, sympathy without liability: that's the civilized way. In any case, what's the big deal? It was just an 11-year-old object, wasn't it? It shouldn't have been messing with the holy hand grenades left behind by the defenders of Western Civilization when they were launching an illegal war of aggression on false pretenses (exactly as another stout defender of Western Civilization did 71 years ago this week). So it "disappeared." So what? Maybe it wandered into the wrong "zone" somewhere. Maybe it needed to be killed. Or cast aside. Or just plunged through the labyrinthine bowels of the war machine, lost for seven years while its family lives day after day, year after year, in agony.
That's just the price of civilization, you see. That's what makes us good and great and godly and benign. Thirteen years old, eleven years old, three years old -- they are the food and fuel of empire. It their blood -- their extreme, hellish suffering -- that makes us so special.
Never, ever let it be said that the Peacer Laureate's administration is not one of progressivistic enlightenment. I mean, just look at the sensitivity being displayed by the Obama administration toward its captives in its Guantanamo concentration camp. The Miami Herald reports:
Here's a new twist in the U.S. military's Islamic sensitivity effort in the prison camps for suspected terrorists at the Guantánamo Bay Navy base: Military medical staff are force-feeding a secret number of prisoners on hunger strike between dusk and dawn during the Muslim fasting holiday of Ramadan.
The prison camps spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Bradley Fagan: ... "Detainees who are fasting get their meals before dawn,'' he said Wednesday, disclosing only the hours of that day's feeding "in observance of the Ramadan schedule'' -- before 5:26 a.m. and after 7:28 p.m."
Now what about that, all you progressive critics of Obama? He only force-feeds those held for years in indefinite captivity after the sun goes down during Ramadan. What exquisite tact, what a remarkable sensitivity to human rights, eh? Why, they ought to give this guy a Nobel Peace Prize or something!
And it doesn't stop there. Obama is now force-feeding his Gitmo captives -- those that have been so maddened by years of captivity without charges that they have adopted this desperate and self-destructive method of protest, the only act of individual volition that's been left to them by their captors -- with some really tasty flavors of liquid pumped into their stomachs by force:
To demystify it a bit, Navy prison camp hospital workers some years back created a display of different flavored supplements and let visiting reporters handle a sample yellow rubber feeding tube. By last summer, staff were pointing to Butter Pecan flavored Ensure as popular with the chair-shackled captives. Flavor made no difference going down, one nurse explained, but a captive could taste it if he burped later.
Think of that! The Peacer is pumping tasty butter pecan delicacies into the guts of his prisoners in perpetuity in his still unclosed Guantanamo concentration camp! Sure, they can't really taste the concoction as it pours down the hard rubber tube jammed into their orifices -- but if they happen to burp later, they can savor that deep, rich flavor.
The Peace Laureate and his apologists – along with all the well-wadded neoconmen and their strange bedfellows, the liberal interventionists – may like to proclaim that the Iraq War is over (and we won!), but those actually fighting the war know that – as Cab Calloway liked to say of the stories you’re liable to read in the Bible – it ain’t necessarily so. From the Army Times: Combat brigades in Iraq under different name.
As the final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., entered Kuwait early Thursday, a different Stryker brigade remained in Iraq.
Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance.
So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades ...
There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff. ...
The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.
That is to say, they can do what combat troops throughout history have always been able to do: ride herd on a conquered people when they're down (or "provide security force assistance," in our demure modern parlance), and lash out with heavy power when the natives get restless.
Or to put it another way, what we have in Iraq now is 50,000+ combat troops doing what combat troops do. And forty tons of lipstick won't obscure the swinish nature of this continuing war crime.
In any case, the Peacer's war leader in the aggression-ravaged country says that we can always more amounts of combat troops back into Iraq to join the combat troops still there in the highly unlikely event that the "security forces" of the local client government should -- perish the thought -- prove to be inadequate to the task of making the country safe for Halliburton and Shell. As Jason Ditz reports (see original for links):
Though the Obama Administration’s claims that the war in Iraq is “over” is a myth to begin with, top US Commander in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno today detailed the possibility of US forces “returning” to Iraq in larger numbers.
Odierno insists this would “only” happen if Iraq’s security forces suffer a complete failure in the ability to provide security in Iraq. And while Odierno insists “we don’t see that happening,” the reality on the ground makes this all the more plausible.
Oh and of course, we will also keep our combat troops in Iraq if the client government we installed asks us too -- surely yet another astronomically unlikely scenario, but hey, you never know, do you?
Odierno added that he was certain the US would consider staying in Iraq beyond 2011 if asked by the Iraqi government. But clearly as the situation worsens on the ground the question of spinning the drawdown as the “end” of the war will transition more into the question of “reinvading” Iraq ....
The hell we have made in Iraq -- "between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums ... the killing of innocent people ... part of daily life," as Adil Shamoo aptly puts it -- is far from over. And if our militarist elites have their way, it will never end.
To such people, one can only echo Tolstoy's damning words:
"And do not say that you do what you do for the people: that is untrue. All the horrible things you do, you do for yourself, for your own mercenary, vainglorious, vengeful, personal reasons, so that you can live a bit longer in that state of corruption in which you live, and which seems to you a blessing."
To borrow once more the immortal words of As'ad AbuKhalil, "for those who care and do not care," my recent interview with Scott Horton at Antiwar Radio is now up.
As you can see from these comments (by "eppie") attached to the Antiwar post of the interview, my intellectual acumen really wowed the folks out there. To wit:
It wasn't necessarily 'luck' that brought us a 'second Pearl Harbor', but I wouldn't expect a pseudointellectual like Floyd to recognize that.
And it's perfectly obvious at this point that Obama has pivoted decisively towards war with Iran, and it's clear that the reported hiring of Kagan is perfectly in sync with that, with the process we've already seen where the Obama Regime pushes blame for what's wrong in Afghanistan and Iraq towards Iran, simultaneously making excuses for its failures, while building its bogus case for the next war based on lies ... but yeah, I recognize that it's too much to expect a great 'intellectual' like Floyd to be able to think ahead that far, or to use enough critical judgement to figure any of that out. Nope, it's important for 'illustrious intellectuals' to stay well behind the curve, commenting vociferously ON WHAT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.
And so it's not surprising to hear Floyd's facile reassurance that the US High Command could never get away with the nakedly massive and brutal tactics they used in Vietnam. Of course, it's perfectly obvious that once the war with Iran starts, all restraints will be cast aside throughout what we so euphemistically call the 'theater'. We'll see tactics of massive violence throughout the Bloody Arc from Somalia to Iran.
You say it's not dark yet, Floyd? My God, how dark do you want it to be before you say 'it's hellishly dark'? Ah yes, I get it. The 'intellectual' must always wait until it is far too late for portentious 'intellectual' pronouncements to do any good.
Yep, this irony-free individual has nailed me dead to rights. I'm ashamed that I've never once mentioned the bipartisan American elite's yearning -- and planning -- for a war with Iran (not even here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and dozens of other places where I utterly failed to deal with issue), nor have I ever spoken a single word about the massive, even hellish violence that could result from such an act of aggression. Too much silly-billy shilly-shallying with my Wittgenstein monographs, I reckon.
In any case, if you care (or do not care) to hear a rather ragged and weary pseudo-intellectual rambling on for half an hour -- sometimes about THINGS THAT HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED -- here's your chance.
These days, the powers-that-be don't go straight to the shiv in the back or the poison in the drink or the faked suicide or the tragic car accident on a dark road; no, today we are a bit more circumspect in taking down high-profile irritants of empire. The modern way is to begin the takedown with a smear campaign -- preferably some sort of ""moral turpitude" to sully their public image and discredit their entire cause.
And so on late Friday we had the announcement that Swedish authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on charges of rape and molestation. This was followed a few hours later -- after Wikileaks mounted a ferocious defense against the charges, and promised to carry on with its work regardless -- by a sudden decision to withdraw the warrant, with officials now saying the rape charge was unfounded -- although they said nothing about the lesser charge of molestation, leaving that vague but turpitudishly resonant charge hanging in the air for the moment.
This rigmarole is about as blatant a smear as can be imagined, coming as it does just after the Obama Administration has been caught out in an outright lie about Wikileaks attempts to redact its next release of classified war documents to ensure that no Afghans named in the papers will be put at risk. Not only has the Peace Laureate's minions been lying about Wikileaks' earnest efforts in the regard, but this deceit has been actively abetted by the New York Times, whose own reporter passed along Wikileaks' offer to the Pentagon -- then publicly dismissed the claim that Wikileaks had made the good-faith offer. (Glenn Greenwald has the story on this egregious -- if depressingly standard -- malefaction by the imperial servitors in the media.)
Wikileaks made the offer to ward off the criticism it received after the last release; i.e., that it had "blood on its hands" because Afghan insurgents would strike at any Afghans named in the documents as cooperating with the occupation forces. This "blood libel" was trumpeted all over the media by Obama officials -- while their own hands were absolutely pouring with the blood of innocent Afghans murdered at their command. The fact is, of course, that not a single case of such retribution has been reported; and the charge itself is based on the ludicrous assumption that the Taliban does not already know who is cooperating with the occupation forces. (In any case, many if not most Afghans cooperating with Americans do it quite openly, as part of the Afghan government, for example, or in liaising with military commanders in their region, or working for the occupation's vast base-building projects, distribution networks and reconstruction programs, etc.)
But this initial blood libel -- belched forth by such longtime butchers as Obama's favorite Bush Family factotum, Bob Gates -- did not really take hold. The revelations continued to pour forth from the 92,000 documents unveiled by Wikileaks last month -- such as this remarkable story by Pratap Chatterjee at TomDispatch, detailing the operations of the American death squad, Task Force 373, whose existence was revealed in the Wikileaks trove. These professional assassins are a key element of the Peace Laureate's strategy in Afghanistan -- and an example of a large-scale trend in the War Machine's ever-evolving "philosophy" of Terror War.
Indeed, many of the proponents of Obama's "surge" in assassination liken it -- favorably! -- to the murderous Phoenix Program in Vietnam directed by the CIA, which killed at least 20,000 people, by the Agency's own admission. (Other, more independent examinations put the the true death count of those slaughtered in these non-combat, "extrajudicial killings" at in the range of 40,000 to 70,000. For more on the Phoenix Program, and on Obama's grand "continuity" with imperial atrocities past, see here.) As Chatterjee notes:
President Obama has, by all accounts, expanded military intelligence gathering and “capture/kill” programs globally in tandem with an escalation of drone-strike operations by the CIA.
There are quite a few outspoken supporters of the “capture/kill” doctrine. Columbia University Professor Austin Long is one academic who has jumped on the F3EA bandwagon. Noting its similarity to the Phoenix assassination program, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the U.S. war in Vietnam (which he defends), he has called for a shrinking of the U.S. military “footprint” in Afghanistan to 13,000 Special Forces troops who would focus exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly assassination operations. “Phoenix suggests that intelligence coordination and the integration of intelligence with an action arm can have a powerful effect on even extremely large and capable armed groups,” he and his co-author William Rosenau wrote in a July 2009 Rand Institute monograph entitled” “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.”
Others are even more aggressively inclined. Lieutenant George Crawford, who retired from the position of “lead strategist” for the Special Forces Command to go work for Archimedes Global, Inc., a Washington consulting firm, has suggested that F3EA be replaced by one term: “Manhunting.” In a monograph published by the Joint Special Operations University in September 2009, “Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare,” Crawford spells out “how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security.”
This then is where we are. We have the President of the United States -- who has already openly proclaimed his "right" to assassinate anyone on earth, including American citizens, without the slightest due process of law, simply at his arbitrary command -- now feverishly expanding the use of death squads, whose stealthy night raids on sleeping villages have already killed a vast number of innocent civilians in Afghanistan (as the Wikileaks documents show). This same administration is now running "black ops," secret armies, proxy wars and other covert activities in more than 75 countries around the world. That is to say, the Obama Administration is now murdering people in their beds, fomenting bloody ethnic conflict, supporting and/or carrying out acts of terrorism, spreading corruption, assisting dictators, arming warlords, spreading hate and suffering all over the world -- and doing it knowingly, proudly. ("Evil in broad daylight" indeed, as Arthur Silber details here.)
And these are the moral paragons who have now turned their machinery of lies and smears against Wikileaks. For make no mistake; although the rape charges were manufactured in Sweden -- which, incidentally, is where some of Wikileaks' servers are located -- they emanate from the proud deathlords in Washington. Indeed, didn't we hear just a few weeks ago that the Peace Laureate's people had launched a campaign of pressuring foreign governments to put fetters on Assange and his organization? Now Sweden's center-right government -- no, Rush, Sweden is no longer the super-socialist fairyland of your nightmares -- has obviously hearkened to the master's voice.
But although this first foray has been rebuffed, it is certain that what we are seeing is the beginning of a concerted effort to destroy Assange as a public figure and thereby discredit the work of Wikileaks -- and by extension, the truth of its revelations.
And smearing, of course, is just the first step. If that doesn't work ... well, the avowed and openly proclaimed proponents of assassination certainly have other, more "prejudicial" methods at their disposal, nicht war?
John Pilger, writing before this latest assault, speaks strongly about the need to defend and support Wikileaks' mission. Of course, no one has spoken more eloquently, insightfully and to the point on this issue than Arthur Silber, whose multi-part series on the manifold implications of Wikileaks' efforts is absolutely essential reading. (See also here and here.)
I'd like to take this chance to say that I now believe that my initial response to Wikileaks' Afghan Papers release (see here) was almost entirely wrong. I fell into the all-too-common trap of discussing the issue in the terms that power itself had set: i.e, how the revelations could be spun by the War Machine for its advantage, instead of standing back and seeing the larger picture of just what such an act of defiance -- unstoppable due to its invisible dissemination via the internet -- really meant. Yet Silber wisely pointed out a salient fact of our time: that our warlords will use anything and everything -- and nothing at all -- to advance their agenda. The substance of any given story doesn't matter to them: they will spin it into a reason to continue the Terror War and the agenda of domination. But this basic truth somehow escaped me.
I seized upon the very first stories in the mainstream press about the leaks, noting -- with righteous fury -- that they told us nothing we had not already heard before. I was writing literally within a couple of hours of the first look at a gargantuan storehouse of 92,000 documents -- yet I was certain that I knew just what the trove contained, and what it meant. I downplayed their significance, tossing off the "savvy" observation that these were "no Pentagon Papers." But scant hours after this confident proclamation, there was the man behind the Pentagon Papers himself, Daniel Ellsberg, making precisely that comparison.
With a hasty, thoughtless rush to judgment -- and with a focus far too fixed on the "media narrative," and on the need to get my uniformed opinion out there -- I did what I now feel was a great disservice to an event that was in fact a significant blow against the empire; a significance confirmed by the empire's panicked reaction to it.
It is easy to sit on the sidelines and pontificate. Over the years, I've spoken out as forthrightly as I know how, but I'm no activist, I haven't risked much; all it has cost me is a few journalism gigs. But the people at Wikileaks are putting their liberties -- and their lives -- on the line, to take practical action to try to bring some of the horrors of the Terror War to an end. It's not a question of romanticizing any one organization, or any one man, seeing them as paragons whose every action or statement is sacrosanct; nobody needs that, and it never accomplishes anything. It just gets in the way of the task at hand.
But when people are putting everything on the line to stand up against the ravages of power -- against war, against aggression, against assassination and atrocity -- then I want to stand with those people, and stand by those people. As the old gospel song says, "I want to be there in that number."
In a week when the American establishment has been ludicrously lauding "the end" of the most decidedly unended war in Iraq, a new book takes us back to the very heart of darkness in this still ongoing war crime, which is nowhere near its end.
In the Guardian, novelist and Vietnam War veteran Edward Wilson reviews what he calls "the best book by far about the Iraq war": Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death, by Jim Frederick. The book tells the story of the horrific rape and multiple murder carried out one night by American soldiers in an Iraqi village in 2006. As Wilson puts it:
This isn't a book for armchair war junkies. It's about what Wilfred Owen called "the pity of war". The centre and the pity of Jim Frederick's account is the murder of the Janabis, an Iraqi family, and the rape of their 14-year-old daughter by four US soldiers. The most chilling aspect of the crime was the casual manner in which it was carried out. It was almost a jape – something to break the boredom of endless hours at a checkpoint. The soldiers did it because they had the power to do it; they didn't need a reason why – almost the invasion of Iraq in microcosm.
Fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's home in Iraq was a sturdy farmhouse full of light in an isolated area but only a few hundred yards from a U.S. traffic checkpoint [TCP.] After watching the tall, modestly-dressed girl working in her family's field, U.S. 101st Airborne Private James Barker, as he testified, decided to rape her. He recruited Green, who wanted to kill some civilian Iraqis and then their sergeant. In uniform, Barker became bold enough to barge into her home, leering at Abeer in front of a family which was helpless to stop U.S. troops in full gear. Off again to themselves, drinking whiskey which they would later say they got from the Iraqi Army, the eventually five U.S. soldiers reasoned that the family would be easy to kill and that nothing more substantial than her parents stood between them and Abeer. Sex was incidental; the goal, they all testify, was to hurt Iraqis. All but one of the five got out of uniform, putting on the dark Army "ninja" outfits that the Army had designed to keep them warm at night. Then they deserted their post, maneuvering through backyards to burst into the house in black clothes in full daylight.
While Specialist James Barker pinned a terrified Abeer down, and Cortez raped her, Green shoved her parents and six-year-old sister Hadeel at gunpoint into a room with him and shut the door. The mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and the father Qassim Hamza Raheem huddled in a corner trying to shield Hadeel, so Green killed the father, then the mother, then Hadeel, shooting the six-year-old point blank in the face with an AK47. He then re-entered the main room where she was, threw the AK47 down, raped Abeer, and standing up from doing it, put a pillow over her face and shot and killed her.
The soldiers used kerosene to set the lower part of her dead body on fire, and after they left, flames caught the house, bringing the family's relatives who saw the smoke then the bodies. They ran to the U.S. checkpoint for help, but two of the killers who were among the U.S. troops responding managed to blame the slaughter on "insurgents." Abeer's two younger brothers, surviving because they had been at school, came home to find their house burned, their family dead and blood and brains all over the walls. The killers meanwhile celebrated with a barbeque. Green bragged to anyone who would listen about what he had done, including the officer. Then Green, unpunished, was honorably discharged with a diagnosis of "antisocial psychiatric disorder."
To "justify" the crime -- or at least mitigate it -- the defense called numerous witnesses who revealed that inevitable mindset of counterinsurgency cited above:
The witnesses said that the family whom Green and the other four soldiers had slaughtered were killed because they were Iraqi; that combatants and non-combatanbts seemed indistinguishable; or as one said with what sounded like bewildered accusation, "they look just like me and you," they were "all out to get us."
In his review of Frederick's book, Wilson describes how this murderous mindset evolved:
There are three basic things to avoid in war: getting killed, being convicted of war crimes and having a commanding officer who thinks you are useless. B Company's ill-fated 1st Platoon avoided none of these. By the end of their deployment, 11 of 1st Platoon's 33 members were dead or in jail for murder. Why? According to their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kunk, it was all their fault: "You 1st Platoon are fucked up. Fucked up! Every single one of you!" Colonel Kunk was straight out of Catch-22. His officers referred to his control-freak outbursts as "getting Kunked" or being under the "Kunk gun". He seemed to have had every tact and empathy instinct removed: 1st Platoon's seven killed in action "were dead because of their failings", and the survivors were "quitters, crybabies and complainers". Such leadership is not unknown in the US military. Sometimes it works, but when it doesn't, the results can be bloody.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The platoon's best leaders were killed early on, and the remaining soldiers were a mixture of seething resentment, indiscipline and combat exhaustion. Young soldiers on a battlefield packed with civilians need constant and close supervision. This didn't happen.
The best of 1st Platoon's lost leaders was Sergeant Kenith Casica. A photo shows James Barker, one of the rapists, with his arms around gentle giant Casica. The expression on Barker's face as he hugs Casica is pure bliss. Barker has found a replacement for the father who died when he was 15, but soon afterwards the surrogate father is dead as well. Casica was openly friendly to the Iraqis. When he was teased as a "hadji hugger" he reminded his men that they were there to help the Iraqis. If Casica had lived, Abeer Janabi and her family would also be alive today.
But of course, Sgt. Casica was tragically deluded -- judging the system, and his superiors, by his own morality and intentions, perhaps. For the undeniable fact is that the American military was not in Iraq "to help the Iraqis." This has not only been confirmed by the evidence of what has actually happened -- a million innocent people killed, four million displaced, a society destroyed and plunged into a state of permanent terror, violence and extremist hatred - - but also by the historical record of the preparations for the war at the highest levels. The record shows that the intention of the war was to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein and through military force implant a more favorable government in what was considered a key strategic area for enforcing and extending American dominance over world affairs.
Halliburton Co. said on Wednesday that it has gotten a letter of intent from Shell Iraq Petroleum Development BV that would make Halliburton the project manager for developing the Majnoon field in southern Iraq.
... Iraq reached a deal with Shell in January to develop the mammoth oil field, along with partner Petronas, Malaysia's state-run oil company. Shell and Petronas plan to raise production in the field from the current 45,900 barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels per day over 10 years.
Halliburton shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.79 on Wednesday.
And of course even the stated reasons for starting the war had absolutely nothing to do with "helping the Iraqi people." These war-fomenting propaganda points centered removing the (non-existent) threat of Iraq's (non-existent) "weapons of mass destruction," and also framed the invasion as a response to the "terrorists who attacked us on 9/11," although Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, or with the forces involved in them.
But there they were, the soldiers thrown into a criminal enterprise by their commanders and their civilian chiefs. What else could such an operation spawn but more crime? Wilson continues:
Frederick acknowledges the adrenaline buzz of battle but does not attempt to gloss over war's inherently brutal and dehumanising nature. ... Inevitably, there are echoes of Vietnam, the most chilling of which comes from a 1st Platoon soldier: "You can't think of these people as people." The same dehumanisation that led to My Lai led to the murder of the Janabis. And in both wars, the soldiers who refused to tolerate dehumanisation were the real heroes ... Black Hearts is the best book by far about the Iraq war – a rare combination of cold truth and warm compassion.
Below is my first piece on these crimes, shortly after they came to light -- a look inside the blood-clouded, war-battered mind that birthed atrocity:
Did you see her and want her so bad, that young, forbidden fruit? Did she once smile nervously at the checkpoint, and you thought it was just for you? Did you come on strong the next time around, flash a little money maybe, or lay a syrupy line on her that you got from a phrasebook? What did she do – recoil? Look away? Look disgusted? Look blank? What did she do to bring on the big hurt from a big, tough man like you?
So you planned it all out. You cased the house, you reconnoitred. You got your buddies in on it – or were they in from the start, did they make a play too, were they too turned away by this haughty Arab bitch, this piece of trash from a shitheap town in a shitheap country filled with nothing but lazy, lying, murdering towelheads? Somebody like that thinks they're too good to give it up to you? You liberated her goddamned country, for Christ's sake, and now she won't even put out? That dog won't hunt. Hell no. You and your pals had to teach her a lesson. You had the power, you had the guns, you were Americans; who was going to stop you?
So you set up the mission. You knew how to do it. How many houses had you raided before? Dozens, hundreds – who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? You went in and got her, you did what you wanted to her. You shoved the other hajjis into the next room, put a gun on them, then got down to business. Did your buds take a turn? Everybody get a taste? Or maybe you'd already ruined her before they got a chance – beat her, tore her, pounded her into goo? Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? At some point, she just wasn't worth it anymore. No fight left in her. Laid there like a limp rag. Passed out maybe.
So you took out your gun, you took out your power, you took out the thing that makes you an American – a ralteal person, a human being --- instead of a walking piece of shit like everyone else in that godforsaken hellhole of a country, you took it out and you shot her in the head. One shot, clean kill. Did you say anything? Crack a joke? "Not tonight, honey, I've got a headache." Or did you just stand there and curse her, puking your self-righteous rage all over her dead body?
Who took charge after that? Was it you, or one of the others? It all started moving so fast, like a dream had been broken – or maybe this was the dream? Maybe it was all a dream, the whole fucking thing, from day one, all of it nothing, happening to nobody, going on nowhere, never. But the smell was real, you couldn't get away from it, that wet smell, meat and guts in a slime of blood. It filled your nose, filled up your whole head behind your face, it lined your throat, coated your skin. And if the smell was real, then the whole thing….
Move, fast, now! The hajjis in the other room: no witnesses, goddamn it! Who's this, the mother? Head shot, head shot, down. Who's this old bastard? Father, brother? Who cares? Head shot, head shot, in the face, down. And what's this? Oh for Christ's sake, how old is she? Six? Seven? Eight? What are you going to do, wait till she grows up and comes looking for your ass? Catch her, goddamn it, just shoot, shoot! Down.
Now burn the other one. Yeah, the bitch in the other room. Set her on fire and get the hell out. Report terrorist activity. The Sunni bastards in the area. Secure the perimeter. Get your fucking story straight and keep your fucking mouth shut. We're home free. Home free….
Is that how it went down? Does it still feel good? They got two of your brothers from the same platoon later, chopped off their heads. Reckon that was payback? Now the squealers are coming out. It's in the goddamned papers. The brass are going to throw you to the dogs. They can be big men, they can rape whole countries, kill tens of thousands of people -- but just let some grunt try to get a little on the retail side, and all hell breaks loose. It just ain't fair.
Well, buddy, what can we say? You should have your fun last year, when there wasn't an election. Nobody would have paid a blind bit of notice. And you should have called in an airstrike, not that half-assed burning job – nothing buries evidence like a 500-pound bomb.
The only thing now is to get a good lawyer, then hunker down. If you can string it out long enough, Bush's media brigades can start working the refs for you, muddying the waters, smearing your accusers, providing the proper context, invoking 9/11. And speaking of 9/11, isn't that what it's really all about? Isn't that what you were really doing when you raped that girl and shot her in the head and burned her body and killed her family – defending our country from those who attacked us on that tragic day? What you did was justice, damn it, not a crime! Just like the whole war.
But you're on your own this time, comprade; Uncle Rummy's done cut you loose, set you up for the old "bad apple" shuck-and-jive. Sure, he's personally signed direct orders that he knew would kill thousands of civilians every bit as innocent as that family you massacred -- but then, he's an Ivy League man, a corporate chieftain, a respected public servant, and you are just another hick from the sticks. He's home free; you're going all the way down.
Let this be a lesson to all the cannon fodder out there: don't get above your raising, don't emulate your betters. Law is for the lowly, not the great and good.
Buried many fathoms deep in an LA Times story about the latest American scolding of its unruly satrap in Bactria, we find this little nugget:
Some senior officials are saying privately that they fear their reliance on the Karzai administration could be the weakest link of their strategy to stabilize the country. Government corruption is seen as one of the most important factors driving ordinary Afghans to support the Taliban. ...
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the newly appointed head of the international forces in the country, has hired two experts known for their strong emphasis on fighting corruption, Frederick Kagan and Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
That's right; Frederick Kagan, the neocon architect of the Iraq "surge," the epitome of the armchair warriors who have sent thousands of human beings (including their fellow Americans) to needless death and plunged millions more into needless suffering, has been hired by the Peace Laureate Administration to serve as guide and counsel to the Laureate's newly appointed military supremo.
It goes without saying that Kagan -- yet another spawn of the Project for a New American Century, that gaggle of bloodthirsty Beltwayers who openly longed, in September 2000, for a "new Pearl Harbor" to scare the American public into supporting the group's hyper-militarist agenda -- is not an expert on "fighting corruption" or on Afghanistan, just as he knew nothing about Iraq. He is an "expert" on one topic only: churning out bullshit to justify war. And that is exactly why he has been hired by Obama and Petraeus.
Now Bush has drawn on AEI "scholar" Frederick Kagan to fashion his genuinely demented plan for a major escalation of the Iraq War: the famous "surge" that has dominated the shoptalk of the Beltway in the past month – the same month in which American soldiers were dying in near-record numbers while Bush cleared brush on his fake ranch. (The spread was purchased as a campaign prop in 1999 but is invariably referred to by media sycophants as his "beloved" homestead, as if he'd spent years of his life communing with the soil there, rather than the odd month now and then on vacation). While he dithered – consulting with his "brain trust" on the best way to ignore the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group and the clearly expressed will of the American people to bring the American occupation of Iraq to an end – more than 100 U.S. soldiers were shot to death or blown to pieces. An almost equivalent number of Iraqi civilians were murdered every day during December by the death squads of the factions brought to power by Bush and their sectarian opponents in the nationalist insurgency that arose in response to his invasion.
What the Kagan plan called for – and what Bush accepted in a slightly diluted form ... – is a re-invasion of Baghdad, with thousands of additional U.S. troops thrown into savage urban warfare in "critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods." (The latter of which are now practically non-existent, thanks to the virulent "ethnic cleansing" in the city by Bush-backed Shia militias and their Sunni counterparts). In the unintentionally revealing language that permeates so much of the war-porn generated by the well-fed, stay-at-home armchair generals of PNAC, AEI and the White House, Kagan – a young, portly academic with no expertise whatsoever in the Middle East – writes in the Washington Post that "the only 'surge' option that makes any sense is both long and large."
The mass-murdering blandishments that Kagan poured in Bush's ear demanded that already-overstrained American ground forces "accept longer tours for several years" (italics mine), as he stated in his AEI report, "Choosing Victory." The citizen-soldiers in National Guard units will also have to "accept increased deployments during this period," it seems. Meanwhile, Kagan will no doubt continue to discuss the finer points of "counterinsurgency" and "clearing neighborhoods" with congenial colleagues at Washington's finest restaurants – while also insisting, as he does in "Choosing Victory," that "the president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age."
In this plan – and the version of it Bush adopted for his "New Way Forward" – we see the hideous obscenity of the whole criminal enterprise laid bare. The bloodlust of physical cowards like Bush and Cheney and Kagan – their overpowering need to see other people kill and die – is now reaching genuinely irrational proportions. The war in Iraq was launched solely to serve the political ambitions, personal fortunes and radical ideologies of a small group of American elitists (and the delusions of grandeur of its little handmaiden in the UK). It had no larger strategic benefit or moral purpose, despite all the ever-shifting rhetoric to the contrary. It has not enhanced American security. It has not given the Iraqis a better life. It has not spread freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. It was not designed to do these things. But neither has it accomplished its true aim, as clearly defined by PNAC and others, of establishing a solid American military presence in Iraq as a launching pad for further expansion of the "single sustainable model of national success" and the juicy contracts that would follow.
And so we had Kagan's "surge," the sole aim of which was to perpetuate and entrench the American presence by an adroit manipulation of the then-prevailing media "narrative." What was seen as an appalling "failure" soon became a rousing "success" (or even "an extraordinary achievement," as the Peace Laureate himself put it) in the American media. Why? Because after the Americans helped its Shiite protégés finish their ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, and bribed other insurgents to change sides (for awhile), the horrific monthly death counts of murdered civilians dropped from the world-historical levels of 2006-2007 to the "merely" abominable levels that afflict Iraq today.
And so here, at last, is the true "mission accomplished": the establishment of a permanent American military presence in Iraq -- which was one of the stated aims of PNAC's 2000 blueprint for an expanded militarist empire. Although America's "combat role" in Iraq was declared over this month, 50,000 troops (and an equal number of Washington-paid privateers) remain in the conquered land, carrying out the same missions as before. Meanwhile, the State Department is now amassing its own armed force of up to 50,000, which will be a massive, permanent military presence, even if the Pentagon ever decides to move its troops elsewhere. (Which is highly unlikely, with the American-installed local leaders currently saying that US troops will be needed "at least" until 2020.)
No doubt Kagan's paymasters, Obama and Petraeus, are hoping they can pull off the same trick in Afghanistan, which at the moment is in roughly the same "narrative" frame as Iraq was in 2007: a five-alarm, full-scale FUBAR. And who knows? They may do it. If they can get the death counts down a bit -- and keep St. David the Unquestionable out there awing the ever-credulous media and political establishments -- perhaps they can entrench the American military presence, in all those “supersize me" bases they are now building, for years and years to come.
And once again, we are left to wonder: How many times, and in how many ways, must we be shown the true nature of the Obama Administration -- its absolute, steely determination to perpetuate and expand a militarist empire, no matter what it costs in human life abroad and internal rot at home -- before we can see and acknowledge the reality before us? So much sound and fury is expended on the hair-splitting differences (or the appearance of differences) between our political factions, but the fact remains is that they are all one party: the party of imperial power. As Andrew Bacevich noted recently:
For the last 50 years, the U.S. national security establishment has remained essentially unchanged. It is a worldwide military presence configured not to defend the nation but to project power around the globe. That standing force fosters a penchant for interventionism, whether overt or covert. ... The [bipartisan] consensus no longer makes sense, yet it persists—not because it produces effective policies but because of deeply ingrained habits, and because it serves a variety of purposes...
It produces profit for companies. It provides status prerogatives for the military. It justifies the budgets of the Defense Department and the intelligence community. It provides a sustainable source of funding for congressional campaigns. And it provides people with opportunities to participate in what they think are great historical events.
No one is allowed anywhere near the halls of power or the levers of influence if they do not subscribe to this consensus. Anyone who questions it is automatically relegated to the margins. Barack Obama would not have been nominated by his faction or elected president if he was not a zealous adherent of the imperial agenda, and all that it entails: endless war, erosion of liberty, endemic corruption, and economic injustice.
And that is why Obama is happy to employ figures from the Bush Regime, like David Petraeus (and his death-squad wingman, Stanley McChrystal), like Robert Gates, like the odious toady Frederick Kagan -- because he and they are part of the same system, the same agenda. This is the underlying reality of American politics today.