March of the Imperial Senators

Kelley Vlahos of The American Conservative was kind enough to quote me a number of times in her latest article on the war in Iraq and the frenzied desire by many of our politicians, generals and pundits not just for more war, but for the need to rewrite the ignoble histories of the wars we have already fought.

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March of the Imperial Senators
John McCain and Lindsey Graham try to rewrite history to vindicate the Iraq war, and blame Obama for ISIS.

Revisionist history is en vogue among Republicans this summer.

As Ramadi falls, hawks offer comfort in the argument that at least Iraq’s current troubles with ISIS can all be laid at President Obama’s feet. In the face of well-documented Iraqi reality, they are reviving the stale Vietnam-era trope to say that—if only the United States had the conviction to stay a little longer—it would have “won.”

The reviser-in-chief is none other than Sen. John McCain. McCain was Washington’s greatest advocate for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and he hated that the U.S. ever left. No doubt he dislikes President Obama, who thwarted the elder man’s bid for the White House in 2008, even more.

Just last week he told reporters that President Obama’s strategy for curbing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was “one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history.” McCain’s widely known and tolerated flair for the dramatic now places an “episode” that most Americans could not rightly pin down, much less explain without the aid of Google, alongside slavery, the Trail of Tears, the federal crackdown on World War I-era Bonus Marchers, and the entire Vietnam War.
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“US is arms factory for oppressive regimes, revolutionary movements”

My comments on the President’s authorization for war in Iraq and Syria:

From RT.com

The US provides weapons to organizations bent on continuing wars thus it’s not surprising that this leads to escalation of conflicts instead of resolving them, Matthew Hoh, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, told RT.

RT: President Obama now wants ground troops to fight ISIS. Is this a tacit acceptance that airstrikes weren’t effective?

Matthew Hoh: Yes, it’s the acknowledgement that airstrikes were not successful. I think this is something that most of us who were skeptical of the American reentry into the Iraqi civil war and American entry into the Syrian civil war knew. It was just a matter of time before the president would buckle under and commit to putting American troops back into Iraq and into Syria.

READ MORE: Obama asks for ‘3yrs, no territorial limits’ formal war authority to target ISIS

RT: Obama says authorization for use of military force in the fight against Islamic State is not a request for another ground war. What do you make of that?

MH: I don’t believe that or understand why anyone would believe that. If you look at American policy over the last 15 years, particularly since 9/11 you see one mischaracterization, one blunder after another, all mischaracterized as an attempt to install democracy, to promote stability and peace. And what has occurred throughout the Middle East as a result of American intervention has been more chaos, more bloodshed and more instability. This notion that somehow there is not going to be a ground war is belied by this authorization itself. In that authorization it says there will be no enduring ground troops meaning that there will be no permanent ground troops. And the president can put as many troops into Iraq, into Syria and into any other places where he deems Islamic State is operating with the caveat that they are temporary and not permanent. So really it’s just semantics to hide the fact that the United States is going to find itself again in the Middle Eastern civil wars.

RT: The US President also said he wants to be able to use limited ground troops in certain situations and for a limited time. What does that actually mean?

MH: It means whatever he wants it to mean. Just six months ago he was saying there would be no ground troops and slowly as this war has accelerated and escalated, as airstrikes have not worked, as Islamic State has just gained in strength because of the Americans getting involved in the conflict in basically endorsing the Islamic State’s propaganda, its purpose in being. You’ve seen the administration have to commit now to putting in ground troops. Go back to when the president authorized bombing Syria just 4-5 months ago and he utilized Yemen as a model of success that we were going to base our operations in Iraq and Syria on the Yemeni model which was successful. Of course since then the Yemeni government has been overthrown, the United States has had to evacuate its embassy from Yemen and overall the entire country is in chaos. So you saw how quickly that model fell apart and it never had any semblance of reality toward success.

RT: Islamic State is not only limited to Iraq and Syria – it also has active members in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Can you imagine a situation where the US moves against them too?

MH: I don’t believe so. I don’t believe the US has the interest of putting ground troops, mass amounts of ground troops, certainly it will use drones and special operation forces in those countries. But I do think you’ll see the US limiting its ground troops, in the sense of conventional ground troops, battalions and brigades, soldiers, tanks, trucks, those kinds of things to Iraq and Syria.

RT: Well, talking about Yemen, the US has been sending arms to the country to fight terrorism. Now the reports say the equipment is in the hands of rebels. Is it surprising?

MH: It’s not surprising. The US is the largest arms merchant in the world. By some estimates it provides three quarters of the world’s arms. So we are a factory for other oppressive regimes or for these revolutionary movements. And of course when the regimes are overthrown or these movements fail or become scattered, or become more radical, a case in point is what happened in the 1990s in Afghanistan. You have the US providing munitions, weapons, arms to all sorts of organizations that are bent on continuing the wars. It’s not surprising that our weapons we provide to Yemen have ended up in the wrong hands or in hands that are choosing to escalate their conflict further.

RT: Can this policy help to bring peace eventually?

MH: No, it’s certainly not. This is adding kerosene to burning fires. This is a policy that is fraught with moral negligence as well as practical inconsideration. Where this policy has worked where the United States has sent mass amounts of weapons to an organization or to a government or to what we describe as rebel groups that the result has been peace and stability? Almost always it results in greater civil wars, longer escalations. And now we see the US is looking to send arms to Ukraine which will only serve to solidify the regime in Kiev but will do nothing to promote any type of peace or stability or long-term solutions in that conflict.

RT: Why do they keep on trying to resolve various crises around the world by sending arms to then?

MH: I think there are a number of reasons. One of course is the money. This provides billions of dollars every year to the American arms industry. That arms industry, which by some estimates is the second largest export the US has after agriculture, provides a lot of campaign donations for politicians. It provides a lot of support for academics, intellectuals, and people in think-tanks to come up with policies, to promote American intervention abroad which then requires more arms purchases for US military use or sold to other client states… If we are selling arms to one country that means that country is on our side. And for many in Washington DC who simply view the worldin an us-versus-them approach, it’s a way to keep the score of whether or not a certain country is on our side, is a client state, or is opposed to us. So there are a number of reasons for this, none of which serve to promote any form of stability or peace in the world.

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Thoughts on Yemen and the Middle East

Here are some of my thoughts on Yemen and our foreign policy in general in the Middle East:

Institute for Public Accuracy:

“You don’t have to be an expert on Yemen, the Middle East, Islam or foreign policy in general to realize that what is occurring in Yemen is similar to what is occurring throughout the Greater Middle East. Decades of American interventionist policy, that can be at best be described as inept meddling, with roots going back to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and the establishment of the Shah’s authoritarian police state, have created, fostered and sustained sectarian, ethnic and religious conflicts that have birthed repressive regimes, extremist terror groups and genocidal civil wars throughout the Middle East. Yemen is one more glaring example of failed American policy in the Middle East, perhaps all the more tragic and absurd as Yemen was cited as an example of success by President Obama when he authorized his seventh bombing of a Muslim nation, Syria, last year.”

Inter Press News Service:

“I don’t know if Yemen will split in two or not. [But] I believe the greater fear is that Yemen descends into mass chaos with violence among many factions as we are seeing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, all nations that have been the recipient of interventionist U.S. foreign policy.”

“Based upon the results from decades of U.S. influence in trying to pick winners and losers in these countries or continuing to play the absurd geopolitical game of backing one repressive theocracy, Saudi Arabia, against another, Iran, in proxy wars, the best thing for the Yemenis is for the Americans not to meddle or to try and pick one side against the other.”

American foreign policy in the Middle East, he said, can already be labeled a disaster, most especially for the people of the Middle East.

“The only beneficiaries of American policy in the Middle East have been extremist groups, which take advantage of the war, the cycles of violence and hate, to recruit and fulfill their message and propaganda, and American and Western arms companies that are seeing increased profits each year,” said Hoh, who has served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. embassy teams in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Presidential War Lies, Standing Ovations and the Great Waste of Everything

From yesterday’s Huffington Post:

“In war, truth is the first casualty.”
— Aeschylus 525-456 BC

As reported by the BBC this month, the Taliban have rejected an offer by the newly installed President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, of Cabinet positions and governorships in three Afghan provinces. The provinces include Helmand and Kandahar, where thousands of American and Western troops have been killed and wounded, particularly since 2009 when President Obama chose to escalate the war in Afghanistan rather than seeking a political solution to end the war.

Five years on and Afghan civilian and security force casualties are at record highs, the Taliban is larger and stronger than it has been at any point since 2001, government and police corruption is massively untamed, and Afghans last year were subjected to their third incredibly fraudulent national election in five years. In fact, the only thing going well for anyone in Afghanistan, besides the Taliban and those on the take of Western foreign aid, are the bumper narcotics crops, which each year produce historic yields.

The Taliban, having been offered power in their home region, have spurned any opportunities for reconciliation and compromise. “Moderates” within the Taliban, whom we could have negotiated with in 2008 and 2009 prior to President Obama’s escalation of the war, have been proven wrong and largely eliminated. The hard-line elements of the Taliban, having seen the Taliban weather the full force of the United States of America, see history as repeating itself or, at the very least, rhyming. Like the departure of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989, it is now just a question of time before the foreign backed regime in Kabul collapses. Time, among many other factors, was always on the side of the Afghan insurgents.
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Martin Luther King: Beyond Vietnam

April 4, 1967

New York City

 

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, some of the most distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it’s always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit.

I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.
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I Stand With Charlie Hebdo, But I Also Stand With The Victims Of Our Bombs

From yesterday’s Huffington Post:

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Two young boys, whose names I do not know, killed by American bombs in Harem, Syria, in November, 2014. It is rare to see such images in American media.

The killings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are abhorrent. But let us not forget the daily abhorrence of our wars in the Muslim World, wars that have seen over a million Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Syrians and Yemenis killed and millions more wounded and maimed physically and psychologically, while millions of men, women and children endure another cold winter, homeless and hungry.

So as we question and fume, shocked and aggrieved at the hateful killing of journalists and satirists, police officers and a janitor, we should not be so insensible as to not acknowledge the horrid cost we have exacted on the populations of the Greater Middle East in pursuit of democracy, freedom and liberty; campaigns undertaken in the name of our values that are executed in the very manner as those murderers in Paris on Wednesday proselytized and witnessed their faith as Muslims.

We must recognize the extremists and war-mongerers in our societies, who like the members of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, want war and require war to justify their own cosmic, religious and Manichean world views, or profit from the bounty of being an empire that has over 700 military bases around the world and sells nearly three-quarters of the world’s arms.

For to believe that the attack in Paris was a tragedy singularly about a cartoon or as an event solely to be defined as an assault on freedom of expression, is to be daft and incongruent with the history and reality of American and Western policy in the Middle East. For decades, American and Western policy, through action and subsequent backlash, has provided the world and, most sordidly, Muslims with such Frankensteins as the Saudi Royal Family, the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and, now, the Islamic State. What played out and ended with the sickening execution of a wounded policeman on a Paris sidewalk is a direct outgrowth of American and Western policies to try and manipulate sects, tribes, ethnicities and religions in the Middle East to preserve or remove regimes in an absurd and defiled real life version of the board game Risk. It is a game that makes sense to very few outside of Washington, DC and London, but serves to validate and enrich a $1 trillion dollar a year US national security and intelligence industry, while making composite and real the propaganda and recruitment fantasies of al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist groups that are parasites of war.

So I stand with Charlie, but I also stand with all those millions of voiceless victims of our wars and our policies in the Middle East. To do other, to condemn the killings of innocents in our lands, without offering the same condemnation of our government’s killings in their lands, is not just a cruel blindness to the human suffering inflicted by our own machines of war and their munitions; but it is unwise, because what we saw this week in Paris is just one other moment in the ever-continuing, never-ending cycle of violence between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Those in the West who proclaim the defense of democracy, freedom and liberty as justification for our bombings in the Middle East are of the same ilk, cloth and substance as those whose corrupted interpretations of Islam leads to slaughter on Western streets and genocide in Muslim lands. Stand with Charlie Hebdo, stand with our Muslim brothers, sisters and their children, and stand against the purveyors of hate and war in all societies.

Whistleblower Panel in Oslo with Daniel Ellsberg

A panel I took part on while I was in Oslo last month. Daniel Ellsberg skyped in and I joined Coleen Rowley, Kirk Wiebe and Norman Solomon, as well as Arne Ruth, a very preeminent Swedish journalist. Only the first few moments are in Norwegian 🙂