Isn’t it ironic how the architects and supporters of the illegal US invasion of Iraq are screaming the loudest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
One of the most laughable denunciations came from David Frum, the neoconservative Bush speechwriter who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” and till this day remains confident in the rightness of the Iraq war.
But the hypocrisy isn’t limited to neocons.
Lecturing Russia about its invasion of Crimea on Sunday’s Meet the Press, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “[Y]ou just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”
I agree. But where was this sentiment when Kerry, as a Senator in 2002, voted to authorize use of force against Iraq based on a “phony pretext”? Before you start pointing to his many criticisms of the Bush administration’s “shock and awe”, keep in mind that Kerry later admitted that in hindsight he would still vote yes.
So really, the only thing praiseworthy about Kerry’s condemnation of Russia is his ability to say it with a straight face.
In case we needed anymore proof that David Gregory, host of Meet the Press, is a hack rather than a journalist, it’s worth noting that he responded to Kerry’s brazen hypocrisy by demanding to know if the US was prepared to hit back at Russia with a “military option.”
It’s an embarrassment that no one in the mainstream media, which unquestioningly cheerled the Iraq war, has challenged Kerry on this.
At a news conference during his visit to Ukraine yesterday, Kerry proclaimed: “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st-century, G-8, major-nation behavior.”
Again, what about Iraq? Unless I’m mistaken, the US invaded Iraq in the 21st century to do exactly that. Still, the New York Times said nothing about this blatant contradiction in its reporting.
Keep in mind that the Iraq war—which killed upwards of a million Iraqis, leaving in its wake 5 million orphans, 2 million widows and 4.5 million refugees—isn’t over, at least not for Iraqis.
As I write this, the US-installed Iraqi government is slaughtering civilians in Fallujah, a crime that has been largely ignored in the establishment press. But who cares about US-backed atrocities in Iraq when there is an anti-US superpower to vilify, right?
Meanwhile, President Obama—a man who extra judicially executes people abroad (including American citizens) based on secret evidence—has accused Russia of violating international law.
“When it comes to preserving the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked, we should be able to come up with a unified position,” said Obama on Monday.
If only he would preserve that principle in his own foreign policy, which just this morning resulted in a US drone strike that killed three “suspected militants” as they rode in a car in Yemen. (Media outlets should be required to add a disclaimer next to that phrase to make it clear to their readers that Obama labels all military-age males in a strike zone “suspected militants”)
Drone strike supporters on twitter have been quick to criticize my comparison between Obama’s drone policy and Russia in Ukraine. But war crimes are war crimes, whether they take the form of an on-the-ground or sky invasion.
More importantly, the glaring contrast between the media’s obsession with Ukraine versus its collective apathy toward nations that have their sovereignty routinely violated by the US war machine (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, etc.) reveals a colossal double standard.
On Monday, even the local evening news in my area was talking about Ukraine. But not a word was said about the US drone strike that killed three Yemenis, including a man sleeping near his car, that very morning.
That’s because outrage over Russia has nothing to do with genuine concern about violations of international law and everything to do with maintaining US hegemony.
Manning, 25, says she wants to live as a woman and receive hormone replacement therapy and she’ll go to court if needed.
The musician Lou Reed has died at the age of 71. A legend of the New York rock scene, Reed co-founded The Velvet Underground before going on to a prolific solo career. In his later years, he took part in civil rights and environmental activism along with his wife, the musician and artist Laurie Anderson. In March 2008 on the eve of the 5th anniversary of the U.S.-led Iraq invasion, he performed his song about a Vietnam veteran, “Xmas in February,” as well as “Voices of Freedom” at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn at a benefit for Iraq Veterans Against the War and United For Peace and Justice. He was joined on stage by Laurie Anderson, Moby and other musicians.
The punishment, considered unprecedented in modern Marine Corps history, came after an insurgent attack in Afghanistan in 2012 killed two Marines and destroyed six fighter jets.
Overwhelming public opposition to bombing Syria has been repeatedly attributed to the Iraq war by various media outlets. They’ve even come up with clever terms, like “Iraq fatigue” and “Iraq syndrome”, to describe the supposed illness that afflicts an overwhelming majority of the American public—because, it turns out, not wanting to drop bombs on people is a horrific affliction that must be eradicated.
William Galston of the Brookings Institute took to the Wall Street Journal to scold the illness for getting in the way of saving the Syrian people. ”Little more than a decade after the Vietnam syndrome was laid to rest, an Iraq syndrome has replaced it,” writes Galston. “The question is whether this new sentiment will dominate policy—whether acting for the wrong reasons in Iraq will prevent us from acting for the right reasons in Syria.”
People have to be asking themselves: Why is it that the US is standing nearly alone in so aggressively pushing for the bombing of Syria, while so many countries which are far more democratic and “humanitarian” than the US are so resistant to turning the Syrian civil war into a global military theater?
Is it because the US is uniquely more concerned than every other country in the world about the loss of human life and oppression currently happening in Syria? Does the US government — including the likes of John Boehner and John McCain, in addition to Obama — particularly care more about the lives of Arab people than every other nation in the world?
Or is it because the US is actually unique amongst the world’s nations of today in being particularly militaristic and expansionist? Is it because the US is unique amongst the world’s nations for harboring an peerless behemoth of a military-industrial complex? [The U.S. currently accounts for three-quarters of the world’s weapons market].
Is it because the US is unique in the world in already being actively militarily engaged in a number of Middle Eastern countries [via either drone or human forces], such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and therefore feels compelled to dig its military heels even deeper into the regions various relations?
Why does the US prop up some despotic regimes in the Middle East [Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Mubarak] but call for the violent overthrow of others, more or less according to whether or not that nation happens to be an ally of the US at that moment?
If the US really cared about innocent people being victimized by the use of chemical weapons, why doesn’t it offer free health care and reparations to all the countless Iraqi people who were exposed to depleted uranium and white phosphorous during the US’s recent crime against humanity committed in that country?
Or even the people [and ecosystems] of Vietnam who were poisoned by the millions by the US’s widespread use of Agent Orange and Napalm, and who never received even a DIME in reparations from the US for the war crimes committed there?
(Above photo) “Napalm Girl,” taken in 1972 by AP photographer Nick Ut during the Vietnam War.
HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION may be the public justification for the Obama administration’s drive to attack Syria, but there’s a more cynical purpose behind the façade.
Writing in the August 24 New York Times, Edward Luttwack, a military strategist with a long career at the highest levels of the foreign policy establishment, argued that a “prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests.”
Translation: The longer that the combatants in Syria’s bloody civil war—the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad on one side, and rebel fighters on the other—carry on killing one another, the better for the U.S.
"Maintaining a stalemate should be America’s objective," Luttwack wrote. "And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad’s forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning. This strategy actually approximates the Obama administration’s policy so far."
Remember that the next time you hear Barack Obama or anyone else claiming that the U.S. and other Western governments have to punish Assad’s government for using chemical weapons for the sake of the Syrian people. Washington’s humanitarian concerns are a veneer covering a strategy that Luttwack correctly characterized as prolonging a military conflict, with an inevitable cost of more lives lost.
During the Vietnam War, a U.S. Army officer declared: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Today in Syria, the terms are reversed: The U.S. hopes to “save” the country by not allowing Assad’s regime to crush its opponents—in order to destroy it through a protracted civil war where no side wins.
It should already be clear that the military strike Obama and others are pressing for isn’t about saving civilian lives. If that were the case, the U.S. wouldn’t have waited until more than 100,000 people were dead—the toll since the beginning of the Syrian uprising two and a half years ago during the first days of the Arab Spring.
And Secretary of State John Kerry’s comparisons of Assad to Adolf Hitler stink of hypocrisy. Not too many years ago, U.S. officials were praising Bashar al-Assad as a reformer. When he took over from his father in 2000, Bashar imposed sweeping neoliberal market reforms, further encouraging U.S. officials in their hopes of drawing Syria into their stable of Washington-allied dictatorships in the region. As former chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry took a special interest in promoting this relationship—that’s the origin of the photos you may have seen of Kerry and Assad toasting one another over a fine meal.
Now, U.S. officials insist that Assad must go, but Washington’s problem is finding a friendly opposition figure to replace him in order to keep the repressive arm of the Syrian state intact—hence, the goal of prolonging the fighting.
The U.S. has a tough needle to thread in striking Syria. On the one hand, it must preserve its “credibility,” given that Obama declared more than a year ago that the use of chemical weapons would trigger U.S. military action. On the other, it wants to continue its policy of blocking Syria’s popular uprising against the regime from succeeding.
Opponents of war and imperialism must stand strong against the drive to attack Syria—which would be a projection of imperial power, not a “humanitarian intervention.” But we also must support Syria’s ongoing popular revolution against a dictatorship that poses as “anti-imperialist” despite being a torturer for the U.S. and neoliberal “innovator.”
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WITH THE selection of Susan Rice as National Security Adviser and Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Barack Obama has among his foreign policy team some of the leading proponents of the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention.”
The stated idea is that the U.S. should use its military might aggressively in defense of human rights. Predictably, however, the human rights violators that become targets of “humanitarian intervention” are official enemies of U.S. foreign policy, while war crimes and other violations of international law committed by U.S. allies—not to mention the U.S. itself—escape attention.
Thus, Rice has been a vocal supporter of George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, an architect of the assault on Libya in 2011 and a tireless defender of Israel’s military attacks on Palestinians, including the merciless bombing of Gaza during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud last year.
Samantha Power’s 600-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide makes the case for decisive U.S. military intervention in the face of genocide. Yet it doesn’t even mention the U.S. green light for Indonesia’s genocide in East Timor beginning in 1975 or the regime of sanctions that cost the lives of more than 500,000 Iraqi children in the years between the two U.S.-led Gulf Wars.
The idea that the U.S. should sit in judgment of other nations’ brutality is preposterous, especially in the Middle East, where it has killed far more than any other country in the last decade alone. It’s the U.S. government that has repeatedly used chemical weapons in the region—like the depleted uranium rounds that have polluted Iraq with radioactive debris, leading to widespread birth defects, and white phosphorous used during the 2004 assault on Fallujah in Iraq.
In the end, the noble-sounding intentions put forward to justify “humanitarian intervention” are merely a shiny new justification for using military might to pursue what’s in the interest of the U.S. But this rhetoric has proved useful in convincing liberals of the need for imperialist intervention after it fell out of favor during the Bush years.
I recently reconnected via Facebook with a friend of mine from high school. I hadn’t spoken to this person in at least ten years. Back then, neither of us were particularly that politically active, though we would probably identify as liberals and supporters of the Democratic Party.
As it turns out, both of us have now come to consider ourselves socialists, and reject both the Democratic and Republican parties as more or less corrupt, pro-corporate parties which perpetuate and defend the status quo. We both hold more or less tantamount critiques of contemporary society, and also vehemently oppose the oppression of women, people of color, lgbtq individuals, and others, which appear as part and parcel of the capitalist system.
Recently, we discussed the process whereby each of us had radicalized politically. I found my friend’s response very interesting and asked if I could reproduce it publicly. I think it’s important for those of us who consider ourselves on the radical left to think about how best to relate to those who still consider themselves basically liberal, and have not yet developed a systemic critique of the fundamental inadequacy of the entire system, i.e., anti-capitalism.
In other words, how is it that one goes from accepting most of the false assumptions purveyed by this society — and never veering further left politically than, say, what is offered on MSNBC — to becoming a conscious revolutionary?
In this light, I give you my friend’s response along with my original question.
Here was my original query:
So, i have a question for you. I’m very interested in what it is that leads people to change their ideas, particularly in a way that is critical of the economic/political status quo.
I’m sure you’ll remember that neither of us were really that politically engaged in high school.
I’m curious when you began to become politically conscious/active. Were there specific precipitating events? When did you began to self-consciously think of yourself as a socialist or left-winger or whatever?
And my friend’s response:
So I’d say that I was actually politically active and interested in high school (I don’t know if you remember I volunteered with M.M. on Ralph Neas’s failed congressional campaign to unseat Connie Morella), but it was very much within the liberal tradition. One thing that I was always acutely aware of based on my early experiences was that I hadn’t done anything to “earn” my privilege. I can’t remember if my parents actively taught me this, or I just perceived it based on their example… but it always allowed me to separate my good fortune from any sense that I was entitled to my success. Going to college in a poorer urban environment definitely helped solidify my thinking on this.”
So then Bush happened, and I became a “radical” liberal Democrat, I was a huge Howard Dean fan, mostly based on his fighting temperament during the primaries (hindsight pretty clearly suggests that this was nothing more than savvy marketing) and I’ve always considered myself pretty strongly in the pacifist camp.
I think the straw that broke the liberal camel’s back and pushed me to self identify as a leftist/marxist/socialist/jacobin was seeing how little changed after we elected a so-called liberal president. And I’ll admit, I was super excited to elect Obama! I celebrated in the streets when he won in 2008! But then it was clear immediately that he was more interested in preserving the status quo while tinkering around the edges.
While I will acknowledge that Obamacare is in many ways much better than the status quo, the fact that structural forces allowed it to so easily be neutered by entrenched interest groups (don’t even get me started on the banks…) made me take a long hard look at the modern state as it exists under global capitalism. And then I’d see fellow travelers making excuses or calling me ignorant for thinking that “Obama could wave a wand and get what he wanted in the face of a psychopathic Republican opposition.” But I DIDN”T think he could work magic, I just thought that his actions made it pretty clear that aside from offering slightly more bread and circuses, that he wasn’t really interested in examining the fact that the US Senate is an institution forged in a compromise with slaveholders and that “respecting” this institution implicitly is dangerously naive or worse.
So then once you decide that the system is fucked, you start looking for ideologies and movements that understand the broken structures and are interested in fixing them.
So I’d say, the genesis of my ABILITY to evolve in this way came from recognizing my privilege at a young age, then the current trajectory of history (I think we are probably living through late-stage capitalism that will be upended by some kind of ecological catastrophe, but there are so many possibilities!) and the ineffectualness of working within a broken system radicalized me beyond the typical US political consensus. And from there, you start examining and fighting against all the entrenched racial/gender/ablist privileges!
Well, that’s reassuring. [Not]. We can expect a “surgical,” “limited” Shock-and-Awe, rather than a full-blown blitzkrieg.
And who is going to cripple the US military to prevent it from deploying chemical or nuclear weapons in the future -- something which it has repeatedly proved its willingness to use in the past?
President Obama is considering military action against Syria that is intended to “deter and degrade” President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s ability to launch chemical weapons, but is not aimed at ousting Mr. Assad from power or forcing him to the negotiating table, administration officials said Tuesday.
A wide range of officials characterized the action under consideration as “limited,” perhaps lasting no more than one or two days. The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.
Days before Bradley - now Chelsea - Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq, the Obama Department of Justice filed a petition in federal court arguing that the perpetrators of those crimes - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al - enjoy “absolute immunity” against criminal charges or civil liability. The filing came in a suit brought by Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, who alleges that the planning and waging of the Iraq war under false pretenses constituted a “crime of aggression” under a law used in the Nuremberg trials. With neither Congress nor Obama willing to hold Bush & Co. accountable for the Iraq catastrophe, supporters see the suit as a last-chance tactic to force the issue back into the public eye - an effort the Obama adminstration clearly opposes. More, all dispiriting, on the increasingly flawed Bush-Obama-lesser-of-two-evils thesis, and the current culture of impunity.
President Barack Obama, sure to fall short of getting explicit U.N. approval for any military strikes against Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s forces and facing potential divisions inside NATO, has instead been assembling allies and partners in a coalition of the willing that recalls the Iraq War.
And where then-President George W. Bush at least got Congress to authorize him to use force against Saddam Hussein, Obama shows no sign of asking lawmakers to do so, preferring instead to engage in “consultations” with key players.
For a president who defined his 2008 run for the White House with his forceful denunciation of the way Bush led the country into the Iraq war, and then managed the conflict, it’s an unusual turn of events, to say the least.
Speaking of chemical warfare …
"The U.S. knew about, and in one case helped, Iraq’s chemical weapons attacks against Iran in the 1980’s, according to recently declassified CIA documents obtained by Foreign Policy. Their detailed timeline, also constructed with the aid of interviews with former foreign intelligence officials, indicates that the U.S. secretly had evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks in 1983. The evidence, FP writes, is "tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.""
I have a problem with this articulation by HRC. Of course Manning is not a proxy for ALL transgender people. But this statement is basically a way of throwing Manning under the bus in the interest of defending the “good name” of all other transgender people. The argument amounts to, “Not all transgender people are like Manning! Don’t let her unpatriotic, treasonous acts sully your opinion of other God-fearing, America-loving, transgender individuals who are nothing like her!”
In actual fact, we need MORE people — of all gender variants — to be like Chelsea Manning. To stand up and speak out when you see power being abused, war crimes being committed, and human life being devalued … even if it means confronting your very own government and military.
Human Rights Campaign Vice President and chief foundation officer Jeff Krehely said in a statement that “Manning’s transition deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” adding that Americans should keep in mind that many transgender service members and veterans “serve and have served this nation with honor, distinction and great sacrifice. We must not forget or dishonor those individuals. Private Manning’s experience is not a proxy for any other transgender man or woman who wears the uniform of the United States.”