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THE WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2015 at 1:27 am

Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.  That is understood.
But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along….

All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.  It works the same way in any country.
–Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering

Much of the moral basis for American leadership was destroyed by the dark parallels between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and George W. Bush’s invasion of  Iraq in 2003.

Among these:

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler (third from left) with his generals

In 1970, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s former architect and Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich.  In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.

One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train.  Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.

As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.

From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.

Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.

Hitler had served as a frontline soldier in World War 1 and had won the Iron Cross for bravery as a dispatch runner.

As Fuehrer, he often boasted of his affinity with the average German soldier.  He claimed that “my whole life has been one long struggle for Germany.”

Yet throughout the six years of World War II, he refused to visit German cities ravaged by British and American bombs.

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, despaired at this.

Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, often visited cities hit by German bombers, and Goebbels knew these visits greatly boosted British morale.

Goebbels urged Hitler to make similar visits to bombed-out German cities, but theFuehrer refused.

Albert Speer believed that Hitler couldn’t bear to see the carnage wrought by his decision to provoke a needless war.

George W. Bush “looking” for WMDs in the White House

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.

On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had suffered grievous wounds to protect America from WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube

In his Presidential memoirs, Decision Points, Bush failed to mention his joking about the “missing WMDs” at the correspondents dinner.

In writing about discovering insights into the human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:

“And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

“Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.”

* * * * *

So add it all up:

  • Two all-powerful leaders.
  • Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
  • Adolf Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
  • George W. Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
  • America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
  • America’s foray into Iraq costs its treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
  • Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.  He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.

No world leader publicly claims to model himself upon Adolf Hitler.

How many Republicans look to George W. Bush as their ideal in Presidential leadership?

THE WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 16, 2015 at 1:22 am

In late April, 1975, Vietnam veterans stared in horror at their TVs as the army of North Vietnam swept toward Saigon.  The “peace with honor” that former President Richard M. Nixon had claimed to fashion had lasted no more than two years.

American news media captured the appalling sight of United States military and Intelligence personnel being frantically airlifted by helicopter from the roof of the American embassy.

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Americans’ scrambling to evacuate Vietnam

The eight-year war had cost $600 billion and the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen.  Suddenly, before the eyes of American TV viewers, the longest and most divisive war in United States history was ending in shame.

And now, it’s deja vu all over again.

From 2003 to 2011, the war in Iraq cost the United States $2 trillion and the lives of 4,484 servicemen.

And now, as a horde of Republicans compete for the Presidency in 2016, the Iraq war has resurfaced to haunt them with a vengeance.

And most candidates have claimed that, if they had been able to foresee the future, they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, as President George W. Bush did on March 19, 2003.

But there is far more to the United States’ tortured intervention in Iraq than most Americans know.  Or than Republicans want to admit.

There is, in fact, a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, decided to invade Poland in 1939, he refused to consider any efforts to avert a conflict: “I want war.  I am the one who will wage war.”

Despite frantic efforts by the French and British governments to resolve the crisis that Hitler had deliberately provoked, he refused all offers of compromise.

“I am only afraid,” Hitler told his generals at a military conference on August 22, 1939, “that some Schweinehund [pig dog] will make a proposal for mediation.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush made it clear to his closest aides that he sought a pretext for invading Iraq.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush held a private meeting with Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council.

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything,” said Bush. “See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”-–not Iraq.

On September 22, 2001, Bush received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.

Yet on November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler knew that Poland’s government could never accept his demands for the Polish city of Danzig.

GEORGE W. BUSH

So, too, did George W. Bush make a demand he knew could never be accepted.  On the eve of launching war on Iraq, Bush issued a humiliating ultimatum to Saddam Hussein:

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler never regretted his decision to invade Poland.  Only hours before committing suicide in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, he asserted in his “final political testatment”: “It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 19, 2003.  In his 2010 memoirs, Decision Points, he wrote:

“For all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.”

And in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on November 8, 2010, Bush again sought to justify his decision to go to war:

LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?

BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision, and I don’t believe it was a wrong decision.

ADOLF HITLER 

On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler announced his attack on Poland before Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag.

Hitler–a decorated World War I veteran–said: “I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

On May 1, 2003, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–donned a flight suit and landed a Navy jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

A banner titled “Mission Accomplished” was displayed on the aircraft carrier as Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over.

The effect–and intent–was to portray Bush as the triumphant warrior-chieftan he never was.

THE WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 15, 2015 at 9:07 am

It’s the question feared by every Republican seeking to become President in 2016: “Would you have invaded Iraq in 2003 if you had known then what we know now?”

And when Republican Presidential candidates haven’t dodged the question, they’ve responded defensively–or argumentatively:

  • Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio: Invading Iraq was “not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “In retrospect the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. Once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first.”
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “If we knew then what we know now and I were the president of the United States, I wouldn’t have gone to war. But you don’t get to replay history.”
  • United States Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: “Of course not. The entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk they would use them.”

Admittedly, the answers to many of life’s questions lie in the future–and can only be revealed over time.

As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard observed: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

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Soren Kierkegaard

Thus, it is pointless to hold anyone–including past Presidents–accountable for not knowing truths that would emerge only years later.

Instead, the question reporters should be asking Republican Presidential candidates is: “How do you feel about a President who provoked a needless, bloody and financially ruinous war in Iraq?”

Or: “How do you feel about a President who starts a war claiming that a ‘madman’ will attack America with WMDs–and then, when they aren’t found, publicly jokes about it?”

There is actually a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel in how Adolf Hitler launched his invasion of Poland.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, wanted to invade Poland in 1939, he mounted a sustained propaganda campaign to “justify” his ambitions.

Adolf Hitler

German “newspapers”-–produced by Joseph Goebbels, the club-footed Minister of Propaganda–-carried fictitious stories of how brutal Poles were assaulting and even murdering their helpless German citizens.

In theaters, German audiences saw phony newsreels showing Poles attacking and raping German women living in Poland.

For a time, Hitler not only deceived the Germans but the world. Just before German tanks and troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, members of Hitler’s dreaded SS secret police rounded up a number of prisoners from German concentration camps.

The inmates were dressed in Polish Army uniforms and driven to a German radio station at Gleiwitz, on the German/Polish border.

There they were shot by SS men. Then Polish-speaking SS men “seized” the station and broadcast to Germany that a Polish invasion of Germany was now under way.

Hitler, addressing Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag, dramatically asserted: “This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5.45 a.m. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs.”

Leaders of Britain and France were taken in by this ruse. They had pledged to go to war if Hitler attacked Poland.  But they didn’t want to take on Germany if Poland had been the aggressor.

By the time the truth became known, Poland was securely in German hands.

On August 22, 1939, Hitler had outlined his strategy to a group of high-ranking military officers:

I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war.  Never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked, later on, whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war, it is not Right that matters, but Victory.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

American President George W. Bush followed a similar strategy while he prepared to invade Iraq: He ordered the topmost members of his administration to convince the American people of the war’s necessity.

Among those members: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice; Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld

Among their arguments-–all eventually revealed as lies-–were:

  • Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had worked hand-in-glove with Osama Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.
  • Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical/biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions.
  • Saddam was preparing to use those weapons against the United States.
  • American Intelligence agencies had determined the precise locations where those weapons were stored.
  • The war would be self-financing via the oil revenues that would come from Iraq.
  • Invading American forces would be welcomed as liberators.

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler intended Poland to be only his first conquest on what became known as “the Eastern Front.” Conquering Poland would place his powerful Wehrmacht on the border of the country that was his ultimate target: The Soviet Union.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney–the “power-behind-the-throne” of the Bush Presidency–had his own ambitions for conquering Iraq.

According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum: Cheney longed for war in Iraq to gain reliable control of that nation’s vital oil resources. A successful occupation of Iraq would also allow the United States to threaten such bordering Islamic nations as Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

GOOD NEWS IN THE TERROR WARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2015 at 12:10 am

On April 16, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released some encouraging news for potential victims of Islamic terrorism–and those fighting it.

More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war.

Put another way: More than 310,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never again pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Observatory, which is based in Britain:

  • The total number of dead is now at 310,000.
  • More than 37,000 rebels have been killed and over 46,000 from pro-Assad forces.
  • At least 682 Hizbollah fighters.
  • The true toll on both sides was likely much higher–by perhaps more than 60,000.

And who does the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blame for this Islamic self-slaughter?  Why, the West, of course.

According to its website:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1500000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

310,000 people killed since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution | Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Got that?  “They have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes”–as if it’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers “continuing their crimes”?  Because of an inner-religious dispute within Islam that traces back to the fourth century.

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

Each group considers the other takfirs–that is, “apostates.”  And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered.

But, according to the Syrian Observatory, it’s the duty of the West to convince these murderers to stop slaughtering one another.

Think of it:

  • In three years, 310,000 actual or potential enemies of Western Civilization have chosen to kill each other off.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • And the United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.

Meanwhile, Right-wing Republicans demand that the United States thrust itself into a conflict that doesn’t threaten Americans in any way.

Here are six excellent reasons why America should stay clear of the Syrian bloodbath:

1.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safehouse in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–-the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

2.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–-only murderers who have long served a tyrant and other murderers who now wish to become the next tyrant.

3.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”  But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what he intends gain by attacking Syria.

Obama has said he’s “not after regime-change.”  If true, that would leave Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

4. The Assad regime is backed by–-among others–-the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hizbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims.  A sworn enemy of Israel, it has  kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

5.  China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–-and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.

This reflects badly on them–-not the United States.

And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.

What happens if American and Russian forces start trading salvos?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–-that triggered World War l.

6.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

MEXICO: A FAILED NATION-STATE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 12, 2015 at 12:24 am

On May 22, 2013, Mexican soldiers arrested Yanira Maldonado–-mother of seven-–as she and her husband, Gary, were returning to Arizona after attending a family funeral in Mexico.

During a search of their bus at a military checkpoint in the northwestern state of Sonora, soldiers asked everyone to get off.

Yanira Maldonado

At first, Gary Maldonado was told that marijuana had been found under his seat and found himself arrested.  After his father contacted the U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo, authorities said they were mistaken and released Gary.

Then they charged his wife, claiming they had found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat.

After being detained in Mexico for more than a week on drug charges, Yanira Maldonado was released and returned to the United States.

Maldonado met with reporters briefly and said, “Many thanks to everyone, especially my God who let me go free, my family, my children, who with their help, I was able to survive this test.”

Gary Maldonado said he believed Mexican soldiers at the checkpoint wanted a bribe.

It’s entirely likely that this was the case.

Anyone who reads Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, will certainly think so.

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City provides a terrifying–-and almost lethally depressing–-view of what happens when a city–-and a country–-disintegrates.

Ciudad Juárez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Notorious as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu.

It’s so overwhelmed with the violence of drug trafficking that its leading citizens—police, politicians, even the drug lords—find it safer to live in El Paso.

Hundreds of millions of narco-dollars flow into Juárez each week, and the violence and corruption that follow yield 200 to 300 murders each year.

Among the casualties of that violence:

  • A reporter–who has dared to expose cartel-corrupted members of the Mexican Army–is forced to flee to the United States with his young son.
  • A beautiful woman who became the mistress of one drug cartel leader is gang-raped by members of a rival cartel.
  • A teenage killer for the cartels is now being hunted for having run afoul of his murderous bosses.

This is a city–-and a country–-where virtually no one is safe.

  • Mexican police pay big bribes to be assigned to narcotics enforcement squads.  The reason: Not to suppress the rampant drug trafficking but to enrich themselves by seizing and selling those narcotics.
  • Residents awaken at dawn to find bodies of the drug cartels’ latest victims dumped on streets–their hands, feet and mouths bound with silver and gray duct tape.
  • Mexican policewomen are often snatched off the streets and raped–by members of the Mexican Army.
  • Honest policemen–and even police chiefs–are routinely gunned down by cartel members.

If there is any one story in Murder City that symbolizes the total corruption of a society awash with drugs and the profits they produce, it is this:

A Mexican priest serves as confessor to drug lords.  They, in turn, believe their confessions to be safe, as they are supposed to be heard only by the priest and God.

But one of the drug lords wears a large gold crucifix, which the priest secretly covets.

So he turns from drug lord confessor to police informer–-and the Mexican police raid the next drug lord gathering and confiscate a large quantity of narcotics.

The police don’t intend to turn in the seized narcotics.  Instead, they will sell these for their own profit.

And as a reward for his cooperation, the priest is given the large gold crucifix–-which he blesses and consecrates to his God.

Who, exactly, is behind all these killings?

And why?

And who, if anyone, is in charge of Juárez–-or Mexico?

Bowden states it is difficult to answer such questions because the Mexican press has been thoroughly corrupted by drug cartel monies or terrorized by drug cartel hit squads.

Reporters have been murdered–-by the cartels and the army–-for writing anything about killings, the army or the cartels.

The world of Murder City is a nightmarish one:

  • Members of drug cartels live like kings.
  • Their bribes and violence have corrupted all branches of the Mexican government, military and police forces.
  • Ordinary Mexicans live in grinding poverty, thanks to American factories paying starvation wages

When you leave its pages, you are grateful that you can safely put its evil behind you–-unlike the residents of Juarez who remain trapped in its web.

Meanwhile, there is a lesson in this book–-and in the case of Yanira Maldonado–-for anyone with common sense to learn: Stay out of Mexico.

During the 1980s, when Americans were being routinely kidnapped in Beirut, still others–-as if bent on suicide–-were getting passports to travel to Lebanon.

For residents of this failed nation-state called Mexico, it’s too late.  Such endemic corruption can never be fought successfully.

But for Americans who do not live there, the message should be clear: “Keep out.  Enter at your own risk.”

REPUBLICANS AND “CHI-COMS” HATE THE SAME MAN: OBAMA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2015 at 12:02 am

Psssst!  The Republicans and Chinese Communists (“Chi-Coms”) have something in common.

They both much preferred the foreign policy of George W. Bush to that of Barack Obama.

It’s one of the many fascinating revelations offered in Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Uses of American Power.

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

The author is David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

Early in 2011, Sanger had lunch at the Central Party School outside Beijing.  This is where the party’s leadership debates questions that are thought too controversial to air in public.

A retired general in the People’s Liberation Army sat down next to Sanger and, in a relaxed moment of candor, said:

“I sat through many meetings of the People’s Liberation Army in the 80s and 90s where we tried to imagine what your military forces would look like in 10 to 20 years.

“But frankly, we never thought that you would spend trillions of dollars and so much time tied down in Afghanistan and the Middle East. We never imagined that as a choice you would make.”

Chinese military parade 

And, writes Sanger: “Not so secretly, the Chinese were delighted by the Bush-era wars.  The longer the United States was bogged down trying to build democracies in foreign lands, the less capable it was of competing in China’s backyard.

“But now that America was emerging from a lost decade in the Middle East, the Chinese began to ask: How should China respond?  With cooperation, confrontation, or something in-between?”

And the Chinese were equally thrilled that the United States had squandered so much of its treasury during the eight-year Bush Presidency.

In the decade following 9/11, the Pentagon went on an unprecedented spending binge.  The defense budget grew by 67%, to levels 50% higher than it had been per average year during the Cold War.

According to Sanger: “An estimate [the New York Times] put together for the tenth anniversary of the [9/11] attacks suggested that the United States had spent at least $3.3 trillion.”

These monies had gone on

  • securing the country;
  • invading and trying to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq; and
  • caring for wounded American soldiers.

“Put another way,” writes Sanger, “for every dollar al-Qaeda spent destroying the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon, America had spent $6.6 million in response.

“The annual Pentagon budget of $700 billion was equivalent to the combined spending of the next twenty largest military powers….

“The world had come to expect that America would underwrite global security, regardless of the cost.  Obama was determined to change that mind-set.”

In short, America became financially and militarily vulnerable during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

And this flatly contradicts the standard Republican line: Obama is a weak President–and is betraying us to the (pick one or both) Muslims/Communists.

It also speaks volumes that the two most important members of the George W. Bush administration declined to attend the 2012 Republican National Convention.

That, of course, meant former President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

And why was that?  Perhaps it’s because polls show that a majority of Americans continue

  • To blame Bush for lying the country into a needless, bloody and expensive war with Iraq.
  • To blame him for presiding over the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
  • To see Dick Cheney as the Dr. Strangelovian manipulator of George W. Bush.

Even former President George H.W. Bush said he wouldn’t attend the convention.

It’s possible that Bush, Sr., didn’t want to serve as a reminder that his son left the White House with the lowest popularity rating of any modern President.

And that was just fine with those planning to attend the convention–especially its nominee-to-be, Mitt Romney.

They wanted to do with George W. Bush what Nikita Khrushchev and his fellow Communists did with the embarrassing Joseph Stalin: Bury him far from public view.

He didn’t want the viewing audience to be reminded that the United States sharply declined in wealth and prestige during the eight-year reign of George W. Bush and a Republican Congress.

Romney and his fellow conventioneers also didn’t want to remind the country of something else: That Obama has spent most of his own Presidency trying to undo the harm his predecessor did, in both foreign and domestic policy.

Thus, now approaching the 2016 election, the Republican party finds itself torn.

On one hand, its leaders want to claim that Barack Obama is the worst President in the history of the Republic.

On the other hand, they know that most Americans continue to view the last Republican President in just that way.

JUNE 6: ONE DAY, TWO ANNIVERSARIES

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 5, 2015 at 12:38 am

“For it is the doom of men that they forget.”
–Merlin, in “Excalibur”

June 6–a day of glory and tragedy.

The glory came  71 years ago–-on Tuesday, June 6, 1944.

On that morning, Americans awoke to learn–-from radio and newspapers–-that their soldiers had landed on the French coast of Normandy.

In Supreme Command of the Allied Expeditionary Force was American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Overall command of ground forces was given to British General Bernard Montgomery.

Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany, proved one of the pivotal actions of World War II.

It opened shortly after midnight, with an airborne assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops.

This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel–-the legendary “Desert Fox”–-commanded the German forces.  For him, the first 24 hours of the battle would be decisive.

“For the Allies as well as the Germans,” he warned his staff, “it will be the longest day.”

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–-73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Initially, the Allied assault seemed likely to be stopped at the water’s edge–-where Rommel had always insisted it must be.

He had warned that if the Allies established a beachhead, their overwhelming advantages in numbers and airpower would eventually prove irresistible.

German machine-gunners and mortarmen wreaked a fearful toll on Allied soldiers.  But commanders like U.S. General Norman Cota led their men to victory through a storm of bullets and shells.

Coming upon a group of U.S. Army Rangers taking cover behind sand dunes, Cota demanded: “What outfit is this?”

“Rangers!” yelled one of the soldiers.

“Well, Goddamnit, then, Rangers, lead the way!” shouted Cota, inspiring the soldiers to rise and charge into the enemy.

The command also gave the Rangers the motto they carry to this day.

The allied casualty figures for D-Day have been estimated at 10,000, including 4,414 dead. By nationality, the D-Day casualty figures are about 2,700 British, 946 Canadians and 6,603 Americans.

The total number of German casualties on D-Day isn’t known, but is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000.

Allied and German armies continued to clash throughout France, Belgium and Germany until May 7, 1945, when Germany finally surrendered.

But those Americans who had taken part in D-Day could be proud of having dealt a fatal blow to the evil ambitions of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

So much for the glory of June 6.  Now for the tragedy–-which occurred 47 years ago, on Thursday, June 6, 1968.

Twenty-four years after D-Day, Americans awoke to learn–-mostly from TV–-that New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy had died at 1:44 a.m. of an assassin’s bullet.

He had been campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and had just won the California primary on June 4.

This had been a make-or-break event for Kennedy, a fierce critic of the seemingly endless Vietnam war.

He had won the Democratic primaries in Indiana and Nebraska, but had lost the Oregon primary to Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.

If he could defeat McCarthy in California, Kennedy could force his rival to quit the race.  That would lead to a showdown between him and Vice President Hubert Humphery for the nomination.

(President Lyndon B. Johnson had withdrawn from the race on March 31–-just 15 days after Kennedy announced his candidacy on March 16.)

After winning the California and South Dakota primaries, Kennedy gave a magnaminous victory speech in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles:

“I think we can end the divisions within the United States….We are a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country.

“And I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months.”

Then he entered the hotel kitchen–-where Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian from Jordan, opened fire with a .22 revolver.

Kennedy was hit three times–once fatally in the back of the head.  Five other people were also wounded.

Kennedy’s last-known words were: “Is everybody all right?” and “Jack, Jack”–-the latter clearly a reference to his beloved older brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Almost five years earlier, that brother–-then President of the United States–-had been assassinated in Dalas on November 22, 1963.

Then Robert Kennedy lost consciousness–-forever, dying in a hospital bed 24 hours later.

Kennedy had been a U.S. Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator (1964-1968).  But it was his connection to  President Kennedy for which he was best-known.

His assassination–-coming so soon after that of JFK–-convinced many Americans there was something “sick” about the nation’s culture.

One of the best summaries of Robert Kennedy’s legacy was given in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s, by historian William L. O’Neil:

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….

“He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time.

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing.  With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”

FORGET ABOUT “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2015 at 12:07 am

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technocolor feature film released during World War II.  It’s based on the book–of the same title–by Alexander P. de Seversky.

Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.

The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not.  Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.

Although the Air Force regularly boasted of the tonage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.

On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so, too, did Allied bombing increase the determination of the Germans to fight on.

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

On June 6, 1944–D-Day–the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

It opened shortly after midnight, with an airborne assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops.  This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open.  But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes.  Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied  soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers.

This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

Then, starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud–in Vietnam.

Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay said, “We should bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age.”  And the bombers under his command did their best to achieve this.

From 1964 to 1975, 7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II.

Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.

The belief that victory could be achieved primarily–if not entirely–through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war.  It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.

To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam.  This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.

So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained.  But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.

So more American troops were needed–to guard the guards.

North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases.  This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.

Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam–with no end in sight to the conflict.

Now, with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launching a blitzkreig throughout Iraq, President Barack Obama seems to have caught the “Victory Through Airpower” disease.

ISIS has thrown the American-trained Iraqi Army into a panic, with soldiers dropping their rifles and running for their lives.

This has led Republicans to accuse the President of being about to “lose” Iraq.

As a result, since September, 2014, he has ordered massive bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Yet that has not altered the balance of power in Iraq.

As political columnist Mark Shields observed on the May 22 edition of the PBS Newshour, this has only led to greater Republican demands for “boots on the ground”:

“Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way….

“Get tough, get tough, swagger. [Senator] Lindsey Graham wants to put in [10,000 troops]….

“George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.

“And…anybody who walks around with a flag pin in his lapel now who is running for president or running for Congress and says let’s go in and let’s kick some tail and let’s take some numbers and bomb some people, that takes no courage at all, because it’s not their blood they’re talking about, and it’s not their children’s blood.”

Once again, the United States has bought into the lie of “victory through air power.” And, as a result, the nation stands poised to once again sacrifice billions of dollars and thousands of lives in a worthless cause.

NEVER FIRED, ONLY DROPPED ONCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 26, 2015 at 12:11 am

The relationship between the United States and Iraq has become dangerously similar to the one that existed between America and South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.

From 1955 to 1963, the United States backed Ngo Dinh Diem as the “president” of South Vietnam.  During those eight years:

  • Diem was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • The Shiite-dominated government of Iraq refuses to grant political concessions to alienated Sunnis.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • The Iraqi government controls little outside of Baghdad.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Neither does the government in Baghdad.

Ngo Dinh Diem

  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for the leaders of the Iraqi government.
  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers have were sent to Iraq because America fears Islamic terrorism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the South Vietnamese army to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the Iraqi army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans–such as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter–have determined that the Iraqi army is worthless. Yet many Americans on the Right believe the United States should commit American ground troops to fight ISIS in its  place.

American soldiers in Vietnam 

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) fought to unify their country–and posed no threat to the United States.
  • ISIS is warring on Shiite Muslims–and poses no direct threat to the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraces the Iraqi war to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Iraq without an exit strategy.

American soldiers in Iraq

The United States’ relationship with Diem ended on November 1, 1963.  A coup led by generals of the South Vietnamese army ousted–and murdered–Diem.

But America continued to support successive and incompetent South Vietnamese dictatorships up to the end of the war in 1973.

Americans have been at war with Islamic expansionists since 2001.  But Republicans and their Rightist supporters want more of the same.

Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, has stated: “We face a global struggle against radical Islamic terrorists, and we are in the early stages of this struggle.”

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared: “No wonder we’re not intimidating our adversaries and they’re running around wild in the world, because they know we’re not investing in our defense anymore.”

As political commentator Mark Shields said on the May 22 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“Rick Perry has said–wants boots on the ground. Other Republicans have said they want boots on the ground, but they don’t necessarily have to be American boots. They should be Arab boots.

“Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way….

“[Republicans are saying] Get tough, get tough, swagger; 10,000 troops….

“George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.”

* * * * *

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their South Vietnamese “allies” as American troops now feel about their Iraqi “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed it up as follows:

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person.

“The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.

“The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

President Obama should recognize this–and start shipping those troops home.  And he should explain to Americans that a war among Islamics is actually in America’s best interests:

  • While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.
  • Every dead Hezbollah, ISIS and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.
  • The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them.  In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.
  • This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other.  Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

NEVER FIRED, ONLY DROPPED ONCE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 25, 2015 at 12:54 am

From 1965 until 1973, the United States lent its full military power to aiding the dictatorship of South Vietnam against the dictatorship of North Vietnam.

Despite this, veterans of combat with the North Vietnamese Army showed far more respect for their hard-core enemies than their supposedly staunch South Vietnamese allies.

Consider the following examples, taken from the screenplay of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket.

The movie is largely based on Dispatches, the Vietnam memoirs of Michael Herr, a war correspondent for Esquire magazine (1967-1969).

Example 1:

A group of Marines are resting on the plaza of a pagoda.  One of them calls to a photographer for the Marine newspaper, The Sea Tiger: “Hey photographer! You want to take a good picture? Here, man, take this. This is my bro….”

He lifts a hat, which is covering the face of a dead man–and reveals the face, not of an American, but of a North Vietnamese soldier.

“This is my bro…” 

“This is his party. He’s the guest of honor. Today is his birthday.  I will never forget this day. The day I came to Hue City and fought one million N.V.A. [North Vietnamese Army] gooks.

“I love the little Commie bastards, man, I really do. These enemy grunts are as hard as slant-eyed drill instructors. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know.

“After we rotate back to the world [the United States] we’re gonna miss not having anyone around that’s worth shooting.”

Example 2:

A reporter for a TV news crew is interviewing Marines during a lull in the fighting for the city of Hue.

EIGHTBALL: “Personally, I think they don’t really want to be involved in this war. I mean, they sort of took away our freedom and gave it to the gookers, you know. But they don’t want it. They’d rather be alive than free, I guess. Poor dumb bastards.”

COWBOY: “Well, the ones I’m fighting at are some pretty bad boys. I’m not real keen on some of these fellows that are supposed to be on our side. I keep meeting ’em coming the other way.”

DONLON: “I mean, we’re getting killed for these people and they don’t even appreciate it. They think it’s a big joke.”

ANIMAL MOTHER: “Well, if you ask me, uh, we’re shooting the wrong gooks.”

Example 3:

Haggling with a South Vietnamese pimp over the cost of a prostitute’s wares, a Marine recites a joke popular among American forces: “Be glad to trade you some ARVN rifles. Never been fired and only dropped once” [by retreating South Vietnamese forces].

* * * * *

Now, fast-forward from Vietnam in 1968 to Iraq in 2015.

Once again, the United States seems poised to embrace another worthless “ally.”

On May 25, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter bluntly accused the army of Iraq of lacking the will to stand up to its enemies in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

On May 17, the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to ISIS after the Iraqi army deserted the citizens counting on its protection.

Appearing on CNN’s Sunday news show, State of the Union, Carter said:

“What apparently happened is that the Iraqi forces showed no will to fight.  They were not outnumbered.  In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force.

“That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves.”

On the May 22, edition of the PBS Newshour, political commentator Mark Shields–a former Marine–sized up the situation:

“And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said they were not driven, the Iraqi army was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi.

“They aren’t a paper tiger. They’re a paper tabby cat….

“But I will say that there are 250,000 Iraqi troops.  There are, by CIA estimates, up to 31,000 ISIS troops.

“And you have full flight.  I mean, they won’t be engaged. They haven’t been engaged.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq.

Since then, Obama’s strategy for turning Iraq into a bulwark against islamic extemism has rested on two goals:

  1. Rebuilding and retraining the Iraqi army; and
  2. Prodding the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to reconcile with the nation’s Sunnis.

The second goal is especially important. The Sunnis, a religious minority in Iraq, ruled the country for centuries until the United States drove Saddam Hussein from power in 2003.

Now the Shiites are in control of Iraq, and they have been unwilling to grant political concessions to the alienated Sunnis. Baghdad has continued to work closely with Shiite militias backed by Iran.

In turn, the Sunnis have become a source of manpower and money for ISIS.

America’s relationship with Iraq has become eerily similar to the one it had with South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.

And that relationship led the United States into the most divisive war in its history since the Civil War (1861-1865).

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