Tag Archives: Middle East war

The Madness of James Mattis, by Danny Sjursen

James Mattis has been in the thick of a string of failed wars, but don’t look for any humility or regrets. From Danny Sjursen at truthdig.com:

The Madness of James Mattis
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis. (U.S. Secretary of Defense / CC BY 2.0)

Last week, in a well-received Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis delivered a critique of Donald Trump that was as hollow as it was self-righteous. Explaining his decision to resign from the administration, the retired Marine general known as “Mad Dog” eagerly declared himself “apolitical,” peppering his narrative with cheerful vignettes about his much beloved grunts. “We all know that we’re better than our current politics,” he observed solemnly. “Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment.”

Yet absent from this personal reflection, which has earned bipartisan adulation, was any kind of out-of-the-box thinking and, more disturbingly, anything resembling a mea culpa—either for his role in the Trump administration or his complicity in America’s failing forever wars in the greater Middle East. For a military man, much less a four-star general, this is a cardinal sin. What’s worse, no one in the mainstream media appears willing to challenge the worldview presented in his essay, concurrent interviews and forthcoming book.

This was disconcerting if unsurprising. In Trump’s America, reflexive hatred for the president has led many in the media to foolishly pin their political hopes on generals like Mattis, leaders of the only public institution the people still trust. Even purportedly liberal journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who was once critical of U.S. militarism, have reversed course, defending engagements in Syria and Afghanistan seemingly because the president has expressed interest in winding them down. The fallacy that Mattis and other generals were the voice of reason in the Trump White House, the so-called “adults in the room,” has precluded any serious critique of their actual strategy and advice.

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Goodbye To All That, by Danny Sjursen

Danny Sjursen takes his parting shots at the US Army. From Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:

The Forever Wars Go On Without Me

“Patriotism, in the trenches, was too remote a sentiment, and at once rejected as fit only for civilians, or prisoners.” — Robert Graves, Goodbye To All That(1929).

I’m one of the lucky ones. Leaving the madness of Army life with a modest pension and all of my limbs intact feels like a genuine escape. Both the Army and I knew it was time for me to go. I’d tired of carrying water for empire and they’d grown weary of dealing with my dissenting articles and footing the bill for my seemingly never-ending PTSD treatments. Now, I’m society’s problem, unleashed into a civilian world I’ve never gazed upon with adult eyes.

I entered West Point in July 2001, a bygone era of (relative) peace, the moment, you might say, before the 9/11 storm broke. I leave an Army that remains remarkably engaged in global war, patrolling an increasingly militarized world.

In a sense, I snuck out of the military at age 35, my early retirement an ignominious end to a once-promising career. Make no mistake, I wanted out. I’d relocated 11 times in 18 years, often enough to war zones, and I simply didn’t have another deployment in me. Still, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I’ll mourn the loss of my career, of the identity inherent in soldiering, of the experience of adulation from a grateful (if ill-informed) society.

Perhaps that’s only natural, no matter how much such a hokey admission embarrasses me. I recognize, at least, that there’s a paradox at work here: the Army and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) made me who I now am, brought a new version of me to life, and gifted me (if that’s the right phrase for something so grim) with the stories, the platform, and the pain that now make my writing possible. Those military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in particular turned a budding neocon into an unabashed progressive. My experiences there transformed an insecure, aspiring dealer-in-violence into someone who might be as near as a former military man can get to a pacifist. And what the U.S. Army helped me become is someone who, in the end, I don’t mind gazing at in the mirror each morning.

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The Peace Movement’s War Story, by Ira Chernus and Tom Englehardt

Ira Chernus has some lessons from the successful opposition to the Vietnam War that can used by those of us who oppose the US’s Middle East and Northern Africa forays. From Chernus, with an introduction by Tom Englehardt, at tomdispatch.com:

Who even remembers the moment in mid-February 2003, almost 13 years ago, when millions of people across this country and the planet turned out in an antiwar moment unique in history? It was aimed at stopping a conflict that had yet to begin. Those demonstrators, myself included, were trying to put pressure on the administration of George W. Bush not to do what its top officials so visibly, desperately wanted to do: invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, garrison it for decades to come, and turn that country into an American gas station. None of us were seers. We didn’t fully grasp what that invasion would set off, nor did we imagine a future terror caliphate in Iraq and Syria, but we did know that, if it was launched, some set of disasters was guaranteed; we knew beyond a doubt that this would not end well.

We had an analysis of the disaster to come and you could glimpse it on the handmade signs we carried to those vast demonstrations (some of which I recorded at the time): “Remember when presidents were smart and bombs were dumb?”; “Contain Saddam — and Bush”; “Use our might to persuade, not invade”; “How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?”; “Pre-emptive war is terrorism”; “We don’t buy it, liberate Florida”; and so on. We felt in our bones that it was no business of Washington’s to decide what Iraq should be by force of arms and that American imperial desires in the Greater Middle East were suspect indeed. And we turned out to make that point so impressively that, on the front page of the New York Times, journalist Patrick Tyler referred to us as the planet’s second superpower. (“The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”)

Of course, this vast upsurge of global opposition would prove to be right on the mark, while all the brilliant policymakers and pundits in Washington who beat the drums loudly for war were desperately wrong. And yet the invasion did happen and, in its disastrous wake, we, not they, were wiped out of history. None of us would be consulted when the retrospectives began. No one would want to hear from those who had been right about the invasion (only officials and “experts” who had been dismally wrong). In the process that pre-war movement of ours would essentially be erased from history.

Mind you, we knew that, whatever we did, George W. Bush was bound and determined to invade Iraq. As I put it that February, “I’m not a total fool. I know — as I’ve long been writing in these dispatches — that this administration is hell-bent for a war. The build-up in the Gulf during these days of demonstrations has been unceasing. I still expect that war to come, and soon. Nonetheless, I find myself amazed by the variegated mass of humanity that turned out yesterday… The world has actually spoken and largely in words of its own. It has issued a warning to our leaders, which, given the history of ‘the people’ and the countless demonstrations of the people’s many (sometimes frightening) powers from 1776 on, is to be ignored at the administration’s peril.”

On that, unfortunately, I was wrong. We were indeed ignored and it didn’t prove to be “at the administration’s peril” (not in the normal sense anyway). The large-scale antiwar movement barely made it into the war years. There were a couple of massive demonstrations still to come, but as time went on, as things got worse, as the situation in Iraq devolved and those millions of demonstrators were proven to have been unbearably on the right side of history, the antiwar movement itself essentially disappeared, except for scattered veterans’ groups and heroic protesters like the members of Code Pink.

At a time when Americans should have been in the streets saying hell no, we better not go, the Bush administration and then the Obama administration were repeating the same militarized mistakes endlessly, while turning the Greater Middle East into a charnel house of failure. Today, as Pentagon officials prepare for their next set of forays, interventions, drone assassination campaigns, and special ops raids in, among other places, Libya — and what could possibly go wrong there? — next to no one is pressuring or opposing them, next to nothing is in their way. As a result, TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus’s latest post on what’s missing from the missing antiwar movement in America couldn’t be more timely. Tom

America’s New Vietnam in the Middle East
A Civil War Story About the Islamic State Might Spark a Peace Movement
By Ira Chernus

It was half a century ago, but I still remember it vividly. “We have to help South Vietnam,” I explained. “It’s a sovereign nation being invaded by another nation, North Vietnam.”

“No, no,” my friend protested. “There’s just one Vietnam, from north to south, divided artificially. It’s a civil war. And we have no business getting involved. We’re just making things worse for everyone.”

At the time, I hadn’t heard anyone describe the Vietnam War that way. Looking back, I see it as my first lesson in a basic truth of political life — that politics is always a contest between competing narratives. Accept a different story and you’re going to see the issue differently, which might leave you open to supporting a very different policy. Those who control the narrative, that is, are likely to control what’s done, which is why governments so regularly muster their resources — call it propaganda or call it something else — to keep that story in their possession.

To continue reading: The Peace Movement’s War Story

An Invitation to Collective Suicide, by Andrew Bacevich and Tom Englehardt

SLL has argued repeatedly that the best course for the US in the Middle East and northern Africa would be to get out and stay out. As SLL has acknowledged, such a policy does not guarantee that the US will not be a victim of future attacks by Islamist extremists. However, current policies, or an escalation of US involvement in the region, does guarantee such attacks.

Proponents of involvement, and especially of escalation, while quick to condemn proposals to withdraw by highlighting real risks, destroy their own credibility by neither acknowledging the consequences of past intervention or, more importantly, honestly and publicly reckoning the costs of future interventions. If they did, much of the current support for Hillary Clinton’s and the GOP candidates’ cheerleading for escalating involvement would evaporate.

“An Invitation to Collective Suicide” is  just such a reckoning. If the goal is to “subdue” Islamist violence and “make America safe,” and that’s on the heroic assumption that such goals are even possible with a strategy of military intervention, the costs are huge. The military intervention required is orders of magnitude greater than anything the US has done to date. The time required must be reckoned in decades, and that does not count the many more decades for the resultant garrisons necessary to maintain US imposed “order.” All of this does not come cheaply, of course, and it will require US policymakers to make politically explosive decisions about which items, including entitlements, are going to be axed to make way for vastly expanded military spending, assuming capital markets will remain willing to fund US profligacy. The effort will probably require conscription, and it will certainly expand the surveillance state.

Implicit in Bacevich’s article is one other cost: America’s soul. When victory is finally declared in this “clash of civilizations,” America will be a much different—and much worse—place than it once was. Before the argument on intervention can proceed, proponents of escalation have to acknowledge the past, present, and future costs of the courses of action they advocate. Until that acknowledgement has been made, their slogans and cheap attempts to belittle those who oppose them can and should be ignored.

If you read only one SLL post today, read this one. The introduction is by Tom Englehardt, the featured article by Andrew Bacevich, from tomdispatch.com:

By Tom Englehardt

Let’s consider the two parties in Washington. I’m not referring to the Republican and Democratic ones, but our capital’s war parties (there being no peace party, of course). They might be labeled the More War Party and the Much (or Much, Much) More War Party. Headed by President Obama, the first is distinctly a minority grouping. In a capital city in which, post-Paris, war seems to be the order of the day, it’s the party of relative restraint, as the president has clearly grasped the obvious: for the last 14 years, the more wholeheartedly the U.S. has gone into any situation in the Greater Middle East, militarily speaking, the worse it has turned out.

Having promised to get us out of two wars and being essentially assured of leaving us in at least three (and various other conflicts on the side), he insists that a new invasion or even a large-scale infusion of American troops, aka “boots on the ground,” in Syria or Iraq is a no-go for him. The code word he uses for his version of more war — since less war is simply not an option on that “table” in Washington where all options are evidently kept — is “intensification.” Once upon a time, it might have been called “escalation” or “mission creep.” The president has pledged to merely “intensify” the war he’s launched, however reluctantly, in Syria and the one he’s re-launched in Iraq. This seems to mean more of exactly what he’s already ordered into the fray: more air power, more special forces boots more or less on the ground in Syria, more special ops raiders sent into Iraq, and perhaps more military advisers ever nearer to the action in that country as well. This is as close as you’re likely to get in present-day America, at least in official circles, to an antiwar position.

In the Much (or Much, Much) More War party, Republicans and Democrats alike are explicitly or implicitly criticizing the president for his “weak” policies and for “leading from behind” against the Islamic State. They propose solutions ranging from instituting “no-fly zones” in northern Syria to truly intensifying U.S. air strikes, to sending in local forces backed and led by American special operators (à la Afghanistan 2001), to sending in far more American troops, to simply putting masses of American boots on the ground and storming the Islamic State’s capital, Raqqa. After fourteen years in which so many similar “solutions” have been tried and in the end failed miserably in the Greater Middle East or North Africa, all of it, as if brand new, is once again on that table in Washington.

Aside from long-shots Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul, any candidate likely to enter the Oval Office in January 2017 will be committed to some version of much-more war, including obviously Donald Trump, Marco (“clash of civilizations”) Rubio, and Hillary Clinton, who recently gave a hawkish speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on her version of war policy against the Islamic State. Given that stark reality, this is a perfect moment to explore what much-more war (call it, in fact, “World War IV”) might actually mean and how it might play out in our world — and TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich is the perfect person to do it. Tom

Beyond ISIS
The Folly of World War IV
By Andrew J. Bacevich

Assume that the hawks get their way — that the United States does whatever it takes militarily to confront and destroy ISIS. Then what?

Answering that question requires taking seriously the outcomes of other recent U.S. interventions in the Greater Middle East. In 1991, when the first President Bush ejected Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, Americans rejoiced, believing that they had won a decisive victory. A decade later, the younger Bush seemingly outdid his father by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and then making short work of Saddam himself — a liberation twofer achieved in less time than it takes Americans to choose a president. After the passage of another decade, Barack Obama got into the liberation act, overthrowing the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in what appeared to be a tidy air intervention with a clean outcome. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton memorably put it, “We came, we saw, he died.” End of story.

In fact, subsequent events in each case mocked early claims of success or outright victory. Unanticipated consequences and complications abounded. “Liberation” turned out to be a prelude to chronic violence and upheaval.

Indeed, the very existence of the Islamic State (ISIS) today renders a definitive verdict on the Iraq wars over which the Presidents Bush presided, each abetted by a Democratic successor. A de facto collaboration of four successive administrations succeeded in reducing Iraq to what it is today: a dysfunctional quasi-state unable to control its borders or territory while serving as a magnet and inspiration for terrorists.

The United States bears a profound moral responsibility for having made such a hash of things there. Were it not for the reckless American decision to invade and occupy a nation that, whatever its crimes, had nothing to do with 9/11, the Islamic State would not exist. Per the famous Pottery Barn Rule attributed to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, having smashed Iraq to bits a decade ago, we can now hardly deny owning ISIS.

That the United States possesses sufficient military power to make short work of that “caliphate” is also the case. True, in both Syria and Iraq the Islamic State has demonstrated a disturbing ability to capture and hold large stretches of desert, along with several population centers. It has, however, achieved these successes against poorly motivated local forces of, at best, indifferent quality.

In that regard, the glibly bellicose editor of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol, is surely correct in suggesting that a well-armed contingent of 50,000 U.S. troops, supported by ample quantities of air power, would make mincemeat of ISIS in a toe-to-toe contest. Liberation of the various ISIS strongholds like Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq and Palmyra and Raqqa, its “capital,” in Syria would undoubtedly follow in short order.

To continue reading: An Invitation to Collective Suicide


Declare Victory, Come Home? by Stanley L. Cohen

Not a bad idea. From Stanley L. Cohen at antiwar.com:

I have no idea who was involved in the latest atrocity in Paris, the Russian airplane bombing in the Sinai, the attacks in South Beirut or recent siege in Mali, but I’m pretty sure there will be a long line of those only too willing to take credit for the mayhem; and even more talking heads assigning blame based upon their “experience,” source information, or six figure paychecks from main stream media, as token resident “terrorism” experts for sale. Who cares.

The real issue is what, if anything, can be done to stanch the mindless bloodletting that has become routine in many corners of the world today. The answer is simple- as was successfully done in Vietnam, declare victory and get out.

Putting aside, for the moment, the lawlessness of it all, the days of identifying the “bad guy” and simply taking him or her out are long gone. Other than Israeli slaughters of Palestinians, the all too simplistic notion that there are tight- knit hierarchical organizations or a calibrated theology ultimately responsible for massacres of civilians, be it in France, Tunisia, Baghdad or Kenya, may sell to a now clearly numbed and frightened public, but ultimately it’s just so much fool’s gold. We all see how successful the targeted drone murders of “key” terrorists throughout the Middle East and Africa have been and, of course, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden did prove to be a watershed moment in turning back the clock to the warm comforting days of TV’s “Father Knows Best.” The bottom line: it’s all too little, too late, and if it wasn’t so damned deadly, downright silly.

For far too long, the civilian body count has grown higher and higher throughout the world, piled mostly with the remains of Muslims… some of whom just don’t seem to appreciate the superior Judeo/Christian traditions of peace and love which, to some degree, have fueled it… and who have long been the favorite targets of the marauding faith-based West and its surrogate states. Of course, when the mayhem is caused or viewed by the West as necessary to protect its own claimed interests or that of friends, or to fulfill so-called treaty obligations with other neocolonial powers, the bombs, drones, and water-boarding they use are just fine; always, of course, carried out in the name of democracy and security. The bottom line: the West needs to get out of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia completely leaving the folks on the ground to decide their own fate, in their own countries, in their own ways, as they, alone, determine their course for existence

For generations the West carved up foreign regions where most of the fighting is ongoing today, stealing their natural resources, anointing archaic despotic regimes and promoting or turning a blind eye to human rights violations by regimes who host meaningless conferences in exotic ports with marching bands that can’t play their own national anthems yet are adept playing those of Western leaders who attend to protect their own colonial self-interests… even as those very interests crash and burn.

Unfortunately, at its core, the imperial notion continues that the “first” world has the best laid plans, the finest of motives and, of course, all the answers to dampen, if not extinguish, revolutionary fervor by hundreds of millions of mostly principled and determined women and men throughout the “third-world”, seeking nothing more than true independence and the ability to chart a future for themselves and their families… removed from shadows of world capitals thousands of miles from the streets and fields they call home. Tragically, it seems the cultural, religious and racial arrogance of the West is reason enough to cause an endless stream of alienated and angry youth to throw themselves under the proverbial bus and, in so doing, drag a bunch of other innocents along with them. To view today’s violence in a vacuum and simply the result of an age-old messianic religious call, is to guarantee future generations of death and destruction leading to continued head-scratching and failure to figure out reasons behind it.

To continue reading: Declare Victory, Come Home?

Orwell or Jenga? by Robert Gore

This website advocates straight line logic, but not straight line thinking. Normalcy bias is the term used by psychologists to describe the tendency to think that what has occurred in the recent past will continue in the future. The dominant social trend of the last 100 years has been the growth of the state. As such, straight line projections to the future are common: world government wielding technology to eliminate civil liberties; mass subservience indistinguishable from slavery; execution of the nonconforming, and so on. 1984 captures a widely shared and feared vision.

The Jenga model offers a different vision. Jenga is a game in which 54 wooden blocks are stacked in a tower and players remove individual blocks until the tower collapses. A Jenga collapse is the opposite of the 1984 outcome. A choice between collapse or totalitarian super state may sound bleak, but the former would be the first real grounds for optimism in many years. Anyone who finds optimism in the latter is beyond hope or redemption.

SLL recently published an article, “The Death Of Cognitive Dollar Dissonance & The Remonitization Of Gold,” by John Butler at The Amphora Report. Butler points out that the present fiat currency and debt regime leads to chronic imbalances in global trade. At some point, exporting countries lose faith in the importing countries currencies and their debt denominated in those currencies. They are, after all, merely unbacked pieces of paper or computer entries. However, the exporters cannot insist on payment in their own currencies and debt, because the importers lack sufficient exporter currency and debt to pay for their imports. Such insistence would throw trade into reverse, imposing costs on both parties. Butler asks the question: “[H]ow can future international monetary arrangements nevertheless facilitate international commerce with exporters and importers at loggerheads over which currencies to use?”

He has an answer: gold. It is not a liability of any government, thus it can’t be subjected to the self-serving machinations made possible by fiat debt. (“Real Money,” SLL, 9/9/15)). Once an exporter, even a small country, demands payment in gold—clearly superior to depreciating fiat debt and currencies—others will follow; nobody will want to be last to acquire gold reserves. The scenario is plausible; the salient point for this article is the possibility that one country could upend the world monetary system by insisting on payment in gold. There have been innumerable discussions, analyses, and proposals for global financial arrangements, expansion of existing or creation of new multinational bodies, and regional or one-world currencies, essentially straight-line projections of historical trend. How “inevitable” are these developments when what we’ve got can be turned upside down just by one country asking for payment in gold? Such an emperor-is-naked moment sounds like Jenga, not all-powerful government.

Indeed, you find blocks precariously perched wherever you look. The monster in the closet of fractional reserve banking is uncontainable bank runs. It was that fear that fueled massive panic, ad hoc emergency measures, expansion of debt, and socialization of risk in the last financial crisis. Only a deluded optimist would think that such measures will rescue the system next time: government debt-to-GDP ratios are higher, the banking industry is more concentrated, hidden leverage and re-hypothecation chains permeate the shadow banking complex, and central-bank promoted interest rates are already close to zero. If Big Brother is depending on the debt-ridden, house-of-cards global financial system (see the SLL Debtonomics Archive tab), he’s apt to be discombobulated.

Surely things are not so precarious with the military and warfare, which is what governments supposedly do best. An objective examination of US intervention in the Middle East and northern Africa since 2001 blows that supposition to smithereens. The claim is that US interventions were maintaining some sort of order and balance of power. Russia and Iran are rescuing a dictator on the ropes, whose second-rate army was losing to a rag-tag band of jihadists numbering at most 100,000, the bulk of their weaponry pilfered from US backed forces, and apparently have destroyed that US imposed order and balance of power. If order and power are so ephemeral, after the trillions of dollars spent, lives lost, and devastation wrought, that they can be vanquished with such minimal effort by Russia and Iran, that’s Jenga tower instability, not Orwell’s iron hand. (We’ll see how the Russian and Iranian “iron hands” work out.)

The world is tied together by computers, and as a recent Wall Street Journal article highlights, they have countless vulnerabilities (WSJ, “Cyberwar Ignites New Arms Race,” 10/12/15). Naturally governments are taking the lead; hacking; probing defense, intelligence, financial, and industrial networks; stealing sensitive information; disabling critical applications with malware and viruses, and trying to defend themselves from such efforts by other governments. The Journal article is undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg and nobody, given the secrecy inherent in all this, knows all that goes on beneath the surface. But it is not a stretch to suggest that hackers, public or private, with enough time and resources can eventually penetrate any firewall and disrupt any function they target. Jenga!

Discard normalcy bias and adopt an abnormalcy assumption: the future will be quite different from the past. Creaky towers are swaying on shaky philosophical and conceptual foundations and it will take surprisingly little to stress and topple them. Rebuilding from rubble requires far different tools and mindsets than battling Big Brother. The cause for optimism: how many times do we get a chance to learn from our mistakes and build something new?

Coming soon: Beyond Jenga


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Cancel Hope, Cry Havoc, by Robert Gore

The snap is coming. We’ve all had days where disappointment and frustration mount until a minor provocation triggers a hugely disproportionate reaction. You blow up at your spouse or kids, kick the dog, slam doors, or shout at the television; you make an ass of yourself and feel immediately embarrassed and ashamed. Societies, too, have their breaking points, and by all indications we’re getting close. The catalyst may be seemingly trivial, but it will be the camel’s spine-snapping straw after a decades-long cumulation of presumption, pretense, ineptitude, lies, and corruption in high places.

The explosion won’t be because of any diminution of ignorance: average citizens paying more attention to politics, economics, and world affairs and newly enraged, vowing to change things. Rather, decisions and actions made by remote, unaccountable powers will impinge upon their lives in ways that finally become intolerable. As circumstances are reduced, dreams deferred or destroyed, lives permanently upended, and loved ones senselessly killed, many will conclude they have nothing to lose. They’ll take actions beyond what are piously termed the permissible bounds of free expression. Crying havoc, they will let slip the dogs of riot, revolution, anarchy, and war. Looking back, the wonder will not be that they did so, but that it took them so long.

The Middle East and northern Africa have already snapped. The refugee stream into Europe is a result of US government failure. Ignoring the Sunni-Shiite schism that has defined the region for centuries, the US has blundered into various conflicts, supporting both sides, sometimes simultaneously, and conjuring a side that doesn’t exist: moderates whose passion is not their Islamic sect, but rather plurality, democracy, and human rights (“Not the Biggest Kid on Every Block,” SLL, 9/28/15). In Syria this fanciful Thomas Jefferson brigade, a product of the fervid imaginations of US neocons and their media toadies, was going to take out Bashar Assad, always the real goal of the US and its Sunni allies, then take out Sunni ISIS, the goal of US ally Shiite Iraq and US enemy Shiite Iran. All sides would be happy as a new era of peace, inclusion, and freedom dawned in Syria.

In reality, Thomas Jefferson brigades in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and now Syria haven’t worked out well for the US (“The Pentagon’s Syria Debacle,” by Philip Ewing and Austin Wright, SLL, 9/18/15, and “US-trained Division 30 rebels ‘betray US and hand weapons over to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria’,” by Nabih Bulos, SLL, 9/23/15). They have no commitment to the values of our illustrious founding father, except in some instances slavery (“The Rape of Afghanistan,” by Justin Raimondo, SLL, 9/23/15). US policymakers know this; they’re looking for puppets, not statesmen. However, to quote Vladimir Putin: “[w]ho’s playing who here?” Obviously the US has been played, and hard. Now, hundreds of thousands of refugees, rejecting perpetual war and terror, are voting with their feet.

Putin understands the game and has come down on the Shiite side, supporting Assad in Syria, allying with Iran, and bolstering beleaguered Iraq. The balance of power in the Middle East has been decisively altered; the Shiite nations now have their Russian big brother watching out for them. If Russia, Iran, and Iraq make short work of ISIS—not a sucker bet—the US will look even more foolish and venal that it already does, but there will be one silver lining: it should diminish the refugee flow from Syria.

Which would be a good thing for Europe. While the snap there has yet to come, the branch is breaking. The European Union’s governing institutions have become, in the way governments do, sclerotic bureaucratic monstrosities run by unaccountable elites. The Greek soap opera illustrates the EU golden rule: the country with the gold (Germany) gets to make the rules. In any welfare state there is always a fissure between those who make and those who take, and Greece has turned it into a chasm. The recent election in Catalonia, a referendum in support of independence from Spain, reflects the growing sentiment among the more prosperous: We’re getting screwed! The welfare state has become an unaffordable luxury, further strained by the refugees. Growth, never robust, has slowed to a crawl. Despite more debt from over-indebted governments—which the ECB has monetized while suppressing interest rates—deflation and contraction are taking hold. Sky high youth unemployment rates and rigid labor markets offer little hope for the younger generation.

The US knows all about immigration problems, over-indebted government, and unaffordable welfare state programs. Somehow a period in which real incomes are lower than they were in 2000, the poverty rate has increased, the labor force participation rate has dropped to its level in 1977 (before women entered the labor force en masse), and total US debt is at a record has been christened a “recovery.” If it is a recovery it has been tepid, a few tweaks of seasonal adjustments and price indexes away from being a continuation of the recession that began in 2008.

Old people are getting screwed by Fed-promoted microscopic interest rates. Their labor force participation rate is the only one that has bucked the trend, increasing as they cancel retirement and fill Walmart and McDonald’s jobs to keep the wolves at bay. Young people are getting screwed, burdened with college debt and a job market that throws off jobs waiting tables, crafting caffeinated concoctions, and tending bar, but not the kinds of higher paying positions that would require their degrees and allow them to pay their debt, start families, and buy houses. They are waking up to who’s on the hook for massive government debts and unfunded liabilities. Anyone younger than fifty with a three digit IQ also understands that their receipt of promised benefits is “problematic,” which is powers-that-be speak for “bend over.”

Destroy people’s hopes for a better life and you make riot, revolution, anarchy, and war inevitable. There is no way to predict which spark sets off which conflagration, but the world’s $200 trillion-plus debt load will provide abundant kindling. It’s hard to hold out much hope for the future when your future has been mortgaged. What we are seeing now—the refugee crisis, commodity collapse, financial perturbations, Greece, China, Catalonia, the rise of Putin, the US’s Syrian fiasco, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders—are mild pre-tremors before a massive seismic shock. When the big one arrives, upended political orders in Washington, Ottawa, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, Riyadh, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, London, and Brasilia are conceivable aftershocks. Few of their billions of long-suffering victims will mourn the fates of powers that be who become powers that were. Now unthinkable, judicial proceedings, disgrace, imprisonment, and even worse will be the order of the day.


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Sustaining Perpetual War: The Bloodless Narrative, by Peter Van Buren

The first casualty of war is the truth, which is why Americans have received very little truth from the government since 9/11 and the commencement of the never-ending war on terror. From Peter Van Buren at antiwar.com:

Sustaining America’s state of post-9/11 perpetual war requires skillful manipulation of the public at home. The key tool used for this purpose is the bloodless narrative, a combination of careful policy, deliberate falsehoods, and media manipulation that creates the impression that America’s wars have few consequences, at least for Americans.

How can the American government sustain its perpetual wars in the face of dead soldiers coming home? Why is there no outcry among the American people over these losses? The answer is the narrative of bloodless war.

The Invisible Dead

The bloodless war narrative’s solution to the dead is a policy of don’t look, don’t tell.

Dick Cheney, as Secretary of Defense for George H. W. Bush, helped decide in 1991 that the first Iraq War would play better if Americans did not see their fallen return home. He recalled the images of coffins from the 1989 invasion of Panama on television, transposed against the president speaking of victory, and banned media from Dover Air Force Base, where deceased American personnel would arrive from the Persian Gulf.

The ban at Dover lasted 18 years, past George Bush 2.0 and Iraq War 2.0, overturned only in 2009, well after the casualty counts dropped off. Even then, allowing cameras at Dover was left at the discretion of the families, except of course when the president needed a flag-draped and blood-stirring photo op. (Obama took one just before ordering the surge in Afghanistan.)

Death, when it is reluctantly acknowledged, must still follow the bloodless narrative as closely as possible. Death must be for a good cause, freedom if possible, “for his buddies” later when public opinion weakens.

There is no better example in recent times than the death of Pat Tillman, America’s once-walking propaganda dream. Tillman was a professional football player making a $3.6 million salary. Following 9/11, he gave that all up and volunteered for combat. When he died in Afghanistan, the Army told his family he’d been killed by enemy fire after courageously charging up a hill to protect his fellow soldiers. They awarded him a Silver Star (posthumously) and celebrated him as a hero.

It was the right thing to say and do to support the bloodless narrative, but it was a lie. A big one.

A month later, the Pentagon notified Tillman’s family he had actually died as a result of friendly fire. The month delay placed the bloody reality of his death safely after his memorial service and in the fog of faded media interest. Later investigations revealed the Army knew within days that his death was by friendly fire.

The Physically Mutilated

For all the trouble the dead cause to the bloodless narrative, the wounded are even messier. They still walk around, sometimes speak to journalists, and, well, do not always look bloodless.

To continue reading: Sustaining Perpetual War: The Bloodless Narrative

The Pentagon’s Syria debacle, by Philip Ewing and Austin Wright

There are many worthy contenders, but Syria may be the US government’s biggest Middle Eastern screw up so far. Even John McCain, who never met a war he didn’t like, doesn’t like this one. However, because in government nothing succeeds like failure, it is a sure bet that this effort will escalate. From Philip Ewing and Austin Wright at politico.com:

Top brass debate how to rescue costly effort to raise rebel army to fight Islamic State.

With all the U.S.-trained fighters dead, captured or missing and their leader in the hands of Al Qaeda, top U.S. commanders are scrambling this week to determine how to revive the half-billion dollar program to create a moderate Syrian army to fight the Islamic State.

The outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who viewed the force as a critical element of the military strategy in both Syria and Iraq, is conferring with top Pentagon officials behind closed doors to figure out what options are left for what is widely considered a policy and military failure, according to senior defense officials.

“We are trying to learn from experience,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Wednesday, while acknowledging raising a rebel army is “hard to implement, particularly in a place like Syria, and so we’re going to learn and get better at it as time goes on.”

But a year after Congress authorized the Syrian train and equip program, to the tune of $500 million, even Republican hawks are no longer willing to throw their support behind it — including some who think it should be scrapped altogether.
“It’s a bad, bad sick joke,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters, calling the decision to authorize the program in the first place a mistake.

Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Appropriations Committee, returned from a trip to the region last week where he was briefed on the effort. His assessment of the program: “a bigger disaster than I could have ever imagined.”

After nearly 12 months of extensive international outreach, the program has so far yielded only 54 fighters — all of whom were killed, captured by terrorists in Syria or scattered when they came under attack this summer.
To continue reading: The Pentagon’s Syria debacle

Islam’s Conquest of Europe, by Patrick J. Buchanan

From Patrick Buchanan at buchanan.org:

“Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide,” wrote James Burnham in his 1964 “Suicide of the West.”

Burnham predicted that the mindless magnanimity of liberals, who subordinate the interests of their own people and nations to utopian and altruistic impulses, would bring about an end to Western civilization.

Was he wrong? Consider what is happening in Europe.

Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia, small nations sensing they will be swamped by asylum seekers from the Muslim world, are trying to seal their borders and secure their homelands.

Their instinct for survival, their awareness of lifeboat ethics, is acute. Yet they are being condemned for trying to save themselves.

Meanwhile, the pope calls on Catholics everywhere to welcome the asylum seekers and Angela Merkel will be taking in 800,000 this year alone, though the grumbling has begun in Bavaria.

This is but the beginning of what is to come, if Europe does not pull up the drawbridge.

For the scores of thousands of Syrians in the Balkans, Hungary, Austria and Germany are only the first wave. Behind them in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are 4 million refugees from the Syrian civil war. Seeing the success of the first wave, they are now on the move.

Behind them are 2 million Alawites and 2 million Christians who will be fleeing Syria when the Bashar Assad regime falls to ISIS and the al-Qaeda terrorists who already occupy half of that blood-soaked land.

Now the Iraqis, who live in a country the prospects for whose reunification and peace are receding, have begun to move. Also among the thousands pouring into Europe from Turkey are Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Afghans. When the Americans leave Afghanistan and the Taliban take their revenge, more Afghans will be fleeing west.

Africa has a billion people, a number that will double by 2050, and double again to 4 billion by 2100. Are those billions of Africans going to endure lives of poverty under ruthless, incompetent, corrupt and tyrannical regimes, if Europe’s door remains wide open?

What is coming is not difficult to predict.

To continue reading: Islam’s Conquest of Europe