Joe Bomberman

How anyone can look at the middle east and all that’s gone wrong these past six years and opine that high altitude bombing of yet another country makes sense is beyond me. Says Joe Lieberman:

I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me, that would include a strike into… over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.

Now, Joe is smart enough to realize that, for multiple reasons, we can’t invade Iran. Must be very frustrating for him. But, not to worry, let’s just drop a few thousand bombs on them:

I think you could probably do a lot of it from the air.

Since the first Gulf Slaughter this has increasingly been the golden rule of war-think: Why risk the deaths of American soldiers when you can destroy the enemy at little risk with high altitude bombers. True, it means that most of the people you kill are innocent civilians. If they didn’t want to be bombed they should have thought of that before they were born in a small third-world country with leaders that piss off America.

Michael Sky

Arms Race Redux

Any hopes that Mr Bush would lame duck his way quietly through the remainder of his term can be retired. There’s just no end to the nasties. Now, even worse than the Iraq, he wants a new arms race with Russia. Showing his usual lack of historical thought he proposes new missiles in Eastern Europe, ostensibly to deal with rogue terrorists, but easily deployed against Russia if necessary, or, being Bush, just for the apocalypse of it.

This is wrong for so many reasons. James Carroll provides some history:

One man picked up a club, and the other answered with a stone. A knife was parried with a sword. The shield followed, then the spear, the mace, the longbow, the fortified wall, the catapult, the castle, the cannon. Across eons, every warrior’s improvement in defense was followed by a breakthrough in offense, leading to yet new countermeasures, ever more lethal. This ancient offense-defense cycle was made modern by the machine gun and the tank, then by warplanes and anti aircraft guns, and, ultimately, by ballistic missiles and anti ballistic missiles.

In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara analyzed the structure of this dynamic to argue for a halt to it. “Were we to deploy a heavy ABM system . . . the Soviets would clearly be strongly motivated so to increase their offensive capability as to cancel out our defense advantage.” Not only would the mutual escalation, launched in the name of defense, be futile and wasteful, but it would make war more likely rather than less. At the end of his Pentagon tenure, McNamara had arrived at the central paradox of the nuclear age — how defense and offense had taken on opposite meanings, with the former having become the inevitable precursor of the latter. In opposing the deployment of the ABM, the American defense chief was breaking with the oldest pattern of human belligerence.

A gradual disarmament was underway, and though it would take more than thirty years, and the collapse of the Soviets, the ultimate trends were toward a world with ever fewer nuclear missiles armed for Armageddon.

Then came Bush, who immediately started repudiating the key disarmament treaties. In reaction to his provocations, the Russians are now developing and testing new weapons. “It wasn’t us who initiated a new round of the arms race,” says Vladimir Putin.

Michael Sky

America is not Bush

One characteristic of the Bush administration’s false premises, and perhaps the one that has most damaged the nation’s reputation, is that its idea of America and its notion of American exceptionalism — Messianic and Manichaean — is the only idea of America. But there is another idea of the country, which began even before the country was a nation, before America became the United States, a nation under law. John Winthrop said (and has been cited by Republican and Democratic presidents since) that we must be “as a city upon a hill.” The next sentence is: “The eyes of all people are upon us.”

We must be unblinkered and unillusioned, conscious of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” as our Declaration of Independence put it, with the sense that America never is alone or isolated — and not ultimately because we are scrutinized by others but because we understand ourselves and our history. America can begin to recover its reputation in the world only through self-recovery.

Sidney Blumenthal | Salon 

Sacrifice, Pain, and Grief

Is it presumptuous to imagine we can know something about those whose lives were lost, perhaps even the “unknowns”? The military women and men who have been killed in war wanted more from life than they got. They began by believing in a higher cause, but ended up, from every frontline report, caring most about the buddies to their right and left. They saw the horrors of combat, but what really frightened them was the threat of moral collapse as feelings of anger, fear, and, perhaps, revenge replaced the stately cohesion of the drill.

Trained in glory, they died in absurdity. On Memorial Day, can we pay tribute to the dead without falsifying what befell them?

“If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted,” the Vietnam novelist Tim O’Brien wrote, “or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.” O’Brien says that the hallmarks of truth, when it comes to war stories, are obscenity and evil. “You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you.”

Such dark notes are struck by the chroniclers of every war, going back to Homer, but they seem especially apt when those being mourned have fallen in a war that, even before its end, has already shown itself to have been mistaken from its first trumpet.

James Carroll | The Boston Globe 

Cuba’s Cure

Cubans say they offer health care to the world’s poor because they have big hearts. But what do they get in return?

They live longer than almost anyone in Latin America. Far fewer babies die. Almost everyone has been vaccinated, and such scourges of the poor as parasites, TB, malaria, even HIV/AIDS are rare or non-existent. Anyone can see a doctor, at low cost, right in the neighborhood.

The Cuban health care system is producing a population that is as healthy as those of the world’s wealthiest countries at a fraction of the cost. And now Cuba has begun exporting its system to under-served communities around the world—including the United States.

The story of Cuba’s health care ambitions is largely hidden from the people of the United States, where politics left over from the Cold War maintain an embargo on information and understanding. But it is increasingly well-known in the poorest communities of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa where Cuban and Cuban-trained doctors are practicing.

In the words of Dr. Paul Farmer, Cuba is showing that “you can introduce the notion of a right to health care and wipe out the diseases of poverty.”

Sarah van Gelder | Yes Magazine 

The Assault on Reason

It is too easy—and too partisan—to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us? Why has America’s public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on Sept. 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.

Al Gore| Time Magazine

What Price Slaughter?

Despite the relatively small amounts paid out in Iraq, total official payments for wrongful deaths, as well as for injury and collateral property damage, caused by American troops, had reached $20 million by the end of 2005. The figure now stands minimally at $32 million — and that figure is considered low because similar payments are made unofficially “at a unit commander’s discretion.” (For purposes of comparison, the total September 11th payout figure was in the range of $7 billion.)

We don’t know the actual average amount paid out in Iraq today, but if you were to take an obviously high figure like $5,000 and divide it into $32 million, the low total figure we have for such “consolation payments,” you would have some 6,400 “incidents” (not all deaths, although some payments are made for multiple deaths). It’s a striking figure, especially when you consider that these are just for cases in which an Iraqi actually applied to the American occupation forces and was accepted for compensation. It gives you some crude indication of just how high the death toll has really been in Iraq. That $32 million for officially recorded “consolation payments,” by the way, would add up to just under 18 average payments for deaths (or injuries) at the World Trade Center.

Tom Engelhardt | 

The Good American

The war in Iraq is as immoral a conflict as the United States has ever been involved in. Past wars were fought in a day and age where information was not readily available on the totality of issues surrounding a given conflict. One could excuse citizens if they were not equipped with the knowledge and information necessary to empower them to speak out against bad policy. Not so today. For someone today to proclaim ignorance as an excuse for inactivity is as morally and intellectually weak an argument as can be imagined.

The truth about those who claim they simply “didn’t know” lies in their own lack of commitment to a strong America, one founded on principles and values worth fighting for, and one where every American is committed to the defense of the same. Ignorance is bad citizenship. In this day and age, bad citizenship carries ramifications beyond the environs of our local communities. Given America’s dominant role in the world, bad American citizenship has a way of manifesting itself globally.

Scott Ritter | 

Warships, Warships Everywhere

President Bush keeps insisting that he would like to see these “diplomatic” endeavors — as he describes them — succeed, but he has yet to bring up a single proposal or incentive that might offer any realistic prospect of eliciting a positive Iranian response.

And so, knowing that his “diplomatic” efforts are almost certain to fail, Bush may simply be waiting for the day when he can announce to the American people that he has “tried everything”; that “his patience has run out”; and that he can “no longer risk the security of the American people” by “indulging in further fruitless negotiations,” thereby allowing the Iranians “to proceed farther down the path of nuclear bomb-making,” and so has taken the perilous but necessary step of ordering American forces to conduct air and missile strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. At that point, the 80 planes aboard the Nimitz — and those on the Eisenhower and the Stennis as well — will be on their way to targets in Iran, along with hundreds of TLAMs and a host of other weapons now being assembled in the Gulf.

Michael T. Klare |