When the U.S. military began a major offensive in southern Afghanistan over the weekend, the killing of children and other civilians was predictable. Lofty rhetoric aside, such deaths come with the territory of war and occupation.
A month ago, President Obama pledged $100 million in U.S. government aid to earthquake-devastated Haiti. Compare that to the $100 billion price tag to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for a year.
While commanders in Afghanistan were launching what the New York Times called “the largest offensive military operation since the American-led coalition invaded the country in 2001,” the situation in Haiti was clearly dire.
With more than a million Haitians still homeless, vast numbers — the latest estimates are around 75 percent — don’t have tents or tarps. The rainy season is fast approaching, with serious dangers of typhoid and dysentery.
No shortage of bombs in Afghanistan; a lethal shortage of tents in Haiti. Such priorities — actual, not rhetorical — are routine.
Last summer, I saw hundreds of children and other civilians at the Helmand Refugee Camp District 5, a miserable makeshift encampment in Kabul. The U.S. government had ample resources for bombing their neighborhoods in the Helmand Valley — but was doing nothing to help the desperate refugees to survive after they fled to Afghanistan’s capital city.
Such priorities have parallels at home. The military hawks and deficit hawks are now swooping along Pennsylvania Avenue in tight formation. There’s plenty of money in the U.S. Treasury for war in Afghanistan. But domestic spending to meet human needs — job creation, for instance — is another matter.
Norman Solomon | CommonDreams.org
Setting pen to paper and thereby blessing the project was President Obama, who had announced a year ago in Prague the goal of a nuclear-free world, but with his recent budget, will actually increase nuclear weapons production more than any other president since Ronald Reagan.
Here’s a piece of hypocrisy that surpasses even that of George W. Bush. Cheer on disarmament while drawing up plans for new facilities. Raise up a hopeful vision and, behind the scenes, ensure its dying. An Orwellian nightmare.
Need it be added, the weapons manufacturers are delighted.
“Obama’s Nuke Vision Sees Cash Flow to Labs,” was the headline last week in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The article reported that Obama will increase funding for nuclear weapons research and security programs $7 billion more next year, an increase of $624 million from the 2010 fiscal year.
John Dear | CommonDreams
Policies and practices that were perfectly acceptable just after 9/11, or when deployed by the Bush administration, are now decried as dangerous and reckless. The same prominent Republicans who once celebrated open civilian trials for Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber,” now claim that open civilian trials endanger Americans (some Republicans have now even gone so far as to try to defund such trials). Republicans who once supported closing Guantanamo are now fighting to keep it open. And one GOP senator, who like all members of Congress must take an oath to uphold the Constitution, has voiced his concern that the Christmas bomber really needed to be “properly interrogated” instead of being allowed to ask for a lawyer.
In short, what was once tough on terror is now soft on terror. And each time the Republicans move their own crazy-place goal posts, the Obama administration moves right along with them.
It’s hard to explain why this keeps happening. There hasn’t been a successful terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. The terrorists who were tried in criminal proceedings since 9/11 are rotting in jail. The Christmas Day terror attack was both amateurish and unsuccessful. The Christmas bomber is evidently cooperating with intelligence officials without the need to resort to thumbscrews. In a rational universe, one might conclude that all this is actually good news. But in the Republican crazy-place, there is no good news.
Dahlia Lithwick | Slate
So that’s where the American consensus now lies. Â The practices used by Britain, Spain, India and Indonesia (and the Reagan administration) of treating Terrorists as criminals and convicting them in normal courts — with due process — is too fringe Leftist for the United States, which has spent decades sermonizing to the rest of the world about the need for due process and the evils of arbitrary detention. Â Instead, our political and media establishment demands that we replicate the policies of Libya and Saudi Arabia: Â simply hold accused Terrorists without trials or, at most, invent special due-process-abridging military tribunals to ensure they are convicted.
George Bush and Dick Cheney ended up as two of the most despised political leaders of the last century, so our establishment had to pretend that they, too, found their policies to be distasteful and extreme. Â But that was clearly a pretense. Â In those very rare instances where Obama and his Attorney General try to deviate, they’re accused (including by leading members of their own party) of accommodating “the Far Left” and being “Soft on Terror.”
The undeniable truth is that our establishment craves Bush/Cheney policies because it is as radical as they are. Â That one is automatically accused of being too Leftist merely by literally reciting Reagan administration policy on Terrorists (in words if not deeds) Â — and that one can be “centrist” only by standing with the due-process-denying practices of Libya and Saudi Arabia — reflects just how far the American spectrum has regressed.
Glenn Greenwald | Salon
The invasion of Iraq was unquestionably one of the greatest crimes of the last several decades. Â Imagine what future historians will say about it — a nakedly aggressive war launched under the falsest of pretenses, in brazen violation of every relevant precept of law, which destroyed an entire country, killed huge numbers of innocent people, and devastated the entire population.
Have we even remotely treated it as what it is? Â We’re willing to concede it was a “mistake” — a good-natured and completely understandable lapse of judgment — but only the shrill and unhinged among us call it a crime.
As always, it’s worth recalling that Robert Jackson, the lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, insisted in his Closing Argument against the Nazi war criminals that “the central crime in this pattern of crimes” was not genocide or mass deportation or concentration camps; rather, “the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars.” Â History teaches that aggressive war is the greatest and most dangerous of all crimes — as it enables even worse acts of inhumanity — and illegal, aggressive war is precisely what we did in Iraq, to great devastation.
Glenn Greenwald | Salon
The clear fact is that, no matter how severe are our budgetary constraints, military spending and all so-called “security-related programs” are off-limits for any freezes, let alone decreases. Â Moreover, the modest spending freeze to be announced by Obama tomorrow is just the start; the Washington consensus has solidified and is clearly gearing up for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with the dirty work to be done by an independent “deficit commission.”
It’s time for “everyone” to sacrifice and suffer some more — as long as “everyone” excludes our vast military industry, the permanent power factions inside the Pentagon and intelligence community, our Surveillance and National Security State, and the imperial policies of perpetual war which feed them while further draining the lifeblood out of the country.
Glenn Greenwald | Salon
The civic, patriotic and political language we use to describe ourselves remains unchanged. We pay fealty to the same national symbols and iconography. We find our collective identity in the same national myths. We continue to deify the Founding Fathers.
But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis. Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression.
The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.
Chris Hedges | TruthDig
As the American economy digs out from the debris of the Great Recession triggered by the collapse of the housing bubble, we should think about what could happen about another bubble that invisibly chugs through the American economy.
I refer to our bloated defense spending.
The United States spends more for its arsenal than any other 10 countries combined. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s total military spending. China is in second place, at a relatively puny 5.8 percent.
If the U.S. defense spending bubble were ever to deflate, domestic job losses would be catastrophic, a stunning fact that raises the question of whether we can ever afford peace.
Helen Thomas | CommonDreams
But it’s equally irrational to think that you’re going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us. That’s what happens when a country is “at war” — it doesn’t just get to blow up things and people in other countries, but its own things and people sometimes get blown up as well. That’s how “war” works.
It’s truly astounding to watch us — for a full decade — send fighter jets and drones and bombs and invading forces and teams of torturers and kidnappers to that part of the world, or, as we were doing long before 9/11, to overthrow their governments, prop up their dictators, occupy what they perceive as holy land with our foreign troops, and arm Israel to the teeth, and then act surprised and confused when some of them want to attack us. In general, the U.S. only attacks countries with no capabilities to attack us back in the “homeland” — at least not with conventional forces.
As a result, we have come to believe that any forms of violence we perpetrate on them over there is justifiable and natural, but the Laws of Humanity are instantly breached in the most egregious ways whenever they bring violence back to the U.S., aimed at Americans. It’s just impossible to listen to discussions grounded in this warped mentality without being astounded at how irrational it is. What do Americans think is going to happen if we continue to engage in this conduct, in this always-widening “war”?
Glenn Greenwald | Salon
2010 will be another year of war for the United States and, from assassination campaigns to new fronts in what is no longer called the Global War on Terror but is no less global or based on terror, it could get a lot uglier. The Obama administration may, from time to time, talk withdrawal, but across the Middle East and Central Asia, the Pentagon and its contractors are digging in. In the meantime, more money, not less, is being put into preparations and planning for future wars. As William Hartung points out, â€œif the governmentâ€™s current plans are carried out, there will be yearly increases in military spending for at least another decade.â€
When it comes to war, the only questions are: How wide? How much? Not: How long? Washingtonâ€™s answer to that question has already been given, not in public pronouncements, but in that Pentagon budget and the planning that goes with it: forever and a day.
Of course, only diamonds are forever. Sooner or later, like great imperial powers of the past, we, too, will find that the stress of fighting a continuous string of wars in distant lands in inhospitable climes tells on us. Whether we â€œwinâ€ or not in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Yemen, we lose.
Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse | TomDispatch