Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Trump and Libertarians – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on October 1, 2019


I have never been a member of the Libertarian Party. I don’t vote, so I’ve never voted for the Libertarian Party candidate in any presidential election. If I did vote, I would have probably clamped my nose in a vice and voted for Donald Trump before I would have voted for the pathetic 2016 Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld.

I don’t believe anything—no matter how good it sounds—that comes out of the mouth of any politician, and especially those who run for president. I don’t even get excited if they say “zero tariffs, zero subsidies, zero non-tariff barriers” because they will say whatever they think people want to hear if they think it will increase their chances of getting elected.

Donald Trump is no exception. I was never part of the “Libertarians for Trump” movement (but neither am I a member of the “never Trumpers”). I took every “good” thing Trump said during his presidential campaign with a truckload of salt. Now that Trump has been in office for over half of his term, I think it should be clear that Trump has been a disaster for liberty and limited government…

It is a myth that Trump has cut the number of federal employees. The federal leviathan is as big, as powerful, and as intrusive as ever. Have any federal assets been sold?…

Although Trump talked about reducing the national debt during his presidential campaign, that debt now exceeds $22 trillion and is expected to reach $23 trillion by the end of 2019. By the end of Trump’s first term, he will have added over $5 trillion to the national debt…

Trump is said to have cut federal regulations. To give credit where credit is due, I believe he has rescinded some of President Obama’s regulations. But what major federal regulations has Trump cut? No one ever lists them. The federal government still regulates every facet of American life from the amount of water that toilets are allowed to flush to the size of holes in Swiss cheese.

Trump’s tax cut “is also undoubtedly the smallest, not the biggest, individual tax cut in history,” according to David Stockman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (1981–1985) under President Ronald Reagan. And don’t forget that Trump’s individual tax cuts are only temporary. Trump should be praised, however, for getting the corporate tax rate permanently cut. But not, of course, for increasing refundable tax credits, a form of welfare.

Americans still live in a virtual police state. If you have any doubt, then just see the many articles on this by John Whitehead that regularly appear on this website.

The federal war on drugs continues unabated. Has the budget of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) been cut? Have any of its employees been laid off? True, Trump commuted the life sentence of drug trafficker Alice Johnson. But over 2,000 federal prisoners are serving life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes…

Trump has been absolutely horrible on foreign policy. U.S. soldiers are still dying in Afghanistan. U.S. troops still occupy hundreds of foreign military bases and are still stationed in over 150 countries. The United States has never been closer to war with Iran. Trump has brought home from North Korea the bodies of some dead U.S. soldiers, but not one living U.S. soldier has been brought home from some country where he has no business being…

Trump’s trade policies have been an absolute disaster for the economy. Trump is an ignorant protectionist and economic nationalist, through and through…

The United States may now be the world’s top oil producer, but it hasn’t resulted in something far more important—U.S. disengagement from the Middle East…

Crumbs indeed are what we are getting from Donald Trump as far as liberty and limited government are concerned. Trump may be “better” than Hillary, Obama, and Bush, but not by enough to cheer him.

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The Real Reason the US is Staying in Afghanistan – The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on September 21, 2019

The Taliban are not militant jihadists. Their only concern is their
ancient homelands. The only antagonism the Taliban have for Americans is
the fact that the U.S. military has occupied their country to various
degrees over the last 17 year as USAID and other international
organizations attempted to impose western cultural values that conflict
with their Saudi-indoctrinated fundamentalist form of Islam.


Ronald Enzweiler

As someone who lived and worked at the field level in Afghanistan for six years (2008-14) implementing projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development, I am bemused by the fact that the mainstream media (who should have known better or worse yet, actually did) misled the public into believing that it was — or ever will be — possible for the U.S. to reach a meaningful peace accord with the Taliban for amicably ending the Afghan war. Moreover, anyone who thinks a piece of paper a purported Taliban leadership council accepts and signs at a given point in time has any lasting value is woefully naïve and ignorant of who the Taliban are and what governs their belief system and way of life. Spoiler alert: It’s not a diplomatic legal document.

For starters, probably 70% or more of the ethnic Pashtuns who have inhabited the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region (this border is a figment of 19th century British imperialism) for centuries and have adopted over the last 35 years a variation of the Saudi Arabia-spread fundamentalist form of Islam (taught at the Saudi-funded religious schools they attended in Pakistan) as their way of life are illiterate — beyond being able to read Koran verses in Arabic. Moreover, the Taliban have no written theological doctrine or scholarship. These facts should be a clue that written documents are unimportant in their lives. The society that calls itself the Taliban (Arabic for “the students”) live a mostly subsistent life without access to electricity, media, mass communications, or material goods. Most have never travel outside their homelands. They are extremely hostile to outsiders and adhere to a strict Medieval moral code (Pashtunwali) and their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law (Shari’a).

The Taliban are not militant jihadists. Their only concern is their ancient homelands. The only antagonism the Taliban have for Americans is the fact that the U.S. military has occupied their country to various degrees over the last 17 year as USAID and other international organizations attempted to impose western cultural values that conflict with their Saudi-indoctrinated fundamentalist form of Islam. (Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government before 9/11.) Moreover, Taliban leaders have been wary since the U.S. troop surge in 2009 that the U.S. intended to maintain permanent bases in their country. This is why the Taliban and other Afghan nationalists intensified their fight to expel latest round of foreign invaders in a civil war to oust the U.S.-backed government. (Media pundits who lament that civil war and chaos will break out if the U.S. troops withdraw have somehow missed the last 40 years of Afghan history.)

It’s always been an inaccurate pejorative for the U.S. government and media to refer to the Taliban as “terrorists.” Consider this scenario: A foreign power invades and occupies your country; it installs and pays the costs (over $5 billion in FY 2020) for keeping a friendly pro-western government in power; the Afghan officials who profit from these payments (corruption is a way of life in Afghanistan as the SIGAR has repeatedly documented) are willing to let the foreign power retain permanent military bases in your country (which are needed to keep them in power). As an Afghan nationalist, you don’t want your way of life changed at gunpoint and don’t want a foreign power to use bases in your country to project power in the region and possibly attack the neighboring (predominately Muslim) countries. Given this situation, you join a home-grown insurgency that opposes the foreign troops staying and having your traditional way of life coercively changed.

However, because you fight against the neocolonial foreign power that has taken de facto control of your country for its self-interests, you are deemed a “terrorist.” Yes, the Taliban and other anti-government elements in Afghanistan have killed over 2,400 U.S. soldiers over the 17-year, $2-trilllion-dollar war and occupation of their country. But this happened only because more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers at one point (140,000 including other NATO countries) and squadrons of F-16s were sent to their country to kill them — while subjecting the Afghan civilian population to the hardships, collateral damage, and casualties inherent in warfare.

The question our elected officials need to be asked: Why are U.S. soldiers still in Afghanistan and being killed fighting local insurgents engaged in a civil war who are not a threat to America 17 years after the al-Qaeda jihadists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were vanquished?…

The real reason for the pushback by the Washington national security establishment against getting all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan is the guiding maxim of our post-World War II “War State” (the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about) that has grown into a $1-trillion/year enterprise with a worldwide empire of over 800 foreign military installations: never give up a military base in a strategic location. The U.S. military eventually will be pushed out of Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan (it’s also a civilian airport near a large restive city in Taliban territory). But Bagram Airfield (a prior Soviet base north of Kabul) is a military-only installation in an easily defended remote area. Bagram is the missing piece in our War State’s chessboard of worldwide bases. Retaining it will enable our military to “project power” throughout Central Asia. It’s a steal at $30 to $40 billion/year (assuming troops levels and graft payments are drawn down at some point) for our overfunded War State. Representative Max Thornberry, then chairman and now ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, visited Bagram in October 2018. He publicly acknowledged afterwards that the U.S. seeks “a sustainable presence” in Afghanistan. (The U.S. military’s new high-tech F-35 fighters — a $1.5 trillion program — are manufactured at a Lockheed plant near Rep. Thornberry’s district in north Texas.)

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russia wants war




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The Media’s Betrayal of American Soldiers – Original

Posted by M. C. on September 11, 2019

Behind their self-conscious, over-adulation of military members lay a unspeakable dirty secret: these people are pawns of the military-industrial-complex, for whom the troops are naught but pawns in their partisan political games. When mixed with widespread public apathy regarding foreign affairs, the result is an utter abandonment of the soldiers that all purport to love.

Bipartisan critique of Trump’s plan to roll out an Afghan peace plan during the 9/11 anniversary from Camp David misses the point: negotiation was the only hope to avoid more needless American deaths.

It is a rare thing, indeed, when both establishment and media “liberals” and “conservatives” agree on anything. Nevertheless, lightning has proverbially struck this week as both sides attack President Trump with equal vehemence. Thus, here we are, and here I am – in the disturbing position of defending Trump’s (until Sunday) peace policy for Afghanistan. Nonetheless, though I don’t particularly like the way this position befits me, I’ll take it as a sign that I just might be on to something when the clowns at Fox News and MSNBC, alike, vociferously disagree with my position on an American forever war.

Few in the political or press mainstream ever much liked Trump’s regularly touted plans to extract U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Even “liberal” Rachel Maddow – who once wrote a book critical of US military interventions – turned on a dime and became a born-again cheerleader for continuing the war. After all, in tribal America, if Trump proposes it, the reflexive “left” assumes it must be wrong, anathema even. That’s come to be expected.

Only this time, even his own party has attacked the president after he let it slip that he’d planned a secret peace conference with the Taliban at Camp David and might even have announced a deal to gradually end the US role in the war during the anniversary week of the 9/11 attacks. Gasp! How dare he? End a failing war, save the lives of perhaps hundreds or thousands of US troops, and do so near the 9/11 anniversary? This amounts to heresy in imperial Washington D.C. But it shouldn’t be unexpected: Trump’s own policy advisers have opposed any meaningful steps to end the Afghan War from the get go.

Ever since he took office, Trump’s anti-interventionist “instincts” – though publicly popular – have been stifled by his advisers in what his base calls the “deep state,” and I prefer to simply label the national security warfare state. Whether it was, first, the ostensible, media-canonized “adults in the room” – really a troika of generals with tired, discredited ideas – or, recently, the neoconservative retreads, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, nearly every Trump national security adviser has worked tirelessly to keep America at war…everywhere.

Lost in all the bipartisan hysteria regarding the 9/11 anniversary and Camp David location choice, is one salient, if uncomfortable, truth: the only way these sorts of wars end, historically, is through negotiations with implacable enemies and nefarious actors. That’s real life, and ending stalemated wars is no time for dreamy delusions. Besides, what better option exists than peace talks and a phased US withdrawal? With the Taliban contesting more of the country than ever before, the Kabul regime broke and corrupt, and a record opium crop fueling Taliban finances, the war’s reached – for years now – a tenuous stasis between quagmire and stalemate…

What’s so bad about having Taliban representatives at Camp David? The PLO’s avowed “terrorist,” leader, Yasser Arafat has been there. What’s more, presidents and their representatives have negotiated with adversaries responsible for far more American deaths than the Taliban: Eisenhower with the North Koreans and Chinese; Nixon with the North Vietnamese and Vietcong; Reagan with the leader of the Soviet “evil empire.” In fact, I’d argue that diplomacy is actually more presidential than waging endless, reflexive warfare…

Nevertheless, the pundits at the helm of corporate media programs, and party-line Democrats and Republicans, only pretend to care about the lives and well-being of America’s servicemen and women. Behind their self-conscious, over-adulation of military members lay a unspeakable dirty secret: these people are pawns of the military-industrial-complex, for whom the troops are naught but pawns in their partisan political games. When mixed with widespread public apathy regarding foreign affairs, the result is an utter abandonment of the soldiers that all purport to love. Which is exactly what the mainstream media’s (even Republican!) vacuous critique of Trump’s planned but canceled 9/11 week peace announcement is: a betrayal of the troops and a death sentence for who knows how many more American soldiers.

Now, let me be clear: as New Yorker from a blue collar Staten Island neighborhood chock full of cops and firemen, I don’t take the 9/11 attacks lightly. In fact, I took the whole tragedy personally and long seethed with anger against bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the likely complicit Saudi kingdom, for that matter. September 11, 2001 left two of my FDNY uncles forever emotionally scarred, took the life of a dear family friend, sent my father fleeing for his life from an office across the street from the Twin Towers, and renamed countless streets in my borough to honor dead firemen.

That said, call me provocative or unpatriotic, but I thought that Trump’s original reported plan to announce a peace deal with the Taliban – and impending end to the US war in Afghanistan – to be quite fitting. Consider it a sad, yet appropriate, final bookend to the still prevalent and absurd notion that America’s longest war still carries any connection to 9/11. The ill-advised, unwinnable, foolish attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan and ongoing stalemate combating Taliban farm boys, has long since lost any 9/11-based justification. To pretend otherwise is an exercise in self-delusion…

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Trump's Air Strikes against Syria. The More They Explain ...




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Profiles in Absurdity: Remembering the ‘Terror’ Wars – Original

Posted by M. C. on September 3, 2019

This makes Stanley Kubrick war films look normal.

It helps explain the US win/loss record.

‘Lower Caters to Higher’

It has taken me years to tell these stories. The emotional and moral wounds of the Afghan War have just felt too recent, too raw. After all, I could hardly write a thing down about my Iraq War experience for nearly ten years, when, by accident, I churned out a book on the subject. Now, as the American war in Afghanistan – hopefully – winds to something approaching a close, it’s finally time to impart some tales of the madness. In this new, recurring, semi-regular series, the reader won’t find many worn out sagas of heroism, brotherhood, and love of country. Not that this author doesn’t have such stories, of course. But one can find those sorts of tales in countless books and numerous trite, platitudinal Hollywood yarns.

With that in mind, I propose to tell a number of very different sorts of stories – profiles, so to speak, in absurdity. That’s what war is, at root, an exercise in absurdity, and America’s hopeless post-9/11 wars are stranger than most. My own 18-year long quest to find some meaning in all the combat, to protect my troops from danger, push back against the madness, and dissent from within the army proved Kafkaesque in the extreme. Consider what follows just a survey of that hopeless journey…

The man was remarkable at one specific thing: pleasing his bosses and single-minded self-promotion. Sure he lacked anything resembling empathy, saw his troops as little more than tools for personal advancement, and his overall personality disturbingly matched the clinical definition of sociopathy. Details, details…

Still, you (almost) had to admire his drive, devotion, and dedication to the cause of promotion, of rising through the military ranks. Had he managed to channel that astonishing energy, obsession even, to the pursuit of some good, the world might markedly have improved. Which is, actually, a dirty little secret about the military, especially ground combat units; that it tends to attract (and mold) a disturbing number of proud owners of such personality disorders. The army then positively reinforces such toxic behavior by promoting these sorts of individuals – who excel at mind-melding (brown-nosing, that is) with superiors – at disproportionate rates. Such is life. Only there are real consequences, real soldiers, (to say nothing of local civilians) who suffer under their commanders’ tyranny.

Back in 2011-12, the man served as my commander, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. As such, he led – and partly controlled the destinies of – some 500 odd soldiers. Then a lowly captain, I commanded about one-fifth of those men and answered directly to the colonel. I didn’t much like the guy; hardly any of his officers did. And he didn’t trust my aspirational intellectualism, proclivity to ask “why,” or, well, me in general. Still, he mostly found this author an effective middle manager. As such, I was a means to an end for him – that being self-advancement and some positive measurable statistics for his annual officer evaluation report (OER) from his own boss. Nonetheless, it was the army and you sure don’t choose your bosses.

So it was, early in my yearlong tour in the scrublands of rural Kandahar province, that the colonel treated me to one his dog-and-pony-show visits. Only this time he had some unhappy news for me. The next day he, and the baker’s dozen tag-alongs in his ubiquitous entourage, wanted to walk the few treacherous miles to the most dangerous strongpoint in the entire sub-district. It was occupied, needlessly, by one of my platoons in perpetuity and suffered under constant siege by the local Taliban, too small to contest the area and too big to fly under the radar, this – at one point the most attacked outpost in Afghanistan – base just provided an American flag-toting target. I’d communicated as much to command early on, but to no avail. Can-do US colonels with aspirations for general officer rank hardly ever give up territory to the enemy – even if that’s the strategically sound course.

Walking to the platoon strongpoint was dicey on even the best of days. The route between our main outpost and the Alamo-like strongpoint was flooded with Taliban insurgents and provided precious little cover or concealment for out patrols. On my first jaunt to the outpost, I (foolishly, it must be said) walked my unit into an ambush and was thrown over a small rock wall by the blast of a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) with my apparent name on it. Since then, it was standard for our patrols to the strongpoint to suffer multiple ambushes during the roundtrip rotation. Sometimes our kids got wounded or killed; sometimes they were lucky. Mercifully, at least, my intelligence section – led by my friend and rebranded artillery lieutenant – did their homework and figured out that the chronically lazy local Taliban didn’t like to fight at night or wake up early, so patrols to the strongpoint that stepped off before dawn had a fighting chance of avoiding the worst of ambush alley.

I hadn’t wanted to take my colonel on a patrol to the outpost. His entourage was needlessly large and, when added to my rotational platoon, presented an unwieldy and inviting target for Taliban ambush. Still I knew better than to argue the point with my disturbingly confident and single-minded colonel. So I hedged. Yes, sir, we can take you along, with one caveat: we have to leave before dawn! I proceeded to explain why, replete with historical stats and examples, we could only (somewhat) safely avoid ambush if we did so.

That’s when things went south. The colonel insisted we leave at nine, maybe even ten, in the morning, the absolute peak window for Taliban attack. This prima donna reminded me that he couldn’t possibly leave any earlier. He had a “battle rhythm,” after all, which included working out in the gym at his large, safe, distant-from-the-roar-of-battle base each morning. How could I expect him to alter that predictable schedule over something as minor as protecting the lives and limbs of his own troopers? He had “to set an example,” he reminded me, by letting his soldiers on the base “see him in the gym” each and every morning. Back then, silly me, I was actually surprised by the colonel’s absurd refusal; so much so that I pushed back, balked, tried to rationally press my point. To no avail.

What the man said next has haunted me ever since. We would leave no earlier than nine AM, according to his preference. My emotional pleas – begging really – was not only for naught but insulted the colonel. Why? Because, as he imparted to me, for my own growth and development he thought, “Remember: lower caters to higher, Danny!” That, he reminded me, was the way of the military world, the key to success and advancement. The man even thought he was being helpful, advising me on how to achieve the success he’d achieved. My heart sank…forever, and never recovered.

The next day he was late. We didn’t step off until nearly ten AM. The ambush, a massive mix of RPG and machine gun fire, kicked off – as predicted – within sight of the main base. The rest was history, and certainly could’ve been worse. On other, less lucky, days it was. But I remember this one profound moment. When the first rocket exploded above us, both the colonel and I dove for limited cover behind a mound of rocks. I was terrified and exasperated. Just then we locked eyes and I gazed into his proverbial soul. The man was incapable of fear. He wasn’t scared, or disturbed; he didn’t care a bit about what was happening. That revelation was more terrifying than the ongoing ambush and would alter my view of the world irreparably.

Which brings us to some of the discomfiting morals – if such things exist – of this story. American soldiers fight and die at the whims of career-obsessed officers as much they do so at the behest of king and country. Sometimes its their own leaders – as much as the ostensible “enemy” – that tries to get them killed. The plentiful sociopaths running these wars at the upper and even middle-management levels are often far less concerned with long-term, meaningful “victory” in places like Afghanistan, than in crafting – on the backs of their soldiers sacrifices – the illusion of progress, just enough measurable “success” in their one year tour to warrant a stellar evaluation and, thus, the next promotion. Not all leaders are like this. I, for one, once worked for a man for whom I – and all my peers – would run through walls for, a (then) colonel that loved his hundreds of soldiers like they were his own children. But he was the exception that proved the rule.

The madness, irrationality, and absurdity of my colonel was nothing less than a microcosm of America’s entire hopeless adventure in Afghanistan. The war was never rational, winnable, or meaningful. It was from the first, and will end as, an exercise in futility. It was, and is, one grand patrol to my own unnecessary outpost, undertaken at the wrong time and place. It was a collection of sociopaths and imbeciles – both Afghan and American – tilting at windmills and ultimately dying for nothing at all. Yet the young men in the proverbial trenches never flinched, never refused. They did their absurd duty because they were acculturated to the military system, and because they were embarrassed not to.

After all, lower caters to higher

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When, If Ever, Can We Lay This Burden Down? – Original

Posted by M. C. on August 20, 2019

Iran presents no clear or present danger to U.S. vital interests, but the Saudis and Israelis see Iran as a mortal enemy, and want the U.S. military rid them of the menace.

In how many of these are U.S. vital interests imperiled? And in how many are we facing potential wars on behalf of other nations, while they hold our coat and egg us on?

Friday, President Donald Trump met in New Jersey with his national security advisers and envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is negotiating with the Taliban to bring about peace, and a U.S. withdrawal from America’s longest war.

U.S. troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, in a war that has cost 2,400 American lives.

Following the meeting, Trump tweeted, “Many on the opposite sides of this 19 year war, and us, are looking to make a deal – if possible!”

Some, however, want no deal; they are fighting for absolute power.

Saturday, a wedding in Kabul with a thousand guests was hit by a suicide bomber who, igniting his vest, massacred 63 people and wounded 200 in one of the greatest atrocities of the war. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Monday, 10 bombs exploded in restaurants and public squares in the eastern city of Jalalabad, wounding 66.

Trump is pressing Khalilzad to negotiate drawdowns of U.S. troop levels from the present 14,000, and to bring about a near-term end to U.S. involvement in a war that began after we overthrew the old Taliban regime for giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.

Is it too soon to ask: What have we gained from our longest war? Was all the blood and treasure invested worth it? And what does the future hold?

If the Taliban could not be defeated by an Afghan army, built up by the U.S. for a decade and backed by 100,000 U.S. troops in 2010-2011, then are the Taliban likely to give up the struggle when the U.S. is drawing down the last 14,000 troops and heading home?

The Taliban control more of the country than they have at any time since being overthrown in 2001. And time now seems to be on their side.

Why have they persevered, and prevailed in parts of the country?

Motivated by a fanatic faith, tribalism and nationalism, they have shown a willingness to die for a cause that seems more compelling to them than what the U.S.-backed Afghan government has on offer…

And Afghanistan is but one of the clashes and conflicts in which America is engaged.

Severe U.S. sanctions on Venezuela have failed to bring down the Nicholas Maduro regime in Caracas but have contributed to the immiseration of that people, 10% of whom have left the country. Trump now says he is considering a quarantine or blockade to force Maduro out.

Eight years after we helped to overthrow Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is still mired in civil war, with its capital, Tripoli, under siege.

Yemen, among the world’s humanitarian disasters, has seen the UAE break with its Saudi interventionist allies, and secessionists split off southern Yemen from the Houthi-dominated north. Yet, still, Congress has been unable to force the Trump administration to end all support of the Saudi war.

Two thousand U.S. troops remain in Syria. The northern unit is deployed between our Syrian Kurd allies and the Turkish army. In the south, they are positioned to prevent Iran and Iranian-backed militias from creating a secure land bridge from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut.

In our confrontation with Iran, we have few allies…

Iran presents no clear or present danger to U.S. vital interests, but the Saudis and Israelis see Iran as a mortal enemy, and want the U.S. military rid them of the menace…

Around the world, America is involved in quarrels, clashes and confrontations with almost too many nations to count.

In how many of these are U.S. vital interests imperiled? And in how many are we facing potential wars on behalf of other nations, while they hold our coat and egg us on?

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How did I get here?



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Tulsi: A Living Reminder of Iraq’s Liars and Apologists | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on August 5, 2019

Gore Vidal once christened his country the “United States of Amnesia,” explaining that Americans live in a perpetual state of a hangover: “Every morning we wake up having forgotten what happened the night before.”

By David Masciotra

Estimates of the number of civilians who died during the war in Iraq range from 151,000 to 655,000. An additional 4,491 American military personnel perished in the war. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, toxicologist at the University of Michigan, has organized several research expeditions to Iraq to measure the contamination and pollution still poisoning the air and water supply from the tons of munitions dropped during the war. It does not require any expertise to assume what the studies confirm: disease is still widespread and birth defects are gruesomely common. Back home, it is difficult to measure just how many struggle with critical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The gains of war in Iraq remain elusive, especially considering that the justifications for invasion—weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein’s connection to al-Qaeda, the ambition to create a Western-style democracy at gunpoint—remain “murky at best.” That’s a quote from the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion on the so-called evidence linking Iraq to Osama bin Laden’s group, which actually did carry out the worst terrorist attack in American history.

As far as stupid and barbarous decisions are concerned, it is difficult to top the war in Iraq. It is also difficult to match its price tag, which, according to a recent Brown University study, amounts to $1.1 trillion.

Gore Vidal once christened his country the “United States of Amnesia,” explaining that Americans live in a perpetual state of a hangover: “Every morning we wake up having forgotten what happened the night before.”… Read the rest of this entry »

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You Just Do It – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 30, 2019

…How about secure American borders, patrol American coasts, guard American shores, watch over American skies, and stand ready to defend the America in the event of a real threat. Isn’t that the real purpose of the U.S. military?


After more than seventeen years of war in Afghanistan, most Americans have simply accepted the perpetual war for perpetual peace that the war has become. U.S. soldiers are still dying in Afghanistan, but no one seems to notice—expect perhaps the parents, wife, and three children of Sergeant Major James G. Sartor, who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado. Sartor “joined the Army in 2001 as an infantryman and had deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan.” He “had received more than two dozen awards and decorations and will posthumously receive a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.”

It seems that conservatives are always making excuses for the imperialistic, militaristic, reckless, belligerent, and meddling U.S. foreign policy that keeps American soldiers in Afghanistan and countless other places around the world.

A case in point is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who “studies US foreign policy and defense strategy,” and is also “the Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).”

Says Hal Brands:

The Democratic Party’s progressive presidential candidates want to end the “forever war” — America’s two-decade struggle against jihadist extremism. The trouble is that they don’t know how.

It is easy enough for the progressives to argue that the US should pull back from the greater Middle East and demilitarize its counterterrorism strategy. Unfortunately, they have less to say about how the US can do so responsibly.

Progressives have not answered the tough question about how America can safely pull back from the war on terror.

The United States can’t just leave Afghanistan because “al-Qaeda and ISIS are still active there, and the US intelligence community has reportedly warned that a complete US withdrawal could lead to a major terrorist attack on American soil within two years.”

The United States can’t just cut off support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen because “there is no guarantee that simply terminating that support will make a horrific situation better rather than worse.”

The United States can’t just leave Iraq and Syria. It needs “to keep the American boot on Islamic State’s back and prevent a replay of what happened in 2013-14, when a nearly-defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq morphed into the ISIS juggernaut that rolled across a large swath of the Middle East.”

So, how you end the war in Afghanistan? How do you end the global war on terror? How do you end U.S. involvement in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Africa? How do you pull back from the greater Middle East? How do you remove the U.S. troops out of Italy, Germany, and Japan that have been there since World War II ended in 1945? How do you close the hundreds of U.S. military bases that are all over the world? How do you remove the U.S. troops from South Korea that have been there since the end of the Korean War? How do you bring home the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops that are outside the borders and territorial waters of the United States?

You just do it…

But how can such a mammoth task can be undertaken? You just do it. Yes, you do it orderly and safely, but you just do it. You start putting U.S. troops on planes and ships and you bring them home. That’s how you do it.

And just what should these U.S. troops do once they come home?

How about secure American borders, patrol American coasts, guard American shores, watch over American skies, and stand ready to defend the America in the event of a real threat. Isn’t that the real purpose of the U.S. military? If so, then why do conservatives who clamor for a “strong national defense” object to this?

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What Was It All for For: Vets Have Finally Turned on America’s Endless Wars – Original

Posted by M. C. on July 15, 2019

So consider this a plea to Congress, to the corporate media establishment, and to all of you: when even traditionally more conservative and martial military veterans raise the antiwar alarm – listen!

It is undoubtedly my favorite part of every wedding. That awkward, but strangely forthright moment when the preacher asks the crowd for any objections to the couple’s marriage. No one ever objects, of course, but it’s still a raw, if tense, moment. I just love it.

I suppose we had that ubiquitous ritual in mind back in 2007 when Keith – a close buddy and fellow officer – and I crafted our own plan of objection. The setting was Baghdad, Iraq, at the start of the “surge” and the climax of the bloody civil war the U.S. invasion had unleashed. Just twenty three years old and only eighteen months out of the academy, my clique of officers had already decided the war was a mess, shouldn’t have been fought, and couldn’t be won.

Me and Keith, though, were undoubtedly the most radical. We both just hated how our squadron’s colonel would hijack the memorial ceremonies held for dead troopers – including three of my own – and use the occasion of his inescapable speech to encourage we mourners to use the latest death as a reason to “rededicate ourselves to the mission and the people of Iraq.” The whole thing was as repulsive as it was repetitive.

So it was that after a particularly depressing ceremony, perhaps our squadron’s tenth or so, that we hatched our little defiant scheme. If (or when) one of us was killed, the other promised – and this was a time and place where promises are sacred – to object, stand up, and announce to the colonel and the crowd that we’d listen to no such bullshit at this particular ceremony, not this time. “Danny didn’t believe in this absurd mission for a minute, he wouldn’t want his death to rededicate us to anything,” Keith would have said! Luckily it never came to that. We both survived, Keith left the army soon after, and I, well, toiled along until something snapped and I chose the road of public dissent. Still, I believe either of us would have actually done it – even if it did mean the end of our respective careers. That’s called brotherhood…and love.

I got to thinking on that when I read a story this week which was both disturbing, refreshing, and sickening all at the same time. A major opinion poll’s results were released which demonstrated that fully two-thirds of post 9/11 veterans now think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “weren’t worth fighting.” That’s a remarkable, and distressing, statistic and one that should give America’s president, legislators, media, and people as a whole, serious pause. Not that it will, mind you, but it should! It’s doubtful that US military combat vets – who are more rural, southern, and conservative than the population at large – have ever so incontrovertibly turned on a war, at least since the very end of Vietnam.

On one level I felt a sense of vindication for my longtime antiwar stances when I read about the study – in the Military Times no less. But that was just ego. Within minutes I was sad, inconsolably and completely melancholy. Because if, as a “filibuster-proof” majority of my fellow veterans (and maybe even our otherwise unhinged president) believes, the Iraq and Afghan wars weren’t worth the sacrifice, then consider the unsettling implications. It would mean, for starters, that the US flushed nearly $5.9 trillion in hard-earned taxpayer cash down the toilet. It means that 7,000 American soldiers and upwards of 244,000 foreign civilians needn’t have lost their ever precious lives. Hundreds of thousands more might not have been injured or maimed. 21 million people wouldn’t have become refugees. The world, so to speak, could’ve been a safer, better place.

Those ever-so-logical conclusions should dismay even the most apathetic American. They should make us all rather sad, but, more importantly, should inform future decisions about the use of military force, the role of America in the world, and just how much foreign policy power to turn over to presidents. Because if we, collectively, don’t learn from our country’s eighteen year, tragic saga, then this republic is, without exaggeration, finished, once and for all. Benjamin Franklin, that confounding Founding Father, wasn’t sure the American people could be trusted to “keep” the republic he and other elites formed. It’d be a devastating catastrophe to prove him right, especially in this time of rising right-wing, strongman populism in the Western world.

So consider this a plea to Congress, to the corporate media establishment, and to all of you: when even traditionally more conservative and martial military veterans raise the antiwar alarm – listen! And next time the American war drums beat, and they undoubtedly will, consider this article encouragement to do what Keith and I promised way back when. Object! Refuse to fight the next ill-advised and unethical war. Remember: to do so demonstrates brotherhood and love. Love of each other and love of country…

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Steel Helmet




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Tomgram: Michael Klare, It’s Always the Oil | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on July 12, 2019

Michael Klare

What more did you need to know once Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, claimed by the Taliban, was Iranian-inspired or plotted, one “in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests”? In other words, behind the Sunni extremist insurgents the U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001 lurks the regime of the Shiite fundamentalists in Tehran that many in Washington have been eager to fight since at least the spring of 2003 (when, coincidentally enough, the Bush administration was insisting that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had significant ties to al-Qaeda).

It couldn’t have made more sense once you thought about it. I don’t mean Pompeo’s claim itself, which was little short of idiotic, but what lurked behind it.  I mean the knowledge that, only a week after the 9/11 attacks, Congress had passed an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, that allowed the president (and any future president, as it turned out) “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

In other words, almost 18 years later, as Pompeo knows, if you can link any country or group you’re eager to go to war with to al-Qaeda, no matter how confected the connection, you can promptly claim authorization to do your damnedest to them. How convenient, then, should you be in the mood to make war on Iran, if that country just happens to be responsible for terror attacks linked to the Taliban (which once did harbor al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden). Why, you wouldn’t even need to ask Congress for permission to pursue your war of choice. And keep in mind that, recently, Congress — or a crew of corrupted, degraded Republican senators — simply couldn’t muster the votes or the will to deny President Trump the power to make war on Iran without its approval.

Let me hasten to add that the supposed link to al-Qaeda isn’t the only thing the Trump administration has conjured up to ensure that it will be free to do whatever it pleases when it comes to Iran. It’s found various other inventive ways to justify future military actions there without congressional approval. Pompeo and crew have, in that sense, been clever indeed. As TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of the upcoming book All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, points out today, there’s only one word largely missing from their discussions of the increasingly edgy situation in the Persian Gulf, the most obvious word of all. But read him yourself if you want to understand just how, when it comes to Iran and that missing word — to steal a phrase from the late, great Jonathan Schell — the fate of the Earth is at stake. Tom

The Missing Three-Letter Word in the Iran Crisis
Oil’s Enduring Sway in U.S. Policy in the Middle East
By Michael T. Klare

It’s always the oil. While President Trump was hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Japan, brushing off a recent U.N. report about the prince’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia and the Middle East, pleading with foreign leaders to support “Sentinel.” The aim of that administration plan: to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Both Trump and Pompeo insisted that their efforts were driven by concern over Iranian misbehavior in the region and the need to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. Neither, however, mentioned one inconvenient three-letter word — O-I-L — that lay behind their Iranian maneuvering (as it has impelled every other American incursion in the Middle East since World War II)….

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The Tulsi Effect: Forcing War Onto the Democratic Agenda | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on July 3, 2019

By Danny Sjursen

Democrats, liberals, progressives—call them what you will—don’t really do foreign policy. Sure, if cornered, they’ll spout a few choice talking points, and probably find a way to make them all about bashing President Donald Trump—ignoring the uncomfortable fact that their very own Barack Obama led and expanded America’s countless wars for eight long years.

This was ever so apparent in the first two nights of Democratic primary debates this week. Foreign policy hardly registered for these candidates with one noteworthy exception: Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard—herself an (anti-war) combat veteran and army officer.

Now primary debates are more show than substance; this has long been the case. Still, to watch the first night’s Democratic primary debates, it was possible to forget that the United States remains mired in several air and ground wars from West Africa to Central Asia. In a two-hour long debate, with 10 would-be nominees plus the moderators, the word Afghanistan was uttered just nine times—you know, once for every two years American troops have been killing and dying there. Iraq was uttered just twice—both times by Gabbard. Syria, where Americans have died and still fight, was mentioned not once. Yemen, the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, courtesy of a U.S.-supported Saudi terror campaign didn’t get mentioned a single time, either.

Night two was mostly worse! Afghanistan was uttered just three times, and there was no question specifically related to the war. Biden did say, in passing, that he doesn’t think there should be “combat troops” in Afghanistan—but notice the qualifier “combat.” That’s a cop-out that allows him to keep advisers and “support” troops in the country indefinitely. These are the games most Democrats play. And by the way, all those supposedly non-combat troops, well, they can and do get killed too.

Reminding the audience of the recent troop deaths in the country, Maddow asked Ryan, “Why isn’t [the Afghanistan war] over? Why can’t presidents of very different parties and very different temperaments get us out of there? And how could you?” Ryan had a ready, if wholly conventional and obtuse, answer: “The lesson” of these many years of wars is clear, he opined; the United States must stay “engaged,” “completely engaged,” in fact, even if “no one likes” it and it’s “tedious.” I heard this, vomited a bit into my mouth, and thought “spare me!”…

Gabbard pounced, and delivered the finest foreign policy screed of the night. And more power to her. Interrupting Ryan, she poignantly asked:

Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged? As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable. We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan…We have spent so much money. Money that’s coming out of every one of our pockets…We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began. This is why it is so important to have a president — commander in chief who knows the cost of war and is ready to do the job on day one.

In a few tight sentences, Gabbard distilled decades’ worth of antiwar critique and summarized what I’ve been writing for years—only I’ve killed many trees composing more than 20,000 words on the topic. The brevity of her terse comment, coupled with her unique platform as a veteran, only added to its power. Bravo, Tulsi, bravo!

Ryan was visibly shaken and felt compelled to retort with a standard series of worn out tropes. And Gabbard was ready for each one, almost as though she’d heard them all before (and probably has). The U.S. military has to stay, Ryan pleaded, because: “if the United States isn’t engaged the Taliban will grow and they will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts.” Gabbard cut him right off. “The Taliban was there long before we came in. They’ll be there long [after] we leave,” she thundered…

Ryan couldn’t possibly open his mind to such complexity, nuance, and, ultimately, realism. He clearly worships at the temple of war inertia; his worldview hostage to the absurd notion that the U.S. military has little choice but to fight everywhere, anywhere, because, well, that’s what it’s always done. Which leads us to what should be an obvious conclusion: Ryan, and all who think like him, should be immediately disqualified by true progressives and libertarians alike. His time has past. Ryan and his ilk have left a scorched region and a shaken American republic for the rest of us…

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Tell Congress: No Endless War in Syria | CREDO Action




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