Tag Archive for war

Afghanis and Americans deserve better

Pentagon Releases Photos Showing U.S. Casualties

The price of Afghanistan

Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Davis wrote an article, “Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down“, in a recent issue of the Armed Forces Journal. The article summarized some material from a longer classified report he provided to several members of Congress.

Davis’ article is incredibly important as it sets the record straight on the ongoing disaster in Afghanistan as well as pointing out the huge disinformation campaign being waged by the military, politicians and the corporate-dominated media.

According to his article, Davis interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. He also said he spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders. These conversations took place over a twelve-month period, mostly in 2011, during which Davis traveled over 9000 miles throughout Afghanistan.

Davis said that what he saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground. Instead, he said he witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

Davis concluded his article by saying:

“When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

“Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.”

For another vital but seldom-heard perspective on the impacts of the failed U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan, visit http://vcnv.org/afghan-screams-aren-t-heard. This link provides information about the impacts of war from the perspective of Afghani civilians.

Palestine is still occupied

Recent news coming out of the Middle East has dealt with the ongoing killings in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, and the upcoming election in Egypt. There is also lots of superficial coverage about the threat of an Israeli and/or U.S. military attack on Iran, allegedly over the possibility that Iran might develop nuclear weapons sometime in the future. And then there is the continuing catastrophe in Afghanistan.

Partially as a result of all these crises, other uncomfortable situations such as the disasters in Libya and Iraq are on the media’s back burner. Results of our illegal attacks on these formerly prosperous nations include driving their people into poverty and ongoing violence and the destruction of these countries. Despite their war crimes, our leaders apparently feel no responsibility for their actions or for helping the people recover from these disasters. The U.S. corporate-dominated media downplays both these situations.

Another issue that has dropped from the media’s radar is Israel’s 45-year long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Note that one result of the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran is that Israel essentially now has a free hand in the West Bank. President Obama is no longer putting any pressure on Israel to reach a resolution with the Palestinians. Instead Obama is focused on the Israeli threat to attack Iran.

Israel can now forge ahead with the relentless expansion of its illegal settlements without any more impotent protests from Western nations. In addition, Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes continues, the uprooting of olive trees goes on, and more Palestinian irrigation systems are destroyed. Israel’s military still invades Palestinian towns, terrorizing civilians and arresting peaceful protestors. Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks between Palestinian towns continue to hamper Palestinian commerce. Israel’s control of the aquifers means that Palestinians are deprived of adequate levels of water. Moreover, Israel still bombs and kills in Gaza with impunity.

Besides the Israeli military’s actions, Israeli settlers also attack Palestinians. For example, in November 2011, Israeli Brigadier General Nitzan Alon criticized “acts of terror” by Jewish extremists against Palestinians.

Clearly Israel is satisfied with the current situation. Therefore the U.S. must pressure Israel in order to reach a just resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. A just resolution of this issue would help to defuse the Iranian situation and also improve the U.S. credibility in dealing with these other crises.

Media gullibility or pure propaganda?

The media have again failed to live up to their reporting responsibilities on the crises in Libya and Syria. In particular, the media essentially accepted the claims put forward by the oppositions to Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria. Despite the violent nature of the uprisings in both countries, the media initially portrayed them as being part of the nonviolent ‘Arab Spring’.

In Libya, the media widely disseminated the false claims about massacres by Gaddafi’s forces. These claims helped build support for the rebels and soon led to a UN Security Council resolution for a ‘no-fly’ zone. It was amazing that any attempts to negotiate a resolution were brushed aside throughout the crisis. Unsurprisingly, this resolution was quickly expanded to a wide-scale bombing campaign led by France, Britain and the U.S. on the side of rebels in a civil war.

The media’s focus on massacres that hadn’t occurred drew attention from the identity of the rebels and their foreign backers. The media generally also failed to point out what life was like in Libya before the war, for example, that Libyans had the highest standard of living and the longest life expectancy in Africa as well as free health care and education. In addition, Libya had no debt and had over $150 billion invested overseas, much of which was confiscated.

The length of the military campaign, despite thousands of bombing raids, suggested that many Libyans strongly appreciated the major improvements under Gaddafi’s rule. Now Libya, like Iraq, has been devastated, and Libyans are already paying a steep price for this foreign-backed civil war.

We are seeing a repeat of this one-sided coverage now in Syria. Certainly the Assad regime has committed some terrible and horrific crimes, and those acts must be condemned. However, the media fail to point out that most Syrians are not supporting the armed uprising there. Syria’s two largest population centers remain calm with little signs of opposition to the Assad regime. Perhaps these Syrians fear the devastation of a foreign-backed civil war and thus accept Assad. Disappointingly the opposition Syrian National Council says that it won’t enter into negotiations until Assad resigns.

Incredibly, the media and some politicians here are now talking about yet another war, this time against Iran. Hopefully the U.S. public remembers the disinformation campaign about Iraq and won’t support another unnecessary and illegal war.

You Will Comply or Else

First published Feb 18, 2012 at CounterCurrents.org republished by author.

18 February, 2012 Countercurrents.org

Wheels of war, once made, want to be turned.

Wheels of war, once made, want to be turned.

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, once asked General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Albright’s statement nicely captures the U.S. approach to dealing with troublesome leaders. By troublesome, I mean those who have the temerity to oppose U.S. positions and who, at the same time, are far too weak to pose a real military threat to the U.S. Examples of nations that had such troublesome leaders include Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The leaders of Syria and Iran are also currently in the crosshairs.

Note the contrast between Albright’s words and those of President Eisenhower in his “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953. Eisenhower addressed the idea of regime change when he said: “Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.” He added: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.” Unfortunately the U.S., even under Eisenhower, did not base its actions on these words.

A pattern also emerges from examining the above one-sided conflicts that led to regime changes. The U.S. clearly feels no need for real diplomacy in these cases. For example, the U.S. often even refuses to talk with the other side. Instead, what passes for U.S. negotiation is the making of demands that the other side cannot accept. When the other side fails to accept all the U.S. demands, it faces U.S. action.

In general, the actions begin with a campaign by a compliant media here to frighten the U.S. population into supporting steps against the crazy leader who is a threat to his own people or to the U.S., covert acts including assassinations, creating and/or building up opposition leaders, threats of an attack against the enemy, the use of economic sanctions, and a military attack if the other steps haven’t worked. Sometime the U.S. attacks without going through most of the other steps. In the case of Iraq, even acceptance of U.S. demands was not enough to prevent the illegal and unwarranted U.S.-led attack.

The U.S. sometimes seeks to enlist the UN to provide a legal cover for its actions. For example, the U.S. often seeks the UN’s support for the sanctions. However, if the UN doesn’t accept the U.S. position, the U.S. and/or some of its allies apply the sanctions anyway. The U.S. also often attempts to gain the UN Security Council’s support for a military attack. However, if the UN doesn’t go along with an attack, the U.S. then turns to NATO or forms an ad hoc coalition of nations willing to join in military action.

Unsurprisingly, the compliant corporate-dominated U.S. media seldom, if ever, address the morality or legality of this approach that usually leads to a U.S. military attack on a far weaker nation. For example, the threat or use of force, except in self-defense against an armed attack or, unless taken by the UN Security Council, is prohibited under the UN Charter.

Sanctions have been in vogue for the last twenty years or so. However, more and more people today realize that harsh economic sanctions are, in effect, collective punishment of innocent populations. The devastation sanctions cause, particularly those wreaked on Haitians and Iraqis, has led to more frequent discussions about their appropriateness and legality. Some in-depth articles dealing with the legality of sanctions include:

The legality and morality of the U.S. approach should be discussed, especially given the U.S. campaigns regarding Syria and Iran. However, in the U.S. today, it seems to be outside the realm of polite discussion to point out that the threats to attack Iran by the U.S. and Israel are violations of the UN Charter. Few in the corporate-dominated U.S. media also challenge the idea of preemptive self-defense.

President Eisenhower also had some strong opinions on preventive war. He said: “I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing. …It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.” Mary Ellen O’Connell’s article, The Myth of Preemptive Self-Defense, goes into much more detail about this issue.

When the US says that no options are off the table, it raises the awful possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state that has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty clearly is an extreme violation of the UN Charter.

Instead of the U.S. approach that relies heavily on the threat of the use of its military, real negotiations without preconditions are the key to resolving conflicts, including those with Syria and Iran.

Ron Forthofer Ph.D. is retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado rforthofer@comcast.net

What if ancestors had a better grasp of the natural world?

Science, not faith, determines how the real world operates” by Richard Juday is a letter to the editor that ran only in the print version of the Times-Call and is reproduced at FRL with Mr. Juday’s permission. – FRL

Letter to the editor of the Times Call from Peter Gifford reproduced by permission of the author.

Hunter gatherers

Would society be different if they understood the physical world more?

Richard Juday’s piece and its responses bring to mind a question I’ve asked myself: If I alone could go back in time — only once — and do anything I wanted, what would I do?

I could put myself just outside the door of Jesus’ tomb when the stone was moved, clarify the Second Amendment, kill Hitler, establish Israel in a way that didn’t enrage Muslims, prevent JFK’s assassination or stop the 9/11 attacks.

But I always return to this: I would somehow convince prehistoric humankind that the sun, moon, stars, weather, seasons, beasts, trees, mountains, rivers, oceans, even earthquakes and volcanos, are all natural phenomena and not caused by spirits.

Would we still have religion today? Almost certainly, in some form. It seems like the human genome includes an indelible sequence for self doubt. Many of us would still be unable to cope, just among each other, with random misfortune and disaster, evil in others, our own personal failings, the world’s ills, being the highest known form of life or the age-old question “why am I here?” They’d need something more.

Would we still have nations and wars? Probably, but perhaps only for land, water and riches, without crusades, inquisitions, genocide or jihad. Would we still have rich and poor, vice and virtue, crime and punishment? Undoubtedly, but perhaps without so much arrogance, prejudice and intolerance.

Would we still have wondrous art, music, science and charity? Absolutely. Innate human talent, genius and altruism will always insist on expressing itself, like a weed breaking through concrete, religion notwithstanding.

But if our prehistoric ancestors had devised an explanation for their world that relied on even an inkling of actual nature, rather than the metaphysical, we’d all be a whole lot better off today.

Peter Gifford
Longmont