Posted by: quiscus | October 14, 2009

October 14, 2009

1.  Afghanistan:

“Why does it now seem that the more troops we send, the worse things get? If the Soviets bankrupted themselves in Afghanistan with troop levels of 100,000 and were eventually forced to leave in humiliating defeat, why are we determined to follow their example? Most importantly, what is there to be gained from all this? We’ve invested billions of dollars and thousands of precious lives – for what?

The truth is it is no coincidence that the more troops we send the worse things get. Things are getting worse precisely because we are sending more troops and escalating the violence. We are hoping that good leadership wins out in Afghanistan, but the pool of potential honest leaders from which to draw has been fleeing the violence, leaving a tremendous power vacuum behind. War does not quell bad leaders. It creates them. And the more war we visit on this country, the more bad leaders we will inadvertently create.”

2.  Why rogue nuclear bombs are not a threat:

“”Terrorists have had a hard time getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Although governments and enterprising freelancers have sold missiles and centrifuges, there is no reliable evidence that they have auctioned off nuclear weapons to wild men they can’t control. More good news: It would be very hard for a terrorist group to build a nuclear weapon on its own without being discovered in the process. Terrorists could acquire enough nuclear material to make a dirty bomb, which would use conventional explosives to spew radioactive material, but they could actually do much more damage with automatic weapons.”

<a href=””></a>Krepon’s point about automatic weapons is well taken. Why should a terrorist go to the trouble of trying to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the U.S., when it is easier to spread mass panic with guns, backpack explosives, suicide bomber belts or truck bombs? I’ve never understood why we devote so much attention to the remote threat of loose nukes, rather than worrying about more immediate threats like loose planes, loose guns, loose grenades and loose fertilizer.

I’ve slept even more soundly ever since, as part of a routine heart stress test, I was injected with a small dose of radioactive isotopes. The doctor’s office gave me an official form that I was instructed to show to any Department of Homeland Security officials who apprehended me, telling them, in effect, that, yes, I was radioactive but no, I was not a weapon of mass destruction. From this I inferred that Washington, D.C. — and, I would hope, New York and L.A., if not Bucksnort, Tenn. — are full of concealed sensors, ensuring that it would be difficult if not impossible to bring in radioactive substances without being detected.”

3.  Ugh:

A Historic Success In Military Recruiting

Carr said strong recruitment was driven by economic conditions that have made civilian jobs scarce, along with other factors such as pay increases and investment in recruiting budgets.

The recession “was a force,” Carr said, and, “given the unemployment that we had not directly forecast, allowed us to be for much of the year in a very favorable position.”

Historically, there has been a strong correlation between rising unemployment and increases in “high quality” enlistments”

4.  A very bad idea:

“Army considers middle-school JROTC program”

5.  The Brzezinski-led neocons won’t be happy about this:

“Meanwhile, PM Putin was in Beijing doing economic deals that included Chinese loans to Russian banks and Russian help in building a petroleum refinery near the Chinese capital, according to FT.

In any case, Russia’s tightening of ties with China is of a piece with its Iran policy, which mirrors that of Beijing, and the congruence is unlikely to be accidental. The Russian-Chinese cooperation is given institutional form by the Shanghai Cooperation Council and seems pretty explicitly aimed at excluding the US from hegemony in Central Asia. Keeping Iran from being crushed by US-led sanctions would be consistent with that approach.”

6.  “To mark Columbus Day In 2004, the Medieval and Renaissance Center in UCLA published the final volume of a compendium of Columbus-era documents. Its general editor, Geoffrey Symcox, leaves little room for ambivalence when he says, “This is not your grandfather’s Columbus…. While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who stopped at nothing – not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting biblical scripture – to advance his ambitions…. Many of the unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more, but nobody paid much attention to them until recently. The fact that Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating diseases to the Americas used to be seen as a minor detail – if it was recognized at all – in light of his role as the great bringer of white man’s civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But to historians today this information is very important. It changes our whole view of the enterprise.”

In 1892, the National Council of Churches, the largest ecumenical body in the United States, is known to have exhorted Christians to refrain from celebrating the Columbus quincentennial, saying, “What represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation and genocide for others.

Yet America continues to celebrate “Columbus Day.”

That Americans do so in the face of all evidence that there is little in the Columbian legacy that merits applause makes it easier for them to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions, or the actions of their government. Perhaps there is good reason.

In “Columbus Day: A Clash of Myth and History,” journalist and media critic Norman Solomon discusses how historians who deal with recorded evidence are frequently depicted as “politically correct” revisionists while the general populace is manipulated into holding onto myths that brazenly applaud inconceivable acts of violence of men against fellow humans.

For those of us who are willing to ask how it becomes possible to manipulate the population of a country into accepting atrocity, the answer is not hard to find. It requires normalizing the inconceivable and drumming it in via the socio-cultural environment until it is internalized and embedded in the individual and collective consciousness. The combined or singular deployment of the media, the entertainment industry, mainstream education or any other agency, can achieve the desired result of convincing people that wars can be just, and strikes can be surgical, as long as it is the US that is doing it.”

7.  “Gaza War Crimes: Israeli Government Contradicts its Own “Self-Defense” Argument Information on official website tacitly acknowledges war crimes in Gaza

Amazingly, the Israeli Government’s attack on the Goldstone Report and its longstanding claim that it was acting in self-defense against Hamas rocket fire is flatly contradicted by evidence provided by the Israeli government itself on its own web site. The web site dramatically shows that the Israeli government had already effectively stopped rocket fire long before Israeli forces launched their initial attack on Gaza on November 4, 2008.

Yet, Israeli government spokesmen endlessly repeat the self-defense claim.”

8.  And he’s somehow supposed to be a moderate?

“Thomas Friedman Glorifies American Militarism

In the Sunday edition of the New York Times, the newspaper’s chief commentator on foreign affairs, Thomas L. Friedman, devotes his entire column to a grotesque celebration of the role of the American military, presenting its operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, as humanitarian and liberating.

Friedman mentions a series of actions by the American military, including the Normandy landing of June 1944, the Berlin Airlift of 1948, the stationing of US troops in Europe throughout the Cold War, the troop presence in South Korea, and the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The very length of this list might give a reader pause—there is no other country whose military actions over the last 70 years would require a full column merely to name.

But significantly, Friedman’s account of the “last century” is highly selective. He leaves out more American wars than he includes. Left off his list are World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War. He makes no mention of the dozens of US military interventions in Central America and the Caribbean, including invasions and occupations of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama and Mexico.

Nor does he make reference to the use of American military, paramilitary and intelligence forces to overthrow governments, suppress popular revolts and establish dictatorships around the world. A partial list would include Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Greece, Turkey, and numerous African countries.

Even in the wars Friedman does mention, his account is one-sided and false. He refers to Normandy and the liberation of Buchenwald, but not Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or the firebombing of Tokyo, Dresden and Hamburg. He describes the role of US forces today in Iraq and Afghanistan as “peacekeeping,” without noting the sea of blood that accompanied the invasion and conquest of those countries.

In one particularly cynical passage, he urges Obama to sing the praises of “the American soldiers who stand guard today at outposts in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan to give that country, and particularly its women and girls, a chance to live a decent life free from the Taliban’s religious totalitarianism.” Thousands of Afghan women and girls have been incinerated, dismembered or maimed by American missiles and bombs: presumably a small price to pay for their “liberation” from religious oppression.

Moreover, as Friedman well knows, the Taliban’s obscurantist regime is itself the direct product of a previous US intervention, in which Islamic fundamentalists from all over the world, including Osama bin Laden, were mobilized under CIA auspices to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. And the oppression of women in American allies like Saudi Arabia evokes no response from Washington.

But it is the omission of Vietnam which is the most telling exposure of Friedman’s attempt to dress up American imperialism in “democratic” and “humanitarian” garb. Vietnam was the liberals’ war, launched by the Democratic Party administrations of Kennedy and Johnson, waged under the auspices of defending the “Free World” against “communist aggression.” In reality, America followed the French, the former ruling power, as the imperialist nation seeking to subjugate the resistance of the Vietnamese people to national oppression and semi-colonialism.

The atrocities of the Vietnam era—saturation bombing, the use of napalm and Agent Orange, “free-fire” zones, outright massacres like My Lai, the propping up of a ruthless and corrupt dictatorship in South Vietnam—these experiences discredited the Cold War anti-communist politics of American liberalism and radicalized an entire generation, not only in the United States but around the world.

Friedman’s column is only the latest effort to banish the “Vietnam syndrome” and revive a democratic façade for US military operations. His role is predictable, as the Times foreign affairs columnist has long been an apologist for American militarism.”

9.  “Student Loans are the New Indentured Servitude

Jeffrey Williams, in Dissent Magazine, wrote Student Debt and The Spirit of Indenture, provocatively referred to student loans as the new form of indentured servitude.

Why is this the new form of indentured servitude? Williams gives some reasons: The prevalence of this debt, especially among the young and the poor/working classes, the transformation from a rounding error amount to a significant burden amount over the past 30 years, the length of term, the idea of mobility and “transport” to a job, debt secured not by property but by personhood, and limited legal recourse. All these characteristics are similar. The limited legal recourse is noteworthy here, since unlike most debt, it isn’t dischargeable under bankruptcy, thus it doesn’t have a natural protection for the consumer receiving credit (a protection, the original synthetic put option, that our Founders were aware of enough to make sure it was provisioned for in the Constitution).”

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