In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.
As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.
According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.
The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”
A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.
ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.
Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”
ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.
It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.
Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.
Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”
Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”
A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”
In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.” When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”
On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.
Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.
The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.
Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:
“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”
That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”
The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of NATO, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.
A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian ) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.
Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.
More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”. Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.
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A US watchdog is asking why 16 planes bought for the Afghan Air Force, costing almost $500 million, were turned into scrap metal valued at just $32,000. The government wants to know why hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money were wasted on the project.
The military transport planes had been sitting at Kabul International Airport for years, before they were sent for scrap. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), wants to know why the money was wasted. According to Reuters, he had asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to keep a record of all decisions concerning the destruction of the 16 C-27J planes.
Sopko also wants to know what will happen to another four transport planes currently stored at the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany.
“I am concerned that the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars,” Sopko said.
The 20 planes were bought from Alenia, which is part of the Italian aircraft company Fimmeccanica SpA. However, according to a SIGAR letter sent to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the program was ended in March 2013, “after sustained, serious performance, maintenance, and spare parts problems and the planes were grounded,” ABC reported.
By January 2013, according to Sopko’s office, the aircraft were not airworthy and had only flown a total of 234 of the 4,500 hours required in nine months from January through September 2012. Spoko’s office also said that a further $200 million was needed to buy spare parts.
The Defense Logistics Agency was responsible for destroying the planes and Sopko now wants to know if any of the parts of the planes were sold before they were sent for scrap metal.
Major Bradlee Avots, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the 16 aircraft at Kabul International Airport had been destroyed “to minimize impact on drawdown of US Forces in Afghanistan,” and added that more information would be released after a review. The US government is currently in the process of scaling down from its present military personnel in Afghanistan of around 26,000 to a force of just under 10,000, who will be staying in a mainly advisory role.
Avots also said that the US Department of Defense and the US Air Force were still deciding what to do with the four aircraft in Germany.
SIGAR has been investigating possible wasteful spending on warplanes since the end of 2013, following questions raised by military officials and non-profit organizations.
Sopko has said that he does not know if wasteful plane procurement was due to any criminal malice or was just mismanagement, but that the “scrap metal” incident in Afghanistan was not an isolated case.
In June, despite Afghanistan being a landlocked country, a US government watchdog found that the Pentagon spent more than $3 million obtaining eight patrol boats that were never used. Additionally, the cost of each boat turned out to be about $375,000 – far more than the $50,000 they usually sell for in the US.
During his investigation, Sopko said that records related to the purchase and cancelation of the patrol boats were severely lacking, and his questions to the military have not resulted in adequate answers.
“The military has been unable to provide records that would answer the most basic questions surrounding this $3 million purchase,” his office told the Washington Post in a statement in June.
Tuesday this week commemorates 13 years since the start of the Afghan War — America’s longest running campaign of its kind — yet an end to the operation is hardly on the horizon.
Under the terms of the Bilateral Security Agreement, the pact signed last week by representatives for both the United States and Afghanistan, the US will significantly reduce the number of soldiers involved in its post-9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom at the end of this year. Troop numbers will shrink to 10,000, signaling indeed a major step towards ending the war in Afghanistan — a campaign promise made by US President Barack Obama during the lead-up to his re-election in 2012. With this week’s anniversary, however, the costs incurred already appear more evident than ever, and the length of the operation may be endless.
Combined with the only recently concluded war in Iraq, the financial toll of the Afghan war on Uncle Sam’s pocketbook could range in $4 trillion to $6 trillion, according to research published last year out of Harvard University. Additionally, the iCasualties website claims the US military has suffered 2,349 deaths during Operation Enduring Freedom — including 48 this year, or as many lives lost in that war in 2003 when it was still relatively new. Of that tally, Breitbart News recently reported, 1,649 deaths or about 75 percent, have occurred since the start Pres. Obama’s first term in early 2009.
Even with last week’s agreement, however, the Afghan War will only end in name, if at all. Under the terms of the pact, the roughly 9,800 US troops that will remain in Afghanistan past the end of this year will be cut in half by the end of the next, with a full-scale withdrawal tentatively slated for the end of 2016. By keeping US troops overseas for now, the State Department said recently, Afghanistan, the US and international community at large will “maintain the partnership we’ve established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade.” Once the last of the US forces leave, the Afghan army will again be tasked with preserving national security, and for the first time without American troops since 2001.
When those troops actually will exit Afghan for good, however, remains up in the air. Under the terms of the BSA, US and NATO troops have already been cleared to stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond,” suggesting Operation Enduring Freedom could extend for another decade even after already being America’s longest running war.
Thirteen years ago this Tuesday, George W Bush, then the president of the United States, said the Pentagon had officially begun a mission “designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.”
“This military action is a part of our campaign against terrorism, another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets and the arrests of known terrorists by law enforcement agents in 38 countries,” Bush said from the White House. “Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenges with determination and will and purpose.”
That patience is still at play today, however, and has led Operation Enduring Freedom into the record books of being the longest-running US war ever. Now despite campaign promises made by Obama, even Bush’s successor might not see the end of a war in Afghanistan anytime soon: 13 years after Bush announced the start of a military operation against terrorists, the US and its allies are now in the midst of conducting an aerial campaign against the so-called Islamic State, a terrorist organization that even Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from over concerns involving the group’s violent practices. According to new research published last month by USA Today, Washington is investing roughly $10 million a day on fighting a campaign against that group. If the Pentagon’s numbers don’t change drastically over time, then the cost of fighting that war could come to over $3 billion annually — a fraction of the $77.7 billion spent during the last fiscal year on Operation Enduring Freedom, but costly nonetheless.
September 21, 2014
Jacob took his life this past week.
Since the start of the war on Afghanistan in 2001, through 2013, 2.5 million members of the military, Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard units have deployed.
The British are mystified by their Muslim citizens becoming “jihadists” and joining the so-called Islamic State. They are horrified by the beheading of an American journalist by “John” a British citizen and member of the IS.
I must admit that I, too am horrified. It is not Islamic at all. Islam does not advocate violence and terror. The people who were defeated by the Prophet were not even converted to Islam, much less executed. The Quran says, “There is no compulsion in Islam.”
But we are seeing more and more violence and atrocities committed by Muslims. And now we have the Islamic State “Jihadists”, some of whom come from countries where they had migrated to because life is good there. Having enjoyed the good life, why are these people opting to join revolutionary movements and live dangerous lives, fighting against the very people who are their hosts. Could it be, as some people suggest, that they have been reading books such as “Islam for Dummies?”
Why? Recently we saw the mass killings of Muslims and destruction of their homes and towns by Israelis in Gaza. More than 2000 Muslims have been killed. They include little children and old people, non-combatants all. Thousands more have been seriously wounded, many losing arms and legs.
No concern or sympathy has been shown by the Europeans and Americans. In fact the Americans gave money and arms for Israelis to kill more Muslims and destroy their homes and towns.
If the beheading of a European Journalist is evidence of the barbarity of Muslims, cannot there be the same perception of Israeli killings of Muslims in Gaza? No. They are all terrorists, babies included, and a democratic country like Israel has every right to kill them and destroy their homes, towns and cities.
If we care to look back, we cannot but acknowledge that the so-called Middle Eastern Muslims were very hospitable to the Europeans before. But, the European nations played their great games there. They created the states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine out of one single entity called Sham by the Arabs. Muslims then had no nation-states. They only regard themselves as the Muslim community, the Ummah.
The Europeans expelled the Turks and proceeded to divide Sham between them, although they had promised the Arabs that Sham would be liberated and handed over to the Arabs.
Following the European great games Iraq went to the British while Syria and Lebanon to the French. Palestine was made a British mandated territory to be returned to the Palestinians later. Palestine for centuries had been inhabited by Muslim and Christian Arabs and a small number of Jews. Under Muslim rule they lived in peace despite their different religions.
Then the British decided to make a Jewish state out of Palestine in order to solve the Jewish problem in Europe. Balfour, in 1917, promised to give land belonging to the Palestinian to the Zionist. It was so easy. Take other people’s land to give to the Jews without any regard for the majority Arabs living there. And the Jews celebrated the creation of Israel with massacres of Arabs and expulsion from Palestine. This was apparently sanctioned by the UN in 1948 when Israel was recognised as a state. Arab resentment was ignored.
Since then the Middle East has experienced no peace. Every time the Palestine Arabs tried to regain their homeland, they were prevented by the massive help and support of Israel by the European nations, in particular by America.
With every failure the Arabs became even more angry and determined to regain their homeland. The Arab countries stopped helping the Palestinians. Undeterred, they set up Al-Fatah to throw stones at Israeli soldiers in armoured cars. The stone-throwing children were shot at by the soldiers with rubber coated and then live bullets.
Fatah acquired some ineffective weapons to fight in defence. They were shot and killed and thousands were captured and thrown into Israeli jails for indefinite periods without trial. Palestine lands were seized and settlements for Jews built. It was against all laws and practices which the Europeans pride in saying they uphold.
And so instead of stopping Israel, the Europeans continued their support with funds and arms. The Israelis actually occupied Palestine land and set up road blocks to control movements of the Palestinian and visitors. Roads were built through Palestinian land for the exclusive use of the Israelis. High walls were constructed in Palestine territory for Israeli security. Gaza is put under siege by Israel. Ships in international waters were seized by the Israeli navy.
Aid workers on high seas were shot and killed; their ships boarded and forced to go to Israeli ports. The aid goods were confiscated. All these are against international laws but the big powers did nothing. But these were not all. Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments and acts were exhibited by Europeans elsewhere also. Having predicted a clash of civilisations they seem bent on making it a reality.
In Bosnia Herzegovina 12,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered with axes and bludgeons after Dutch NATO troops who were supposed to protect them simply moved away to allow Serbs to carry out their murderous work.
Then came the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after blaming the Muslims for the destruction of the twin towers of the world trade centre in New York. The Iraqis were not responsible for this. But Iraq was accused of having weapons of mass destruction capable of being launched against Britain within 45 minutes. Later it was admitted by the Brits that this was a lie. Unashamedly the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who ordered the collaboration with the United States in the invasion of Iraq claimed that the attack, the massive destruction of Iraqi cities and towns and the killings of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis was in order to liberate them from Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was caught and hanged. But the occupation and war continued. When finally the Americans and Europeans left Iraq, this once stable and progressive Arab country descended into anarchy and civil war with Iraqis killing Iraqis.
Afghanistan was invaded to overthrow the Taliban and to kill Osama bin Ladin. Osama is dead but there is no peace in Afghanistan. The Iraqi and Afghan invasion was supposed to be over in three months. But after ten years and the almost total destruction of the two countries, meaningful democracy and peace have not come to these two unfortunate nations. They have been rendered totally unstable and fratricidal wars are tearing them apart.
The CIA has drawn up a list of Muslims to be killed. The West condemns the practices of detention without trial. Now we see in the West death sentences being passed on Muslims without trial. The intended victims are not even told about their death sentence. No attempt is made to arrest even. Drones are simply dispatched to kill these Muslims. In the case of Osama bin Ladin killer squads were dropped into Pakistan without even informing that country. And Osama’s body was thrown into the sea, a practice worthy of barbarians.
Through all these, the U.S., Britain and other European countries express no regret and certainly no sympathy for the Muslim victims of their war on terror. Thousands of them, men, women, children, babies, old and sick people have been and are being killed without evoking the slightest concern or regret among the Europeans.
I don’t for one moment regard the beheading of the American journalist as Islamic, despite the claim of ISIL. I think it is disgraceful for Muslims to do such thing. It is against the teachings of Islam. But can any young and impressionable Muslim be blamed if they are so easily mislead into committing heinous crimes to avenge the injustice and oppression of their brothers and sisters in religion.
It is not the religion of Islam that led the Muslims to committing heinous acts. It is simply anger, hate and rage over not being able to do anything to stop the Europeans or West from oppressing people who profess the same religion as themselves. And Europeans, most of whom are not practicing Christians, react in the same way when Christians are faced with any threat.
Look at the record of the Europeans, especially after they created Israel. Now, although they will not admit it, they are carrying out a crusade against Islam and the Muslims. Call it a war on terror or the clash of civilizations. But factually it is still a continuation of the crusade of the past centuries.
Against this modern Crusade the Muslims have no answer. They don’t have a Saladin (Salah El Din) to lead them. And over the centuries they have allowed themselves to become weak. They have ignored the injunctions of Allah in the Quran that they must be prepared to defend the ummah and Islam.
Their religious teachers tell them to pray to Allah for help. But they neglect to inform that in the Quran Allah enjoins upon Muslims to help themselves first if they want Allah to answer their prayers. Quite obviously the Muslims have not followed this injunction. In fact many believe that it has been preordained that they should suffer European oppression.
Today not a single Government of a Muslim country has dared to challenge the Europeans. Indeed many believe that the Europeans are a superior race that they should look up to; that it is futile to defend themselves against European aggression and oppression. Not a single Muslim country dares to stand up to the Europeans.
Expecting no help from the Governments of Muslim countries, many angry and frustrated Muslims took upon themselves to take revenge against the hated Europeans. For this purpose they preach their version of the teachings of Islam so as to influence young Muslim to be prepared to sacrifice their lives in a holy war.
All Muslims truly believe that to die in the defence of Islam and the Muslims results in martyrdom and heaven in the afterlife. It is not too difficult to convince young Muslims in the face of the injustice and oppression of Muslims that the war against the Europeans is a holy war.
But a war against the European promises no easy victory. Seeking revenge through acts of terror is much easier. And so the so-called jihadists are prepared to commit atrocities like beheading a European and recording it for the world to see. I would like to say it again, it is not Islamic this beheading. Certainly it is not Islamic for Sunnis to massacre captured Shiahs or Shiahs to murder Sunnis.
The two sects had always fought each other in their mutual belief that the other is not Muslim. But what is happening today is bloodlust which started with the fight against Jewish Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel. Unable to defeat the Jews and their nominally Christian Europeans backers, the Muslims have now turned against each other. And occasionally when they manage to capture a European, they vent their spite on him.
This will go on for decades and even centuries, waxing and waning, for as long as there is the state of Israel and the Palestinians are denied their right to a homeland.
It is the seizure of Palestinian land to form the state of Israel which triggered the violent reaction of the Muslims in the last 70 over years. The Jewish reaction to the violent struggle of the Palestinians is to out terrorise them. That in turn resulted in other Muslims joining the Palestinian struggle. Unable to wage war they resort to acts of terror. And Israeli state terror escalated.
Directly and indirectly the Europeans back Israeli state terrorism. And so it goes on. So what is the solution? It is certainly not more suppression and oppression of the Muslims, and in particular the Palestinian.
The solution lies in fairness and justice for the Palestinians.
I am writing this in Chechnya, a republic in the Russian Federation. The Chechens fought a war of independence against the Russians. It was a futile war. Three million ill-equipped Chechens against 200 million Russians with one of the most powerful military forces in the world. Chechnya and Grozny its capital were razed to the ground before they were forced to stop fighting.
After the war the Russians allocated a trillion dollars to rebuild Chechnya and Grozny. Today, eight years after war ended, there is not a trace of the massive destruction caused by Russian missiles and bombs. Instead the whole country, and in particular Grozny has been completely rebuilt.
And today the Chechens can once again believe and practice the Muslim religion. Beautiful mosques and religious school abound. There is no more communist sanction against Islam. Chechnya remains a republic in the Russian Federation but in religion and in many ways it is independent. The relation with Russia is friendly.
Maybe there is something to learn from the Chechen saga. Stop the oppression of Palestine. Stop the Crusade. Stop postulating the clash of civilizations. Stop regime change. Stop supplying arms for Muslims to fight Muslims. It may take time but slowly the jihadists, will have no incentive to fight.
Allah has ordained that the enemy of the Muslims are those who fight and oppress them. Muslims must not war against those who have not attacked them (in any way). That is the way of Islam – peace unless you declare war against Islam.
Muslims who adhere strictly to these tenets and wish to live at peace with non-Muslims can only have credibility and be listened to if the oppression of the Muslims ceases.
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003.
The Western media have proved for all to see that the Western media comprises either a collection of ignorant and incompetent fools or a brothel that sells war for money.
The Western media fell in step with Washington and blamed the downed Malaysian airliner on Russia. No evidence was provided. In its place the media used constant repetition. Washington withheld the evidence that proved that Kiev was responsible. The media’s purpose was not to tell the truth, but to demonize Russia.
Now we have the media story of the armored Russian column that allegedly crossed into Ukraine and was destroyed by Ukraine’s rag-tag forces that ISIS would eliminate in a few minutes. British reporters fabricated this story or were handed it by a CIA operative working to build a war narrative. The disreputable BBC hyped the story without investigating.
The German media, including Die Welt, blared the story throughout Germany without concern at the absence of any evidence. Reuters news agency, also with no investigation, spread the story. Readers tell me that CNN has been broadcasting the fake story 24/7. Although I cannot stand to watch it, I suspect Fox “news” has also been riding this lame horse hard. Readers tell me that my former newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, which has fallen so low as to be unreadable, also spread the false story. I hope they are wrong. One hates to see the complete despoliation of one’s former habitat.
The media story is preposterous for a number of reasons that should be obvious to a normal person.
The first reason is that the Russian government has made it completely clear that its purpose is to de-escalate the situation. When other former Russian territories that are part of present day Ukraine followed Crimea, voted their independence and requested reunification with Russia, President Putin refused.
To underline his de-escalation, President Putin asked the Russian Duma to rescind his authority to intervene militarily in Ukraine in behalf of the former Russian provinces. As the Russian government, unlike Washington or EU governments, stresses legality and the rule of law, Russian military forces would not be sent into Ukraine prior to the Duma renewing Putin’s authority so to do.
The second reason the story is obviously false is that if the Russian government decides to invade Ukraine, Russia would not send in one small armored group unprotected by air cover or other forces. If Russia invades Ukraine, it will be with a force capable of rolling up the rag-tag Ukrainian forces, most of which are semi-private militias organized by nazis. The “war” would last a few hours, after which Ukraine would be in Russia’s hands where it resided for hundreds of years prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Washington’s successful efforts in 1991 to take advantage of Russian weakness to break apart the constituent provinces of Russia herself.
The third reason that the story is obviously false is that not a single Western news organization hyping the story has presented a shred of evidence in its behalf.
What we witness in this fabricated story is the total lack of integrity in the entirety of the Western media.
A story totally devoid of any evidence to support it has been broadcast world wide. The White House has issued a statement saying that it cannot confirm the story, but nevertheless the White House continues to issue accusations against Russia for which the White House can supply no evidence. Consequently, Western repetition of bald-faced lies has become truth for huge numbers of peoples. As I have emphasized in my columns, these Western lies are dangerous, because they provoke war.
The same group in Washington and the same Western “media” are telling the same kind of lies that were used to justify Washington’s wars in Iraq (weapons of mass destruction), Afghanistan (Taliban = al-Qaeda), Syria (use of chemical weapons), Libya (an assortment of ridiculous charges), and the ongoing US military murders in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
The city upon the hill, the light unto the world, the home of the exceptional, indispensable people is the home of Satan’s lies where truth is prohibited and war is the end game.
From military hardware to counternarcotics operations, the United States has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan to rebuild, if not reshape, the war-torn country. Much of this investment has proved ineffective, and the failings of American policy now include a misguided effort involving soybeans.
Four years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided it would be a good idea to spend $34 million on getting Afghan farmers to grow soybeans and for Afghan consumers to eat them.
The USDA struck out on both counts, according to a report (pdf) from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a frequent critic of U.S. spending in the country, and the Center for Public Integrity.
For starters, American officials thought farmers in the nation’s northern reaches could successfully grow soybeans. This decision was made despite the findings of British researchers last decade that “soybeans were inappropriate for conditions and farming practices in northern Afghanistan, where the program was implemented,” SIGAR’s top official, John Sopko, wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The U.S. also paid about $1.5 million to build a processing plant for soybeans. When the crops failed, the government paid to have 4,000 metric tons of soybeans flown in from the United States at a cost of about $2 million to keep the plant running.
Nor could American experts convince Afghans to incorporate soybeans into their diet. The Center for Public Integrity reported that this effort “has largely been a flop, marked by mismanagement, poor government oversight and financial waste.”
But even if the U.S. didn’t bungle its implementation of the soy-is-good-for-you strategy, the plan was likely to fail anyway, the center concluded, because of “a simple fact, which might have been foreseen but was evidently ignored: Afghans don’t like the taste of the soy processed foods.”
To Learn More:
Afghans Don’t Like Soybeans, Despite a Big U.S. Push (by Alexander Cohen and James Arkin, Center for Public Integrity)
The U.S. Wasted $34 Million TryingTo Make Soybeans Happen In Afghanistan (by Hayes Brown, Think Progress)
Letter to Tom Vilsack (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) (pdf)
More Than Three-Quarters of Soybeans, Corn and Cotton Grown in U.S. are Genetically Engineered (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Attorneys for a Canadian man who spent a decade detained by the United States military at Guantanamo Bay say details in the Obama administration’s recently released “drone memo” exonerates their client of war crimes.
Omar Khadr was only 15 years old when he was captured by American forces in Afghanistan in 2002 and taken to the Bagram Air Base, then Guantanamo, where he later pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war — according to military prosecutors, Khadr tossed a grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer.
After being transferred to Canadian custody in 2012, Khadr said he pleaded guilty to war crimes because he was “left with a hopeless choice” of either accepting the charges or risk facing “continued abuse and torture” at the hands of his Gitmo jailers.
But in a recent court filing [PDF], lawyers for Khadr, now 27, say a just-published US Department of Justice memorandum contains information that directly challenges the American government’s case against their client.
Khadr’s attorneys wrote this week that the secret “drone memo” released by the White House last month — the DOJ document that the government relied on to justify the 2010 drone strike in Yemen that killed American citizen and suspected AL-Qaeda member Anwar Al-Awlaki — suggests prosecutors had no place to charge the Canadian teenager with murder in violation of the laws of war after he allegedly killed an American soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan.
The DOJ memo itself was a penned by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel in response to the question of whether Central Intelligence Agency officers — who are not members of the US military — can be blamed for war crimes by launching drone strikes. The memo was written in July 2010, and justified the strike that later that year killed Al-Awlaki.
According to a footnote within the memo, released June 24 of this year due to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, “lethal activities conducted in accordance with the laws of war, and undertaken in the course of lawfully authorized hostilities, do not violate the laws of war by virtue of the fact that they are carried out in part by government actors who are not entitled to the combatant’s privilege.”
“That completely blows away one of the major prongs of the government’s theory in all these Guantanamo cases,” Sam Morison, Khadr’s Pentagon-based lawyer, told The Canadian Press during an interview on Wednesday this week.
Although Khadr was charged with violating the “US common law of war” that dates back centuries, his attorneys say the memo concerning CIA drone strikes suggest such legislation simply doesn’t exist.
“The whole purpose…was to evaluate whether the CIA agents were violating the law,” Morison said. “The only reasonable interpretation of that analysis is that there is no such thing (as the common law of war).”
On Monday this week, Morrison and the rest of Khadr’s legal counsel, filed a motion in Guantanamo’s appeals court asking that the conviction against their client be vacated.
“The Americans made up serious charges that they knew were false,” Dennis Edney, a Canadian based lawyer for Khadr, told the Toronto Star this week. “It’s a complete violation of everything we understand about justice.”
Should Khadr’s attorneys succeed, then a number of cases pertaining to current or former Guantanamo detainees accused of war crimes could be called into question. According to Human Rights Watch, however, only six of the 149 detainees at Gitmo face any formal charges — fewer than the number of prisoners who have died while held there in military custody.
The Soaring Profits of the Military – Industrial Complex And the Soaring Costs of Military Casualties
The launch of two major wars by the US government had two major beneficiaries, one domestic and one foreign. The three major weapons manufacturers, Lockheed Martin (LMT), Northrop Grumman (NOG) and Raytheon (RTN) have delivered record-shattering returns to investors, CEOs and investment banks during the past decade and a half.
The Israeli regime has expanded its territory and increased its power and influence in the Middle East. Israel’s territorial dispossession of Palestinians, was aided and abetted by the US invasion and destruction of the Palestinian’s Iraqi allies. Washington destroyed Iraq’s armed forces and fragmented its society and state.
The cost in US physical and mental casualties runs in the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who at one time served in the war zones. The financial costs run in the trillions of dollars and counting. Both the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel power configuration continue to wield a major role in keeping Washington on a wartime footing.
For the weapons manufactures there are no peaceful economic activities that can yield a comparable return – hence the need to continue to pressure for new wars to sustain weapons spending. For the pro-Israel power configuration, peace agreements would put an end to land grabs, reduce or curtail new weapons transfers and undermine pretexts to sanction or bomb countries (like Iran) opposing Tel Aviv’s vision of “Greater Israel”.
Yet the political and financial costs of almost a decade and a half of warfare weigh heavily on the US Treasury and electorate. The wars themselves were dismal failures if not outright defeats. New conflicts have emerged in Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine in which the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel lobbies hope to capitalize for profits and power.
Yet the cumulative costs of past and continuing wars hangs over the launch of new costly military interventions. Political discontent among the US public with past wars also weighs heavily against new wars for profits and Israel.
The power and influence of the military-industrial complex in promoting serial wars is evident in the extraordinary rates of return over the past fifty years. Stocks in military-industries have risen 27,699% versus 6,777% for the broad market according to a recent study by Morgan Stanley (cited in Barron’s, 6/9/14, p. 19). Over the past three years, Raytheon has returned 124%, Northrup Grumman 114% and Lockheed Martin 149%.
The Obama regime talks of reducing the military budget and makes a show of doing so via the annual appropriation bill, and then, uses emergency supplemental funds to pay war costs… which actually increases military spending and fattens the profits for the military-industrial complex.
War profits have soared because of multiple military interventions in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. The lobbyists for the industry use their influence over Congressional and Pentagon decision-makers to join forces with the pro-Israel lobby to pressure for greater direct US military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Iran. The growing ties between Israeli and US military industries reinforce their political leverage in Washington by working with liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives. They criticize Obama for not bombing Syria and for withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan. They call for sending troops to Iraq and the Ukraine. Obama argues that proxy wars do not require heavy US military expenditures. Responding to Wall Street pressure to reduce the budget deficit the Obama regime argues that retreating from Iraq and Afghanistan was necessary to reduce US financial and military losses. But withdrawal also reduces profits for the weapons makers and angers Israel and its supporters in Congress.
The Fight over the Military Budget: Veterans versus the Complex and the Lobby
In the face of rising pressure to reduce the deficit and cut the military budget, the military-industrial complex and its Zionist accomplices are heavily engaged in retaining their share of the military budget, by reducing the amount allocated for the medical programs of active and retired soldiers. Disability costs are soaring and will continue for decades. The cost of health care is expected to double to 15% of the defense budget in five years and according to the financial press “that is bad news for defense stocks” (Barron’s, 6/9/14, p. 19).
In response the military-industries are pressing to close Veterans Administration hospitals and reduce benefits, claiming fraud, incompetence and inferior service. The same corporate warlords and lobbyists who pressed the Government to send American soldiers to wars, in which they lost lives, limbs and mental health, are now in the forefront of the fight to reduce spending on their recovery and health. Economists point out that the less the percentage of the military budget spent on veteran’s health, the greater the share allocated for missiles, warships and war planes. The long term costs for VA medical and disability spending resulting from the Afghan and Iraq wars are at present $900 billion and rising.
The corporate warlords are pressuring Congress to increase co-pays, enrollment fees and deductibles for veterans enrolled in public health plans.
The fight is on over Pentagon expenditures: for soldiers health or weapons programs that fatten the profits of the military industrial complex.
In national-security matters, the news media couldn’t do a better job misinforming the public if they tried. The latest example is their portrayal of the five Taliban officials traded for Bowe Bergdahl.
The media of course have an incentive to accentuate controversy. In the Bergdahl deal, this includes portraying the five Taliban prisoners as, in Sen. John McCain’s words, “hard-core jihadis responsible for 9/11.” McCain is wrong, but the major news outlets don’t care. Over and over, the five are identified as terrorists. Facts take a back seat to drama and conflict.
President Obama fed this narrative:
In terms of potential threats, the release of the Taliban who were being held in Guantánamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities. We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely.
The media simply take the government’s word that the five Taliban figures are international terrorists. But the Taliban are not al-Qaeda. They were the theocratic government overthrown by U.S. forces. So when Taliban insurgents attack American forces, it is not terrorism but war, which the U.S government started.
There have been a few hints that the prisoners are not accurately described. A rare example is from the government’s former chief prosecutor at the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis. Davis punctured the “hardest of the hard-core” narrative when he said:
We had screened all of the detainees and we had focused on about 75 that had the potential to be charged with a crime. When I saw the names [of those traded] … [I] wasn’t familiar with any of these names.… If we could have proven that they had done something wrong that we could prosecute them for I’m confident we would have done it, and we didn’t.
In fact, the story behind the five Taliban prisoners reflects poorly on the U.S. government’s conduct of its supposedly good war. Maybe that’s why this story gets so little attention.
Before being captured, these Taliban officers were treated as potential allies by the CIA or the U.S.-installed government of Hamid Karzai. Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, writes that
all five of the swapped prisoners were initially captured while trying to cut deals, and … three had been attempting to join, or had already joined, the Afghan government at the time of their arrest.
This history shows that the categories we take as rigid and unchanging, such as “terrorist,” are in fact remarkably fluid in the context of Afghan politics. Uncovering the stories of these men tells us much about Guantanamo, the Taliban, and the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict.
How did these men end up in U.S. custody? The U.S. government offered attractive bounties to Afghans who turned alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda members over to American authorities. This created a strong incentive to rat out personal enemies, rival warlords, and others, many of whom had nothing to do with the Afghan insurgency or international terrorism. Many were sent to Guantánamo.
For example, Gopal writes, Mohammad Nabi Omari, who was part of the Bergdahl exchange,
was a small-time commander linked to pro-Taliban strongman Jalaluddin Haqqani in the 1990s. After 2001, he was among the many Haqqani followers who switched allegiances to the Karzai government.… [Omari] and other former Haqqani commanders began working for the CIA.… Some Afghan officials in Khost allege that Omari reaped profits from falsely accusing others of al Qaeda membership. If so, he certainly accrued enemies, and in September 2002, he, too, was accused of insurgent membership by rival warlords and politicians, despite being publicly aligned with the Karzai government.
His next stop was Guantánamo.
“Instead of being recalcitrant terrorists bent on fighting America,” Gopal concludes, “this history indicates that all five can make pragmatic deals if the conditions are right.”
The U.S. invasion-occupation of Afghanistan was a war of choice not necessity. American forces made it worse by indiscriminately placing a price on the head of any Afghan whom someone else was willing to destroy.
“The future is too good to waste on lies,” Bowe wrote. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american (sic). The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”
From “America’s Last Prisoner of War”, by Michael Hastings. Rolling Stone, June 7, 2012
Nothing exposes the decadence of American militarism and the ideology of American exceptionalism better than the explosion of emotion sweeping the internet, Congress and the news media over the prisoner exchange of Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban. He is being vilified as a deserter and personally responsible for the deaths of fellow soldiers missioned to find him. The American right-wing located in the Republican party, some liberals like Chris Matthews and Dianne Feinstein and some of his fellow soldiers are all calling for his head in a display of vengeful nastiness bordering on psychotic. Bergdahl’s motivations for walking away from the bizarre U.S. counterinsurgency expedition in Afghanistan, a “dirty war” seemingly without purpose or end, are being lost in the fog of infantile political temper tantrums.
Bergdahl was according to an in-depth Rolling Stone article in 2012 by the late Michael Hastings, an exceptionally competent and motivated soldier during training, serious about preparing himself for combat. So serious and competent, that his fellow soldiers kidded him about being too gung-ho. He was moved in part by what he had read or viewed of reports of atrocities against civilians by the Taliban and other jihadist groups in other countries. His was an honest and heartfelt desire to “serve and protect” the poor and destitute in conflict zones. He was a highly-motivated foot soldier for “humanitarian imperialism”, the perfect youthful idealist falling for the good-vs-evil fairy tale of American exceptionalism.
Bergdahl’s disillusionment started as soon as he joined the U.S. Army, and found that his unit was incompetent to the point of being dysfunctional. The leadership problems and motivation issues never were really resolved in training, and only intensified after deployment to Paktia Province, one of the more volatile and dangerous areas in Afghanistan. He describes an 8-hour mission in an email home to his parents which turned into an extreme military FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition), where he and his unit spent multiple days stranded in enemy territory due to what in his view was leadership and bureaucratic incompetence. In a supreme irony, this is the same province in which Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal football player who joined the Army Rangers out of idealistic and self-sacrificing patriotism, was killed by members of his own unit in a notorious “friendly-fire” incident. That was the result of grossly negligent decision-making on the part of his chain-of-command which committed the cardinal sin of splitting up his unit while similarly stranded, as reported in Counterpunch.
From the Hastings article, Bergdahl’s views seem to go beyond the usual soldierly complaints into an angry indictment of careerism and “covering-your-ass” incompetence:
“Three good sergeants, Bowe said, had been forced to move to another company, and ‘one of the biggest shit bags is being put in charge of the team.’ His battalion commander was a ‘conceited old fool.’ The military system itself was broken: ‘In the US army you are cut down for being honest… but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do whatever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank… The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.’ The soldiers he actually admired were planning on leaving: ‘The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same.’”
Bergdahl’s vehemently critical attitude toward his chain-of-command is familiar to many enlisted soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. Officers, especially field-grade, were viewed with deserved contempt, with some exceptions, as corrupt and incompetent careerists who avoided personal risk. The assault on Hill 937, which came to be known as “Hamburger Hill” is one of the more notorious incidents, where soldiers were gratuitously sacrificed by officers in the rear. In what came to be called in the black humor of the soldier “ticket punching”, these kinds of officers were scorned for their career-building tours in Vietnam only to get the necessary medals for upward advancement.
It isn’t clear from Bergdahl’s personal history in the Rolling Stone article whether he joined the Army due to economic difficulties, the “poverty draft” as it’s called. It may have played a role. His parents were certainly not wealthy or privileged, earning an annual income of only $7000 one year according to Hastings.
He did have other personal motivations for wanting to become a soldier, revealing some of the more telling features of militarized American culture, where ignorance of history and the world outside, especially among youth, even those with strong ethical senses, yields startling contradictions. He at one point unsuccessfully tried to join the French Foreign Legion as a mercenary, probably unaware or willfully ignorant of its savage and ruthless record in French imperial history. That ignorance and historic amnesia is coupled with a desire to express one’s youthful need for excitement and adventure by joining the military, and in essence acquiring that excitement by deploying across the planet to combat zones. In the society of the spectacle, where young Americans are immersed in an entertainment culture, the world becomes a theme park or giant (real) video contest, where they can overcome their boredom in a spiritually dead consumerism by testing themselves in what they view as heroic combat in other people’s countries, riding to their rescue. The “others” in those countries in essence become two-dimensional cutouts or foils for a live-action videogame with real risks and danger and excitement. The suffering resulting from American military occupation is not part of the consciousness, and rarely is noticed by soldiers immersed in the demands of survival against lethal dangers. It is instead often replaced with resentment and hatred for the ungrateful locals who either support the insurgents or are caught between them and American forces.
But this isn’t always so, for some don’t lose their moral compass and independent intellect, even in the stifling culture of the military, where mental activity is supposed to be totally directed at focused attention on the mission. Questioning that mission is heresy. As the saying goes in the military, “Those things are ‘way above my pay grade”. Bergdahl was one of those exceptions, a soldier who observed his situation with a critical eye, spent down time reading, and was prone to measuring the stated mission of the U.S. occupation and counterinsurgency, “winning hearts and minds” against actual behavior of his fellow soldiers. It was this independence and strong moral sense that would get him into trouble and set off a political firestorm.
While Bergdahl was motivated initially in part by the desire for adventure, and to escape the confines of small-town Hailey, Idaho and the isolating regime of family life in a religious household, he brought his apparently strong ethical upbringing into the military. He was home-schooled by strict sort of hippie Christian fundamentalist parents who lived mostly off-the-grid, and he got a strong education in ethics and morality, studying Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. Ironically considering the left-right political paradigm in America, where Christian fundamentalism is viewed as a monolithic ideological construct on the right of the spectrum, the hatred and vitriol directed at him comes mostly (but not exclusively) from the right while his moral and ethical development took place in what could be argued was a Christian fundamentalist home.
In a letter his father wrote, from the Rolling Stone article, he advised his son:
“‘Dear Bowe,’ he wrote. ‘In matters of life and death, and especially at war, it is never safe to ignore ones’ conscience. Ethics demands obedience to our conscience. It is best to also have a systematic oral defense of what our conscience demands. Stand with like minded men when possible.’ He signed it simply ‘dad.’”
There’s another name for the neutral and dispassionate word “counterinsurgency”, or, in our western culture in love with acronyms, “COIN”. It’s “dirty war”, which is a more accurate label for the bitter, ruthless struggle between occupiers and occupied. By now, even with the historic amnesia of the “putting Vietnam behind us” mantra of the national storytellers, the nature of COIN remains the same. Occupation forces are obliged to ferret out insurgents “by whatever means necessary”, tantamount to terror, which includes nocturnal home invasions, “enhanced interrogation” (a.k.a. modernized torture), drone strikes on village compounds, occasionally weddings and funerals (by mistake of course – we never know for sure), and the ruthless practice of sometimes firing missiles into crowds of what we would call “first responders”, the Afghani equivalent of cops, firefighters and ambulances. Insurgents of course respond with ambush and mine warfare (IED’s) against occupation forces and their own brand of terror directed against collaborators.
Not surprisingly, many occupation soldiers, carrying in their heads the bright, shining lie of American benevolence and purity (and by extension their own), bedeviled by constant pressure from an unseen enemy and a civilian population unable or unwilling to cooperate, soon develop very negative attitudes toward those whom they thought they were “saving”. Atrocity stories about American soldiers murdering women and children, desecrating corpses and so forth start percolating into the national consciousness, like skunks at a garden party. Bergdahl hinted at this sinister attitude starting to develop in his own unit in Hasting’s article:
“In the second-to-last paragraph of the e-mail, Bowe wrote about his broader disgust with America’s approach to the war – an effort, on the ground, that seemed to represent the exact opposite of the kind of concerted campaign to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of average Afghans envisioned by counterinsurgency strategists. ‘I am sorry for everything here,’ Bowe told his parents. ‘These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.’ He then referred to what his parents believe may have been a formative, possibly traumatic event: seeing an Afghan child run over by an MRAP. ‘We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks… We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them.’
Bowe concluded his e-mail with what, in another context, might read as a suicide note. ‘I am sorry for everything,’ he wrote. ‘The horror that is america is disgusting.’”
This remarkable statement comes from a formerly highly-disciplined soldier, trained to carry a SAW (squad automatic weapon) into combat, by all accounts what the national mythology reveres, a poster-boy for the new secular religion of American exceptionalism . It is also what no doubt has driven its true believers and priests into enraged apoplexy, including some in his own unit and possibly many veterans. The rage has turned into an avalanche of hate on social media, intimidating parade organizers in his hometown into cancelling his homecoming.
Yet disaffection in the ranks is not new with Bergdahl. The tragic friendly-fire death of one Pat Tillman, who America fell in love with after he sacrificed a lucrative National Football League career to join the Army Rangers after 9-11, gives us a glimpse into this dissonance. In March 2003 he told his buddy Spc. Russell Baer while serving in Iraq, in a quote which went viral over the internet, “You know, this war is so fucking illegal.” His accidental death in Afghanistan in a botched mission at the hands of his fellow soldiers was assiduously covered up by the military and Bush administration, until through the struggle for truth by his own family it could no longer be. His journal which he kept disappeared.
The discord within the military and veteran community finally coalesced organizationally into resistance through the formation of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace in Boston. IVAW opened its doors to American veterans of the occupation of Afghanistan in 2009. The public disclosure of dissent by veterans, and especially active-duty members, is highly sensitive in this militarized culture and in certain high-profile cases like Bergdahl’s is immediately attacked. The true believers in American mythology, many veterans who have experienced much pain and loss as a result of their military service, are unable to tolerate this kind of dissent, for it raises agonizing questions, “Was it all in vain? Was I used for ulterior motives by my own government?” and lash out at dissenters. They are rounded up by clever political operatives and used to build campaigns of intimidation. This is what is happening now as the established political parties and their corporate media allies attempt to quash dissent.
What must be alarming to those depending on a reliable military for power projection in the neoliberal project of policing the world, is the specter of resistance in the military. During the invasion and occupation of Vietnam an intense, wide and deep GI resistance movement developed which ultimately played a crucial role in bringing the war to an end. This resistance in the military is brilliantly described in David Cortright’s “Soldiers in Revolt”, but has been mostly erased from national memory in the selective amnesia referred to as “putting Vietnam behind us.”
One of the main reasons for the initiation of the all-volunteer military after the debacle in Vietnam was to eliminate the problem of draftees in the military and general draft resistance. It was thought that most of the GI resistance was within the ranks of disgruntled draftees, but this assumption, which has become unquestioned, is declared by Cortwright to be completely untrue. He says, referring to those days:
“Of course, the end of conscription did not halt the GI resistance movement. The assumption that the U.S. military would be free of dissension, that volunteers would be more docile and acquiescent than draftees, proved wrong. In fact, the GI movement had always been primarily a movement of enlistees, and filling the ranks with volunteers thus actually increased the likelihood of internal dissent.”
The political class knows the importance keeping control of the military and thus the story coming out of occupations. All the soldiers in the current occupations are enlisted. Bergdahl’s anguish and desperate escape, especially his reasons, will be snuffed by the orchestrated outrage and “debate” over whether or not he should be deemed a deserter and whether the prisoner swap was a good or bad deal and who is to blame if it’s seen as “bad”. Republican political ambitions will be resurrected by attempts to paint whoever has to preside over the defeat in Afghanistan as “appeasement”. The underlying issues of the criminality of these occupations which Bergdahl’s act called into question cannot be allowed into the discussion.
Winston Warfield is a member of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace, in Boston.