This brilliant article by Lewis Lapham discusses the period leading up to George Bush’s War on Iraq which cost a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives and accomplished absolutely nothing. It is well worth reading in light of recent statements by politicians and their TV cheerleaders advocating preemptive military action against Syria and Iran. When you hear a politician talk about the need for war you should always ask if they are planning to participate. Note — Don’t miss Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” at the end…
The Road to Babylon
Lewis H. Lapham | Harpers | Oct 02
Misgovemment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1) tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing; 2) excessive ambition, such as Athens’ attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II’s of England via the Armada, Germany’s twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan’s bid for an empire of Asia; 3) incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally 4) folly or perversity.
— Barbara W. Tuchman
When President George W. Bush in his January State of the Union address pronounced the sentence of doom on Saddam Hussein (“America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security I will not wait on events, while dangers gather”), I assumed that he was striking at a target of rhetorical convenience. The war on terrorism was not going as well as planned (Osama bin Laden still at large, Afghanistan not yet transformed into a Connecticut suburb, bombs exploding every seven or eight days on a bus in Israel), and who better than the tyrant of Baghdad to stand surrogate for all the world’s evildoers? The man was undoubtedly a villain, a brutal psychopath who murdered children and poisoned village wells, stored biological weapons in hospitals, subjected his enemies to unspeakable torture, and imprisoned his friends in the cages of perpetual fear. Not a nice fellow. Who would not be glad to learn that he had retired from politics or died in a traffic accident? If Mr. Bush chose to express his disapproval in what he called “the language of right and wrong,” who was I to deny him his demagogue’s right to issue harebrained threats?
In another fascinating article Professor Bacevich explores the startling parallels in geopolitical strategy between Israel and its giant patron, the US. The major remaining difference is that so far the US has not surrounded itself with a wall. Yet…
How We Became Israel
Andrew Bacevich | The American Conservative | 10 Sep 12
Peace means different things to different governments and different countries. To some it suggests harmony based on tolerance and mutual respect. To others it serves as a euphemism for dominance, peace defining the relationship between the strong and the supine.
In the absence of actually existing peace, a nation’s reigning definition of peace shapes its proclivity to use force. A nation committed to peace-as-harmony will tend to employ force as a last resort. The United States once subscribed to this view. Or beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere, it at least pretended to do so.
A nation seeking peace-as-dominion will use force more freely. This has long been an Israeli predilection. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, however, it has become America’s as well. As a consequence, U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This “Israelification” of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, it’s not likely to be good for the United States.
It is generally accepted that the reason why America launched the 2nd Gulf War was to eliminate Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. As this article points out, that may not have been the primary cause. In this letter to the architect of that conflict, Andrew Bacevich asks Paul Wolfowicz for an acknowledgement that the war and its underlying strategic premise was a mistake. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply…
A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz
Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war
Andrew J. Bacevich | Harpurs | 25 Mar 13
I have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.
Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TV — really aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.
Our new Secretary of State is famous for asking,”How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” I guess Bush and Cheney never asked that question…
The Last Letter
Tomas Young | TruthDig.com | 20 Mar 13
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
The conflict between Israel and the people who once owned and occupied their land began many years before the declaration of Israeli nationhood. Since that time many people have spoken out about the injustices Israel has inflicted on its indigenous population. None of those speakers has been clearer and more incisive than Rashid Khalidy. In today’s NYTimes Khalidi comments on President Obama’s forthcoming trip to Israel, his first as President. In the ‘kabuki’ performance that is American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is little hope that the President will do anything to resolve it. Khalidy makes that abundantly clear…
Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?
Rashid Khalidy | NYTimes | 13 Mar 13
WHAT should Barack Obama, who is to visit Israel next Wednesday for the first time in his presidency, do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
First, he must abandon the stale conventional wisdom offered by the New York-Washington foreign-policy establishment, which clings to the crumbling remnants of a so-called peace process that, in the 34 years since the Camp David accords, has actually helped make peace less attainable than ever.
In God We Trust. It’s printed on the dollar bill. Etched into stone on court houses and monuments all over the country. What happens when trusting in God leads a President to start a war? Can you imagine Barack Obama making a speech and saying God instructed him to bomb Bombay or nuke Beijing? If you think that sounds preposterous you should read Kurt Eichenwald’s ’500 Days’, the account of the period following 9/11 when George Bush launched a war on the world in the name of ‘terrorism’. The author of that horrible day sat in a hideout in Afghanistan but Bush decided to bomb Baghdad instead because the Bible told him so. If you think I’m crazy, read this…
Gog and Magog
Kurt Eichenwald | Vanity Fair | Oct 12
Light from a chandelier of gilt bronze and crystal spilled across the hand-carved Louis XV desk where Jacques Chirac was working. His office, the Salon Doré, was an opulent holdover from 18th Century France, its golden walls adorned with Gobelins tapestries that surrounded the most valuable antiques in all of Élysée Palace. But on this day, the familiar grandeur barely registered with the French president as he waited for a phone call from Bush.
The topic, again, would be Iraq. Just weeks after the first U.N. resolution demanding that Saddam comply with his disarmament obligations, the Bush Administration was pushing the Security Council to take the next step, authorizing a U.N.-backed invasion. Chirac remained unconvinced that military action was necessary. He still considered the evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction to be flimsy at best. Rushing into battle based on hunches and theories struck him as the height of folly.
“Bomb, bomb, bomb… Bomb, bomb Iran.” So sang John McCain in answer to a reporter asking how we should address the real problem in the Middle-East. So easy for a politician, even one who was tortured, to send people off to kill others. McCain was a pilot. His way of killing was to fly a jet over a target and push a button. He never had to look his target in the eye, though I’m sure he wished he could in that prison cell. Likewise the crisp officers who man the trailers in New Mexico with their “video game” joy sticks guiding drones over villages and huts 10,000 miles away. What is killing in this push-button world? Not much of you’re the one pushing the button…
I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong?
Timothy Kudo | WashingtonPost | 25 Jan 13
When I joined the Marine Corps, I knew I would kill people. I was trained to do it in a number of ways, from pulling a trigger to ordering a bomb strike to beating someone to death with a rock. As I got closer to deploying to war in 2009, my lethal abilities were refined, but my ethical understanding of killing was not.
I held two seemingly contradictory beliefs: Killing is always wrong, but in war, it is necessary. How could something be both immoral and necessary?
Most of my friends are of an age that they remember the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We all listened and watched the events of those days unfold with mounting anxiety and dread that the world was soon to erupt in a nuclear fireball. Imagine 9/11 a thousand times worse. So we can be forgiven if we lapped up the official story that it was all averted by the wisdom and courage of our President. History has a way of revealing truths that myths conceal. Such is the case here. Fortunately, myth or not, I am here to write this and you to read it…
The Real Cuban Missile Crisis
Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong.
Benjamin Schwarz | The Atlantic | Jan 13
ON OCTOBER 16, 1962, John F. Kennedy and his advisers were stunned to learn that the Soviet Union was, without provocation, installing nuclear-armed medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. With these offensive weapons, which represented a new and existential threat to America, Moscow significantly raised the ante in the nuclear rivalry between the superpowers—a gambit that forced the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear Armageddon. On October 22, the president, with no other recourse, proclaimed in a televised address that his administration knew of the illegal missiles, and delivered an ultimatum insisting on their removal, announcing an American “quarantine” of Cuba to force compliance with his demands. While carefully avoiding provocative action and coolly calibrating each Soviet countermeasure, Kennedy and his lieutenants brooked no compromise; they held firm, despite Moscow’s efforts to link a resolution to extrinsic issues and despite predictable Soviet blustering about American aggression and violation of international law. In the tense 13?day crisis, the Americans and Soviets went eyeball-to-eyeball. Thanks to the Kennedy administration’s placid resolve and prudent crisis management—thanks to what Kennedy’s special assistant Arthur Schlesinger Jr. characterized as the president’s “combination of toughness and restraint, of will, nerve, and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated, that [it] dazzled the world”—the Soviet leadership blinked: Moscow dismantled the missiles, and a cataclysm was averted.
Every sentence in the above paragraph describing the Cuban missile crisis is misleading or erroneous. But this was the rendition of events that the Kennedy administration fed to a credulous press; this was the history that the participants in Washington promulgated in their memoirs; and this is the story that has insinuated itself into the national memory—as the pundits’ commentaries and media coverage marking the 50th anniversary of the crisis attested.
Customers in the electronics section of a department store watch as JFK addresses the nation, October 22, 1962. (Ralph Crane/Time-Life Pictures/Getty)
Massoud Hassani grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan at a time when kicking a soccer ball in the sand could get you killed. So like artists everywhere he used that experience to create a solution which was both beautiful and useful. Hassani is planning a show at MOMA in New York. Strange how even war can produce remarkable art…
A Sculpture That Clears Mines
Massoud Hassani | TED | Nov 12
________________________________________________________________________________ Massoud Hassani is an artist and designer who grew up in Kabul Afghanistan. Mine Kafon will be part of the collection MOMA (New York) and Hassani will also have an exposition in there in March 2013.