A NATO helicopter airstrike on Sunday against what international troops believed to be a group of insurgents ended up killing as many as 27 civilians in the worst such case since at least September, Afghan officials said Monday. ...
The attack was carried out by United States Special Forces helicopters that were patrolling the area hunting for insurgents who had escaped the NATO offensive in the Marja area, about 150 miles away, according to Gen. Abdul Hameed, an Afghan National Army commander in Dehrawood, which is part of Oruzgan Province. General Hameed, interviewed by telephone, said there had been no request from any ground forces to carry out an attack. ....
Zemarai Bashary, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the victims were all civilians who were attacked by air while traveling in two Land Cruisers and a pickup truck, which carried 42 people in all ...
Fortunately, the ever-apologetic commander of the Humanitarian Expeditionary League of Love (HELL), General Stanley "Black Ops" McChrystal, was quickly wheeled out once again to apologize profusely for "the tragic loss of innocent lives." Well, as long as you're sorry, that's OK.
But really, Barack Obama's vaunted "Nobel Peace Surge" in Afghanistan is churning out collateral damage at such a clip that Stan should probably just go ahead and schedule a regular "Oops" conference on, say, every Friday, so he can dole out a one-stop dollop of crocodile tears for all the week's atrocities. He's a busy man, after all; it takes a lot of time and energy to lead the forces of HELL.
This is the lesson that the United States government -- the government of the historic progressive, Barack Obama -- taught the children of America today:
"Children, the law is nothing but a rag smeared with blood and shit.
"It is only for suckers, rubes and losers.
"Claw your way to the top -- by any means necessary -- and the law can never touch you.
"This is the American way."
Yes, as the Washington Post reports, the United States government announced today that there will be no penalties whatsoever for the lawyers who were ordered by their superiors, George Bush and Dick Cheney, to write memos "justifying" the tortures that Bush and Cheney wanted to unleash upon captives held indefinitely without charges, without evidence, without trial, without rights.
Dick Cheney has openly confessed to instructing his pathetic little minions, his nasty little modern-day Vyshinksys, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, to write the scraps of paper of twisted legalese meant to pre-emptively exonerate the top officials of the United States government for the unambiguously criminal actions they were to inflict upon their uncharged, untried prisoners -- some of whom had actually been purchased, like slaves, from traffickers in human bodies -- around the world. Cheney boasts openly of supporting and facilitating torture techniques -- such as waterboarding -- which have historically been prosecuted as high crimes by American authorities, and are, in fact, capital crimes under the laws of the United States today.
But on Friday, February 19, 2010, the administration of President Barack Obama declared that not only will it not prosecute the avowed and boastful perpetrators and accomplices of the capital crime of torture, it will not impose even the mildest of administrative or professional reprimands upon them. For the foulest of tortures, reaching even to murder, the government of the United States will do nothing: no investigation, no prosecution, no penalty.
I have run out of words to describe how vile this is. The mind recoils against fully comprehending the moral depravity of our leaders -- and the reeking stench of their pious hypocrisy.
"The kinge is in this worlde without lawe and maye at his own lust doo right and wronge and shall geve acomptes but to God only." Thus William Tyndale, in his 1528 work, Obedience of a Christian Man, helped usher in the doctrine of the "divine right of kings," overthrowing centuries of political, religious and philosophical thought and practice which had insisted that rulers too were fully subject to the law, as A.D. Nuttall points out. In support of the latter, he quotes Richard Hooker -- no radical, but a "profoundly traditional" churchman: "Where the lawe doth give dominion, who doubteth that the King who receiveth it is under the lawe?" (Shakespeare the Thinker, p. 140.)
But in our degenerate day, Hooker's reasonable formulation has been waterboarded into oblivion, and we are back to Tyndale's cringing doctrine. Our bipartisan kinges are indeed without lawe: no penalty, no punishment for these vile malefactors, these barbaric abusers and corrupters of our children.
I urge the Department of Homeland Security to immediately institute stringent new visa requirements for all white people of European heritage who come from countries where there is likely to be anger about American policies. We cannot afford to let people like that into this country -- and if they are already here, we must remove them.
Of course, most angry white people of European heritage will not go so far as to commit acts of terrorism. And it is indeed unfortunate that some innocent white people of European heritage might be caught up in the security net. But as long as there is even a one percent chance that someone like that might commit an act of terrorism, we must make the tough choices and act decisively, without worrying about "political correctness."
Or do you want to wake up tomorrow and see the smoking gun of a mushroom cloud in your child's cereal bowl?
For as a wise man once said: "Those who sacrifice liberty for security make the world safe for democracy." Or something like that.
In an astounding development, the brand-new director of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- who was narrowly elected to the post a few months ago with the strong, one might say insistent, backing of the United States -- has just issued his very first report on Iran's nuclear program. And guess what the new, American-backed director said? Go on, you'll never guess.
Give up? Well, hold on to your hats -- the American-backed director, Yukiya Amano, has "broken with the more cautious style of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei" -- you know, the man who was right about Iraq's lack of a nuclear weapons program -- to suggest (sans proof, of course) that there might be "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program, which just happens to be the most internationally inspected and regulated nuclear power program in history.
That's right; coming just days after Hillary Clinton's fresh bout of fear-mongering about Iran, the American-backed Amano echoed the talking points of the Bush-Obama Administration. (Should we not finally just give the proper name to the "continuity" of our militarist-corporatist rulership?) The Bush-Obama regime has continually proclaimed its unshakable belief that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. So unshakable is this belief that nothing on earth can alter it -- not Iran's willingness to send its uranium to other countries for enrichment, and not the acknowledgment by the White House itself that Iran lacks the technical capability of enriching uranium even to a level far below that needed for weaponization.
But yes, it is true that any nuclear program might have "possible military dimensions" somewhere down the line. That indeed is not outside the realm of possibility. Which means, of course, that the United States and its allies and clients are fully justified in taking any action against Iran they please. Because the Bush-Obama Administration -- indeed, the entire American political and media elite -- now operate entirely on Dick Cheney's "One Percent Doctrine," which was delineated by journalist Ron Suskind. As we noted here awhile back:
As Suskind notes, it was Cheney who enunciated the certifiably paranoid principle that governs the regime's behavior: If there is even a one-percent chance that some state or group might do serious harm to the United States, then America must respond as if that threat were a certainty — with full force, pre-emptively, disregarding any law or institution that might hinder what Bush likes to call the "path of action." Facts and truth are unimportant; the only thing that matters is the projection of unchallengeable power: "It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence," said Cheney. "It's about our response."
And make no mistake. Despite the frequent Kabuki-like displays of conflict between the current managers of the Bush-Obama regime and Dick Cheney, they remain united on the essential principles of the modern American state: projecting dominance and protecting the rich. Indeed, one reason why American politics today seems so bitter and vitriolic and personal is because there are no real policy disagreements anymore -- and hence, no real politics. There are only two corrupt factions of imperial courtiers squabbling over the perks and spoils of office. They follow the same policies, feed at the same trough; there is nothing of substance left for them to fight about. And so they spend their time in ever-more frenzied bouts of blaming each other for the disastrous results of the foul and evil principles they both embrace so avidly.
Clinton's blackly comic blather -- denouncing Iran's lack of democracy while praising Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- has been regarded in some quarters as a "shift" in U.S. policy, a move away from the "engagement" with Iran that Barack Obama has supposedly been undertaking. But as Stephen Kinzer notes, this "engagement" has been a transparent and sinister falsehood from the word go:
Hillary Clinton's sudden volley of shots at Iran marks the end of an engagement policy that never really began. She wants to convince the world that the regime in Tehran is opposed to serious talks with the west. That may be true, but we'll probably never know because in fact, no one has offered such talks. ...
Whether the increasingly splintered regime in Iran would or could respond to a serious offer of negotiations is highly uncertain. What is clear, though, is that the regime has not been offered this option. The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has made clear that it is interested in negotiating only one thing: curbs on Iran's nuclear programme. No country, however, would agree to negotiate only on the question that an adversary singles out, without the chance to bring up others that it considers equally urgent. ...
A more promising approach would be to tell Iran what President Nixon told China 35 years ago: if you agree to consider all of our complaints, we will consider all of yours. Clinton has made clear that the US will make no such offer. Instead it clings to the decades-old American policy toward Iran: make demands of the regime, threaten it, pressure it, sanction it, seek to isolate it, and hope for some vaguely defined positive result.
And in a powerful article at Antiwar.com, Peter Casey details both Barack Obama's long-standing bellicosity toward Iran -- and what's more, his administration's move beyond Cheney's One-Percent Doctrine, which, as Casey notes, did require at least the barest modicum of evidence, manufactured or otherwise:
Since the turn of the year, the U.S. has been deploying the heavy machinery needed to put war plans against Iran into action. In January, the Obama administration forced several Gulf countries to agree to install American ballistic-missile defense emplacements on their soil. At the same time, the Pentagon announced a new "first line" of defense in the Persian Gulf, reinforcing the U.S. Navy’s already considerable armada in the region with Aegis cruisers equipped with advanced radar and anti-missile systems. Moreover, under Obama, the plans for missile-shield systems Bush crammed down on Poland and the Czech Republic, which triggered furious protests from Russia, have been modified to concentrate on potential medium and short-range missile attacks from Iran. More recently, the Romanian government reportedly has agreed to accept U.S. anti-missile batteries on its territory to thwart theoretical Iranian rockets. ...
A lot of this recent effort looks and sounds similar to the run-up to Bush-Cheney’s Iraq invasion. There is, however, a profound difference in the current administration’s targeting of Iran. It is essentially following Cheney’s model for preventive war – with one exception: It has dispensed with relying on any tangible facts to "make the case" for war. Instead, it has made the Iranian leadership’s intent the decisive factor.
Bush-Cheney lowered the bar for starting war by adopting the doctrine that in a "post-9/11 world," preventive war is not only permissible but morally imperative. Cheney’s innovation lay in arguing that "failure to act" was inherently the greater risk, even if the likelihood of terrorist or other attack was trifling. ... Cheney’s "1 percent solution," however, had an Achilles heel. It required the putative existence of actual, physical fact. The possibility that WMDs may exist may be small – but it still must exist. But the drawback to any plan based on assertion of fact is the possibility of refutation – maybe not in time to prevent a horror show, but sooner or later. In other words, under the Cheney Doctrine, the casus is subject to falsification, even long after the belli has broken out. Which is, of course, exactly what happened in Iraq.
The Cheney Doctrine’s very low bar for war was bad enough. Obama and his own neoconnish coterie of advisers, however, are tossing away the bar altogether. ... Obama’s advisers also learned from Cheney’s mistakes. Picking up on Iran where Bush-Cheney left off, the Obama hawks are not about to try to justify war based on testable factual claims – or any fact-based claims whatsoever. If the Obama/Netanyahu war factions get their war, they will do so based on the article of faith that "we cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." To ensure that objective, they have concluded, Iran cannot be permitted to achieve the technological and manufacturing capability to build a bomb. Thus, a plan for war is being built on inherently unverifiable beliefs about what the leadership – more likely, some later leadership – of Iran might decide to do in the future with knowledge, skills, equipment, and infrastructure it has yet to acquire. Under the Cheney Doctrine, the U.S. needed to strike if there was a 1 percent risk that Iraq actually had WMDs. In contrast, the Obama-Netanyahu Doctrine permits military aggression if there is any chance that Iran someday may have the ability to create a nuclear weapon and might then decide to actually make one.
... Obama himself best illustrated this sort of reasoning at a news conference Feb. 9, discussing Iran’s alleged "rejection" of an offer by the U.S. and its Western allies to convert some low-enriched uranium in Iran’s possession into medical isotopes, requiring enrichment to a level just short of weapons-grade. He said: "That indicates to us that, despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian use, that they in fact continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization. And that is not acceptable to the international community, not just to the United States." But virtually any step by Iran to develop nuclear capabilities with is own science and resources could lead to "weaponization." Obama here simply imputes a malicious intent – building the "case for war" based on analysis no better than palm reading.
Now the Bush-Obama administration has inserted its own man at the top of IAEA -- and suddenly the Agency has reversed years of a cautious, evidence-based approach in favor of, yes, palm-reading about what Iran might eventually do someday under optimal conditions that do not exist today and will not exist for the foreseeable future, if ever.
There is literally nothing that Iran can do – or not do – to divert the American elite's desire to strike at their land and bring it under domination. And apparently there is nothing that anyone in America with any power or a major platform will do to stop it either.
As I have noted over and over, including here, just a few weeks ago: "No one has laid out the case against attacking Iran with more depth, power, eloquence and persistence than Arthur Silber. What's more, Silber has offered practical steps that even those obsessed with retaining their 'serious' and 'politically savvy" cred could employ.' (For just one example, see this piece, whose title says it all: "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?"]
But, as noted above, no one has followed up on Silber's suggestions, or on anything remotely like them. And so the Kabuki dance of death in the imperial court goes on -- now aided, appropriately enough, by the Japanese placeman installed at the IAEA by the Bush-Obama Administration.
A fresh dispatch from the imperial satrapy of Bactria brings word that the Pentagon has ended the eyeblink-brief "suspension" of one of its super-duper missile systems following the "unfortunate" slaughter of 12 civilians, including five children, in the opening hours of the all-out media blitz -- sorry, the "largest military operation of the Afghan war" -- now being inflicted on the city of Marja.
As you'll recall, after this initial child sacrifice to waft the pleasing smell of innocent blood to great Ares, that he might smile upon the bold Achaeans in their martial endeavor, mighty Agamemnon himself -- now robed in the flesh of General Stanley "Black Ops" McChrystal -- stepped forth before the cameras, and with great show of crocodilian regret, declared that the "errant" missile system would be withdrawn from battle forthwith, until such time as it could be determined why it killed all those civilians and, worst of all, gummed up the glowing press which the Pentagon had painstakingly cultivated during the run-up to the attack.
But as the ever-astute Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com notes, the Pentagon concluded its in-depth investigation of the incident in a matter of hours. What's more, the brass found that not only was there no error whatsoever in the hi-tech death-hurling technology, but also that the whole incident was actually the result of the heroic efforts of a clean-limbed young Leatherneck to save the cowering civilians in his tender care.
Yes, that's right. The Pentagon's story now is that it killed 12 civilians in order to save civilians. As Reuters reports:
"We know now that the missile arrived at the target it was supposed to arrive at. It wasn't a rogue missile. There was no technical fault in it," [Major General Nick Carter, the British commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan] told reporters ... A young U.S. Marine Corps officer in charge in the area where the rockets were fired was protecting a number of civilians behind his positions, Carter said.
And so he called in the missile strike on the house, because, as another occupation spokesman put it: "It is not unusual for the insurgents to operate in compounds where there are civilians sheltering."
So you kill civilians in order to protect civilians. And every civilian is a potential enemy who might harm civilians -- so you kill them. (Three more civilians in Marja were shot down just yesterday.) Every house is a potential nest of no-goodniks -- and thus a legitimate target for destruction.
And if it turns out that you kill a whole houseful of civilians -- if it turns out you take five children and shatter their skulls, spill their viscera from gaping holes torn across their bellies, and crush their small, undefended bodies beneath rubble and stone -- why, that's OK. Because all that matters is that the weapon functioned in the way it was intended to function. The rules of engagement were followed to the letter. Everything happened as it was supposed to happen.
The five children died because they were supposed to die. The system worked.
This point seems difficult for some to grasp. Oh, how terrible, they say, when these "mistakes" are made! Oh, how these "unfortunate tragedies" detract from the altruistic intentions of our young, progressive president and his humanitarian war machine! Oh, isn't it such a shame when things go wrong!
But nothing is going wrong. When you read of children lying in a broken heap, their lifeblood draining away into dark, coagulated pools -- that means the system is functioning properly. That's what the system does. That is what it is there to do: to kill, destroy and dominate. That's why we have installed the system in Afghanistan.
And what is the ultimate goal of this system, the purpose of the killing, destroying and dominating?
As Frida Berrigan at TomDispatch points out, the United States now owns a virtual monopoly in the ever-burgeoning world market for weapons of death. And under its young, progressive president, Barack Obama, the government is relentlessly pushing to strip away the few remaining fig leaves of regulation hindering this immensely destructive but staggeringly profitable business:
As Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell explained in January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to see "wholesale changes to the rules and regulations on government technology exports" in the name of "competitiveness."
When he says "government technology exports," Morell of course means weapons and other military technologies. "Tinkering with our antiquated, bureaucratic, overly cumbersome system is not enough to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy and also help our friends and allies buy the equipment they need to contribute to global security," he continued, "[Gates] strongly supports the administration’s efforts to completely reform our export control regime, starting ideally with a blank sheet of paper."
... In addition to revising these export controls, the administration is looking at the issue of "dual-use" technologies. These are not weapons. They do not shoot or explode. Included are high-speed computer processors, surveillance and detection networks, and a host of other complex and evolving technologies that could have military as well as civilian applications. This category might also include intangible items like cyber-entities or access to controlled web environments.
This is the world that the Obama Administration is pushing hard to create: a hellish global dystopia of bristling, bloated military-dominated regimes wielding ever-greater control over their populations with ever-more intrusive "security" technology. It is the world described in the nightmare vision voiced, as a warning, by Dwight Eisenhower more than half a century ago:
[A] life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children ... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Now that nightmare has become the happy dream of our progressive government. Where Eisenhower, the top general in history's most destructive war, saw that the weapons business was a monstrous waste, an outright theft of the lives, blood, treasure and opportunity of all humankind, Obama and his handpicked Bush holdover Gates see it as a noble enterprise that actually "contributes to global security"! They are not concerned -- even rhetorically -- about the hungry being robbed of food and the cold being stripped of clothing. No, their focus is on "maintaining our competitiveness in the global economy" -- "competitiveness" in a business where, as Berrigan notes, the United States already controls almost 70 percent of the global market.
So that's why no super-duper hi-tech death technology is going to be pulled from the order of battle in Afghanistan for longer than a single news cycle, just long enough to offset the bad headlines that a slaughter of civilians will momentarily produce. These death technologies cost too much money -- and, more importantly, make too much money -- to be set aside for any reason.
Berrigan notes the naked profit motive underlying Obama's grand strategy of "Afghanistanization" -- i.e., building up the military and security forces of the American-implanted Afghan government. As in Iraq, the aim is not so much "nation building" as "market building": setting up yet another conduit to pass American taxpayer money directly to weapons dealers:
"What’s Hot?" is the title of Vice Adm. Jeffrey Wieranga’s blog entry for Jan. 4, 2010. Wieranga is the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is charged with overseeing weapons exports, and such pillow talk is evidently more than acceptable – at least when it’s about weapons sales. In fact, Wieranga could barely restrain himself that day, adding: "Afghanistan is really HOT!" Admittedly, on that day the temperature in Kabul was just above freezing, but not at the Pentagon, where arms sales to Afghanistan evidently create a lot of heat.
As Wieranga went on to write, the Obama administration’s new 2010/2011 budget allocates $6 billion in weaponry for Afghan Security Forces. The Afghans will actually get those weapons for free, but U.S. weapons makers will make real money delivering them at taxpayers’ expense and, as the vice admiral pointed out, that "means there is a staggering amount of acquisition work to do."
You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, Vice Admiral. There will be "acquisition work" out the wazoo as the war goes on -- for decades afterward. But of course, these "free" arms sales are just like the samplings that pushers pass around outside the high school gates. Because once the mark is hooked, once the native military and security forces are thoroughly entrenched, they will need constant replenishment with more weapons, new technologies, and more lucrative "training" from American sources, both public and private. This in turn will leave the client state saddled with crippling public debt -- necessitating the usual "shock therapy" of "economic reform," i.e., shredding "inefficient" social programs -- like, education, sanitation, health care, etc. -- and turning the material wealth and natural resources of the country over to a few select private investors, foreign and domestic.
This treatment is not just for client states anymore, by the way. As Michael Hudson points out at CounterPunch, the American people themselves are beginning to get this full treatment. With their economy, communities and social fabric being devoured by a bloated military establishment and voracious elites, the American people are now being told -- by these same voracious elites -- that they must address the "deficit crisis" by giving up their meager "entitlements" and accepting a vastly diminished and degraded way of life ... even as their young, progressive president continues to expand the bloated military establishment in all directions.
But again, this is what the system is intended to do. Like the missile launcher that stole the lives of five children in Marja, the whole militarist-corporatist system is functioning properly in nailing humanity on a cross of iron, diminishing and degrading life all around the world -- for money, for power and profit, for the power and profit of a tiny sliver of privileged elites, so they can strut and preen and gorge themselves in comfort, for a brief time, before they too, like all the rest of us, go down howling into darkness.
That is what it comes to. That is what the system is for. That is what the war is about. That is why the children died. That is why more will die tomorrow.
And that is why your own children's lives -- their opportunities, their hopes, their possibilities for a peaceful, secure, productive, fulfilling life -- are being systematically constricted and degraded before your eyes.
There is no dysfunction in all of this. As we noted here not long ago, quoting Alex Cox: The Purpose of a System is What It Does.
UPDATE: Michael Hudson has more on the glowing future (as in the red glow of smoking ruins) that the system has planned for us, in this new Counterpunch piece.
Another day, another mass slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan. This time the cull of "collateral damage" came not from the world-historical agon at Marja, where Anglo-American sahibs are leading a contingent of colonial troops in a heavily hyped, made-for-media operation that blew a household of civilians, including five children, to smithereens in its opening salvos.
No, the new bloodbath occurred many miles away, in Kandahar, after a NATO patrol evidently saw some Afghan civilians going about their own business in their own country. Naturally, this shocking state of affairs was thought to pose a dire threat to the uninvited invaders who have been rampaging around the country for more than eight years -- so, naturally, an airstrike was called in. Five human beings going about their own business in their own country were then blown to bits, and two more were wounded.
The double whammy of bad PR following these unrelated rub-outs has prompted some of the leading lions of Great Britain's armed forces -- worthy heirs to their world-spanning forbears, upon whose military glories the sun, it was said, never set -- to offer some words of wisdom to those to whom they have now passed the White Man's oh-so-heavy, oh-so-unwanted burden of global domination.
No less a personage than Her Majesty's Air Chief Marshall Jock Stirrup -- who also serves as Her Majesty's Chief of Her Majesty's Defence Staff -- stepped forward to offer the young American pups a pearl drawn from Britain's voluminous treasury of imperial experience. And what was that pearl? Why, here it is, from the Guardian:
"This operation … is not about battling the Taliban, it is about protecting the local population, and you don't protect them when you kill them."
By gad, sir, you've hit the nail on the head there, and no mistake. Killing people is indeed a rather ineffective way of protecting them. What piercing insight! What clarity of vision! "You don't protect people when you kill them." Is it any wonder that Britannia ruled the waves for so long?
Ah yes, but what can one do? The lesser breeds must be policed, after all. Nations must be invaded and occupied for years on end -- even centuries, as the Brits can tell you! -- and so one is bound to have these little bits of unpleasantness crop up from time to time in one's colonial bailiwick. Best take it with a stiff upper lip -- oh, and be sure to blame the recalcitrant tribes for their damnable refusal to accept the altruistic benefits poured out upon their captive land by one's humanitarian war machine. Right, Jock?
"Of course in any conflict situation accidents happen and we must remember that most of the civilian casualties are not caused by ISAF [the international security assistance force] – they are caused by the Taliban."
So that's all right then. If the native insurgents would just stop using violence to advance their agenda the way we use violence to advance our agenda, why then, we would stop using violence to advance our agenda. It's as simple as that. It's their own damn fault. After all, it is a well-known fact of history -- not to mention international law -- that foreign invaders are not responsible in any way for any violence that occurs in the course of their invasion and occupation of other lands by force. Or as Punch might say to Judy: "If you'll just lie down, I'll stop hitting you."
Then again, the Right Honourable Air Marshall, his American partners -- and indeed, their many media embeds -- might do well to ponder the Joseph Conrad quote with which Sukhdev Sandhu concluded his review of Mike Davis' classic 2001 work, Late Victorian Holocausts:
As Conrad's Marlow said in Heart of Darkness: "The conquest of the earth, which means the taking away from those who have a different complexion and slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much."
The grand attack on Marja was scarcely out of the starting blocks before it claimed its first child sacrifices: five children blown to pieces in a rocket strike on "a compound crowded with Afghan civilians," the New York Times reports.
Up to 12 civilians in total were killed in the strike, which occurred, we're told, when American artillery landed "a few hundred yards away" from another "mud-walled compound" from which U.S. Marines were reportedly taking fire. In keeping with the way of the modern warrior, the computer-guided rockets were launched from a base more than 10 miles away: "Don't fire until the GPS tracker sends back remote data indicating the whites of their eyes are within 500 yards, boys!"
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former black ops honcho now heading the entire "humanitarian" military mission in Afghanistan, immediately apologized for "this tragic loss of life," and even went so far as to pull the particular remote-control death device from the order of battle, for the moment. Well, Stanley, live by PR, die by PR -- and as we noted here yesterday, the entire operation reeks of "Hamburger Hill"-style futility: sending in a great wad of cannon fodder to foster the illusion of momentum and success in an endless, pointless war of corporate profiteering and imperial chest-beating.
But the deaths of the five slaughtered children in Marja -- just like the deaths of at least 500,000 Iraqi children from the pre-war, bipartisan sanction-strangulation of Iraq -- are "worth it," of course. For while General Black Ops might take a single weapons system out to the woodshed for half an hour, he and his commander-in-chief will certainly not stop the all-out assault on the town, which is packed with civilians after U.S. forces encircled Marja just before the attack, cutting off the people who had been fleeing the widely-telegraphed operation.
The invading forces are also packed with civilians -- the many media embeds that General Black Ops encouraged to provide the steady stream of heroic "Normandy landing" and "Battle of Stalingrad" type stories, with rugged leathernecks slogging their way through enemy fire, cracking wise and fighting on despite their wounds. But speaking of the filmic framing provided by the media embeds, here's a curious fact: all the U.S. press reports state that the attack is being led by American forces, while the UK media are blazing banner tabloid headlines about "Our Boys Leading the Way in Helmand."
Oh well, victory has a thousand fathers, they say. And we know what the stench rising from the bodies in Marja says to our leaders: "It smells like ... victory."
The current Nobel Peace laureate is continuing his noble and inspiring work of war this week in the latest PR blitz in Afghanistan: "Operation Moshtarak," the much-ballyhooed, extravagantly telegraphed "attack" on the city of Marja. Is it even worth discussing this monstrous sham? The perpetrators of the attack know full well that there will be no "battle." Even the American commanders cannot be so sealed in their arrogant ignorance that they do not know their insurgent opponents will do what every guerrilla army does when facing concentrations of conventional military force: disperse into the countryside, and into the urban populace, biding their time until the occupiers draw down their forces -- and in the meantime launching small ambushes with sniper fire and roadside bombs aimed at the sitting-duck cannon fodder placed in harm's way by their publicity-driven commanders.
And yet, the Western media has fully bought into the hackneyed, transparently false narrative of "the largest military operation of its kind since the American-backed war began eight years ago," with a plucky band of Marines and their faithful Afghan allies facing down "hundreds" of hardened fighters in the "largest Taliban sanctuary inside Afghanistan." The embedded media tracked the countdown to the attack as if they were hunkered down in the landing craft on their way to Omaha Beach. Except, of course, when one is genuinely planning an actual major attack on a strong, entrenched enemy -- as at Omaha Beach -- one does not normally advertise it around the clock for weeks on end beforehand.
If, however, one is attempting to galvanize public support for a long, grinding, bloody war of domination and occupation that has no discernible purpose (none that can be stated in public, anyway), why then, a nice set-piece "battle" which will end in a guaranteed, low-cost "victory" is just the ticket. It will demonstrate that the "new and improved" strategy of your "new and improved" president is "working," and that we are "winning" -- so we can't quit now!
This is of course the same message conveyed many years -- and many thousands of lives -- ago by the fall of Kabul, the "conquest" of Kandahar, and other great triumphs that "cleaned out" the various "largest Taliban sanctuar[ies] inside Afghanistan." But as any ad man can tell you, a commercial brand needs to be refreshed periodically in order to keep pulling in the profits. And the Afghan War brand has been a veritable bonanza, a cornucopia of contracts, corruption, profiteering and political pull for all of the interested parties involved: the various militaries and security apparats (and their contractors), the political elites, the many insurgent factions (loosely and falsely given the single rubric "Taliban"), the warlords, the druglords, organized crime, violent religious extremists -- in short, all those who traffic in hate, death, conflict and fear.
"Every time our boys face them, we win," he told me grimly. "We're winning every day. Are we going to keep winning for 20 years?"
Yes, mister retired American military officer, that is indeed the plan -- if they can swing it:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2017 -- President David Petraeus' "New Way Forward" in the Af-Pak War got off to a rousing start today as a combined force of U.S. Marines and Frontier paramilitaries launched a new 'warfighter/nationbuilder' offensive against this stonghold of Taliban insurgency. The attack is seen as a vital test of what the president has called his "Counterinsurgency 2.0" strategy, an updating of the highly successful approach that President Petraeus implemented in Iraq, where the 75,000 remaining U.S. advisors and trainers recently marked the 10th anniversary of his victorious surge.....
The true context of the present operation, and the many that preceded it, and the many that will follow it, was put in stark relief by Scott Horton at Harper's last week, when he did us the great service of posting an excerpt from the correspondence between Lev Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi. The exchanges between the young Hindu lawyer and the aging Russian writer burn with a moral fervor and compassion that in our day seem to have come from another planet, not just another century. Here is an excerpt from that excerpt, taken from a letter that Tolstoy wrote (in his strong if imperfect English) just weeks before his death in 1910:
The longer I live – especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death – the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else, and what in my opinion is of immense importance, namely, what we call the renunciation of all opposition by force, which really simply means the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. ...
This law was announced by all the philosophies – Indian as well as Chinese, and Jewish, Greek and Roman. Most clearly, I think, was it announced by Christ, who said explicitly that on it hang all the Law and the Prophets. More than that, foreseeing the distortion that has hindered its recognition and may always hinder it, he specially indicated the danger of a misrepresentation that presents itself to men living by worldly interests – namely, that they may claim a right to defend their interests by force or, as he expressed it, to repay blow by blow and recover stolen property by force, etc., etc. He knew, as all reasonable men must do, that any employment of force is incompatible with love as the highest law of life, and that as soon as the use of force appears permissible even in a single case, the law itself is immediately negatived.
The whole of Christian civilization, outwardly so splendid, has grown up on this strange and flagrant–partly intentional but chiefly unconscious–misunderstanding and contradiction. At bottom, however, the law of love is, and can be, no longer valid if defence by force is set up beside it. And if once the law of love is not valid, then there remains no law except the right of might. In that state Christendom has lived for 1,900 years. Certainly men have always let themselves be guided by force as the main principle of their social order. ...
The clear-eyed idealism -- the belief in constant, relentless, non-violent resistance to evil -- that drove Tolstoy, Gandhi and their many spiritual descendants, such as Martin Luther King Jr., are now openly mocked, or else condescendingly discarded as quaint relics, unsuitable for our own tough, savvy times. We saw a prime example of this derision only a few months ago, when Barack Obama, the loudly self-proclaimed Christian, accepted his Nobel Peace Prize with a ringing endorsement of state violence on a massive, savage, overwhelming scale, and an explicit renunciation of non-violence. (For more, see "Miraculous Organ: Blair, Obama and the Narcissists' Defense")
How far we have travelled in the wretched century since Tolstoy's last letter to Gandhi -- a journey into the past, back to the caves, back to the dark forests, where "there remains no law except the right of might."
A clutch of new songs are up on the MySpace page. These are the usual imperfect exercises in tonal breath control, laid down quick and raw. We'll get 'em fleshed out one of these days somewhere down the line. But give a listen, if you take a notion.
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out.
-- Shakespeare, Hamlet
Britain's "Chilcot Inquiry" into the origins of the invasion of Iraq has largely faded from the headlines, following Tony Blair's bravura display of pious bluster before the panel of Establishment worthies last month. And in truth, it has been a rather toothless affair, with the already deferential worthies further constrained by the narrow confines placed upon their investigation by the government: chiefly, the cloak of secrecy wrapped around the many documents that detail the deceptions and manipulations of the Bush and Blair regimes as they schemed their way to war.
But as Chris Ames points out in the Guardian, in the wind-up of its first phase, the Chilcot panel seem to be trying to tell the public, obliquely, about some of the smoking guns in these buried documents: an official record of knowing deceit that confirms, yet again, the damning fact that the US and UK were determined to invade Iraq no matter what: with or without UN backing, whether or not Iraq had WMD -- and as we have pointed out here for many years, even if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power. The documentary evidence shows that every single purported reason or justification for the war -- the WMD, connections to 9/11, the repressive nature of Saddam's regime -- was false to the core, and known to be false by the leaders who put these explanations forward.
The Chilcot panelists were terribly craven when it came to confronting Tony Blair -- and they are likely to be equally circumspect when they politely pose a few inquiries to Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, sometime in the next few weeks. But they seem to have chosen the odious figure of Jack Straw -- foreign secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion, now serving, laughably, as justice secretary -- as the outlet for their frustrations at the strictures of the inquiry and the soft-shoe shuffling they've encountered from witness after witness.
And while their kid-glove massage of Blair was inexcusable, the Chilcoteers are quite right to focus on Straw. Like so many of his "New Labour" colleagues, this pathetic figure began his career as a radical leftist, honed his political teeth fighting for the poor and disadvantaged during the ravaging Thatcher years -- then transformed himself into a scurrying toady for the powerful and the privileged, championing war, Big Money and neo-Thatcherism, launching stern crackdowns on the "anti-social" lower classes, and imposing draconian "security" measures that have far outstripped even the liberty-gutting policies adopted by the U.S. government.
What's more, aside from Blair, Straw was the only top UK figure completely "in the loop" throughout the long, complex manipulations toward war. Along with his American counterpart, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Straw played a key role both in the transatlantic talks that engineered the act of aggression and the hugger-mugger manipulations at the UN.
And so, to close out its first phase, the Chilcot Inquiry recalled Straw -- who had already given one sweaty, white-knuckle performance on the witness stand a few weeks ago. With the implacable politesse of the true British mandarin, panelist Sir Lawrence Freedman seized the opportunity to suggest to the right honorable minister that the right honorable minister might, perhaps, be lying through his right honorable teeth in denying that Colin Powell had informed him quite clearly that the Americans were going to war, come hell or high water, in March 2003. As the Guardian notes, Freedman's questions "make it clear that [he] has obviously seen some very interesting paperwork. Here is the exchange, from the Guardian:
Freedman asked: Can you start by confirming that you knew that military action was planned by the US for the middle of March come what may? You were copied in, presumably, to reports of conversations between the prime minister and the president?
Straw replied: Yes, I don't think there was any key document that I should have seen that I didn't.
Freedman: Was there any point where [Colin] Powell said to you that even if Iraq complied, president Bush had already made a decision that he intended to go to war?
Straw replied: Certainly not to the best of my recollection.
Freedman went on: I was going to suggest you might want to look through your conversations and check.
Mr Straw at last got the hint: I will go through the records because I think you are trying to tell me something.
Yes, Mr Straw. He is trying to tell you, and the world, that he has the paper in his hand documenting your conversation with Colin Powell: a clear admission of the war crime of military aggression, as it reveals that there was not even a pretense of a legally justifiable casus belli among the American and British leaders -- just the cold, pre-determined intention to attack.
(And Powell, as we all remember, was the "good American," the "honorable American" in the run-up to war, a "decent man" who somehow got "railroaded" into making a false case for war before the entire world at the UN. A man so honorable and decent that the progressive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama proudly claimed him as one of his advisers, even as the million corpses from the war that Powell and Straw knowingly and willingly helped launch were rotting in the ground.)
But, as Ames notes, these kinds of oblique references are "the best we will get for now" from the panel: "At the end, Sir John Chilcot said that, however revealing the sessions have been, the great bulk of the evidence, telling us 'what really went on behind the scenes,' is in the documents." And the documents have not been and probably will not be released -- at least not for many decades, by which time Blair and Straw and Powell and Bush will have all lived out their days in wealth and comfort.
But although documents can be kept under wraps, and testimony can be falsified or prettified, the monstrous moral rot that has infected the warmongers can never be fully hidden. "For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak/With most miraculous organ." And Straw revealed his own moral depravity, his own arrogant and unfeeling blindness, in his remarks at the end of his testimony.
In his final statement, hoping to paint himself has a decent and honorable man (like Powell!), Straw spoke of how he "grieves" for the "huge heartache" suffered by "those who lost loved ones out there." But he could not resist offering up one more transparent lie -- a lie, furthermore, contradicted by his own testimony earlier in the session. Here is the lie:
The last thing I would say is this: the purpose of the action was not regime change.
SIR RODERIC LYNE: ... The American administration's stated objective was to change the regime in Iraq, and they didn't feel that further UN authorisation for that was required. At this point, these two objectives came to a crunch and time ran out for your diplomacy.
RT HON JACK STRAW MP: In terms of the American objective for regime change had gone back to President Clinton.
SIR RODERIC LYNE: Yes, we have been through all of that.
RT HON JACK STRAW MP: We have been through all of that.
Here the right honorable Mr Straw says clearly that the American aim was regime change, and that he knew it was regime change all along. Therefore, when "time for diplomacy ran out," he willingly and deliberately helped facilitate a war for regime change -- which in the circumstances obtaining in Iraq in 2003 was, by any possible construal, a blatant war crime under international law. It was, in terms of its illegality, the precise equivalent to the crime of aggression for which the Nazi leaders were prosecuted at Nuremberg.
Note too Straw's reference to "President Clinton." He apparently thinks this nod to a good "liberal" Democratic president somehow makes his kowtowing to the barbaric rightwingers of the Bush regime less humiliating. [A good deal of his testimony is taken up with whining about the "neocons" like Don Rumsfeld who put so much pressure on everybody to go to war.] But of course this reference makes his lie about the war's aims even more egregious, for it confirms the fact that America's intention to overthrow the Iraq regime -- officially enshrined by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton -- was known for years and years.
But Straw is not done yet. After assuring the grieving families of Britain that he himself -- yes, he, the great right honorable high minister of state -- feels their pain and shares their heartache, and after acknowledging that yes, it seems that perhaps a few mistakes were made (albeit only with the best intentions), he goes on to justify the whole mass-murdering enterprise:
But that having happened, I think there are few in Iraq, despite the bloodshed, would now say that they want to go back to what existed before 20 March 2003.
Putting aside Straw's unconscious but most apt echo of the poet Paul Celan's phrase for the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust -- "that which happened" -- the moral depravity on display here is astonishing, breathtaking, obscene. The right honorable minister might consider asking the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed by the invasion and by the virulent extremists it loosened and empowered: would you want to go back to what existed -- i.e., you -- before 20 March 2003? The right honorable minister might want to ask the more than four million people driven from their homes by the war and the savage sectarian conflicts and "ethnic cleansing" it unleashed and abetted: would you want to go back to what existed before 20 March 2003? The right honorable minister might want to ask the tens of millions of Iraqis who have lost their loved ones: would you want to go back to what existed before 20 March 2003 -- and see if there were any alternatives for a better life other than a massive, unprovoked military invasion, mass death, mass destruction, chaos, collapse, civil war and violent terror from occupiers, mercenaries, sectarians and criminals?
O that the universe was not cold and indifferent, with no avenging furies to drive these bloodstained, sanctimonious wretches into soul-rending storms of madness and remorse. But there is not even an earthly venue where the scurrying servitors of power can receive even a modicum of justice. All we have are a few locked-down, buttoned-up, quasi-secret panels of worthies here and there now and then, to cause, at most, a moment or two of embarrassment before the servitors walk free to line their pockets and heap themselves with honors. Their only punishment, I suppose, must be to be what they are: the stunted, deadened husks of a full humanity that they have lost and will never recover.
Barack Obama's Bush-like "surge" in Afghanistan has not even reached its full strength yet, but it is already driving tens of thousands of Afghan civilians from their homes, as they flee an upcoming massive attack in Helmand province.
The attack -- which the Americans have been trumpeting far in advance -- is designed, we're told, to "protect" the people of the key town of Marjah from the twin scourges of Taliban nogoodniks and drug traffickers. Yet the primary effect of the much-publicized preparations has been to send the residents of the town running for their lives to escape becoming part of the "collateral damage" that always attends these protective, humanitarian endeavors.
Indeed, the real aim of the advance publicity for the attack seems to be forcing mass numbers of civilians to hit the road -- which will then allow the American and British attackers to claim that anyone left behind is an enemy. This in turn will free up the attackers to use heavy weaponry in a "free-fire" zone to clear out the "diehards."
This is, of course, the same strategy used in the savage destruction of Fallujah in Iraq. The city was marked for death after an angry mob mutilated four American mercenaries -- following a series of civilian killings by occupation forces in the preceding weeks: provocations that have been conveniently airbrushed from history (just like the U.S. massacre of Somalis that preceded the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident). An initial attack on Fallujah failed in the spring of 2004, largely due to political heat from the vast civilian suffering that was being reported from the city, chiefly from its medical centers.
But in the following months, the noose was tightened around Fallujah's neck. Tens of thousands fled the city to escape the coming second attack, which was well-publicized in advance. Story after story -- or rather, puff piece after puff piece -- about the preparations streamed from the embedded mainstream media reporters. The ostensible aim of the attack was to "eliminate" groups of "diehard terrorists" using Fallujah as a base. But of course, the months of PR about the looming operation meant that the putative targets had plenty of time to slip away. And they did.
Even so, as soon as George W. Bush's re-election was in the bag, the attack was launched. This time, the US brass were careful to eliminate the main source of bad press in the first attack: hospitals were a prime target. As I noted at the time:
One of the first moves in this magnificent feat was the destruction and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors – and their patients, including women and children – were killed in an airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports, while the city's main hospital was seized in the early hours of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could be used as "propaganda centers," the Pentagon's "information warfare" specialists told the NY Times. Unlike the first attack on Fallujah last spring, there was to be no unseemly footage of gutted children bleeding to death on hospital beds. This time – except for NBC's brief, heavily-edited, quickly-buried clip of the usual lone "bad apple" shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner – the visuals were rigorously scrubbed.
So while Americans saw stories of rugged "Marlboro Men" winning the day against Satan, they were spared shots of engineers cutting off water and electricity to the city – a flagrant war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as CounterPunch notes, but standard practice throughout the occupation. Nor did pictures of attack helicopters gunning down civilians trying to escape across the Euphrates River – including a family of five – make the TV news, despite the eyewitness account of an AP journalist. Nor were tender American sensibilities subjected to the sight of phosphorous shells bathing enemy fighters – and nearby civilians – with unquenchable chemical fire, literally melting their skin, as the Washington Post reports. Nor did they see the fetus being blown out of the body of Artica Salim when her home was bombed during the "softening-up attacks" that raged relentlessly – and unnoticed – in the closing days of George W. Bush's presidential campaign, the Scotland Sunday Herald reports.
And now Marjah is being readied for the Fallujah option. (For as we all know, your real tough hombres never take any option off the table.) As the Guardian reports:
Ten of thousands of Afghan civilians are abandoning an area of central Helmland where UK and US forces are set to launch one of the biggest operations of the year. The evacuation of most civilians from the town of Marjah and surrounding areas will give commanders greater leeway to use mortars-and-air-to ground missiles which have enraged Afghans in the past when responsible for civilian deaths. ...
US generals have unusually made no secret of their plan for a major onslaught against the town close to Helmand's besieged provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Larry Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force which will spearhead the fight, has said he is "not looking for a fair fight." ...
A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, as the Nato troops are known, said that the main reason for publicity for the operation was to encourage insurgents to leave, but if civilians were also encouraged to evacuate that would be "helpful".
Yes, it's always helpful to do some pre-winnowing of a densely populated area before you destroy it with mortars and air-to-ground missiles. But of course, while thousands of civilians flee, thousands more have "remained because they could not afford to leave," the Guardian reports. How many of these will be re-classifed as "enemy fighters" when their corpses are found in the ruins?
The Afghans themselves know the score:
A Marjah resident, an elder reached by phone, who was not prepared to give his name, said he had evacuated his family a week ago because he feared "the worst attack ever".
"Always when they storm a village the foreign troops never care about civilian casualties at all. And at the end of the day they report the deaths of women and children as the deaths of Taliban," he said.
Slaughter, ruin, fear and exile: yeah, it's the Good War, all right! "The war we should be fighting," as our tough-guy libs kept telling us when putting their always serious, always "nuanced" objections to the Iraq "fiasco" in proper context. Well, they have it now, the war they always wanted. And who knows? Maybe soon they can have their own Fallujah! Won't that be a great apotheosis of Progressivism?