Archive | Anti-war

ISIS gaining in Syria despite US airstrikes


The US has bombed 800 targets in Syria. ISIS continues to gain territory. Insurgents cannot be defeated from the air alone. They just can’t. This a lesson the US resolutely refuses to learn. By bombing whatever, we will inevitably kill noncombatants who will probably then be way more sympathetic to ISIS. And why are we bombing Syria anyway? Why is this our fight? The US detests Assad, who we now are implicitly backing. All of this makes absolutely no sense.

This Pentagon pronouncement reminds me of propaganda we heard from them during the Vietnam War. “60 Viet Cong were killed. One US soldier suffered a hangnail.” It wan’t true then, it’s not true now.

“Yes, they have gained some ground. But we have stopped their momentum,” one Pentagon official told The Daily Beast.

A map developed by the Coalition for a Democratic Syria (CDS), a Syrian-American opposition umbrella group, shows that ISIS has nearly doubled the amount of territory it controls since airstrikes began last year.

Gosh, ISIS doubling seized territory in a year does not sound like their momentum has been stopped.

From the always savvy War News Updates.

If the Islamic State is gaining territory in Syria …. despite consistent and persistent U.S. air strikes …. one has to wonder if the Obama administration’s Mideast strategy is working. When this U.S. campaign started a few months ago …. top U.S. Generals and Pentagon spokespersons reiterated the need for time …. but that time is now coming to an end …. and I do not see any progress at all.

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Show me the way to the next little war, oh don’t ask why.


The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss. The chaos there will inevitably create more wars and conflicts for the US to “intervene” in. Which is precisely the point. The US doesn’t blunder into war. It needs them to exist. That’s why we have so many of them. It doesn’t matter if we win. The cold hard facts are the US has lost most of the wars it has fought since WWII. Yet the war machine grinds on, even as the wheels seem to be falling off a bit lately. Our Middle East / North Africa adventurism has gone rather badly, both for the U.S. and for the occupants of those countries we intervened in, mouthing platitudes about democracy, which we promptly ignore, backing one warlord against another and then wondering why it all went so badly.

Libya has now disintegrated into at least two civil wars. The U.S., France, and Britain are nowhere to be seen.

It is easy enough to deride the neo-imperial posturing of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, or to describe the abyss into which Libya has fallen since 2011. The people whom that intervention propelled into power have reduced a country that had been peaceful for more than half a century to a level of violence that is beginning to approach that of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever Western intentions, the result has been a disaster. In Libya, as in Syria today, Western intervention was supposedly in support of democracy, but was conducted in alliance with the Sunni absolute monarchies of the Gulf who had no such aims.

In all three cases [Syria, Afghanistan, Libya], the West intervened in somebody else’s civil war and tried to dictate who won. There was a pretence that the Taliban, Saddam, Gaddafi or Assad were demonically evil and without any true supporters. This foreign support may give victory to one party in a civil war, as in Libya, which they could not win by relying on their own strength. In Iraq, the beleaguered Sunni could not fight a US-backed Shia government so it needed to bring in al-Qaeda. Thus the conditions were created that eventually produced Isis.

Now the U.S. can have more wars, this time against ISIS. I’m not pacifist. Some fights need to be fought.  However, why not let the Middle East sort out its own problems. We have plenty of our own at home to solve and it’s obvious to all except DC insiders and the war pigs, that our military adventurism in other countries is beyond self-defeating.

Posted in Anti-war

Sen. McCain calls admiral an “idiot” – Why do media promote that?

Voldemort? Or John McCain?

Voldemort? Or John McCain?

BuzzFeed, moving up from cute-cat-tricks to catty-Senator-tricks, caused a few ripples in the political swamp on October 22 with its belated, skewed reporting of Republican Senator John McCain calling U.S. Admiral John Kirby an “idiot” on a rightwing radio show in North Carolina on October 15. OK, nobody really expects BuzzFeed News to publish honest news.

Less defensible, though hardly surprising, is the way the Washington Post and other less well known media outfits picked up the “idiot” story fragment and ran with it as if it was the whole story, without further context, much less identifying Sen. McCain’s own idiotic statements and falsehoods in the very same radio interview.

Here’s the nut of the story, when Sen. McCain, in response to no question, interrupts the host and says out of the blue:

“It’s the most amazing thing. It’s the most amazing thing. The spin and the lies out of this White House. I mean, it’s, it’s unbelievable. This idiot Admiral Kirby was asked, I think yesterday, that said, ‘John McCain says that we are losing, what do you say?’ The guy, you gotta run it, you gotta run it. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. I mean, it’s amazing. And how can they possibly now, with ISIS taking about two thirds of the city of Kobani – they’re saying this is effective. You know, there’s two hundred thousand refugees out of that town, thousands have been slaughtered….  [rambling on other subjects for another minute]”

Radio Host Tyler Cralle didn’t know enough, or care enough, to interrupt the senator and point out that Kobani’s total population in 2004 was about 50,000. Or that Kobani has been a haven for internal refugee Syrians fleeing the civil war. Or that this flood of displaced persons from elsewhere has reportedly pushed Kobani’s population perhaps as high as 400,000. Not surprisingly there’s no accurate count of these refugees becoming re-refugees, either elsewhere in Syria or in neighboring Turkey. If McCain actually cared about uprooted Syrians, he would have been advocating for them three years ago.

Fear-mongering is what people do when they have no cogent argument

Sen. McCain couldn’t possibly have known whether it was true to say, “ISIS taking about two-thirds of the city of Kobani.” It’s unlikely anyone knew with any precision, including those on the ground. Whether it was ever true, which is doubtful, it’s not true more than a week later,according to the BBC. It’s a small point, but its importance is how it shows Sen. McCain’s willingness to demagogue and falsify in the service of his perennial fear-mongering.

Taking fear-mongering as far as it can go, Sen. McCain claims that ISIS is:

“… now the largest and most powerful terrorist organization in history, uh, they control area the size of, uh, state of Indiana, and they are winning and we are losing. And that is very serious, and it poses a direct threat to the United States of America….”

That should be “poses as” a direct threat, since no serious person can make a credible case for ISIS being a significant threat to the U.S. now, or for the foreseeable future. Or perhaps Sen. McCain knows more about the ISIS Air Force and the ISIS Navy than is presently apparent, and this justifies his fear-mongering.

There is no persuasive evidence that “they are winning and we are losing.” There is no persuasive evidence that anyone is winning or losing. What persuasive evidence there is seems to show that everyone is losing. In recent months, the fighting in Syria and Iraq has been stalemated, with minor gains and losses on any side making little if any overall difference.

McCain is fear-mongering even when he claims ISIS controls an area the size of Indiana, roughly 36,400 square miles. All of Syria is 72,000 square miles. What ISIS controls is a patchwork of roads and communities. This patchwork is intertwined with other patchworks of roads and communities controlled by others. And these patchworks continue to change almost daily. “Control” is a chimera in both Syria and Iraq.

As for “the largest and most powerful terrorist organization in history,” Sen. McCain is simply saying: be afraid, don’t think, just quiver in your boots, that’s what Republicans want the American people to do more than anything. For McCain’s claim to have any credibility, one must assume that ISIS is larger and more powerful than, among others, al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Taliban, Hezbollah, or U.S. Special Forces.

That conclusion would require rational assessment, and that’s no way to win elections.

McCain’s fear-mongering is rooted in his unchallenged Big Lie

As anyone who pays attention knows, the decision to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq was made by President George Bush in November 2008, apparently without consultation with then president-elect Barack Obama. On November 17, 2008, the Bush administration signed the Status of Forces Agreement that sealed the U.S. pullout by December 31, 2011, leaving it for the next administration to carry out. Some in the Bush administration, especially at the Pentagon, started a media campaign to leave U.S. combat troops in Iraq under some other name, but the deal was done. In an official White House statement, President Bush praised his administration’s accomplishment:

“The Strategic Framework Agreement sets the foundation for a long-term bilateral relationship between our two countries, and the Security Agreement addresses our presence, activities, and withdrawal from Iraq. Today’s vote affirms the growth of Iraq’s democracy and increasing ability to secure itself….

Two years ago, this day seemed unlikely – but the success of the surge and the courage of the Iraqi people set the conditions for these two agreements to be negotiated and approved by the Iraqi parliament. The improved conditions on the ground and the parliamentary approval of these two agreements serve as a testament to the Iraqi, Coalition, and American men and women, both military and civilian, who paved the way for this day….these historic agreements that will serve the shared and enduring interests of both our countries and the region.” [emphasis added]

The complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by December 2011 was sealed in treaty by the Bush administration. It was what the Iraqi government dearly wanted. But Sen. McCain has his own, false, self-serving version of this history that he put this way to Tyler Cralle:

“There’s many failings of this president [Obama], but, he doesn’t want to lead, it’s created a vacuum, and the best example of that is – every one of our military leaders, uh, that wanted to retain a residual force in Iraq – thanks to [Gen.] David Petraeus and the surge and so many brave people back in – actually North Carolinians from our bases here in North Carolina – we had it won, it was, it was, uh, it was stabilized. But the president had to get everybody out. All of his commanders said, ‘Leave a stabilizing force behind and everything will be fine.’ We pulled them all out and, as [Sen.] Lindsey Graham and I and others predicted…. things went to hell.”

This is a Big Lie that the right has been repeating for years, with little or no correction from mainstream media, or even from Democrats. The BuzzFeed News “idiot” story carried no hint of McCain’s deceit, and the follow-up coverage by the Washington Post and others was equally free of accurate context.

Sen. McCain has been wrong about Iraq and the region since 2002, and he’s still wrong. He is the son of an admiral, and the grandson of an admiral, and he joined the Navy and didn’t make admiral, and surely being a POW in Vietnam had something to do with that. But none of that justifies a 78-year-old rejected presidential candidate going around calling a current, serving admiral an “idiot,” does it?

This raises the question: what’s a good working definition of “idiot”? Dictionaries offer dozens of synonyms, including: fool, ass, halfwit, dunce, dolt, cretin, moron, imbecile, dork, butthead, dingbat, and nitwit. Some people might argue that an “idiot” is someone who undermines the commander in chief during wartime, but that’s really more like “traitor,” to use an all-too-common rightwing trope.  Others, including a number commenting on various websites, say the best working definition of “idiot” is: someone who chooses a running mate like Sarah Palin.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Posted in Anti-war

U.S. on a highway to Hell. Start a war and lose an empire


The U.S. blunders on, resolutely refusing to accept reality, leaving other countries in shambles as its own  power erodes. Syria and Iraq are consumed with war. Libya is nearing full-scale civil war. American intervention in Ukraine has been counter-productive at best. It’s almost comical, says Russian expat Dmitry Orlov in a sobering yet humorous essay.  He thinks the U.S. could shatter and fall like the U.S.S.R. did.

The American behavior throughout this succession of defeats has been remarkably consistent, with the constant element being their flat refusal to deal with reality in any way, shape or form. Just as before, in Syria the Americans are ever looking for moderate, pro-Western Islamists, who want to do what the Americans want (topple the government of Bashar al Assad) but will stop short of going on to destroy all the infidel invaders they can get their hands on. The fact that such moderate, pro-Western Islamists do not seem to exist does not affect American strategy in the region in any way.

Obama’s bleatings have somewhat alarmed Russians though, and that country is turning away from the U.S. and the dollar. This could have disastrous effects here at home if the government can not continually roll over its massive short-term debt by selling more T-bills. Much of this debt is, of course, due to idiot wars the U.S. keeps starting and insisting on being involved in.

You’d think that Obama has already overplayed his hand, and should behave accordingly. His popularity at home is roughly the inverse of Putin’s, which is to say, Obama is still more popular than Ebola, but not by much. He can’t get anything at all done, no matter how pointless or futile, and his efforts to date, at home and abroad, have been pretty much a disaster. So what does this social worker turned national mascot decide to do? Well, the way the Russians see it, he has decided to declare war on Russia! In case you missed it, look up his speech before the UN General Assembly. It’s up on the White House web site. He placed Russia directly between Ebola and ISIS among the three topmost threats facing the world. Through Russian eyes his speech reads as a declaration of war.

Posted in Anti-war, Banksters

“Incoherent, morally questionable” U.S. strategy in Syria and Iraq

Islamic State has taken the Kurd HQ in Kobane and is close to sealing off the last escape route. There will be a bloodbath. Turkey is doing nothing to help because it views Kurds as terrorists. U.S. “strategy”, if it can even be called that, is demonstrably making things worse throughout the Middle East and invites blowback here at home. Everyone knows the air atrikes can not win wars without troops on the ground. Yet the US persists in its delusion that this time will be different.

Why is this our fight? The US clearly does not understand the underlying dynamics, like Shia vs Sunni, choosing instead to blunder away, alienating almost everyone by bombing whatever it can. Our foreign policy and military adventurism in the Middle East is a shamble. Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan. and Libya have suffered severely from our interventions and instead of building democracy, we’ve created yet more enemies.

The administration strategy of targeting the Islamic State while giving Mr. Assad a pass has actually worsened the conditions for his victims in towns held by moderate rebels who, in theory, enjoy U.S. backing. As the New York Times reported Wednesday, the Assad regime, freed of the need to go after the Islamic State, has returned “with new intensity to its longstanding and systematic attacks on rebellious towns and neighborhoods.”

And the strategy is incoherent as well as morally questionable.

Posted in Anti-war

Leon Panetta calls for 30 year war against ISIS. War pigs rejoice


DC insider Leon Panetta gleefully calls for a 30 year war against ISIS and says Hillary will be just great as president since she will be sure to have endless war, much more than that wimp Obama.  Constant war is the lifeblood of DC. If keeps war industries profitable, and their largesse flows to DC in the form of the thinly-disguised bribes known as campaign contributions. Plus, politicians boost their careers by inventing new enemies then howling for more war. Think tanks, NGOs, lobbyists, and PACs get fat off war too. It’s not their kids being killed so why should they care about consequences when “there’s so much money to be made by supplying the Army with the tools of the trade.”

War is what keeps Panetta and the rest of his compromised ilk in power. That’s why they want all war all the time. And they are quite sure President Hillary will do just that. Panetta and Hillary have both criticized Obama for not being bloodthirsty enough.


U.S. officials are now all but openly saying this. “Endless War” is not dramatic rhetorical license but a precise description of America’s foreign policy.

It’s not hard to see why. A state of endless war justifies ever-increasing state power and secrecy and a further erosion of rights. It also entails a massive transfer of public wealth to the “homeland security” and weapons industry (which the US media deceptively calls the “defense sector”).

ISIS is using U.S.-made ammunition and weapons, which means U.S. weapons companies get to supply all sides of The New Endless War; can you blame investors for being so giddy?

Posted in Anti-war, Banksters

Hysteric POTUS channels Bushist war shtick before UN

"Show me the way to the next little war,  oh don't ask why."

“We have always been at war with Eastasia”

The U.S. without a war is like an apple pie without apples

A Nobel Peace Prize recipient is among the loudest voices for war nowadays. Better, this Nobel Peace prize recipient has unchecked power to wage war and uses it willfully in a variety of nations. Perhaps best, this prize-winning peace president has set out a plan to make a desert and call it peace, for which a grateful power structure might well give him yet another prize.

Such absurdity dominates the world we live in now, because people in governments are committing us all to irrational choices based on no credible public explanation. Examples are myriad, but President Obama’s shrill war cries at the United Nations offer a paradigm of the present bloody moment that is, in part, a near-parody of grandiloquent George W. Bush doing his most preening strut as a feckless “war president.”

The following excerpts from President Obama’s long and specious 39-minute speech to the U.N. on September 24, 2014, are chosen to highlight the contradictions and deceits so carefully packaged with familiar, false pieties about imaginary realities. The pitch is fraudulent from the moment the president begins, with a pseudo-lofty, tripartite cliché untethered from the real world:

“We come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.”

Yes, every moment is a crossroads between war and peace in some place, a moment waiting for some commander somewhere to cross the line and start killing “enemies.” The president’s moment at the U.N. was NOT, for him or anyone else, a “crossroads” – he had long since proceeded straight across the intersection, extending the Iraq War of 2003 into its second decade; he had already escalated that war into Syria; he had long since carried on wars in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and who knows where else. He has no legal authority to expand wage these wars, but he knows he has no Congress or court or any other opposition with both the will and the standing to challenge his decision for more killing in the blood zones of the Middle East.

There is no “crossroads between disorder and integration,” a meaningless construction about conditions that may exist independently or simultaneously. “Integration” is an especially absurd word to apply to the police states that stretch from Iran to Egypt. U.S. policy has failed for decades to promote even the most elementary, necessary integration of Israelis and Palestinians. U.S. policing now, as ever, only heightens the disintegration among Sunni and Shia. Disorder is the hallmark of the region, and the West has only made it worse for centuries. The present U.S.-sponsored war only increases the disorder, with no promise and little likelihood of a happy ending.

In the words of Chicago mayor Richard Daley circa 1968, commenting on his city’s police riot with unintentional accuracy: “The policeman is not here to create disorder. The policeman is here to preserve disorder.”

And so it has been with the American presence in the Middle East, where the world’s policeman helped to preserve disorder for decades before ratcheting up the intensity in 2003 by bringing fresh chaos to Iraq and the rest of the region. As the self-appointed policeman of the world, the U.S. has much to regret and atone for.

And there is no “crossroads between fear and hope.” These are emotions that often coexist, not artifacts from a Pentagon planning project. If truth were told, there are no crossroads at all in this moment of American “leadership.” There is only a headlong president whose hope now is that fear will lead to dead bodies strewn across several landscapes, and that those bodies will make him look good.

In his U.N. speech, President Obama moved from his imaginary crossroads into a couple of paragraphs of selective happy talk about progress, peace, poverty and prosperity. These remarks coming from an escalating commander-in-chief were not without irony as he cited the U.N. as “a unique achievement – the people of the world committing to resolve their differences peacefully, and solve their problems together.” Moments later, without explanation, this became “the failure of our international system.” Rhetoric requires no real basis in fact so long as choice emotive buttons get pushed effectively:

“The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.”

If this line has meaning, it’s not likely a suggestion to review the brutality of others in the region, least of all our “allies.” And the line is surely not a humble recommendation to explore the dark heart of American methods of torture and killing over the past decade, and it’s not an expression of willingness to end the brutal penal colony at Guantanamo, where innocent and possibly guilty alike suffer without hope until they die. These horrors, like drones assassinating wedding parties, are brutalities that President Obama has failed to “look into,” much less tried to degrade and destroy.

There is little if anything the Islamic State has done to earn the hyperbolic fear-mongering it gets from this administration and the Fox network’s echo chamber. There is perhaps no grisly act the Islamic State has committed that has not been committed by the U.S. and/or its allies, with the possible exception of posting videos of beheadings on YouTube. Beheadings themselves are commonplace in countries like Saudi Arabia.

It’s not the beheadings that separate the brutality of the Islamic State from the brutality of others near and far, it’s the deployment of pictures of beheadings that has upset polite societies well-steeped in their denial. Posting such videos, censored as they are, has achieved a metaphorical beheading: leadership in the U.S. and elsewhere has lost its head over a theatrical provocation as effective emotionally as it is unimportant geopolitically. Some forty countries are now at war against a threat of minimal proportions, largely as a gut reaction to a disturbing movie. That’s not so much a heart of darkness as a head of darkness.

President Obama speaks from a darker heart when he refers to “Russian aggression” with nomeaningful context. Failing to acknowledge the civil war in Ukraine, the U.S. president promises to “support the people of Ukraine,” when he means only some of the people of Ukraine:

“We call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.”

In countries all over the world, from Iran and Cuba to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as all of Latin America, the United States has consistently opposed and often crushed “the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.” Even when native movements adopted their own versions of American founding documents the U.S. was not assuaged, as the Vietnamese learned at horrendous cost in the face of American brutality that makes the Islamic State look like a bunch of Quakers.

President Obama does not acknowledge this imperial history any more than his government’s present imperial imperative. As far as Ukraine goes, the fault is all with Russia, according to the president, who even lies about MH-17 to reinforce his phony bill of particulars. He certainly omits reference to his favored Ukrainians burning opponents alive in Odessa. Nowhere does he acknowledge anything like a Western-supported coup in Kiev that established an illegitimate government with a neo-Nazi tinge, whose war crimes in the east are documented by U.N. observers. Nowhere does this Nobel peace laureate acknowledge twenty years of Western stealth aggression against Russia, in which his own administration remains active.

With no apparent shame or sense of irony, the president refers to reducing nuclear arsenals and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons as “the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again—if Russia changes course.”

Actually, these are things worth pursuing for their own sake, and if anyone needs to change course, it’s the West, the U.S./NATO/EU/IMF and the rest. The way the president couches it is intellectual fraud and moral blackmail.

The president takes a similar, not-our-fault-and-not-really-our-responsibility approach to various other issues, including poverty and climate change, where the evidence is to the contrary. Long as it is, the speech at the U.N. does not gain in coherence. The president who recently said he doesn’t have a strategy apparently still has no strategy, unless casting blame is somehow strategic:

“But as we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress: and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.”

In context, the president’s implication is that Muslim extremists prevent the rest of the world from dealing sensibly with climate change. Read the speech, these are in consecutive paragraphs. And these bad Muslims are fearfully powerful:

“… they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels…. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion.”

Or as President Bush put it thirteen years ago: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The presidential rhetoric of 2001 lives on in the presidential rhetoric of 2014. Moments later, President Bush added, “This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.” Then he lied his country into war in Iraq.

In other words, it absolutely is an exaggeration to say that “humanity’s future” depends on fighting the Islamic State, a force numbering in the thousands, a force without nuclear weapons, and virtually defenseless against attack from the air. Like so many other governments and rebels, the Islamic State has committed atrocities, perhaps on the scale of Lidice, Wounded Knee, Suchow, My Lai, Dublin, or other mass killings. President Obama charges the Islamic State with committing “the most horrific crimes imaginable,” which is flatly untrue. Islamists have not perpetrated a Holocaust or the atomic vaporization of a city. These are accomplishments of Western civilization.

Bad as it was, Islamist treatment of Yazidis in Iraq came nowhere close to the Turkish genocide of Armenians in the early 20th century. Yet genocide-denying Turkey is a much-desired ally. And the president, citing “videos of the atrocity [of beheading],” says somewhat hysterically of the enemy du jour:

“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

And the way the United States will do this is to bring more war, death, and suffering to a region already hostile to the West for its centuries of abuse. But the president presumably knows that some God condones that terror. For all his high-pitched condemnation of Islamic State beliefs, the president omits their nurturing safe haven in Saudi Arabia, where the state religion is a conservative Sunni belief system with much in common with the Sunnis of the Islamic State. Saudis have supported the Islamic State for years. Saudi Arabia is a police state that allows the open practice of no religion other than Islam.

For the United States, this is not division “into adherents and infidels,” this is just a quirk of a major oil producer. Besides, as the U.S. president told the U.N., the real problem is elsewhere:

“It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology…. We must offer an alternative vision.”

The answer to the whole problem turns out to be marketing! And not just any marketing, marketing to the young!

So war is just marketing by other means? And marketing is way more persuasive than justice? And blaming victims, the young who have no effective power to change anything happening to them now, is an intellectually tenable position? And it’s a moral perspective? And God condones it?

The president’s “final point” is:

“… the countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth.”

This may sound like patronizing nonsense, but perhaps the president means it as another example of “the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.” Or perhaps not:

“If young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state, or the lure of an extremist underground – no counter-terrorism strategy can succeed…. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner.”

We’re talking to you, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Kuwait and other police states, the president seems to say, and we don’t really mean anything by it, we just have a home audience that needs gulling.

The Islamic State has few if any friends, so bombing its people has little or no immediate political cost. Better, they can be punished without disrupting much of the oil business, while at the same time boosting the arms business. Down the line there may be blowback – again – but that’s down the line.

And besides, America is exceptional, and that exceptionalism means that God condones whatever we do, or as the president puts it:

“… we welcome the scrutiny of the world…. we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves…. we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary…. we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law….”

That’s part of the ideal, to be sure.

The reality is that each of the five most recent presidential administrations has committed war crimes (and other crimes), for which almost no one has been held accountable and some have received presidential pardons. Government secrecy continues to expand, police state tactics continue to spread, the “free press” is controlled by fewer and fewer people, and this president has responded to these trends by criminally charging more reporters than all his predecessors combined.

The president, who wages war without legal authority, concludes:

“The people of the world look to us, here [at the U.N.], to be as decent, as dignified, and as courageous as they are in their daily lives. And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done…. Join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.”

The candidate of hope and change in 2008 has somehow become the president of war and fear in 2014, channeling his predecessor’s rhetoric while pursuing similar policies somewhat less recklessly. How did this happen?

Somehow this U.S. president has reached the point of making an Orwellian argument that war is peace, that war is decent, dignified, and courageous, even (or especially) against an outnumbered, militarily helpless, hapless, non-state enemy (a “muscular new course,” the New York Times called it). And why, why should this one-sided war be waged?

Do it for the children – or at least for the ones who survive. That’s what it comes down to in President Obama’s crie de guerre.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and

Posted in Anti-war, News

Stupid stuff on steroids. Syria and comic book thinking


This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed”

American hysteria is a wondrous thing to behold.

Our hysteria is usually obvious in retrospect, whether the freak-out is over witches, labor unions, or communists. Hysteria is not always so easy to perceive as it happens or, in this case, as it is happening right now with ISIS-centric Islamophobia running rampant around the nation’s terror-drenched reptilian brain.

The collective rush to do “stupid stuff” kicked in with the mass-pavlovian response to cleverly-marketed, ISIS-produced infomercials featuring the beheading of two Americans (earlier beheadings of non-Americans failed to have the same effect). But killing Americans in the collective mind’s imaginary Islamistan hits the reflexively violent smack in the patriot-plexus and has them screaming for blood vengeance over an horrific but strategically meaningless bit of savagery. [Funny how the equally savage killing of other Americans with a chokehold in New York or a hail of bullets in Ferguson has so much less impact on rampant public moral outrage.]

That psychic selectivity over what savagery is objectionable and what is tolerable has a long American history, as illustrated by natives receiving blankets full of smallpox and all the other gifts of manifest destiny. Given the American pre-disposition for morally selective high dudgeon, the media manipulation of the mindset of the United States by slick snuff films begins to look savvy, strategic, and morbidly effective. From the perspective of ISIS, this bit of theatrical propaganda has succeeded beyond reasonable expectation: it has inflated the threatening image of ISIS from the reality a relatively small, regionally contained, regional band of pathological fundamentalists and their more numerous allies of convenience (which, from time to time, have included the U.S. and other NATO members).

In little more than a month, ISIS (aka ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or Islamic Caliphate) has changed little on the ground, while its image in American minds has morphed into a ginormous, imaginary monster capable of throwing a terrifying shadow of fear across the American continent thousands of miles away. This is not a rational perception, even though the president feeds into it (even if he knows better). This is panic, deeply rooted in comic book thinking.

Comic book thinking: never hard to find, but not always dominant

The Governor of Texas and other fear mongers, like Judicial Watch and Fox News, would have you believe there are agents of ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, crossing the Rio Grande and making themselves at home in the American homeland undetected – except by these fearless watchdogs. They also cite a rightwing provocateur who crossed the Texas border in terrorist costume and may have gone undetected. Republican Senator John McCain fulminated in comic book style about this imaginary security breach.  The Homeland Security people say they detected him and knew he was a buffoon.

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee had hear more than enough by mid September. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California used the 9/11 anniversary to imagine a worst case scenario: “I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kurdistantomorrow.” With considerably bloodier clarity and recklessness, the 76-year-old showed his tough willingness to send young soldiers to die in Iraq yet again, urging “our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later.”

In an article about ISIS, the National Review published some articles of faith with headings like: “the growth of the Islamic State,” “the Success of the Islamic State,” and “the ascendancy of the Islamic State.” The writer made an intellectually dishonest anti-Obama/pro-Bush argument rooted in unreality in which he characterized President Obama as an Islamist apologist and an unreliable war maker. That may be just as well in a world where “the success of the Islamic State” and, even moreso, “the ascendancy of the Islamic State” are hobgoblin projections of comic book fear with no objective reality.

The success of Fox News is built on comic book thinking. For example, on September 17, Fox touted an “intelligence bulletin from the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange” warning, somewhat incoherently:

… that Islamic State fighters have increased calls for “lone wolves” to attack U.S. soldiers in America in recent months, citing one tweet that called for jihadists to find service members’ addresses online and then “show up and slaughter them.”

Reportedly Fox News coverage of the ISIS crisis has achieved ratings higher than CNN and MSNBC combined, where comic book thinking can sometimes be more nuanced. CNN resorts to unprovable fear-mongering to characterize ISIS as “the terror group that is striking fear into the hearts of leaders around the world,” which if true would say more about world leaders than about ISIS. In contrast, the BBC accurately describes ISIS as “the small but fanatical jihadist army now controlling large tracts of Syria and Iraq” ­– and then wonders, quite rationally, whether ISIS has the capability to govern an area roughly the size of Pennsylvania.

Peak hysteria so far comes from the Senator from South Carolina

“This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home,” Republican Lindsey Graham claimed on September 14 on Fox News Sunday. This raw, politically-pointed hysteria was not new for Graham, who said more than a month earlier on the same Fox program: “If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you guys want to call it, they are coming here…. This is just not about Baghdad. This is just not about Syria. And if we do get attacked, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”

In the interim, the president announced from the Oval Office on September 10 that the country was going against ISIS [ISIL] with a limited offensive, as well as  unlimited and contradictory rhetoric:

“While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies…. Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy…. we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.  That means I will not hesitate to take action…. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven…. we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq… [but] we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq….” [emphasis added]

Extreme as it is in parts, the president’s declaration is nowhere near enough for Graham and his fellow warriors whose goal seems to include a large American occupation of uncertain duration in the Middle East. Graham saidthat ISIS [ISIL] is:

“… intending to come here…. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate. This is a war we’re fighting…. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”

Both the president and the senator offer up comic book thinking. Hunting down terrorists wherever they are is a Bush-like boast detached from reality. Imaging an enemy powerful enough to kill 320 million Americans is silly even in a Hollywood apocalypse movie.

Delusional thinking isn’t really a good basis to build a war on 

One of the benefits of delusional thinking is that it relieves the mind of the stress of contemplating an unpleasant and intractable reality. One of the drawbacks of delusional thinking is that it’s not likely to make that reality any better, and may well make it worse.

Take for example the truly comical bi-partisan vote in the House in favor of arming and training Syrian rebels, and it’s equally bi-partisan opposition. The 273 votes in favor included 114 Democrats, while the 156 in opposition included 71 Republicans (with three Republicans not voting). Only five states voted unanimously, all in favor (Alaska, Montana, Arkansas, and both Dakotas). This vote was to add an amendment of six micro-managing pages to the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015 that would allow, but provide no funding for, the build-up of a Syrian opposition army from “appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals.”

The amendment ends with this admonition:

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a specific statutory authorization for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances.” [emphasis added]

On September 17, President Obama told a military audience:

“The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.” [emphasis added]

That congressional admonition, like the presidential assertion, is delusional to the extent that the United States is already at war in Iraq, where U.S. pilots are flying combat mission and an unknown number of special forces are engaged in hostilities and another 1,500 or so soldiers are guarding the embassy and carrying out other missions “wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by circumstances.” Iraq is a war zone and has been for more than eleven years. The ground war that started with the U.S. invasion of 2003 has not ended. “Another ground war in Iraq” is delusional or dishonest. Even though the U.S. has mostly withdrawn its military forces, the war in Iraq never ended in any meaningful sense.

By Congressional logic, the president has no statutory to send armed forces there, even though they are already there. The president has said he has all the authority he needs under the AUMFs, the Authorizations for the Use of Military Force passed in 2001 and 2002, open-ended war making authority Congress has chosen not to review. “We’re travelling on vapors,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin of the aging AUMFs on September 18. Then, like all his colleagues, he made no effort to change the situation.

Senator Manchin notices the empire’s lack of a wardrobe

Nothing the collective leadership of the United States – or its harshest critics – propose to do will likely change the political situation. Their comic book thinking based on false perceptions of reality makes the likelihood of a sensible course of action virtually nil.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was reportedly prepared to shut down the government to prevent adoption of the House plan to arm Syrian rebels. In the end, he caved and the Senate supported the amendment to the continuing resolution 78-22, with bi-partisan votes for and against. Despite his opposition, even Manchin did not challenge the core perception dominating government and media. On the Senate floor, he solemnly affirmed that “we must defeat and destroy ISIS….  ISIS are barbaric terrorists with no respect for humanity and they deserve to die.”

He expressed support for airstrikes in Iraq, for humanitarian aid, for cutting off funding to ISIS, adding somewhat preposterously: “Doing these things has already helped prevent genocide….”

And then he questioned the conventional wisdom that it was up to the U.S. to take on ISIS and save the world: “this should be an Arab ground war and a U.S. air war…. important as it is to know your enemy, it is equally important to know our allies. And I am not confident that we know who are allies are…. As of today, we have only hints of military support from Arab countries, who themselves face a greater threat from ISIS than anyone else.”

This semi-dissent is important, but it only begins to explore the absurdity of the present American impulse to defend itself against an imaginary threat by saving countries unwilling to save themselves. Or maybe they don’t feel the need to be “saved.”  The coalition’s main partners now are the U.S., Australia, Germany, and those old colonial favorites in the Middle East, France and the United Kingdom. That’s one reality.

Consider the host of other realities our comic book thinkers avoid for the sake of a simplistic solution to a problem they’re unable to explain realistically:

  • IRAQ has a weak government that is unable to choose a defense minister or an internal security minister. Iraq has been in a multi-faceted state of civil war for about a decade, primarily Shia/Sunni. As a result Sunni Iraq has allied with ISIS to hold about a third of the country. Kurdistan is a quasi-independent state in another third of Iraq. And this fragmented Iraq is the base of American operations.
  • KURDS in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran comprise a wild card that has the potential for coalescing into its own disruptive state.
  • SYRIA’s multifaceted civil war has divided the country into a minimum of three mutually hostile, ill-defined areas: the government territory is the most stable, followed by the ISIS sector. Rebel territory is scattered and no one knows just how many militia-governments are in control of or disputing different areas. These represent the “Syrian rebels” the U.S. thinks will fight ISIS even though their rebellion is against the Assad government.
  • SYRIAN REBELS, appropriately vetted, may turn out to be as rare as unicorns. So far, Syrian rebels have been a reliable source of arms for ISIS. And Syrian rebels reportedly sold one of the beheaded American reporters to ISIS for cash. Like ISIS, Syrian rebels are predominantly Sunni.
  • TURKEY is supposed to be part of the burgeoning U.S. coalition, but so far Turkish commitment is limited to allowing the use of a NATO air base. Turkey has contributed to the rise of ISIS. Turkey doesn’t want to fight ISIS on the same side as the Kurds who want a piece of Turkey. Turkey doesn’t want to disrupt its economic ties to the ISIS region. Predominantly Sunni Turkey doesn’t want to fight the predominantly Sunni ISIS coalition, nor does it want to fight on the side of predominantly Shia Iraq or its predominantly Shia ally, Iran.
  • SAUDI ARABIA’s commitment to the coalition is a promise to offer bases for training. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are widely credited with years of sponsoring and building up ISIS. Both countries are predominantly Wahhabi, a stricter-than-Sunni version of Islam.  Saudi Arabia has little incentive to contribute significantly to any anti-ISIS coalition.
  • JORDAN is predominantly Sunni and is an advanced, humane nation, especially in comparison to most of its neighbors. Presently it is home for millions of refugees: from Palestine since 1948; from Iraq since the U.S. war of 2003; and from Syria, since the civil war began. Jordan provides some 50,000 peacekeeping troops to the United Nations. It has trained Iraqi security forces.
  • GULF COUNTRIES such as Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman have offered the use of their air bases and air spaces, but little more. These Islamic states are all predominantly Sunni except Oman, which is Ibadi (predating Sunni and Shia).

The first step on the road to doing stupid stuff is framing the question in a way that allows for only one possible answer. For example, “This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed.” If we’re all going to get killed if we don’t do something, how can we not do something?

But “before we all get killed” is entry level stupid stuff. And who is going to kill us? The standard estimate for ISIS strengths is 10,000 fighters or so, an unknown portion of whom are Iraqi Sunnis more interested in their homes in Iraq than some invented Islamic caliphate. For ISIS to approach being even a slightly credible threat, one needs to apply serious threat-inflation. Threat inflation happened recently when the Pentagon tripled the size of ISIS from maybe 10,000 fighters to maybe 30,000 fighters, with no basis offered for any estimate.  Even at 30,000, ISIS would be only a tenth the size of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, which some see as a greater threat.

If ISIS were any sort of genuine threat, or if our political and pontifical public figures were any sort of genuine leaders, wouldn’t someone have thought to make a point of it when ISIS took control of Fallujah, just 43 miles from Baghdad, in January 2014? Why did they wait till June to be surprised by ISIS taking Mosul from a fleeing Iraqi army?

No matter what perspective one takes considering ISIS, there’s none that escapes stupid stuff. And what stupid stuff could create millions more Islamic enemies of the United States? Plunging into the middle of the centuries-old, international  Sunni/Shia religious civil war should work.    

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


Posted in Anti-war

‘Syrian airstrikes raise lone wolf terror threat in US,’ shrieks ABC News


Our government has apparently finally determined that bombing other counties can indeed lead to blowback here. So, of course, they keep bombing. Why it’s almost like they want attacks at home. Such attacks would of course give them a fine excuse to stifle more freedoms, ratchet up surveillance, and howl about threats to the country.

Me, I think politicians and the national security apparatus are our biggest threats to security and freedom. Our peril is internal, an out of control government that no longer much cares what the people think or want, and which must always have war.

The American airborne offensive could potentially embolden self-radicalized terrorists to strike inside the homeland, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI say in a joint bulletin issued to local, state and federal law enforcement late today.

Posted in Anti-war

Obama is blindly repeating LBJ’s mistakes in Vietnam

Syrian rebels

Syrian rebels. Credit:

Small Wars Journal, which is neither leftist nor pacifist, explains how Obama is blundering into a quagmire fighting ISIS, just as LBJ did in Vietnam, saying “If You Liked Vietnam, You’ll Love the War With the Islamic State.”

President Obama is repeating three key strategic mistakes that President Johnson made in Vietnam. First, he has embarked on an open ended commitment; there was no measurable end state.

If the president’s aim is to destroy the military forces of the Islamic State, he is making the second mistake by thinking it can be done by airpower alone.

President Obama has emulated Johnson and will create sanctuaries by taking the ground option off the table. He hopes that we can use the Iraqi Army, Kurds, or moderate Syrian rebels to eject the Islamic State forces from occupied territory. That is sheer fantasy.

A comment makes the strong point that Saudi Arabia is not our friend and never has been. I agree. Also, why is ISIS our fight? Let Middle East countries deal with their own mess.

I think it fair to suggest that the lunatics are now running the asylum and have been for a while. IMO we should be telling the House of Saud as far as we are concerned it is their responsibility to close the circus down.

The KSA is probably the only modernized wealthy country wherein a tyrannical form of Law Enforcement is widely accepted by the local populace as not only legitimate but enlightened. They chop dozens of people’s heads off every month for ‘crimes’ we consider a normal feature on a Saturday night out and it doesn’t even make the local newspaper.

So what I’m advocating is not war-war with the KSA but very loud jaw-jaw. KSA citizens are responsible for so much blood spilt and treasure spent (much of it American) and our leadership has to start yelling that fact into their faces. It is way past the time for quiet diplomacy and we should refuse to have anything to do with them and denounce their homegrown terrorists loudly and publicly until they get rid of them.

Posted in Anti-war


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