Quote of the day: “Destroying Iraq” was the goal

I recently was in Jordan, and I was confronted by many of the Iraqis who have fled from Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. […] I sat at dinner with a number of them, and the question that many of them asked me was, why is the United States in Iraq? And I sort of dismissed the ideas that have been advanced at various times in this Hall […] After I had exhausted my ideas about what it might be about, I asked the Iraqis to tell me what they thought this was about. And they said, well, it is pretty clear that what your goal was, and you succeeded almost at this point, in dividing Iraq into three pieces and destroying Iraq as ever being an Arab nation. That was your goal from the start; and you have, by every decision you have made, you have worked in that direction.

Rep. Jim McDermott, 22 September 2005

State Dept. spokesperson incites right-wing ragegasm by stating what neocons once said

Marie Harf, yesterday:

We’re killing a lot of them [ISIS militants] and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs […] We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.

The right-wing blogosphere has, predictably, gone ballistic over this. But the fact of the matter is that many neocons once promoted the Iraq War by asserting similar arguments–namely, that a democratic and prosperous Iraq would neutralize the anti-American sentiment and Islamic extremism that plagues the Middle East. In fact, an argument similar to Harf’s was used by none other than Mitt Romney during the third presidential debate in 2012:

This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world and to America in particular, which is to see a — a complete change in the — the — the structure and the — the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women and — and public life and in economic life in the Middle East.

But instead we’ve seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events. Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in — in — in Libya an attack apparently by — well, I think we know now by terrorists of some kind against — against our people there, four people dead. Our hearts and minds go to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali, by al-Qaida-type individuals. We have in — in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president.

And so what we’re seeing is a — a — a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course, the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon. And — and we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on — on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaida. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess.

We’re — we’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and — and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism which is — it’s really not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.

Later, Romney expanded on his strategy:

Well, my strategy’s pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than — than that. That’s — that’s important, of course, but the key that we’re going to have to pursue is a — is a pathway to — to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan. That’s not the right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the — the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these — these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world.

And how we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these terrorists. And the answer they came up was this.

One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment and that of our friends — we should coordinate it to make sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development.

Number two, better education.

Number three, gender equality.

Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.

I suppose today’s wingnuts would just denounce Romney as a RINO anyhow, but many of those same wingnuts were making the same exact argument during the Bush years.

Just look at what current-day genocidal nutcase Pat Dollard once said in 2006 (mirrored here):

There were much more important reasons to topple Saddam–terrorism being one of them. The root causes of terrorism are the lack of capitalism, the lack of democracy, and the lack of modern education. What has stood in the way of those things has primarily been the regimes of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. We just got one of them out of the way. […] Getting at the root of terror is clear: topple these regimes and then bring democracy, capitalism, and education to the Islamic world. Let them have the hot wife, the Bimmer, and kids to live for. America has to lift them up, not because we are a country of great guys, but to keep them from growing into lost killer boys with the U.S. in their sights.

“Lost killer boys” sounds practically sympathetic to the plight of Islamic extremists. Sounds like the same bleeding heart stuff we hear from Harf, in fact.

Charles Krauthammer and the bravery of pro-war punditry

brendle

Charles Krauthammer, 29 Jan. 2015:

On the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, mourning dead Jews is easy. And, forgive me, cheap. Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living — Israel and its 6 million Jews. Make “never again” more than an empty phrase. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day.

Excuse me Charles, but how exactly is it a sign of bravery to endorse the bombing and continued economic strangulation of the Iranian people from your perch at the Washington Post? Could someone please explain to me why–if simply “mourning dead Jews is easy”–is it that warmongering and shilling on behalf of Zionist interests from American soil is somehow a difficult task?

I’m getting awfully tired of right-wing pundits asserting themselves to be heroic warriors for their verbal support of US and Israeli militarism. It is too often that we hear appeals to masculinity and “manliness” in supporting imperialist war crimes and aggression. Besides, where is the personal sacrifice and bravery in tweeting/blogging/writing/broadcasting “bomb Iran” from the comfort of the First World?

In addition to chiding Americans for the ease with which they mourn “dead Jews,” Krauthammer asserts that supporting Israeli expansionism and demonizing Iranians is a great way to show “solidarity” with the Jewish people. This is based on a false reading of Iranian and Palestinian intentions and a complete neglect of the factual circumstances of their historic grievances against Israel and the US. There is no justice in supporting Israel’s ongoing confiscation of the West Bank from the Palestinians as a means of expressing compensation for the Holocaust. There also is no just reason for punishing the Iranian nation, which has a history of non-aggression, for its pursuit of the same nuclear capabilities Israel now has.

The real problem with Obama’s remarks

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And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Barack Obama, 5 Feb. 2015

Somehow, given the dizzying pace of globalization, the cultural leveling of modernity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish in their particular identities — their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. […] And most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint — no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or the Red Cross worker, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but I believe it’s incompatible with the very purpose of faith — for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Barack Obama, Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10 Dec. 2009

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Barack Obama, Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10 Dec. 2009

From the above quotes, one gets the impression that Obama believes militarism and religion don’t mix, but are perfectly fine when separated from each other. This, of course, is absurd. History has amply proven that the warmongers and jingoists don’t require the rhetoric of “God and country” in order to convince people firing cluster bombs at targets halfway around the world will somehow make us safer.

For evidence of this, all one has to do is look at Obama’s own administration. By lamenting the “imperfections of man and the limits of reason” as a justification for continuing the never-ending War on Terror, perhaps best embodied by his flagrantly criminal drone campaign in Yemen, he is attempting to appeal to secular, liberal sensibilities. There is very little appeal to flags and patriotism in Obama’s saber-rattling and practically zero appeals to religion. Instead we are treated to his version of “rationality” and “realism,” in which the US is a sometimes bumbling but generally well-meaning super-power that has no choice but to use drastic measures to kill the bad guys. This is liberal imperialist rhetoric at its most shameless. The reasoning Obama uses is based on a combination of lies, misrepresentations and bad logic. But because he appears to be a “reluctant warrior” who doesn’t invoke God in his war speeches, he creates the illusion that he must be waging a just war.

Washington Times: Hillary’s State Dept. sabotaged Libyan ceasefire talks in 2011

Not the best source, I realize, but it sounds consistent with everything I’ve heard previously:

On the day the U.N. resolution was passed, Mrs. Clinton ordered a general within the Pentagon to refuse to take a call with Gadhafi’s son Seif and other high-level members within the regime, to help negotiate a resolution, the secret recordings reveal.

A day later, on March 18, Gadhafi called for a cease-fire, another action the administration dismissed.
Soon, a call was set up between the former U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, and Gadhafi confidant Mohammed Ismael during which Mr. Ismael confirmed that the regime’s highest-ranking generals were under orders not to fire upon protesters.

“I told him we were not targeting civilians and Seif told him that,” Mr. Ismael told The Times in an telephone interview this month, recounting the fateful conversation.

While Mrs. Clinton urged the Pentagon to cease its communications with the Gadhafi regime, the intelligence asset working with the Joint Chiefs remained in contact for months afterward.

“Everything I am getting from the State Department is that they do not care about being part of this. Secretary Clinton does not want to negotiate at all,” the Pentagon intelligence asset told Seif Gadhafi and his adviser on the recordings.

Communication was so torn between the Libyan regime and the State Department that they had no point of contact within the department to even communicate whether they were willing to accept the U.N.’s mandates, former Libyan officials said.

Mrs. Clinton eventually named Mr. Cretz as the official U.S. point of contact for the Gadhafi regime. Mr. Cretz, the former ambassador to Libya, was removed from the country in 2010 amid Libyan anger over derogatory comments he made regarding Gadhafi released by Wikileaks. As a result, Mr. Cretz was not trusted or liked by the family.

Shutting the Gadhafis out of the conversation allowed Mrs. Clinton to pursue a solitary point of view, said a senior Pentagon official directly involved with the intervention.

“The decision to invade [Libya] had already been made, so everything coming out of the State Department at that time was to reinforce that decision,” the official explained, speaking only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Article is mirrored here.

Previous blog posts on Libya here.

Of France, free speech, Western civilization and satire

News of the horrific massacre perpetrated on the employees of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo has brought out the usual self-congratulatory rhetoric from white people everywhere. We are now treated to another episode in which all Muslims must collectively condemn and disassociate themselves from violence in a way whites are never required to following white supremacist and other various far-right terrorist attacks. The value of free speech and satire in Western societies is lectured on at great length.

We are never informed of the context in which France is a country where racism and Islamophobia runs rampant. Where the national variant of the Jewish Defense League fully endorses Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 19 Palestinian civilians and its members engage in acts of terrorism and thuggery against critics of Israel. Where were these self-proclaimed champions of “free speech” when the French Interior Minister banned pro-Palestine rallies during the previous summer?

Sunny Hundal tweets

If one delves into the legal history of satirical cartoons in Europe, one might find a less hospitable environment for offensive speech–depending, of course, on who it offends. In Greece, for example, a cartoonist was once charged with “blasphemy” for drawing a “playful look at the life of Jesus.” In Spain, a magazine with a cartoon mocking the royal family was raided by authorities and had its copies seized. In neither of these cases did any of the today’s heroic provocateurs give a damn about “free speech” being trampled by the sensibilities of Christianity or Western royal families.

It is also a fact that those heroic defenders of Western civilization against the forces of barbarism–the US military and the IDF–target, intimidate and murder journalists all the time.

Finally, there’s the fact that today’s martyrs for the cause very clearly believed that the unarmed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood protesters who were gunned down by the Sisi regime in the hundreds (possibly over one thousand) had it coming.

So, there really is no reason that Muslims should be singled out and demonized for supposedly being uniquely intolerant of free expression.

Right-wing turns to time honored tactic of red-baiting against #BlackLivesMatter movement

1965 documentary by the John Birch Society alleging the US Civil Rights movement was a communist plot.

Last month, prominent right-wing blogger John Hinderaker made a post bluntly titled “Communists Are Behind the Anti-Police Protests In New York” in which he strongly implies that ANSWER Coalition is behind the bulk of #BlackLivesMatter protests in New York City, apparently based on a single Tweet from the organization. Hinderaker writes:

A.N.S.W.E.R. is close to unique, in that it advocates for pretty much every form of evil in the world. Who pays for it, what masters it serves, remains unknown. But that evil infuses its every act, is obvious.

Genocide enthusiast Glenn Reynolds approvingly linked to the post and added his take that “communists are on the same moral plane as Nazis, just with better press relations.”

who's-behind-civil-rights-drive

Put aside for a moment the merits of the ANSWER Coalition and its ideology, let’s put into historical perspective the use of red-baiting by white American reactionaries against black Civil Rights activists and their allies. It is amply documented that when overt white supremacy and Jim Crow advocacy were still considered respectable points of view, those who upheld the subjugation of black people in both the north and south never missed a chance to associate their opponents with the Red Menace. Pro-segregation signs read “Race-Mixing is Communism” and a 1957 piece in National Review was titled “Integration is Communization.” In retrospect, the accusation gives American communists a point in their favor and contains a kernel of truth.

mlk-at-communist-training-school

It is indeed true that the radical left played a vital role in emboldening the struggle for black people’s human rights in the decades following WWI. It is also true that the American Communist Party at times promoted seemingly far-fetched ideas such as the establishment of an independent republic in the so called “black belt” of the southern US (this scheme remains a favorite horror story of modern day red hunters). Yet, by the time the Civil Rights movement emerged in its peak form in the mid-1950s, there was a broad array of groups and ideologies that endorsed the effort against de jure discrimination. So while it is fair to say communist and socialist activists played an important role in organizing the struggle against Jim Crow in its infancy and continued to serve as some of its most devoted activists in its maturity, it is also accurate to say that a majority of the movement was non-communist and a sizable portion of it outright anti-communist.

whats-wrong-with-civil-rights

Despite this, the red-baiting against the Civil Rights movement never ceased. Indeed, it was one of the key ways southern reactionaries could appeal to the common fears and enemies of the entire nation. The narrative was simple as it was duplicitous: race relations in the south were just fine until those damn commies started getting people riled up. Often it alleged a massive conspiracy spearheaded through “front” groups designed to hide communist designs. On other occasions it hinted that the black population was being exploited by communist agitators, not because their disenfranchised social status made communism an appealing ideology, but because their purportedly “uneducated” and “primitive” mental and political conditions made them vulnerable to subversive organization.

sen-eastland-communist-negro-riots

Just something to keep in mind in case this modern McCarthyite/Bircher narrative against #BlackLivesMatter takes off.