Full letter of ex-Army Captain Rowan Malphurs on US bombing of Cambodian hospitals

US Senate, Armed Services Committee, Bombing in Cambodia, Hearings, 93rd Cong., 1st sess., July and August 1973, 319:

MIAMI, Fla., August 6, 1973.

SIR: I am writing this letter because I feel that the truth should be known about the U.S. involvement in Cambodia in 69-70. I further feel that the legislative body of our government should be fully cognizant of what the military is doing. And I particularly feel that U.S. Senators should be aware of all military secrets. Therefore I have certain information that I would like to communicate to the Armed Services Com.

I was the Team Chief, Special Projects Team, Imagery Interpretation Branch of the Combined Intelligence Center Vietnam. In this capacity I worked on what was known as the French Leave Area of Cambodia. I planned photo reconnaissance reports on the results. Certain areas of this area became restricted and only certain individuals became briefed on [Operation] MENU. MENU was further broken down into areas called Supper, Dinner, etc.

It is this program, MENU, that I will address myself to.

My team furnished information to [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] 32 Targets for the bombing of MENU.

J2 Targets planned the bombing from information received from the Special Projects Team. The Air Force namely 12th RITTS photographed the areas and then a special team of photo interpreters comprised of Army and Air Force personnel read out the results. I observed the reading out of this photography then I hand-carried the resulting reports to my boss, Major Terry Gladfelter, U.S. Army and to the U.S. Director of [Combined Intelligence Center, Vietnam], Col. Ed Dizalio, U.S. Marines.

I saw on several occasions where possible hospitals had been bombed. On one occasion I was told by the expert photographers that included Sergeant E-7 Bill Dankam, U.S. Army, that a particular bunker complex was in fact a hospital. On another occasion I observed a Red Cross on a building that was partially destroyed by bombs.

Special film was used for bomb damage assessment. The resulting photography was called colored little lookers.

As far as personal reactions to the bombing go I found that all individuals concerned felt it was a good thing. After all the Communists were infiltrating through Cambodia accomplishing something worthwhile. The fact that it might be illegal never occurred to us.

As far as the reactions to the hospitals being bombed the prevailing attitude seemed to be that it was a good thing since, after all, the enemy might be trying to fool us. Anyway we generally felt that Brother Charles (short for North Vietnamese  Soldier) deserved anything he got. I can recall that on one assessment one individual was particularly happy that in fact we did bomb a hospital.

About my feelings toward this whole thing I must say that I feel that we had no business being involved in Southeast Asia. I think it is utterly tragic that 45,000 Americans lost their lives there. I think we were tricked and cajoled into becoming more involved there. And I think the South Vietnamese for a long time relied upon us to fight their war. I think the war was essentially a Civil War. I just wish I knew what to say for my fallen comrades—the injustice of it all. How does one simple soldier tell the world of his profound sorrow at what happened? I cannot.

Very respectfully,
Captain, U.S. Army, Retired.

[A hat tip to Greg Grandin at The Nation for pointing out the existence of this letter]

The YPG, FSA, US collaboration and “double standards”

(Cross-posted from here)

An increasingly popular point being made on the part of pro-FSA Tweeters is that anti-imperialists are hypocrites for embracing the YPG while maligning the FSA, despite the fact that both forces collaborate and receive aid from US forces in the region. This argument is intellectually dishonest for the following two reasons:

1.) Anti-imperialist commenters have expressed cynicism about the US’ assistance to the YPG by pointing out that it is only being done to co-opt the Syrian Kurds into the anti-Assad cause [1]. Indeed, Reuters reported a year ago that before granting them aid to fight ISIS the Western powers sought to “clarify [the Syrian Kurds’] relationship to President Bashar al-Assad” [2]. It is also perfectly reasonable to assume that the conditions attached to Western help would further compromise the PYD’s stated commitment to a progressive societal structure. One can’t help but be reminded of the US intervention in Haiti in the 1990s, in which the US military “restored” to power the progressive, democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on the condition he abide by certain neo-liberal reforms and allow rightist thugs to be integrated into the country’s security forces [3]. It should be remembered that the US was behind much of Haiti’s right-wing unrest [4] and exploited the situation to get more progressive elements in line. There is a clear precedent for creating a proxy force and then using it to extract concessions while claiming to oppose said proxy force.

2.) The FSA is represented abroad by liberal and neoconservative expats with deep connections to both the “soft power” USAID/NED/NGO complex and the “hard power” Western defense and intelligence establishment [5]. In Syria itself, it is largely composed of reactionary Islamists who receive massive amounts of aid from the US, the Gulf States and Turkey [6]. While there are undoubtedly some activists and even armed rebels fighting Assad’s forces with noble goals in mind, it is increasingly difficult to find progressive elements at the forefront of the actual fighting. In addition to being reactionary, the FSA’s end goal of regime change in Syria serves US (and Israeli) goals by removing a relatively independent, militarily strong Arab government from power [7].

TL;DR: The US collaborates with the YPG because it hopes to co-opt it against Assad and possibly water down its progressive ideology. The US collaborates with the FSA because it is a somewhat reliable proxy army against a counter-hegemonic regime. Thus, the YPG can be supported by anti-imperialists in so far as it remains independent from US influence and designs while the FSA serves US power through-and-through.


[1] As’ad AbuKhalil, “Who will win in Kobane (`Ayn Al-`Arab)?” [m], 19 October 2014.

[2] Tom Perry, “West widens contacts with Syria’s Kurds but suspicion remains” [m], Reuters, 8 September 2014.

[3] For US coercion of Aristide into accepting neo-liberal adjustments see: William Blum, “Haiti, 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” [m] in Killing Hope, 2004. For US collaboration with right-wing paramilitaries while occupying Haiti see: Allan Nairn, “Haiti under the gun: How US Intelligence has been excercising crowd control,” Nation, 8 Jan 1996. Also recommended is this entire Twitter thread I made.

[4] Blum, “Haiti, 1986-1994.” Tim Weiner, “Key Haiti leaders said to have been in the C.I.A.’s pay” [m], New York Times, 1 November 1993. Allan Nairn, “Occupation Haiti: The eagle is landing,” Nation, 3 Oct 1994. Allan Nairn, “Our man in FRAPH: Behind Haiti’s paramilitaries,” Nation, 24 Oct 1994.

[5] Charlie Skelton, “The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?” [m], Guardian, 12 July 2012.

[6] David Mizner, “Don’t blame Islam: Al-Qaeda and ISIS are products of US and Saudi imperialism” [m], Jacobin, 30 January 2005.

[7] An early draft of a Pentagon planning document in the early 1990s spilled the beans on the US’ desire to “maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role,” quoted in: Patrick Tyler, “U.S. strategy plan calls for insuring no rivals develop” [m], New York Times, 8 March 2015. Recently, Israeli figures have been much more open in expressing the benefits of an Assad-free Middle East: Gilad Sharon, “Who needs Bashar Assad?” [m], YNet News, 12 May 2015. For evidence that Israel desires the Balkanization of its surrounding Arab states: Israel Shahak, The Zionist Plan for the Middle East [m], Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982.

The “warrior class” and our narrow national discourse surrounding the military

The LA Times has a moderately interesting piece today about the supposed “separation” of members of the US military and their families from the rest of the US population. The following points are made:

  • “Less than one-half of 1% of the U.S. population is in the armed services today–the lowest rate since World War II”
  • “As many as 80% of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military”
  • “[Service members and their families] often live in relative isolation — behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them”
  • “49% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states”

Some notable excerpts include the following:

“I am well-aware that many Americans, especially our elite classes, consider the military a bit like a guard dog,” said Lt. Col. Remi M. Hajjar, a professor of behavioral sciences and leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“They are very thankful for our protection, but they probably wouldn’t want to have it as a neighbor,” he said. “And they certainly are not going to influence or inspire their own kids to join that pack of Rottweilers to protect America.”

Yet only a 65-mile drive north of Ft. Bragg, in the college town of Carrboro near Durham, the military is a universe away. Many there have no connection save for the brief moment of gratitude and embarrassment they feel when they see a man in uniform at the airport, missing a leg.

“We glorify the military in this country in a way that’s really weird,” said Eric Harmeling, 21, a Carrboro-area resident who often argues with his father, a politically conservative minister, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s like the Roman legions…. It’s like we’re being told to kneel down and worship our heroes.”

“So many people give you lip service and offer fake sympathy. Their sons and daughters aren’t in the military, so it’s not their war. It’s something that happens to other people,” said Phillip Ruiz, 46, a former Army staff sergeant in Tennessee who was wounded twice during three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Douglas Pearce, a former Army lieutenant who fought in Afghanistan and is now a marriage and family counselor in Nashville, said civilians seem to think they “can assuage their guilt with five seconds in the airport.”

“What they’re saying is, ‘I’m glad you served so that I didn’t have to, and my kids won’t have to.'”

A 2013 survey by three West Point professors found that the estrangement between the military and civilian worlds is especially pronounced among young people. Many civilians born between 1980 and 2000 “want no part of military life and want it separate from civilian life,” according to sociologist Morten G. Ender, one of the study’s authors.

On the other side, military recruits in that age range had become “anti-civilian in some ways,” the survey found.

“I am irritated by the apathy, lack of patriotic fervor, and generally anti-military and anti-American sentiment” of other students, an unidentified 20-year-old ROTC cadet told the authors. “I often wonder if my forefathers were as filled with disgust and anger when they thought of the people they were fighting to protect as I am.”

So we are presented with a social divide between the supposed “warrior class” and the rest of us. We are presented with some of the same cliches about a civilian population that knows little about sacrifice and takes the men and women who fight on their behalf for granted. Yet the article overwhelmingly buys into the notion that the US military’s main focus is on defending “us”–the American people–and moral objections to going overseas to kill people in order to preserve American global dominance (which is the real reason for most US military expeditions these days) are non-existent.

If people object to the US military, the implication is that they are classicists of a sort. Deep down, all these weak-kneed liberals acknowledge the necessity of the US military but don’t feel any real connection to them or even look down upon them. I am sure that this is true in many cases. But the article neglects to give a voice to those who would identify the false premise underlying the entire spectacle of American Troop worship: that the military is primarily there to protect us. In the current global reality the American homeland is safer then it has ever been from any type of direct military assault. The military serves as a means of upholding a global system of capitalism in which the US has the last say. Regimes and political movements that fight for an alternative system of economic development are systematically isolated, sabotaged and assaulted (e.g. Vietnam, Cuba and Nicaragua) As we see now, even counter-hegemonic regimes and movements that do not pose a direct threat to global capitalism but to US dominance of global capitalism find themselves under attack as well (e.g. Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Syria).

The article also totally ignores the suffering US military interventions induce on foreign populations and any related ethical dimensions to this. It doesn’t even acknowledge those inconvenient feelings of guilt US soldiers and veterans often have about killing and injuring people. It’s bad enough the article doesn’t address the ethical objections to starting and fighting US-waged wars, it’s inexcusable that it doesn’t even address the brutal means the US fights its wars.

Pieces like this are misleading in that they portray a cultural divide where there should be a moral one. I have no doubt there are liberal elitists who look down upon US soldiers for all the wrong reasons while benefiting from the US’ global dominance enabled by the military. But there are also those who recognize the US military as both the main tool for US-led imperialism and plunder and a killing machine that utilizes massive, brute force on behalf of US capital.

Beyond the neocons: Those assigning blame for Iraq War must consider role played by liberal multilateralists and realists

For many who look with horror at the carnage visited upon Iraq since the US invasion in March 2003, there seems to be a fixation on neoconservatives that often times appears deflective. Of course, it is perfectly reasonable to look at the role played by neoconservative ideology and its promotion of unilateral military action against purported “rogue states” and agitation to unparalleled US domination of global affairs. At the same time, the resulting analysis should not obscure or minimize the role played by other prominent ideologies among the US diplomatic establishment in greasing the skids for the US invasion.

The Blame The Neocons Only narrative tends to focus on a cabal-like group of figureheads who are commonly associated with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Individuals who would later go on to serve high positions in the administration that invaded Iraq–such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton–all signed an open letter to President Clinton on behalf of PNAC that urged a harder line against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Focusing on these groups and individuals is useful when determining why the administration of George W. Bush felt it had the right to launch a full-scale military invasion of Iraq explicitly against the wishes of the UN and many of the US’ largest allies. What it fails to fully account for is the reason relations with Iraq had deteriorated so severely that regime change through overwhelming unilateral force was even a consideration, let alone a preferred course of action.

The administration of George HW Bush was overwhelmingly realist in its orientation towards foreign policy. In its approach to Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait, it made much fanfare of its  multilateralism in building a large coalition and seeking UN approval for military action. In Bush’s January 1991 national address announcing the start of the Persian Gulf War, he declared that: “we have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order–a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations […] an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.’s founders.” Such an appeal to international cooperation makes it easy to contrast his presidency favorably with that of his son. But it would be incredibly misleading to suggest that his administration’s policy towards Saddam Hussein’s regime–before and after the Gulf War–was based on international consensus. In word and deed, the presidency of Bush 41 planted the seeds for Bush 43’s invasion.

Consider the fact that Saddam Hussein’s numerous offers of a conditional withdraw from Kuwait were immediately rebuffed or ignored. The official stance of the US following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was that it would be unacceptable if Hussein managed to gain “even a scintilla of profit–a Kuwaiti island or minor border adjustments” from the crisis. The US also rejected any role fellow Arab states could play in mediating the dispute between the Iraqi regime and Kuwait’s rulers. The Bush administration stubbornly refused Saddam Hussein any “face-saving way of getting out of Kuwait” up to the time the first bombs fell.

As William Blum has pointed out, Iraq had very real grievances against Kuwait and other Gulf monarchies:

[The Gulf War] had its origins in the brutal 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran.  Iraq charged that while it was locked in battle, Kuwait was engaged in stealing $2.4 billion of oil from the Rumaila oil field that ran beneath the vaguely-defined Iraq-Kuwait border and was claimed in its entirety by Iraq; that Kuwait had built military and other structures on Iraqi territory; and worst of all, that immediately after the war ended, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates began to exceed the production quotas established by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), flooding the oil market, and driving prices down.  Iraq was heavily strapped and deeply in debt because of the long war, and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein declared this policy was an increasing threat to his country – “economic war”, he called it, pointing out that Iraq lost a billion dollars a year for each drop of one dollar in the oil price. Besides compensation for these losses, Hussein insisted on possession of the two Gulf islands which blocked Iraq’s access to the Gulf as well as undisputed ownership of the Rumaila oilfield.

Career US diplomat James Atkins has gone as far as saying that “our nightmare in the last days was that Saddam would withdraw, then we wouldn’t be able to go forward with our grand plans to destroy Iraq and the infrastructure.” Fortunately for the US military establishment, Iraqi forces remained in Kuwait past the deadline set by the UN Security Council and the US could proceed to destroy Iraq’s military and civilian infrastructure without reproach.

The Persian Gulf War succeeded in forcing Iraqi forces to leave Kuwait and also in decimating Iraq’s highly advanced civilian infrastructure. A report by a UN fact-finding mission from March 1991 stated plainly that “nothing that we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which has now befallen the country” and that the “near-apocalyptic results” of the war had sent Iraq into a “pre-industrial age.” The war aggravated the problems caused by comprehensive UN sanctions, which were previously imposed following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

The report noted that the price of basic goods skyrocketed by 1,000% and that government provided rations were running desperately low. Since Iraq had typically imported about 70% of its food needs, the sanctions had an extremely detrimental effect on civilian population’s ability to get adequate nutrition. Domestic food production through agriculture and livestock were further degraded. Farmers were dependent on imports of seeds and multiple seed storage facilities were destroyed during the war. Similarly, livestock had been dependent on imports for feed and the war apparently destroyed Iraq’s “sole laboratory producing veterinary vaccines.”

The US bombing campaign also damaged 17 out of 20 of the country’s electric power plants, with 11 of them being rendered irreparable. Even four months after the war ended, Iraq was producing only 20% to 25% of its pre-war electrical output. This in turn deeply compromised Iraq’s ability to purify and distribute its drinking water, treat its sewage and refrigerate its food. The UN report estimated at the time that the supply of clean water in Baghdad per person was about 10% of what it had been previously. Without operable sewage plants, Iraqis had no choice but to start dumping raw sewage into their rivers, effectively polluting their main source of drinking water.

The immediate, cumulative effect of the draconian sanctions and the US aerial campaign against Iraq’s infrastructure was indeed nothing short of catastrophic. A Harvard University medical study team estimated that 170,000 Iraqi children would die by the end of 1991 due to US policy. The study cited increased epidemics of ” gastroenteritis, cholera and typhoid” as among the chief causes of death.

The Washington Post revealed months later that inducing massive suffering among Iraq’s civilian population was an intentional strategy of collective punishment. By targeting electric power plants, transportation infrastructure, water utilities and food storage facilities, the US hoped to put pressure on Iraqi civilians since it believed they were at least partially complicit in the invasion of Kuwait.  One senior Air Force officer told the Post that “The definition of innocents gets to be a little bit unclear […] they do live there, and ultimately the people have some control over what goes on in their country.” Another Air Force officer claimed that the targeting of civilian infrastructure was done to “accelerate the effects of the sanctions.”

Further evidence that the US foresaw the humanitarian crisis in Iraq can be found in a Defense Intelligence Agency document from January 1991 entitled “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities”:

Iraq depends on importing-specialized equipment–and some chemicals to purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish to saline. With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent [UN] sanctions to import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease.

Many argue that all Iraq needed to do to get the sanctions lifted was cooperate fully with UN weapons inspections and destroy all of its remaining WMD. However, public statements from a couple months after the war make it clear that the US wanted to keep the sanctions squeeze on the Iraqi people as long as Saddam Hussein remained in power:

  • Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates, May 7: “Saddam is discredited and cannot be redeemed. His leadership will never be accepted by the world community and, therefore, Iraqis will pay the price while he remains in power. […] All possible sanctions will be maintained until he is gone. […] Any easing of sanctions will be considered only when there is a new government.”
  • State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher, May 8: “There will be no normal relationships with the United States or many other countries by Iraq as long as Saddam is in power. The President said the sanctions are going to stay there as far as we are concerned.”
  • President Bush, May 20: “My view is we don’t want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.”
  • Secretary of State James Baker, May 22: “We can have a formal cease-fire but no genuine peace with the government of Iraq so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power. […] We will never normalize relations with Iraq so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.  That means maintaining UN sanctions in place so long as Saddam remains in power.”
  • President Bush, September 23: “It is the United States view that we must keep the United Nations sanctions in place as long as [Saddam Hussein] remains in power.”

In pursuing this policy of permanent hostility to Hussein’s regime, the US denied it any real incentive to fully comply with UN weapons inspections. Saddam Hussein’s intransigence thus became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Just before entering the office of the presidency, Bill Clinton made a statement suggesting that some form of reconciliation with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a possibility:

I am a Baptist. I believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior.

The very next day he appeared to move away from this position at a news conference in a confusing and contradictory statement. He asserted on the one hand that “I will evaluate what I do based on his conduct” but in the very next sentence stated that “I have no intention of normalizing relations with him.”

Much of the Clinton administration’s foreign policy was marked by a facade of nuance and smart diplomacy, its policy towards Iraq was no different. At the United Nations, his administration continued blocking exemptions from the sanctions needed to repair Iraq’s devastated infrastructure and allow its people to be provided with the basic necessities of life. This was much to the annoyance of other members of the UN Security Council, such as France, China and Russia. In fact, because the sanctions imposed by the Security Council had no end date, they would go on until the council approved of yet another resolution explicitly lifting them. Since the US, as a permanent member of the Security Council, could utilize its veto power to block any resolution from going forward, lifting the sanctions was rendered impossible as long as the US objected to it. This became known as the “reverse veto.”

In March 1997, Madeleine Albright rather bluntly restated US policy: “we do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted.” She also engaged in further self-fulfilling prophecy by saying that “the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein’s intentions will never be peaceful.” Albright would later note half-heartedly that the regime change policy “appeared” to interfere with Iraq’s motivation to fully cooperate with the UN. In November 1997, after Iraq briefly ejected UN weapons inspectors, Clinton said “what he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts.”

In late 1998, US Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act with bipartisan support and President Clinton signed it into law on October 31. The law further dedicated the US to the cause of regime change in Iraq and authorized funding for opposition groups opposed to Saddam Hussein’s rule. On December 19, Clinton declared that “so long as Saddam remains in power he will remain a threat to his people, his region and the world.”

In a February 2004 article for Mother Jones, Seth Ackerman elaborated how many of the false and misleading WMD claims offered by George W. Bush’s administration originated in the Clinton administration to justify the sanctions policy. Ackerman recalled a speech given by Clinton in 1998 that utilized the story of Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and government defector who claimed to the UN and the CIA that Iraq was “cheating” the weapons inspectors, to justify his claim that “Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions.” It was not until early 2003 that some long suppressed–yet incredibly important–details in the transcript of Kamel’s interview with Western intelligence agencies and UN inspectors appeared in a short story by Newsweek‘s John Barry. In the transcript, Kamel stated that “all weapons–biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed” in the summer following the Gulf War. An August 1995 CIA report (declassified in redacted form in 1996) reiterated some of his claims, making it clear that the Clinton administration must have been aware of all his claims. While Kamel also stated that this destruction was for the purpose of duping UN inspectors so that Iraq could resume its WMD program later on, it is perfectly clear that the Clinton administration was incredibly deceptive by selectively revealing Kamel’s assertions to the US public. As Ackerman described it:

As of 1995, Iraq was left with practically nothing from its past programs. Virtually all its old dual-use equipment was now under U.N. monitoring, and, as Kamel told the U.N., the regime’s WMD stockpiles were destroyed. While Iraq could not be declared officially “disarmed” until the inspectors had accounted for every detail of its byzantine prewar weapons programs, in practice even the most hawkish inspectors admitted that once the monitoring system was up and running, Iraq lost its entire ability to rebuild the arsenal that it had destroyed in 1991.

Ultimately, US “containment” policy through sanctions ended up killing an estimated 1.7 million Iraqis. By accepting this “price” as worthy of being paid (in the terminology of Robert Gates and Madeleine Albright) in the name of thwarting Saddam, sanctions advocates casually legitimized the reasoning neoconservatives would later use to justify civilian deaths caused by the US invasion and occupation. By repeatedly demonizing Saddam Hussein as an irrational actor who only understood the logic of massive force, they paved the way for neoconservatives to assert that only a US invasion could end his purported threat to world peace.

In the months after the US invaded Iraq and the search for WMDs came up dry, it is perhaps warranted that pro-war conservatives began circulating quotes from prominent Democrats vilifying Iraq’s government and calling for various actions against it, even if none of them explicitly endorsed the massive US invasion that took place or the unilateral means by which the Bush administration waged it.

In conclusion, it is deceptive to portray many of the same figures who led the charge for regime change in Iraq as favorable contrasts to the neoconservatives. Robert “Iraqis will pay the price” Gates is today seen as a clear-eyed non-partisan, James “so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power” Baker a wise old realist and Madeleine “we think the price is worth it” Albright a smart multilateralist. Yet all three of these individuals were willing to commit the US to a stubborn policy of regime change that costed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and eventually enabled the the neocons to realize their dream of a unilateral invasion.

As the US moves into another presidential election season, questions will inevitably raised about Hillary Clinton’s vote as Senator to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. I posit that such concerns, while valid and necessary, are only superficial without a much deeper look at the imperialist rot that rests deep within US political culture. It is not enough to object to the US directly invading Iraq without UN approval. We must be willing to ask why the US feels the need to impose its will on Third World countries, even when it does so without overtly violating international norms.

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

The real problem with Obama’s remarks


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.

Majority of recovered Islamic State cartridges in Iraq show ammo was made in US

Center for Public Integrity:

An independent arms monitoring group has collected evidence that fighters in the Middle Eastern extremist group known as the Islamic State, labeled a “network of death” by President Obama, are using weapons and ammunition manufactured in at least 21 different countries, including China, Russia, and the United States. The group’s report, released Oct. 6, indicates that the Islamic State’s relatively newly-formed force has had little difficulty tapping into the huge pool of armaments fueling the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, supplied not only by the world’s big powers but also by up-and-coming exporters such as Sudan.

Who made Islamic State ammo recovered in Iraq

See also UPI, 3 June 2005:

U.S. intelligence officers are reporting that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 92 pistols, but the pistols seem to have had their serial numbers erased. The numbers do not appear to have been physically removed; the pistols seem to have come off a production line without any serial numbers. Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA. Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as U.S. authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.

AFP, 2 August 2007:

The US government cannot account for 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to an investigation carried out by the Government Accountability Office. According to the July 31 report, the military “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armour and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces.”

Inter Press Service, 23 September 2008:

Clandestine gun suppliers, funded by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, have flooded Iraq with a million weapons since 2003, charges a new Amnesty International investigation. Because of faulty or non-existent government tracking systems, many of those guns have gone missing, and some have turned up in the hands of insurgents. […] Over the last five years since the invasion of Iraq, [Taos Industries] has received seven of the 47 weapons supply contracts listed by Amnesty, worth 95.1 million dollars out of the 217 million dollars total. […] Amnesty investigators have also uncovered documents that suggest that several of Taos’s subcontractors were either operating illegally or had been listed by the United Nations for smuggling weapons. […] In May 2005 the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, revealed that Taos had supplied thousands of Italian-made Beretta 92S pistols that were among the weapons seized in Iraq from al Qaeda operatives responsible for killing civilians. The Beretta pistols had been dispatched in July 2004 from Britain to the U.S. military base in Baghdad. An Italian court investigation the next year questioned the shadowy methods used in shipping the guns from Italy to Britain.