Anthony Piel writes:
While the American public continues to be distracted by the Trump administration’s assassination of an Iranian government official (itself a violation of international law), Trump continues his war on the very concepts of human rights and international law.
As Rafia Zakaria recently pointed out in “The Death of Human Rights,” Trump has continued to crumble the edifice of human rights that began with the 1948 ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To do this, Trump has openly attacked the United Nations, NATO and the EU, as unnecessary international collaboration when a Trump/US unilateral diktat should suffice, with all other nations just falling in line.
Example: Recently, the UN Security Council watched, appalled, as the Trump delegation announced that the United States would no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law. In 2019, Trump woke up one morning and announced that he had “decided to give the Golan Heights to Israel.” (Problem, it wasn’t his to give.)
Now, with most Americans thoroughly distracted, Trump is quietly preparing his proposed US National Budget for 2020. The Trump administration is seeking a reduction in regular funding for the UN by 25 %, and still more for Peacekeeping and Family Planning, and is trying to persuade USAID and WHO to spend less attention and money on control of international communicable diseases, such as Malaria and Ebola.
Domestically, Trump would “privatize” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, if he could. He is further weakening regulation of land, water and air pollution, as well as protections for endangered species, human health, and survival of Planet Earth. Under Trump, even more federal and state funds will be diverted from public schools to private “religious” schools to promote their own religions (an unconstitutional purpose).
We all know, or should know, the obvious solution: Kick Trump and his political cronies and tax avoiding sycophants out of office, one way or the other. Trump is clearly “under equipped,” mentally and morally, for any job of responsibility in the US or anywhere else. Everything Trump has touched has turned into what Rachel Maddow and others have described as “cow puckey.”
If Trump is subsequently proven to have committed specific crimes, then investigate, prosecute, try, convict and sentence him, like every other citizen under the law. Finally, to paraphrase Trump himself, let us chant: “Lock HIM up !”
This is the issue which ought to lie at the heart of the upcoming presidential race but won’t. That Obama set out to follow the same disastrous “free trade” policies as Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton is beyond my comprehension. If Hillary lacks the guts to cut free from her husband and her corporate backers on TPP, the rest of us will be well and truly fornicated.
When Ronald Reagan came into office, as the result of 190 years of Hamilton’s plan, the United States was the world’s largest importer of raw materials; the world’s largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods; and the world’s largest creditor.
After 34 years of Reaganomics, we’ve completely flipped this upside down. We’ve become the world’s largest exporter of raw materials, the world’s largest importer of finished goods, and the world’s largest debtor. We now export raw materials to China, and buy from them manufactured goods. And we borrow from them to do it. Our trade debt right now stands at over $11 trillion, and it’s the principal reason why one-seventh of all assets in the United States are foreign-owned.
It has been plain to me for a long time that the biggest foreign threats to the security of United State do not come from such usual suspects as Iran, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and North Korea.
They come from inside our tent, not from out: from Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I’ll address Israel and Pakistan some other day, if I ever get around to it. For now Gary Brecher has done a pretty good job on Saudi Arabia at PandoDaily. Here’s an excerpt, but read it all here.
And of all their many skills, the one the Saudis have mastered most thoroughly is disruption. Not the cute tech-geek kind of disruption, but the real, ugly thing-in-itself. They don’t just “turn a blind eye” to young Saudi men going off to do jihad — they cheer them on. It’s a brilliant strategy that kills two very dangerous birds with one plane ticket. By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.
Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus just as they’re doing now in Syria. It’s a package deal — to get the money, you have to accept the Wahhabism and the volunteers. And it works. The Saudi package is usually resented at first, like it was by the Afghans who were outraged to be told they were “bad Muslims” by Saudi volunteers.
From the New York Times:
One year after the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh, many retailers that sold garments produced there or inside the Rana Plaza building that collapsed last spring are refusing to join an effort to compensate the families of the more than 1,200 workers who died in those disasters…
A handful of retailers — led by Primark, an Anglo-Irish company, and C&A, a Dutch-German company — are deeply involved in getting long-term compensation funds off the ground, one for Rana Plaza’s victims and one for the victims of the Tazreen fire, which killed 112 workers last Nov. 24.
But to the dismay of those pushing to create the compensation funds, neither Walmart, Sears, Children’s Place nor any of the other American companies that were selling goods produced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have agreed to contribute to the efforts.
Charles P. Pierce writes:
Empires make me nervous. Imperial policies — even the gentler ones, even the purely commercial ones, even by proxy, and even when they result in the death of one of the few indisputable madmen on the modern scene — make my skin itch. (It’s the Irish in me.)
As to the blessings of globalization in Africa, well, that continent has been globalized out of most of its wealth and more than a few of its people since long before people invented the hedge fund. Will they do better under Goldman Sachs than they did under the Belgians? (The Nigerian precedent is not encouraging.) Free trade is not democracy, and the latter is in no way an inevitable consequence of the former. I don’t see the arrival of consumer goods and/or the modern financial markets as doing much for the average Ugandan.…
Iraq and Afghanistan aside, we fight our wars by automation, hurling thunderbolts from beyond the horizon, like Jove. There’s something scarifying about that, especially when it’s aimed at an American citizen, and it kills his teenage son, and the people who threw the thunderbolts don’t even try to show us why these people had to die. For a long time, we had people who said that the reason we were sending the Army all over the world was because there wasn’t any draft. One of the most apt criticisms of the “war on terror” was that it was being conducted without engaging the entire country in the effort. Now, not only is the combat removed from the citizenry, it’s increasingly removed from soldiers. Some guy at a console in Kansas City is making war on Pakistan. That makes me nervous.
An occasionally reliable source in Stockholm tells me he called Ikea the other day to complain about a sofa that was insufficiently bland. The woman who answered spoke excellent Swedish with just a hint of an Appalachian accent. “My name is Moonbeam McSwine,” she said. “How may I help you?”
David Sirota reports on Alternet:
Buried in the Times report is the troubling story of why Ikea opened a plant in the United States in the first place. No, the decision wasn’t made to take advantage of superior workforce skills or productivity — positive attributes that once drove our manufacturing sector and built our middle class. Instead, it was made to exploit our decreasing wage levels and weak worker protections.
Though company factories in Sweden produce the same bookcases as the plant in Virginia, the Times notes that “the big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation (while) full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days” — and that doesn’t count the one-third of Danville workers who are paid even less because they are subcontracted through temp agencies.
Ikea’s exploitation motive evokes memories of General Electric’s Jack Welch. He famously said that in an era without strong international unions and with standards-free trade pacts, profit-maximizing companies would end up putting “every plant you own on a barge” and trolling the world for the lowest wages and workplace conditions, knowing they would no longer face tariff costs.
…whoever they are. From the New York Times:
In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves…
“There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,” a senior administration official said Wednesday…
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was last in Afghanistan in September, said the 2014 date made sense, because the Afghan Army and the police were scheduled to increase their numbers to 350,000, their goal, by 2013.
“It is far enough away to allow lots to happen, yet it is still close enough to debunk the myth of an indefinite foreign occupation of the country,” Mr. O’Hanlon said.
But Mr. Gates has said that the United States will nonetheless be in Afghanistan for many more years to come.
Pardon my cynicism, but does anyone else find President Obama’s weekend pep rally in Afghanistan a bit show-boat-y? Especially, coming as it did on the heels of a week-long spree of Presidential power-lifting? — health care reform, student loan help, underwater mortgage help and recess appointments.
And then, as we all know, nothing spells ‘presidential’ like parachuting into the front lines of America’s “War du Jour.” I could almost hear the Andrews Sisters singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” as back-up for Obama’s motivational moment with the troops before they start dying, in earnest, to make a point in Kandahar.
“The United States has made progress in the fight against al Qaeda and its allies. I know it’s not easy,” he said. “If I thought for a minute that America’s vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away.
“The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something … We keep at it. We persevere. And together, with our partners, we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.”
When I look at that be-camouflaged audience, all I can think of is “Why?” Why would anyone put a single one of those lives in harm’s way for something as dubious and irrational as a foothold in Afghanistan. These soldiers aren’t laying their lives on the line to make anyone safer — their very presence in Afghanistan makes them, and us, considerably more unsafe.
Non-partisan experts from all corners of the earth and many diverse disciplines have told us that, in compelling terms, for years now, but it has become increasingly clear that neither reason, nor prudence, not even survival instinct will dissuade the “powers that be” from replacing the Cold War with the Long War.
Al Qaeda has very effectively become the 21st century version of ‘dirty, rotten Commies.’ “Better Dead than Red” has been replaced with a fatwa on Terrorism, ensuring decades and generations of defense contracts, weapons development, arms sales, special ops, espionage and war games aimed at “making the world safe for democracy…”
Whenever I want to get an update on the Long War, I look to Tom Hayden who has been screaming into the wind about it for ages now (and for you old Hippies, yeah – that Tom Hayden). Just yesterday Hayden wrote an article for the LA Times that is a short, good read that will catch you up on the “Long War” concept if it has escaped your attention.
Basically, the Long War is an undeclared, undebated, largely undisclosed 80-year (give or take) war plan cooked up by the Pentagon and its neo-con fellow travelers and think tanks. The theater for the Long War is primarily the Middle East and South Asia or wherever else our Soldiers of Fortune see fit to lead us.
As taxpayers, we needn’t worry our little heads about any of this because our representatives in Congress don’t really have a role to play, outside of approving any and all defense budgets, supplemental, emergency and otherwise. Since that signatory function has become a political measure of patriotism, it is unlikely that outspoken constituents can have any impact.
If you are scratching your head, at this point, and saying ‘what the hell is she going on about?’ you’re in the right place, as far as DoD is concerned. You see, the Long War is less a war and more a state of mind that is being fed to the American psyche by slow-drip intravenous.
Here’s Hayden’s timeline:
The term ‘Long War’ was first applied to America’s post-9/11 conflicts in 2004 by Gen. John P. Abizaid, then head of U.S. Central Command, and by the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State, Gen. Richard B. Myers, in 2005.
According to David Kilcullen, a top counterinsurgency advisor to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and a proponent of the Long War doctrine, the concept was polished in “a series of windowless offices deep inside the Pentagon” by a small team that successfully lobbied to incorporate the term into the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the nation’s long-term military blueprint. President George W. Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union message that “our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy.”
The concept has quietly gained credence. Washington Post reporter-turned-author Thomas E. Ricks used The Long War as the title for the epilogue of his 2009 book on Iraq, in which he predicted that the U.S. was only halfway through the combat phase there.
It has crept into legal language. Federal Appeals Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a darling of the American right, recently ruled in favor of holding detainees permanently because otherwise, “each successful campaign of a long war would trigger an obligation to release Taliban fighters captured in earlier clashes.”
Among defense analysts, Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran who teaches at Boston University, is the leading critic of the Long War doctrine, criticizing its origins among a “small, self-perpetuating, self-anointed group of specialists” who view public opinion “as something to manipulate” if they take it into consideration at all.
Lovely! Already we see how one war can segue into another: as troops are drawn down from Iraq, troops swell in Afghanistan. Some “troops,” that we prefer not to speak of, are already at work in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Avenging Angels are poised to strike Iran, if Ahmadinejad doesn’t behave. Even Turkey is currently misbehaving, not to mention Israel…
An amorphous (or imaginary) “enemy” calls for untraditional tactics and boatloads of money to completely refit our own enormous military, as well as the foreign militaries that we are re-purposing and creating in our own image and likeness. Unfortunately, so far, we really suck at it…
One of the more ludicrous goals that the US has set as a measure of success in Afghanistan is to leave the country in the hands of a well-trained National Police force that will provide the safety and security necessary for the flowering of a law-abiding Afghan society into a well-armed, fully compliant partner in US control of the Middle East.
Never mind that currently there are neither laws nor a judicial system in place to support police activities — all things in good time. When the laws are written and the courts established, prisons have been built and judges appointed, there will be a crack police force in place to enforce those laws. All Afghans will surely rejoice when their thousand years old de-centralized system of tribal justice is replaced with a top-down well-policed system. No doubt, tribal warlords will be happy to relinquish their local power for the sake of modernization.
The notion of the Afghan National Police program defies reason in so many well-documented ways that it boggles the mind that, eight years and $7 billion dollars later, sane people would countenance renewing contracts with Dumb and Dumber, Inc. (Xe aka Blackwater and/or DynCorp) for another $1 billion whack at this losing proposition. Unless, of course, the architects of the Long War find it expedient to create impossible goals to keep us interminably engaged in the region and supporting that military-industrial complex which is currently America’s only ‘booming business’ and major export.
I’m no military expert but I do know a thing or two about business management and I’m certain that, without an endless flow of taxpayer dollars, this dog of a project would have been written off ages ago by any self-respecting private or publicly-owned business.
A joint team of Defense and State Department Inspectors General wrote a lengthy (and fairly scathing) analysis of the situation in 2006. That investigation found that the contractors hired (DynCorp) were ill-equipped to do the job (some of the trainers’ police backgrounds were as campus security guards) and that the State Department was doing an epically bad job of managing the contracts. There were essentially no stated contract requirements and virtually no oversight – just blank checks and free rein.
Unfortunately, this program is not only a fiasco; it can be argued that it is actually colossally counterproductive to the US mission in Afghanistan (if there is such a thing). As Pratap Chatterjee reported on TomDispatch.com:
The Obama administration is in a fix: it believes that, if it can’t put at least 100,000 trained police officers on Afghan streets and into the scattered hamlets that make up the bulk of the country, it won’t be able to begin a draw-down of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by the middle of next year.”
The Obama administration’s strategy for the Afghan police is to increase numbers, enlarge the ‘train and equip’ program, and engage the police in the fight against the Taliban, says Robert Perito, an expert on police training at the United States Institute of Peace and the author of a new book, The Police in War. “This approach has not worked in the past, and doing more of the same will not achieve success.”
When it comes to police training, the use of private contractors is not unusual — and neither is failure. North Carolina-based Xe has, in fact, been training the Afghan border police for more than two years, and Virginia-based DynCorp has been doing the same for the Afghan uniformed police for more than seven years now. Nonetheless, the mismanagement of the $7 billion spent on police training over the last eight years, partly attributed to lax U.S. State Department oversight, has left the country of 33 million people with a strikingly ineffective and remarkably corrupt police force. Its terrible habits and reputation have led the inhabitants of many Afghan communities to turn to the Taliban for security.
“There are some parts of Afghanistan where the last thing people want to see is the police showing up,” Brigadier General Gary O’Brien, former deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, told the Canadian Press news agency in March 2007. “They are part of the problem. They do not provide security for the people — they are the robbers of the people.”
Seven years and $7 billion of taxpayers’ money later, at a June 2008 discussion at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Congressman John Tierney summed up findings on the 433 Afghan National Police units of that moment this way: “Zero are fully capable, three percent are capable with coalition support, four percent are only partially capable, 77 percent are not capable at all, and 68 percent are not formed or not reporting.”
That dismal result did not come flying unexpectedly out of the blue, either. As Chatterjee reports:
“A prevalent view, even among some international police, is that Afghanistan is unready for civilian policing and holds that the police must remain a military force while insecurity lasts,” writes Tonita Murray, a former director general of the Canadian Police College, who worked as an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Interior in 2005. “If such a view were to prevail, only military solutions for security sector reform would be considered, and Afghanistan would be caught in a vicious circle of using force against force without employing other approaches to secure stability and peace…”
Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, head of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, admitted that police training has been a train wreck since the toppling of the Taliban almost nine years ago. “We weren’t doing it right. The most important thing is to recruit and then train police [before deployment]. It is still beyond my comprehension that we weren’t doing that.”
The realization that giving illiterate, drug-prone young men a uniform, badge, and gun (as well as very little money and no training) was a recipe for corruption and disaster is certainly a first step. But how to withdraw the 95% of the Afghan police force that is still incapable of basic policing for months of desperately needed training in a country with no prior history of such things? That turns out to be a conundrum, even for President Obama.
If the Pentagon does not dramatically alter the current training scheme, it doesn’t look good for either governance or peace in Afghanistan. Yet the likelihood remains low indeed that Pentagon officials will take the advice of a chorus of police experts offering critical commentary on the mess that is the police training program there.
Instead, it’s likely to be more of the same, which means more private contracting of police training and further disaster. Bizarrely enough, the Pentagon has given the Space and Missile Defense Command Contracting Office in Huntsville, Alabama, the task of deciding between DynCorp and Xe for that new billion-dollar training contract. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the French say: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Rumors about collateral damage are no longer solely the province of “bleeding heart liberals,” anonymous sources or anti-war politicians. ‘Straight from the horse’s mouth’ we have this incredible admission from Gen. McChrystal to no less than The New York Times (where some neocon gatekeeper was clearly out to lunch):
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” [my emphasis] said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.
Failure to reduce checkpoint and convoy shootings, known in the military as “escalation of force” episodes, has emerged as a major frustration for military commanders who believe that civilian casualties deeply undermine the American and NATO campaign in Afghanistan.
Well, General, if you think that’s frustrating, imagine the “frustration” of the dying and maimed innocents and their families and loved ones. To make the point McChrystal-clear, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall (the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan and a trainer in the same session) added that “Many of the detainees at the military prison at Bagram Air Base joined the insurgency after the shootings of people they knew. There are stories after stories about how these people are turned into insurgents. Every time there is an escalation of force we are finding that innocents are being killed.”
And then, of course, there are the recent inconvenient revelations of one Jerome Starkey, an Afghanistan-based reporter and an eyewitness to atrocities committed by Coalition forces, followed by a fairly bungling campaign to deny and discredit Starkey’s report.
Over the past few months, Starkey exposed two incidents where NATO initially claimed to have engaged and killed insurgents, when they’d in fact killed civilians, including school children and pregnant women. In both cases, when confronted with eye-witness accounts obtained by Starkey that clearly rebutted NATO’s initial claims, NATO resisted publicly recanting.
In the first case, NATO officials told him they no longer believed that the raid would have been justified if they’d known what they now know, but no official would consent to direct attribution for this admission.
In the second case, NATO went so far as to attempt to damage Starkey’s credibility by telling other Kabul-based journalists that they had proof he’d misquoted ISAF spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith. When Starkey demanded a copy of the recording, NATO initially ignored him and eventually admitted that no recording existed. NATO only admitted their story was false in a retraction buried several paragraphs deep in a press release that led with an attack on Starkey’s credibility.
Get used to it, though, 80 years of Long War can’t be conducted without casualties and since the “enemy” is such a shape-shifter, well … mistakes happen. On the bright side, evidently, it’s now OK to shoot an “amazing number of people” who don’t pose a threat, if you’re convinced they are Taliban, or al Qaeda or something like that…
In the 1970s and 1980s the tiny country of Uruguay was a military dictatorship ruled by sadists and murderers. Dissenters were tortured for years in military jails. Those who survived were next sent to a nightmare of a prison called Libertad, or Liberty.
The name was not a joke. Liberty Prison was a lab experiment in which words might mean their opposite, clocks kept different and constantly changing time, calendars were inaccurate, lights were manipulated so that days would shorten or lengthen unaccountably, meals would arrive at odd intervals or not at all, and behavior that was punished on Tuesday would be rewarded on Wednesday. If indeed it had been a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
This house of mirrors had been designed by behavioral psychologists, and was carried out under their direction. And the meaninglessness had meaning. From Lawrence Wechsler’s 1998 book, A Miracle, a Universe:
Major A. Maciel, who was a director of Libertad, observed at one point, regarding the prisoners under his charge, “We didn’t get rid of them when we had the chance, and one day we’ll have to let them go, so we’ll have to take advantage of the time we have left to drive them mad.”
No matter what creatures like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Addington may say or even believe, the goal of torture is only incidentally to elicit information. What, then were the masters of Uruguay really after with their physical and psychological tortures? Lawrence Wechsler, again, writing in the New Yorker 20 years ago:
Eduardo Galeano, the noted Uruguayan writer, provided me with a characteristically terse, aphoristic reply: “In Uruguay, people were in prison so prices could be free.”
Several other people I spoke with in Montevideo concurred, explaining that one of the main reasons for the military’s repression was to enable the generals to hand the country’s economy over to their “Chicago boys” — neoliberal economic technocrats, many of them trained at the University of Chicago under the monetarist influence of Milton Friedman, who prescribe an unfettered marketplace, with a minimum of government interference, as the cure for most of the world’s economic ills.
These economists generally oppose protective tariffs, social entitlements, minimum-wage standards, government safety-and-health regulations — the kind of things on behalf of which unions, for example, might be expected to struggle.
So what were our own torturers and psychologists in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib really after? Are there parallels? Divergences? What economic philosophy has been forced on Iraq, with what results? What is the point of “mosaic intelligence” as opposed to “actionable intelligence” of the Jack Bauer variety?
Contrast and compare.
Before you buy another pair of Hanes underwear, perhaps it would be helpful to learn what 11 year old Halima does in one of the factories that makes Hanes underwear. This is the price of globalization. The next time you need to buy underwear, remember this video.
Maybe we men should just follow an old trend from the feminist movement of the 1960s and go underwearless until these factories clean up their act and pay fair wages and eliminate child labor from their factories. It’s time to liberate these children and time to liberate the CEO’s and executives from their jobs at the companies responsible for allowing these types of brutal labor conditions that were largely eliminated in this country one hundred years ago by decent and honorable men who have largely disappeared from American corporate management. They all aim for low cost and will stop at nothing to get it.
And Wal-Mart is likewise responsible since they are likely the largest seller of this product in America and are continually calling on their producers to cut prices. I suppose if it means abusing children to accomplish that goal, the evil people in Bentonville, Arkansas are oblivious to the problem. I'm boycotting both companies. Won’t you join me?
There are many more videos on YouTube revealing child abuse in factories producing products used in this country and I’ll be putting many more of them up in the months ahead. Our wanted for child abuse posters should include CEO’s and executives who have allowed these conditions to exist and we need to plaster them all over the neighborhoods in which these ogres live.