The “new” ceasefire in Syria seems a lot like the one from earlier this year. This time, according to John Kerry, the Syrian government has to ask permission from the US before it bombs rebels in the country. In exchange the US has agreed (or not, depending on which official you listen to) to finally demand that the rebels it backs and arms separate themselves from al-Qaeda. While any cessation of hostilities is good, especially for civilians caught up in the tragedy, this agreement does not tackle the real underlying issues in Syria. Can it hold? We consider the possibilities in today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:
Snowden is a helluva movie, kicking an audience’s ass on a number of levels. I had a chance to see the film last night at a preview event; it opens everywhere on September 16. Go see it.
On one level the film presents Snowden’s story as a political thriller. A brave but frightened man, certain he is doing the right thing but worried if he can pull it off, smuggles some of the NSA’s most secret information out of a secure facility. He makes contact with skeptical journalists in Hong Kong, convinces them of the importance of what he has to say, and then goes on the run from a U.S. government out to arrest, or, possibly assassinate, him. In interviews Stone has made clear that he has dramatized and/or altered some events, and that his film is not a documentary. It does keep you on the edge of your beliefs, watching a story you know as if you don’t.
As a teenager, I read Joe Haldeman’s book, The Forever War. The title intrigued, as did the interstellar setting. Haldeman’s soldiers are caught up in a conflict whose rules keep changing, in part due to time dilation as predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity. But there’s one thing the soldiers know for certain: no matter what year the calendar says it is, there will always be war.
For the United States today, something similar is true. Our government, our leaders, have essentially declared a forever war. Our military leaders have bought into it as well. The master narrative is one of ceaseless war against a shifting array of enemies. One year it’s the Taliban in Afghanistan. The next it’s Al Qaeda. The next it’s Iraq, followed by Libya and ISIS. Echoing the time dilation effects of Haldeman’s book, Russia and China loom as enemies of the American future as well as of the past. One thing is constant: war.
After the events of September 11, 2001, as a longtime FBI agent and division legal counsel, I blew the whistle on the FBI’s failure to act on information provided by the Minneapolis field office that could have prevented the attacks.
It’s what so many of us have long called for, including me personally (see here and here) as someone with a front row seat to the FBI’s initial cover-ups. The FBI was only one of the agencies and political entities which strived to cover up the truth of why and how they all ignored a “system blinking red” in the months before the attacks. So successful had this been that when I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2002, I actually felt I had to explain why the truth was important. That we “owed it to the public, especially the victims of terrorism, to be completely honest” and “learning from our mistakes” were two of the reasons I came up with.
Happy 9/11 Day, our fifteenth anniversary together. If it was a child, she’d be almost ready to drive. They do grow up so fast, don’t they?
We’re instituted full background checks, body scanners and cavity searches at my home for all guests and pets (can’t be too careful!), which keeps me pretty busy, so this will be a short post. Because they hate our freedoms, we’ve taken them away for safekeeping.
So here’s our fun thing for today: reflecting. So let’s get started:
State of Things September 11, 2001
There was no Islamic State.
Syria and Libya were peaceful places more or less.
There was no global refugee crisis.
There was no Saudi war ongoing in Yemen.
Iraq opposed Iran, helping establish a balance of power in the Middle East. Any danger Saddam was worth was contained by the no-fly zones and had been, successfully, since 1991.
Iran’s plans were cooled by an enemy on its western border, Iraq, and one on its eastern border, the Taliban.
The Taliban controlled much of Afghanistan.
The U.S. was not at war, and 4,486 Americans had not died in Iraq and 1,935 had not died in Afghanistan. A bunch o’ brown people were still alive. Suicide was not the most common cause of death in our military.
The US was not known as a torturer, a keeper of secret prisons, an assassin with drones.
America was represented abroad primarily by diplomats.
Americans at home were secure, protected from abuses by their government by the First and Fourth Amendments.
State of Things September 11, 2016
There is an Islamic State (and still an al Qaeda) that makes war across the Middle East and commits terrorism in Europe.
Syria and Libya are failed states, at war, and sanctuaries for Islamic State and al Qaeda.
There is a global refugee crisis that threatens the stability of Europe.
There is a Saudi war ongoing in Yemen.
Iran has become a dominant power in the Middle East, with well-established ties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Taliban control much of Afghanistan.
The US government actively and continuously spies on Americans, particularly through electronic means. Once aimed only abroad, the NSA now devotes a substantial portion of its mighty resources inside the US
The US government drone assassinates American Citizen abroad without trial.
We’re all scared as hell about terrorism all the time.
Crystal is the traditional material of the 15th anniversary gift. Fitting, in that it breaks easily.
On this 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, we should ask ourselves what those attacks inaugurated. In a word, calamity. The wildly successful actions of Al Qaeda, combined with the wild overreactions of the Bush/Cheney administration, marked the 21st century as one that will likely become known to future historians as calamitous.
In thinking about the 9/11 attacks, as an Air Force officer, what struck me then, and still does now, is the psychological blow. We Americans like to think we invented flight (not just that the Wright Brothers succeeded in the first powered flight that was both sustained and controlled). We like to think that airpower is uniquely American. We take great pride that many airliners are still “Made in the USA,” unlike most other manufactured goods nowadays.
To see our airliners turned into precision missiles against our skyscrapers, another potent image of American power, by a terrorist foe (that was once an ally against Soviet forces in Afghanistan) staggered our collective psyche. That’s what I mean when I say Al Qaeda’s attacks were “successful.” They created an enormous shock from which our nation has yet to recover.