Obama’s War Crimes in Pakistan

So far the empire’s new war in Pakistan has accomplished, well… nothing good.

They aren’t even pretending to hunt for bin Laden and Zawahiri as part of the excuse for demanding the Pakistani army invade the North-Western territories of the country, so far they have completely failed to find the “Taliban” leaders they claim to be trying to get, but instead have succeeded only in created a living nightmare for over 3 million refugees and counting.

At least it won’t be hard to find excuses for the next intervention…

Ron Paul on Tiananmen Resolution: Let’s Tend to Our Own House

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) delivered this on the House floor this afternoon:

I rise to oppose this unnecessary and counter-productive resolution regarding the 20th anniversary of the incident in China’s Tiananmen Square. In addition to my concerns over the content of this legislation, I strongly object to the manner in which it was brought to the floor for a vote. While the resolution was being debated on the House floor, I instructed my staff to obtain a copy so that I could read it before the vote. My staff was told by no less than four relevant bodies within the House of Representatives that the text was not available for review and would not be available for another 24 hours. It is unacceptable for Members of the House of Representatives to be asked to vote on legislation that is not available for them to read!

As to the substance of the resolution, I find it disturbing that the House is going out of its way to meddle in China’s domestic politics, which is none of our business, while ignoring the many pressing issues in our own country that definitely are our business.

This resolution “calls on the People’s Republic of China to invite full and independent investigations into the Tiananmen Square crackdown, assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross…” Where do we get the authority for such a demand? I wonder how the US government would respond if China demanded that the United Nations conduct a full and independent investigation into the treatment of detainees at the US-operated Guantanamo facility?

The resolution “calls on the legal authorities of People’s Republic of China to review immediately the cases of those still imprisoned for participating in the 1989 protests for compliance with internationally recognized standards of fairness and due process in judicial proceedings.” In light of US government’s extraordinary renditions of possibly hundreds of individuals into numerous secret prisons abroad where they are held indefinitely without charge or trial, one wonders what the rest of the world makes of such US demands. It is hard to exercise credible moral authority in the world when our motto toward foreign governments seems to be “do as we say, not as we do.”

While we certainly do not condone government suppression of individual rights and liberties wherever they may occur, why are we not investigating these abuses closer to home and within our jurisdiction? It seems the House is not interested in investigating allegations that US government officials and employees approved and practiced torture against detainees. Where is the Congressional investigation of the US-operated “secret prisons” overseas? What about the administration’s assertion of the right to detain individuals indefinitely without trial? It may be easier to point out the abuses and shortcomings of governments overseas than to address government abuses here at home, but we have the constitutional obligation to exercise our oversight authority in such matters. I strongly believe that addressing these current issues would be a better use of our time than once again condemning China for an event that took place some 20 years ago.

Grim Milestone: 5,000 GIs Dead in Iraq, Afghanistan Wars

Among the six U.S. servicemember deaths so far reported in June, one soldier has become the 5,000th casualty of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the six U.S. servicemember deaths so far reported in June, one soldier has become the 5,000th casualty of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Icasualties.org the wars have cost at least 4,308 lives in Iraq and 695 in Afghanistan. The official count from the Department of Defense, however, has the total number of deaths at 4,996 in both military campaigns. The D.O.D. figures often lag slightly behind those reported in the mass media.

These figures include both combat and non-combat deaths, as well as those servicemembers killed outside the main theaters of action. In some cases, however, a servicemember who may have died months or years later of wounds received during service might not be included in official figures.

Military Families Speak Out noted the milestone in a press release published today. The antiwar group, which was formed by military families in 2002, asked President Obama to swiftly end the wars, as promised during last year’s presidential campaign. However, as the U.S. Congress returned from a weeklong Memorial Day break yesterday, the lawmakers’ main war concern was not ending either campaign, but in finalizing a new war funding bill for the president to sign.

President Obama originally asked for $84.3-billion to continue the wars. Both chambers then added their own items, bringing the final tally for the House to $96.7-billion and the Senate’s to $91.3-billion in additional funding.

Supreme Court Justice Aids Torture Coverup

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg approved an Obama administration request to have an additional 30 days to submit their appeal to justify suppressing the photos of US troops torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration can now dally until July 9 before submitting their brief arguing their case.

This is simply one more layer of BS atop of all the government excuses that have piled up since May 2004. Ginsburg’s order is a green light for the government to continue playing games and concocting excuses not to disclose the hard evidence of U.S. war crimes.

The SCOTUS Blog notes: “President Obama and his aides are pursuing two paths for trying to overturn that disclosure order: first, they are seeking action by Congress to amend the FOIA to bar the release; if that does not succeed, they plan to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the Circuit Court decision…. The Ginsburg delay order gives Congress more time to act. The Senate has passed a measure to block the photos’ disclosure, and the two houses are expected to work on the issue early this month.”

The torture scandal continues revealing the sham that there are any checks and balances to restrain our rulers from seizing and abusing absolute power.

Daniel Luban: A Final Word on Amalek

A guest post from Daniel Luban:

I have no desire to bore the reader with endless discussion of the Amalek controversy, so I will just weigh in with one final comment on the controversy and Jeffrey Goldberg’s response to it. First, Andrew Sullivan’s post on the controversy is worth reading, and reiterates the same basic point that both Zakaria and I made: how would Goldberg read the Amalek statement if it had come from Ahmadinejad?

An annoyed Goldberg responds that Netanyahu himself never used the Amalek analogy; rather, it was an anonymous Netanyahu advisor who mentioned it to Goldberg. This response is unconvincing. While it is true that Netanyahu’s advisor was the one who uttered the now-notorious words “think Amalek,” the advisor made this statement in response to Goldberg’s request to “gauge for me the depth of Mr. Netanyahu’s anxiety about Iran.” That is to say, the advisor was not stating his own opinions about the Iranian threat; rather, he was indicating that Netanyahu himself sees Iran as the new Amalek. It is, of course, perfectly possible that the advisor mischaracterized his boss’s views, but Goldberg gave no indication in his original op-ed that he sees it this way. Rather, he deliberately sought to play up the Amalek analogy and made it the centerpiece of his intellectual profile of Netanyahu. (Note his title: “Israel’s Fears, Amalek’s Arsenal”.)

Goldberg has clearly become frustrated that the Amalek debate has slipped out of his control and ultimately backfired. His op-ed deployed the Amalek reference to convince American audiences that, far from being a shallow opportunist or unthinking warmonger, Netanyahu is in fact a serious statesman whose belligerence toward Iran is deeply rooted in Jewish history, the Bible, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and so on. Readers are meant to come away with the impression (although it is never quite stated explicitly) that they should put aside their skepticism of the new Israeli government and trust its hawkish inclinations on the Iranian issue.

As it turns out, his op-ed seems to have had the opposite effect. Rather than reassuring American Jews about Netanyahu’s seriousness of purpose, all the talk of Amalek has simply reinforced their impression that Netanyahu is a dangerous zealot who should not be dictating U.S. policy towards Iran.

It is only now that Goldberg steps in to do damage control — claiming at first that there is nothing at all troubling about the Amalek analogy, next that there may be troubling aspects of the analogy but that these were completely unintended by those who used it, before finally falling back on the position that Netanyahu never espoused the analogy at all. He covers this retreat with familiar claims of expert knowledge, maintaining that anyone who draws attention to the commonsensical implications of the analogy is simply “misreading” or “misunderstanding” it, no doubt due to their lack of nuanced understanding of the rabbinic Jewish tradition. (Strangely, he does not demand that Western pundits refrain from commenting on the pronouncements of Iran’s ayatollahs unless they have a thorough grounding in Islamic law and a few years of seminary at Qom under their belts.)

In any case, the basic message throughout seems to be “defer to Netanyahu”. If the Amalek analogy increases our confidence in the prime minister, then we should focus on it; if it decreases our confidence, we should ignore it and pretend that it was never brought up.

Happy Birthday Randolph Bourne

Today is the 123rd birthday of Randolph Bourne, the antiwar writer and intellectual for whom the Randolph Bourne Institute, which operates Antiwar.com, is named.

Bourne was a major opponent of the First World War, and died during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic at the young age of 32. Despite his short life he managed to leave us with a considerable collection of memorable writings, and the motto – as important now as it was in his age, that “war is the health of the state.”

At the time of his death, the war had just ended, and he was planning to write a history of conscientious objectors in the United States. His final work was the unfinished draft of an essay titled The State, from which we get the famous quote –

War is the health of the State and it is during war that one best understands the nature of that institution.

Here is Jeff Riggenbach’s biography of Bourne, which he just completed for us:

Randolph Bourne
by Jeff Riggenbach

Randolph Bourne
(portrait by Sésame Buckner)

Randolph Silliman Bourne first emerged into the light of day on May 30, 1886, in Bloomfield, New Jersey, a small town less than 20 miles outside Manhattan. He came of comfortable middle-class parents and was the grandson of a respected Congregational minister. But his head and face were deformed at birth in a bungled forceps delivery. Then, at the age of four, after a battle with spinal tuberculosis, he found himself a hunchback. When he was seven, his parents lost everything in the Panic of 1893. Thereafter he was fatherless, as well. He and his mother lived in genteel poverty as the wards of a prosperous (if somewhat tightfisted) uncle. Meanwhile, his growth had been permanently stunted by the same pathogen that had reshaped his spine years before. By the time he graduated from high school at the age of 17, in 1903, he had attained his full adult height of five feet.

Bourne had compiled an excellent academic record in high school. He was accepted as part of the Princeton class of 1907 and was expected to commence his freshman year at that institution in the fall of 1903. But he was broke. He could barely afford books, and his mother needed help with her living expenses. He went to work and stayed there for six years. He knew his way around a piano, so he took jobs as a piano teacher, piano tuner, and piano player (accompanying singers in a recording studio in Carnegie Hall). He cut piano rolls. He was also highly literate, so, between musical gigs, he took in proofreading and even did secretarial work.

By 1909, at 23 years old, Bourne had saved enough to cut back on his working hours and try to catch up on the college experience he had been putting off. He enrolled at Columbia, fell under the sway of historian and political scientist Charles A. Beard (1874-1948) and philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952), and began publishing essays in the Dial, the Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines. His first book, Youth and Life, a collection of his magazine essays, was published the year he graduated from Columbia, 1913. That fall, the 27-year-old recipient of what Louis Filler calls "Columbia’s most distinguished honor, the Gilder Fellowship for travel abroad," he set out for Europe. After a year of travel and independent study there, he returned to America, took up residence in Greenwich Village, and resumed writing for the Dial and the Atlantic Monthly, along with a new, upstart weekly, The New Republic.

Actually, Bourne fled Europe in August 1914. For it was in late July and early August of 1914 that Europe – virtually all of Europe – embarked upon the conflict we know today as World War I. Bourne opposed this conflict, and he was especially worried that his own country, the United States, would choose to enter it before long. He wrote about many subjects over the next four years; he wrote enough about education, for example, that he was able to fill two books – The Gary Schools(1916) and Education and Living (1917) – from his magazine pieces on that subject. But his main subject was the new world war and the urgent need for the United States to stay out of it.

The problem was that what Casey Blake calls "Bourne’s insight that total war had made all modern nations increasingly totalitarian" neither won him friends nor influenced much of anyone to look kindly on his contributions to the public prints. Worse yet, according to Ben Reiner, Bourne "vehemently opposed all restrictions on dissent, bringing him into sharp conflict with the rising pro-war hysteria that preceded America’s entry into World War One. Bourne viewed Woodrow Wilson’s neutrality as a sham," and he was also, as Charles Molesworth notes, openly contemptuous of "the weak logic of those who had to change their principles in order to justify joining the national call to arms."

In the words of Christopher Phelps, Bourne was an "elegant refuter of ‘pragmatic’ pretensions in those who believed that the state, even in a time of unleashed militarism, could be tamed simply by their own moral presence in the corridors of power." And he "held fast to principle as his erstwhile colleagues at The New Republic accommodated the imperialist carnage of the First World War." His principled stand cost him dearly, "for few 20th-century American dissenters have … suffered the wrath of their targets as greatly as Bourne did. By 1917, The New Republic stopped publishing his political pieces. The Seven Arts, a literary ‘little magazine’ Bourne helped to found, collapsed when its financial angel refused further support because of Bourne’s antiwar articles." (According to Reiner, the problem was that once Bourne’s "biting attacks on government repression began to appear in The Seven Arts," this gave "birth to rumors that the publisher, Mrs. A.K. Raskine, was supporting a pro-German magazine. She … withdrew her support, which closed the magazine down.")

"Even at the Dial, Bourne’s last hope among literary magazines," Phelps continues, "he was stripped from editorial power in 1918 – the result of an uncharacteristically underhanded intervention by his former mentor John Dewey, one of the objects of Bourne’s disillusioned antiwar pen." Phelps quotes a letter Bourne sent to a friend shortly thereafter, in which he laments that "I feel very much secluded from the world, very much out of touch with my times…. The magazines I write for die violent deaths, and all my thoughts are unprintable." Robert Westbrook put the matter as memorably and eloquently as anyone when he said that "Bourne disturbed the peace of John Dewey and other intellectuals supporting Woodrow Wilson’s crusade to make the world safe for democracy, and they made him pay for it."

Yet the ruination of his career was far from the only price he had to pay. Westbrook quotes John Dos Passos’ claim, from his novel 1919 (1932), that, in addition to his professional setbacks, "friends didn’t like to be seen with Bourne," and "his father" – who had walked out of his life a quarter-century before – "wrote him begging him not to disgrace the family name." But according to Casey Blake, Bourne never lost his optimism. When the Armistice came at last in November 1918, he wrote his mother, hoping that "[n]ow that the war is over, people can speak freely and we can dare to think. It’s like coming out of a nightmare."

But for Bourne himself, this was not to be. In the words of Reiner, he "was stricken with influenza during the worldwide epidemic that took some 600,000 lives in our nation during the 1918-1919 winter" and succumbed at the age of 32 on Dec. 22. Having died so prematurely, so unexpectedly, he will, Christopher Phelps avers, "remain forever the intransigent, defiant outcast, forever young, forever the halfway revolutionary socialist with anarchist leanings. (‘War is the health of the State,’ runs that famous refrain from the unpublished, discarded manuscript rescued from his wastebasket at his death.)"