Herman Cain Is An Idiot

In one sense, it isn’t a surprise that politics attracts the biggest dip-shits around. In another sense, though, it is extremely troubling that American politics – perhaps now more than ever – has become a celebration of stupidity and ignorance (Sarah Palin being an example, but not the lone superstar in this trend).

Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain has rapidly shot to top-tier status in the past few weeks, and has now exhibited another illustration of that disturbing trend in American politics. In a recent interview, he not only mocked Uzbekistan and its leadership as unimportant, but reveled in his own glorified ignorance.

In the interview, Brody asked Cain, who has rocketed to top-tier status in recent polls: “Are you ready for the gotcha questions that are coming from the media and others? Like, who’s the president of Uzbekistan? It’s coming, all of this stuff. And how are you dealing with that?”

Cain replied, “I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come. And when they ask me, ‘Who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan?’ I’m going to say you know, ‘I don’t know. Do you know?’ And then I’m going to say, ‘How’s that going to create one job?’ I want to focus on the top priorities of this country. That’s what leaders do.

“They make sure that the nation is focused on the critical issues with critical solutions,” Cain said. “Knowing who is the head of some of these small insignificant states around the world, I don’t think that is something that is critical to focusing on national security and getting this economy going. When I get ready to go visit that country, I’ll know who it is, but until then, I want to focus on the big issues that we need to solve.”

Actually, Uzbekistan is not so unimportant. The name of the President is Islam Karimov and he is one of the most brutal authoritarians in the region. The Bush administration supported his regime handsomely in order to have military bases there and help supply American troops in Afghanistan (which is directly to the south of Uzbekistan, in case Cain has as much trouble with geography as he does with pronunciation). The Karimov regime engaged in wretched abuses against individuals caught up in the Bush administration’s War on Terror, and became known for widespread torture, including boiling people alive and raping people with broken bottles. Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, wrote an important book that Cain ought to read.

The US-Uzbekistan relationship began to sour in part because of how widespread the international condemnation was for forming such a close and supportive alliance with such a monster. But lately, the Obama administration has been cozying back up to the dictator in their execution of the Afghan war, which is yet another sign that the Afghan war is very far from over.  This map from the Washington Post illustrates how badly the US imperialists need obedient tyrants like the one in Uzbekistan, and how important Uzbekistan’s geography is for contemporary American politics.

Hermain Cain knows none of this. He doesn’t know how to say ‘Uzbekistan’ and he doesn’t know who its leaders are, and he has the effrontery to run for President. And to boot, he celebrates this kind of ignorance.

Maybe if the basic facts about American foreign policy were not laughed out of the debate for fear of learning something we wouldn’t end up with candidates like Cain and policies like those of Bush’s and Obama’s.

Making Political Activists Enemies of the State

The news that the “US government obtained secret court orders to force Google Inc and a small Internet provider to hand over information from email accounts of a WikiLeaks volunteer” is now the latest government attack on peaceful American citizens to be revealed to the public. Jacob Appelbaum, “a volunteer for the campaigning website,” had his email history looked through by the government with the help of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a law “that allows the U.S. government to secretly obtain information from people’s email and cellphones without a search warrant.”

This is the same Appelbaum who “has been subjected to harassment, detention, and interrogation at airports by US agencies.” He has never been charged with a crime and the government has so far hid behind a wall of secrecy to avoid having to explain why he has been placed under surveillance.

I’ve written before about how activists, particularly those vocally against American wars, empire, or national security policies, are targeted for surveillance, harassment, and even prosecution, despite having never committed any discernible crime.

After all of this Awlaki business…I’m sort of left wondering what if Appelbaum happened to be vacationing in Morocco or some such country at the time of the government’s decision to frame his political activism as a crime without a name.

Update: Glenn Greenwald on Appelbaum:

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” In light of everything the U.S. Government has been able to seize regarding Appelbaum without a single search warrant — laptops, cellphones, cameras, memory sticks, Twitter activity, electronic goods of his friends, interrogation via forcible detention, and now lists of his email correspondents and other information showing his email activity — is there any rational conclusion other than to view that Amendment as an absurd joke?

How War-Monger-in-Chief Will Again Get the “Peace” Vote

Politicians constantly utter what they know to be falsehoods in order to garner votes and high esteem from an ignorant electorate. The latest and greatest of such sideshows is – and will be – Obama’s war in Afghanistan.

Military and administration officials have repeatedly explained that the Afghan war will continue long past Obama’s fabled December 2014 deadline for withdrawal. Top British commander, Lieutenant General James Bucknall, said the other day that “December, 2014, is not the end of the campaign. It’s a long-term commitment,” and that “we will reduce numbers – but we will not go away.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said just last week that “We will not take our leave” in 2014 and that it’s too early to tell how large the occupation would be after the deadline and for how long it would last. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, too, has said “It is clear that no one is rushing to the exit.”

US General John Allen, the new commander of the occupation of Afghanistan, last week disavowed the 2014 date, saying “we’re actually going to be here for a long time.”

The Daily Telegraph confirmed that Obama administration officials were working on a deal with the Afghan government to have a large scale occupation – at least 25,000 troops and many more contractorsthrough 2024. And people thought ten years in Afghanistan was a lot.

The Obama administration’s so-called shift in war strategy – from country-wide military occupation to targeted special operations and training missions – is Orwellian claptrap for more of the same. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, in remarks in Washington in mid-September, said that by 2014 “the US remaining force will be basically an enduring presence force focused on counterterrorism.” The technocratic pedantry obscures the reality that the war will continue.

Yet, watch and see in the upcoming 2012 campaign how much Obama will use this 2014 date as a stump speech to coddle gullible Obama voters into casting their ballots – again – for a reincarnation of their supposed nemesis, George W. Bush. See if Obama gets reelected on a promise that the war in Afghanistan has nearly ended (that is, if recession-conscious Americans can conceive of going to the ballot box with any intention other than voting themselves other peoples’ money).

As a matter of fact, watch how much Obama’s similarly broken promises vis-à-vis ending the Iraq war will be completely stricken from the presidential debates. The Obama administration has spent years badgering the Iraqis into accepting a large contingency of US troops and contractors to remain in Iraq beyond the December 2011 deadline for a full withdrawal. To push this through, Maliki circumvented the Iraqi Parliament to make the decision dictatorially. Now that Obama has succeeded in strong-arming the continuation of the US occupation of Iraq, they are demanding US soldiers maintain immunity from Iraqi law.

Unfortunately for Obama, the Bush administration failed to secure a deal for a full scale contingency of tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely. Back in 2007 Bush administration had drafted the first Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which detailed a prolonged and continued US troop presence in Iraq with no specified limits and called for “facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments” and for US forces to work indefinitely to “deter foreign aggression against Iraq.” This was overly egregious for Iraqis and couldn’t pass muster in Iraqi politics. Thus the 2008 SOFA demanding full pullout in December 2011. Too bad for Obama, since he almost certainly would have signed on to that plan and is now trying to resurrect it.

These realities about Obama’s Iraq policies are unlikely to receive more than 60 seconds of air time in the presidential debates or in the uncritical after-debate punditry. Afghanistan will get some focus, but Obama will insist – beyond all the evidence and repeated admissions by top military and administration officials – that the end is right around the corner, after all the “progress” he’s made in Afghanistan. And Americans will simply nod, acquiesce, and then vote.

Antiwar.com’s Week in Review | October 8, 2011

Antiwar.com’s Week in Review | October 8, 2011

Congratulations to Kelley B. Vlahos! Her column on Foreign Service officer Peter Van Buren was quoted in this morning’s New York Times.


  • Ten years in Afghanistan
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