Photo credit: Reuters

Friday, August 31, 2012

Welcome to the New World Order

Dear Mr. President,
So this Bissonnette guy who’s making a buck off bin Laden is now in the cross-hairs himself. Figuratively, of course. The Pentagon and CIA full bore for days trying to figure out how to prosecute him for… well, it’s not really clear what he’s guilty of. Not exactly spilling the beans on a top-secret mission. You and your PR guys did that, what with all your celebrating, high-fiving, back-slapping leaking to the press. And even before Bissonnette, Wikipedia’s entry on bin Laden’s death had a detailed account right down to the caliber of ammunition and documents seized; not a first-hand account with all the you-are-there vicarious thrill, but still, a lot of information. Now I see that the Pentagon decided to use that handy “National Security” catch-all to charge him with violating two non-disclosure agreements signed in 2007 that obliged him to “never divulge” classified information. Their top lawyer sent him a letter informing him he was in “material breach and violation” of the agreement and the Pentagon is considering pursuing against him “all remedies legally available to us.” Surely they jest. I mean, persecuting Bradley Manning for divulging secrets is one thing, but this guy’s a certified Grade A American Hero with 5 Bronze stars and a Purple Heart and they’re going to charge him with giving aid and comfort to the enemy? Like Bradley Manning? This guy’s been on 13 secret missions, Mr. President, faithfully carried out your orders to assassinate suspected insurgents, helped tick off names on your Kill List and now you’re going to persecute him for trying to make a buck off it? Never mind that his lawyer contends there is no classified information in the book. Never mind that everybody already knows everything about the raid. It’s the principle of the thing, isn’t it? I think Bradley Manning, another authentic American Hero, and WikiLeaks, the avowed enemy of secrecy scared the shit out of you with all those diplomatic cables detailing the duplicity of governments and politicians and videos showing the U.S. Army committing war crimes. Transparency is anathema to tyrants and so, it doesn’t matter if someone’s a hero or not, information must be kept closely guarded. Hence, the Patriot Act to spy on us, National Security to spread a broad net of secrecy, legislation outlawing protests, militarized police forces to suppress dissent and the NDAA to incarcerate anyone for anything forever. Welcome to Obama’s New World Order.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Put Some Lipstick On That Pig

Dear Mr. President,
Back in the 2008 presidential campaign, you called Iraq a dumb war and Afghanistan a just war. You’ve pursued your “just” war with a vengeance: surged from 34,000 to over 100,000 troops, spent more than $400 billion, 1,000 American lives and, by one estimate, 10,000 Afghan soldiers and at least 10,000 civilians. (Nobody counts the number of dead insurgents/militants/jihadists because they don’t count; they’re the other, the evil-doers, the haters of freedom. And nobody asks why.) Afghanistan is a deeply unpopular war even though there’s no visible opposition; 60% of Americans oppose it and that number’s been consistent for a long time. They may not be marching and protesting but they know your “just” war turned out to be just another dumb immoral war with no possibility of winning (however you define win) and nothing in Afghanistan will change as a result. In an interview I watched today, an ex-general said we could send 500,000 troops to Afghanistan for another 10 years, spend $10 trillion and at the end of the 10 years nothing would be any different than it is right now. As it was in Vietnam, so it shall be in Afghanistan. Politicians (and political generals) never learn that fighting a war against people on their home turf is lost the minute it starts because we’re temporary and they’re not and all they have to do is wait us out. These impoverished sandal-clad people armed with little more than Kalashnikov rifles and homemade bombs defeated the Russians in the 80s and the Americans in the 2000s. They understand that even if we don’t. At least not publicly. I realize pulling out before the election is the kiss of death politically, and I get why you don’t want to talk about it – only one speech all year when you signed that hokey agreement with Karzai in Kabul and not a single mention of Afghanistan on your web site that I could find (maybe your spin doctors couldn’t put enough lipstick on that pig to sell it to the public). Or maybe everyone just lost interest. But the troops coming home with missing limbs or traumatized by what they’ve been through haven’t lost interest. Nor their families, nor the people we brutalize and kill and imprison (thousands in Parwan detention center on Bagram Air Base alone) or urinate on (is urinating on a dead Taliban fighter any more disrespectful of a human being than killing him or is this really what war is all about in the end?) Your war in Afghanistan is evil, Mr. President, and you are its father.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nexus of Evil

Dear Mr. President,
An $85 billion global market for weapons and we’ve got 79% of it, ($66.3 billion in 2011), up from a 44% share ($21.4 billion) in 2010. Great news for the trade deficit. We pretty much squeezed everybody else out: Russia’s share dropped from 24% to just 6% last year and China’s down to 3%. Imagine, we’re beating China for a change! We’re arming the world! The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported all this yesterday in their annual study. Last year’s jump, they said, was the biggest in the history of U.S. arms sales, mostly because of sales of big-ticket items like F-15s and Apache helicopters and Black Hawks and missile defense shields and early warning radar systems. You’ve got all our Arab allies nervous about Iran so our friends in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman (where the heck is Oman, anyway?) are snapping this stuff up like hotcakes. Fair trade, right, Mr. President? We buy your oil, you buy our weapons. All this war talk about Iran developing nuclear bombs and missiles has scared the bejesus out of everybody over there so the people at Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and all the other merchants of death are making out like bandits, business is booming and bonuses are better than ever. Like I been saying, war is good business (even those rural Afghan woodcutters and shopkeepers I quoted in yesterday’s letter understand that). You’ve been doing yoeman’s work, stirring the pot, raising the scare flag on Iran, arming rebels in Libya and Syria, drone strikes and Hellfire missiles everywhere, exporting violence to Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and probably every other country in Central America with your ramped-up drug wars, training and arming all those countries in Africa (new markets for our killing machines!) and then, right here at home, the border wars and now cops playing wild wild west on the streets of New York City, guns blazing, shooting innocent bystanders and pedestrians, the chickens coming home to roost. I think you’re not only the Commander-in-Chief, Mr. President, you’re the Marketer-in-Chief for the arms industry. Come to think of it, you’re a job creator! Yes sir, The business of America is business. Actually, we should update that to, The business of America is War! Oh, by the way, I think G.W. got it wrong, THEY’RE not the Evil Empire, WE are. We’re the Nexus of Evil with our killing machines and killing mentality spreading death and destruction all over the globe.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Mightiest Military in History

Dear Mr. President,
Eleven years, a trillion bucks, the “mightiest military in history,” drones, laser-guided missiles, helicopter gunships, night vision goggles, computer controlled everything, live streaming video and we totally fail to rid Afghanistan of Islamist militants or Taliban insurgents, while a ragtag bunch of rural woodcutters and shopkeepers clear their districts in two months. You might want to send your generals to those villages to see how the heck they did it, especially that Dempsey guy. I keep seeing the picture of him walking around Bagram in full battle gear looking a little geeky and twerpy if you ask me. I guess he was there to give his generals a little pep talk about all those green-on-blue attacks but I think he could have spent his time a lot better by visiting those mountain villages and getting some tips from them. Assuming they’d even agree to talk to him. Those people got no use for foreigners, one reason they kicked the Taliban out, because they were a bunch of foreigner telling them what to do—there’s a lesson there, Mr. President. They want nothing to do with us or the corrupt Karzai government, either. They just want what everyone wants, to be left alone and live their lives without somebody telling them do-this-don’t-do-that. The idea seems to be catching on. Another district got together and cleared itself of Taliban in short order and now another district’s started pushing back and who knows where this might lead? Of course, everybody wants to get in on the act—another branch of the Taliban (who knew they had branches?), the Afghan government, the National Security Directorate, probably the CIA—but these old boys are smart, they know what’s what. As one said, “We don’t want anyone here, just leave us the way we are and let us fight for our people ourselves. Now they are trying to change this into a national uprising and into a business and these corrupt officials are trying to make money from it, not to help the people.” Truer words were never spoken. That’s the essence of what war’s all about – money and power. Seems to me like we’ve overstayed our welcome and it’s time to pack up, tuck our tail between our legs and skeddadle. Why not just paste a smiley face on it, declare victory and leave? They certainly don’t need us there blowing stuff up, killing them, disrupting their lives. I don’t see that we’ve done a lick of good for anyone over there—or here—just misery and hatred. And that won’t change till we leave.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Makin' a Buck off bin Laden

Dear Mr. President,
It was only a matter of time. All the secrecy surrounding the bin Laden assassination disappears on 9/11 2012 when No Easy Day goes on sale. A blockbuster, the publisher calls it. The author, a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, one of the leaders on the raid that blew away bin Laden, wrote it under a pen name and changed the names of SEAL team members for “security reasons.” But within 24 hours his real name, Matt Bissonnette, was all over TV and the internet. Of course, Bissonnette’s not a real author—his “co-author” has actually written books before—and I wouldn’t call him a hero either since he and his comrades killed an unarmed 64-year-old man in the middle of the night along with 3 other men and one woman and only one of those killed was armed. But never mind. The myths grow along with a hunger for heroes. Publicity, timing, hype for the book, all perfectly coordinated. Interest so great that even before it’s published, it’s number two on the Amazon best-seller list and with a print run of 400,000 copies. Never mind that the Pentagon never vetted the book, never even knew about it. Never mind that national security was breached and regulations ignored. Once again, the almighty buck trumps everything, even “national security.” Besides, how could you possibly prosecute an American hero? one of the guys who assassinated Terrorist Number One? maybe THE guy who put the fatal bullet right between his eyes? a guy with 5 Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart? one of the guys you personally met with behind closed doors and congratulated – high fives all around, back slaps, maybe chest bumps? I bet you even brought out some of your home-brewed White House beer for the occasion. Medals, commendations, and then charge him with exposing secrets that “aid and abet the enemy?” Toss him in the brig with Bradley Manning? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. Bad publicity. But it all makes me wonder: bin Laden dead 18 months and it doesn’t make a bit of difference. The wars rage on with no end in sight. According to this morning’s paper, “Early Friday, C.I.A. drones fired at least six missiles [$408,000] at three locations in the Shawal Valley, destroying mud-walled compounds and at least two vehicles.” 18 people were killed but only two identified as terrorists. My questions is, who were the other 16? How many lifelong haters of America did you create in that attack, Mr. President? Meanwhile, Matt Bissonnette’s going to make out like a bandit. Ain’t America great?