Stamping Out War

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The face of the Afghan War is an unfamiliar one to Americans

W.J. Astore

In my latest article for TomDispatch.com, I detail America’s lack of an antiwar movement — which is partly due to war being literally out of sight for us.  Who knows, for example, of extensive U.S. bombing in Somalia and the innocents killed in that bombing?  Nick Turse has a powerful article on that here.  Wars are rarely covered critically in the mainstream media, and the Trump administration, even more so than previous administrations, has essentially issued blackout orders on information pertaining to U.S. wars and casualty figures.

One piece of encouraging news comes from Afghanistan, where a truce with the Taliban offers hope of an end to that disastrous war.  Yet, as the New York Times reports, the reconciliation process won’t be easy:

In the second decade of this conflict, begun as an act of vengeance by the United States in 2001 and at its peak involving a force of more than 100,000 American troops, the war has increasingly fallen on the backs of young Afghans.

Over the past five years alone, about 50,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers have died fighting. The number for the Taliban is estimated to be the same if not more. The fighting has been brutal, intimate, the same forces on each side often battling each other in familiar localities over long stretches of time.

It’s relatively straightforward for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.  But what about the Afghan peoples themselves and their struggles with the legacy of this brutal war?

Here’s the beginning of my article:

There is no significant anti-war movement in America because there’s no war to protest. Let me explain. In February 2003, millions of people took to the streets around the world to protest America’s march to war against Iraq. That mass movement failed. The administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had a radical plan for reshaping the Middle East and no protesters, no matter how principled or sensible or determined, were going to stop them in their march of folly. The Iraq War soon joined the Afghan invasion of 2001 as a quagmire and disaster, yet the antiwar movement died down as U.S. leaders worked to isolate Americans from news about the casualties, costs, calamities, and crimes of what was by then called “the war on terror.”

And in that they succeeded. Even though the U.S. now lives in a state of perpetual war, for most Americans it’s a peculiar form of non-war. Most of the time, those overseas conflicts are literally out of sight (and largely out of mind). Meanwhile, whatever administration is in power assures us that our attention isn’t required, nor is our approval asked for, so we carry on with our lives as if no one is being murdered in our name.

War without dire consequences poses a conundrum. In a representative democracy, waging war should require the people’s informed consent as well as their concerted mobilization. But consent is something that America’s leaders no longer want or need and, with an all-volunteer military, there’s no need to mobilize the rest of us.

Back in 2009, I argued that our military was, in fact, becoming a quasi-foreign legion, detached from the people and ready to be dispatched globally on imperial escapades that meant little to ordinary Americans. That remains true today in a country most of whose citizens have been at pains to divorce themselves and their families from military service — and who can blame them, given the atrocious results of those wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Africa?

Yet that divorce has come at a considerable cost. It’s left our society in a state of low-grade war fever, while accelerating an everyday version of militarism that Americans now accept as normal. A striking illustration of this: President Trump’s recent State of the Union address, which was filled with bellicose boasts about spending trillions of dollars on wars and weaponry, assassinating foreign leaders, and embracing dubious political figures to mount illegal coups (in this case in Venezuela) in the name of oil and other resources. The response: not opposition or even skepticism from the people’s representatives, but rare rapturous applause by members of both political parties, even as yet more troops were being deployed to the Middle East.

Please read the rest of my article here.  Let’s do our best to stamp out war.

The Democratic Debates, Part 10: Goin’ to Carolina

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Before things got ugly

W.J. Astore

Last night’s debate from South Carolina had much sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Early on, the moderators lost control, and the candidates (or “contestants,” as Bloomberg called them) interrupted and shouted over each other most of the night.  The overall impression was a Democratic Party without a core message; the overall winner was Donald Trump, who was hardly criticized (and indeed he was praised by Bloomberg for allegedly rebuilding the military).

As usual, the mainstream media (MSM), this time CBS, came off poorly.  As an old friend quipped to me, the MSM is clearly a Russian asset.  The usual “gotcha” questions were aimed at Bernie: Why does Russia support you; Why do you criticize Israel — the implication being that Bernie is a self-hating Jew; Will your programs bankrupt America; Is America ready to elect a socialist; and so on.

The so-called moderates like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg were given plenty of time to make their case, and no “gotcha” questions were aimed at them.  Still, no candidate stood out in a positive light, which overall is a win for the front-runner, Bernie Sanders.

In fact, Bernie had a moment of courage (at least for this crowd) when he dared to criticize American foreign policy for its one-sided support of Israel as well as past interventions on the behalf of authoritarian dictators in places like Chile in 1973 as well as Iran in 1953.  Naturally, he had little time to make his points, and his critique of the Saudis and their authoritarian record was drowned out.  But, again, he alone of the candidates on that stage was willing to speak some unpopular truths to the American people, so kudos to him.

All night long, Bernie’s fellow “contestants” tried to paint him as a radical red.  But, as Bernie himself said, what’s so radical about single-payer health care, a higher minimum wage, and free college tuition in state schools?  It’s not like Bernie is calling for a government takeover of the means of production, i.e. real socialism.  However, the debate moderators were not about to make any fine distinctions, or any distinctions at all, between Bernie’s sensible calls for moderate reforms to crony capitalism and rabid communism.  And so the debate went nowhere.

Anyway, here’s a quick take on the seven candidates contestants:

Joe Biden: Once again, Biden came off as angry.  His message, such as it is, was that we need to return to the good old days of Obama.

Mike Bloomberg: Smug, arrogant, and dishonest, Bloomberg almost blurted out that he’d bought the new 2018 Democratic class in Congress.  It was his most honest moment of the night.

Pete Buttigieg: Smug, arrogant, and dishonest, Mayor Pete is a fresh-faced Ted Cruz.  Lyin’ Ted — meet Lyin’ Pete.

Amy Klobuchar: She said the biggest misconception about her was that she’s boring.  I’m not sure that’s a misconception.

Bernie Sanders: Passionate as ever, you can tell Bernie is fed up with these so-called debates.

Tom Steyer: The billionaire with a heart — compared to Bloomberg, at least.  Steyer tried to attack Trump and mentioned climate change, but issues didn’t matter in this sad debate.

Elizabeth Warren: Once again, she nailed Bloomberg for his racism, sexism, and his failure to disclose his tax returns.  She tried to position herself as the reasonable alternative to Bernie for progressive-minded Democrats, but it’s hard to see her surviving Super Tuesday.

If you missed this “debate,” count yourself fortunate.

Smearing Bernie Sanders

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W.J. Astore

Just before Tulsi Gabbard announced her candidacy for the presidency as a Democrat, NBC ran a smear piece that suggested Vladimir Putin and the Russians loved her.  This smear was then repeated and amplified by Hillary Clinton, who suggested Gabbard was being groomed by the Kremlin to run as a third-party candidate, thereby ensuring Trump’s reelection in 2020.  There was no evidence for any of these claims — none.  Yet Gabbard was put on the defensive and her campaign (still ongoing) has been essentially redlined by the mainstream media.

Now it’s Bernie Sanders’s turn.  Bernie is much better known than Tulsi with a much larger movement behind him, so the DNC and the mainstream media have a modified tactic: rather than smearing Bernie as a Putin puppet, they’re suggesting the Russians are boosting his candidacy without his knowledge — the end game, naturally, is Trump’s reelection.  This was reported yesterday by the Washington Post and echoed today by the New York Times and other media outlets.  Here’s how NBC News put it today:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., excoriated Russia on Friday after being briefed that the Kremlin is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic primary and the 2020 election.

“The intelligence community has been very clear about it — whether Trump recognizes it not, or acknowledges it or not, they did interfere in 2016,” Sanders told reporters. “The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign right now in 2020. What I say to Mr. Putin: If elected president, trust me, you will not be interfering in American elections.”

The Washington Post reported on Friday U.S officials have briefed President Trump, other lawmakers on Capitol Hill and Sanders, who has recently become the frontrunner in the Democratic contest, that Russians are helping his campaign. The Post cited people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

When you look further into these claims, the so-called Intelligence Community (IC) is not telling us specifically how the Russians are allegedly helping Bernie.  They just are.

This puts Bernie on the defensive.  Already known as a “socialist” who, we’re told, visited Moscow on his honeymoon, Bernie is being forced to issue denials as well as statements against Putin.  And this pleases the IC and the DNC to no end.  Get Bernie talking about Russia and Putin!  Force him to disavow Russian “support,” no matter how nebulous or false that support is.  Associate his name with the “bad guys,” the communists, just as Mayor Bloomberg linked Bernie to communism during the last debate.  “Cheap shot,” Bernie replied, but the cheap people are desperate and will do anything to win.

To the DNC, IC, and MSM, it doesn’t matter if these accusations of Russian interference are believed.  What matters is shifting the narrative and thereby weakening the credibility of candidates like Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders.

Anyone who criticizes or threatens the power and privileges of the military-industrial complex, the IC, and the MSM must be attacked and defeated.  There are literally trillions of dollars at stake here.  This is why other candidates issue no criticisms of these powerful entities.  Can you recall Mayor Pete, or Joe Biden, or Amy Klobuchar, or even Elizabeth Warren saying anything truly critical about the MIC, the IC, and MSM?  For the acronym-wary, that’s the military-industrial complex, the intelligence community, and the mainstream media.

Again, judge the candidates by the enemies they make.  The more the powerful smear Tulsi and Bernie, the more you know they are the candidates with principles and integrity.

The Democratic Debates, Part 9: Special Bloomberg Edition

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Look at the billionaire wanting to be called on

W.J. Astore

Feeling my own pain, I watched last night’s Democratic debate from Nevada, which I have to say sparkled in the first hour as Elizabeth Warren tore into Mike Bloomberg for his racism and sexism.  Indeed, all our regulars took their shots at the billionaire, but I thought Warren landed the most telling ones.  Throughout the proceedings, Bloomberg largely looked bored; perhaps he was mentally counting the billions he’d saved under Trump’s tax rebate for the richest.

Anyhow, I somehow endured the entire two hours, though the dishonest questioning of Bernie Sanders by the panel put me on edge.  Basically, they hinted he was an un-American socialist-communist who’d soon collapse from another heart attack.  It was that bad.

Here’s how I see the candidates and their performances, post-debate and in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden: I think he profits the most from Bloomberg being on the stage, because Uncle Joe no longer has the worst record.  As the other candidates went after Bloomberg, Biden could wax nostalgically about the good old days under Obama.  He did OK.

Mike Bloomberg: Mayor Mike is a mega-rich old white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  He didn’t even bother trying to connect with people.  Money is his connection.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete is mega-poor young white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  As he got into a few tussles with Amy Klobuchar, I found myself rooting for Amy.

Amy Klobuchar: She’s good when she’s delivering prepared lines, but she faltered when asked about her inability to name the president of Mexico.  She was both defensive and disingenuous, not the best combination.

Bernie Sanders: Bernie is always Bernie.  Consistent passion on behalf of workers is his sweet spot.  He hit a home run as he talked about socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Elizabeth Warren: Something about the presence of Bloomberg lit a fire under Warren.  She had someone to torch, and she hit the target.  She also brought her remarks back to people of color on several occasions.  Perhaps her best debate performance yet.

As usual, the mainstream media was awful.  Did you know capitalism is the religion of America?  Apart from Bernie, the candidates professed their belief in capitalism as if the almighty god of America is Mammon.  Then again, our money says “In [this] God We Trust.”  In all seriousness, there’s something truly unseemly about all the money-grubbing in these debates.

Of course, you already know what was missing in this debate.  There were no questions on foreign policy.  None on America’s wars.  None on the military-industrial complex.  None on Iran or North Korea or Venezuela.  There were questions on trade that involved China and Mexico, but that was about it.  But at least climate change was discussed.

Most revealingly of all, the candidates were asked if the candidate with the most delegates should be the party’s nominee, even if that candidate lacked the requisite number for a first ballot win.  All the candidates said, “let the [rigged] process play out,” meaning let the establishment’s super-delegates determine the winner, except for Bernie, who is likely to be the candidate with the most delegates who gets screwed by the DNC this summer.

And there you have it.  Time for a third party and a true political revolution, Bernie.

All-Domain Operations: Hubris Unleashed!

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Integrate it all!  All-domains!

W.J. Astore

You can always count on the Pentagon to come up with jargon that unleashes hubris.  When I was in the Air Force, it was all about “global reach, global power.”  I also heard about “full-spectrum dominance.”  Now the latest buzzword is “All-Domain Operations.”  “All-domain” means land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, which are supposed to be integrated by computers, with information being shared at the speed of light, or close to it.  The U.S. military will know so much, be so nimble, and act in such a coordinated fashion that its rivals and enemies won’t have a chance.

This is what the Vice-Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about this:

“we’ll have a significant advantage over everybody in the world for a long time, because it’s the ability to integrate and effectively command and control all domains in a conflict or in a crisis seamlessly — and we don’t know how to do that.  Nobody knows how to do that.”

I’ve been hearing about “seamless” and “global” integration for a long time, and it’s never going to happen.  War is fundamentally messy, chaotic, a realm of chance, influenced by what Clausewitz termed “fog and friction,” and of course the enemy rarely reacts in ways that are predictable.  No matter.  A “global” vision of “all-domain” dominance has the virtue of justifying enormous defense budgets, so it’s likely here to stay.

As an aside, I do like the way the term has grown like Topsy, according to this report:

Breaking Defense readers have seen these ideas evolve rapidly over the last few years, with even the terminology becoming ever more ambitious, from Multi-Domain Battle to Multi-Domain Operations to All-Domain Operations.”

Yes — who wants only multi-domain battles when you can have all-domain operations?  Let’s show some ambition here!

Note how in this vision, there’s no talk of national defense or of upholding the U.S. Constitution.  It’s all about power projection in the cause of dominance.  It’s an enabler to forever war — one that will be increasingly driven by computers.

What could possibly go wrong with such a vision?

One thing is likely: if there’s ever a war of hubristic buzzwords in the future, the Pentagon might finally have a fighting chance.

Presidential Democrats?

W.J. Astore

Tom Tomorrow has the perfect comic to sum up America’s recent Democratic primaries for president:

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How can Bernie Sanders be electable when he keeps winning elections?  A paradox for sure.

Of course, the whole argument against Bernie Sanders is as dishonest as the primary process is long.  Let’s imagine Bernie Sanders gains the nomination and then defeats Trump in November.  Is Bernie going to become a dictator and enact all his “crazy” socialist ideas by fiat?  Surely, mainstream Republicans and Democrats in Congress are just going to roll over and approve all of Bernie’s “radical socialist” agenda.  Right?

If Bernie were to win, he’d obviously face strong opposition from establishment elites, who would oppose and try to block everything he’d try to do.  That said, the rich and privileged obviously don’t want to bother with such battles; they’d rather just nominate a “safe” centrist, or, even better, a person from their own ranks, like Mike Bloomberg.  You can count on Bloomberg acting to protect Wall Street and the 1%.  He’s got billions of reasons to do so.

As Bloomberg is foisted upon us by the lapdog media, other centrist candidates continue to fight for whatever money is left to sustain their campaigns.  Mayor Pete is flitting from fund raiser to fund raiser (shaking more money trees in wine caves?); Elizabeth Warren is making appeals to party unity (good luck with that); Joe Biden is straining to remain relevant (no more malarkey?); and Amy Klobuchar is seeking any traction she can find in a campaign characterized by market-tested bromides (“I know you, and I will fight for you,” a variant of Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain”).

The best way to judge the candidates is by the enemies they make, which is why I strongly support Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Yes, Tulsi is still in the running, perhaps only until Super Tuesday on March 3rd, but her message against regime-change wars and the military-industrial complex is much needed.

Go Bernie.  Go Tulsi.  We need leaders who are unafraid to speak truth.

Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire

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W.J. Astore

Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire — as well as Iowa — and what headline do I see at NBC News?

Bernie Sanders is now the front-runner — and moderates may be too divided to stop him

Why is it necessary to “stop” Bernie Sanders?  What is so radical about Medicare for all, free college tuition, student debt relief, a higher minimum wage, and tax reform that benefits workers?

The next few months are going to be hard to endure for any American with a brain.  For example, Chris Matthews at MSNBC equates Bernie’s democratic socialism with hardcore communism and suggests Bernie’s policies could end with him being executed in Central Park.  No — I’m not kidding!

 

In another delusional MSNBC video, Bernie’s supporters are compared to Nazi Brownshirts:

Chuck Todd Cites Quote Calling Sanders Supporters “Digital Brownshirt Brigade”

As covered here at Real Clear Politics.

So, the reality is that Bernie Sanders not only has to defeat “moderates” like Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar (a strong third in New Hampshire).  He has to overcome the Democratic National Committee and the mainstream media, especially MSNBC.

Speaking of MSNBC and its negative and cynical coverage of Bernie, not all voters are fooled:

As one reader commented on our Facebook page, “OMG exactly the same tactics as in UK [United Kingdom] over [Jeremy] Corbyn followers. Trotsky rabble, Corbineestas, etc.”

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, smear ’em as a red, as dangerously radical, or alternatively as thuggish Brownshirted fascist Bernie Bros.

The establishment’s desperation is obvious.  Go Bernie!