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Questioning the US Institute of Peace: does it really care about peace?

26 Sep

At the end of July, Little Sis, a project of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), published a short article criticizing Stephen Hadley. They write that Hadley has “made a career of promoting, overseeing, and profiting from war,” as he was already responsible as a White House official during the Bush Administration “for inserting faulty intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities…in Bush’s State of the Union in 2003.” They also noted that Hadley has, since he left public office, “co-founded an international consulting firm and joined the board of weapons manufacturer Raytheon” and more importantly, he serves as the chair of the US Institute of Peace (USIP)’s board of directors, while also authoring Washington Post op-eds about the crisis’s in Syria, Gaza, and Ukraine when he could personally profit from them. GAP then writes that the agenda of the USIP can then “be described as Orwellian” since he chairs the organization which was interestingly enough established during the Reagan era in 1984. Still, I’d argue that one can’t negatively portray an institution like the USIP just by looking at one person. So, this article will continue the analysis of GAP to question the federally-funded institution itself: does it really serve the interests of peace?

It is important to look further into the USIP, starting with those that run it. There were a number of specifics not noted in the article by GAP was that Hadley was formerly the director of the Bessmer Group up to 2009, which “operates as a bank holding company for Bessemer Trust.” The trust says that it has one goal and one goal only: “preserving and enhancing our clients’ wealth” through a use of credit investments, currencies, hedge funds and more. The international consulting firm mentioned in passing in GAP’s article, at which Hadley is a principal, is called the RiceHadleyGates Team. This firm also includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and a former “Special Assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs” at the State Department named Anja Manuel. This firm is assisting a Silicon Valley-based company where British war criminal and former Prime Minister Tony Blair is a “special adviser” and advises, according to The New York , “companies about doing business in emerging markets like the Middle East, China, Brazil, India and Turkey.” Hadley also sits on the international advisory council member of APCO worldwide, another consulting firm. Finally, he is a member of the Atlantic Council which is, in the words of Allen Ruff, an “elite foreign policy NGO” that is dedicated to moving forward the “national interest” of the US and continuing “Cold War supremacy within the ‘Atlantic community’ and beyond.” Then, he is a member of Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group as well, which includes has people such as NYPD Commissioner Bill “broken windows” Bratton and Michael Chertoff, among others.

Some of the other board members make one question the institution as well. John Kerry, a corporatist Senator and now Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, who formerly served on Chevron’s board of directors and is now Secretary of Defense, serve as board members. One board member, J. Robinson West, was even the chairman and founder of PFC Energy which advised big oil companies, helped lease off the outer continental shelf for oil drilling during the Reagan years and is currently a member of the National Petroleum Council which focuses on advising, informing and recommending measures to the Energy Secretary on “any matter relating to oil and natural gas, or to the oil and gas industries” which is “submitted to it or approved by the Secretary.” Other board members make one lift their eyebrow, including: a member of the board of directors of the right-wing legal organization called the Center for Individual Rights; the director of the Atlantic Council; the president of the National Defense University; a senior fellow at the libertarian Hoover Institution; and the president of Quality Care Consultants. Some board members seem to not be corporate or tied to the foreign policy and military establishments like one who heads a civil and human rights group and another that is the former executive director of the National Council on Independent Living. In the past, Harriet Zimmermann, who was a member of AIPAC and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was even a member of the USIP’s board. If this isn’t enough, USIP has eight-six experts working at places ranging from the centrist Brookings institution to the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Institution has an interesting history. It was spurred by grassroots pressure initially and then it came to engage in projects that some may be disturbed by and goes against the ideas those who pushed for it, peace activists, in the first place. After all, David Petraeus called them “a great asset in developing stronger unity of effort between civilian and military elements of government” in Afghanistan. They helped convene the Iraq Study Group in 2006, which came out with a final report that urged an immediate pull-out from Iraq and a surge in Afghanistan. So much for peace as this suggestion means that war would decline in one country and increased in another. To echoe what Howard Beale said in Network about the “truth” from television, “this is mass madness you maniacs!” Then, there was the Genocide Prevention Task Force, convened by USIP and other groups, which was co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline “the price was worth it” Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen who has played a big role in US military actions in Kosovo and Iraq in the 1990s. The 174-page report from this task force, which had thirty-five recommendations for lawmakers and other public officials, echoed the ideas of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), stating in part that: “states have a basic responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide and mass atrocities…As an element of this expression of resolve, the United States should also reaffirm its support for the principle of the “responsibil­ity to protect.” What this report did not note is that R2P has been used to justify the interventions in the Ivory Coast and Libya in 2011 along with one in the Central African Republic in 2013. Binoy Kampmark wrote in 2008 that this report, which was from a task force chaired “by key players in the Clinton administration,” pairs well with “interventionist rhetoric Obama has, at times, articulated” and through his foreign policy advisers, while the “priorities given to genocide prevention may yet again be minimized.”

USIP had other initiatives such as one that purportedly was aimed at preventing electoral violence in the two Sudans, where the US has an oil interest and is competing with China, but had no similar program in another other region of the world. Then there is the publication of something called “The Iran Primer” which claims to offer a “comprehensive but concise overview of Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program” which is edited by Robin B. Wright who is a scholar who works at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a group where the Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley is the chair of its board of Trustees, which is filled with a number of business-friendly folks. A number of others write for the publication, including a director of a part of the Brookings Institution and a Carnegie Endowment’s policy analyst.

Sara Diamond in the July/August 1990 issue of Z Magazine brought another critique to the USIP: that is it close with the intelligence establishment. Diamond writes that the Institute has become “a stomping ground for professional war-makers” and has become “a funding conduit and clearinghouse for research on problems inherent to U.S. strategies of ‘low intensity conflict.’ She later writes that the USIP’s board in 1984 looked like a bunch of “right-wing ideologues from academia and the Pentagon” since, as she concludes, by law, “the USIP is an arm of the U.S. intelligence apparatus…[and] intersects heavily with the intelligence establishment.” That isn’t all. Diamond writes that the Institute has a congressionally approved board of directors, its first president worked with the State Department to disseminate anti-Contra propaganda and at the time, of the article’s writing, three of the board members presided over the seemingly defunct “U.S. Global Strategy Council which was a “shadowy clique of military intelligence strategists headed by former CIA deputy director Ray Cline.” Furthermore, Diamond noted that most of the USIP’s grant projects “through early 1990 reveals undeniable favoritism toward researchers committed to Cold War paradigms.” And the article continues on.

The problems with USIP don’t stop here. According to an archived page on USIP’s website, former fellows of the institution include Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute, Ray Jennings and Albert Cevallos of USAID, Richard Joseph of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Dana Priest of the Washington Post, and the failed Vice Presidential candidate Bill Richardson. Lest us forget that the US government’s official position on Syria was “sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace to negotiate disputes among selected elements of the Syrian Opposition,” according to Professor Richard Rubenstein in CounterPunch. On the problems with USIP, Associate Professor Thomas N. Nagy added that “Dr. Waromonger” Daniel Pipes who is a premier warmonger, an obvious Islamaphobe, a supporter of the Vietnam War, a strong supporter of Israel who opposes a Palestinian state, and advocate of U.S. military attack on Iran to stop its nuclear program, was nominated to the board of USIP by President George W. Bush. This nomination was blocked by rightly angry Democratic senators, but Bush used his authority to appoint Pipes through a recess appointment (he served for two years) while Pipes was endorsed by the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, a number of senators and other small groups.

While one cannot deny that USIP engages in good work from time to time, it is clear that this federal institution is mired by connections the foreign policy and military establishments, the intelligence community and the corporate sector. These connections make clear that USIP is not promoting peace. After all, that isn’t their mission; rather it is, according to their website, a push to “increase the nation’s capacity to manage international conflict without violence.” This weak statement doesn’t even say, or even allude, that wars should be ended or scaling down of violence worldwide. If USIP doesn’t start demanding real peace, which would require a push to cut war spending worldwide, especially in the US, and rethinking war economies, then it may be time to question if it is really needed anymore.

What are global energy markets anyway?

26 Aug


Obama june 19
Words politicians, especially people such as presidents say can sometimes be deceptive and have a hidden meaning that viewers may not understand. On June 19th, at the beginning of this summer, President Obama said that not only are “humanitarian reasons” and the destabilization of the region not supposed “national security interests,” but that the U.S. government is “committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.” At the time, I kept wondering…what does this term “global energy markets” really mean?
I looked into it further and found administration officials had mentioned it far back as 2009:

2009 U.S.-EU Summit Declaration [November 3, 2009]: “The Energy Council will study diversification of energy sources, such as through increased use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), solar power, wind power and biofuels, and the use of nuclear power. It will discuss how to effectively promote global energy security on the basis of transparent, stable and non-discriminatory global energy markets and diversified energy sources. Diverse supplies and sources, as well as enhanced energy efficiency and transparent markets, are the surest route to energy security. The Council will foster energy policy cooperation, bilaterally and with third countries, aimed at improving energy security, enhancing energy efficiency, and deepening research, development, demonstration and deployment of sustainable and clean energy technologies.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in March 2011: “And let me just flag a couple areas where we think there’s particular potential.  One is in the area of energy, broadly defined.  Brazil is going to become a major player in the global energy markets with its recent discovery of offshore oil.  It’s already a partner and a leader in the renewables area, and we have a deep relationship with them on biofuels, on wind, on solar, on a number of other issues.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in June 2012:  “Let me just add one more thing.  We will be talking more about energy this afternoon, but the G8 leaders agreed to a statement on global energy markets, and we’ll be making this available to you right after this briefing, but let me just read it to you: “There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which poses substantial risk to global economic growth.  In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity.  Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.” And obviously that’s a — it’s a key statement, it’s an unusual statement.”

Obama at G8 summit in May 2012: “Leaders agreed to join a new U.S.-led coalition to address climate change, in part by reducing short-lived pollutants.  And in the face of increasing disruptions in the supply of oil, we agreed that we must closely monitor global energy markets.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL in June 2012: “we deliberately set about implementing these sanctions in a way that would have the maximum impact on Iran. And so that of course includes working to get major oil importers of Iranian oil to take steps to reduce or in some instances to stop their import of Iranian oil. That’s both something that allows us to broaden the impact in terms of the number of countries that are again taking action to reduce imports from Iran. But also it allows us to phase in these sanctions in a way that has minimal impact on global energy markets because we don’t want to — we want to take steps to ensure that the — they’re phased in a way that doesn’t drive up the price of oil, which would again ultimately end up benefiting the Iranians, because as more of their oil is taken off the market, they would of course have revenue from the oil that they do continue to sell.”

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future: “We are working with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others to ensure that our international institutions and processes reflect changes in global energy markets.”

Former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon: “Global energy markets are part of a deeply interdependent world economy.  The United States continues to have an enduring interest in stable supplies of energy and the free flow of commerce everywhere.”

Fact sheet on U.S.-China relations: “Vice President Joe Biden discussed with President Xi and senior Chinese officials ways to strengthen U.S.-China cooperation to benefit the citizens of both of our countries and address global challenges.  They decided to expand U.S.-China cooperation in addressing climate change, enhancing transparency and resilience in global energy markets, and ensuring safe and well-regulated bilateral trade in food and pharmaceuticals.”

Joint fact sheet on US-China relations: “Building on the climate accord announced by the two Presidents at Sunnylands, and the S&ED in July 2013, the United States and China affirm the importance of deepening cooperation to address climate change, reduce local air pollution, transition to a low carbon energy economy, and strengthen the resilience of global energy markets.”


 I looked into other websites to find if there was an answer to what global energy markets are all about. BP, the multinational oil company, or “Beyond Business“, writes about global energy markets, yet they don’t really define it, they just declare: “Energy is a topic that is hotly debated around the world—in the halls of government and corporate boardrooms; on the TV and around kitchen tables. It is often said that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts!” Chatham House does a better job at defining the term itself. They write on their description of an event about global energy markets, that “Global energy markets are changing. Demand for energy resources is increasingly led by growth economies in Asia, unconventional oil and gas production continues to rewrite market forecasts and new production frontiers are emerging.” So, this makes it seem that the term applies to energy markets for oil & natural gas in places such as Asia. This is confirmed by the fact that OPEC wants to be part of the discussion for these said markets, specifically in regards to oil and a Financial Post article about US oil producers. The International Energy Agency notes that such markets would also include those for coal and maybe alternative energies like wind & solar and maybe biofuels as well. Overall, the term global energy markets seem to apply to ALL fossil fuels and definitely renewables. Still, there is no one site that defines the term “global energy markets.”
Investopedia on their website writes that “the energy market influences almost everything that we do.” PJM adds that “energy markets are used to coordinate the continuous buying, selling, and delivery of electricity” and Adam Jones of The Energy Collective write that in energy markets, “electricity is like any other commodity, bought wholesale and resold to consumers at retail prices.” In this way, every single type of energy under the Sun can be sold and bought on the market. That is the definition of a global energy market.
I end with a speech with by the CEO of one of the most evil corporations in the world, ExxonMobil, professing that they need to drill more and screw up the world more (until the earth becomes a fiery hell of course):
“North America’s new supplies of natural gas are coming at a time when the energy industry’s technologies are opening new opportunities for the global transport of natural gas to the rest of the world…We must embrace the free flow of energy, capital, and human talent across oceans and borders.We will strengthen energy security for all nations.  And we will build new bridges of trade and progress between countries and continents.”



Does Elizabeth Warren really care about the average American?

5 Aug

The title of this article may be a shock to those supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren. There is no doubt that she has engaged in some good initiatives like pushing for: transparency on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling out the too-big-to-fail banks, speaking out on student loan debt, and so on. But, one should not put that much trust in her. As I have written about on this blog numerous times and elsewhere, it is important to be critical of Elizabeth Warren, who I consider a capitalist reformer and not being as populist as it may seem from the surface. [1]

Recently, conservative media have been up and arms, saying that Warren is a hypocrite for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which has been nicknamed the ‘Boeing Bank’ or the ‘corporate welfare bank.’ Here is a sampling of the headlines from those media sites:

Elizabeth Warren’s, ahem, ‘Crony Capitalism.’ | RedState

Crony Corporatist: Elizabeth Warren and the Export-Import Bank| Lew Rockwell

Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank |

Oh, look, phony populist Elizabeth Warren backs the Export-Import Bank’s brand of corporate welfare |

Elizabeth Warren Is Overrated: Why the progressive favorite is a downer| The Federalist

Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank|

Elizabeth Warren Backs Corporate Welfare Bank| Town Hall

Now, what did Warren really say? What is the real story? Well, the quotes from Warren comes from an exchange reported on by Bloomberg News. Here’s that story, with bolded emphasis from me:

Every so often, the political spectrum in Washington bends to the point that erstwhile opponents find themselves walking in lockstep.

Last year, one of the House’s most outspoken Democrats, Arizona’s Raul Grijalva, agreed with Tea Party favorite Justin Amash on an amendment that would have restricted the National Security Agency’s spying powers. Tea Party groups and peaceniks both opposed U.S. intervention in Syria.

This week, Democrats such as Colorado’s Jared Polis teamed with Kentucky’s Thomas Massie and fellow libertarians to approve a House amendment that would let U.S. banks accept cash from marijuana businesses in states where pot is legal.

Could the dynamic repeat itself on the question of whether to renew the U.S. Export-Import Bank? Heritage Action of America thinks so.

The Tea Party-aligned group sent a letter today to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat known for taking populist stands against corporate America, inviting her to speak about  ending the lender “and the political favoritism it engenders.”

“We, like you, are frustrated with a political economy that benefits well-connected elites at the expense of all Americans,” Heritage Action Chief Executive Officer Michael Needham wrote. “Your presence will send a clear signal that you are going to fight the most pressing example of corporate welfare and cronyism pending before Congress right now.”

Alas, it doesn’t sound like the former Harvard law professor will be lecturing to Heritage audiences any time soon.

“Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth, but recognizes that there is room for improvement in the bank’s operations,” Warren spokesman Lacey Rose tells us in an e-mail. “She looks forward to reviewing re-authorization legislation if and when it is introduced.”

This means that she supports the Export-Import Bank. While the Washington Examiner is a conservative publication, a recent article by one of their writers, Timothy B. Carney, makes a good point about her support of this bank:

“Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren loves to shoot barbs at Wall Street. She also enjoys forcing taxpayers to absorb Wall Street’s risks while the banks pocket the profits…The Export-Import Bank puts taxpayer money behind the loans Citibank and Goldman Sachs make to foreign companies and foreign governments buying U.S. goods. President Obama is a huge champion of Ex-Im. Wall Street LOVES Ex-Im. Conservative Republicans oppose Ex-Im. Elizabeth Warren apparently sides with Wall Street. At Ex-Im’s annual conference, one Wall Streeter described Ex-Im’s loan guarantees to me as “free money.” Is Elizabeth Warren really fine with free money to Wall Street?

Apparently according to her campaign rhetoric, Warren is not fine with free money to Wall Street, but seemingly she picks and chooses her battles with Wall Street, which is troubling. The letter that Heritage Action, part of the Heritage Foundation, they posted it on their website and it seems to channel conservative populism. After Warren responded, they had a response that seems to attack crony capitalism and other top Democrats for supporting the bank (important parts are bolded):

“…Warren’s response is not quite what you would expect from someone who claims to be working “on the side of American families.” Especially when the corporate-welfare machine she is in support of “guarantees ‘free money,’ allowing [banks] to be more aggressive in financing exports because taxpayers serve as the backstop if a deal fails.” Warren is not the first on the so-called populist left to support the Export-Import Bank. Others [sic]  liberal leaders in favor of reauthorization include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senator Chuck Schumer. In response to her decision, Heritage Action has made sure that all of the followers of the self proclaimed “enemy of greedy corporations” see her position when it comes to actually fighting against corporate welfare…The expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s charter is approaching quickly.  What can you do? Share this page with your friends and neighbors an spread the message about ending the Export-Import Bank and the culture of cronyism in Washington.”

They even created an ad criticizing for her support of the bank. Now, her support of this bank is only one issue of many. Recently, a reporter tried to ask Warren her view on Israel’s invasion of Gaza and she literally ran away:

Later on, she did not even let out peep (and neither did other ‘progressives’ like Bernie Sanders) when $225 million in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system was approved by unanimous consent (also see here). Hence, there is no record of a vote.This is not very surprising considering, in the words of Jeff Klein, she was persuaded to sponsor Senate Res. 65, which mandated “a new round of sanctions against Iran and promising to support Israel if it should choose to launch a unilateral war” in May 2013, joining the “unanimous vote in favor of the bill.” Furthermore, Kelin wrote that her vote, she he possible rationalized pragmatically means that her senate seat “is worth the price of a vote for AIPAC.”

This isn’t all. She has also been ok with a number of corporate-friendly nominations of the Obama administration, as she voted for:

      1. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who previously was the president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, was president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was an aide to neoliberal Treasury Secretary Robert Robin for two years, for Secretary of Health and Human Services (see here)
      2. Sharon Y. Bowen, who was previously a partner at the corporate law firm, Latham & Wilkins, with her practice including “corporate, finance and securities transactions for large global corporations and financial institutions” for the commissioner of the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] (see here)
      3. Stanley Fischer, who worked at the World Bank from 1988 to 1990 and the IMF from 1994 to 2001, after which he served as the Vice Chairman of Citigroup (2002-2005) for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (see here)
      4. Robert A. “Bob” McDonald, was was a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, replacing Eric Shiniski who had worked for Honeywell International before he was Secretary (see here)
      5. Wanda Felton, who formerly worked for investment firms and was a director at Credit Suisse First Boston, to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (see here)
      6. Catherine Ann Novelli, who was formerly a partner for Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP “where she assisted Fortune 100 clients on issues involving international trade and investment,” to be the United States Alternate Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (see here)
      7. Richard Stengel, who wrote for Time magazine and was its managing editor for years, to be an Under Secretary of State (see here)
      8. Max Baucus, a corporate-friendly senator who pushed through Obamacare, supported fast track, had a high business-friendly voting record as ranked by the US Chamber of Commerce, voted for the Iraq war, opposed single-payer healthcare, and voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001, to be ambassador to China (see here)
      9. Mel Watt, a corporate-friendly senator as I noted here, to be the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (see here)

She could have or could have not voted for Maria Contreras-Sweet for SBA Administrator, who formerly served on Well Point, which defrauded black Florida voters in 2000, and the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield in California because it was a voice vote.Warren just happened to not vote for Janet Yellen, who has a pro-business record supporting business-friendly measures like Quantitative Easing and supports continuing to fork over tax dollars to the big banks, for chairman of the Federal Reserve. If that’s not enough, Warren also voted for a bill which imposed sanctions on Russia, or any person that is complicit in violence or corruption in Ukraine, and guaranteed economic assistance to Ukraine. For more, read the bill itself. Then there was Warren’s vote for Jeh Johnson (for Secretary of the DHS) who was not only a big donor to Obama in the past, but “an unapologetic supporter and enabler of President Obama’s policy of drone warfare,” saying that its fine if US citizens are targeted by drone strikes. Oh yeah, and Johnson was outspoken in saying that Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning should be criminally prosecuted.

The positions of Warren don’t get any better. While she, along with Tom Coburn, have a “bipartisan proposal…to increase transparency around settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies,” there is nothing I can find of her rejecting the recent settlement and calling for prosecutions of those responsible. In March 2013, in the news section of Warren’s website was an article talking about an event “attended by about 200 Massachusetts small businesses at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center” which featured “25 government agencies and prime contractors – including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation…Raytheon, BAE Systems and Booz Allen Hamilton” so that businesses “had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with agency representatives and contractors to learn about possible contracts in the region.” To me, this sounds like she supports the production of “some jobs” by the military-industrial-complex, the permanent war economy, not even questioning this at all. Warren seemed to promote this in the month preceeding it as noted here, here, and here. The biggest news I found was a national security speech she made in February of this year. In that speech, as reprinted in the Huffington Post, part of which I’ll quote below (I bolded a number of important parts):

…It’s been thirteen years since the events of September 11, 2001…For thirteen years, we have lived through the repercussions of that terrible day. Now, the first chapter in our nation’s post-9/11 history is coming to an end. We are out of Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan is underway. We are ending two wars, but this does not mean that we will withdraw from the world beyond our shores, or pretend that there are no threats to our safety and security. As we start a new chapter, we still live in an unstable and unpredictable world: a world with terrorists plotting to cause catastrophic destruction, a world with dictators and tyrants, a world with threats in cyberspace and from new technologies. We know that we must remain vigilant and engaged abroad, taking steps to defend our allies and to protect our people. But as these two wars come to an end, we also have an opportunity to think about what we can learn from the last decade of conflict. There are many questions worth asking about how to make sure our actions advance our national interests…Today, I want to focus on a related question about how we advance our national interests – a question that is discussed less often than many of the others, but one that I think deserves our attention. How should we think about civilian casualties and their effect on our strategic decisions?…

Civilian casualties are an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of war, and modern conflict has made it more difficult to know who is innocent. We can’t always distinguish between civilians and combatants..Seriously addressing the issue of civilian casualties is essential to upholding our values at home and advancing our interests overseas. Our military is the most professional and honorable fighting force in the world, and I know first-hand how creative and tough our armed forces are...We take pride in the way that our servicemembers conduct themselves, but some people assume that when the shooting starts, military law, domestic law, and international law are left behind. The reality is the opposite. Law is an integral part of American warfare. Our soldiers learn basic legal principles as part of their training.

Military lawyers are embedded into our fighting units, working alongside commanders to evaluate the legality of even the most sensitive decisions. We follow the law because our national values – and our national interests – demand it…the laws of war require us to consider not just expediency, but also humanity…General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of our armed forces in Afghanistan, described this lesson a few years ago…McChrystal describes this dynamic with insurgents, but the same dynamic is at work with the collateral deaths of innocent civilians – and the same dynamic can apply during all kinds of military operations – Special Forces missions, counterterrorism operations, and efforts to train security forces. Over the past decade, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, military commanders increasingly tried to address this problem… The military increased its efforts to educate and train our soldiers and Marines on civilian protection. And leaders in the military started tracking the number of civilian casualties, so they could learn from the statistics and identify ways to lower civilian casualty rates…

As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed, our military leaders increasingly took seriously the costs of civilian casualties in military engagements, and they learned how important it is to prevent civilian casualties. But now it is time for the next question: when our country considers military interventions abroad – and especially when leaders publicly debate the costs and benefits of using force – do we factor in this same lesson? Do we fully consider the costs of civilian casualties?…Many policymakers in Washington seem hesitant to…acknowledge the reality that military commanders deal with every day, the reality that civilian casualties affect U.S. interests abroad. And when we debate the costs and benefits of intervention – when we discuss potential military action around the world – the talk about collateral damage and civilian casualties too often seems quiet. The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous…Our decision-making suffers – and our ability to effectively advance our interests suffers – when we do not grapple fully and honestly with all of the costs and benefits, all the risks, all the intended and unintended consequences of military action.

When our country considers military intervention, we must be hard-headed and clear-eyed…Unintended consequences can have a profound impact. Whatever our righteous intentions, the world does not hold us blameless when civilians die…We must begin by establishing training programs that directly address civilian casualties. The military has begun to put together educational and training materials based on experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq…Next, we need to improve our efforts to track civilian casualties during any military engagement…While secrecy – particularly as it relates to operational plans – is necessary in some cases, tracking casualties and making those data publicly available will help us make the best decisions here at home and demonstrate to the world that America takes civilian casualties seriously…Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people. In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners…Our military leaders recognize that our moral values need not conflict with our strategy. As we reflect on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as we prepare for the future use of military force, we must remember this as well.

We are a great country, a country rooted in the values of liberty and justice, compassion and community. We cannot turn a blind eye to the rest of the world – pretending that dangerous dictators pose no threat to us or that atrocities committed outside our borders don’t matter. But when we consider whether using force is in our national interest, we also should not – we cannot – turn a blind eye to the impact of unintended civilian casualties. The decision to use military force is one of the most important any country can make. If we openly consider all the costs and benefits, all the intended and unintended consequences, we will make better decisions – decisions that will live up to our nation’s core values, advance our national interests, and preserve our role as a moral leader in the world.”

Clearly, Warren is showing that she supports the imperialistic, militaristic foreign policy, echoing what Obama says. However, I commend her on considering the “intended and unintended consequences of military action” (esp. with civilian casualties) with the latter constituting a word she strangely does not use, but is used by many critiquing the American empire: blowback. At the same time, it disturbing that he argument is nationalistic and almost uber-patriotic as she holds up the US as a paragon of virtue (it is not) and she defends the military as professional (and other BS), not recognizing they are one thing, and one thing only: an army of trained, cold-blooded killers. This does not mean that no one in the army has a conscience, but rather that such a conscience, that makes one question their actions, is suppressed by the internal mechanizations of the military itself.

There is one more aspect I’ll cover in this article, and that is Warren’s bill titled Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act introduced in 2013, with a companion bill in the House of Representatives introduced by Rep. John F. Tierney. Ellen Brown, in a June 2013 article for CounterPunch writes about the bill, noting that:

“…Students are considered risky investments because they don’t own valuable assets against which the debt can be collected. But this argument overlooks the fact that these young trainees are assets themselves. They represent an investment in “human capital” that can pay for itself many times over, if properly supported and developed.  This was demonstrated in the 1940s with the G.I. Bill, which provided free technical training and educational support for nearly 16 million returning servicemen, along with government-subsidized loans and unemployment benefits…Investing in our young people has worked before and can work again; and if Congress orders the Fed to fund this investment in our collective futures by “quantitative easing,” it need cost the taxpayers nothing at all. The Japanese have finally seen the light and are using their QE tool as economic stimulus rather than just to keep their banks afloat. We need to do the same.”

Still, I find it worrisome that Warren’s bill is based around the idea of Quantitative Easing, a program, that helps big banks. Additionally, the proposal seems to help students but not get them out of their horrible predicament, only making their horrible predicament just a little bit better. I think its also worth remembering that she falsely and absurdly said that the Tea Party are anarchists (they aren’t) in a October 2013 post (which was seemingly a senate speech) titled ‘We are not a country of anarchists':

If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you’d think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn’t exist at all. But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don’t want a future without government…In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens…Government is real, and it has three basic functions:Provide for the national defense. [and] Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent. [and] Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed. These things did not appear by magic. In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together…We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together. We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues…We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation. The political minority in the House that condemns government and begged for this shutdown has its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, its day will pass – and the government will get back to the work we have chosen to do together.


Now, while it is worthy to condemn the shutdown, to connect anarchism with the Tea Party is utterly absurd and idiotic. As wrote a great critique of this use of the term  ‘anarchist’ (also by Harry Reid) in a wonderful Washington Post opinion piece:

“Real anarchist communities operate according to radically democratic principles. They theorize, and even organize, with egalitarian political and social visions in mind. Unlike tea party obstinacy, anarchism promotes cooperative forms of decision-making—not only in political life, but in social and economic institutions as well. Co-op book and grocery stores, community gardens, employee-owned businesses, land trusts and cooperative housing projects, as well as grassroots relief efforts like Occupy Sandy, are just a few examples of anarchist praxis at work in our society. Anarchism is not lawless, but it does involve a critique of the state. Anarchists encourage us to place a burden of proof on existing authority structures, and push us to limit, or even dismantle, the power of institutions, regulations and individuals whose authority proves to be illegitimate. The tea party is trying to diffuse the power of centralized government, but, paradoxically, they’re using big corporate heads and political figures within centralized government to get there…Despite their anti-authoritarianism, some of today’s anarchists concede that states can serve socially important functions like ensuring sound infrastructure, basic consumer protections and comprehensive social welfare (though they believe such services are better executed with decentralized communities)…So if the tea party is not anarchist, what is? It’s closer to what we’ve seen with pro-democracy movements around the world...Anarchists believe, ultimately, in the power of people, not the people in power. The truth is, our top political and economic institutions are not really structured as representative bodies. The idea of representation is being used today to legitimize the vast decision-making powers of a ruling elite, of which tea party politicians are a part, who exercise an inordinate level of influence in our political and social system…If anarchists had indeed taken over Congress, then the American people might be invited to collectively decide our fate, rather than entrust it to representatives of a powerful few…Anarchism seeks to diffuse power based on hubris, superiority and the conceited pursuit of wealth, and re-root it in democratic principles and egalitarian ethics. Given our current situation, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.

A post on Daily Kos had a different but interesting critique, arguing that “anarchism and conservatism are fundamentally at odds with each other,” while Nathan Goodman of the Center for a Stateless Society writes that “…the “shutdown” has kept intact most of the state violence that anarchists oppose, including militarism, police violence, crony capitalist patent monopolies, mass incarceration, mass surveillance and deportations…State regulations, in contrast, are often used by big business as a way to restrict competition, consolidate power, and dodge accountability. This is a pervasive problem called regulatory capture.”

This isn’t all. There is the fact that Warren ran as a hawkish politician, against another hawkish politician Scott Brown, by advocating for Iranian sanctions,  leaving Afghanistan only once ‘the puppet government is secured,” continuing drone strikes and “clandestine wars” to continue the war on terror, continuing to fund Israel with US tax money which allows it  “to continue its slaughter of Gazans and others.” Oh, and let not forget the thousands of dollars she has in checking and savings accounts at Bank of America, or her thousands of dollars in TIAA-CREF funds, as according to her financial disclosures in early 2014. If that’s not enough, she already received $38,575 from Google, $19,500 from National Amusements (owns Viacom), $18,400 from Microsoft Corp, $18,000 from Goldman Sachs, $17,700 from Bain Capital, $16,000 from Time Warner, $14,825 from IBM, and $13,050 from Walt Disney Co., and $12,575 from Rayethon in individual contributions in 2014 alone. I know that individual contributions on their own does not indicate a company supports a certain candidate, rather only certain people in that company. Looking at her contributors during her whole legislative career shows a number of universities and liberal political groups have given her money. For her PAC money, she’d received $22,000 in 2013-2014 and most of it is either labor groups or single-issue groups. But there are some business groups as well, centering around Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, the National Assn of Realtors and Camp, Dresser & McKee.  There is more to Warren’s record, more than one could pick away, but I’m done for now since this is all I can say at this time.


[1] See my articles ‘The truth about Elizabeth Warren‘ , ‘An update about the capitalist reformer Elizabeth Warren‘, ‘Elizabeth Warren is not a savior’, ‘Elizabeth Warren is a fraud‘, part of this article and a following one I wrote responding to comments,

Franklin Pierce’s expansionism?

1 Aug

In a blog post on the old Interesting Blogger in June 2011, I questioned whether the United States was isolationist in its foreign policy. At one point, I quoted Franklin Pierce to show the expansionist and interventionist impulses of the United States. At the time, I wrote:

To most people, they believe that America began to start intervening in the affairs of other countries in the Cold War. Students of history would say U.S. interventions are false in the beginning of the 1900s. Both ideas are false, as confirmed by the fateful words of President Franklin Pierce in 1853, “our attitude as a nation [is to] render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection…[They] should…be obtained…in a manner entirely consistent with the strictest observance of national faith…no act within the legitimate scope of my constitutional control will be tolerated.”…I had no idea it stretched back that far and was shocked when I found out the truth. A Congressional Research report confirmed that what Mr. Pierce had stated was correct.

After that point, I quoted from a Congressional Research Service report detailing all the U.S. interventions since 1798. Earlier this year, I broke down that report, detailing meticulously where U.S. troops have intervened. I first included this map:

Then, I said this:

Franklin Pierce continued the intervention frenzy, beginning a short period where the US intervened in China numerous times. He interestingly set the tone for the rhetoric later used to justify the American empire, saying that “acquisitions of certain possessions [countries] not in our jurisdiction” were important for US. This was proved since he had US armed forces entered the countries of Panama, Uruguay, and Nicaragua, continuing the Monroe Doctrine, while also sending troops to the Samoa Islands as well.

I come back to this topic wondering what the basis for Fillmore’s words were, in many years before the American empire expanded beyond the bounds of the North American continent. This article is a continuation of what I wrote over three years ago, and looking at the topic with fresh eyes.

On March 4, 1853, Franklin Pierce gave his inaugural address .(also published on pages 243- 245 of the Congressional Globe) He talked about expansionism numerous times in his speech, almost saying the US had a ‘god-given’ right to the continent:

“Whether the elements of inherent force in the Republic have kept pace with its unparalleled progression in territory, population, and wealth has been the subject of earnest thought and discussion on both sides of the ocean…The apprehension of dangers from extended territory, multiplied States,accumulated wealth, and augmented population has proved to be unfounded…this vast increase of people and territory has notonly shown itself compatible with the harmonious action of the States and Federal Government in their respective constitutional spheres, but has afforded an additional guaranty of the strength and integrity of both…With an experience thus suggestive and cheering, the policy of my Administrationwill not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion. Indeed, it is not to be disguised that our attitude as a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection, if notin the future essential for the preservation of the rights of commerce and the peace of the world. Should they be obtained, it will be through no grasping spirit, but with a view to obvious national interest and security,and in a manner entirely consistent with the strictest observance of national faith. We have nothing in our history or position to invite aggression;we have everything to beckon us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations. Purposes, therefore, at once just and pacific will be significantly marked in the conduct of our foreign affairs…I intend that my Administration shall leave no blot upon our fair record, and trust I may safely give the assurance that no act within the legitimate scope of my constitutional control will be tolerated on the part of any portion of our citizens which can not challenge a ready justification before the tribunal of the civilized world…if your past is limited,your future is boundless. Its obligations throng the unexplored pathway of advancement, and will be limitless as duration. Hence a sound and comprehensive policy should embrace not less the distant future than the urgent present…the vast interests of commerce are common to all mankind, and the advantages of trade and international intercourse must always present a noble field for the moral influence of a great people…on every soil where our enterprise may rightfully seek the protection of our flag American citizenship is an inviolable panoply for the security of American rights…The rights, security,and repose of this Confederacy reject the idea of interference or colonization on this side of the ocean by any foreign power beyond present jurisdiction as utterly inadmissible [referring to the Monroe Doctrine]…I believe that involuntary servitude [slavery], as it exists indifferent States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution.I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions.”

Pierce clearly showed his pro-slavery and expansionist views in this speech. Historian Paul Calcore wrote in his book, The Causes of the Civil War wrote that Pierce “clearly outlined his position on territorial expansion in this speech.” (pp. 198). M. Karen Walker  wrote something a bit different, saying that Pierce “illustrated the layering of meanings then associated with America as a land” and that the “directional force of Pierce’s words are outward from America’s shores to extraterritorial claims.” (Edwards, J.A. and Weiss, D. (2011). The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism: Critical Essays (p. 35)). Others said that the section in the speech about acquiring “certain possessions” was “generally recognized as a veiled announcement of a resolve to make a fresh bid for Cuba and, if possible, the Hawaiian Islands.” (American Crisis Diplomacy: The Quest for Collective Security, 1918-1952, pp. 603). Lars Schoultz said the same thing, writing that Cuba was “the obvious but unspoken target” and that Pierce used “national security to justify his policy.” (Beneath the United States: A History of U. S. Policy Toward Latin America, pp. 52). Marion Mills Miller followed this, writing that Pierce was referring to “the desirability of annexing Cuba” in the speech (Great Debates in American History: Foreign relations, part 2, pp. 73). Yet, Pierce rejected the treaty with Hawaii, because it made Hawaii a state, not a territory controlled directly by the U.S. government (Lowe, E. T.L., Race Over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865-1900 (pp. 99).

As a result of Pierce’s expansionist rhetoric, it is no surprise that The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (for short, the Democratic Review), published by John L. O’Sullivan who had coined the words ‘manifest destiny’ in 1845, claiming that is “by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us,” would endorse Pierce’s speech. The article titled ‘The Inaugural,’ (pp. 368-381) the Democratic Review, likely by the editor (O’Sullivan), was such an endorsement:

“The fourth of 1853…was the commencement…of a new era in the history in the United States. The democracy resumed their empire, and destinies of the country have…passed under their hands…The Southern States having been “compromised” out of their share of the territory, partly purchased in blood…and had every reason to apprehend, that they will in like manner be compromised out of all share in future acquisition…because they see in an extension of territory, only an extension of that power…should circumstances…require the government of the United States to take possession, or receive annexation of any territory…it will be opposed by that section [the South?] from motives so strong as to overcome all other considerations except that of the general safety of the country…it will thus be seen that abolition has…great influence on our domestic…[and] foreign policy…[the] faculty of expansion…is…the destiny of the United States, because it has an unoccupied world for its sphere of action [and] would continue to be…the great instrument not only of our power but our happiness and freedom…we deeply regret that abolition has thrown almost inseparable obstacles in the way of the great faculty of expansion…we have…a clear explicit pledge that the President will studiously refrain from all intervention in…Europe…[and] resist any such intervention on the part of those powers [in Europe]…at renewing the old system of colonization…we cordially wish him a long life of happiness and honor.”

The endorsement which also included a bit about the acquisition of Cuba as well was not the only response to this speech, by a Pierce, a general who had served in the expansionist Mexican-American war. Such expansionist views by Pierce makes sense when taking into context that during his administration, for one, he bought “a strip of land along Mexico,”  for $10 million dollars (later called the Gadsden Purchase) in order to create a “transcontinental railroad through Southern states and territories,” which was part of a broader plan to “expand the Southern empire.” (Jordan, B.M. (2003) Triumphant Mourner: The Tragic Dimension of Franklin Pierce (pp.88)).

For years, since the presidency of expansionist and southerner James K. Polk in the mid-1840s, attempts to purchase or take Cuba from the Spanish had been rebuffed even though it was supported by individuals such as John C. Calhoun and John D. O’Sullivan. In 1853, when Pierce took office, he was committed to annexing Cuba. In 1854, after the so-called Black Warrior incident where Cuban officials seized the cargo, the crew and the ship itself, a few American diplomats went to France to meet with the US’s Minister to France and James Buchanan. The report of their proceedings became what was known as the  Ostend Manifesto, which was eventually leaked to the press, and damaged the foreign relations of the Pierce Administration for years to come. Here is some of that manifesto by James Buchanan, J.Y. Mason and Pierre Soule written in October 1854:

We have arrived at the conclusion, and are thoroughly convinced, that an immediate and earnest effort ought to be made by the government of the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain at any price for which it can be obtained…We firmly believe that, in the progress of human events, the time has arrived when the vital interests of Spain are as seriously involved in the sale, as those of the United States in the purchase of the island, and that the transaction will prove equally honorable to both nations…The United States ought, if practicable, to purchase Cuba with as little delay as possible…Cuba is as necessary to the North American republic as any of its present members, and that it belongs naturally to that great family of states of which the Union is the providential nursery.From its locality it commands the mouth of the Mississippi and the immense and annually increasing trade which must seek this avenue to the ocean…Indeed the Union can never enjoy repose, nor possess reliable security, as long as Cuba is not embraced within its boundaries. Its immediate acquisition by our government is of paramount importance, and we cannot doubt but that it is a consummation devoutly wished for by its inhabitants…The system of immigration and labor, lately organized within its limits, and the tyranny and oppression which characterize its immediate rulers, threaten an insurrection at every moment which may result in direful consequences to the American people…Extreme oppression, it s now admitted, justifies any people in endeavoring to relieve themselves from the yoke of their oppressors…should the Cubans themselves rise n revolt against the oppression which they suffer, no human power could prevent the citizens of the United States and liberal-minded men of other countries from rushing to their assistance…It is certain that, should the Cubans themselves organize an insurrection against the Spanish government, and should other independent nations come to the aid of Spain in the contest, no human power could, in our opinion, prevent the people and the government of the United States from taking part in such a civil war, in support of their neighbors and friends…does Cuba, in the possession of Spain, seriously endanger our internal peace and the existence of our cherished Union? Should this question be answered in the affirmative, then, by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain, if we possess the power…We should, however, be recreant to our duty, be unworthy of our gallant forefathers, and commit base treason against our posterity, should we permit Cuba to be Africanized and become a second St. Domingo, with all its attendant horrors to the white race, and suffer the flames to extend to our own neighboring shores, seriously to endanger our actually to consume the fair fabric of our Union…But this course cannot, with due regard to their own dignity as an independent nation, continue; and our recommendations, now submitted, are dictated by the firm belief that the cession of Cuba to the United States, with stipulations as beneficial to Spain as those suggested, is the only effective mode of settling all past differences, and of the securing the two countries against future collisions.

Basically this manifesto says the US has a right to Cuba, which was crushed when this manifesto which has likely racial undertones (i.e. “permit Cuba to be Africanized”), was leaked.  Eventually, the US was control Cuba after the Spanish-American War of  1898. But what came of Pierce’s expansionism? In his second annual message in 1854 (pp. 279 of this book) Pierce talked about a “naval expedition…[with] the purpose of establishing relations with the Empire of Japan” that he said had been “aptly and skillfully conducted.” The expedition he was talking about was also called the ‘Perry Expedition’ and people’s historian Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States described it as “the use of warships to force Japan to open its ports to the United States.” In the CRS document, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014, it describes further three visits by US warships in 1854 as making a “a naval demonstration, landing marines twice, and secur[ing]…a coaling concession from the ruler of Naha on Okinawa” in order to “secure facilities for commerce.” Seemingly ‘democratic nationalist,’ Michael Lind wrote in 2006 about ideas territorial expansion expanding beyond Pierce, noting that “while territorial expansion did not violate America’s democratic republican principles, imperial conquest did. For this reason, purchase was the preferred method of obtaining foreign territory.” (The American Way of Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Way of Life (17 pages into Chapter 4: Averting a Balance of Power in North America: Power Politics and American Expansionism). I’m not sure I completely agree with this considering the Mexican-American War from 1846-1848, but I understand his point.

There is not much else that can be said on this topic, other than the fact that expansionist tendencies were somewhat hampered by the Civil War and resumed full force in the waning days of one of America’s bloodiest domestic conflicts, with the US engaging in genocide against the American Indians pushing the remaining ones to tiny bits of land called ‘reservations,’ then looking to places abroad to conquer (Philippines, Guam, Puerto Ric0, etc…) in order to satisfy corporate profit.

Why I oppose ENDA

29 Jul

An example of the rhetoric of those opposing exemptions to ENDA

This has been reposted from ZBlogs.

There has been a recent ruse over ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As Katie McDonough noted in Salon, after the recent Hobby Lobby decision “progressive and LGBTQ groups one-by-one withdrew their support from the measure” including groups like the “National Gay and Lesbian Task Force [NGLTF], the Transgender Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.” What was their reason for not supporting the bill? The measure’s “gaping exemptions for religious organizations” specifically, making the bill, in their view, worthless. At worst, some said that this exemption locked in discrimination for millions as argued by groups like the Center for Inquiry in their statement withdrawing support of ENDA. Even 100 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama telling him to remove a religious exemption from an ENDA-like executive order (Obama has since signed the executive order). On the religious exemption in ENDA alone, one of my friends, who is trans*, told me that she did not want to participate in lobbying for the law, after I had sent her an article about groups dropping their support since I thought she’d be interested in the subject.

One group remained a strong supporter of ENDA: the Human Rights Campaign or HRC, the biggest Gay Inc. organ, with Fred Sainz, as noted in the liberal gay publication The Advocate, saying that they support ENDA “because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”Other groups such as Freedom to Work and the National Center for Transgender Equality still support the bill, as do weird allies: Republican backers like the gay conservative group Log Cabin Republicans and the American Unity Fund. Even gay conservative Andrew Sullivan, who has some reservations about the law, supports it. In contrast, Matt Barber, who has previously claimed that homosexuals openly ridicule Christianity and engaged in fearmongering by falsely claiming that a House bill on HIV/AIDs prevention paid for gender-reassignment surgery, absurdly claimed that ENDA was “the crown jewel of homofascism” and that left-leaning groups were mad since it did not “outlaw” Christianity.

It is strange that the religious exemption in the law is being brought up as an issue now. Back in April of last year, if not earlier, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and others criticized the law’s religious exemption but they did not withdraw their support for the bill. If the Hobby Lobby decision had never happened, it is a likely that these groups would still be supporting the bill, despite their ‘reservations.’ Lest us forget that even though the Democratic Party theoretically supports ENDA, but they “have allowed it to languish on paper for a decade without ever hitting the floor of Congress,” as noted by Sherry Wolf in CounterPunch. More importantly, as Wolf noted in the same article, then-President Bill Clinton “held a closed-door meeting in 1997 with advocates of ENDA” which she said had “been chiseled away at to include notable exemptions for small businesses, the armed forces and religious organizations.”

In my critique of ENDA, in an article I wrote for Dissident Voice last November, I said I was uneasy with a section that showed that the law applied “to a great majority of the workforce, but only to a sliver of the overall businesses.” I further noted that volunteers are not covered by the law, that “those fired for gender ID or sexual orientation before the act is enacted will not benefit from the legal repercussions of the law” and a section of the law I still find utterly chilling, since it “allows employers to continue (or begin) to set ‘dress or grooming standards’ of employees.” In this article, I also went through all of the corporate sponsors of the bill, most of whom were part of the so-called “Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness,” ranging from Intel to Microsoft to Chevron, showing that the corporate sector believes that the lesbians and gays (mainly) constitute a new “marketplace to sell goods and services.” I concluded the article saying that ENDA reinforces “the capitalistic status quo by not challenging corporate power or the power elite in any serious way” and I warned that the “the corporate sector is going full-speed ahead” as they try to rapidly turn the whole community of gender, sexual and radical diversity “into a market so they can get millions of dollars in profits.” Looking back, my argument was a moderate one which didn’t even oppose ENDA, but I still agree with most of what I wrote, other than the multiple uses of the term GSRM, which I’ve since learned is not a positive term.

Most supporters of the law do not realize the obvious reality that surrounds the law itself. The business community wants to tap a new market, while using it boost their profits with policies of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ that follow the law’s enactment and subsequent implementation. Still, the law itself, as I noted in the previous paragraph, has deep problems. People like Robyn Pennacchia of Death and Taxes magazine say that ENDA should be passed because it is “geared towards protecting the rights of American citizens” but not with any of the religious exemptions, because it is an “exercise in futility.” Even if there was no religious exemption in the law, there would still be the section allowing “an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee’s hours at work, to adhere to reasonable dress or grooming standards,” or another defining one’s sexual orientation as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality,” rather than using an open definition like that of the American Psychological Association. A pro-ENDA article, in Gay Star News, interestingly enough, notes that the law “bars significant remedies available under the Civil Rights Act in cases of race or sex discrimination” and doesn’t allow LGBT plaintiffs to “file disparate impact claims seeking to show that an employer’s policy has disproportionately negative consequences on [their] community.” Any sort of program that mimics affirmative action for gays, lesbians, trans* people, bisexuals and others, is also not required under the law which declares that

“nothing…shall be construed or interpreted to require or permit…any covered entity to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity…[or] the adoption or implementation by a covered entity of a quota on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Georgetown University law student Noah Baron brought this up in an article published last month in the Huffington Post, and went even further. He argued that the law was awful before the Hobby Lobby decision, noting that it “prohibits both public and private employers from making use of most affirmative action programs” but only when it is “applied to LGBT people” and it “may roll back significant progress made in protecting transgender Americans from employment discrimination.” Baron later called ENDA “a token, but ultimately simply another reminder that LGBT persons are regarded as less-that,” while noting that the Title VII protection that has been won by transgender people could be lost with ENDA’s passing. In the final sentence of his article, he remarked that ENDA “would achieve” something that is deeply disconcerting: the “enshrining into federal law anti-LGBT bias as an officially more-acceptable form of bigotry.”

There is something disturbing that is getting little coverage: how restrictions put in place by President George W. Bush which allow “faith-based hiring” would not be affected by the law or by Obama’s executive order. Additionally, the law basically institutionalizes discrimination not only through the religious exemption, but it also does so through “dress and grooming standards” which infringes on the freedom of expression of individuals especially those such as trans* or queer people, who are not as accepted by society than others, could be forced to groom or dress a certain way that would be harmful to their well-being. Why are groups not putting up a fuss about that? Why just this religious exemption? And why now?

There is another deeper problem with ENDA, which could easily be called the Ensuring National Discrimination Act. It could be an example of how efforts to make “social injury” illegal “powerfully legitimizes law and the state as appropriate protectors against injury and casts injured individuals as needing such protection by such protectors,” as argued by political theorist and political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Wendy Brown, in the introduction to her book, States of Injury (see page 27). If applied to ENDA, the “injured individuals” would be people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, etc… and the mechanisms of enforcing the anti-discrimination measures would be the legitimization of the state. In the instance of ENDA, it is hard to apply this idea completely since the law has many exemptions and leaves out the power of the state in many instances, giving individuals more leeway at times.

Some folks in the vast community of gender, sexual and radical diversity will be angry and enraged at this article, saying that there must be non-discrimination measures that protect their community. I agree that such measures can be useful and can help. Stopping discrimination of people of any sexual orientation, color or creed is a laudable goal. However, ENDA as it currently stands, is a bill that institutionalizes discrimination, even without the religious exemption, whether supporters of the law will admit it or not. The nature of ENDA and the corporate support behind it, which is connected to an exploitation of ‘new’ market of ‘wanting’ consumers, is why I cannot lend my support to this legislation. There are a number of questions you could ask of the legislation (What will the law do about homelessness and poverty? What will it do to address the harassment of trans* individuals by police? What will it do to stop the criminalization of young trans* and queer people?) and the answer is always: NOTHING. In the end, it is best to remember what Linda Zerilli, a professor at the University of Chicago, writes in her book, Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom (page 122), something that supporters and their allies pushing ENDA often forget, but should not be forgotten: “rights are not things to be distributed from above, but a demand for something more made from below.”

Dictators, celebrities, and musicians: a sad but not surprising story

24 Jul

This was originally posted on Z Blogs and has been reprinted here.

Recently, I was researching for an article looking at all the dictatorships in the world (which will soon be published) and I found something that made me interested. This was the conflation of dictators, celebrities and musicians. Some groups have been holding musicians and celebrities accountable for entertaining dictators like the Human Rights Foundation. This article will highlight which countries celebrities and musicians performed at as to show that such people are accepting blood money whether they agree or not.

First off, its important to look at which musicians and celebrities performed in which dictatorial countries. Here’s a list of the top three people who entertained dictators:

  1. Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) [Turkmenistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya]
  2. (the Late) Michael Jackson [Bahrain and Brunei]
  3. Mariah Carey [Libya (pre-2011) and Angola]

There are more dictator-entertainers as I’ll call them, including: Julio Iglesias (Equatorial Guinea), Dennis Rodman (North Korea), Erykah Badu (Swaziland), Kanye West (Kazakhstan) and Sting (Uzbekistan).

And here’s a map where all the dictator-entertainers entertained…

That’s not all… Breaking this down further one can see that Libya (pre-2011), Chechnya, and then-named Zaire (now DRC) brought in the most celebrities and musicians to entertain them.

What does this all mean? Well it means that all of these people took blood money. There are some who have given their money back, but there is really no excuse for performing for a dictator (and maybe their family). These people, as Human Rights Foundation, noted about Jennifer Lopez, have “the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of [their] choice and his circle of cronies.” Yet, such a right means they are greedy, just wanting more money in their pockets even if it comes with the people who are oppressed smeared all over it, as they DO NOT have to perform for dictatorships. These musicians and celebrities must be held accountable for their actions in whatever form they take. For me, I’ll be boycotting all these people and never again listening to their music.

P.S.  And please, if you have anything to add, that would be great.


Sources for info. presented here:


A new American political order?

15 Jul

This was originally posted on Z Blogs and has been reposted here.

Recently, pollsters found out, via ‘We Need Smith,’ which is a self-declared “movement of Americans who believe we need new leaders because our country is badly headed in the wrong direction” and not relying on the “usual politics,” what they called the “battlelines of a new political order.” I’m not sure how I feel about this whole ‘We Need Smith’ movement, and as a result I will continue to be critical. This article will not only debut my new chart, the ‘People Policy Counter,’ but it will include charts and data on overarching views of the American public presented by the said pollsters, and other polls. And if you have any suggestions, please share them below.

The People Policy Counter

Basically, the People Policy Counter is a list of 100 issues that a majority of the American people believe[1], which is then compared to the positions of politicians (hopefully) and political parties. From my tabulations, I found that (numbers ordered by amount of agreement with the American people):

  1. The Green Party agrees with the American people 79% of the time
  2. The Justice Party agrees with the American people 61% of the time
  3. President Obama agrees with the American people 28% of the time
  4. The Democratic Party agrees with the American people 25% of the time
  5. The Libertarian Party agrees with the American people 24% of the time
  6. The Constitution Party agrees with the American people 21% of the time
  7. The Republican Party agrees with the American people 6% of the time

These results are not trying to advocate for any of the said parties, or President Obama. I tried to take my bias toward certain issues out of the equation, and I mostly just searched on the Gallup website, snatching up poll results as I went. Rather, taken from a number of polls (probably over 50)[2], it is meant to show how in line these political parties are with the opinions of the American people. As it turns out, only the centre-left Justice Party and the Green Party agree with the American public most of the time, more often than most. There were also a number of issues that I did not know the opinions of the said parties, so I did not fill them out, meaning that the percentages came out of the total of 100 issues. Hopefully, I can expand this to other politicians in the future. Here are some interesting positions that NONE of the parties took (to my knowledge) but the American people believe:

  • national referendum on key issues if voters request it
  • shorten primary season to five months
  • have a nationwide primary election, not individual state primaries
  • term limits for politicians in US Senate and US House
  • Super PACs should be illegal and there would be less corruption in the political system if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs
  • attack social problems as a way to lower the crime rate

Before I get to the polls conducted by ‘We Need Smith,’ here are some polls which I didn’t use in my People’s Policy Counter but are still interesting, adding questions about a ‘new political order’ emerging in the United States:

(see this poll for details)

Results from a recent poll by Rasmussen, which is usually a conservative polling organization:

Here’s a graph from Gallup showing Americans are losing confidence in ALL branches of federal government:

Polls by ‘We Need Smith’

Now for some of the polls from ‘We Need Smith’ which I turned into a graphic:

Further analysis

Yet, while these poll results are encouraging, one must remember that it is only applying to American voters. What about the Americans who don’t vote! That’s what makes this polling troubling. Americans in general, one should not forget still view socialism negatively, even though 36% view it positively, including a good amount of liberals, and even some conservatives and moderates. Still, as Gallup notes,

“Socialism” is not a completely negative term in today’s America. About a third of Americans respond positively when they hear the term. Some of this reaction may reflect unusual or unclear understandings of what socialism means. Reaction to the term is not random, however, as attested by the finding that positive images are significantly differentiated by politics and ideology.

However, what Gallup says about an “unusual and unclear understanding” of socialism is silly as they provide no evidence to back up that claim, and criticizing those who think of the word positively just reinforces their moderate position as a polling organization.

There is more. It is clear that Americans are wary of Big Business and rightly critical of it. After all, US banks and financial institutions are trusted more than two times less than small business, as noted in a Gallup poll. Similarly, Americans do not have a great of confidence in other parts of American society as well: big business, the U.S. Supreme Court, the criminal justice system, the medical system, newspapers,  the presidency, the healthcare system, public schools, television news and news on the internet, and Congress. Even organized religion/the church does not have a great deal of confidence from the American people. Sadly, there is low confidence in organized labor while there is high confidence in the military (74% have confidence) and a majority having confidence in the police (53% have confidence).

With the American people having a great deal of confidence in the military and the police, two of the institutions in established society which work to maintain the existing order, makes me question that we are on the “battlelines of a new political order.” Yes, the American people clearly believe in policies which I would say are overwhelmingly social democratic and yes, this is a basis for a transpartisan coalition (a ‘left-right coalition’) against the powers that be. After all, Americans do in some sense or another constitute a “silent radical majority” compared to those currently in power. But, this does not mean that Americans want to overturn the existing system and put in something like, say ‘modified socialism’ as Martin Luther King mentioned once. Rather, the people want reforms that would tweak the existing system. There are definitely some ideas that should be pushed forward, like single-payer healthcare and ending the wars  (and general anti-interventionism) that the American people definitely support. However, no one should be fooled into thinking that these polls evidence a new political order, but rather that they show the need for the removing of the shackles of capitalists in order to confront the climate catastrophe and capitalist system itself.



[1] Here’s a screenshot of the issues I used for the people’s policy counter compared to the different parties (and president Obama):


[2] Here’s the sources I used for the people’s policy counter, with some unfortunately cut off:


VT socialist party comments on ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders

8 Jul

Originally posted on ZBlogs

Article after article in ‘left’ publications have advocated for US Senator Bernie Sanders to run. Even Socialist Alternative which helped Kshama Sawant, the first Socialist member of the Seattle City Council, get into office, had a recent article describing Senator Sanders as “a genuine progressive and champion of ordinary people” and said he should run as an independent for President, while they criticized his ties to the Democratic Party, vote for the war in Afghanistan and much more. Author Ron Jacobs had a different take, writing about how Bernie Sanders supported the bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999, voting to create to Department of Homeland Security, voting for the Authorization of Military Force (AUMF I), later voting to make certain provisions of the Patriot Act permanent, supporting an F-35 base in Vermont despite public opposition, and so on.

Last month, I sent questions to a small self-described “nonviolent socialist” Vermont-based party called the Liberty Union Party to see what they thought of the self-declared ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders. This article, with relevant links and corrections added in, consists my questions and answers, to them by Marina Brown, a Liberty Union Party Member who is “working to get on the ballot for the position of Lt. Governor.” After it was rejected by CounterPunch and/or ignored by the editors, I decided to publish it here. The point of this interview is to challenge the idea that Senator Sanders acts in the interest of ordinary Americans while also covering subjects such as socialism.[1] After reading this interview, if you have any further questions for Marina Brown or anyone else of the Liberty Union Partu, please send them along by commenting below I’ll add them in later on.

Burkely Hermann (BH): Numerous articles have advocated for US Senator Bernie Sanders to run as President. However, in a recent article in Salon, Charles Davis wrote that “Sanders tosses rhetorical Molotovs at America’s 21st century robber barons like few other national politicians. But he’s also rather non-threatening, his politics reformist, not revolutionary – more old-school liberal than Leninist. His words comfort those on the left desperate for a voice within the electoral system, while his actions – caucusing, campaigning and voting with the Democratic Party – show the liberal mainstream that he is no Ralph Nader.” How does your party perceive Senator Sanders? What do you think ordinary Americans should know about Senator Sanders which they don’t already know?

Marina Brown (MB): Bernie Sanders votes a little more conservatively than the most liberal of the Democrats. I oppose him because he operates as a Democratic politician. He supported Barack Obama, a politician who has spearheaded multiple wars and interventions in literally dozens of countries. We oppose war. There has to be a better way. In standing with Democratic politicians in their wars of aggression he shares in their guilt.

Here are a few points of concern i have with Sanders’s performance:

Sanders has supported basing the F-35 warplanes in Burlington. Weapons of mass destruction do not belong in Vt. Not only is the creation of these war machines unethical their presence makes Burlington a target.

Sanders supported the creation of a new position in the US of Director of National Intelligence. I view the CIA, NSA and other intelligence organizations with suspicion. I feel this much power shrouded in secrecy can only lead to bad things. The FISA warrants that Sanders voted for are nothing more than rubber stamps by the most corrupt judges. Only once in the history of the FISA court has a warrant been denied.

Sanders has supported forcing states to do standardized testing on students. The current regime of ‘No Child Left Behind’ has created a school system that is often forced to teach kids just to pass the tests. Tests do not necessarily reflect the quality of education.

BH: Many people on the left paint Senator Sanders as a person crusading for justice and in a long line of progressive politicians including Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and others since he advocates for causes such as single-payer healthcare and positions himself as standing for the worker and commoner, not big business. How progressive, in your view, is Senator Sanders? What does progressivism mean to you? Is your party based on the ideas of progressivism or is it something else?

MB: Progressivism is the belief that change that is good for the people of a country can be enacted from the top down. On the surface it seems like we agree with progressive ideals however point 2 of our party platform is where there is a radical departure.

“2. Democracy should exist at all times in all the processes of society, including in the workplace and school system.”

Democracy in this context does not mean electing a high, mighty and distant politician to manage things for us. It means that WE the people should control the workplace. This implies that the stakeholders own the workplace. You cannot have democracy in the workplace if you do not own the workplace.

We advocate democracy in medicine as well as Socialized medicine but our position really is closer to point 5 of the Young Lords Party [a short-lived Puerto Rican nationalist party] 13 point platform than it is to politicians who support the Obamacare insurance scheme.

“5. We want community control of our institutions and land.

We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people. People’s control of police, health services, churches, schools, housing, transportation and welfare are needed. We want an end to attacks on our land by urban removal, highway destruction, universities and corporations.”

I also support Internet Neutrality and advocate the there be free public wireless internet wherever there is electric service. The internet is a public good like the roads. It should not become simply a conduit for wealthy corporations to peddle their goods.

Under many cities are unused fiber optic cables. I advocate putting these under community control and ownership. It is not acceptable that the US has a very substandard internet system in many areas and that access is very expensive.

BH: Looking at his voting record, Senator Sanders seems to overwhelmingly vote in line with the Democrats. This begs the question if Senator Sanders uses his status as an independent is, in Charles Davis’s words, “a narcissistic formality.” In your view, is Senator Sanders masquerading as an ‘independent’ in order to avoid calling himself a progressive or liberal Democrat? Additionally, why do you think Sanders calls himself an ‘independent’ instead of a Democrat?

MB: I am not privy to Sanders’s thought processes. I assume he runs as an Independent because it appeals best to his voters.

BH: In November 2006, progressive news show Democracy Now! declared that “Vermont’s Bernie Sanders Becomes First Socialist Elected to U.S. Senate” and in the following interview, Sen. Sanders described his brand of socialism as learning a lot from Scandinavia and “some of the work, very good work that people have done in Europe” and in his view, have “created more egalitarian societies than…the United States of America.” Despite the laudable work of Democracy Now! in covering issues that the mainstream media does not cover, in this interview, there was no mention of the past history of the socialist movement in the United States or mentioning the debate of whether social democracy under a capitalism can even be considered socialism at all. Your party considers itself “a nonviolent socialist party.” How does your party define socialism (if it can be defined) to a ordinary American? Is Senator Sanders really a socialist or is that just posturing?

MB: Without community control of institutions and worker ownership of workplaces there is no real socialism. I have not heard Bernie Sanders advocating the nationalization of very many companies or resources.

BH: At the Left Forum this past weekend [this past month], Kshama Sawant, an actual socialist who is a member of the Seattle City Council and a member of Socialist Alternative said that the Left is abdicating its responsibility if it does not provide alternatives to what she terms the “Big Business parties” (Democrats and Republicans). In your view, is electoral action (electing candidates, supporting alternative parties, etc…) a good and effective avenue to challenge these two corporate parties? If so, is it sufficient on its own or should it be accompanied by political action like that manifested in the Occupy Movement (creative acts of protest, direct action, having a dialogue with others)?

MB: The very existence of the Liberty Union Party and the fact that we have provided an uncompromising anti-war socialist option for voters IS a creative act of protest. It also allows us to have dialogs with many people while we are collecting the needed signatures to get ballot access and it sometimes opens the doors for us to speak on the issues.



[1] In the past, I’ve criticized Bernie Sanders as a “fake socialist and closet progressive” or as having a “dark side” in a blog post citing CounterPunch articles about Sanders, but I haven’t had a full-blown or encompassing critique and that is why I pushed for this interview with a member of the Liberty Union Party, even if I don’t completely agree with them.

Another war on the horizon

30 Jun

This article has been reprinted from ZBlogs.

Over one year ago, the war-weary population and Congress rose up in protest and a war with Syria was averted to the chagrin of international capital. The hawkish politicians and pundits, masters of war, military establishment, arms manufacturers, and other interested parties want another go at it. On all the mainstream TV channels, the same people who advocated for the 2003 invasion in Iraq under false pretenses (‘weapons of mass destruction’), are pushing for military strikes to ‘save’ Iraq (and maybe Syria) from Islamic militants from the Islamic State or IS (previously called ISIL and ISIS) that have been shunned by Al Qaeda. But, this is only the cover story for a proposed war, which might be cover for a secret war in Iraq since the US and possibly Iran are flying “surveillance drones…over northern Iraq,” and possibly those which are armed. In response to a question about “U.S. concern of disruption of oil supplies,” President Obama said: “if, in fact, ISIL was able to obtain control over major [oil] output, significant refineries, that could be a source of concern” and that if there are “disruptions inside of Iraq…some of the other producers in the Gulf [will have]…to pick up the slack.” Basically, this means that U.S. military intervention in the region would be driven by oil.[1] This conclusion is no surprise, considering that in September, in front of the UN General Assembly, Obama said something that investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill called a “really naked…declaration of imperialism”: “the United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region…We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy,” which I’ve described in the past as the basis for Obama’s dirty energy doctrine. [2] While Obama’s petro-policy establishes some background, it is important to give some of the history of US involvement in Iraq in order to construct a fuller picture.

Long before the US got involved in the history of Iraq, the British were the pre-eminent power in the Mideast. In 1916, the British and French formulated a secret agreement called the Sykes-Picot agreement, which was later leaked by the angry Bolsheviks in October 1917, in which diplomats of both countries drew lines and divided up Arabic parts of the faltering Ottoman Empire into their own spheres of influence. In a sense it was a bit like the lines drawn in the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 as part of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in that those ethnic and cultural groups affected had no say, except this treaty only involved two parties instead of a group of twelve countries. Sadly for the people of the region, even though the agreement’s revelation was an embarrassment for the British and French, the League of Nations granted mandates to both countries in 1919, preserving the borders that diplomats had drawn up and put them into stone. These same borders would be used a rallying cry for IS as the maligned Stratfor put it, “from the point of view of Iraq’s jihadist celebrities, the 1916 borders drawn in secret by British and French imperialists represented by Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot to divide up Mesopotamia are not only irrelevant, they are destructible.” Even establishment reporter David Ignatius wrote in a recent column for the Washington Post that “the “line in the sand,” as author James Barr called the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement to partition the region, is dissolving before our eyes, and the primary beneficiaries are ruthless Islamic terrorists”” and that Iraq is splintered, requiring, in his view, a restablizing of the region by gathering “the essential players around a table and…framing a new security architecture” and possibly revisiting “the post-1919 borders” and having accommodation of “different ethnic minorities.” The New York Times recently wrote that Iraq what Iraq has been “haunted” by since its founding in 1921, “appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.” The article also noted that “Iraq and Syria’s potential fragmentation along sectarian or ethnic lines…may well generate new conflicts driven by ideology, oil, and other resources” all while what they declared was the “ISIS onslaught” has made “the formal secession of Iraqi Kurdistan far more plausible.”

Still, there is something more: the hunger for resources and the push for imperialism. This is important, since, as former war correspondent Scott Anderson noted in Smithsonian magazine,

“for nearly 400 years prior to World War I, the lands of Iraq existed as three distinct semi-autonomous provinces…within the Ottoman Empire…This delicate system was undone by the West, and for an all-too-predictable reason: oil…the “nation” of Iraq was created by [the British by] fusing the three Ottoman provinces into one and put under direct British control…Naturally, Britain didn’t present this as the land-grab that it truly was…[unlike] the ‘artificial nation’ of Jordan…[Iraq's] history would be marked by a series of violent coups and rebellions, with its political domination by the Sunni minority simply deepening its sectarian fault lines…[sadly] the disastrous British playbook of 1920 was almost precisely replicated by the United States in 2003.”

The late political activist Chris Harman adds to this, writing that the “Middle East, with its huge oil reserves, was by far the most important prize for any imperialism in the second half of the 20th century,” as the British engaged in “double dealing” so that British firms could get their “hands on the oil reserves of Iraq and Iran.” [3] Pro-British governments in Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq were used to protect British “oil interests” as British troops pulled out in 1947, but Israel’s victory against “an ill-organised army sent by Arab monarchies” changed the equation. [4] A military coup led by Abdul Nasser “ended the pro-British monarchy” in Egypt and the new government nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, which was owned by Britain and France, resulting in a joint British-Israeli-French attack on Egypt. [5] At the same time this was happening, the British Empire was declining and the US swooped in, supplanting Britain “as the dominant power in the Middle East.”[6] Interestingly, the US followed British policy in the region and they were “highly successful in asserting hegemony over the region and its oil” by exploiting divisions between peoples and states which already existed. [7] This policy followed the same strategy used by European imperial powers during the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the 19th century.

With the stage set, the US would continue to assert its hegemony in the Middle East for years to come. After all, the presidential doctrines from Truman to Obama all have involved petroleum as a major “national security interest” directly or indirectly.[8] The then-Prime Minister of Iraq, Abd al-Karim Qasim, who was not a communist, was a pro-Soviet leader whose “authoritarian rule…gradually isolated him from the citizenry” didn’t have the ire of the US government until he “partially nationalized the oil industry” which angered US and UK multinational corporations. This, along with his populist programs (land reform, construction of low-cost housing, liberalizing the country’s constitution, etc…) made him “Iraq’s most popular leader.” Qasim also took Iraq out of the US orbit by removing the country from the Baghdad Pact and decriminalizing Iraq’s Communist Party, which made the US government, which was already mad about the partial nationalization, even madder. [9] During the Kennedy Administration, Qasim was finally ousted in a coup with Saddam Hussein’s anti-communist Ba’ath Party, many of whom had been arrested by Qasim, backed financially by the CIA. The US had tried to assassinate Qasim in 1960 and failed, but in 1963, with the coup completed, the popular Iraqi nationalist leader was given a short trial and was promptly executed. With a new regime in place, the “threats posed by Qasim” to “British imperial policy in the Middle East” and US interests were removed. More horribly for the people of Iraq, the CIA provided the new regime with a list of thousands of “leftist activists and organizers” who were killed in a subsequent mass murder. [10] The new regime only lasted a few months, when it was ousted by pro-Nasser forces, until it re-emerged in 1968, in a ‘corrective coup,’ which led to the rule of Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr for eleven years. After al-Bakr resigned and stepped down in 1979, Saddam Hussein became the next President and dictator of the country, ruling Iraq for the next 24 years, and he was supported by the US government time and time again until he became ‘unfavorable.’

Iraq under Saddam engaged in a “long and bloody war” with Iran from 1980 to 1988 in hopes of attracting “the support of the US and the wealthy Gulf states and cement[ing] its relations with multinationals,” a conflict in which the US government gave weapons to both sides.[11] Despite this strange logic, Iraq’s government was not completely delusional, considering that the US even sent over future Secretary of Defense and war criminal Donald Rumsfeld, then a special Mideast envoy, at one point, to “ensure…Saddam Hussein that the US would not object to using chemical weapons against Iran” in a war which would ultimately kill 1.5 million people.[12] Between at least 1985 and 1989, the US served as Iraq’s supplier for biological materials which were used by Saddam’s scientists to create biological weapons with materials including those which could cause anthrax, “damage vital organs…[and cause] systematic illness.”[13] Additionally, US exports of weapons to Iraq included “precursors to chemical warfare agents [and] plans for chemical warfare production facilities,” which continued into December 1989 even though chemical weapons and possibly biological weapons had been used against Iranians, Kurds, and Shiites.[14] Saddam, still wanting to attract the support of the US, Gulf States and multinationals, thought that invading Kuwait, which he claimed was with “tacit U.S. approval,” would benefit his regime.[15] As it turned out, he was wrong.

The invasion of oil-rich Kuwait would be the beginning of a U.S. military intervention in Iraq that would last for years to come. The US and its allies invaded full force in August 1990, in a war meant to “purge the American people of the Vietnam Syndrome,” with a “devastating bombing campaign, a land invasion, and the massacre of 100,000 Iraqis,” and followed by brutal UN sanctions after the war. [16] Still, this is only scratching the surface. In Harman’s view, the six-month-long invasion was not only about disciplining Iraq or warning other governments and movements in the region “who might challenge US oil companies,” but it was intended to show the other world powers to accept the US’s goals as the world policeman.[17] At the same time, the war was centered around energy, with the US achieving its major goals in the invasion by making sure the “incomparable energy resources of the Middle East” remained under US control and that profits that supported the US and British economies kept flowing, while teaching the ‘lesson’ that “the world is to be ruled by force.” [18] In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn writes that the war had the political aim to boost George H.W. Bush’s popularity, but it was also motivated by a long-standing US desire “to have a decisive voice in the control of Middle East oil resources,” which is in contrast to the “very weak” official justification that Iraq was building a nuclear bomb. [19]

The short invasion also had devastating effects on people of Iraq. The US dropped some “ninety thousand tons of bombs on Iraq in the space of forty-three days, intentionally destroying the civilian infrastructure, including eighteen of the twenty electricity generating plants and the water pumping and sanitation systems” which led to starvation, “disease and deaths of tens of thousands of children.” [20] While the bombing had been intended to lead to internal revolts in Iraq and to “force Saddam Hussein from office,” as Chalmers Johnson argued, it clearly “violated international humanitarian law and made the United States liable to charges of war crimes.” [21] After the invasion was over, brutal sanctions were imposed on Iraq, reinforcing and deepening the destruction of the bombing, by imposing harsh measures on Iraq including limits on post-invasion reconstruction and expanding social services. [22] Along with the starving and death of, at minimum, 350,000 Iraqi children, a maximum of half a million, as a result of the sanctions, which lasted for almost thirteen years (1990-2003), the US and allied forces continued to have a no-fly zone over parts of Iraq and bombed it off and on. [23] Some commentators have argued that this bombing is part of a ‘twenty year war’ (1990-2010 or 1991-2011) the US committed against Iraq: Bret Stephens argued it was an “unbroken thread” of differently named US military operations, John Tirman writing in the Boston Globe said that it constituted “an extraordinary American venture” and the former Executive director of Veterans for Peace, Michael T. McPhearson calling it a “20 year nightmare for the Iraqi people.”

In 2003, despite worldwide opposition to another invasion of Iraq, encouraged by the dissemination of war propaganda which is illegal under international law, the US and its allies invaded Iraq. This intervention has its roots in the ideas of those who were part of the former secretive think tank called the Project For A New American Century (PNAC). These neo-cons wanted an invasion of Iraq to gain control of its oil, fire a “warning shot across the bow” of every Mideast leader, and establish Iraq as “a military staging area for the eventual invasion and overthrow of several Middle Eastern regimes,” including allies, as noted in 1996 report.[24] Later, PNAC would push for a possible “permanent Gulf presence” and they would take positions in the Bush administration to “implement their neoconservative agenda” with Vice-President Dick Cheney, one of PNAC’s founding members, as part of the pack. [25] As cover for a war theorized by PNAC, the US government insisted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction possibly because “America supplied them” in the past, as noted earlier in this article. [26]. In 2003, a 12,000 page document was released to the UN Security Council by the Iraqi government showing, among other aspects, that of the “150 international companies that had armed Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s,” twenty four of them were American, including Hewlett-Packard, DuPont, Honeywell International and Bechtel. [27]

There was something even more disturbing about the invasion, which had clearly not happened in the previous invasion in 1990-1991: selling off public services. The “whole country” became “for sale” with oil, government ministries, “schools, universities, roads…bridges” and more beginning to be privatized, more and more than ever before.[28] Winners of reconstruction of Iraq brought on by the bombing of the country to smithereens, included businesses who had “long-standing connections…with Natsios and the Bush administration,” with examples including Bechtel, Halliburton/KBR, DynCorp, and numerous others.[29] There are other groups that profited from the invasion as well, like the Carlyle Group, “thanks to the sales of robotics systems, and a major Iraq contract to train police.”[30] As social activist Naomi Klein put it, “nowhere has the merger of these political and profit-making goals [of groups like Bechtel and the Carlyle Group] been clearer than on the battlefields of Iraq.” [31]

There were a number of people who profited and had a role in creating a new Iraq. One of those people was James Baker, who became an equity partner at the Carlyle Group after George H.W. Bush’s term ended and was part of a law firm that is “often recognized as one of the leading oil and gas firms in the world”: Baker Botts. When George W. Bush named him as the special envoy on Iraq’s debt, he did not have to cash out his interests in Baker Botts and the Carlyle Group, even though both groups had “direct interests in the war.”[32] Later, as an envoy, Baker was supposed to be convincing governments that “Saddam-era debts should be canceled,” yet he was pushing for them to be paid by the Iraqi government.[33] Even though Baker resigned after Naomi Klein revealed the true nature of his dealings, Iraq went on to pay over $2.5 billion in reparations, mostly to Kuwait, and the rest of the unpaid debt was “merely rescheduled” which means it will have to be paid in the future.[34] There are a number of other sinister characters that should be remembered as well. One of these was George Schultz, who headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which was formed to help the “Bush White House…building the case for war in the public mind,” which sounds eerily similar to The Committee on Public Information which worked to build the case for World War I among the generally pacifist American population. [35] Schultz, at one point wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post calling for Saddam to be removed from power but he did not “disclose to his readers that he was, at the time, a member of the board of directors at Bechtel…[which] would collect $23 billion to reconstruct Iraq.”[36] There’s someone else as well: Richard Perle. Perle was not only a “friend and business associate of [Henry] Kissinger’s” but he was “one of the first post-9/11 disaster capitalists” since he created a venture capital firm not long after 9/11 called Trireme Partners which invested “in firms and services relevant to homeland security and defense.”[37] This is relevant because he sat on the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee which offers an “excellent example of the invasive and malignant influence that military corporations exert on government policy.” [38] Perle even “told his investors about his pull at the Pentagon” which is not unreasonable since he was a director of a corporation which manufactured “high-tech eavesdropping technology” and was employed by Goldman Sachs, but his colleagues never knew about Trireme Partners. [39] There is one last figure that cannot be forgotten: Paul Bremmer, who was part of an insurance brokerage named Marsh & McLennan, which was “created a month after 9/11 to profit from the new concern around catastrophic risk.” [40] Bremmer went on to ‘manage’ Iraq as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA based in Iraq’s Green Zone, which is exactly what Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, is all about. Importantly, Bremmer, in conjunction with Rumsfeld, decided to “disband Saddam’s army, the one institution that somewhat united the country,” which has bearing on the recent events in Iraq. There are others I won’t go into detail on, but are still important. [41]

Flash forward to December 2011, when the US, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement signed with Iraq, was pulling out the last US troops from the country. For some, this must have meant that the ‘twenty year war’ waged by the US against Iraq was over. Yet, a secret army of contractors, diplomatic personnel and more remained, with many of them a likely part of the U.S.’s biggest embassy in the world in the Green Zone, a sign of U.S. hegemony. Almost in an imperialistic manner, the US government abandoned plans to keep troops in the country in October 2011 because “Iraqi leaders…adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity” or as Obama put it recently, the US has a “core requirement” where US troop presence in any country requires immunity from the host government and “the Iraqi government…declined to provide us that immunity.” One can’t blame the Iraqi government for rejecting immunity for US troops who had occupied their country for eight years and were part of the terrorization of Iraq’s population in a war that killed a minimum of 200,000 Iraqis and a maximum of over a million. The US government is now considering a war against Iraq not by bringing in ground troops but rather a Libya-style war of a massive bombing campaign accompanied by a no-fly-zone to achieve “results” regardless of the “collateral damage.” The US seems distrustful of Maliki’s government, which we installed, and this might be because it is not “an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein” as argued by free market fundamentalist Thomas Friedman in the 1990s but rather is a rather a government that is too weak.[42]

Neo-cons are going from channel to channel, pushing the cause for war with Iraq, along with senators such as John ‘bomb Iran’ McCain and Lindsey ‘world is a battlefield’ Graham. Still, even Rand Paul said that Dick Cheney was to blame for the current Iraq crisis while former judge Andrew Napolitano even wrote that “America is no safer because of the Iraq war, but we are weaker” and that “we have no lawful right to choose a side [in Iraq] and assist it militarily.” Numerous peace groups like Veterans for Peace, CodePink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, World Beyond War, the War Resisters League, and numerous others have declared that they are opposed to another war in Iraq, as has a majority of the American population as shown in poll after poll. On the other hand, the forces pushing for war seem to echo what Joesph Nye, wrote about soft power [43] in 2004:

“popularity is ephemeral and should not be a guide for foreign policy in any case. The United States can act without the world’s applause. We are so strong we can do as we wish. We are the world’s only superpower, and that fact is bound to engender envy and resentment…We do not need permanent allies and institutions. We can always pick up a coalition of the willing when we need to.”[44]

Such arrogance about American power professed by Nye is similarly professed by the warmongers and think tanks like the pro-Israel and purportedly bipartisan Washington Institute of Near East Policy as recorded on C-SPAN, and numerous others [45] who are pushing for another war.

Later in his life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached about how he did not accept war as a lesser evil and his rejection of liberalism:

“I felt that while war could never be a positive good, it could serve as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force. War, as horrible as it is, might be preferable to surrender to a totalitarian system. But I now believe that the potential destructiveness of modern weapons totally rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good. If we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. In our day of space vehicles and guided ballistic missiles, the choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”[46]

In this time of dire need, we must heed the words of Dr. King and do all we can through nonviolent means to stop the US government from committing the “supreme international crime” against Iraq for the third time in world history: a war of aggression.



[1] ISIS attacked Iraq’s biggest oil refineryand possibly took it over, which makes US intervention that much more likely. On June 19th, Obama seemed to be pushing what one could easily call the ‘prelude to war’ with the increase in so-called ‘military advisers’ to Iraq and he also said that US national security interests in Iraq include commitments to “issues like energy and global energy markets” which is code for protecting (mostly) petroleum in the Persian Gulf region. In a post on the Heritage Foundation’s blog, of all places, one of their senior analysts, James Phillips, wrote that: “Even if it [ISIS] is expelled from oil-producing areas, the resulting destruction of pipelines and other infrastructure is likely to boost world oil prices.” Others wrote about this as well: Nafeez Ahmed also wrote about oil more broadly as a cause of the uprising, writing that “…the rise of Isis…is blowback from the same brand of oil addicted US-UK covert operations we have run for decades;” veteran Arab journalist Nicola Nasser wrote in CounterPunchthat“the raging war in Iraq now will determine whether Iraqi hydrocarbons are a national asset or multinational loot. Any U.S. military support to the regime it installed in Baghdad should be viewed within this context;” political economist Rob Urie who also wrote in CounterPunch that “what is now at risk with the fall of Mosul and Tikrit and the reported capture of a major oil field is the investment and past, present and future profits of the multi-national oil companies that are now operating in Iraq;” and Michael Schwartz wrote on TomDispatchthat “the issue that underlies much of the violence [is] control of Iraqi oil…there was nothing new about local guerrillas attacking oil facilities…It has always been about the oil, stupid!”

[2] See articles I self-published on the topic: ‘Part 1: A petroleum-based national security policy‘ & ‘Part 2: the Great Game of extreme energy extraction‘.

[3] Harman, C. (2008). A people’s history of the world (p. 558). London: Verso.

[4] Ibid, 559.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 559-560

[8] See the article I self-published (‘Part 1: A petroleum-based national security policy‘), specifically starting with the paragraph beginning “With all of this rhetoric, one may just dismiss it as words…” and David S. Painter’s analysis in The Journal for American History titled ‘Oil and the American Century,’ among others.

[9] Discussion of the 1963 coup originally comes from one of my articles on JFK’s presidency in Dissident Voice about “assassinations, anti-communism, interventionism and right-wing dictators.”

[10] Andrew and Patrick Cockburn later described the coup “in retrospect…[as] the CIA’s favorite coup” and William Blum noted on page 134 of Rogue State that the US State Department was pleased by the new regime in Iraq honoring agreements to the Iraq Petroleum Company, since the US had a part in this petroleum company.

[11] Harman, 600.

[12] Zinn, H., Konopacki, M., & Buhle, P. (2008). A people’s history of American empire: a graphic adaptation (p. 255). New York: Metropolitan Books.

[13] Blum, W. (2000). Rogue state: a guide to the world’s only superpower (pp. 121). Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press.

[14] Ibid, 122.

[15] Zinn, Konopacki, & Buhle, 256.

[16] Ibid, 256-7 and Harman, 600.

[17] Harman, 600.

[18] Chomsky, N. (1992). What Uncle Sam really wants (p. 67). Berkeley: Odonian Press.

[19] Zinn, H. (2003). A people’s history of the United States: 1492-Present (Fifth ed., p. 595). Boston: Harper Perennial.

[20] Ibid, 26; Johnson, C. (2006). Nemesis: the last days of the American Republic (p. 26). New York: Metropolitan Books.

[21] Johnson, 27.

[22] Ibid, 27-29.

[23] Ibid, 29.

[24] Caldicott, H. (2002). The new nuclear danger: George W. Bush’s military-industrial complex (p. XXII). New York: New Press.

[25] Ibid, XXIII

[26] Ibid, XXIX

[27] Ibid.


[29] Ibid, XI, XLII, and XLV

[30] Klein, N. (2007). The shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism (p. 400). New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.

[31] Ibid, 407

[32] Ibid, 401.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid, 402.

[35] Ibid, 402-3.

[36] Ibid, 403.

[37] Ibid, 404-5.

[38] Caldicott, XXXIII-XXXIV; Klein, 405.

[39] Caldicott, XXXV; Klein, 405.

[40] Caldicott, XLVI.

[41] For more specific people involved in Iraq, see Chapters 16 and 17 of The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and from page XXI to page LV of The New Nuclear Danger by Helen Caldicott.

[42] Chomsky, N. (1992). What Uncle Sam really wants (p. 67-8). Berkeley: Odonian Press.

[43] Serow, A. G., & Ladd, E. C. (2007). From Soft Power. The Lanthan Readings of American Polity (Fourth Edition ed., pp. 650). Baltimore: Lanthan Publishers Inc. On this page, Nye defines soft power as “getting others to want the outcomes you want…[which] rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others,” in an excerpt from his book, Soft Power. Later, Suzanne Nossel, currently the executive director of the PEN American center, who was formerly the deputy Secretary of State and held high positions in Amnesty USA and Human Rights Watch, would articulate her idea of ‘smart power,’ which would contrast “the formerly unabashed Bush-Cheney reliance on ‘Hard Power.’” By employing soft Power or “diplomatic, economic, and cultural pressures, which can be combined with military force, to ‘work our will’ upon foreign nations.” This idea would form the basis of the thesis of ‘humanitarian imperialism’ or intervening militarily under humanitarian pretenses, which are a guise for the real reasons of intervention. Nye’s arguments follow those of Nossel since he also claims to have invented the term of ‘smart power.’

[44] Ibid, 654-655, another excerpt from Nye’s book, Soft Power.

[45] Other people supporting the war include, according to Bob Dreyfuss writing in The Nation, aSlate article, an article in the Weekly Standard, a Reuters article, a Washington Post column, another Washington Post column, an article in The Guardian, an article in the Star Tribune, the Atlantic Council, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and the Center for American Progress: former Vice-President and war criminal Dick Cheney; the CEO of the New American Foundation Anne-Marie Slaughter; the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ); the ISW (Institute of the Study of War) chair and former four-star general Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); now AEI scholar Paul Wolfowitz who formed the main ideas of the Bush doctrine; Douglas Feith who engaged in postwar planning in Iraq; Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard [which is similar to what Kristol argued in the past]and Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar of the AEI; war criminal Tony Blair; Representative Ed Royce who wants to attack what he idiotically terms “columns of terrorists” in Iraq with drones; Berry Pavel of The Atlantic Council; Clifford D. May who is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Washington Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and David Ignatius; and Brian Katulis, Hardin Lang and Vikram Singh of the Center of American Progress.

[46] King, M. L. (2012). Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (pp. 157-158). Boston: Beacon Press. (Original work published 1963). In 1960, he made a similar speech in Chicago, Illinois. The quotes used in this article do not come from that speech, but come from another speech, seemingly later in his life: “He said in his last book that he had come to see the need for the method of nonviolence in international relations.” The book that this quote talks about is called The Trumpet of Conscience, which was published in 1968.

A prelude to war?

20 Jun


The drums to war as many have pointed out are obviously being beat by those in the mainstream press, the neo-cons and others hungering for another conflict. Recently President Obama seemed to bring the US even closer to a war with more US boots on the ground which aren’t combat troops per say but they could be a prelude to further involvement.

Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times reports that the 300 additional ‘military advisers’ on top of the 275 U.S. military personnel deployed “to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” could be used as preparations for war:

“Announcing the deployment two and a half years after US forces left Iraq, Mr Obama said the troops would help collect intelligence about the militants now in control of large parts of the northwest. This would potentially help co-ordinate “targeted” air strikes. The decision to send even a small number of troops back to Iraq represents a striking change of heart for Mr Obama, whose two presidential election campaigns were built around a pledge to end the US-led war in the country…Following a plea for military help from the Iraqi government, the US moved warships to the Gulf that could be used to conduct air strikes. In recent days, Pentagon officials have stressed how difficult it would be for the US military to use air power effectively in Iraq, because many Isis forces are based in towns and cities and because they lack the detailed intelligence needed to conduct strikes. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, said on Wednesday that air strikes were unlikely “until we can actually clarify this intelligence picture”…Mr Obama has said that any new US military intervention would depend in part on an effort by the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki to reach out to disaffected Sunnis…the White House has not called publicly for the Iraqi prime minister to stand down. The administration worries that an open push to unseat Mr Maliki could backfire.”

In another article in the Financial Times, Dyer writes that

“The decision to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq is the first step in a US intervention to defeat Sunni militants and to prevent a destabilising partition of the country…Mr Obama is sending the sort of military contingent that could facilitate the use of US air power against the insurgents, but he also made clear that US force was dependent on political reform by the government of Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

If this is the first step in a broader conflict, it should be roundly criticized. But before I get to that section, there was  detailed article in The Guardian by Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman about the advisers coming to Iraq:

“Barack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq’s beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country. The troops, drawn from US special operations forces, will assist the Iraqi military to develop and execute a counter-offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their mission is likely to spread to the selection of targets for any future air strikes, but Obama stopped short of accepting a plea from Baghdad to order US air power into the skies over Iraq immediately. Instead, Obama said the option of air strikes would be held in reserve…Mindful of the long shadow cast by the last Iraq war, Obama said the deployment of military advisers, expected to be taken from US special operations forces, would not be drawn into combat…However, he said it was in America’s national interest not to see “an all-out civil war in Iraq”, warning that it could become a haven for terrorists…The lack of reliable intelligence identifying clear targets against Isis…is one factor holding the White House back from launching strikes…The contingent of special forces will train and advise Iraq’s troops…Their presence on the ground, and close to the field of battle, is also intended to provide the US with intelligence that could be used to guide any air or missile strikes…his decision not to authorise immediate air strikes will disappoint the Iraqi government…In reserve on the deck of the USS George HW Bush are four squadrons of F/A-18 fighter jets, which the Pentagon ordered into the Persian Gulf on Saturday. The advantage of using naval aviators is that they need not require any regional country’s permission to fly over foreign territory…US officials would not rule out the prospect of potential bombing campaigns in Syria as well as Iraq…While senior officials denied that they sought to oust Maliki or promote a successor, they suggested that the additional US military action desired by Iraq could be contingent on a new and nonsectarian governing coalition.”

Then, there was an article in the Washington Post saying that:

“President Obama authorized additional military assistance for Iraq’s fight against advancing Islamist militants Thursday, but made clear that he will continue to hold back more substantive support, including U.S. airstrikes, until he sees a direct threat to U.S. personnel or a more inclusive and capable Iraqi government. Obama said he would send up to 300 additional U.S. Special Operations troops to better assess the situation on the ground…The administration is straddling difficult politics in Iraq and at home, seeking to answer Republican critics…The United States has backed Maliki’s leadership over the past eight years…U.S. diplomats, meeting this week with Maliki’s political rivals, have pressed them to move much more rapidly to form coalitions and establish a parliamentary majority…Forming a government after Iraq’s last election, in 2010, took more than eight months; the U.S. goal now is that it happen within weeks…In addition to increasing intelligence assets in Iraq — including manned and unmanned aerial reconnaissance — Obama has ordered up to 275 troops to bolster security for the U.S. Embassy and other American facilities in Baghdad. Those troops, and the new ones Obama announced Thursday, will effectively double the U.S. military presence in Iraq. About 600 military personnel assigned to the embassy have been handling U.S. military sales and other forms of cooperation since the last combat troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011. Some of the newly authorized forces, drawn from U.S. Central Command units already in the Middle East, will establish joint operations centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning, including helping Iraqis target ISIS forces…A second senior official said that…“We are going to start small,”…But “the president made clear that unilateral military action and . . . discrete and targeted strikes remain a possibility . . . once we have better information” on the ground…Obama and other officials made clear that the United States will calibrate its assistance, including possible airstrikes, based on Iraq’s progress in forming a broad-based government.”

There was an article from the ‘paper of record’ (The New York Times) on this as well

“President Obama said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants who have overrun large parts of the country, edging the United States back into a conflict that Mr. Obama once thought he had left behind…Mr. Obama said he was prepared to take “targeted and precise military action,” a campaign of airstrikes that a senior administration official said could be extended into neighboring Syria... Mr. Obama is now returning American soldiers to an unresolved conflict. After struggling to steer clear of the sectarian fault lines that divide Iraq, he is now plunging into yet another effort to unite a fractured country…The military advisers will have a number of missions, Pentagon officials said. They will try to determine whether, and which, Iraqi defense forces are capable and willing to stand up to the fighters from the militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. They will gather intelligence on how big a threat the group poses as well as which militant targets could potentially be struck if Mr. Obama decides to order airstrikes. And they will give the United States an assessment of the complex security situation in Iraq…The first few dozen of the 300 special operations forces are already on their way from bases in the region, officials said,..Other advisers will staff two joint operations centers, which will be used to collate and share intelligence with Iraqi officers…On Thursday, stepping up its reconnaissance over Iraq, the United States had 34 piloted and unmanned flights, officials said, double the number of such flights on Tuesday…Mr. Obama’s announcement also has implications for American policy in Syria, which so far has been shaped by the president’s reluctance to get heavily involved in a complex civil war. A senior official said Mr. Obama would not hesitate to strike militant targets on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border…“The president’s made clear time and again that we will take action as necessary, including direct U.S. military action if it’s necessary to defend the United States against an imminent threat,” the official said…As Mr. Obama considers airstrikes, he said he would continue to consult with Congress. For now, the White House does not consider the deployment of advisers to constitute “use of military force, ” said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman.”

I’m not sure what this consulting with Congress will look like, but I worry that it will be an expanded Iraqi AUMF (Authorization of Military Force), or a new AUMF pushed by the administration. There is one last article that I’ll quote here. Its by Jim Michaels in USA Today which is a rag of crap (unlike the New York Times that has professionalism but also likes to lie people into wars for fun (i.e. Iraq invasion in 2003 which they defended in a 2004 article), has over 8% of its stock owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and much more):

The forces President Obama is sending to Iraq will not be conventional combat troops, but that doesn’t mean they can avoid combat or risk…The troops going to Iraq will be small teams of Special Forces advisers that will provide assistance to Iraqi security forces and provide the Pentagon with eyes and ears on the ground. Obama said he would commit no more than 300 people. The advisers will avoid “offensive operations” and will be positioned at the brigade level and above…The challenge for the president is to commit enough forces to assist the Iraqis while ensuring the mission doesn’t expand over time. The Vietnam War started with a limited mission of U.S. advisers sent to help the South Vietnamese armed forces.

Finally, its best to quote Obama’s remarks yesterday that all of these publications are citing:

“As I said last week, ISIL poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests…First, we are working to secure our embassy and personnel operating inside of Iraq…Second, at my direction, we have significantly increased our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets so that we’ve got a better picture of what’s taking place inside of Iraq…Third, the United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces.  We’re prepared to create joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL…we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors — up to 300 — to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward. American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well…Fourth, in recent days, we’ve positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region.  Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL.”

“And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.  If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region…Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq…Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leadersMeanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States…”

“But what’s clear from the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take action abroad, particularly military action…And going forward, we will continue to consult closely with Congress.  We will keep the American people informed.  We will remain vigilant.  And we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the security of the United States and the safety of the American people…As I said, it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.  Part of what our patriots fought for during many years in Iraq was the right and the opportunity for Iraqis to determine their own destiny and choose their own leaders…I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past:  American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq.  Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis”

“It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq, not just for humanitarian reasons, but because that ultimately can be destabilizing throughout the region.  And in addition to having strong allies there that we are committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important...”

“And if they [ISIL] accumulate more money, they accumulate more ammunition, more military capability, larger numbers, that poses great dangers not just to allies of ours like Jordan, which is very close by, but it also poses a great danger potentially to Europe and ultimately the United States…So we have humanitarian interests in preventing bloodshed.  We have strategic interests in stability in the region.  We have counterterrorism interests.  All those have to be addressed… And so I think it is important though to recognize that, despite that decision, that we have continued to provide them with very intensive advice and support and have continued throughout this process over the last five years to not only offer them our assistance militarily…”

“There is going to be a long-term problem in this region in which we have to build and partner with countries that are committed to our interests, our values…you have a group like ISIL that is doing everything that it can to descend the country back into chaos…In the meantime, my job is to make sure that American personnel there are safe; that we are consulting with the Iraqi security forces; that we’re getting a better assessment of what’s on the ground; and that we’re recognizing the dangers of ISIL over the long term, and developing the kinds of comprehensive counterterrorism strategies that we’re going to need to deal with this issue…”

“we have deep differences with Iran across the board on a whole host of issues.And Iran obviously should consider the fact that if its view of the region is solely through sectarian frames, they could find themselves fighting in a whole lot of places.  And that’s probably not good for the Iranian economy or the Iranian people over the long term either.  I suspect there are folks in Iran who recognize that…But old habits die hard, and we’ll have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promising path over the next several days.”

What Obama has to say does shed some light on what the US wants to happen in Iraq, but its also deeply troubling. What he says shows that the US government still thinks military force is something that’s completely fine if the situation ‘requires it’ to stop a “group like ISIL.” Strangely, he says that “it’s not the place” for the US government to choose Iraq’s leaders, yet the US helped overthrow the government of Iraq in 1963 (via the CIA), supported Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s and then overthrow him in a 2003 invasion. So, I’m not sure what Obama is talking about in this point at all, in fact I feel he is just lying again, just like that time he said in September to the UN General Assembly almost arrogantly (and absurdly): “the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.” This line of reasoning echoes Bill Kristol who said, also absurdly, in response to criticism of a Project for A New American Century (PNAC):  “America is not an empire, and its power stems from voluntary associations and alliances. American hegemony is relatively well accepted because people all over the world know that U.S. forces will eventually withdraw from the occupied territories. The effect of declaring that the United States is an empire would not only be factually wrong, but strategically catastrophic.” There is something that at least Obama admits: the US is supposedly caring about ‘humanitarian’ implications of the destablization brought on by ISIL and protecting “strong allies” but also “issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.” This is co-word for petroleum (mostly) in the Gulf, which he wouldn’t say as explicitly as he did on Friday (the concern if ISIL takes over refineries, etc…). After all, lets not what the EIA has to say and these maps (taken from this article)


It seems evident that war is on the way, and I don’t like it. If the US decides to use drones in Iraq, they would be following what PolicyMic describes as a country “where U.S. drone attacks were originally pioneered and developed” since it was the “target of over 17,000 armed drone sorties and 48 strikes between 2008 and 2011″ most of which “occurred in 2008.” It is unknown what Obama’s ‘consultation’ of Congress will look like, but hopefully it is a chance to push against any US military action in the country secretly (through military advisers) or openly (through bombing, drone strikes, etc…). Its the best hope we’ve got.


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