Archive | Foreign Policy RSS feed for this section

Obama’s Napoleon Complex

16 Aug

Since the bombs started falling in Central Asia in October 2001, critics of the American Empire warned that the initial “success” in Afghanistan was an illusion. The country was no match for massive US firepower, but the lessons of history would make this war unwinnable. It would drain our resources, create exponentially more enemies, and further destabilize a region that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

Eight years later, as both civilian and US military death counts are surging, even the US’s top torturer/executioner in Afghanistan is admitting this. General Stanley McChrystal is witnessing firsthand the rising casualties and warning that the Taliban are winning:

The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home.

This startling admission coming from Obama’s handpicked Afghan ethnic cleanser is just another sign of a undefined and ever changing imperial strategy, all of them with no conceivable chance of success. First, the goal was to tame the Taliban, a ragtag group of poor Muslim fighters who did want war with the US but got it anyway. Now, McChrystal is admitting that the Taliban can’t be defeated, and the job of the US military is now to “defend and protect the Afghan population.” Rather than cut our losses and come home, Obama and his war machine are putting new slogans and rhetoric to justify this imperial overstretch.

At the same time McChrystal is giving these warnings from Central Asia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is claiming that it is a “mystery” how long US troops will be fighting and dying in Afghanistan:

Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida will take “a few years,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, with success on a larger scale in the desperately poor country a much longer proposition. He acknowledged that the Taliban has a firm hold on parts of the country President Barack Obama has called vital to U.S. security.

Gates’ testimony represents the complete absence of logic behind the “war on terror” and Obama’s proclamation that the war in Afghanistan is “the good war.” Obama excited a war-weary American public with campaign talks of peace and pullouts, but now that the emperor’s torch of power has been handed to him, he sees no reason why this pointless and counterproductive war should end.

More than anything Obama attempts to do domestically, nothing has the chance to bring Obama’s presidency down like this expensive and bloody quagmire in Afghanistan. Critics of Obamacare like to point out the high costs of his healthcare policy and the likelihood that taxes will be raised. But the costs of government healthcare will be minuscule compared to the costs of fighting in Afghanistan: trillions of dollars, thousands of more troops killed or forever maimed, and the continuing growth of Taliban popularity in response to massive US air raids.

Obama did not create this Mesopotamian madness, but he has the power to put an end to it, to seek diplomacy, and to work towards something American foreign policy hasn’t witnessed in decades: genuine peace. President Eisenhower ended the disastrous Korean War, President Coolidge withdrew troops from the Dominican Republic, and President Reagan cut-and-ran from Lebanon; all of these actions secured peace and US security. Obama’s wise engagement with Israel is beginning to extinguish some fires in that trouble region, yet he insists on throwing more and more gasoline on the Afghan flames.

This war will be Obama’s Waterloo, and with its continuing costs and burdens, time is not on his side.


Censorship and tyranny in ‘liberated’ Iraq

13 Aug

I can remember hearing fluffy fairy tales of exporting democracy and liberty to Iraq when the war drums started beating seven years ago. We would be greeted with flowers, as liberators, and as overthrowers of the evil Saddam regime; it would be a “cakewalk.” Saddam’s tyranny may be gone, but six years later, it is simply being replaced under Iraq’s new “free” government:

Moves by Iraq’s government to control the flow of information both in print and online have raised fears of a crackdown on free speech reminiscent of the regime of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein.

A decision to screen imported books and plans for Internet filters are being seen by intellectuals as a sign that the years of freer expression ushered in by the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam could be coming to an end.

Not content with just condoning the stifling of free speech and good, old fashioned book burning, the Iraqi government has also banned smoking:

So once parliament reconvenes next month and approves the law, Iraqis could encounter a sight familiar in New York, London, Hong Kong and every other city where smoking is restricted — smokers huddled outside their office buildings and puffing away. That would have been risky when bombings, drive-by shootings and kidnappings were commonplace.

These trends actually make sense. The US imposes draconian restrictions on free speech and vices here at home, so why not export it half a world away?

The war planners in the White House, Congress, the media, and the Pentagon may cheer on the expansion of our empire, but the 5,000 dead US soldiers (and counting) and thousands more (and counting) crippled and maimed in Iraq may disagree.

US selling arms to both sides of Somali conflict

12 Aug

Despite the fact that a huge majority of Americans oppose the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, these wars continue to rage on under our new emperor’s watch. It is imperative that these adventures in imperial ignorance and arrogance end immediately, but it’s the US Empire’s smaller and less visible war-making that also needs to be exposed and opposed.

The US is pretty busy in the poverty stricken African continent. Since January, Congolese militias have been receiving US guns and money as they raze and rape their way across the country. Now the State Department is informing us that it has provided hearly 40 tons of arms to the Somali government to combat the al-Shabaab insurgency, and Hillary Clinton is promising 80 tons more.

What exactly is being accomplished by this massive transfer of arms? Well, Somali forces bring these guns to market, sell them to traders, who then sell them right to the insurgency at a nice little profit. With all these middle-man markups, it might just be cheaper to sell them directly to the insurgency.

Somalia is a country torn apart by civil war, and was further destabilized by the US-supported Ethiopian invasion in 2006. Poor, hungry, and desperate, Somalis have continuously turned to piracy to feed their families and avoid the constant threat of rivaling militias.

The US response to this increase in piracy has been numbingly typical: threats, threats, and more threats. Talks of imposing sanctions has significant popularity in the Pentagon, and even discussions of a possible invasion of tiny nearby Eritrea, who the US accuses of supplying the insurgents with weapons. Eritrea denies this claim, exposing the Pentagon’s mindset that military intervention in other countries is solely the job of the good and noble US government.

The US war planners refuse to see any possible repercussions in their short-sighted attempts to police and run the world. The US has a terrible habit of funding both sides of ethnic and religious conflicts, and blowback from these interventions aimed at our shores is not a matter of if, but when.

Imitating the Soviets in Afghanistan

10 Aug

Obama’s healthcare plans have been dominating the media for the last month, so it’s no surprise that this little piece of news went nearly unnoticed here in the US. According to the UK Times Online, 45,000 more US Marines will be sent to Afghanistan. Anthony Cordesman, “an influential American academic,” says

The United States should send up to 45,000 extra troops to Afghanistan…

If Mr Cordesman’s recommendation reflects the view of General McChrystal, who recently presented the findings of a 60-day review of Afghanistan strategy to Washington, it would mean sending another nine combat brigades, comprising 45,000 American troops, in addition to the 21,000 already approved by President Obama. This would bring the total American military presence in Afghanistan to about 100,000, considerably closer to the force that was deployed for the counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq.

Not a word in the American press about this possible “surge” in Afghanistan, a war that ia costing the US $200 million every day, destablizing the entire region, strengthening the Taliban, and killing hundreds of civilians a day. Obama may be drawing down troop strength in Iraq, but his offensives in Afghanistan are dangerously counterproductive, creating and an endless list of new enemies with every bomb and drone missile.

100,000 Soviets and thousands of helicopters couldn’t tame the Afghan countryside. Two decades later, the sons of those Afghans who whipped the Soviets have been bleeding the US since since October 2001. What makes these war planners think that they ignore history and keep digging hole after hole in Central Asia?

If Cordesman and McChrystal are going to be giving orders in Afghanistan, then it is very likely that the US won’t be leaving anytime soon. General McChrystal was the top torturer in Iraq before Obama promoted him; Cordesman criticized Bush for not escalating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan enough and publicly praised Israel’s air and ground bombardment of the Gaza Strip last December.

These are some of the top minds running the US Empire, and they all have Obama’ ear.

There is also another possible war on the horizon as Israeli hawks continue to pressure the US to pre-emptively strike the Iranians. In the midst of a crippling depression, inflation, and debt, how long can the US maintain these desert killing-fields?

We’re all soldiers now

8 Aug

The militarization of the US continues:

Suburban areas like Collin County are being invaded by the armed forces, which are seeing a new kind of recruit – middle-class kids with high school and even college educations.

Steady income, college funding and heightened recruiting efforts during an economic downturn are attracting more affluent youth in Texas and across the country to the military.

The Military-Industrial-Congressional-Media-Complex won’t stop until every last one of us are draped in government uniforms, employed to shoot foreigners for the government flag.

Support our troops, and get them out of the largest and most destructive government program in history.

Clinton’s lecturing tour continues

8 Aug

Hillary the Hawk has been really busy lately, from threatening the Iranians with an invasion to scolding the Chinese. Her embarassing lecture tour continues, this time in Africa. The Secretary of State is urging South Africa to press the corrupt Zimbabwe regime, run by the thug Robert Mugabe, for reform:

The United States, troubled by what it sees as an absence of reform in Zimbabwe, has no plans either to offer major aid or to lift sanctions against Mugabe and some of his supporters.

Before any of that can happen, Washington wants more evidence of political, social and economic reforms, a U.S. official told Reuters before Clinton began her seven-nation trip to Africa.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into economic ruin. He argues that hyperinflation and a collapsed infrastructure* are caused by sanctions imposed by the United States and others.

It is embarassing to see Clinton circumventing around the globe, lecturing other countries like a schoolteacher. Yes, Zimbabwe is corrupt and Mugabe is a mass-murdering thug, but so are about 80% of the countries in the world, so it looks like Clinton’s got a long list of regimes to scold.

This foreign meddling is not only an example of American arrogance, but hyprocritical as well. Before the US publicly criticizes other nations for their faults, how about taking a good, hard look in the mirror?

The US has massive inflation, collapsing infrastructure, a military regime that occupies every continent, trillions in debt, and a government that robs half of Americans’ wealth every year.

After Clinton said the North Koreans were acting “like unruly children,” they must be laughing as well. It is a major relief to see our journalist home and safe, but they were actually tried, convicted, and sentenced. Can we say the same for the 600 detainees at Gitmo? Or the hundreds at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan? Or the millions rotting away in government cages for drug “crimes?”

I’d like to see the US for once, just once, mind its own business and stop chastising other countries for the exact same things that happen here.

From Manila to Hiroshima

8 Aug

It all started in Manila. When the US easily defeated a weaker Spanish fleet in the Caribbean during the Spanish-American War, the US shrugged off the modest and prudent restraints of a constitutional republic and embraced the heavy burdens of empire. Victory over Spain allowed the US to conquer Spains’ former colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam) and stretched its imperial guns to the shores of the Philippines.

Imposing our will on the Philippines was no easy task, and the US Army wiped out 200,000 Filipinos who dared to resist foreign occupation. President McKinley, proud of “Christianizing” the already Catholic Filipinos, put on an emperor’s crown as he saw the Stars and Stripes fly on foreign soil, and the American Empire was born.

A couple decades later, the Japanese began dabbling in their own imperial slaughter, razing their way through the Asian mainland in a fury. US hegemony in the Pacific was soon threatened by the Japanese Empire, and the US responded provocatively with an oil embargo, selling boatloads of weapons to China, and encircling the island. The Japanese, sick of being bullied and provoked by the US, bombed Pearl Harbor (yet another US colony, not even a state at the time).

The rest, as they say, is history. The world witnessed a war that left continents in ashes, cities destroyed, millions dead and wounded, and massive ethnic cleansing. 64 years ago, WW2 finally came to a close when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, then three days later dropped another on Nagasaki.

Anniversaries are a time for reflection, and this haunting one is no exception. Yes, these acts were war crimes and in a just world, FDR and Truman would be scorned and hated for what they sanctioned. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible, but not much is mentioned about the firebombing of Tokyo and the incineration of over 100 Japanese civilian cities under their watch.

More than examining the horrors that occurred on August 6th and 9th, 1945, the nuking of Japan should be a reminder to the entire world of the dangers of nuclear war. The Cold War is over, and the thought of nuclear war has somewhat faded from the American mind, but the threat is not entirely hidden. There are still nine countries (US, Russia, Israel, England, France, Pakistan, India, North Korea) that have a combined 27,000 operational nuclear weapons that could destroy plenty of Earths.

The threat of nuclear war is even more dangerous now considering that the ones dropped on Japan were 115-ton bombs, which are slingshots with rocks compared to the nukes that the US and Russia now possess. In a matter of 15 minutes, the US and Russia could conceivably launch 100,000 Hiroshimas.

President Obama deserves some credit for publicly embracing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, talking with Russia about nuclear disarmament, and initiating talks in the Senate about finally signing the long overdue Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (which would effectively ban the production of nuclear material for weapons). Despite these positive signs, the Obama Administration will still spend $6 billion this year researching new ways to incinerate the world.

The anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan may be in the past, but they serve as a constant reminder of the incredibly destructive power of modern warfare.