This is the third of a four-part essay series hosted here on the YAL blog which will address the alliances between the US government and sponsors of international terrorism. Read Part 2 here, and stay tuned for the next two parts, which will publish daily this week.
Foreign policy accountability?
At every turn, American foreign policy has provoked, emboldened, and given aid and comfort to organizations linked to (if not identical with) the very terrorists we're ostensibly fighting. My knee-jerk reaction to this travesty is to seek justice and accountability for the war crimes committed against the general population of all the various and sundry Middle Eastern Nations and seek some sort of domestic justice for the volunteer American military forces who have been exploited under false pretenses.
Court martial proceedings for military leadership who carried out such orders under false pretense should be sought. Leadership from the Bush and Obama Administrations should be indicted. If the testimony of politicians and military men like General Wesley Clarke, who has stated that this destabilization policy was indeed an intentional policy, make certain that these are not only war crimes, but high crimes and misdemeanors against the American republic.
Yet, this is an uncommon view. For any of this to come to fruition, the cause of justice must reach a critical mass of support. Perhaps a simpler approach would be to pressure candidates for office and relevant government agencies to pledge to reform the war making authority.
There's a widely-watched video in which then-Congressman Ron Paul questioned former Secretary of State James Baker on this type of reform:
Paul's questions—and Baker’s answers—leave little room for doubt that the executive branch’s power to make war is in practice near-absolute.Of course, as the Obama Administration's Syrian "red line" indicated, even the all-powerful executive cannot withstand serious public opposition. Only a frank national discussion about executive power can
With the fourth week of the trial of first class private Bradley Manning over, it's expected that the final, sentencing, period will commence shortly. Three years ago, Bradley Manning gave the public information on American military crimes in the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, including information on the deaths of journalists and civilians from drone strikes and other military measures. In addition, Manning also leaked a gigantic archive (about 250,000) of Department of State diplomatic cables, and event which was dubbed, Cablegate.
He was detained and subsequently spent almost three years in legal limbo, being denied his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to due process and a speedy trial, as well as being abused and degraded while in detainment.
Manning is a patriot in every sense of the word. He helped free the public from the tyranny created by the military's secrecy on activities and crimes committed overseas. This information should have held those soldiers responsible, accountable, and prompted reforms in the system, with a thank-you letter addressed to Manning for revealing these abuses instead of letting them continue. Instead, just as the case has been with Edward Snowden, the public has turned against the man responsible for the leaks, rather than the contents of the leaks themselves.
I’m researching some of the costs of America’s wars since 2001 for a new YAL project today. Most of this I’ve read about before—it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with most of the data. But all put together, it’s pretty heart-breaking. Here’s a sampling:
$6 trillion+: The final costs of Iraq and Afghanistan
$16 trillion: The national debt
$720 million: The price of one day at war in Iraq
$300 million: One day of war in Afghanistan
$132 billion and growing: Annual Dep’t of Veterans Affairs budget
$50 billion: What we were told Iraq would cost
1.7 billion of our emails read daily
Suppression of free speech
TSA security theater
Assassination of Americans
1 million+ excess deaths in Iraq
7.8 million+ refugees in Iraq
6,518 American soldiers dead in Iraq and Afgh.
16,495 total U.S. military deaths 2001-2010
48,430 Americans wounded in Iraq and Afgh.
1,655 military amputations from battle
300,000 veterans have PTSD
50 civilians killed for every one terrorist
The constant posture of attack our foreign policy takes today simply doesn’t work, and its price is high in dollars, freedom, and lives. If we want a safer and saner America, it’s time to end the wars.
Will the wars ever end? I often hear it stated that once the US invades a country it never withdraws its forces. Not completely. For instance, WW2 ended in 1945, but we still have troops in Japan and Germany.
The media propaganda about troop reduction seems to never end. A good number of voters in this country consider the war in Iraq to be over even though it's not, ended by the great peace president Barack Obama, and the war in Afghanistan to be drawing down. Warmongering Republicans don’t help by reinforcing the illusion that Obama has ended wars by attacking him for a supposed weak foreign policy.
Our country doesn’t even do some of its fighting under its own flag. We have instead allowed for our dirty work to be carried out under the NATO banner or by mercenaries who commit so many atrocities they have to change their company name every few years to keep negative publicity from catching up with them (e.g. Blackwater/Xe/Academi).
The real question is not will it end. It has to end. We’re broke. As Ron Paul has said, “The financial calamity is going to be much worse than anybody ever invading this country.” And yet the spineless hawks continue to bang the drums of war. Sanctions are passed and the stage is continually set for more war. So will we reach a point where we demand peace or will we just crumble internally as all great empires do. Sadly, my money is on the latter.
Despite President Barack Obama's announcement of the Third End of War in Iraq, the people of Iraq continue to suffer under unrelenting violence all the while the toll from civilian deaths continues to climb. While America was celebrating Independence Day on July 4 with colorful explosion of fireworks, Iraqis were treated to non-celebratory explosions of car bombs and death squads. 19 people were killed and 52 wounded. And that was just one day.
Over 100 people have died and more than 200 wounded in Iraq last week in a spate of violence that continues unabated.
Over at my Tumblr blog, I posted the image above during the Memorial Day weekend. Apparently, it was sufficiently provocative that an anonymous reader's father reacted negatively:
When I showed the picture of the Iraq vet and Vietnam vet to my veteran father, he was outraged over it. As a veteran yourself, how do you handle those who react like that to the anti-war movement?
How do I explain my antiwar views to my brothers in the military? I explain to my fellow veterans that as a child from a military family and as a former member of the military myself, I make the distinction between the service members who are part of the military and the civilians leaders who are in charge of them. Most of our civilian leaders have never “served” in the military and our lives and what we go through are as alien to them as the lives of foreigners we kill to us.
A military judge has ordered the state department to release into her hands official documents that assessed from the viewpoint of the US government how damaging the leak of state secrets to WikiLeaks had been to American national interests.
For months Manning's defence lawyer, David Coombs, has been pressing the soldier's military prosecutors to hand over in the discovery stage of the trial the official damage assessments. The assessments, carried out by several federal agencies including intelligence bodies, could have a crucial bearing on any sentence handed out to Manning should he be found guilty.
There have been suggestions that the assessments show that in the official opinion of the US government, WikiLeaks did very little to harm US national interests around the world. That could prove invaluable for the defence in mitigation.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Manning would probably be convicted. After all, it is a trial where the judge's boss is the Commander-in-Chief who already decided before any trial began that Manning broke the law. It is not really that far-fetched to say that best outcome out of this would be for Manning to wither away in jail instead of being executed for daring to embarrass the Empire. I would ask "Why go through all this trouble of wasting resources conducting a mock trial? Why not just execute Manning and be done with it?" but then I already know the answer.
Videos posted by Harper's Magazine show the private contractor formerly known as Blackwater in Iraq running over a woman with a car, smashing into Iraqis' cars to move them out of the way and firing a rifle into traffic.
The behavior by Blackwater seen in the videos adds even more fuel to evidence that the company "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."
No one really knows what possessed Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to go out into that cold Afghanistan night and -- as he is accused of allegedly doing -- kill 17 innocent Afghan civilians, more than half of them children. However, we do know that the military acted swiftly and within days had detained, transported, and charged the staff sergeant with 17 counts of murder. Bales is currently being held in a maximum security detention facility in Fort Leavenworth, awaiting trial and a possible death sentence for the murders.
On this ninth Iraqiversary, it seems important to pause a moment to take a look at the past, present, and future of this most notorious quagmire.
When we invaded Iraq in 2003, I was 15 and vaguely supportive of the war out of a naive assumption that if they said we had to bomb Iraq to keep from being nuked, then bomb Iraq we must. Nine years later it is uncomfortably obvious (and indeed has been for quite a while) that I -- and quite a few other people at the time who lacked the plea of youthful error -- was wrong: "The most popular argument to support the Iraq war in 2003 was the one about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)….All of it turned out to be lies. Iraq didn’t possess a single WMD. Far from being a military threat to the West, the country quickly collapsed in the face of invading forces.”
As it soon became clear that WMDs were nowhere to be found, the ostensible mission switched to “spreading democracy” -- Saddam was a bad, bad man, and we must kill him. A bad man he was, and kill him we did, but at what cost?
Madeleine Albright may have thought that killing 500,000 Iraqi children (let alone adults) through sanctions in the 1990s was “worth it” to bend the erstwhile Mesopotamia to our will, but I can’t agree. I especially can’t agree in regards to the additional 600,000 to 1 million (or more) excess civilian deathscaused by the war following our 2003 invasion. Proportionally, this is analogous to killing everyone in Texas or California. If this is what it takes to spread democracy, can anyone honestly claim spreading democracy is a worthy cause?