Tomgram: Nick Turse, A Truth-teller for Our Times

November 24, 2008

November 23, 2008
Tomgram: Nick Turse, A Truth-teller for Our Times

[Note to Readers: In the spirit of Nick Turse’s article below on truth-telling and civilian deaths in war, TomDispatch would like to direct your attention to a recently published paperback, Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations, a powerful text with words, images, and documents from the Spring 2008 hearings in Washington, DC, at which American veterans of Bush’s two occupations spoke out about the dark side of the wars they fought.]

By October 2005, when American casualties in Iraq had not yet reached 2,000 dead or 15,000 wounded, and our casualties in Afghanistan were still modest indeed, informal “walls” had already begun springing up online to honor the fallen. At that time, I suggested that “the particular dishonor this administration has brought down on our country calls out for other ‘walls’ as well.” I imagined, then, walls of shame for Bush administration figures and their cronies — and even produced one (in words) that November. By now, of course, any such wall would be full to bursting with names that will live in infamy.

That October, we at TomDispatch also launched quite a different project, another kind of “wall,” this time in tribute to the striking number of “governmental casualties of Bush administration follies, those men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their government duties,” and so often found themselves smeared and with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of the administration.

Nick Turse led off what we came to call our “fallen legion” project with a list of 42 such names, ranging from the well-known Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki (who retired after suggesting to Congress that it would take “several hundred thousand troops” to occupy Iraq) and Richard Clarke (who quit, appalled by how the administration was dealing with terror and terrorism) to the moderately well known Ann Wright, John Brown, and John Brady Kiesling (three diplomats who resigned to protest the coming invasion of Iraq) to the little known Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin (who resigned under pressure, possibly so that various Bush papers could be kept under wraps). By the time Turse had written his second fallen legion piece that November, and then the third and last in February 2006, that list of names had topped 200 with no end in sight.

Today, to its eternal shame, the Bush administration has left not just its own projects, but the nation it ruled, in ruins. No wall could fit its particular “accomplishments.” Turse, who recently wrote for the Nation magazine “A My Lai a Month,” a striking exposé of a U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in Vietnam that slaughtered thousands of civilians, returns in the last moments of this dishonored administration with a fitting capstone piece for the honorably fallen in Washington. Think of it as the last of the “fallen legion,” a memory piece — lest we forget. Tom

“We killed her… that will be with me the rest of my life”

Lawrence Wilkerson’s Lessons of War and Truth

By Nick Turse

Nations in flux are nations in need. A new president will soon take office, facing hard choices not only about two long-running wars and an ever-deepening economic crisis, but about a government that has long been morally adrift. Torture-as-policy, kidnappings, ghost prisons, domestic surveillance, creeping militarism, illegal war-making, and official lies have been the order of the day. Moments like this call for truth-tellers. For Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. For witnesses willing to come forward. For brave souls ready to expose hidden and forbidden realities to the light of day.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


ICH: Conned Again…

November 10, 2008

These are just a few of the informative articles from this weekend’s edition of the Information Clearing House (ICH) newsletter:

===
Conned Again
By Paul Craig Roberts
Obama’s selection of Rahm Israel Emanuel as White House chief of staff is a signal that change ended with Obama’s election. The only thing different about the new administration will be the faces.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21177.htm
===
Obama vs. Medvedev
Nuclear Smackdown in New Europe
By Mike Whitney
Most of what is written about Medvedev is nonsense. The same corporations that own the politicians own the media as well. Naturally, they want to demonize their rivals. In truth, most Americans would have a lot more in common with Medvedev than they would with Bush, Cheney or any of their “silver spoon” elitist cronies.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21181.htm
===
The Machine Grinds On
By Morton Skorodin
The machine grinds on relentlessly. Now it’s: give Obama a chance. This means: Public, go back to sleep. In the meantime Obama and the state machinery work at feverish pace.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21180.htm
===
Tough Sledding Ahead
Surviving A Coming USD Collapse
By Christopher Laird
The Two insoluble problems that will lead to a depression and ultimately the final USD collapse.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21179.htm
===
Pakistan attacks kill 54: :
Jets from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombed hills in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal district, killing at least five people.
http://tinyurl.com/647vt6
===
U.S. Missile Attack Kills at Least 10 in Pakistan:
Missiles fired from a remotely piloted United States aircraft slammed into a village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan along the Afghan border on Friday and killed 10 to 13 people, according to a local intelligence official, a Pakistani reporter and two Pakistani television channels.
http://tinyurl.com/5gmzuo
===
U.S. Admits Killing 37 Afghan Civilians :
The U.S. military Saturday admitted it while responding to an insurgent ambush has killed 37 civilians and wounded 35 others in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar, a Taliban heartland.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21173.htm
===
===
Afghanistan: The Promise and the Reality
Reckless Soldiers, Slappers and Smack
By Yvonne Ridley in Afghanistan
The day after US war planes bombed an Afghan wedding party killing more than 30 women and children, I drove from Pakistan’s troubled tribal areas to the border crossing.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21183.htm
===
Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered Since The U.S. Invaded Iraq “1,284,105”
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq/iraqdeaths.html

===

Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America’sWar On Iraq 4,193
http://icasualties.org/oif/

The War And Occupation Of Iraq Costs
$569,728,252,773

See the cost in your community
http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=182

===


Tomgram: The End of a Subprime Administration

November 6, 2008

November 2, 2008
Tomgram: The End of a Subprime Administration

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As Election 2008 approaches, this seems like an appropriate time to look back, but also to say goodbye to all that. Yes, we have almost three months of the Bush administration to go; yes, so much that George W. did will be with us for an eternity. Still, the moment needs to be marked. I’ve done my best below. For new TomDispatch readers, in particular, let me suggest another way to mark this boundary moment: pick up a copy of The World According to TomDispatch: America in a New Age of Empire. It will bring you up to speed on this site, remind you of just what we’ve gone through since September 11, 2001, and offer you a sense of the ways in which our world has been changed that no new administration will be capable of ignoring. Tom]

Foreclosed

The George W. Bush Story

By Tom Engelhardt

They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen — if you’re talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein’s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance.

When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, not on the shifting “central theaters” of the Global War on Terror, but on the theater that mattered most to them — the “home front” where they spent inordinate amounts of time selling the American people a bill of goods. Of his timing in ramping up a campaign to invade Iraq in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card infamously explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

Indeed.

From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total. They were always releasing “new product.”

And don’t forget their own set of soaring inside-the-Beltway fantasies. After all, if a salesman is going to sell you some defective product, it always helps if he can sell himself on it first. And on this score, they were world champs.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Tomgram: Aziz Huq, Imperial Pretensions and the Financial Crunch

October 17, 2008

Don’t trust me as a gambler. You’d probably make more by putting your money into credit-default swaps. Nonetheless, I’d like to make a small wager on who the single significant holdover from the Bush administration might be should an Obama presidency actually happen. Keep a close eye on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He was clearly sent into the Rumsfeld breach back at the end of 2006 to begin the clean-up of the Bush administration’s foreign policy mess and — my guess — to prevent Dick Cheney and pals from attacking Iran. And this, with a little help from onrushing reality, he seems to have accomplished. He remains the singular adult in the Bush foreign policy playpen, a skilled bureaucratic maneuverer from his CIA days, who claims he plans to leave Washington in January but would never say “never” to an offer ahead of time.

Like Obama, he’s plunked for an intensified Afghan War and, just last week, a key national security advisor to the candidate, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, praised Gates, suggesting he had been a splendid secretary of defense and adding that “he’d be an even better one in an Obama administration.”

So, when Gates gives a speech aimed at the Pentagon’s future, it’s worth listening carefully. On September 29th, he went to the National Defense University and offered a peek into that future as he imagines it. Now remember, the U.S. financial meltdown was already underway and, after seven unbelievably fat years, Pentagon weapons contractors were starting to express worries about possible future cutbacks. Nonetheless, Gates offered a vision of a U.S. military-plus. There was the usual support for a range of conventional weapons systems for wars that will never be fought and their futuristic equivalents, as well as for a larger Army, a larger Marine Corps, and a larger Navy. (The Air Force, except for unmanned aerial vehicles, looks to be in trouble in Gatesworld.) But above all, the once and (possibly) future secretary of defense wants to invest in “institutionalizing counterinsurgency skills, and our ability to conduct stability and support operations.” Backed by a growing lobby eager to put ever more warm bodies in the military, he’s opting for a major build-up to deal with future insurgencies out there in the global badlands. Think… gulp… “nation building.” Think, as well, future Afghanistans and Iraqs.

Though Gates has also claimed of late that the Pentagon’s gargantuan budget will no longer outpace inflation, that growth in military spending is “probably a thing of the past,” this is still a recipe for a relatively unrestrained imperial future that, as Aziz Huq, author of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror, points out below is a disaster waiting to happen. It is, in fact, a potential recipe for American bankruptcy. Tom

Use It or Lose It?

How to Manage an Imperial Decline

By Aziz Huq

Do empires end with a bang, a whimper, or the sibilant hiss of financial deflation?

We may be about to find out. Right now, in the midst of the financial whirlwind, it’s been hard in the United States to see much past the moment. Yet the ongoing economic meltdown has raised a range of non-financial issues of great importance for our future. Uncertainty and anxiety about the prospects for global financial markets — given the present liquidity crunch — have left little space for serious consideration of issues of American global power and influence.

Click here to read more of this dispatch


Tomgram: Mike Davis, Casino Capitalism, Obama, and Us

October 17, 2008

October 15, 2008

Recently, while traveling in the West, I had lunch at a modest-sized casino set in a wild, barren-looking, craggy landscape. On the hills above it spun giant, ivory white, modernistic windmills, looking for all the world like Martian invaders from War of the Worlds. I hadn’t been inside a casino since the 1970s — my mistake — and the experience was eye-poppingly wild. Venturing into its vast room of one-armed bandits and other games was like suddenly finding oneself inside a giant pinball machine for the digital age, everything gaudily lit, blinking, pinging, flashing, accompanied, of course, by a soundscape to match.

It was (as it was undoubtedly meant to be) strangely exhilarating, riveting, totally distracting, and a curious reminder right now of just how distracting “casino capitalism” — as Mike Davis calls it in today’s post — really has been. For years, with all the economic bells and whistles, all the mansions and yachts, all those arcane derivatives, all the high-tech glamour and glory, with Americans pouring into the stock market (or at least their pension plans and mutual funds doing it for them), you could almost not notice the increasingly barren, rocky world outside the American casino. You could almost not notice the shrinking of real value, of actual productivity in this country. These last weeks, Americans — those who weren’t already outside, at least — have been rudely shoved into the real world to assess what their value (personal, national, global) actually is.

The next president will look out over a new, far less dazzling, far more forbidding landscape. Mike Davis, author most recently of In Praise of Barbarians: Essays Against Empire, who is little short of a national treasure, offers his own incandescent view of the landscape, presidential, economic, and otherwise, from the ledge at the edge of the canyon. (While you’re at it, check out a podcast of Davis discussing why the New Deal isn’t relevant as a solution today by clicking here.) Tom

Can Obama See the Grand Canyon?

On Presidential Blindness and Economic Catastrophe

By Mike Davis

Let me begin, very obliquely, with the Grand Canyon and the paradox of trying to see beyond cultural or historical precedent.

The first European to look into the depths of the great gorge was the conquistador Garcia Lopez de Cardenas in 1540. He was horrified by the sight and quickly retreated from the South Rim. More than three centuries passed before Lieutenant Joseph Christmas Ives of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers led the second major expedition to the rim. Like Garcia Lopez, he recorded an “awe that was almost painful to behold.” Ives’s expedition included a well-known German artist, but his sketch of the Canyon was wildly distorted, almost hysterical.

Neither the conquistadors nor the Army engineers, in other words, could make sense of what they saw; they were simply overwhelmed by unexpected revelation. In a fundamental sense, they were blind because they lacked the concepts necessary to organize a coherent vision of an utterly new landscape.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Watch John McCain’s Rage

October 8, 2008

The piece below was sent to me by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films.  The video is very worthwhile to watch.

“I have a temper, to state the obvious, which I have tried to control with varying degrees of success because it does not always serve my interest or the public’s.” – John McCain

Dear Annamarie,

During last night’s debate, John McCain said we need “a cool hand at the tiller,” but McCain has proven to be a loose cannon. He has accosted his Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle on everything from the federal budget to diplomatic relations. He is known for hurling profanities rather than settling disagreements calmly. His belligerence is legendary. Even conservative Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi has said, “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

When someone earns the nickname “Senator Hothead,” the public ought to call his character into question. McCain’s propensity to explode undermines his abilities as a rational decision maker, particularly on national security issues — which could prove disastrous considering our country is already involved in two wars.

Watch the video and send it to friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAyK-enrF1g

With the election less than four weeks away, here’s a chance for you to take concrete action:

  1. Alert your friends to McCain’s rage. Send them this video and ask them to pass it on.
  2. Post this video on all your blogs and networking sites like Digg — critical tools for reaching those outside the choir. Make sure it gets viewed so many times it ends up on YouTube’s homepage, so undecided swing state voters can see it easily.
  3. Get the latest on McCain with a free video subscription from Brave New PAC, and encourage others to sign up too.

McCain’s temper is critical to his decision-making abilities, and his character must be discussed. As Drew Westen writes, “The political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures and policies to make a reasoned decision.” That why it’s so crucial people know the real Senator Hothead.

Yours,
Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New PAC team

Watch the video


Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, The Ultimate Election

October 7, 2008

Here we are, with ringside seats — far too close for comfort — at the Great Global Crash of ’08. Nobody’s quite calling it that yet, but what else could it be? All over the world yesterday stocks plummeted; the Russian and Brazilian stock indexes went down so precipitously — 19% and 13% — that exchanges in both countries were closed for parts of the day; the Indonesian index tumbled an unprecedented 10%; the Paris bourse, 9%; the London FTSE 100, a historic 8%; and the main German index 7%; while, at the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow Jones dipped under 10,000 on its wild ride toward the depths.

In moments like this, if you’re an American, you look for ironies. And here’s one appropriate to Chalmers Johnson’s dispatch below. In the last year, the Bush administration’s top officials have sunk much of their increasingly lame-duck energy into pacifying Iraq, and so getting it out of the news and the spotlight at least long enough for election ’08 to happen (and undoubtedly long enough as well for them to get out of town in January). And then what happens? The administration is ambushed, not by Sunni militants or Shiite radicals but by its own people: investment bankers, lenders, hedge-fund managers, financial management types — the very people for whom they organized the world and who had long been playing fast and loose (and profitably) with our economic system. The ambush, of course, took the form of a financial meltdown of massive proportions for which, as in Iraq in 2003, the administration had clearly done no significant preplanning or war-gaming. And, as with the insurgency then, so now they operated by the increasingly worn seats of their pants. Their attempted $700 billion “surge,” as stock exchanges around the world indicated yesterday, wasn’t likely to pacify a global financial system near cardiac arrest.

And I’m getting to that irony, if you’ll just hang on. But first recall the administration’s dreams only five years ago. Then, they were convinced that they would create a Pax Americana globally and a Pax Republicana domestically that would last generations. Now, “Bush’s brain” Karl Rove is talking about an Obama November victory, while what Iraq started, the economic meltdown looks to be ending.

Here’s a sure thing: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney won’t make it out of town in time, their wars will remain disasters, their imperial dreams so much smoke, and domestically, they may have created the conditions for a turning-point election that could bring to Washington not only a resurgent Democratic Party, but the first black president of the United States. Quite a record for one “commander-in-chief” presidency. Chalmers Johnson, whose latest book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, warned of the possibility of a profligate, militarized U.S. going bankrupt, considers whether, in the ruins of Bush’s financial Katrina, an Obama victory and a reconfiguring election are possible, or whether deep-seated racism and embedded regional party loyalties will prove too much even for this catastrophic moment. Tom

Voting the Fate of the Nation

Will Economic Meltdown, Race, or Regional Loyalty Be the Trump Card in Election 2008?

By Chalmers Johnson

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama called the forthcoming presidential election a “defining moment” in this country’s history. It is conceivable that he is right. There are precedents in American history for an election inaugurating a period of reform and political realignment.

Such a development, however, is extremely rare and surrounded by contingencies normally beyond the control of the advocates of reform. So let me speculate about whether the 2008 election might set in motion a political reconfiguration — and even a political renaissance — in the United States, restoring a modicum of democracy to the country’s political system, while ending our march toward imperialism, perpetual warfare, and bankruptcy that began with the Cold War.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.