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‘Tipping Point’: Obama Lawyer Talks About Ending ‘Endless’ US War December 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Tom Engelhardt’s quote of the war on terror at the end of this article is an excellent summary of the bogus justification for the so-called global war on terror.  Note that I have appended readers’ comments to the article, which for the most part add greatly to an understanding of US foreign policy.  My own opinion is that the US is too heavily invested in military warfare to take the sane and reasonable approach to acts of terror, which is to treat them as a law enforcement issue.  Simply put, war is too profitable to those who weild the power behind the scenes (i.e. Obama’s puppet masters).  Just one example: drone missiles are a billion dollar industry, and the owners and producers of drone missiles are the same people who are the de facto owners of the president and the congress.  It will take either a catastrophic event or popular citizen uprising to put a halt to this madness.

Published on Friday, November 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Though he defends its worst worst practices and won’t declare when ‘tipping point’ might be reached, comments by Pentagon attorney could spark renewed debate about timeframe of war against al Qaeda

  – Common Dreams staff

If a global war declared by the world’s sole military and economic superpower against a shadowy, fragmented, franchisable, and loosely-grouped band of erstwhile ‘dangerous’ but also ‘ravaged’ and ‘largely dismantled’ terror group was over, how would you know it?

US defense department general counsel, Jeh Johnson, says responsibility for tackling al-Qaida should pass to the police and other law enforcement agencies when the ‘tipping point’ in pursuit of group is reached. (Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

You wouldn’t, of course, which is the reason that few ask and almost none, especially members of the US government or military, talk about anything that resembles the “official” end of what has long become known as the “global war on terrorism,” or GWOT.

Today, however, at a speech given at Oxford University, Jeh Johnson, a Pentagon lawyer and one of President Obama’s top legal advisors, spoke openly about what it might mean for the US government to declare an end to its seemingly endless war against—what critics have sharply pointed out is a “tactic”—”terrorism”.

In his presentation at Oxford, Johnson asked, “Now that efforts by the U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves: how will this conflict end?”

Though Johnson is an official spokesperson for the Defense Department and an aggressive defender of the controversial policies ensconced within the US war against al Qaeda, he also said that these policies would not, and should not, continue indefinitely. He said:

I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point – a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.

At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an “armed conflict” against al Qaeda and its associated forces; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda, for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible, in cooperation with the international community – with our military assets available in reserve to address continuing and imminent terrorist threats.

At that point we will also need to face the question of what to do with any members of al Qaeda who still remain in U.S. military detention without a criminal conviction and sentence. In general, the military’s authority to detain ends with the “cessation of active hostilities.” For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.

As Reuters reports:

The U.S. government points to the existence of an armed conflict as the legal underpinning of practices such as indefinite detention of the global militant group’s members and allies.

Johnson’s remarks could ignite a global political debate with arguments from both the left and the right.

The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive because, it said, al Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere remain a danger.

But Johnson tried to frame the discussion with what he called conventional legal principles rather than a new legal structure emerging from the September 11 attacks.

And The Guardian adds:

Washington’s pursuit of suspected al-Qaida terrorists has been controversial, such as the use of UAVs – or drones – to launch attacks in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

The administration has been criticised by human rights groups and US academics who say the tactic enrages local populations and causes civilian deaths. It is also legally dubious, they argue.

A fortnight ago the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, claimed America had “decimated core al-Qaida” and that the group was “widely distributed, loosely knit and geographically dispersed”.

His remarks echoed those of Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, who is Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

She has been pilloried by Republicans for suggesting the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of US ambassador Christopher Stephen was spontaneous rather than planned.

Such characterisations will put Washington under greater pressure to review and justify the military campaign against al-Qaida, which has been virtually wiped out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now exists only in small, disorganised regional splinter groups.

Critics of the so-called ‘global war on terror’ have long held that the impulsive decision by the US government to respond to the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011 with military force—as opposed to treating it as a law enforcement issue—was the original sin of the post-9/11 era.  As Tom Engelhardt, editor of TomDispatch, wrote on the tenth anniversary of 9/11:

It was not a nuclear attack.  It was not apocalyptic.  The cloud of smoke where the towers stood was no mushroom cloud.  It was not potentially civilization ending.  It did not endanger the existence of our country — or even of New York City.  Spectacular as it looked and staggering as the casualty figures were, the operation was hardly more technologically advanced than the failed attack on a single tower of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Islamists using a rented Ryder truck packed with explosives.

A second irreality went with the first.  Almost immediately, key Republicans like Senator John McCain, followed by George W. Bush, top figures in his administration, and soon after, in a drumbeat of agreement, the mainstream media declared that we were “at war.” This was, Bush would say only three days after the attacks, “the first war of the twenty-first century.”  Only problem: it wasn’t.  Despite the screaming headlines, Ground Zero wasn’t Pearl Harbor.  Al-Qaeda wasn’t Japan, nor was it Nazi Germany.  It wasn’t the Soviet Union.  It had no army, nor finances to speak of, and possessed no state (though it had the minimalist protection of a hapless government in Afghanistan, one of the most backward, poverty-stricken lands on the planet).

And yet — another sign of where we were heading — anyone who suggested that this wasn’t war, that it was a criminal act and some sort of international police action was in order, was simply laughed (or derided or insulted) out of the American room.  And so the empire prepared to strike back (just as Osama bin Laden hoped it would) in an apocalyptic, planet-wide “war” for domination that masqueraded as a war for survival.

In the meantime, the populace was mustered through repetitive, nationwide 9/11 rites emphasizing that we Americans were the greatest victims, greatest survivors, and greatest dominators on planet Earth.  It was in this cause that the dead of 9/11 were turned into potent recruiting agents for a revitalized American way of war.

Read Jeh Johnson’s full prepared remarks here.

38 comments 26 reactions

  • Dem. Socialism

    OUT NOW! Enough posturing, lying, concealing, and spinning. There is absolutely NO REASON except supporting Big Oil and the MIC to still be over there pissing off dollars that are needed at home.

    Our “leaders” have no idea why they are in D.C. None! Taking care of America’s people FIRST is their damned jobs. Where is the outrage?! Where are the crowds, like the Egyptians and Greeks, assaulting the capitol?! WHERE IS OUR COURAGE?!

  • itsthethird

    Remember real power in Washington is not at the white house but at Fed. Reserve and beyond the game is rigged.  Now at all times the US economy is at risk  by capital manipulation minor or major ie fiscal mess and in turn the Presidency and the world.   The situation of too much in too few hands is in fact a security risk as great as WMD.  Thus, we are going over the same old fiscal bs.  The president needs to protect usa from financial sabatage both dimestic and foregn but can’t his risk to great.

  • Tom Carberry

    Remarkable words from someone in the Pentagon.  Will he keep his job?  Will it have any effect?  Will anyone but academics in England listen to him?  Will he have any influence on Obama, who seems to love war and killing and has personally directed killing of Muslims?

  • LocalHero

    Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to all believe that some guy in a cave (who, incidentally, died in late 2001) engineered an ingenious plan to hijack several airliners with box-cutters and, in doing so, managed to outwit the planet’s most all-encompassing intelligence and policing agencies. Yeah, let’s all pretend we believe that.

  • Paul Fretheim

    I agree. What rubbish!

    The worst act of terrorism in history was the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japanese cities. The world has been intimidated by terror ever since and the U.S. is and has been the greatest purveyor of that terror. So terror continues to rule until the nukes are disarmed.

    Here is a brief live news report (32 seconds) from ABC 7 New York from the foot of the World Trade Center Towers. What is seen here directly contradicts the entire fantasy of planes crashing into the buildings caused them to fall down.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f…

    Think about it. The entire course of history has been altered by an obviously false story.

  • Shantiananda

    Jet fuel is kerosene and kerosene cannot melt steel, let alone pulverize a 110 story building into fine dust particles. And of course, no one can explain WTC #7 that was not hit by a plane! 3000 of our fellow and innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood on 911, plus who knows how many, have died and will die in the future from the toxic dust. I do not know who was behind 911, but the entire governments con- conspiracy theory is a bogus lie.

  • Laurence Schechtman

    The obvious truth that the buildings were brought down by internal explosions can not be stated often enough. No steel frame skyscraper has ever collapsed completely because of fire alone.  There is plenty of other evidence, but that should be enough.

  • beaglebailey

    Please explain what you mean. I watched it but don’t understand what you mean. Thanks. Watched again. The guy said explosions and I could see them. Is that what you meant? Great vid.

  • Memory_Hole

    Yes, it was the “huge explosion(s)” that brought those towers down.  Not jet impacts and jet fuel fires.  This is physics 101.

  • beaglebailey

    Yeah, I have seen the vids where the supposed plane stops in mid air after blowing thru the buildings.It is just so amazing how so many people cannot see thru the bs of the false flag. And why no one ever questions the facts that the US military’s jets never scrambled even with 4 jets in the air for over an hour.

  • Memory_Hole

    I don’t know what vids you’re talking about.  The planes hit the buildings.  And yes, they were planes.  As far as the jets, they *did* scramble, but they scrambled way too slowly and then went at about half speed.

  • Bill_from_Saginaw1

    Jeh Johnson’s spech at Oxford Union is worth reading in its entirety by clicking on the link.  I particularly valued his remark to the effect that “War reverses the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war, parents bury their children.”  Johnson concludes that the concept of “endless war” should not be permitted to become the “new normal” for the United States nor the international community.
    It will be interesting to see what coverage or reaction in commentary there is in the mainstream US media in the near future.  There are several intriguing possible developments to watch.  Maybe only websites like CD, European-oriented media outlets like Reuters, and leftist British papers like the Guardian think there’s something newsworthy going on here.  But we shall see.

    First, in terms of the opaque, glacially slow bureaucratic shifts at the pinnacle of the Washington DC beltway power structure, it may be noteworthy that this is the Pentagon’s chief lawyer – the civilian legal counsel to the post-Robert Gates/Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense – who is speaking.  He’s not speaking at West Point.  He’s not even speaking on American soil. He’s delivering well-vetted remarks before a receptive assembly of academically minded listeners far away from the crosshairs of the partisan American political scene.

    But very much in the tradition of President Barack Obama’s style of dealing with national security-related issues, we have (miraculously) the military establishment taking the lead,  talking openly about bringing the global war on terror to a finite end, and restoring the concept that “lone wolf” or other scattered “terrorist groups” should be treated as criminals or as criminal conspiracies in the future – a law enforcement priority, not automatically enemy combatants.  On behalf of the troops, Jeh Johnson is cautiously voicing thoughts that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the rest of the so-called responsible, reality-based political community back stateside have not dared to utter publicly for over a decade.

    Second, again peering at what the Washington tea leaves may signify, reflect that (reportedly, according to the insiders) the current Attorney General, Secretary of State, and some other members of Obama’s cabinet are ready to exit out the revolving door to pursue other endeavors.  Jeh Johnson?  A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president and none other (his words, during the course of this speech) may be toe testing some big waters from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

    If the soldiers and sailors and spies can get institutionally herded on board to declare victory in the global war on terror first, then perhaps there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  The GOP Senate leadership and the right wing media megaphone will no doubt shriek and react vehemently.  Let us see what we shall see.

    Good luck, Jeh.  This is a thoughtful first step on what may be a long and arduous trek back towards sanity from the bloody, dystopian post-9/11 quagmire.  The whole world is not breathlessly watching, but what happens next is well worth a peek for those who consider themselves part of the American peace movement.

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Memory_Hole

    Well, permanent war *has* been permitted to become the new norm in the U.S., regardless of what this fellow says about it.  Actually, I believe Dick Cheney said the GWOT would last generations, so he suggested at least 20 years or more.  So technically, we could say we are not in a state of permanent war, but when you reflect that this particular war was based on false flag terrorism, and you look at all the dictatorial powers that have been granted to the presidency since then, it is pretty clear that the US has been permanently changed.  It’s not as though there are any meaningful sunset provisions to the PATRIOT Act, or the NDAA.

  • dogpaddle

    If you listen to his spiel:  “A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president” kind of says it all. He nauseated me.

  • Siouxrose

    Thank you for that thorough, helpful analysis. You highlight the most significant possibilities.

  • Norton_Fort

    Even so, the speech needs to be put in context.  Earlier this year Johnson defended Obama’s drone strike policy in a speech at Yale Law School:  “The Obama administration’s top Pentagon lawyer . . . said that courts have no business questioning executive branch decisions about whom to target for extra-judicial executions in the war on terror, even if that target is an American citizen.”  http://news.antiwar.com/2012/0…. However, Johnson also said that the administration’s plans to continue airstrikes against Libya violated the War Powers Act. (So did the DOJ).  Obama rejected that advice and instead followed that of a White House counsel and Secretary of State lawyer Howard Koh.  Koh seems to be the Obama administration’s John Yoo, although he strongly denounced Bush’s Iraq policy.  Guess it depends on who’s paying your salary.

  • rtdrury

    9/11 exposed how very unintelligent and emotionally perverted das elites really are.  They have spent the time since frantically escalating the petro-opiate bread/circus assault on the people in an attempt to stave off popular revolt against the catastrophic turbulence created by their war on humanity.

     

  • Thoughts_Into_Action

    Well, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is simply making up the law as they go. What’s this concept of breaking the law for just a short while, coming from Obama’s legal advisor? That idea makes the law utterly meaningless. Right now, the law is whatever Obama says it is, and there seems to be no check at all on his illegally presumed powers, including his assumption of the power to assassinate anyone at will.

    Quite frankly, the United States under Bush/Bama has blatantly violated international and U.S. laws. They’ve invaded countries with troops to kill stateless individuals (50 al Quaida members), which is an act of war, rather than a police action. Guys with “plans” in Pakistan or Afghanistan do not represent an imminent threat to the United States.

    Worst of all, this lawyer has the nerve to talk about World War II. He says, “For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.” Well, under those principles, the United States remains as a gross violator of the law.

    I’m not sure why this guy is droning on about this issue. We know the Obama administration is continuing those illegal actions: torture, assassination, war without end.

  • Memory_Hole

    I have to agree TIA.  I don’t think there’s much new here.  Whatever he may have *said* about it, the United States is *de facto* in a state of permanent war.  It is unconstitutional, unlawful, illegal, and as you say, Bush & Obama, with the willful complicity of a corrupt Congress, just making up the law as they go along.

  • Kokr_Spanielesko

    “The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive”

    It probably won’t.  What would the government, the military and the whole MICC do after all this time without war?  I just don’t believe it.  Chris Hedges wrote a book called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’.  That hasn’t changed.  And General Patton’s words still ring true: “Americans traditionally love to fight.”

  • Hello

    Well, it is clear to me that the world community is much more interconnected than it used to be.  It is as if war has lost its purpose:  It has lost its chivalry, in a sense.  Nowadays, nations go to war for the sake of the few to make some serious money while most people in the society foot the bill for it!  It no longer serves to benefit and preserve the national culture of a given people.  Going to war and financially paying for it on credit?  Borrowing money from foreign nations in order to finance a military excursion?  How absurd!  Of course, killing human beings simply for the sake of both commodities and currency that the majority of the society do not benefit from is just…wrong.  Aforementioned, to me, are immoral reasons to go to war!

  • Doug Latimer

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

    And given Engelhardt’s undeniably accurate portrayal of the GWOT ™ as a “‘war’ for domination”

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Memory_Hole

    Hard to know how to take Johnson’s comments.  The whole so-called “global war on terror” has been a big fraud from day one, and everything he says about Al Qaeda today could have been said about it in 2001. Somehow, I can draw no encouragement from them.  If he is someone with perhaps some remnant of conscience left who is trying to speak out and bring this madness of permanent war to an end, well, god be with him.

    My guess is we’ll hear nothing about his comments on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox et al, nor will we read about them in the pages of the big city newspapers.  The comments will be discussed for a few days on remote corners of the Internet like this site, and then be forgotten about.

  • tutan_khamun

    It’ll never happen, there’s no profit in peace. And war has been the bread and butter of the American economy for 100 years. 50% of our budget goes to “defense” (war) so why is this counsel even considering the possibility of peace? Throwing crumbs to Obama’s base, perhaps.

  • frigate

    Lets cut the BS and prosecute the Bushites responsible for it all.

  • Anton van der Baan

    “the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011″

    2011??? oops

  • GeorgeA

    Could this be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel?

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

    1. It is very important that the ‘war’ on terror is going to be held to ‘conventional legal standards’.  It is important that the war has been acknowledged to even have an ‘end’, as much of what came out of the Bush Admin indicated that it would be a war ‘without end’.

    2. This could signal the long-term thinking of the Obama admin.  Having a pentagon lawyer sort of float the idea in a bit of a wonky backwater could be a good way to test the reaction to the idea that the GWOT might actually end.  Obama is cautious, and he should proceed with caution.  While ending wars quickly is certainly preferable to extending them, ending wars must be done carefully lest a ‘stab in the back’ type myth emerge a generation later and get us right back into the mess.

    3. Of course, there are those who will simply say Obama loves war/is a MIC puppet/doesn’t care/gets off on killing kids.  But then that raises the question, why send this guy out to say these things at all?  It’s not like he was talking off the record, these were prepared remarks.  If Obama wanted to keep blowing people up, he could simply have maintained the old line about ‘the long war’.

    4. It is very interesting that we first saw that Obama was trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.  Now he’s tentatively putting out the idea that once the GWOT is declared over, many of these operations will no longer have justification.  If Obama is clever (and I think that he is), he is trying to wind this war down in a way that will appear to the hawks as legitimate.  Again, trying to avoid the ‘stab-in-the-back’ problem.

  • Memory_Hole

    Your take on it is interesting.  It’s always good to try to be clear-eyed about these things, neither cynical nor credulous.  I didn’t know Obama had tried to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones?  Source?  You know, even though the man’s remarks were “prepared,” we can’t say for sure that they represent Obama.  They are *supposed* to represent his administration.  But it’s possible he included some unauthorized views as well, for reasons of conscience.

    I believe there are still some good people in govt., at all levels, including the Dept. of Defense, who know damn well the fraudulent basis of the “war on terror”–and it’s possible this Jeh Johnson is one of them.  There are others, who remain nameless, yet work to expose the lies.  I’m thinking of whoever it was in the Dept. of Justice who finally exposed the fact that the calls to Ted Olsen from his wife on Flight 77 never happened.  Clearly, that little leak was not part of the officially sanctioned script.  Unfortunately, almost no one knows about it, because the corporate media doesn’t report it, or reports it so briefly it’s as though it doesn’t register.

  • GeorgeA

    I was referring to the ‘guidelines’ that the Obama administration is working on.  These would set up a framework under which drones strikes would be taken.  They were given priority status when it seemed possible for Romney to win, but are now not being rushed. http://www.commondreams.org/he…

    Still, it shows that Obama is thinking long-term.  Most important, it seems that Mr. Johnson is indicating that if the GWOT is declared over, the kill list becomes completely inoperative.  Obama, who has seemed like such a hawkish president thus far, may end up surprising everyone.

  • Memory_Hole

    I read the article you linked.  It says that Obama claims to want to “put a legal architecture in place…to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making” (vis a vis drone strikes).

    At the same time, the article doesn’t mention the fact that Obama has increased drone strikes several hundred fold over the prior administration.  Moreover, In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the administration has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

    I find it bizarre that a president who claims to want a lawful process re: drones has in fact expanded what is a de facto process of extrajudicial assassination several hundredfold beyond that of George W. Bush.  I find it bizarre that his seeming democratic sensibilities are contradicted by his arguments in court, which refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

    So yes, I agree Obama is thinking long-term.  Long term, he wants to institutionalize the use of drones for these extrajudicial assassinations, which again, he has drastically increased over Bush.  And if we put that together with the NDAA which he signed, his war on whistleblowers and his continued signing on to the country being in a “state of emergency,” I don’t find anything to be reassured about here.

    As far as the GWOT being declared over, I can find nothing in Obama’s *actions* to indicate that he personally is looking toward that day at any time in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

  • Norton_Fort

    Please see my response to Bill from Saginaw, above, about some of Jeh Johnson’s history with the Obama administration.   And Obama is not trying to “limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.”  He’s trying to institutionalize his policy to bind future presidents.  Check out a series of articles on Obama’s attempts to extend these strikes into the future (for a minimum of 10 years, but probably longer) in the Washington Post.  I don’t have the link, because I read the articles in the paper version, but the author of the series is Greg Miller and it was published in the Post on October 24-26.  The caption of the Oct. 24 story (on p. 1) is “U.S. set to keep kill lists for years; ‘Disposition Matrix’ Secretly Crafted; Blueprint would guide hunt for terrorists.” “A senior White House official” gave the following quote:  “One of the things we are looking at very hard is how to institutionalize a process that will outlive this administration.”  I recommend the series.  It is among the best reporting I have seen in the Post, which, although it has lousy editorial policy, occasionally has excellent reporting.  But don’t take my word for it — read the series.  I’d be interested in what you think.

  • New Afrikan ImageMakers

    its a dangerous position, for Prez Obama and the rest of us, too, isn’t it…its eazy to level heavy criticism at presidents in general…but Obama’s behind is literally on the line–especially if he goes against the war machine.

  • jimbojamesiv

    While I disagree with a lot of what you say the thing about Obama “trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones,” is unequivocally false.

    The reason Obama rushed to codify the rules on drones was to cover his ass.

  • lucitanian

    What absolute Hollywood virtual reality nonsense ; a terrorist state declares the end of a war against a myth they invented. What broody next, “aliens”? How gullible do the people who think this crap up believe their audience is?

    He guys, more people are killed by their household furniture than by terrorism and that is not because Ikea is doing a bad job while DHS is doing a good one. But, certainly a Global War on Falling Kitchen Cabinets would be a lot cheaper than DHS Annual budget, US$60.4 billion (FY 2012).

    You know what really is a security risk? Climate change, but for that they would actually have to “do” something rather than shovel money between friends and lobbies.

  • timebiter

    While they are at it why not end the drug war, overturn the patriot act revamp and disperse./end DHS. Oops! I forgot. To many corporations getting welfare from these programs and laws.

  • Laurence Schechtman

    You get about 3 times as many jobs hiring teachers as you do supporting the military.  Obama and many capitalists know that an economic collapse is coming, and that converting “Defense” spending to the civilian economy MAY be the only way to head it off, without pre-Reagan taxes on the rich, which they are not going to do.  So MAYBE, ending “permanent war” is the only way Obama can see to avoid a 30′s style depression, which would wreck his “legacy” forever.  MAYBE.  We can only hope.

  • Paul_Klinkman_two

    American:  Hi, we’ve come to give you democracy.

    Afghani: The local warlord has ordered me to grow opium for him.  I’ll be shot if I don’t follow his directions.  When will I get this democracy and be free?

    American:  The heck I know.  Maybe we’re really here to give ourselves the democracy.

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

  • MidaFo

    Yet more Dubyaspeak.

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  • Avatar
    Dem. Socialism16 hours ago

    OUT NOW! Enough posturing, lying, concealing, and spinning. There is absolutely NO REASON except supporting Big Oil and the MIC to still be over there pissing off dollars that are needed at home.

    Our “leaders” have no idea why they are in D.C. None! Taking care of America’s people FIRST is their damned jobs. Where is the outrage?! Where are the crowds, like the Egyptians and Greeks, assaulting the capitol?! WHERE IS OUR COURAGE?!

  • Avatar
    Tom Carberry15 hours ago

    Remarkable words from someone in the Pentagon.  Will he keep his job?  Will it have any effect?  Will anyone but academics in England listen to him?  Will he have any influence on Obama, who seems to love war and killing and has personally directed killing of Muslims?

  • Avatar
    LocalHero14 hours ago

    Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to all believe that some guy in a cave (who, incidentally, died in late 2001) engineered an ingenious plan to hijack several airliners with box-cutters and, in doing so, managed to outwit the planet’s most all-encompassing intelligence and policing agencies. Yeah, let’s all pretend we believe that.

  • Avatar
    Bill_from_Saginaw115 hours ago

    Jeh Johnson’s spech at Oxford Union is worth reading in its entirety by clicking on the link.  I particularly valued his remark to the effect that “War reverses the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war, parents bury their children.”  Johnson concludes that the concept of “endless war” should not be permitted to become the “new normal” for the United States nor the international community.
    It will be interesting to see what coverage or reaction in commentary there is in the mainstream US media in the near future.  There are several intriguing possible developments to watch.  Maybe only websites like CD, European-oriented media outlets like Reuters, and leftist British papers like the Guardian think there’s something newsworthy going on here.  But we shall see.

    First, in terms of the opaque, glacially slow bureaucratic shifts at the pinnacle of the Washington DC beltway power structure, it may be noteworthy that this is the Pentagon’s chief lawyer – the civilian legal counsel to the post-Robert Gates/Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense – who is speaking.  He’s not speaking at West Point.  He’s not even speaking on American soil. He’s delivering well-vetted remarks before a receptive assembly of academically minded listeners far away from the crosshairs of the partisan American political scene.

    But very much in the tradition of President Barack Obama’s style of dealing with national security-related issues, we have (miraculously) the military establishment taking the lead,  talking openly about bringing the global war on terror to a finite end, and restoring the concept that “lone wolf” or other scattered “terrorist groups” should be treated as criminals or as criminal conspiracies in the future – a law enforcement priority, not automatically enemy combatants.  On behalf of the troops, Jeh Johnson is cautiously voicing thoughts that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the rest of the so-called responsible, reality-based political community back stateside have not dared to utter publicly for over a decade.

    Second, again peering at what the Washington tea leaves may signify, reflect that (reportedly, according to the insiders) the current Attorney General, Secretary of State, and some other members of Obama’s cabinet are ready to exit out the revolving door to pursue other endeavors.  Jeh Johnson?  A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president and none other (his words, during the course of this speech) may be toe testing some big waters from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

    If the soldiers and sailors and spies can get institutionally herded on board to declare victory in the global war on terror first, then perhaps there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  The GOP Senate leadership and the right wing media megaphone will no doubt shriek and react vehemently.  Let us see what we shall see.

    Good luck, Jeh.  This is a thoughtful first step on what may be a long and arduous trek back towards sanity from the bloody, dystopian post-9/11 quagmire.  The whole world is not breathlessly watching, but what happens next is well worth a peek for those who consider themselves part of the American peace movement.

    Bill from Saginaw

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    rtdrury14 hours ago

    9/11 exposed how very unintelligent and emotionally perverted das elites really are.  They have spent the time since frantically escalating the petro-opiate bread/circus assault on the people in an attempt to stave off popular revolt against the catastrophic turbulence created by their war on humanity.

     

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    Thoughts_Into_Action12 hours ago

    Well, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is simply making up the law as they go. What’s this concept of breaking the law for just a short while, coming from Obama’s legal advisor? That idea makes the law utterly meaningless. Right now, the law is whatever Obama says it is, and there seems to be no check at all on his illegally presumed powers, including his assumption of the power to assassinate anyone at will.

    Quite frankly, the United States under Bush/Bama has blatantly violated international and U.S. laws. They’ve invaded countries with troops to kill stateless individuals (50 al Quaida members), which is an act of war, rather than a police action. Guys with “plans” in Pakistan or Afghanistan do not represent an imminent threat to the United States.

    Worst of all, this lawyer has the nerve to talk about World War II. He says, “For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.” Well, under those principles, the United States remains as a gross violator of the law.

    I’m not sure why this guy is droning on about this issue. We know the Obama administration is continuing those illegal actions: torture, assassination, war without end.

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    Kokr_Spanielesko14 hours ago

    “The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive”

    It probably won’t.  What would the government, the military and the whole MICC do after all this time without war?  I just don’t believe it.  Chris Hedges wrote a book called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’.  That hasn’t changed.  And General Patton’s words still ring true: “Americans traditionally love to fight.”

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    Hello15 hours ago

    Well, it is clear to me that the world community is much more interconnected than it used to be.  It is as if war has lost its purpose:  It has lost its chivalry, in a sense.  Nowadays, nations go to war for the sake of the few to make some serious money while most people in the society foot the bill for it!  It no longer serves to benefit and preserve the national culture of a given people.  Going to war and financially paying for it on credit?  Borrowing money from foreign nations in order to finance a military excursion?  How absurd!  Of course, killing human beings simply for the sake of both commodities and currency that the majority of the society do not benefit from is just…wrong.  Aforementioned, to me, are immoral reasons to go to war!

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    Doug Latimer8 hours ago

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

    And given Engelhardt’s undeniably accurate portrayal of the GWOT ™ as a “‘war’ for domination”

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

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    Memory_Hole12 hours ago

    Hard to know how to take Johnson’s comments.  The whole so-called “global war on terror” has been a big fraud from day one, and everything he says about Al Qaeda today could have been said about it in 2001. Somehow, I can draw no encouragement from them.  If he is someone with perhaps some remnant of conscience left who is trying to speak out and bring this madness of permanent war to an end, well, god be with him.

    My guess is we’ll hear nothing about his comments on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox et al, nor will we read about them in the pages of the big city newspapers.  The comments will be discussed for a few days on remote corners of the Internet like this site, and then be forgotten about.

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    tutan_khamun13 hours ago

    It’ll never happen, there’s no profit in peace. And war has been the bread and butter of the American economy for 100 years. 50% of our budget goes to “defense” (war) so why is this counsel even considering the possibility of peace? Throwing crumbs to Obama’s base, perhaps.

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    frigate10 hours ago

    Lets cut the BS and prosecute the Bushites responsible for it all.

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    Anton van der Baan16 hours ago

    “the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011″

    2011??? oops

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    GeorgeA12 hours ago

    Could this be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel?

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

    1. It is very important that the ‘war’ on terror is going to be held to ‘conventional legal standards’.  It is important that the war has been acknowledged to even have an ‘end’, as much of what came out of the Bush Admin indicated that it would be a war ‘without end’.

    2. This could signal the long-term thinking of the Obama admin.  Having a pentagon lawyer sort of float the idea in a bit of a wonky backwater could be a good way to test the reaction to the idea that the GWOT might actually end.  Obama is cautious, and he should proceed with caution.  While ending wars quickly is certainly preferable to extending them, ending wars must be done carefully lest a ‘stab in the back’ type myth emerge a generation later and get us right back into the mess.

    3. Of course, there are those who will simply say Obama loves war/is a MIC puppet/doesn’t care/gets off on killing kids.  But then that raises the question, why send this guy out to say these things at all?  It’s not like he was talking off the record, these were prepared remarks.  If Obama wanted to keep blowing people up, he could simply have maintained the old line about ‘the long war’.

    4. It is very interesting that we first saw that Obama was trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.  Now he’s tentatively putting out the idea that once the GWOT is declared over, many of these operations will no longer have justification.  If Obama is clever (and I think that he is), he is trying to wind this war down in a way that will appear to the hawks as legitimate.  Again, trying to avoid the ‘stab-in-the-back’ problem.

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      Memory_Hole GeorgeA11 hours ago

      Your take on it is interesting.  It’s always good to try to be clear-eyed about these things, neither cynical nor credulous.  I didn’t know Obama had tried to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones?  Source?  You know, even though the man’s remarks were “prepared,” we can’t say for sure that they represent Obama.  They are *supposed* to represent his administration.  But it’s possible he included some unauthorized views as well, for reasons of conscience.

      I believe there are still some good people in govt., at all levels, including the Dept. of Defense, who know damn well the fraudulent basis of the “war on terror”–and it’s possible this Jeh Johnson is one of them.  There are others, who remain nameless, yet work to expose the lies.  I’m thinking of whoever it was in the Dept. of Justice who finally exposed the fact that the calls to Ted Olsen from his wife on Flight 77 never happened.  Clearly, that little leak was not part of the officially sanctioned script.  Unfortunately, almost no one knows about it, because the corporate media doesn’t report it, or reports it so briefly it’s as though it doesn’t register.

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        GeorgeA Memory_Hole10 hours ago

        I was referring to the ‘guidelines’ that the Obama administration is working on.  These would set up a framework under which drones strikes would be taken.  They were given priority status when it seemed possible for Romney to win, but are now not being rushed. http://www.commondreams.org/he…

        Still, it shows that Obama is thinking long-term.  Most important, it seems that Mr. Johnson is indicating that if the GWOT is declared over, the kill list becomes completely inoperative.  Obama, who has seemed like such a hawkish president thus far, may end up surprising everyone.

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          Memory_Hole GeorgeA9 hours ago

          I read the article you linked.  It says that Obama claims to want to “put a legal architecture in place…to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making” (vis a vis drone strikes).

          At the same time, the article doesn’t mention the fact that Obama has increased drone strikes several hundred fold over the prior administration.  Moreover, In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the administration has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

          I find it bizarre that a president who claims to want a lawful process re: drones has in fact expanded what is a de facto process of extrajudicial assassination several hundredfold beyond that of George W. Bush.  I find it bizarre that his seeming democratic sensibilities are contradicted by his arguments in court, which refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

          So yes, I agree Obama is thinking long-term.  Long term, he wants to institutionalize the use of drones for these extrajudicial assassinations, which again, he has drastically increased over Bush.  And if we put that together with the NDAA which he signed, his war on whistleblowers and his continued signing on to the country being in a “state of emergency,” I don’t find anything to be reassured about here.

          As far as the GWOT being declared over, I can find nothing in Obama’s *actions* to indicate that he personally is looking toward that day at any time in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

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        Norton_Fort Memory_Hole7 hours ago

        Please see my response to Bill from Saginaw, above, about some of Jeh Johnson’s history with the Obama administration.   And Obama is not trying to “limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.”  He’s trying to institutionalize his policy to bind future presidents.  Check out a series of articles on Obama’s attempts to extend these strikes into the future (for a minimum of 10 years, but probably longer) in the Washington Post.  I don’t have the link, because I read the articles in the paper version, but the author of the series is Greg Miller and it was published in the Post on October 24-26.  The caption of the Oct. 24 story (on p. 1) is “U.S. set to keep kill lists for years; ‘Disposition Matrix’ Secretly Crafted; Blueprint would guide hunt for terrorists.” “A senior White House official” gave the following quote:  “One of the things we are looking at very hard is how to institutionalize a process that will outlive this administration.”  I recommend the series.  It is among the best reporting I have seen in the Post, which, although it has lousy editorial policy, occasionally has excellent reporting.  But don’t take my word for it — read the series.  I’d be interested in what you think.

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      New Afrikan ImageMakers GeorgeA9 hours ago

      its a dangerous position, for Prez Obama and the rest of us, too, isn’t it…its eazy to level heavy criticism at presidents in general…but Obama’s behind is literally on the line–especially if he goes against the war machine.

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      jimbojamesiv GeorgeA6 hours ago

      While I disagree with a lot of what you say the thing about Obama “trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones,” is unequivocally false.

      The reason Obama rushed to codify the rules on drones was to cover his ass.

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    lucitanianan hour ago

    What absolute Hollywood virtual reality nonsense ; a terrorist state declares the end of a war against a myth they invented. What broody next, “aliens”? How gullible do the people who think this crap up believe their audience is?

    He guys, more people are killed by their household furniture than by terrorism and that is not because Ikea is doing a bad job while DHS is doing a good one. But, certainly a Global War on Falling Kitchen Cabinets would be a lot cheaper than DHS Annual budget, US$60.4 billion (FY 2012).

    You know what really is a security risk? Climate change, but for that they would actually have to “do” something rather than shovel money between friends and lobbies.

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    timebiter3 hours ago

    While they are at it why not end the drug war, overturn the patriot act revamp and disperse./end DHS. Oops! I forgot. To many corporations getting welfare from these programs and laws.

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    Laurence Schechtman6 hours ago

    You get about 3 times as many jobs hiring teachers as you do supporting the military.  Obama and many capitalists know that an economic collapse is coming, and that converting “Defense” spending to the civilian economy MAY be the only way to head it off, without pre-Reagan taxes on the rich, which they are not going to do.  So MAYBE, ending “permanent war” is the only way Obama can see to avoid a 30′s style depression, which would wreck his “legacy” forever.  MAYBE.  We can only hope.

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    Paul_Klinkman_two11 hours ago

    American:  Hi, we’ve come to give you democracy.

    Afghani: The local warlord has ordered me to grow opium for him.  I’ll be shot if I don’t follow his directions.  When will I get this democracy and be free?

    American:  The heck I know.  Maybe we’re really here to give ourselves the democracy.

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

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    Kafka at the Pentagon February 1, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, War.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.html

    Tuesday 31 January 2012
    by: Tom Engelhardt, Truthout         | Op-Ed

    When it comes to U.S. policy toward Iran, irony is the name of the game.  Where to begin?  The increasingly fierce sanctions that the Obama administration is seeking to impose on that country’s oil business will undoubtedly cause further problems for its economy and further pain to ordinary Iranians.  But they are likely to be splendid news for a few other countries that Washington might not be quite so eager to favor.

    Take China, which already buys 22% of Iran’s oil.  With its energy-ravenous economy, it is likely, in the long run, to buy more, not less Iranian oil, and — thanks to the new sanctions — at what might turn out to be bargain basement prices.  Or consider Russia once the Eurozone is without Iranian oil.  That giant energy producer is likely to find itself with a larger market share of European energy needs at higher prices.  The Saudis, who want high oil prices to fund an expensive payoff to their people to avoid an Arab Spring, are likely to be delighted.  And Iraq, with its porous border, its thriving black market in Iranian oil, and its Shiite government in Baghdad, will be pleased to help Iran avoid sanctions.  (And thank you, America, for that invasion!)

    Who may suffer, other than Iranians?  In the long run, the shaky economies of Italy, Greece, and Spain, long dependent on Iranian oil, potentially raising further problems for an already roiling Eurozone.  And don’t forget the U.S. economy, or your own pocketbook, if gas prices go up, or even President Obama, if his bet on oil sanctions turns out to be an economic disaster in an election year.

    In other words, once again Washington’s (and Tel Aviv’s) carefully calculated plans for Iran may go seriously, painfully awry.  Now, in all honesty, wouldn’t you call that Kafkaesque?  Or perhaps that’s a question for the Pentagon where, it turns out, Kafka is in residence.  I’m talking, of course, about Lieutenant Commander Mike Kafka.  He’s a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command — believe me, you can’t make this stuff up — and just the other day he was over at the old five-sided castle being relatively close-mouthed about the retrofitting of a Navy amphibious transport docking ship as a special operations “mothership” (a term until now reserved for sci-fi novels and Somali pirates).  It’s soon to be dispatched to somewhere in or near the Persian Gulf to be a floating base for Navy SEAL covert actions of unspecified sorts, guaranteed not to bring down the price of oil.

    Certainly, the dispatch of that ship in July will only ratchet up tensions in the Gulf, a place that already, according to Michael Klare, is the most potentially explosive spot on the planet

    Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of “The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s” as well as “The End of Victory Culture,” runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, “The United States of Fear” (Haymarket Books), has just been published.

    The Militarized Surrealism of Barack Obama June 30, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Roger’s note: Of which mid-twentieth century aggressive imperial European power are we reminded by Obama’s triumphal rhetoric?

    Published on Thursday, June 30, 2011 by TomDispatch.com

    Signs of the Great American Unraveling

      by  Tom Engelhardt

    It’s already gone, having barely outlasted its moment — just long enough for the media to suggest that no one thought it added up to much.

    Okay, it was a little more than the military wanted, something less than Joe Biden would have liked, not enough for the growing crew of anti-war congressional types, but way too much for John McCain, Lindsey Graham, & Co.

    I’m talking about the 13 minutes of “remarks” on “the way forward in Afghanistan” that President Obama delivered in the East Room of the White House two Wednesday nights ago.

    Tell me you weren’t holding your breath wondering whether the 33,000 surge troops he ordered into Afghanistan as 2009 ended would be removed in a 12-month, 14-month, or 18-month span.  Tell me you weren’t gripped with anxiety about whether 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 American soldiers would come out this year (leaving either 95,000, 93,000, 88,000, or 83,000 behind)?

    You weren’t?  Well, if so, you were in good company.

    Billed as the beginning of the end of the Afghan War, it should have been big and it couldn’t have been smaller.  The patented Obama words were meant to soar, starting with a George W. Bush-style invocation of 9/11 and ending with the usual copious blessings upon this country and our military.  But on the evidence, they couldn’t have fallen flatter.  I doubt I was alone in thinking that it was like seeing Ronald Reagan on an unimaginably bad day in an ad captioned “It’s never going to be morning again in America.”

    Idolator President

    If you clicked Obama off that night or let the event slide instantly into your mental trash can, I don’t blame you.  Still, the president’s Afghan remarks shouldn’t be sent down the memory hole quite so quickly.

    For one thing, while the mainstream media’s pundits and talking heads are always raring to discuss his policy remarks, the words that frame them are generally ignored — and yet the discomfort of the moment can’t be separated from them.  So start with this: whether by inclination, political calculation, or some mix of the two, our president has become a rhetorical idolator.

    These days he can barely open his mouth without also bowing down before the U.S. military in ways that once would have struck Americans as embarrassing, if not incomprehensible.  In addition, he regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world and never ceases to emphasize that the United States is indeed an exception among nations.  Finally, in a way once alien to American presidents, he invokes God’s blessing upon the military and the country as regularly as you brush your teeth.

    Think of these as the triumvirate without which no Obama foreign-policy moment would be complete: greatest military, greatest nation, our God.  And in this he follows directly, if awkwardly, in Bush’s footsteps.

    I wouldn’t claim that Americans had never had such thoughts before, only that presidents didn’t feel required to say them in a mantra-like way just about every time they appeared in public.  Sometimes, of course, when you feel a compulsion to say the same things ad nauseam, you display weakness, not strength; you reveal the most fantastic of fantasy worlds, not a deeper reality.

    The president’s recent Afghan remarks were, in this sense, par for the course.  As he plugged his plan to bring America’s “long wars” to what he called “a responsible end,” he insisted that “[l]ike generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.”  He then painted this flattering word portrait of us:

    “We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.  We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others.  We stand not for empire, but for self-determination… and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach… we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.”

    I know, I know.  You’re wondering whether you just mainlined into a Sarah Palin speech and your eyes are glazing over.  But hang in there, because that’s just a start.  For example, in an Obama speech of any sort, what America’s soldiers never lack is the extra adjective.  They aren’t just soldiers, but “our extraordinary men and women in uniform.”  They aren’t just Americans, but “patriotic Americans.”  (Since when did an American president have to describe American soldiers as, of all things, “patriotic”?)  And in case you missed the point that, in their extraordinariness and their outsized patriotism they are better than other Americans, he made sure to acknowledge them as the ones we “draw inspiration from.”

    In a country that now “supports the troops” with bumper-sticker fervor but pays next to no attention to the wars they fight, perhaps Obama is simply striving to be the premier twenty-first-century American.  Still, you have to wonder what such presidential fawning, omnipresent enough to be boilerplate, really represents.  The strange thing is we hear this sort of thing all the time.  And yet no one ever comments on it.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that no significant White House moment ends these days without the president bestowing God’s blessing on the globe’s most extraordinary nation and its extraordinary fighters, or as he put it in his Afghan remarks: “May God bless our troops.  And may God bless the United States of America.”

    The day after he revealed his drawdown plan to the nation, the president traveled to Ft. Drum in New York State to thank soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their multiple deployments to Afghanistan.  Before those extraordinary and patriotic Americans, he quite naturally doubled down.

    Summoning another tic of this presidential moment (and of the Bush one before it), he told them that they were part of “the finest fighting force in the world.”  Even that evidently seemed inadequate, so he upped the hyperbole. “I have no greater job,” he told them, “nothing gives me more honor than serving as your commander in chief.  To all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your commander in chief has your back… God bless you, God bless the United States of America, climb to glory.”

    As ever, all of this was overlooked.  Nowhere did a single commentator wonder, for instance, whether an American president was really supposed to feel that being commander in chief offered greater “honor” than being president of a nation of citizens.  In another age, such a statement would have registered as, at best, bizarre.  These days, no one even blinks. 

    And yet who living in this riven, confused, semi-paralyzed country of ours truly believes that, in 2011, Americans can achieve whatever we set out to accomplish?  Who thinks that, not having won a war in memory, the U.S. military is incontestably the finest fighting force now or ever (and on a “climb to glory” at that), or that this country is at present specially blessed by God, or that ours is a mission of selfless kindheartedness on planet Earth?

    Obama’s remarks have no wings these days because they are ever more divorced from reality.  Perhaps because this president in fawning mode is such an uncomfortable sight, and because Americans generally feel so ill-at-ease about their relationship to our wars, however, such remarks are neither attacked nor defended, discussed nor debated, but as if by some unspoken agreement simply ignored.

    Here, in any case, is what they aren’t: effective rallying cries for a nation in need of unity.  Here’s what they may be: strange, defensive artifacts of an imperial power in visible decline, part of what might be imagined as the Great American Unraveling.  But hold that thought a moment.  After all, the topic of the president’s remarks was Afghanistan.

    The Unreal War

    If Obama framed his Afghan remarks in a rhetoric of militarized super-national surrealism, then what he had to say about the future of the war itself was deceptive in the extreme — not lies perhaps, but full falsehoods half told.  Consider just the two most important of them: that his “surge” consisted only of 33,000 American troops and that “by next summer,” Americans are going to be so on the road to leaving Afghanistan that it isn’t funny.

    Unfortunately, it just ain’t so.  First of all, the real Obama surge was minimally almost 55,000 and possibly 66,000 troops, depending on how you count them.  When he came into office in January 2009, there were about 32,000 American troops in Afghanistan.  Another 11,000 had been designated to go in the last days of the Bush administration, but only departed in the first Obama months.  In March 2009, the president announced his own “new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” and dispatched 21,700 more troops.  Then, in December 2009 in a televised speech to the nation from West Point, he announced that another 30,000 would be going.  (With “support troops,” it turned out to be 33,000.)

    December 31, 2014, almost five years after Obama entered office, more than 13 years after the Bush administration launched its invasion, we could find ourselves back to or just below something close to Bush-era troop levels.

    In other words, in September 2012, 14 months from now, only about half the actual troop surge of the Obama years will have been withdrawn.  In addition, though seldom discussed, the Obama “surge” was hardly restricted to troops.  There was a much ballyhooed “civilian surge” of State Department and aid types that more than tripled the “civilian” effort in Afghanistan.  Their drawdown was recently addressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but only in the vaguest of terms.

    Then there was a major surge of CIA personnel (along with U.S. special operations forces), and there’s no indication whatsoever that anyone in Washington intends reductions there, or in the drone surge that went with it.  As a troop drawdown begins, CIA agents, those special ops forces, and the drones are clearly slated to remain at or beyond a surge peak.

    Finally, there was a surge in private contractors — hired foreign guns and hired Afghans — tens of thousands of them.  It goes unmentioned, as does the surge in base building, which has yet to end, and the surge in massive citadel-style embassy building in the region, which is assumedly ongoing.

    All of this makes mincemeat of the idea that we are in the process of ending the Afghan war. I know the president said, “Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”  And that was a foggy enough formulation that you might be forgiven for imagining more or less everything will be over “by 2014” — which, by the way, means not January 1st, but December 31st of that year.

    If what we know of U.S. plans in Afghanistan plays out, however, December 31, 2014, will be the date for the departure of the last of the full Obama surge of 64,000 troops.  In other words, almost five years after Obama entered office, more than 13 years after the Bush administration launched its invasion, we could find ourselves back to or just below something close to Bush-era troop levels. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces would still be in Afghanistan, some of them “combat troops” officially relabeled (as in Iraq) for less warlike activity.  All would be part of an American “support” mission that would include huge numbers of “trainers” for the Afghan security forces and also U.S. special forces operatives and CIA types engaged in “counterterror” activities in the country and region.

    The U.S. general in charge of training the Afghan military recently suggested that his mission wouldn’t be done until 2017 (and no one who knows anything about the country believes that an effective Afghan Army will be in place then either).  In addition, although the president didn’t directly mention this in his speech, the Obama administration has been involved in quiet talks with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to nail down a “strategic partnership” agreement that would allow American troops, spies, and air power to hunker down as “tenants” on some of the giant bases we’ve built.  There they would evidently remain for years, if not decades (as some reports have it).

    In other words, on December 31, 2014, if all goes as planned, the U.S. will be girding for years more of wildly expensive war, even if in a slimmed down form.  This is the reality, as American planners imagine it, behind the president’s speech.

    Overstretched Empire

    Of course, it’s not for nothing that we regularly speak of the best laid plans going awry, something that applies doubly, as in Afghanistan, to the worst laid plans.  It’s increasingly apparent that our disastrous wars are, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry recently admitted, “unsustainable.”  After all, just the cost of providing air conditioning to U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan — $20 billion a year — is more than NASA’s total budget.

    Yes, despite Washington’s long lost dreams of a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East, some of its wars there are still being planned as if for a near-eternity, while others are being intensified.  Those wars are still fueled by overblown fears of terrorism; encouraged by a National Security Complex funded to the tune of more than $1.2 trillion annually by an atmosphere of permanent armed crisis; and run by a military that, after a decade of not-so-creative destruction, can’t stop doing what it knows how to do best (which isn’t winning a war).

    Though Obama claims that the United States is no empire, all of this gives modern meaning to the term “overstretched empire.”  And it’s not really much of a mystery what happens to overextemded imperial powers that find themselves fighting “little” wars they can’t win, while their treasuries head south.

    The growing unease in Washington about America’s wars reflects a dawning sense of genuine crisis, a sneaking suspicion even among hawkish Republicans that they preside ineffectually over a great power in precipitous decline.

    Think, then, of the president’s foreign-policy-cum-war speeches as ever more unconvincing attempts to cover the suppurating wound that is Washington’s global war policy.  If you want to take the temperature of the present crisis, you can do it through Obama’s words.  The less they ring true, the more discordant they seem in the face of reality, the more he fawns and repeats his various mantras, the more uncomfortable he makes you feel, the more you have the urge to look away, the deeper the crisis.

    What will he say when the Great American Unraveling truly begins?

    Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt

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    Tom Engelhardt

    Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books)

    To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

    Bored to Death in Afghanistan (and Washington) Mating Déjà Vu with a Mobius Strip in the Graveyard of Empire May 19, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
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    Roger’s note: a long and yes boring analysis of the War in Vietnam (excuese me, Afghanistan), but well worth reading.

    Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 10:03am, May 19, 2011.

    Tomgram: Engelhardt, Headlines from the Dustbin of History (Afghan Dept.)

    One day in October 2001, a pilot for Northwest Airlines refused to let Arshad Chowdhury, a 25-year-old American Muslim (“with a dark complexion”) who had once worked as an investment banker in the World Trade Center, board his plane at San Francisco National Airport.  According to Northwest’s gate agents, Chowdhury writes in the Washington Post, “he thought my name sounded suspicious” even though “airport security and the FBI verified that I posed no threat.”  He sued.

    Now, skip nearly a decade.  It’s May 6, 2011, and two New York-based African-American imams, a father and son, attempting to take an American Airlines flight from New York to Charlotte to attend a conference on “prejudice against Muslims,” were prevented from flying.  The same thing happened to two imams in Memphis “dressed in traditional long shirts and [with] beard,” heading for the same conference, when a pilot for Atlantic Southeast refused to fly with them aboard, even though they had been screened three times.

    So how is the war in Afghanistan going almost 10 years later?  Or do you think that’s a non sequitur?

    I don’t, and let me suggest two reasons why: first, boredom; second, the missing learning curve.

    At home and abroad, whether judging by airline pilots or Washington’s war policy, Americans seem remarkably incapable of doing anything other than repeating the same self-defeating acts, as if they had never happened before.  Hence Afghanistan.  Almost 10 years after the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan and proclaimed victory, like imam-paralyzed airline pilots, we find ourselves in a state that might otherwise be achieved only if you mated déjà vu with a Mobius strip.

    If you aren’t already bored to death, you should be.  Because, believe me, you’ve read it all before.  Take the last month of news from America’s second Afghan War.  If nobody told you otherwise, you could easily believe that almost every breaking Afghan story in the last four weeks came from some previous year of the war.

    Headlines from the Dustbin of History (Afghan Department)

    Let me explain with seven headlines ripped from the news, all of which sit atop Afghan War articles that couldn’t be newer — or older.  Each represents news of our moment that was also news in previous moments; each should leave Americans wondering about Washington’s learning curve.

    * “Pentagon reports ‘tangible progress’ in Afghanistan”: Here, the headline tells you everything you need to know.  Things are going remarkably swimmingly, according to a recent congressionally mandated Pentagon report (which cost a mere $344,259 to produce).  How many times in recent years has the military claimed “progress” in Afghanistan, with the usual carefully placed reservations about the fragility or reversibility of the situation?  (Oh, and how many times have U.S. intelligence reports been far gloomier on the same subject?)

    * “Afghan violence rises amid troop surge — Pentagon”: The information that led to this headline came, curiously enough, from that very same upbeat Pentagon report.  As the Reuters piece to which this headline was attached put it: “A surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan has dealt a blow to the Taliban insurgency, but total violence has risen since last fall and is likely to keep climbing, the Pentagon said on Friday in a new assessment of the war as it approaches its 10-year mark.”  This spring, insurgent attacks have reportedly been up about 80% compared to the previous year, which might be more startling if the rise-in-violence piece weren’t a longtime staple of Afghan War reportage.

    Are you bored to death yet?  No, then I’ll keep going.

    * “Audit: Afghans don’t know how many police on rolls“:  The news embedded in this headline is that a recent audit by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan has found that some of the $10 billion a year being poured into training, building up, and supplying Afghanistan’s security forces is undoubtedly missing-in-action.  The IG reports that “the country’s police rolls and payrolls cannot be verified because of poor record keeping,” which means that the numbers “for all practical purposes become somewhat fictitious.”  Put another way, the U.S. and its coalition partners are undoubtedly paying “ghost” policemen.

    This story could be paired with a recent Reuters piece, “Pentagon’s rosy report of Afghanistan war raises questions,” which points out that, despite the billions of dollars and years of time invested in mentoring Afghanistan’s security forces, “there are currently no Afghan National Police units that are able to operate independently.”  In addition, even that recent “rosy” Pentagon report indicates that so many Afghan soldiers are deserting — six out of every 10 new recruits — as to imperil the goal of creating a massive army capable of taking over security duties in the next several years.  It has also been difficult to find enough trainers for the program, and given all of the above, experts suspect that the country will not have an effective army in place by 2014.

    But here’s the thing: such reports about the massive training program for Afghan security forces, the inability of those forces to operate independently, the wholesale desertions continually suffered, and so on have appeared again and again and again over the last years.

    * “With bin Laden dead, some escalate push for new Afghan strategy”: Here’s the only problem with that “new Afghan strategy” reportedly being debated in Washington — it’s not new.  It’s drearily old.  In fact, it’s simply a replay on the downhill slide of bitter policy arguments in the fall of 2009 involving Washington policymakers and the U.S. military.  That was a moment when the Obama administration had set about reassessing Afghan strategy and trying to choose between counterinsurgency (“the surge”) and what was then called “counterterrorism plus” (more drones and more trainers, but less combat troops).

    Then the debate was narrow indeed — between more (an increase of 40,000 troops) and more (an increase of 20,000 troops).  There was never a real “less” option.  Today, with almost 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and despite reports of “war fatigue,” even among Congressional Republicans, as well as plummeting poll numbers among Americans generally, the new debate is similarly narrow, similarly focused, and deeply familiar, a kind of less-versus-less version of the more-versus-more duke-em-out of 2009.

    Similar arguments, similar crew.  Then, Vice President Biden spearheaded the counterterrorism-plus option; today, it’s chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry, who quickly made the parameters of the “new” strategy debate clear: “I do not know of any serious policy person who believes that a unilateral precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan would somehow serve our interests or anybody’s interests. I do not believe that is a viable option.”

    As in the fall of 2009, agreement among “serious policy people” that there should be a continuing American “footprint” in Afghanistan is set in stone.  It seems the only question on the table is how small and how slow the drawdown should be, with the debaters already evidently settling into an agreed upon endgame of 20,000 to 30,000 American troops, special operations forces, and trainers post-2014. Despite the president’s promise of significant troop reductions this year, early hints about war commander General David Petraeus’s recommendations indicate that as few as 10,000 may be withdrawn, with no combat troops among them (though pressure to increase those numbers is rising).

    Not out of your mind with boredom yet?  Then I’ll keep at it.

    * “Accusations of Corruption Rampant in Afghanistan”: Here’s the thing: you don’t even need to know the details of the story that lies behind that NPR headline.  Yes, Vermont representative Peter Welsh has called on Congress to investigate Afghan corruption, given the billions the U.S. is squandering there; yes, the Afghan deputy attorney general admitted that he had arrest warrants for various high officials on corruption charges but feared trying to bring them in; yes, headlines like “Afghan war progress at risk from corruption, training lags” are commonplace these days, as are stories about “reconstruction” corruption, protection payoffs to unsavory local warlords or the Taliban, and staggering levels of corruption in and around the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  But here’s the thing: it’s been that way for years.  Corruption stories — and stories about fighting corruption or the need to force the government of Hamid Karzai to do the same — have been the essential bread and butter of Afghan war reporting for almost a decade.

    * ”For Second Time in 3 Days, NATO Raid Kills Afghan Child”:  The New York Times piece under this headline reports on how “NATO” night raiders (usually U.S. special operations forces) killed a 15-year-old boy, the son of an Afghan National Army soldier, sleeping in his family fields with a shotgun beside him.  In the incident two days earlier the headline alludes to, another crew of night raiders killed a 12-year-old girl sleeping in her backyard, as well as her uncle, an Afghan police officer.  And who’s even mentioning the eight private security guards killed in an air strike as May began?

    As it happens, however, from the moment that a B-52 and two B-1B bombers, using precision-guided weapons, destroyed a village wedding party in December 2001, killing 110 out of 112 revelers (only the first of numerous wedding parties to be blown away during these years), such civilian casualties have been the drumbeat behind the war.  The Afghan dead — slaughtered by Taliban suicide bombers and IEDs as well — have risen in a charnel heap high above those of September 11, 2001. 

    Accompanying such stories over the years have been passages like this one from the Times piece: “When morning came, an angry crowd gathered in Narra, the boy’s village, and more than 200 people marched with his body to the district center. Some of the men were armed and confronted the police, shouting anti-American slogans and throwing rocks at police vehicles and the… government center, according to the district governor and the [local school] headmaster. ” 

    This is the never-ending story of the war, the one whose only variations involve whether, faced with such deaths, U.S. military spokespeople will stonewall and deny, launch an “investigation” that goes nowhere, or offer a pro forma apology.  When it came to the death of that girl recently, an apology was indeed issued, but her father made the essential point: “They killed my 12-year-old daughter and my brother-in-law and then told me, ‘We are sorry.’  What does it mean?  What pain can be cured by this word ‘sorry’?”

    Rogue War

    When it comes to the Afghan War, there are other news stories of the present moment that were also the Afghan news of 2006, 2008, and 2010.  There’s even the newest hot set of rumors about U.S. attempts to open negotiations with the Taliban, whose last iteration ended when American officials discovered that the Taliban “senior commander” they had flown to Kabul was actually a clever impostor (who made off with a pile of money).  But let’s consider just one more story, the seventh headline of this moment, versions of which have headlined many other moments in these years, and ask whether there isn’t something — anything at all — new to be learned from it.

    * “Afghan officer fires on NATO troops, kills 9”: This was breaking news when it happened.  On April 25th, a veteran Afghan air force pilot, armed with two weapons and in a specially guarded and secure area of Kabul airport, suddenly opened fire on a group of Americans evidently involved in a training program for Afghan pilots.  He gunned down eight U.S. Air Force personnel, including a lieutenant colonel, four majors, two captains, and a master sergeant, as well as a private contractor (himself a retired U.S. military officer) before being killed.  It was “the deadliest episode to date of an Afghan turning against his own coalition partners.”  But hardly the only one.  In a sense, this was no news at all.  It was already at least the fourth time in 2011 that someone dressed in an Afghan army or police uniform had turned a weapon on U.S. or NATO personnel.  Among such incidents was one just three weeks earlier in which a man wearing a border police uniform, reportedly “upset over the recent burning of the Quran at a Florida church,” killed two Americans, and another in February in which an Afghan soldier, reportedly “offended by his German partners,” killed three of them, wounding yet more. 

    By military count, since March 2009, 17 such incidents have been reported.  Since the mass killing at Kabul airport, there has already been an 18th in which, according to sketchy reports, a man in an Afghan police uniform opened fire on two NATO personnel at a “luncheon” in Helmand Province in the country’s embattled south.  In such incidents, at least 34 Americans have died. (Not counted in this total, evidently, is an incident in January 2010 in which a Taliban double or triple agent blew himself up amid a group of CIA employees on a forward operating base in Eastern Afghanistan, killing seven of them, including the station chief.)

    Such incidents pile up repetitively, without adding up to anything of significance here.  Yes, the literal math has been done and it should be striking, even shocking, to Americans, and yet these news stories seldom get much attention and have already fallen into a he said/he said pattern in which the only crucial question becomes: Was the killer a Taliban plant or a “rogue” member of the Afghan security forces?   As soon as such an attack occurs, the Taliban — which has made striking strides in entering the modern age of media spin — promptly takes credit for it, claiming that whoever blew away a coalition soldier was one of its own and the incident a carefully planned operation. 

    It’s easy to understand why the Taliban would want to associate itself with such events.  Harder to grasp — though no reporter seems to give it a second thought — is the U.S./NATO response.  Their spokespeople regularly hustle out statements insisting that whoever attacked U.S. or coalition personnel was not connected to the Taliban, but simply having a truly bad day/life (experiencing, say, financial or psychological stress) and that, as a result, the incident was an “isolated” one, “not part of any organized pattern,” or as an American general summed it up to reporters, “rare.”  And yet the phenomenon turns out to be common enough that the military has a label for it: “green-on-blue” violence.

    Consider this, though: Is the thought that the enemy is capable of repeatedly infiltrating American or NATO ranks really more devastating than the thought that, on a really bad day, “our” Afghans, the ones we are training or regularly working side-by-side with, have a deep-seated, repetitive urge to blow the foreigners away?  That seems to me the devastating message U.S. military officials are rushing to reinforce.

    Can you, in fact, even come up with a comparable historical situation?  Admittedly, when weaponry is everywhere, war is the subject, and hair-trigger is the attitude, people can die in all sorts of ways, as “fragging” incidents in the U.S. military in the Vietnam era indicated.  (There was, in fact, one such incident at a military base in Kuwait as the invasion of Iraq began and, more recently of course, a disturbed Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, went on a rampage, killing 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas.)

    Still, where else is there such a record of police and military personnel blowing away their own trainers and ostensible allies so often?  Isn’t it possible that all those “rogues” are offering a collective message Americans simply don’t care to hear?

    Despite the almost unbroken and certainly repetitive record of three decades of war and destruction, there are undoubtedly new stories to be found under the Afghan sun (as well as across the border in roiling Pakistan).  It’s just that you aren’t likely to find them in American war coverage, in part because you aren’t likely to find them in American strategic or tactical thinking. 

    Perhaps the real question is this: What does it tell us when neither a new policy thought nor a new story can come out of a disastrous war almost 10 years old?

    What does it mean when a great power proves incapable of learning anything from its own past actions?  What does it mean when you can’t think creatively or reimagine the world in a land that has so often been referred to as “the graveyard of empire”?  Is it really so hard to guess?

    And by the way, is anybody bored to death yet?  Then, what if, for the sake of having one new story to write, we decided to come home?

    Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books).

    Say it Ain’t So, Osama May 18, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Media, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Published on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 by TomDispatch.com

    His take-down was the story that grabbed almost 69% of the American “news hole” the week it happened, and from a media point of view it turns out to be the gift that never stops giving.  Small wonder, since it’s got just about everything: multiple wives, lost high-tech stealth helicopters, brave cyborg canines, killer tractors, championship-style celebrations, tiny helmet cams, private diaries, evil plans for future destruction, recalcitrant Pakistanis, shots of the world’s arch-villain changing channels whenever his arch-enemy, the president of the United States, comes on-screen, and now — the ultimate fundamentalist hypocrisy — “a stash of porn.”  If that isn’t God’s gift to web traffic, what is?

    As Reuters first reported and no one on this planet can now not know, in the treasure trove of computer hard drives and thumb drives collected by the Navy SEAL team that hit bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, CIA analysts claim to have found a cache of now-classified pornographic videos.  News of this was leaked to the press in hopes of “tarnishing” the reputation of the man who, in 2002, denounced American culture for its “exploitation of women’s bodies in dress, advertising, and popular culture.”

    Of course, with so much crucial news pouring out and news staffs shrinking across the media landscape, choices need to be made.  Under the circumstances, there are always a few stories that have to give way before what’s truly crucial, and so go unreported.  In recent years — explain it as you will — the Pentagon’s ongoing weapons trade with Middle Eastern despots has largely fallen into this category.  Someday, perhaps, this trade, which can take place with the most fervent of Islamic fundamentalists, might be reclassified as pornographic and so get the attention it deserves.  In the meantime, thanks to the reporting of Nick Turse, TomDispatch will continue to spend time in the unexplored interstices between what fascinates the media.

    © 2011 TomDispatch.com

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    Tom Engelhardt

    Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books).

    To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

    Custodians of Empire November 26, 2008

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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     www.truthout.org   

    by: Tom Engelhardt, The Nation

    The Obama national security “team” – part of that much-hailed “team of rivals” – does not yet exist, but it does seem to be heaving into view. And so far, its views seem anything but rivalrous. Mainstream reporters and pundits lovingly refer to them as “centrist,” but, in a Democratic context, they are distinctly right of center. The next secretary of state looks to be Hillary Clinton, a hawk on the Middle East. During the campaign, she spoke of our ability to “totally obliterate” Iran, should that country carry out a nuclear strike against Israel. She will evidently be allowed to bring her own (hawkish) subordinates into the State Department with her. Her prospective appointment is now being praised by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Henry Kissinger.

        The leading candidate for National Security Advisor is General James L. Jones, former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, who remained “publicly neutral” during the presidential campaign and is known to be personally close to John McCain and, evidently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as well. Not surprisingly, he favors yet more spending for the Pentagon. The reputed leading candidate for Director of the CIA, John Brennan, now head of the National Counterterrorism Center, was George Tenet’s chief of staff and deputy executive director during the worst years of the CIA’s intelligence, imprisonment, and torturing excesses.

        The new Secretary of Defense is odds on to be… the old secretary of defense, Robert Gates, a confidant of the first President Bush. Still surrounded at the Pentagon by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s holdovers, he has had a long career in Washington as a clever apparatchik. He was the adult brought in – the story of how and by whom has yet to be told – to clean up the Bush foreign policy mess (and probably prevent an attack on Iran). He did this. He now favors no fixed timelines for an Iraq withdrawal, but a significant American troop “surge” in Afghanistan, “well north of 20,000,” in the next 12-18 months. He has overseen the further growth of the bloated Pentagon budget and has recently come out for the building of a new generation of nuclear weapons. (Other candidates for Defense include former Clinton Navy Secretary and key Obama advisor Richard Danzig, who may end up – for the time being – as an undersecretary of defense, Clinton former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who might instead land the job as the Director of National Intelligence.)

        Drop down a tier, as Yochi Dreazen of the Wall Street Journal wrote last week, and you find the Obama transition people using a little known think-tank, the Center for a New American Security (CNSA), as a “top farm team” to stock its national security shelves. The founders of the center are – don’t be shocked now – former Clinton administration officials providing yet more “centrists” to an administration that seems to believe the essence of “experience” is having been in Washington between 1992 and 2000. CNAS, by the way, is officially against a fixed timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. In that, it seems typical of the coalescing national security team, almost none of whom, so far, opposed the invasion of Iraq (other than the president-elect). Having been anti-war is evidently a sign of inexperience and so a negative.

        Add in the military line-up – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, Centcom Commander David Petraeus, Generals Raymond Odierno and David McKiernan, the U.S. commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan – all second term Bush picks, all reportedly ready to push for a major “surge” in Afghanistan, all evidently against Obama’s timeline for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

        Now, mind you, so far we’ve only been considering the foreign policy issues of empire that face the next team. Domestically, if Gates remains, the Air Force might get kneecapped (perhaps losing the F-22 Raptor, the weapons system it wants for a war that will never be fought), but the Army and Marines will expand, as (so he promises) will the Navy. The essence of the matter is simple enough, as Frida Berrigan, arms expert for the New America Foundation and TomDispatch regular, indicates in her latest piece, “Weapons Come Second”: Even in the toughest of economic times, the Pentagon, bloated budget and all, is likely to prove relatively untouchable.

        The Obama transition team’s explanation for the remarkably familiar look to its emerging national security line-up, suggested David E. Sanger in a recent front-page think piece in the New York Times, is “that the new administration will have no time for a learning curve. With the country facing a deep recession or worse, global market turmoil, chaos in Pakistan and a worsening war in Afghanistan, ‘there’s going to be no time for experimentation,’ a member of the Obama foreign policy team said.” In other words, we need the sort of minds, already imprisoned in Washington’s version of “experience,” who helped lead us into this mess (long term), to get us out of it. “Experimentation” is obviously for times when it isn’t needed. For these custodians of empire, Better a steady hand and the same-old thoughts. No?

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