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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Pinned down somewhere in Afghanistan

Obama gave his speech, appropriately in light of its content, at West Point, the United States’ Army military academy.  The band, naturally, played marching tunes.   Articulating what are now somewhat shop-worn words, the President said he’d requested another 30,000 troops, and that they’d start coming back in 2011, after they’d provided some breathing room for our allies, the Karzai government, which he claimed had legitimately won a recent election (albeit he said, one marred by voting fraud).   And on went the tactical talk and the strategic planning, all of which echoed other phrases we’ve heard before:  We’ll stand down when they stand up.  Hearts and minds. Buying into lying McChrystal’s tainted COIN spiel, we heard how military force would turn the Taliban on its heels, and in a mere 18 months our heroes would make the space to commence building a nice civil society of cops and courts, commerce and safety.   They can probably have a McDonalds, too, with special Pat Tillman plastic statuary looking like Ronnie McDonald.

Coming from Obama’s gilded mouth this still sounded tinny, if not so absurd as Bush’s fumblings with his native lingo.  Still the ideas were threadworn, and promises distinctly feeble, and the tone-deafness so deja vu.  Due attention was made to how we ended in this fix with an oblique critique of Bush’s Iraq adventure, and how much it was costing the domestic side of things and that, reality being what it is, how we couldn’t frankly afford much of it.  Nevertheless Obama declined to bite any real bullets and say he was re-instituting the draft and raising taxes to pay for this further war.   As one writer responding to a NY Times blog suggested, if he were really an astute chess player he would have put the ball in Congresses’ court, requested a declaration of war, taxes to pay for it, and a draft to man it.  This would have shifted the political terms considerably.  But Obama, however unconvincing his silver words seem when applied to their policies,  is in the pocket of business-as-usual American militarism.   And what we got was boiler-plate American exceptionalism –  “we’re not here to take your resources or occupy you, and America has been the planetary good guy for 6 decades” said the black-face minstrel-show orator, just like the white guy would have.  700 hundred military bases around the globe and snake oil.   The same old hoofin’ and tap dance America always does.  We’re here ’cause it’s good for you!

Same old same old packaged in slightly less offensive words, and trying to cover for the fundamental political and economic weakness behind our weakened military.  Talk tough, act tough, and hope nobody calls you on it.  I don’t think this speech will get him American public support, or duly impress the Taliban.  And in whatever lair, those of Al Qaeda and others of similar persuasion are probably pleased, seeing the great giant of America tied down, bleeding, ruptured within, unable to speak to itself or act coherently internationally.

Neck deep in the big dustySee below for more on the Afghan show

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Convoy of US military in Afghanistan

Unless in the next few hours President Obama suffers an epiphany and follows the measured advice sent out by Michael Moore today – which is sure not to happen – the United States of America will dispatch another 34,000 soldiers (and who knows what number of private mercenaries in this or that disguise) to Afghanistan.   Whatever loquacious verbiage Obama dresses this in, whatever carefully rationalized logic he enunciates, whatever firm exit strategy he outlines, there will be more needed visits to Dover, more body bags, far more dead Afghani’s cited as “collateral damage” and however behind the 8 ball he’d been set up by the Bush/Cheney crew, this war will be Obama’s.  And unless he possesses some mystical jujitsu hitherto unseen in the tribal hinterlands of “the graveyard of Empires,” America is likely to stumble forward, bleeding non-existent monies, the “homeland” crumbling, and the field will be open for rabid Right to lash out still more at the “nigger in the White House.”  And Obama will limp through his one-term, hounded both from the left and right, having blown his supporters not once, but twice.    The Wall Street bailout that seems not to have stopped the rising unemployment while it did resume the multi-billion dollar bonuses, and now the further Afghan war to suck money from whatever domestic fix-ups could have been made, will be his administration’s death-warrant.   In its wake a majority of Americans who eagerly voted, after 8 years of illegitimate misgovernment by Bush/Cheney, for Change You Can Believe In ™, will feel bitterly short-changed.   At some point the fear and distress of being down-sized, dis-homed, and stripped of all sense of self-respect will either reduce America to a vast herd of Orwellian sheep, or a hornets nest of anger.   Or both.   Given the ready availability of guns in America the customary cycle of shoot-’em-ups is likely to escalate to a non-stop roar, and the home-bred resentful patriots and terrorists are likely to make Timothy McVeigh and Major Hasan look like a mere prelude to the real action.

Thomas Friedman, pundit, NY Times columnist

In the past week the New York Times has printed two Opinion page items which have drawn a firestorm of responses. The first was from Thomas Friedman, self-appointed expert on American foreign policy, a neo-con in vaguely more reasonable dress, and a rabid supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including being an active participant in the lying chicanery which was foisted on the American public to whip their gonads to a fury.  In his column, America vs The Narrative, Friedman painted a picture of ungrateful Muslims who didn’t acknowledge or realize all the million good things America has done for them in the last decades.   This begot a massive 700 responses, which I read, and about 2/3rds of which took him to task for his myopic or willfully fraudulent sense of history.  My response was this:

As customary, Mr Friedman chooses to flatten the world into self-serving simplifications. Today it is his compressed version of Muslim (Arabic mostly) aversion to Mr Friedman’s view of history. His history starts quite recently and neglects the Crusades (remember Bush’s slip of the tongue [?] early on in our Iraq adventure, the adventure very loudly supported by Mr Friedman). It neglects centuries of Western incursions, imperializing, theft and deal-making of the most sordid kind, including naturally the grand-theft plotting to take over Iraqi oil fields as a clearly dominant function of the so-called war in Iraq. Or of US involvement in overthrowing a legitimately elected Iranian leader who happened to lean left. Or myriad other meddlesome actions in the middle-east. It neglects the DU littered landscapes of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rather Mr Friedman cites chapter and verse of supposed Western do-goodism, saying “But for every Abu Ghraib, our soldiers and diplomats perpetrated a million acts of kindness aimed at giving Arabs and Muslims a better chance to succeed with modernity and to elect their own leaders.” Such as chronically supporting tyrants who suppressed those things Mr Friedman now champions, because it was useful in some demented American policymakers minds.

As Mr Friedman would have it, the soldiers about to embark from Ft Hood for Iraq or Afghanistan were “innocent”. Just as he would have it that there are no grounds for Muslim/Arabic resentment towards things Western or American. Soldiers are never innocent; they are trained, equipped and governmentally sanctioned and directed killers. And American foreign policy has for long decades been detrimental to Arabic interests, and willfully so, and is anything but “innocent.”

Mr Friedman would like to wave his magic flattening wand and make it all not so; he’d like to erase history and then blame everything on Muslims who have been cynically used and abused by western policymakers, whether for oil or anti-communist crusades or geo-political/military bases.

Being a propagandist for America’s basest interests, he now feigns surprise and dismay that what goes round, comes round. If Muslim’s are easily led into a warped narrative displeasing to Mr Friedman’s eyes, he should look more carefully at one of the cheerleaders of the authors of that narrative: in the mirror.

In my hasty reading of all responses, most of those in support verged on illiterate, rabid right-wing cant being the language used.   Given the supposed “librul” slant of the Times, one supposes this percentage is right and not too indicative of a national pattern, but the anger and heat was tangible.  One wonders how much longer Mr Friedman can either delude himself, or drive safely to his home outside Washington, in Bethesda Maryland, just by the Bethesda Country Club (drop in some time for a coffee and talk):

Mr Friedman of late has talked up going green, carbon footprints, etc., of which he must know a lot.

The other column, The Jobs Imperative, just yesterday, was by Paul Krugman, hammering away (again) at the (non) jobs situation, and the need for the government to get very pro-active in doing something to generate jobs  –  for humanitarian purposes, and for economic ones.   And as well for the national well-being.  This too begot an avalanche of responses, this time more mixed, with seemingly half saying drop taxes, get government and regulations out of the way and the good old Market Economy will work its magic (like it did the last 8 years), and the other half saying mostly, yes, but too little too late.   The heat on both sides was again visceral.

If these two items are in the least indicative, the nation is extremely angry, the right for its usual unreasonable reasons, and the liberal/left for feeling betrayed by their guy in the White House, the likable Mr Obama whose reasonableness seems no longer suited to the temperament of the country.

As a basketball player Obama should see a squeeze play when it’s coming.  Between the honchos of Wall Street and the brass of the Pentagon, he’s been taken to the cleaners, and Main Street is feeling left out.   There is little in the news that hints at some economic upturn, in fact everything points the other way.  Dubai, alternative universe Vegas playground of the international jet-set (as well as new home to Cheney’s beloved Halliburton) is going belly up,  as are a string of other derivatived-to-death leveraged-out nations following the Iceland swoon:  Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, and sure to hit the news in just a bit will be the rest of Eastern Europe, and some of Western Europe as well (Italy is foundering now).  Across the globe are vast skyscrapers built to accommodate the bustling business that isn’t there, and commercial foreclosures are next in line, and then national defaults.  Among the countries courting such is none other than the good old US of A, in hock to its neck and waiting for the executioners sword when interest rates on all that borrowed dough pops up.   Well, good luck.

Jeff Wall visits Afghanistan

Obama’s window of time is very short, and he’ll probably close it with his West Point speech tonight.   Where the moment calls for a truly audacious – in American political terms – sequence of actions, Obama will only eloquently recite his master’s demands.  Troops.  Bailouts for banks.  All couched in reasonable language as he seeks an accommodation among irreconcilable constituencies and circumstances.  Taking a seemingly moderate way, he’ll lose everything.   Of course, were he to follow Michael Moore’s advice, he’d like find himself in another familiar All American political briar patch:

Goya, The Sleep of Reason Begets Monsters