Can we handle the truth? Fred Reed retraces the historically gruesome function of the soldier throughout history:
Killing for your own reasons is criminal. Killing someone you have never seen for the benefit of a politician you have never met is a source of medals.
The grisly methods are infinitely diverse, but arrive at the common goal of death. Full article: Dulce et Decorum
“The history of civilization is a river on whose waters soldiers and politicians are fighting and shedding ballots and blood; but on the banks of the river, people are raising children, building homes, making scientific inventions, puzzling about the universe, writing music and literature.” - William Durant
A hearty "Good Luck" to the Caswells as they head into court next week:
We’ve discussed the nation’s civil forfeiture problems in the past. The drug war is such a window of opportunity for government, as is any war. No one knows where a leak will occur until one sees the drip. No one feels the power of a flood until the waters rise.
Robert Parry reports on the two biggies, being the Vietnam War and the Iran Hostage affair, and how both sides maneuvered the chess pieces.
The Russian Report contradicted the task force’s findings. As described by the Russians, the 1980 hostage negotiations boiled down to a competition between the Carter administration and the Reagan campaign offering the Iranians different deals if the hostages were either released before the election to help Carter or held until after the election to benefit Reagan.
The Iranians “discussed a possible step-by-step normalization of Iranian-American relations [and] the provision of support for President Carter in the election campaign via the release of American hostages,” according to the U.S. Embassy’s classified translation of the Russian report.
Meanwhile, the Republicans were making their own overtures, the Russian Report said. “William Casey, in 1980, met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership,” the report said. “The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris.”
At the Paris meeting in October 1980, “R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part,” the Russian Report said. “In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran.”
Both the Reagan-Bush Republicans and the Carter Democrats “started from the proposition that Imam Khomeini, having announced a policy of ‘neither the West nor the East,’ and cursing the ‘American devil,’ imperialism and Zionism, was forced to acquire American weapons, spares and military supplies by any and all possible means,” the Russian Report said.
Everything’s political, folks; especially when two rapacious party machines are vying for the ultimate brass ring. Soldiers, hostages… pawns in the angular game. What’s worse is how foreign politicians play us for the political instrument we are due to our “exceptional” intervention around the globe.
I have always argued in this blog that waging war to secure oil does not make sense. Those who do it nonetheless succumb to an illusion, or they are using a pretext to justify a war to be fought for (many) other reasons.
In No War for Oil, Ivan Eland shows, it is much cheaper, and indeed operationally more sensible and feasible to buy oil on the market than to fight for it.
I use the occasion to create a list of links to some of the posts that I have written on the subject-matter of oil.
That some “libertarians” are ready, willing, and able to swallow this guff, I have no doubt. They claim Ryan “gets the free market.” Well, whoop-de-doo! So does the Chinese Communist party, these days.
Of course, the hyphens add a touch of class. Maybe I should start a PAC: Whoop-dee-doers for Freedom.
Have you ever stopped to consider the changes in your life? I guess this is something one does when one has had enough of a life to do it. And I am there, baby! 50 is only a few years away.
When looking back at my more youthful thoughts and ideas, I'm amazed, if not downright shocked, at some of the political views I held. By contrast, the non-political thoughts have been steady in their progression because, I guess, such views deal with self-interest: faith, family, friends, music, nature, poetry, etc. In those areas I have broadened myself and found that I have more love for more things than I ever thought possible; with a generous supply in reserve for the years ahead.
Politics is different, however. You have an entity of force, the government, that approaches you from a very young age (around kindergarten) and presents you with issues, problems like the environment, and asks you for solutions. How nice of them to include me! As I grew, the list became ever more extensive: the poor, the economy - even the condition of other countries. And I was asked (told maybe? it's all very fuzzy…) how I would go about fixing it all. My answer would come in the form of a vote for those worthy of it. They would be an extension of my best ideas. Solutions by proxy.
At some point in my very late twenties, I decided to look a little deeper, which led to conclusions that, if I'm being honest with myself, revealed my naivety. And so a long road of truth-seeking began which has had a radicalizing effect. My thirty-year-old self would have nothing to do with me now.
Over that time, I have read a small mountain of books and articles and have come to admire many great authors. One who has had a steadily growing influence on my thoughts has been Leonard E. Read, an American economist and the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, which was the first modern free market think tank in the United States. Lately, his writings seem more pertinent than ever. He has a way of getting to the crux of some frustrating difficulties known to face libertarians throughout history.
One looming problem, ongoing for over a decade now, is the almost instinctual reaction by the masses to the subject of war. It is unfathomable how so many people can so easily dismiss the legitimate questions surrounding war by simply holding up the soldier as an unassailable relic. To question their actions one must have been, at the least, a soldier himself. To do is to understand, after all. Even then, a respectful "thank-you-for-your-service" would be followed by all the reasons why war is justified, and why the troops need our support in their sacrificial freedom-fighting endeavors. One's patriotism, a perceived currency of value, is always questioned as well.
Enter Leonard Read, soldier of WWI, in which he experienced some personal hardship:
In February of 1918 some 2,500 of us were aboard the troopship Tuscania when it was sunk by a German submarine. Many young Americans lost their lives in that disaster. As a 19-year old kid, I did not indulge in any deep philosophical thought about war while that ship was sinking, or during the seemingly hopeless hours spent in a collapsible contraption on a very cold and angry Irish Sea. My thoughts were mostly about how to keep from freezing and how to remain alive.
In a piece entitled 'Conscience On The Battlefield', Mr. Read decides to create a battle within a battle, one in which the soldier debates himself within a very uncomfortable setting:
Therefore, why not imagine a dialogue with myself? One character would be my young 19-year old, warlike self; the other my present peace-loving self, but a self elevated to a higher level by embodying those occasional intimations of Conscience and Understanding which a man experiences.
As suggested, I am well qualified for one part of the characterization: the above-mentioned experience during World War I, ancestors in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, two sons in World War II, plus many weaknesses of the flesh which account for wars.
Why should I not also try to capture the loftier side of characterization? True, I haven’t lived the loftier side too well, therefore, don’t know it too well. But lurking in my mental background, in a nebulous sort of way, are thoughts and a set of ideas in conflict with what I and many others have done. Why not by concentration and some imagination draw on the resources that lie hidden in the deeper recesses of one’s mind? Why not draw on the better thought of others too? Why should it be necessary to wait until the last moment of consciousness to find, as best one can, how one ought to have lived?
… The following dialogue is imagined to have taken place as I lay dying on a battlefield near the 38th Parallel in Korea. And let us also imagine that the thoughts were inspired by a passage I had read from the chaplain’s Bible a few days before: "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword."
The talk is not hurried. Time, bordering on eternity, has lost all meaning.
What ensues is a compelling debate between a soldier and his conscience, each trying to justify their guess as to his well-nigh fate:
Soldier: Fame? Always I was wooing her. Now I see her shallowness. Concern about Immortal Judgment takes her place, a concern I have not known before. How, dear Conscience, will I be judged?
Conscience: … While in many respects you were an excellent person, the record shows that you killed men – both Korean and Chinese, and were also responsible for the death of many women and children during this military campaign.
Soldier: That is correct, and I regret that it was necessary. But we were at war, a good and a just war. We had to stop Communist aggression and the enslavement of people by dictators. That war was in accord with United States foreign policy.
Here we see an indication toward another of Read's works, entitled 'On That Day Began Lies', in which he expands upon Tolstoy's warning regarding the plural, a place wherein tend to hide the individual actions we regard as less-than-salutary. "WE" were at war. "WE" deemed it good and just. "WE" had to. It's a closet full of the darkest of skeletons.
We see that Conscience is having none of it:
Conscience: The judgment which now concerns you must be rendered on you as an individual – not on parties or mobs or armies or policies or processes or governments. … What collective can have any validity for you from now on? In the Temple of Judgment which you are about to enter, Principles only are likely to be observed. It is almost certain that you will find there no distinction between nationalities or between races. A woman is a woman. A child is a child, with as much a right to an opportunity for Self-realization as you. To take a human life – at whatever age, or of any color – is to take a human life.
Mr. Read offers to us his personal debate; one which has existed throughout history. When is it justified to kill? The arguments vary from the most ardent pacifist to the most "efficient" of government representatives. And it is no coincidence that the individual would come down closer to pacifism while those within, and part of, a government apparatus (or enriched by it) would tend to argue the broadest justifications (think Holocaust, Great Leap Forward, Harvest of Sorrows, etc.).
But let's return to my initial conundrum: the impenetrable facade of the soldier. Mr. Read points out the issue directly:
Conscience: You imply that you feel no personal responsibility for having killed these people. Why, then, did you personally accept the "honors"? According to your notions, no one person is responsible for the deaths of these people. Yet, they were destroyed. Seemingly, you expect collective arrangements such as "the army" or "the government" to bear your guilt. Yet you expect in Everlasting Life the bestowal of personal honors for virtues. Are you not struck with the absurdity of it all?
I appreciate a paradigm-shifting argument… and this is a good one. I read that line several times, and I thanked a gentleman long since passed from this world for writing it. How many times has the comment been made thus: "It's because of men like me that you can say what you want…"?
The honor is bestowed by government, accepted by the soldier, and eventually demanded by him as well. It then becomes ingrained within society. The parents get involved: "It's because of men like my son…" and the children "It's because of men like my father…" and, thanks to an enlightened age, it can be "because of women like my sister."
One can not speak ill of war without offending someone who’s somehow connected to the actions of the exalted soldier. It's like a twisted game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon - only lost in the mix are the tragedies, without and within, which cannot be stopped – will not be stopped - for the sake of honor. You can't question the premise of war without assaulting the honors bound to it by the state. If such action becomes dishonorable, the whole thing is lost, from the perspective of those interested in perpetuating war.
Here is where I begrudgingly tip my hat to the government. What a formidable concoction! There seems no assailable position one can take where one will not receive the full umbrage of the supportive masses, coiled and waiting, ready to pour forth disdain upon anyone questioning the individual actions of a collective force.
So, what is left for pacifists like me? Faith, really; the belief that words, like those written by Leonard E. Read, will find individual eyes, and epiphanies will happen within others until we reach a critical tipping point. Hopefully then the crowd, always the sentimental follower, will move in a different direction; and if the mantle of a soldier's honor needs to be sacrificed, so be it. I'd rather that than for the soldier to kill an innocent person, commit suicide, lose his mind, or lose body parts.
In an email to supporters, Paul urged his libertarian-leaning backers to remain involved in politics and champion his causes despite the apparent end of his presidential aspirations. Paul has found success in wrecking the selection process for delegates to the party's late-summer nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., and trumpeted that he has delayed Romney's expected nomination.
"Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted," Paul said in his statement. "Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have. I encourage all supporters of liberty to make sure you get to the polls and make your voices heard, particularly in the local, state and congressional elections, where so many defenders of freedom are fighting and need your support."
What does this mean for the movement Ron Paul inspired?
Before we start, we need to make the distinction between the official Ron Paul campaign (led by Jesse Benton and others close to Ron Paul) and the grassroots organizations that are currently causing trouble in state conventions around the country in Oklahoma, Idaho, Nevada, and other states.
If the GOP establishment thinks that this announcement makes it easier for the Mitt Romney campaign, they ought to think again. Ron Paul's concession of the nomination to Mitt Romney just means that this primary race and the delegate selection process are now free-for-alls. The announcement effectively unbinds the grassroots supporters from the official Paul campaign. Whatever happens between now and Tampa is now out of the official Paul campaign's hands and entirely the fault of the infamously enthusiastic Ron Paul Revolution. The Paul campaign is signaling to the GOP that if chaos does occur in Tampa that it is not their doing.
So, why would the Paul campaign do such a thing? Some possibilities:
In order to control the agenda, the Paul campaign needs to continue its delegate accrual unopposed. We already saw the Republican National Committee meddling in Nevada, threatening to unseat delegates for being disproportionately Paul supporters. By conceding the nomination to Romney, the RNC and the Romney campaign will not be spooked by Paul takeover of state conventions.
Fast-forward to Tampa and the impending chaos. The Paul campaign probably realizes that anything can happen in Tampa (the aforemention "unforeseen" events), including the Paul faction "stealing" the nomination from Mitt Romney. By washing their hands of what the grassroots does, they can be made blameless. This protects Ron Paul, his staffers, and someone else.
It is also a restatement of what has always been true from the very start, all the way in 2007: the official campaign has never been able to control the grassroots Ron Paul Revolution.
It is a very cold and calculated move on the part of Jesse Benton and others in the official campaign. All of it to signal to the GOP establishment that the Ron Paul campaign are team players and ultimately to protect Rand Paul.
Is it no holds barred in Tampa? Probably and this seems to me that the Paul campaign is expecting it.
Jayel Aheram, Iraq War veteran turned antiwar activist, attended an event in southern California, a stop on the campaign to free Bradley Manning. Jeff Paterson and Emma Cape, of the Support Network and Courage to Resist, have traveled around the country discussing Bradley’s case, the government’s show trial to send him for life in prison, and the activist efforts to free him. This post first appeared at Jayel’s blog.
A military judge has ordered the state department to release into her hands official documents that assessed from the viewpoint of the US government how damaging the leak of state secrets to WikiLeaks had been to American national interests.
For months Manning’s defence lawyer, David Coombs, has been pressing the soldier’s military prosecutors to hand over in the discovery stage of the trial the official damage assessments. The assessments, carried out by several federal agencies including intelligence bodies, could have a crucial bearing on any sentence handed out to Manning should he be found guilty.
There have been suggestions that the assessments show that in the official opinion of the US government, WikiLeaks did very little to harm US national interests around the world. That could prove invaluable for the defence in mitigation.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Manning would probably be convicted. After all, it is a trial where the judge’s boss is the Commander-in-Chief who already decided before any trial began that Manning broke the law. It is not really that far-fetched to say that best outcome out of this would be for Manning to wither away in jail instead of being executed for daring to embarrass the Empire. I would ask “Why go through all this trouble of wasting resources conducting a mock trial? Why not just execute Manning and be done with it?” but then I already know the answer.
Anyway, I had the opportunity a few of weeks ago to attend a presentation by Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Him and another staffer are traveling the country giving updates to concerned citizens about how eager the government is to make an example of Manning.
Paterson is not only a project director for Courage to Resist, but a fellow Marine artilleryman as well. As part of his presentation, he recounted his own antiwar stand during the first Gulf War as one of the first group of servicemembers who refused to fight that war. He ultimately spent several months in jail before being discharged from the military, after which he disappeared from the public eye. It must be noted that his stand was not an attempt at activism, but a lone protest motivated by a deep moral objection to war.
And because of this action, he has more credibility than most of us could ever hope to achieve. Unlike him, when I joined the Marine Corps in 2006, Iraq and Afghanistan was already well underway. My lack of knowledge is a poor excuse and that I honestly believed the propaganda is irrelevant. The fact that I was a willing cog in the war machine forever discredits me and there is nothing I can do—now or any time in the future—to redeem myself of this complicity.
Which brings me to the Army specialist who found a way to redeem himself: Bradley Manning.
Paterson’s backstory is very important, because it explains his involvement with the Manning case. As he explained in his presentation, he became involved with the military resistance movement at the beginning of second Iraq War. From those efforts came Courage to Resist, a network of veterans, military families, and activists supporting many military resisters defy the War Machine. When it came to light that an Army specialist by the name of Bradley Manning was central in the government’s investigation of Wikileaks, Paterson knew that he had to do something or as he puts it, “before they disappear [Manning].” Within two weeks of Manning’s arrest, Paterson was able to persuade several people to publicize Manning’s plight including establishing the Bradley Manning Defense Fund. To say that Paterson was “involved” with the Manning case is to understate how important he was to this cause. If it were not for his early efforts, who knows what might have happened to Manning?
Paterson’s presentation began with the infamous Collateral Murder video, the release of which firmly embedded the name “Wikileaks” in people’s radars. Manning is accused of leaking the video and also many other documents, including the Iraq War Logs and hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables. If the accusations are true and that Manning is to be credited for the leaks, that would make his singular action of leaking classified information the most significant catalyst of change in modern history.
There is some evidence that the classified information Manning allegedly provided to Wikileaks influenced and might have contributed to the Tunisian uprisings, which itself became the fount from which the Arab Spring continues to flow. Could it be that Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, Khaled Mohamed Saeed’s death, and Manning’s reckless bravery are all to be equally credited for the changes sweeping the Middle East? According to Amnesty International in their 2011 report, Wikileaks’ revelations were “catalysts” in the Arab Springs:
While the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia would not have happened without the long struggle of brave human rights defenders over the last two decades, support for activists from outside the country may have been strengthened as people scrutinized the Wikileaks documents on Tunisia and understood the roots of the anger. In particular, some of the documents made clear that countries around the world were aware of both the political repression and the lack of economic opportunity, but for the most part were not taking action to urge change.
So, while one cannot fully credit Manning and Wikileaks for the Arab Spring, there were fundamental to its strength and ultimate success. Additionally, the Arab Spring’s strength and success served as inspiration for the widespread protests of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Scientists might stand on the shoulders of giants, but modern revolutionaries apparently stand on the shoulders of a 110-pound Army specialist. Some might write about how Wikileaks is changing journalism, but in reality without Manning and his trove of classified information, Julian Assange and his outfit would have a lot less to leak.
So, Manning’s leak might have started revolutions in the Middle East, inspired a social movement in the United States, and changing the journalism itself, but could it have ended a war as well? Paterson asserts that the account of atrocities in the Iraq Wars Logs is what finally pushed Iraqi legislators to grow a spine and refuse granting immunity to American troops from prosecution in Iraqi courts. This refusal was the “deal breaker” that finally led to the Third End of War in Iraq (Obama’s second). If that is the case, then Manning’s Nobel Peace Prize nomination is well-deserved.