NPR mild mannered critique of USA mayhem
It came. It went. It vanished without a trace.
Last week America's secretary of state appeared before what passes in Washington for a gathering of the great and good and announced that a "new American Moment" had arrived. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton (and her hopelessly pedestrian speechwriters), the secretary's effort to brand our age didn't take. The duration of the new American Moment did not extend beyond the peroration of her eminently forgettable speech.
The temptation to pass quietly over Clinton's performance and move on is strong—but should be resisted. To read the speech carefully is to confront the central problem bedeviling American diplomacy: Infested with people who (like Clinton) are infatuated with power, Washington has increasingly become a city devoid of people who actually understand power.
They chant the empire seemingly oblivious to the fact that the empire's foundations are rapidly crumbling.
"[A]fter years of war and uncertainty," the secretary of state informed her audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, "people are wondering what the future holds, at home and abroad. So let me say it clearly: The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century."
That settled, Clinton then proceeded to make her case for American leadership by resurrecting familiar clichés and reciting a long list of aspirations. Hers is a No Child Left Behind approach to statecraft: There is no global problem, however large or however remote from U. S. interests, that will evade America's sympathetic ministrations.
[I]n this day where there is nothing that doesn't come to the forefront of public awareness: What do we give up on? What do we put on the backburner? Do we sideline development? Do we put some hot conflicts on hold? Do we quit trying to prevent other conflicts from unfreezing and heating up? Do we give up on democracy and human rights?
No, we do not. By extension, therefore, everything becomes a priority. Besides, according to Clinton, to admit that A should take precedence over B while categorizing C as too hard "is not what Americans do."
Americans have always risen to the challenges we have faced. That is who we are. It is in our DNA. We do believe there are no limits on what is possible or what can be achieved.
History itself testifies to what American leadership can accomplish, as demonstrated by Clinton's own concise rendering of the postwar era.
After the Second World War, the nation that had built the transcontinental railroad, the assembly line, the skyscraper, turned its attention to constructing the pillars of global cooperation. The third World War that so many feared never came. And many millions of people were lifted out of poverty and exercised their human rights for the first time. Those were the benefits of a global architecture forged over many years by American leaders from both political parties.
The Cold War? A nuclear arms race? CIA instigated coups and dirty tricks? A penchant for bedding down with right-wing dictators? Vietnam? None of these qualify for mention in Secretary Clinton's carefully sanitized and upbeat take on the past. (One wonders how Hillary Clinton, Wellesley '68, would have responded to such a grotesque exercise in historical revisionism.)
Although Clinton offered assurances that the Obama administration is "committed to maintaining the greatest military in the history of the world," her approach to policy centers above all on the conviction that "engagement" holds the key to solving almost any problem. Diplomacy requires all-out engagement everywhere, 24/7. Clinton recalls her predecessors warning her that "[y]ou can either try to manage the building or manage the world; you can't try to do both." She admits to rejecting that counsel, congratulating herself on managing both her department and also the world. (She topped this off with simultaneously managing her daughter's wedding: a perfect trifecta.)
Banalities laced with smug self-delusion: In the new American Moment this is what passes for smart thinking. Meanwhile, in present-day Washington, the capacity for serious strategic analysis—not to mention a once-vibrant American tradition of plain speaking—has seemingly vanished.
What do we need to hear from a serious and plain-speaking secretary of state? For starters, these five points:
First, the world is not plastic and the future is opaque. To think that Washington, for all that it spends on "intelligence," has the capacity to forecast or direct the trajectory of events is manifestly absurd. If the American governing class can claim a specialty, it's getting caught by surprise. After September 11, Iraq, Katrina, the financial meltdown, etc., a bit of modestly might be in order. Rather than leading the world to some globalized utopia, the United States will do well if it can simply cope with whatever debacle awaits around the next bend.
Second, for decades now, a tendency to overinflate threats and to privilege near-term objectives over long-term interests has been a persistent hallmark of American statecraft. Time and again, the "solution" hyped to remedy today's problem breeds tomorrow's "crisis." Hyper-activism yields unintended and all too frequently baleful consequences. The record of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan over the past 30 years offers a case in point.
Third, when it comes to discerning what distant peoples need or want, U.S. officials are clueless. Sure, people want to escape poverty and avoid being brutalized. But development comes from within and can seldom be engineered from without. (If aid programs worked as promised, Egypt would today be a very prosperous nation.) Worse, the effort to protect those subject to arbitrary violence all too often finds would-be protectors perpetrating their own violence. More often than not, what others want is to be allowed to determine their own destiny in their own way.
Fourth, however imposing, U.S. military might is of limited relevance to actually existing national security challenges. There exists no problem today to which military power offers a definitive solution. This statement is true regarding near-term concerns (violent jihadism) or emerging ones (climate change). As measured by return on investment, therefore, the money lavished on the Pentagon produces precious little.
Fifth, money itself is in increasingly short supply. Even in Washington, people at odd moments say things that are both true and important. Not long ago, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, let it be known that our skyrocketing national debt constitutes "the most significant threat to our national security." Although Mullen refrained from drawing any correlation between mushrooming indebtedness and mushrooming military spending, his point is essentially correct. American statecraft has achieved the condition that Walter Lippmann once described as insolvency. We no longer possess the means needed to achieve the ends to which we are committed. Retrenchment has become the order of the day.
These are disconcerting facts, but facts they are. A secretary of state willing to acknowledge their existence would perform a great public service. But don't expect this secretary of state to do so. She's too busy managing the world.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book is Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War.
from NPR and The New Republic magazine
"I am against the war but I support the war on terrorism"
In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, several prominent "progressive" intellectuals made a case for "retaliation against terrorism" on moral and ethical grounds.
The "just cause" military doctrine (jus ad bellum) used to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was upheld at face value as a legitimate response to 9/11, without examining the fact that Washington had not only covertly supported the "Islamic terror network", it was also instrumental in the installation of the Taliban government in 1996.
In the wake of 9/11, the (real) antiwar movement was completely isolated. Trade unions and civil society organizations had swallowed the media lies and government propaganda. They had accepted a war of retribution against Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds, an impoverished country of 30 million people.
Concurrently, a fake anti-war activism emerged in the wake of 9/11 which broadly consisted in stating: "I am against the war but I support the war on terrorism". Meanwhile, several NGOs became actively involved in humanitarian projects in Afghanistan, in close liaison with USAID and the Pentagon. (See Yves Engler, The Humanitarian Invastion of Afghanistan: Occupation by NGO, Global Research, September 5, 2010).
This acceptance of the "war on terrorism" was in large part based on the acceptance of the official 9/11 narrative, namely that the US was under attack, that the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Muslims, that the Taliban were protecting Al Qaeda and providing refuge to its illusive leader Osama bin Laden.
Ironically, many "Progressives" in America not only accepted the official 9/11 narrative, they were also involved in smearing the 9/11 Truth Movement. By slurring those who questioned the official 9/11 story (backed by carefully researched evidence and analysis), they (unwittingly) provided legitimacy to the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian occupied territories as well as the targeting of Iran, as part of the "Global War on Terror" GWOT).
The so-called "War on Terrorism" is a lie. Amply documented, the pretext to wage this war is totally fabricated.
Realities have been turned upside down. Acts of war are heralded as "humanitarian interventions" geared towards restoring 'democracy'.
Military occupation and the killing of civilians are presented as "peace-keeping operations."
The derogation of civil liberties under the so-called "anti-terrorist legislation" is portrayed as a means to providing "domestic security" and upholding civil liberties.
Meanwhile, the civilian economy is precipitated into crisis; expenditures on health and education are curtailed to finance the military-industrial complex and the police state.
Under the American Empire, millions of people around the world are being driven into abysmal poverty, and countries are transformed into open territories.
U.S. protectorates are installed with the blessing of the so-called "international community." "Interim governments" are formed. Political puppets designated by America's oil giants are casually endorsed by the United Nations, which increasingly performs the role of a rubber-stamp for the U.S. Administration.
The real national security threat, we are told repeatedly, emanates from an illusive "outside enemy" called Al Qaeda, which has overriding military capabilities including the ability to wage terrorist attacks on American cities using nuclear weapons.
The 9/11 attacks play a key role both at the political level as well in the formulation of military doctrine.
Al Qaeda is waging war on America and Western civilization. America is the victim of 9/11. A second 9/11 is said to be imminent according to official Pentagon and Homeland Security sources.
The protagonists of war are presented as the victims of war. Pre-emptive war directed against "Islamic terrorists" is required to defend the Homeland. Realities are turned upside down. America is under attack.
In the wake of 9/11, the creation of this "outside enemy" has served to obfuscate the real economic and strategic objectives behind the war in the Middle East and Central Asia. Waged on the grounds of self-defense, the pre-emptive war is upheld as a "just war" with a humanitarian mandate.
Ironically, Al Qaeda --the "outside enemy of America" and alleged architect of the 9/11 attacks is a creation of the CIA.
The threat of "Islamic terrorism" is part of a covert intelligence operation which purports to create divisions within national societies. It is used profusely to create an atmosphere of fear in Western societies. It is also used to trigger ethnic strife and sectarian violence in multiethnic societies.
"Islamic terrorism" constitutes the underpinning of the Pentagon's propaganda campaign. Al Qaeda (a US intelligence asset) is said to be supported by Iran. Pari passu, Iran is presented as a threat to the security of the American Homeland.
"The war on terrorism" constitutes a useful and necessary diversion from the real threat of a US sponsored nuclear war. It also constitutes a justification and a pretext to wage war on "humanitarian grounds".
We are dealing with an inquisitorial environment. Those who decide to unleash this war believe their own propaganda. They are ignorant and insensitive as to the consequences of their actions.
In a bitter irony, a US sponsored nuclear war directed against Iran is upheld as a means to avoid and curtail the risk of nuclear war.
The international community has endorsed nuclear war in the name of World Peace. "Making the World safer" is the justification for launching a military operation which could potentially result in a nuclear holocaust.
But nuclear holocausts are not front page news! In the words of Mordechai Vanunu,
The Israeli government is preparing to use nuclear weapons in its next war with the Islamic world. Here where I live, people often talk of the Holocaust. But each and every nuclear bomb is a Holocaust in itself. It can kill, devastate cities, destroy entire peoples. (See interview with Mordechai Vanunu, December 2005).
Realities are turned upside down. In a twisted logic, a "humanitarian war" using tactical nuclear weapons, which according to "expert scientific opinion" are "harmless to the surrounding civilian population" is upheld as a means to protecting Israel and the Western World from a nuclear attack.
America's mini-nukes with an explosive capacity of up to six times a Hiroshima bomb are upheld by authoritative scientific opinion as a humanitarian bomb, whereas Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons are branded as an indisputable threat to global security.
The Anti-war Movement
A meaningful anti-war movement must question the legitimacy of the "Global War on Terrorism" which is based on the official 9/11 narrative.
9/11 Truth is fundamental to building a real and effective antiwar movement, which challenges the legitimacy of the war criminals in high office.
When the Big Lie regarding the 9/11 attacks is exposed and fully understood, the legitimacy of America's military agenda falls like a deck of cards. The warmongers no longer have a leg to stand on.