Show me you really care

As I mentioned before, the beauty of having Ron Paul as a presidential candidate is the turd-in-the-punchbowl effect he has on the defenders of the political status quo, whether “left” or “right,” in our midst.  This time we have a nice twofer from the liberal camp (one, two), wherein we learn, among other things, that Ron Paul isn’t really a civil libertarian because his opposition to the Patriot Act and the War on Drugs isn’t based on any genuine concern for civil liberties but rather opposition to federal legislation.  Proof of this is that he also opposes the Civil Rights Act.  Now, if you assume that a federal law is the only thing standing between relative freedom for blacks and the return of Jim Crow, and that “states’ rights” is just code for “oppression of minorities,” then I guess you might have a point.  On the other hand, the Patriot Act and its various offshoots are pretty clearly about making it easier for the feds to trample on whatever rights U.S. subjects–pardon me, citizens–are still, more or less, permitted to enjoy.  Also, the implication that the War on Drugs is somehow not a civil rights issue, especially considering how it disproportionately screws over blacks, is just absurd (not to mention ironic, coming from people who are apparently so concerned about the welfare of the poor and minorities).

Even more ridiculous, though, is the idea that he’s not actually anti-war.  It’s just that he doesn’t care enough about foreigners to drop bombs on them.  No, seriously:

But the nature of his anti-war stance is fundamentally different from that of liberal opposition to any given war. The tipoff is in his opposition to foreign aid, and his anti-United Nations position: he’s anti-war because the rest of the world just isn’t worth it.

And what exactly does “liberal opposition to any given war” mean in practice?  Voting for a “peace” candidate, who, once in office, proceeds to continue prosecuting the wars liberals oppose while expanding them into new areas?  At least ABL is honest when she writes, “So, am I monster for caring more about my uterus and the rights of minorities and the underclass than I am about the victims of drone strikes in a foreign land? Maybe. But I’m ok with it.”

Not to get too into trying to divine motive here, but it sure seems like the real problem is that certain liberals just hate seeing a conservative take a more principled stance on their issues, while their savior, the glorious Obamalord, continues to prove that he has no principles.

But even if it’s all true, and Paul really doesn’t give two shits about civil liberties and it’s just all about hating the federal government—who cares?   If you’re rotting in jail on drug charges and somebody comes along and tells you you’re free to go, are you going to question their motives before you agree to leave?  Only if you’re a fool.  Or a liberal, apparently.

The War Powerless Act

Remember what a horrible dictator Bush was, how he arrogantly disregarded any rules that might have constrained his ability to wage endless war wherever and whenever he wanted?  Well, thank goodness we have Team Obama in office now to restore a little humility to the executive branch.  Oh, wait, what’s that?

The White House would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a classified briefing to House members Wednesday afternoon.

My favorite part of the article quoted above, though, is this:

The War Powers Act of 1973, passed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, puts limits on the ability of the President to send American troops into combat areas without congressional approval. Under the act, the President can only send combat troops into battle or into areas where ”imminent” hostilities are likely, for 60 days without either a declaration of war by Congress or a specific congressional mandate.

Seriously, what a fucking joke.  The War Powers Act doesn’t put any limits on the President’s ability to do anything.  Bush was right: the congress is an impotent debating society whose only real function is to sit and roll over at El Presidente’s command.  It exists to give the illusion that the “people’s interests” are represented in Washington, and it’s the same whether there’s a Republican or a Democrat in the white house.  The only difference between Bush and Obama is that Bush was uncouth enough to say it in public.

Yes, he actually said that

I caught John Kerry being interviewed on BBC World News this morning.  Apparently he’s in Sudan overseeing (yeah, John Kerry is going to personally ensure that there’s no monkey business going on with the vote) the referendum on whether the south will secede.  Anyway, when asked whether the new Republican majority in congress will disrupt the Obama administration’s meddling in the country, he said (paraphrase): “I hope the great American foreign policy tradition of politics ending at the water’s edge will continue.”

Would this be the same “great tradition” that brought us the War on Iraq and other hilarious misadventures in the Middle East and Asia, not to mention all the other places in the world fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of US foreign policy?  And would this be the same Senator from Massachusetts who sorta-kinda, but not really, opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq—or at least how it had been handled by the Bush Administration—in 2004?

So while the fine Senator, who increasingly resembles nothing so much as a cadaver with a voice recorder shoved up his ass, celebrates the great tradition of bipartisan unity when it comes to the killing of foreigners, the rest of the world gets busy building bomb shelters.

The war is over (well, okay, not literally over)

The last U.S. combat brigade has left Iraq, says NPR:

The U.S. military presence in Iraq took a symbolic turn Thursday as the last full Army combat brigade left the country, ahead of President Obama’s end-of-the-month deadline for ending combat operations.

So that means no more fighting in Iraq, right?  Well, not exactly:

The departure doesn’t mark the end of the U.S. military presence, however: About 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq through the end of next year. The troops are officially there in an advisory role, but will carry weapons to defend themselves and will join Iraqi troops on missions if requested.

So even though there are no more combat troops in Iraq the U.S. military will most likely still be involved in combat operations in Iraq?  Kinda, yes:

“‘Combat operations’ is sort of a relative term,” [Marine Reserve Capt. Peter Brooks] said. “I think some troops who remain after this date are going to see things that look kind of like combat.”

Symbolic, indeed.  Of course, for some Obamanoids, no amount of blatant manipulation is enough to diminish the total awesomeness of the “prez” for living up to a meaningless campaign promise.

You don’t mind if I borrow that Predator Drone for a second, do you?

The BBC questions the efficacy of the US government’s use of unmanned aircraft to kill “militants” in the tribal regions of Pakistan (by the way, in case you didn’t know, this is a secret war)—essentially, Are the drones effective in hitting their “targets,” or do they kill too many “civilians” (thereby undermining the policy by providing a free recruiting tool for the Taliban)?  This is accompanied by some dubious figures and claims by US govt spokesdrones about, respectively, the number of non-militants killed and the accuracy of these weapons.  Nowhere, though, does the article question the legitimacy of the policy itself.  Nowhere does it ask: Why is the US shooting missiles from remote control airplanes at people who couldn’t possibly be any threat to the United States?  About as close as it comes to asking that question is when it quotes an “expert on militancy in northwest Pakistan”:

“How many people do you want to kill to get Osama Bin Laden?” he asks.

“How many common militants who may not have done much harm to the US or its allies do you want to kill to get Dr [Ayman] al-Zawahiri [Bin Laden’s deputy]? That is the question.”

Of course, he hedges a bit with that “may not have done much harm” and by granting that all of this has anything to do with killing Bin Laden or his “deputies.”  Add to that a little grousing by Pakistani officials about violations of their sovereignty, and what you have, all in all, is a tepid and largely unnoteworthy “critique” of the GWOT, South Asia edition.

Except for this little nugget tucked in at the end:

What Pakistan says it wants is for the drone strikes to continue, but under its ownership, not that of the US.

“The US should just give us the technology,” says Rehman Malik. “If we do it ourselves, Pakistanis won’t mind.”

Ah, yes: Let us have a turn playing with the big shiny toy.  The Pakistani people won’t mind so much if we’re the ones killing them.

This is a pretty good illustration of the idea that when it comes to disputes between rival governments, or even negotiations between supposed allies, you can rest assured that, no matter the outcome, the people on both sides (or in the middle) are going to get the shaft.

Happy (Belated) War Glorification Day

It was just about impossible to turn on the TV yesterday without stumbling upon a maudlin tribute to our fallen heroes in some form or other, whether a straight news piece or a war movie of the Band of Brothers variety.  Even during the seventh inning stretch of the Phillies game there was a sappy musical tribute to those who, as the announcer put it, “made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”  And you couldn’t so much as drive down the street without being assaulted by American flags.

Of course, a day devoted to remembering people killed in wars could just as easily be an anti-war holiday.  But, alas, this isn’t the case here in America, where militarism is the national religion, in spite of the official myth about how the U.S. isn’t an aggressor and only goes to war when it has no other choice.

George W. Obama

Our Nobel peace laureate comedian-in-chief delivered this knee-slapper, among other no doubt hilarious jokes, at the recent White House Correspondents’ dinner:

The Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans; but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?

As Roderick Long points out, this bears some resemblance to Obama’s chimplike predecessor’s attempt at humor when he pretended to look for the missing WMDs under the furniture in the Oval Office.

This reminds me of the scene in the movie Hearts and Minds in which footage of Richard Nixon doing schtick at some kind of formal affair is juxtaposed with a clip of a Vietnamese man anguishing over the deaths of his two young children who were killed by an American bomb.  The man says, “What have I done to Richard Nixon?”  Indeed.  To Nixon’s credit, at least he didn’t make any jokes about indiscriminately bombing villagers in Vietnam—instead he tried to rationalize [a particular bombing raid apparently] with the “it was the hardest decision I had to make as president” line.

We’ve come a long way.  Apparently there used to be some shame attached, at least publicly, to the practice of killing foreigners for no reason.  Now we just laugh at it.  Is this some of that change we can believe in?

Heroically Defending Our Freedoms

This is a perfect parody of the self-parodying rationalizations that the warmongers trot out whenever they’re faced with the task of explaining why the US government absolutely must kill lots of people in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen…), people who’ve done nothing to harm any of us over here in the land of the free, and who, for the most part, probably couldn’t give two shits about the United States–except for the fact that there are all of these guys running around in camo with American flag patches on their sleeves and shooting at them for some reason:

Literally tens of Americans were shocked this week to discover that the United States military likes to kill people. Unsettling news, yes, particularly for those of us who had assumed in good faith that one million Iraqis had accidentally slipped on a banana peel one morning and fallen into a pile of mislaid cruise missiles, but before we leap to all sorts of unsightly conclusions, calling Our Boys “mass-murderers” just because they happen to enjoy the occasional mass-murder, let’s remember that in the fog of war with the eggs and the omelettes and the War Is Hell, who can say what’s right and wrong, what’s good and evil, who’s an unarmed pregnant woman and who’s a ticking time bomb threatening to produce future foreigners? Our troops have a job to do, after all – defending our country from those countries who would defend their country from our country – and if we hounded and nit-picked them after every little massacre, gang rape or atrocity, they’d hardly get any killing done at all.

The Medium Lobster, Fafblog

Defending My Freedom to Write This Post

Here’s that WikiLeaks video, aptly titled “Collateral Murder,” that’s making the rounds.  I saw it on Scott Horton’s blog last night, and this morning NPR did a piece on it.  What’s striking about it, aside from the fact that it depicts several real people being mowed down by machine gun fire, is the casual, detached attitude of the soldiers doing the killing, the way they cheer each other on while they’re doing it and the way they talk about the actual human beings on the ground as if they were mere graphic images in a video game.

Of course, NPR, while acknowledging that the video is “troubling, riveting and sad,” did its best to downplay the sheer cold-bloodedness of it by portraying it as the regrettable kind of thing that happens in the “fog of war.”  The piece was also quick to point out, in the opening paragraph, that some weapons were found on the bodies, even though what the soldiers in the helicopter initially thought were guns turned out to be cameras (it’s hard to see when it’s so foggy, you know).

But the most despicable display of excuse-making comes from the soldiers themselves.  After the initial round of shooting, a van drives up to pick up one of the wounded men, and, after some back-and-forth on the radio to get permission to “engage” this deadly threat, the machine gun opens fire.  When ground soldiers arrive on the scene and discover two wounded children in the bullet-riddled van, one of the soldiers on the audio says, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”  To which another responds: “That’s right.”

So there you have it.  Bottomless self-justification.  What exactly constitutes a battle, you ask?  Why, it’s anytime we happen to start shooting, anywhere, for whatever reason.