Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘war on terror

The Three Biggest Issues Facing America, What Do They Have in Common?

with 2 comments

In my considered estimation (I have a lot of time to think at work,) the USA has three issues facing it that dwarf other issues of the day. These would be the upwards transfer of wealth, the so called “War on Terror,” and global warming. What do these all have in common, aside from taking place on Earth? Easy, as I’m sure my astute readers recognized, all three were basically completely ignored during the election. Furthermore, they get short shrift in the mainstream media at the best of times. The upwards transfer of wealth is the most ignored, most Americans aren’t even aware that the middle class and poor have stagnated since the late seventies, while the rich got ever richer. Global warming gets some coverage, but it’s lame coverage that claims there is still scientific controversy about the topic. And the War on Terror gets lots of coverage, all of it ranging from sickening adulation to criticism so tepid it’s embarrassing in a  so called free society. This is why we’re doomed, the agents of our destruction are running amok, and our national debates are about abortion, gay marriage, and marijuana.

The first of the big three would be the upwards transfer of wealth. This isn’t debatable, anymore than Evolution or Young Earth Creationism are debatable. Since the 1970s the rich have gotten ever richer, while the poor and middle class have stagnated. A process that continues to this day, over 90% of the gains from the last few years of “economic “recovery” have gone to the 1%. This is both a recipe for disaster, and the complete opposite of what made America great in the first place. Sure the richer the rich get, the more they figure out ways to make even more “wealth,” but none of that money goes anywhere. Having trillions of dollars sitting in financial instruments may make the rich very very rich … but it not only does nothing for the economy, it’s a brake on the real economy. This is why interstate banking shouldn’t be allowed, along with a host of other now-gutted laws and regulations that kept money circulating locally instead of piling up in offshore accounts. The Occupy movement at least succeeded in getting more people aware of this, but unless it is stopped, we will eventually (and maybe sooner than later) be a land of poor serfs with a  few fabulously rich overlords. History teaches us that this isn’t the road to national prosperity, it’s the road to national disaster.

Then there’s the endless “War on Terror.” OBL gave the people who want to maintain western hegemony over the planet, IE the upwards transfer of wealth on a planetary scale, a blank check. And they have spent it on building a vast “security” state and creating an overt world wide empire. This is crazy on several levels, not the least of which it’s the greatest over-reaction to a threat in history even on the face of its putative rationale. It in essence is a staggering waste of resources that would be far better spent on infrastructure, education, and health care. The US is lagging well behind the rest of the developed world in all three, just to maintain a military larger than the rest of the world combined? A military largely designed to fight a war with a country that no longer exists? And yes, building a giant security state is a threat to our liberties; it’s both unnecessary  and will eventually be misused when the wrong person gets in power. Lastly, waging war around the world and the ever increasing use of flying death squads, aka drones, isn’t making us safer, it’s creating new enemies. Look how well that policy has worked for Israel, they live inside of a fucking giant wall in complete isolation from their neighbours, yeah, that’s peaceful co-existence.

And lastly, the elephant in the room so big that it’s started flattening whole states, global warming. The facts behind this are overwhelming, the world is rapidly getting warmer, and human activity is contributing in a major way. Yet the energy industry’s legions of well funded think tanks, not to mention their just plain overt influence on the mainstream media and politics, continue to confuse the issue and create the illusion that there is some sort of scientific debate. And this process is made worse by a religous-political party that is actively denying all sorts of science, not just global warming. And when they aren’t denying it, they are claiming we can adjust. That makes about as much sense as “adjusting” when your house catches on fire. When your house catches on fire, you put out the goddamn fire, you don’t “adjust” to it.

Sadly I don’t see much chance of any of these issues being addressed any time soon. I hope I’m wrong.

(Noah’s Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846 Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since it was painted in 1846, under current US copyright law this image is public domain. It’s a painting of Noah’s Ark, a Bronze Age myth that apparently many adults still literally believe in.  I still find it hard to get my mind around the idea that functioning adults believe in the reality of something in the same category as Santa Claus. Kinda scary really. Maybe I should have listed religious fundamentalism as the fourth crisis facing America, but I dunno, in some ways it over-arches all the others. Hell, in some way all of the crises facing America, and much of the world, have their roots in religious fundamentalism. A topic for another day.)


“To you I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the Loyal Opposition.”

with 6 comments

I’ve had some interesting comments made by a certain Joshua on an old post. Interesting might not be quite the word, but close enough. As the persons in question took the time to criticize my posts at length, I feel the need to reply. For one thing I think I expressed some of my points poorly so I’m going to clarify myself. And I disagree with some of the points raised in the comments. However, rather than try to make some sort of point by point reply, which usually just further confuses a debate, I am simply going to restate various aspects of my argument. Including how they relate to some of the comments.

First of all, dissent is not unpatriotic, it’s OK for someone to argue that the war in Afghanistan is a mistake and that we should pull out. This is not disrespecting the troops or encouraging the enemy, it is simply the sort of healthy dissent that exemplifies the principles our nation was founded on. And if our troops are “defending our freedoms,” isn’t the freedom of speech one of the most important freedoms? And no, I’m not advocating surrender, exercising my freedom of speech is proof that we are still a free country. Frankly our troops should be proud that Americans can and do openly disagree with our government’s policies, doesn’t that make us better than the Taliban?

Secondly, supporting the troops is not the same thing as supporting the war. One can support the troops and be opposed to the war. In fact I maintain that my desire to bring the troops home  is supporting the troops. I don’t want to see a single American killed or maimed in a pointless overseas war.  And pointless the war is, as Yoda would say. The Taliban are no threat to the United States. This was a war we chose, not them. The last time a foreign power seriously threatened American’s freedoms was 1781. George Washington took care of that shit, see illustration above.

Certain allegations were made regarding my understanding of the exact nature of the war the USA is pursuing in Afghanistan. Mea culpa, I was using figurative language to describe events, and the meaning may have been lost. I don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of what our troops are doing in Afghanistan. Because it doesn’t matter. Two administrations have had more than ten years, and whatever they wanted from Congress, to do whatever it is they are doing in Afghanistan. Ten years later, the Taliban is still unvanquished. The longest war in American history, and we appear to be no closer to “victory,” whatever that means, than when we started. I don’t have to go to Afghanistan to see that what we are doing there isn’t working.

Afghanistan is a war we started, with a poor nation on the far side of the world that posed no threat to the USA, not some epic struggle against global powers like World War Two. I’m also a little unclear on exactly what we are trying to accomplish. What is the goal? If the idea is to defeat the Taliban, well, they seem no closer to defeat than ever. Establish a modern secular regime that can hold its own against the Taliban? That doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon either. In fact the warlords we put back in power in Afghanistan were the same warlords whose corruption and violence created the Taliban in the first place. Giving them modern weapons will no more ensure their survival than arming the South Vietnamese government to the teeth ensured its survival.

Lastly I think it’s funny that someone says I should go to Afghanistan since I oppose our war there. Gee, I thought that it was people who approve of our foreign wars that should be forced to participate in them? I should also point out that someone who is in the midst of a war has powerful psychological reasons to agree with what they are doing. The bandwagon effect for one. Nonetheless, anyone who interprets my writing as somehow being insulting to the military personnel who are serving has clearly missed my point. And frankly it’s an attitude very close to “If you aren’t with us, you are against us.” That’s not an attitude that people of a free country should be taking, in fact it’s kind of the opposite.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
                                                                                                                        — Voltaire
(The above image is public domain under US copyright law, having been painted in 1820. It’s titled “The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis.” The artist was John Trumbull, 1756-1843. The title was a quote by Woody Allen. Another favourite quote by him: “My draft classification is 4f. That means that in the event of war, I’m a hostage.” One can only hope America isn’t going that route.)


Written by unitedcats

August 29, 2012 at 8:49 am

Green on blue, interior lines, liberation fever, history repeating itself, and why popular insurgencies are so hard to defeat

with 2 comments

Well, more ugly news from Afghanistan. The latest green on blue attack killed three British soldiers. A green on blue attack is when Afghan soldiers or policemen, or men wearing Afghan soldier or police uniforms, open fire on NATO troops in Afghanistan. In most cases it is Taliban who have infiltrated into the NATO aligned Afghan forces, sometimes it’s the result of personal quarrels. It’s definitely been on the rise though, and is accounting for a significant percentage of the NATO casualties this year. This latest attack was particularly disturbing in that the Afghan in question was a member of an elite unit, supposedly more carefully vetted for loyalty than most. And there is no question that the Taliban are using this type of attack with increasing frequency. This is very very bad news. It’s also fucking brilliant, and an excellent example of how an insurgency’s evolving tactics can be so hard to counter.

Why is it brilliant? Because it is simultaneously devastating to the morale of the occupation forces, and fantastically complicates efforts to train Afghan security forces to take over when NATO supposedly pulls out in 2014. Even worse, attempts to counter this strategy are just going to increase tension between NATO and its putative allies. American for example has adopted a “cocked and loaded” policy in response to this. This means that whenever Americans meet with their Afghan “allies,” American troops with guns ready to fire keep watch on them. That’s right, we are so confident of our “allies” in Afghanistan, that we keep guns pointed at them just in case. I’m pretty sure this just fills them with confidence.

This illustrates what I mean when I say popular insurgencies have the ultimate interior lines. Interior lines is military parlance for a situation where an enemy has another enemy partially or wholly surrounded and can attack from multiple directions, but because the defender is on the “inside” they can rush troops to defend in various directions faster than the attacker can move them to attack from various directions. It’s one of the biggest advantages a defender can have, and a good defender will take full advantage of it. In the case of an insurgency, it means the insurgency because of its smaller and more informal organization can make changes faster than the large military it is fighting. In Vietnam for example American troops sometimes captured manuals to weapons they hadn’t even been issued yet! Yes, the Viet Cong could get their guys informed about upcoming changes in American weaponry before the Americans. It’s a significant advantage, and one that small but professional insurgencies have regularly used to keep fighting effectively even when they were badly outnumbered. In the case of an insurgency it also means the insurgents can attack almost anywhere they want, leaving the defender the daunting task of defending everything. And now including apparently defending against our own allies!

So much for the Taliban being “no longer in existence.” More than ten years after the US intervention in Afghanistan, the Taliban are doing just fine and the regime we set up is as corrupt and ineffectual as it ever was. I do suspect the US will pull out one way or the other. The expense of keeping our forces there is staggering. And there’s no reason to keep them there. There wasn’t any reason to intervene in the first place, Afghanistan posed no threat to the USA and made at least two offers to turn OBL and his lieutenants over to the USA. Bush was having no doing, the American public wanted unconditional revenge for 9/11, and the Bush administration was all to happy to comply, having already ascertained that this was going to be the perfect casus belli for the glorious liberation of Iraq. Intervene we did though, on the side of warlords whose misogyny, corruption, and violence turned Afghanistan into a failed state … where the Afghans themselves for the most part supported the rise of the Taliban. This is where so many Americans are fuzzy in the head, they seem to think (if they even thought about it) that the Taliban were some foreign invader that conquered Afghanistan.

In fact this gets to another aspect of the interior lines meme. Not only does the outside or larger side have to defend more and take longer to react, in the case of large countries and their mind sets, they can get positively moribund. The USA, at least a  large part of American thinking, has been stuck in “liberation fever” since at least the war of 1812. This is the idea that American armies will be welcomed as the forces of good, I mean who wouldn’t want to be saved by the USA? In 1812 it was the fantasy that Canada was the “14th colony,” only kept in the British Empire by geographic isolation during the American Revolution. Since then countless wars have been launched with similar sentiments in mind. And since World War Two it’s become ever more entrenched. We “saved” the world from the Nazis, we “saved” the world from the Communists, and now we are going to “save” the world from terrorism. The first was more by accident than design, the second was more propaganda than reality on several levels, and the third has very little contact with reality at all. Keeps the generals happy and the war profiteers happier though, and the only people who pay the price are the American taxpayers, our soldiers, and the foreign recipients of our liberating zeal.

The thing most dismaying about it is that in some ways it hasn’t changed since the Roman era. Mind numbing hypocrisy and self-righteous conquest seem to be a particular weakness of the western soul, though it is by no means limited to the west. The west though is where it reached its apex though, the conquest of the world in so called age of exploration. Most westerners still think that European Christian armies colonizing the world was a good and natural thing. No, no it wasn’t. Just for starters it caused possibly the greatest, and still almost unknown, holocaust in human history. That however is a topic for another post.

Support the troops … bring them home.

(The above image is a picture of Boer Commandos at Sion Kopp, during the Second Boer War. It was taken in 1900, so it’s safely public domain. This was one of the world’s first modern wars, modern in that their weapons now fired smokeless gunpowder. It was a huge change in warfare, and made insurgencies vastly more dangerous. Like the Boers, the Taliban are a local force fighting a vastly more powerful foreign interloper; and like the Boers, the Taliban have many advantages and are going to be hard to defeat.)

Written by unitedcats

July 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Rant with links, or Doug’s Darkworld meets Donnie Darko

with 9 comments

For those who don’t get the reference, Donnie Darko is a kid in a  movie who has a series of increasingly bizarre and creepy adventures only to discover at the end that he was killed at the very beginning of the movie. Sort of. As the news, especially the Republican’s War on Women, gets weirder and creepier, I wonder sometimes if I didn’t survive my stroke, and this is just some bizarre afterlife. That, or some evil force has taken control of the body politic in the USA. It all ties together, the war on women, the war on terror, and our overseas adventures … all driven by a cult that has infiltrated our government and apparently the minds of many Americans.

First, the War on Women or whatever one wants to call the increasingly harsh laws being proposed to, well, put women in their place. And to turn back the clock to an era where there was no birth control. In the seventies we had Bobby Riggs spewing misogynistic nonsense, and the media and most people considered him a joke and a throwback. Now we have leading pundits calling women sluts and laws designed to force women to have children if they get pregnant. All  the name of saving babies, but since the only method they are proposing is making their religious code public law, this is about religion, not saving babies.

And this segues neatly into the Kony 2012 thing. This is a slick You Tube movie telling about the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and surrounding countries. And it’s very much pro US intervention in the region, yes, the US army is going to go in and catch or kill this terrible man. Aside from the fact that the film wildly simplifies a horrible mess that the Ugandan army and government played a big role in creating, it’s predicated on the colonial assumption that the poor Africans need our help. And since an Evangelical organization created this movie, this is about crusading and conversion, all in the name of saving babies of course. Here’s what Africans say about it. I particularly liked: ” … once again Africans are being made to look like they need saving by yet another White person with a saviour-narcissist complex.”

Like all the children we saved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some lovely stuff going on now, kids who dare wear western dress are apparently being stoned to death in Iraq now. Yeah, we turned Iraq into a fundamentalist Iran aligned mess, and seemed to have learned absolutely nothing from the situation and are going ahead and doing the same in Libya and Syria. And with our heads completely in the sand with what is going on In Afghanistan. Yes, the forgotten war, project number one in our post 9/11 cowardly violent ongoing spasm of re-shaping the world to prevent anything bad from ever happening to the USA again. It was our Christian duty, how could it have gone wrong?

The truth though is that many or most Americans completely swallow the “We’re there to help those poor brown people” line. And the beauty of the crusading colonial mind set is that when ti fails, as it almost invariably does, why it was because they were too stupid and primitive to learn our clearly superior ways, hamstrung by a 7th century religion. Said the people hamstrung by a 1st century religion. It’s a war on the truth. And that goes hand in hand with a war on science. The people making huge sums of money off the current situation, and the religious right, both hate science and are doing their best to suppress it. Using the power of modern technology and advertising, they are doing a good job of it. And going at it from both ends, science education is under attack across the USA, as evangelicals get their corrosively anti-science teachings into the classroom, one way or the other.

And of course while all this is going on, the rich are making out like bandits. Yes, the economy has been recovering the past two years … except virtually all of the recovery has gone to the top 1%. That still blows my mind, Obama bailed out the rich, and there’s still people who think he’s a man of the people? I could go into his enthusiastic endorsement of assassinating Americans or outlawing protest, but I guess believing in Obama is no more insane than believing the Earth is 6,000 years old or that “intelligent design” is a scientific theory. Hell, I guess compared to Rush Limbaugh calling the women of America sluts, Obama must look damn good to many people.

Basically evangelists and the rich have hijacked America and aren’t even hiding where they are going anymore. Two thousand years after Christ’s ministry, global misery is still being perpetrated in his name. A war on women, a war on science, a war on truth, a war on the non-Christian people of the world. And of course a lot of oil and money to be made on the side while we are saving all those souls, I mean babies. Is it all my stroke damaged brain’s imagination? I wish. Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is the rabbit from the movie Donnie Darko. It’s a low resolution grey scale copy of the original, and I’m basically plugging the movie, so I think I am safe claiming it as Fair Use. It’s not being used for profit, yadda, yadda, yadda. I chose it because that’s the sort of mood I’m in. My Muslim neighbours are having a party downstairs, I think I’ll go join them.)

Written by unitedcats

March 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

JIEDDO, why we are losing the War on Terror in a nutshell

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I just found out about JIEDDO the other day. What is JIEDDO? It’s a government bureaucracy of course. Granted, that’s not very helpful. JIEDDO stands for Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. It was created in 2006 and has a budget of about 3 billion dollars a year. What is JIEDDO’s mission? In their own words:

“The JIEDDO shall focus (lead, advocate, coordinate) all Department of Defense actions in support of the Combatant Commanders’ and their respective Joint task forces’ efforts to defeat IEDs as weapons of strategic influence.”

OK, they are tasked with doing something about IED deaths, which kill and maim American and coalition troops in Afghanistan in increasing numbers, they are insurgent’s weapon of choice against US forces.

So, why is this a problem? Why does this make me despair? I’ll try to explain. First off, this is what is called a downstream solution. And in this case, it’s about as downstream as it gets. A downstream solution is where one tries to fix a problem far away from the source by attacking the symptoms of the problem. It’s like fighting malaria by shooting mosquitoes instead of draining the swamp. No matter how effective a mosquito gun one develops, it’s unlikely to ever fully cope with the problem, and even if it does, the cost may outweigh the gain.

And IEDs are mosquitoes. IED means Improvised Explosive Device. Or as soldiers of old called them, booby traps. A booby trap runs the gamut from excrement smeared stakes in a pit to sophisticated pop-up aerial mines for downing helicopters … with a nearly infinite range of variation in between. And one gets booby traps wherever a significant local population doesn’t want foreign troops in their land. And we are getting huge numbers of them in Afghanistan, more every year in fact. Compared to the, well, zero, that were set for our troops in occupied Germany and Japan.

In other words, it’s like setting up an expensive government bureaucracy to find a solution for bullets. It’s really that silly. First of all, the military actually has people experienced with IEDs and dealing with them is part of their job. So why, exactly, is a huge bureaucracy in the United States going to enhance their efforts? It’s not of course, it’s just adding another layer of spending on top of the problem. Well, unless one believes in magic, which is basically what they are claiming. The idea is that they will be able to build some sort of high tech device that will eliminate or severely mitigate the threat. And if the people building IEDs were brain-dead sheep who never ever changed their designs no matter what, it might just work. Back in the real world, there are hundreds of different types of explosives, ways to detonate them, and ways to hide them. And when one mixes and matches to suit, one has an infinite variety of IEDs, with entirely new variations invented all the time.

And what has this over 20 billion dollar investment brought us so far? Well, nothing, really, unless one counts the fact that if anything they delayed US troops getting certain types of body armour. Yes, adding another layer of bureaucracy to an organization slows the organization’s response time. What they have accomplished is to carefully lay the groundwork for making sure they get budgeted forever. Not that it required much groundwork, since as I explained, as long as we are sending troops where the locals don’t want them, there will be booby traps.

This sadly is the kind of thinking that has permeated our entire government. “War profiteer” used to be a dirty word, when was the last time one heard it bandied about in the media? The war profiteers are now running our country, and things like the JIEDDO are a wonderful example of how they can spend huge amounts of money on nothing other than providing cover for endless war. Peace used to be a good thing, but war is apparently vastly more profitable. During World War Two when we had an actual enemy and an actual war, things like JIEDDO either got rooted out as wasteful during the war, or at died on the vine after the war. Well, at least some of them.

Or to put it in perspective, the USA has spent more on JIEDDO than it has spent on aid to Afghanistan, the country we ostensibly are trying to win the hearts and minds of. I do think it really does illustrate what the War on Terror’s priorities really are … making money off of war forever. I don’t think it’s going to end well, especially if Iraq is any indication. That blog is coming up.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, and I think it’s public domain. I got it on a sharing site. It’s pretty self evident why I choose this picture, it made me laugh. Or at least chuckle slightly. JIEDDO also illustrates nicely how byzantine and self fulfilling our government has become, Kafka would have been proud.)

Written by unitedcats

March 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

The Post 9/11 Hangover: Domestic Terrorism

with 6 comments

After 9/11 there were a lot of people expecting more Al Qaeda attacks on a daily basis;  Americans, wildly encouraged by their government, literally lived in fear. And they gave the government a blank check to do whatever it took to prevent further terror attacks in the USA. And the government did just that, in spades, hundreds of billions of dollars was spent on “Homeland Security.” Whole industries were created, the Constitution was trampled, foreign nations invaded, and to this day the “War on Terror” is used to justify endless “defence” spending and whatever acts the government deems necessary, up to and including the summary execution of American’s on the president’s order.

Ten years after 9/11 is it OK to ask how successful this has all been? Yes, yes it is. Well, according to Hollywood, every single week dastardly terrorist plots have been prevented by our staunch defenders. Heck, just on NCIS alone,  dozens of horrible plots have been foiled, saving thousands if not tens of thousands of innocent American lives. And that’s just one TV show, add them all up and I’m sure every American’s life has been saved many times over. Practically brings tears to my eyes.

Unfortunately, back in the real world, the situation is a little different. How different? The facts speak for themselves. Since 9/11 the greatest anti-terrorist operation in history has identified 82 cases of domestic terrorism in the USA. Of course 49 of these were cases of Americans providing material support to foreign terrorist groups. How many were actual plots against the USA by domestic terrorists? 32. OK, so 32 terrorist plots stopped, that’s something, right? No, only ten of these got beyond the talking stage and had made actual starts at putting a plot into motion.

Woohoo! One 9/11 per year stopped, that’s worth it right? Ignoring the fact that 9/11 was the most spectacularly successful terrorist attack in history, we still have problems. Six of the ten “plots” we foiled, were FBI sting operations. As I’ve said before, trolling chat rooms and looking for unstable losers, then recruiting them into “terrorist plots,” is preventing your own terrorist plot. So four acts of terror planned or carried out. One of them, the Times Square plot, was foiled by the man in the street, not Homeland Security. Two plots were actually carried out, the Fort Hood shooting and the Carlos Bledsoe Army recruiting center shooting. One case, the Najibulla Zazi subway bombing case, does seem to have been foiled.

OK, let me see if I have this straight. For the past ten years Al Qaeda has been waging war on the USA, trying to attack the USA and exhorting America’s millions of Muslims to engage in terrorist acts. In that ten years they have only managed to inspire or pull off four attacks, two of which were thwarted. Um, can someone explain to me how Al Qaeda is an existential threat to the US? They aren’t of course, and never were. As I said within days of 9/11, the War on Terror is going to make the War  on Drugs look cheap and effective in comparison.

The facts speak for themselves. (And don’t even try to tell me that our wars overseas prevented them from attacking us here, that doesn’t pass the laugh test.)  In our reaction to 9/11 we’ve spent over a trillion dollars, tens of thousands of American soldiers have been killed and maimed, our civil rights have been severely compromised, two countries have been turned into failed states, and we are in wars in half a dozen others. All of this in response to a tiny criminal organization that pulled off one lucky attack. If “The War on Terror” isn’t the most hysterical over-reaction in history, I don’t know what is.

And worst of all, this state of endless pointless war has been normalized for lack of a better word. That’s a topic for another day’s post though.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s Jack Bauer of the FBI, possibly Hollywood’s greatest success at persuading Americans that terrorists everywhere are out to get us. I suppose I should write a post someday about why it’s so hard for foreign terrorists to attack the USA, again though, another day. Oh, and I got my figures from this article.)

Written by unitedcats

October 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm

9/11 … The Maddened Elephant

with 2 comments

Just a few more hours and the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will be history. Of course in a  sense 9/11 will never be over, we have entire institutions and wars devoted to the memory of 9/11, and they aren’t going to slip quietly into the night. In a way, and not a good way, 9/11 is becoming a cult. I’m sick of it. 9/11 was like a rat biting an elephant on the snout. Yeah, it hurt like hell, and yeah it pissed us off. And we should have squashed the rat and carried on. Instead, we have spent ten years trumpeting and snorting wildly, wreaking havoc around us and wearing ourselves into exhaustion in the process. And even though a few months back we finally trampled on the rat that bit us, there’s no sign of an end to the madness.

Sigh. I’ve avoided most of the news today, but I did catch that Obama said that 9/11 “made us stronger.” No surprise there, this is the guy who claimed that Navy Seals gunning down an unarmed old man in his PJs was one of the “greatest military operations in US history.” Obama’s ability to utter the most egregious nonsense while appearing sober and presidential is what got him elected, and he’s clearly not lost his touch.

No, 9/11 did not make us stronger. Or to be more accurate, our response to 9/11 did not make us stronger, it made us weaker. The Bush administration and a compliant media encouraged the USA to hysterically over-react to 9/1, and we paid and are still paying a terrible price for it. A price in both treasure and blood, a price vastly greater than our losses on that day ten years ago. And the horrors we have inflicted on other lands in the name of 9/11, are these the actions of a Christian nation?

Our costs though. In treasure, it’s been enormous. Three trillion dollars at least for the cost of our wars and increased homeland “security.” And even if we ended the War on Terror tomorrow, there would still be trillions more to go in terms of veteran’s care in decades to come. This is money we didn’t have, it was borrowed from our grandchildren, plain and simple. There’s not any question that we got almost no economic benefit from this spending, aside from obscenely enriching the arms and security industry. This added debt is a huge part of why our economy is on the ropes, how the hell does piles of debt make a nation stronger?

Then there’s the cost in blood. Several tens of thousands of Americans have been killed and maimed in our wars, the actual numbers are muddy because the Pentagon works very hard to conceal and obfuscate them. And hundreds of thousands more veterans will have permanent psychological issues and trauma from their service, about one in three combat veterans never really get over it in one sense or another. This is a terrible cost by any measure, and for what? Propping up two of the world’s most corrupt field states? Sending Americans to die on the other side of the planet doesn’t make us stronger, it makes us weaker.

And then there’s the psychological cost. The hysteria mongering after 9/11 was among the most intense in history. The government left no stone unturned telling Americans that terrible monsters lurked everywhere, and that we had to give the government a blank check, including suspending some of our own freedoms, to fight this new menace or surely a falling airliner or a dirty bomb or germ warfare would be coming soon to a neighbourhood near them. And Americans, traumatized by the endlessly repeated sights of 9/11, fell for this twaddle by the tens of millions and gave the Bush administration the green light to seize control of the world’s oil. And it continues to this day, tens of millions of Americans dutifully regurgitate “our troops are fighting for our freedom” while the administration continues to weave tales of terror and death. Letting fear of a trivial enemy guide our national policy does not make us a stronger nation, it makes us a nation of cowards and sheep.

Lastly, I’m saddened and disgusted by what a narcissistic spectacle 9/11 and the “War on Terror” has become. It’s like when Commodus, the Emperor of Rome, took to fighting naked gladiatorial contests in the Colosseum. And charging the city staggering sums of money for the privilege. All right thinking Romans were horrified. The survivors and heroes of 9/11 should be mourning quietly and privately, not being paraded through the streets of Rome for the glory of the Empire.

It’s really that weird.

(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted in 1526. It’s a Painting titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It’s just another way to articulate the situation we find ourselves in: America went mad on 9/11, and its going to get worse before it gets better.)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Coundown to 9/11 … The Aftermath

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I’ve explained how 9/11 came to be, why they did it, and demolished all the conspiracy theories. OK, that was a joke. The main pint of the previous posts was to encourage discussion, and lead to the point I made in the last post … ultimately who caused 9/11 doesn’t matter. I mean, if irrefutable proof now showed up that Hitler himself lit the Reichstag Fire, what would it change? Nothing. If video now surfaced showing Cheney and co-conspirators laying explosives in the Twin Towers … would Obama go on TV the next day announcing an end to the War on Terror, withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, an end to the Patriot Act, closing Guantanamo, slashing the defence budget, and disbanding Homeland Security?

Snort. Of course not. This is why I think the 9/11 truthers are at best wasting their time, and at worst making it all too easy for the real conspirators to get away with their conspiracy. A conspiracy that happened in plain sight, a conspiracy that is ongoing to this day, a conspiracy that has become part of our national identity even. A conspiracy that is still backed by millions of Americans. Yes, I am talking about the fact that the American government almost immediately seized upon 9/11 as a pretext to take over the world!

Granted, it’s a little bit more nuanced than that. Let me start over. 9/11 was a terrible crime. It was however, just that, a terrible crime committed by a tiny band of extremists. In point of fact it was a known enemy attacking a known target with a method of attack that had been suggested as early as 1970. It looked spectacular on TV, but it really wasn’t that big a deal. It was just a  terrible crime with a lot of victims. It wasn’t an act of war, it wasn’t a clash of civilizations, it was a sick thug murdering a bunch of people. And that’s how it should have been dealt with.

That’s not how we dealt with it. And this is the part where I start to get really sickened and angry. Within days, if not hours, of 9/11, a cabal of hawks in and out of the administration saw 9/11 as a God given chance to use America’s power and prestige to remake the world. The thinking was that since the USA had “won” the cold war, we should now use our advantage to bring about something called the “New American Century.” In a nutshell this was a world where everyone bowed before America’s might. Inconvenient governments like Saddam and the Taliban would be swept away, America’s corporations would have access to markets and resources everywhere, on their terms. And any conceivable threat to US military global or regional dominance would be pre-emptively destroyed. It was a wonderful vision, a vision that rivalled Rome at its greatest, a vast world wide empire with the USA as a new Rome, giants upon a great hill. We were the good guys, God’s chosen ones, and it was time to act on it.

And yeah, it would have been nice if freedom and democracy and prosperity had blossomed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, we have spent trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, squandered our 9/11 global good will bonus … and achieved less than nothing. Iraq and Afghanistan are two of the world’s foremost failed states, with corruption and violence that puts mob era Chicago to shame. Attempts to bring Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya into the fold aren’t going very well. And let’s not forget that Americans enjoy less freedom than they did prior to 9/11. This is the legacy of 9/11. Smart intelligent people who should have known better confused being a superpower with having superpowers.

Compared to Rome or other great Empires, we suck. And we haven’t reconnected with reality yet. And that’s tomorrow’s post. Where do we go from here, and some more personal observations.

(The above image appears to be Pubic Domain under current Russian copyright law. It’s the aftermath of the Battle of Stalingrad. An event that dwarfed 9/11 in almost every particular. Except the hype.)

Written by unitedcats

September 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Countdown to 9/11 … Why?

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Now we start coming to the parts of the 9/11 saga that make me mad. Like any feeling person, I was horrified on 9/11. Unlike many people, I was more horrified by what this would unleash than by the actual event. Millions of people have died by government and terrorist violence since World War Two, in any cosmic sense 9/11 is just a drop in the bucket, it was spectacular, but the number of victims as very small in the greater scheme of things. I mourn for them, but I more mourn for what 9/11 has done to the psyche of the nation, encouraged by a political class only too willing to use 9/11 to further their own ideological agenda.

More on that tomorrow though, assuming Al Qaeda doesn’t kill us all in our sleep tonight. No, like some people, one of my thoughts after 9/11 was “Well, if this encourages a debate on the consequences of our waging wars in the Middle East, maybe some good will come of it.” I was sadly mistaken. Within days the administration had wholeheartedly endorsed “They attacked us for our freedoms” and the war of civilizations was on. Sigh.

OK, assuming that OBL and Al Qaeda are real, what are their motivations? I dunno, call me crazy, but maybe we should see what they say? And turns out OBL, murderous scoundrel he may have been, did in fact articulate his reasons for taking up arms against America:

  • 1. Our unequivocal and one sided support for Israel.
  • 2. Our support for despotic undemocratic regimes in the Middle East.
  • 3. Our sending troops into the Middle East to wage war. (Gulf War One.)

I don’t see anything in there about “hating us for our freedoms.” And if they really hate us for our freedoms, wouldn’t restricting American’s freedoms be giving them what they want? Sorry, I digress. In any event, my point here, is that if a nation chooses to wage war around the world, as the USA has constantly chosen to do since 1945, we are going to make enemies. Al Qaeda is one of those enemies.  The USA has killed huge numbers of peoples in foreign lands since World War Two, why should it be a surprise that someone chose to do the same to us?

In any event, and a point I have leading to, the motivations of the attackers don’t matter. The me repeat that, the motivations of the attackers don’t matter. What matters, is how the Bush administration reacted to it. This is what changed the world, not a terrible but actually pretty pedestrian crime in any global sense. 9/11 wasn’t analogous to Pearl Harbor in any global sense, in the first case a tiny extremist group got away with a terrible crime, in the later one of the world’s top ten nation states went to war with us. No comparison really.

This is where I think the 9/11 truthers are so misguided, by focusing on a theory that ultimately doesn’t matter, they are obscuring the true conspiracy. This is why the administration doesn’t case about the truthers. For one thing, they know they aren’t ever going to prove anything since they weren’t insane enough to actually blow up buildings. And secondly and more importantly, they are wasting energy and thus providing cover for the true conspiracy, the one that was hatched within days of 9/11.

And this is the one Americans are blind to. It doesn’t matter what Al Qaeda’s motivations were, it doesn’t matter who orchestrated 9/11, what matters is how we responded to it. And this is where the true horror begins. Within days it was obvious that the Bush Administration was going to gleefully seize on 9/11 and use it as a blank check to do anything they wanted. 9/11 was manna from heaven for an administration beholden to the military, the rich, Israel, and the oil companies. This is why I am insulted when 9/11 truthers accuse me of “believing administration lies.” I think the American government (and corporate fawning media) went into “all lies, all the time” mode within about ten minutes of 9/11.

I just don’t think the administration caused 9/11 or blew up any buildings, they just spat on the victims and their families and all decent Americans by using 9/11 to promote their colonial agenda. That however is tomorrow’s topic.

(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law. The original copyright belonged to Germany’s Nazi Regime, and they aren’t around to contest it. It is of the Reichstag fire of 1933. Germany’s parliament building burned, Hitler’s Nazis blamed the communists and got them ousted from the government … and thus obtained a majority control of Germany’s government. Historians to this day don’t know if the fire was set by the Nazis or the communists. And it doesn’t fucking matter.)

Written by unitedcats

September 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Osama Bin Laden is Still Dead

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The death of OBL is the most significant historical event I have ever been around to blog about. At least in terms of current American history. For the past decade OBL and 9/11 have been one of the primary themes of the American experience. From almost the hour of 9/11 Osama was made out to be an enemy of almost mythical proportions. Well, the myth is dead. I wonder what else will die with him? This is a very speculative post. I speculate that the USA will take this wonderful opportunity to make the world a better place and totally flub it. In fact the USA will take this opportunity to pursue its own interests in defiance of what would be good for the world and ultimately itself. Still, as with any watershed event, unexpected consequences are to be expected. My ongoing thoughts, in no particular order:

The plethora of conspiracy theories is already a cottage industry. Heck, the fact that his body has already been disposed of is mighty suspicious. In fact, it’s so suspicious … that it’s suspicious. Was the Obama administration deliberately trying to give fodder to conspiracy theorists? Very possibly. This is something that conspiracy  theorists overlook.  The 9/11 truthers and the birthers and such are doing exactly what the government wants … distracting the populace from the real conspiracies. The main one being that since 9/11 the USA has wildly exaggerated the threat of terror in order to justify foreign intervention, military spending, and the consolidation and expansion of federal power in unconstitutional ways.

And speaking of exaggeration, Obama made it clear that the US policy of exaggerating terror is to continue unabated. He made the claim that the death of Osama made the world a safer place. That’s always been Obama’s great strength, he can utter the most transcendentally absurd statements while looking serious and professional and presidential. The world is not safer with Osama dead, because the threat Osama posed was trivial. In comic books and Hollywood movies evil geniuses can destroy the world. In the real world, people like Osama are bit players. His resources were incredibly limited compared to the awesome firepower that say, small governments like Libya can muster. 9/11 was a fluke, as much caused by our own complacency as anything Osama did. If you piss off a midget, and turn your back on him and he sucker punches you, is the midget some sort of evil genius?

Which leads to another point that our government wants us to ignore. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible crime, killing innocents is never justified. However, and it’s a big however, Osama didn’t take up arms against the USA because he was some nutbawho hated us for our freedoms. He was a nutbar who hated us for our support of dictators in the Muslim world, the presence of American troops on Saudi soil, and our unequivocal one sided support for Israel. This doesn’t justify his actions, but it does mean the USA should seriously debate the wisdom and consequences of our foreign policy. “Kill all the bad guys” isn’t a foreign policy, it’s a recipe for endless terrorism.

We’re not safer since 9/11. The opposite in fact. Before 9/11 how any Americans died from terrorist attacks? One a month on average? Now American troops come under attack every day, and just in general the level of carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan is ghastly. Not to mention that we have taken sides in just about every insurgency on the planet. Basically our response to 9/11 was to create failed states and paint a bullseye on the back of every American everywhere. Not to mention stripping Americans of their freedoms. I’ve never understood that one, if they hate us for our freedoms, wouldn’t giving up our freedoms be doing their work for them?

Sigh. And yes, I’ll say it, I am ashamed of Americans who celebrated Osama’s death as if the USA had just won the world cup. There’s just something unseemly about celebrating a death. This wasn’t much of a victory, if any, and it certainly wasn’t justice. Justice would have been Osama getting a fair trial. That’s what once made us the good guys, not killing people in foreign lands. On the plus side at least some are calling for a reassessment of the USA’s foreign policy, especially our involvement in Afghanistan. When Americans start coming home from our foreign wars, that’s when I’ll celebrate.

In any event, this is all I have to say about Osama’s death unless there is some stunning new news. Next, fascism and fundamentalism, will we all be living under sharia law soon?

(The above image dates from World War One and is public domain under US copyright law. Its a dead German soldier mostly buried. I chose it to illustrate that there’s nothing particularly romantic or appealing about killing people, it’s just killing people. World War One didn’t end all wars, pretty much the opposite in fact. I fear Osama’s death will be the same.)

Written by unitedcats

May 4, 2011 at 6:04 am