Support our troops?

This morning, my grandfather sent me an email “action alert” from the American Family Association urging protest of the recent Berkeley, California City Council resolution that declared the downtown Marine recruiting office “unwanted” and urged the recruiters to leave town. This article does not respond to that issue, but rather to the subject line of the email he forwarded from the AFA, which was “Support our troops”.

I have to admit being somewhat perplexed by the exhortation to “support our troops”. Whose troops are they? They certainly aren’t mine – I’m not sending them anywhere, and they don’t represent me or my thoughts. It seems to me that the designation “our troops” implies a kind of kinship between us and the troops that does not really exist. Certainly it is true that my (step)brother is among those who are being sent over there, but it is not on my behalf that he is being sent, just as it is not on my behalf that any of them has been sent.

This entire enterprise of war in foreign lands has very little to do with the protection and preservation of American values, but it has everything to do with protecting and preserving business interests that profit heavily from maintaining a forced subordinate status in certain nations around the world. The United States has done the same thing for over a century now in Latin America, and has long maintained an official policy that essentially says “if you have something we want, a resource we ‘need’, then as far as we’re concerned it belongs rightfully to us, not to you”. This is the only rational explanation for the military interventions in Hawai’i for pineapples; in Guatemala for bananas; in Iran for oil (with the deposition of a popular government in order to reinstate the Shah, a move on our part whose eventual consequence was the Islamic Revolution of 1979); in Iraq not only for oil but also to create a living experiment in extreme neoliberal free trade as an example (and warning) to the rest of the world that consumer corporate “democracies” will have what they want from the “developing nations”, and we can get it the easy way or the hard way.

This critique stands regardless of one’s religious persuasion, but it is much more pertinent for me as a follower of Jesus, the prince of peace and king of all creation who urged his followers not to retaliate when evil was done to them, but rather to turn the other cheek. The unanimous response of the early church to persecution was not to respond by fighting back for their own gain, even in defense of their own personal liberties, but rather to witness to those who tormented them by showing the same attitude of Christ – loving and forgiving their attackers in the hope that they would be transformed. They believed the cross of Christ is the hope for the transformation of all doers of violence and opponents of God. To suggest that the idea of premeditated war for the economic gain of certain sectors of society (the corporate management classes first, and then to a lesser extent the consuming classes – which is to say that yes, you and I likely are beneficiaries of the violence), which was sold as a preemptive (or preventative, depending on who you ask) war to ostensibly “protect our way of life against the terrorists” would never have even occurred to them as a valid option for Christians.

Even three centuries after Christ when the church went from being a persecuted minority to the triumphant majority with the imperial sanction they did not develop a theology of warfare that went so far – instead, Augustine’s formulation of Just War doctrine carried the day. It is important to note that even Just War doctrine does not actually justify war for self-defense, to say nothing of preemptive warfare. Therefore, even on the less-strict Christian stance on war than that of Jesus himself, the type of activities in which the U.S. military has engaged in Iraq cannot in any way be construed as representative either of me or of my Lord.

They are not “our” troops, they are troops under the command of people in the thrall of the American political/business system which “make[s] unjust laws. . . deprive[s] the poor of their rights, withhold[s] justice from the oppressed. . . [makes] widows their prey, and [robs] the fatherless” (see Isaiah 10:1-2 in the NIV). They are being asked to die for a cause that, in the words of Alisdair McIntyre, is rather like being asked to die for the telephone company. They are not my troops, they are my fellow-human-beings being manipulated and exploited in more ways than they realize, and rather than praying for success in their mission I simply pray for an end to war and for the desire of men and women to make war. I pray that guns would jam and bombs would fail to explode, and that soldiers on all sides would simply lay down their weapons and refuse to engage any longer in this silly business of war. I support people, not troops, and I support them as potential brothers and sisters in the new world that God is creating even in the midst of this world of bloodshed and hatred, a new world of people from every tribe, language, people, and nation who walk in the ways of God’s shalom.

Bush, Pakistan and the Bomb

This article from today’s International Herald Tribune gives an excellent example of what Chalmers Johnson calls “blowback”, from the title of his 2000 book (revised ed. 2004) Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, in which he essentially predicted a 9/11-like attack as one of the “unintended consequences” of American policy towards so-called “developing nations” in the 20th century.

Johnathan Schell, author of a recent book on current nuclear dangers, argues that Pakistan was effectively all those things claimed of Iraq (ruled by a dictator, albeit one less cruel than Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti; supported and harbored terrorists; possessed nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons programs and facilitated proliferation) but because “they were on our side” Bush overlooked both the possession and attempted proliferation of nukes. He sketches a disturbing picture of the possibility of proliferation run amok should Pakistan’s current internal turmoil reach a critical state. Anyone who cares about anything pertaining to the issues of terrorism, nuclear weapons, and Bush’s “you’re for us or you’re against us” and pre-emptive war doctrine should read this article.

In a related article, Gary Sick compares the current situation in Pakistan to the breakdown of the Shah of Iran’s regime and the Islamic Revolution that placed the Ayatollah in power.

We have constantly supported regimes whose methods and actions contradict our stated ideals of democracy and freedom while spreading so-called “free markets” all over the world, conveniently ignoring the fact that our economic development not only utilized but even depended on (and still depends on) the kinds of internal protections we deny other nations through agencies such as the IMF and WTO. The situation in Pakistan is another chapter in this long history of American imperialism, and I fear people in America and all over the world will continue to suffer the consequences through terrorism, domestic unrest, repressive government and police actions, and other effects.

Chalmers Johnson, “Blowback”, from The Nation, Sept. 27, 2001
Summery of Blowback from Third World Traveller

The obligatory 9/11 post

I wasn’t going to do this, I was just going to let the post about Stirling Bridge stand as my statement about 9/11, but I just wrote this for my Livejournal and thought it was worth sharing here.

“Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” – From the Project for a New American Century’s document Rebuilding America’s Defenses

Looks like they got it.

The document quoted above is a detailed summary of a strategy to project American military power across the globe and fits in nicely with the prospect of increasing American economic domination of essentially the whole world. Indeed throughout this and other PNAC documents, as well as other writings from neoconservative thinkers throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s the intersection of military and economic interests was argued for as an essential good or simply taken for granted. Preemptive war was touted as a strategy, and despite propaganda stating the alternative it was so clear to those in power that neoliberal (so-called “free trade”) economic policies lead to devastating economic inequalities that are likely to increase social unrest AND increase breeding grounds for potential “terrorists” that this was argued in later-declassified CIA and Defense Department documents going back to the 1990s. The neocons consistently argued that a force in Iraq would ensure stability of oil production and prices to help the US economic growth that would be necessary to sustain the project of empire (though they stopped short, so far as I am aware, of using that term).

Since 9/11 the rhetoric of terrorism and the war on terror has justified government-perpetrated atrocities, suspension of civil liberties, suppression of dissenting speech, and two stupid wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), situations where the reality and the rhetoric about why we should attack them did not often line up side-to-side. We have also seen increasing privatization of the military and its support functions. It is now estimated that, of combat personnel (that is, people who actually carry guns and shoot people), 1/3 of the “troops” in Iraq are contracted mercenaries, often referred to as “security personnel”. If you figure in the number of privatized support staff the number rises to over 1/2. These “troops” are accountable only to their corporate masters, and often they are there as a result of no-bid contracts and other shady business mechanisms. I’m sure most of you are at least somewhat familiar with the Halliburton scheme in which Dick Cheney’s former company was awarded billions in no-bid contracts, that is only one example. Rumors of graft, corruption, and human rights violations on a mass scale abound, directly linked to these corporate soldiers.

And one of the worst parts about it is the pain and suffering of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks is still being exploited to justify these atrocities. Support our troops? Yeah, support them… support them by encouraging them to apply for conscientious objector status. Support them by bringing them home, and never again sending them into harm’s way for the profit of a few fat cats and their multitude of minions. Support them by teaching them, from a young age, that the one and only purpose of a military is to steal, kill, and destroy (cf. John 10:10), and there are other options outside the military by which they might have life, and help others to have it also.

Now, with another potential war on the near horizon, this time with Iran, have we really learned anything, 6 years later? The media leads us right down the same path they did en route to Iraq, and “support the troops” is still a verbal mechanism used to squelch dissent, or at least it is in my part of the country.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem.

Kyrie eleison.

Iran war began in 2005?

This article by Scott Ritter, hosted at Commondreams.org (originally published by Al-Jazeera) argues it did.

Americans, along with the rest of the world, are starting to wake up to the uncomfortable fact that President George Bush not only lied to them about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (the ostensible excuse for the March 2003 invasion and occupation of that country by US forces), but also about the very process that led to war.

On 16 October 2002, President Bush told the American people that “I have not ordered the use of force. I hope that the use of force will not become necessary.”

We know now that this statement was itself a lie, that the president, by late August 2002, had, in fact, signed off on the ‘execute’ orders authorising the US military to begin active military operations inside Iraq, and that these orders were being implemented as early as September 2002, when the US Air Force, assisted by the British Royal Air Force, began expanding its bombardment of targets inside and outside the so-called no-fly zone in Iraq.

These operations were designed to degrade Iraqi air defence and command and control capabilities. They also paved the way for the insertion of US Special Operations units, who were conducting strategic reconnaissance, and later direct action, operations against specific targets inside Iraq, prior to the 19 March 2003 commencement of hostilities.

President Bush had signed a covert finding in late spring 2002, which authorised the CIA and US Special Operations forces to dispatch clandestine units into Iraq for the purpose of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The fact is that the Iraq war had begun by the beginning of summer 2002, if not earlier.

The violation of a sovereign nation’s airspace is an act of war in and of itself. But the war with Iran has gone far beyond the intelligence gathering phase. This timeline of events has ramifications that go beyond historical trivia or political investigation into the events of the past.

It represents a record of precedent on the part of the Bush administration which must be acknowledged when considering the ongoing events regarding US-Iran relations. As was the case with Iraq pre-March 2003, the Bush administration today speaks of “diplomacy” and a desire for a “peaceful” resolution to the Iranian question.

But the facts speak of another agenda, that of war and the forceful removal of the theocratic regime, currently wielding the reigns of power in Tehran.

As with Iraq, the president has paved the way for the conditioning of the American public and an all-too-compliant media to accept at face value the merits of a regime change policy regarding Iran, linking the regime of the Mullah’s to an “axis of evil” (together with the newly “liberated” Iraq and North Korea), and speaking of the absolute requirement for the spread of “democracy” to the Iranian people.

“Liberation” and the spread of “democracy” have become none-too-subtle code words within the neo-conservative cabal that formulates and executes American foreign policy today for militarism and war.

By the intensity of the “liberation/democracy” rhetoric alone, Americans should be put on notice that Iran is well-fixed in the cross-hairs as the next target for the illegal policy of regime change being implemented by the Bush administration.

But Americans, and indeed much of the rest of the world, continue to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the fact that overt conventional military operations have not yet commenced between the United States and Iran.

As such, many hold out the false hope that an extension of the current insanity in Iraq can be postponed or prevented in the case of Iran. But this is a fool’s dream.

The reality is that the US war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other, more sophisticated, capabilities.

The violation of a sovereign nation’s airspace is an act of war in and of itself. But the war with Iran has gone far beyond the intelligence-gathering phase.

President Bush has taken advantage of the sweeping powers granted to him in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, to wage a global war against terror and to initiate several covert offensive operations inside Iran.

The most visible of these is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.

It is bitter irony that the CIA is using a group still labelled as a terrorist organisation, a group trained in the art of explosive assassination by the same intelligence units of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, who are slaughtering American soldiers in Iraq today, to carry out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq.

Perhaps the adage of “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” has finally been embraced by the White House, exposing as utter hypocrisy the entire underlying notions governing the ongoing global war on terror.

But the CIA-backed campaign of MEK terror bombings in Iran are not the only action ongoing against Iran.

To the north, in neighbouring Azerbaijan, the US military is preparing a base of operations for a massive military presence that will foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran.

Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s interest in Azerbaijan may have escaped the blinkered Western media, but Russia and the Caucasus nations understand only too well that the die has been cast regarding Azerbaijan’s role in the upcoming war with Iran.

The ethnic links between the Azeri of northern Iran and Azerbaijan were long exploited by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and this vehicle for internal manipulation has been seized upon by CIA paramilitary operatives and US Special Operations units who are training with Azerbaijan forces to form special units capable of operating inside Iran for the purpose of intelligence gathering, direct action, and mobilising indigenous opposition to the Mullahs in Tehran.

But this is only one use the US has planned for Azerbaijan. American military aircraft, operating from forward bases in Azerbaijan, will have a much shorter distance to fly when striking targets in and around Tehran.

In fact, US air power should be able to maintain a nearly 24-hour a day presence over Tehran airspace once military hostilities commence.

No longer will the United States need to consider employment of Cold War-dated plans which called for moving on Tehran from the Arab Gulf cities of Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas. US Marine Corps units will be able to secure these towns in order to protect the vital Straits of Hormuz, but the need to advance inland has been eliminated.

A much shorter route to Tehran now exists – the coastal highway running along the Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan to Tehran.

US military planners have already begun war games calling for the deployment of multi-divisional forces into Azerbaijan.

Logistical planning is well advanced concerning the basing of US air and ground power in Azerbaijan.

Given the fact that the bulk of the logistical support and command and control capability required to wage a war with Iran is already forward deployed in the region thanks to the massive US presence in Iraq, the build-up time for a war with Iran will be significantly reduced compared to even the accelerated time tables witnessed with Iraq in 2002-2003.

America and the Western nations continue to be fixated on the ongoing tragedy and debacle that is Iraq. Much needed debate on the reasoning behind the war with Iraq and the failed post-war occupation of Iraq is finally starting to spring up in the United States and elsewhere.

Normally, this would represent a good turn of events. But with everyone’s heads rooted in the events of the past, many are missing out on the crime that is about to be repeated by the Bush administration in Iran – an illegal war of aggression, based on false premise, carried out with little regard to either the people of Iran or the United States.

Most Americans, together with the mainstream American media, are blind to the tell-tale signs of war, waiting, instead, for some formal declaration of hostility, a made-for-TV moment such as was witnessed on 19 March 2003.

We now know that the war had started much earlier. Likewise, history will show that the US-led war with Iran will not have begun once a similar formal statement is offered by the Bush administration, but, rather, had already been under way since June 2005, when the CIA began its programme of MEK-executed terror bombings in Iran.

Scott Ritter is a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998, and author of Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of America’s Intelligence Conspiracy, published by I B Tauris in 2005.

Iran and Nuclear Energy

Given the connections we hear on the official news and in the government’s pronunciations literally every day, probably multiple times per day, between Iran and terrorism, one cannot help but get the strong impression that the only (or at least primary) motives Iran would have for wanting nuclear power would be military. We have been so influenced by this dominant dialogue that other possibilities are not likely to come to mind; however, a very strong and reasonable voice does exist in the media and in academic and diplomatic enquiry to suggest that Iran perhaps actually perceives an actual need for nuclear energy for domestic use – and furthermore, it appears this need may actually exist.

While the technology to generate electricity by nuclear means is closely related to the technology to make bombs, a relation that cannot be discounted, we tend to be so quick to jump to judgment of Iran based on what we hear from our government and media masters and therefore discount other possibilities (this aside from the fact that, if I were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad I would sure as heck want anything I could get to protect my country from perceived American imperialism, but that’s beside the point). These are some articles from the past few years that discuss the possible need for domestic energy production in Iran, that they see nuclear as the best solution to that problem, and that they (understandably) want to control the process themselves without interference from the international lobby (which they see, not without some justification, as being essentially an extension of US interests), and discussion of other related questions.

The articles come from an array of sources and offer different arguments and perspectives so you can be more informed without feeling like I’m trying to ram a point down your throat – I don’t necessarily think nuclear power is a good option for anyone for any reason, but I think people ought to understand that there is far more at play here than a simple issue of “terrorism” and nuclear weapons.

Energy: Iran needs nuclear power – analysis from the International Herald-Tribune, 2003

Iran needs nuclear energy, not weapons – from Le Monde diplomatique, 2005

Iran needs nuclear energy for for its economic survival – from Payvand News, July 9, 2007.

Q & A on Iran and the nuclear issue – from BBC News, September 3, 2007

America’s image

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.” — unnamed Buddhist leader, quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his monumental speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence“.

I think it’s at least vaguely analogous to the current situation in Iraq. King immediately proceeds to say:

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

And then:

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

Quite prescient, Dr. King.

and now this

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can read this article at http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2007/01/13/and-now-this/