Levees Not War
“The mission here is not accomplished.”

Posts Tagged ‘john McCain’

Here We Go Again

Friday, June 14th, 2013

belle syria

Once again, politicians demanding austerity for the American public are leading us—and other people’s children—into war

“Just providing arms is not enough.”John McCain

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This should be the mother of all cakewalks. The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. will begin arming certain groups of Syrian rebels because the Bashar al-Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people in the two-year-old civil war. The New York Times reports that the U.S. will “begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition,” according to government officials. Some 90,000 civilians (likely an underestimate) have died in the fighting. Note: This is a public announcement, making official what has been in effect, covertly and surreptitiously and otherwise, for some time (see below).

Click here for the text of the White House Statement on Chemical Weapons in Syria.

Just yesterday, Politico and TalkingPointsMemo reported that former president Bill Clinton, in an appearance at the John McCain Institute for International Leadership (why?), said he now agrees with McCain that the U.S. should do more to aid the rebels. McCain has been saying the same thing for over a year, every Sunday-bloody-Sunday morning. Clinton opined that Obama risks looking like a “total fool” if he allows public opinion polls to guide U.S. policy on the matter. Our first reaction yesterday was, And who axed you? This morning we suspect that, given Clinton’s good standing among Obama’s base, he had clearance, if not encouragement, from the White House to say what he said; thus TPM’s headline, “Politico: Bill Clinton Breaks with Obama on Syria,” was perhaps not entirely accurate, unless “breaks with” means “serves as trial balloon mouthpiece for”.

And then, says Andrea Mitchell on The Rachel Maddow Show, after pointing out that in fighting Hezbollah in Syria, the West is effectively in a proxy war with Iran, McCain goes out onto the Senate floor to preempt the White House’s announcement (“In just a couple of minutes, the president of the United States will be announcing that it is now conclusive that Bashar Assad and the Syrian butchers have used chemical weapons.”). But now McCain says that the aid he’s been clamoring for is not enough; the president “had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation . . .” The U.S. should also establish a no-fly zone. If a no-fly zone were to be established, then the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has offered to sell—or has already delivered—to Assad could be used against the U.S. Air Force. Then what? And if one of those missiles hits an Israeli airliner? (Russia’s offer, or threat, is at least partly in response to the European Union’s allowing its arms embargo to Syria to expire effective June 1.)

It’s not as though the U.S. has not already been aiding the opposition to Assad. In a May 5 Guardian opinion piece titled “The West and Its Allies Cynically Bleed Syria to Weaken Iran” (source of the illustration above), Seumas Milne wrote:

Airlifts of arms to the Syrian rebels, co-ordinated by the CIA, have increased sharply in recent months to become what one former US official calls a “cataract of weaponry“. British and American forces are training rebel fighters in Jordan. The worth of US aid to the Syrian opposition has doubled to $250m, while the EU has now lifted its oil embargo to allow exports from rebel-held areas.

But John McCain, who assured us in 2002 and 2003 that a conflict with Iraq would be short and sweet, argues that this must be done. And the government, without offering proof, is telling us that chemical weapons were used—haven’t we heard this before?—so the United States, which is a peace-loving nation and a protector of human rights, cannot “stand idly by.” And the governments of the United Kingdom and France, who also support aid to the Syrian rebels, also have not put forth evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But what have these nations done to negotiate a diplomatic solution? What persuasive force have the U.S., France, or the U.K. applied upon the United Nations, upon Russia and other friends of Bashar al-Assad? France was prepared to take the lead against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya; why not now? (Because Syria is so freaking complicated and fraught with uncontrollable consequences, maybe?) And what part does Iran play in the government’s strategy? And Israel? Is this part of a deal to keep Tel Aviv from pulling the trigger on Tehran’s nuclear program (whatever that may be)?

Syria@EBDid we mention that Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia? And that the Assad regime is backed by and receiving anti-aircraft weapons from, Russia? Or did we mention that, according to recent reports from the BBC (or was it NBC’s Richard Engel?), there are some fourteen different “rebel groups” constituting the opposition in Syria? Or that, as we reported in May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, says that Syria is viewed by the same neocons who brought us the Iraq war as “a back door to get us in a war with Iran”?

What could possibly go wrong?

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(Weren’t we saying just days ago that austerity economics is prescribed for the public but seems never to apply to the Defense department [¶8]? Who has paid for the weapons that will be supplied to the Syrian rebels? American taxpayers—individuals, mostly. But Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid benefits, they tell us, need to be curved downward—even Obama suggests so.)

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See also:

How Many Wars? After Libya . . . ? (LNW 3/26/11)



As “End” of Iraq War Is Announced, U.S. Digs In, Warns Iran

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

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[ cross-posted @ Daily Kos ]

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“In August [2002] a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: ‘Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.’

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come,” March 18, 2003

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Where’s That “Mission Accomplished” Feeling?

On Friday, Oct. 21, President Obama announced that “as promised,” by the end of this year, 2011, the last remaining U.S. forces (about 39,000) will leave Iraq and be home in time for the holidays.

A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward. So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.

The U.S.–Iraq status of forces agreement (2008) worked out between Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and the George W. Bush administration had provided for continued U.S. military presence of some 50,000 “advise and assist brigades” for security and training until the end of 2011, with a possible extension if negotiated.

As WhiteHouse.gov puts it, “President Obama Has Ended the War in Iraq.” Some 90,000 American combat brigades were withdrawn between early 2009 and August 2010 (see “As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?”); many were redeployed to Afghanistan. On Sept. 1, 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and Operation New Dawn commenced.

This month Prime Minister Maliki decided to have all U.S. troops leave by Dec. 31, 2011. By doing so, he would remove a political liability for himself and a social and political irritant, but would also forgo a potential stabilizing force in case of an outbreak of civil war—or of invasion by a foreign power, such as Iran. But the Americans are already negotiating to send a new round of military trainers to Iraq in 2012, along with equipment specialists for the weapons systems the U.S. hopes to sell, and to base a large contingency force nearby in Kuwait (see below). Thus the New Dawn.

Republican reaction to the president’s Oct. 21 announcement was mixed: G.O.P. presidential candidates and senators McCain and Graham denounced the withdrawal; other Republicans expressed approval, relief, or said nothing. (McCain this month recommended U.S. military action against Syria, like that against Libya, “to protect civilian lives.”) For an Iraq war veterans’ perspective on the announced withdrawal, see the statement from Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. (IAVA is on our blogroll, bottom left.)

Now that the “cakewalk” we were promised is ending, we have to ask of the George W. Bush foreign policy team (many of whom Mitt Romney wants to hire) and in particular those in Congress who voted to authorize military force against Saddam Hussein in October 2002: Where’s that “Mission Accomplished” feeling?

And where is our national security? How’s that workin’ out?

And to what kind of economy and job prospects are these soldiers returning—those who don’t have to turn right around and go fight in Afghanistan? What “job creators” will hire them? While they were risking their lives amid hardships and dangers that most of us can hardly imagine, what has become of their One Nation Under God? Fortunately for some of them, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are leading a Veterans Jobs initiative to press the private sector to commit to hiring 100,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013. That’s not very many jobs, but if it succeeds at all, it will help.

The Freedom and the Damage Done

Regrettably, even though it has been announced that some 40,000 troops like Stratego game board pieces will be returned to home base for a while, and despite the claims of a White House in reelection mode, we and many others do not see The War as ending. Iraq is, or was, only one theater—a particularly misguided, costly, and tragic one—in the larger War on Terror that has in effect already expanded into Pakistan and (hey, why not?) threatens Iran (“Tensions Flare As G.I.s Take Fire Out of Pakistan” [photo below]; “Iran Reacts to Pressure from America”). The United States is not moving from its strategic positions in the Middle East and Central Asia. And the financial costs to the United States, which may reach $3 to 5 trillion, are still being paid, and will paid for decades to come.

Indeed, beyond the financial cost, the damage done to the American economy, the psychic harm to our citizens, both combatant and noncombatant, and to the nation’s culture and political system, are incalculable. If you close your eyes and listen with your heart in the way a psychic or a shaman is able to listen, you might hear a great howl of agony resounding from the nation’s soul, a scream or roar as of a wounded giant that shakes the forests and mountainsides and echoes down the skyscraper canyons of Wall Street, bouncing off the concentric rings of the Pentagon, from all the needless pain inflicted, from the death groans of shattered, burned, eviscerated soldiers who will never come back, and those who are damaged for life, inside and out, in the veterans’ hospitals. And though we turn our iPods or TVs up to full blast, the roars and screams of pain could not be drowned out. If, that is, we could hear them at all. That we cannot hear the howls and cries doesn’t mean they’re not there to be heard.

And then, even harder for us to imagine, is all the pain and destruction suffered by the people of Iraq, the bereft families of the more than 100,000 killed; the massive destabilization of political systems and relations in the Middle East; and the shattering of the ancient social systems, culture, and archaeological heritage, all symbolized by the looting of the National Museum and the torching of books and Korans in the National Library in Baghdad (“stuff happens,” shrugged Donald Rumsfeld), plus the damage to the archaeological heritage in Nineveh, Ur, Babylon, and other sites of irreplaceable relics of the cradle of human civilization around the Tigris and Euphrates with an archaeological record going back 7,000 years that includes the cultures of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, and Muslims. (See Chalmers Johnson, “The Smash of Civilizations,” and Frank Rich, “And Now: ‘Operation Iraqi Looting’.”)

 

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Country First

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

“The campaign we raged”

John McCain is a United States senator. In the past he was a candidate for president. He prides himself on having survived some five years in a North Vietnamese prison and on his foreign policy expertise. He is an honorable man and never lets us forget it. He agreed to talk with Matt Lauer of the Today Show this morning, knowing there would be questions about revelations in the hot new book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, but he does not want to talk about the process by which he, or his campaign, selected then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Too bad. McCain still has a lot to answer for, and always will, even postmortem.

When Lauer asked whether it’s “a fair assessment” that the McCain campaign relied on “vetting so hasty and haphazard it barely merited the name,” the senator smilingly dismissed the question. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “The fact is that I’m proud of Sarah Palin, I’m proud of the campaign we raged, waged . . .” He tried to change the subject to three young soldiers who recently died. When Lauer pressed on, McCain, still smiling his forced smile, insisted, “Look, I wouldn’t know what the sources are, nor care. I am not gonna spend time looking back over what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight . . .” It happened over a year ago, so he’s no longer accountable for having chosen a running mate who believed Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks, who didn’t know what the Federal Reserve does, or why Korea is divided into North and South, and before her V.P. debate had to be prepped on World War I, World War II . . . ? (She should fit right in at Fox News.)

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Abnormal Psychology: Days of Rage in a Fact-Free Zone

Friday, October 10th, 2008

How many times my friends have the pundits written off the McCain campaign? We’re gonna fool ’em again. We’re gonna fool ’em one more time!
—John McCain | La Crosse, Wisc. | Oct. 10, 2008

LNW_McCain.rageDid he really say that? We had to play it back several times to be sure. (Check it here, on NBC Nightly News.) John McCain says he’s going to win the White House by fooling us? This comes just a week after his campaign aides acknowledged they couldn’t win by talking about the economy, and just days after an apparent Hanoi Hilton flashback in which he addressed a crowd as “my fellow prisoners.” • Even his fellow Republicans are alarmed about his grip on reality and the potential for violence. (See remarks by Gergen and Weaver below.) McCain spent the week trashing Barack Obama—his TV ads are now 100% negative—letting Sarah Palin accuse a U.S. senator of “palling around with terrorists” (a charge gladly echoed by Fox), and whipping their supporters into a frenzy of shouts of “Traitor!”, “Off with his head!”, and worse. Republican Frank Schaeffer writes in the Baltimore Sun, “I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate. . . . Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.”

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Palin’ by Comparison: Miss Wasilla, a Heartbeat Away

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Sarah Palin with Alaska National Guard, Kuwait, 2007.  For this trip the governor had to apply for a passport.  Was it her first trip overseas? Photo: Politico.com.

Sarah Palin with Alaska National Guard, Kuwait, 2007. For this trip the governor had to apply for a passport. Was it her first trip overseas? Photo: Politico.com.

We already knew John McCain was not serious about governing, but his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate tells us he is not even serious about winning. This choice pleases the evangelical ‘base’ that had been cool to him, but McCain apparently doesn’t care in what contempt he is held by the more adultlike members of his own party, much less by the rest of the nation and the world. (How seriously would he be taken in foreign capitals after this show of poor judgment, cynicism, or desperation? Compare this.) What does this tell us about how he would choose a Supreme Court justice? (He has already said he would pick someone like Alito and Scalia.)

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Ignorance, Gaffes, and ‘Myopia’: Josh Marshall Calls McCain ‘Unfit for Duty’

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

LNW_McCain_bush-hugOn the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Iraq War, Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo explains why the American public should have no confidence in the foreign policy ‘authority’ of Senator John McCain—and the Democratic candidates shouldn’t give him any credit, either. McCain does not possess the expertise or geostrategic vision he likes to think he has. (Boldface added for emphasis.) Click here for a video version of the opinion piece below.

Unfit to Serve
By Josh Marshall

Let me follow up on this McCain gaffe in which he got confused and claimed that al Qaeda was getting trained and equipped by Iran before doing mischief in Iraq, before being corrected by his senate colleague Joe Lieberman.

Let’s start by stipulating that if Barack Obama had had this slip up it would be everywhere on the news for the next week. Pretty much the same if it had been Hillary Clinton.

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How Many Republicans Is Obama Running Against?

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

LNW_McCainHill2TPM Cafe reader “57andFemale” has written a powerful rant against the Clinton campaign’s race tactics and tepid ‘regrets’ of Geraldine Ferraro’s well-publicized outpourings. (Original spellings are retained.) HillaryMcCain ‘mindmeld’ composites by Mike Ferry of 2millionth web log, inspired by Driftglass.

• See also ‘Senator Clinton Is Not a Republican, As Far As I Know’ by Bob Cesca @ HuffPo.

You Think It Can’t Get Worse

By 57andFemale
March 12, 2008

And then it does. Big time. Not one interview by Geraldine Ferraro, but cable news shows, Good Morning America, a new interview with the Daily Breeze and the NY Times. Saying the same things. Over and over. Hillary Clinton’s Finance Chair is still standing, to say words that should offend any Democrat.

Obama’s appeal is he is the candidate for everyone. He transcended race. It was the Clintons who squandered the black vote, let’s remember that.

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Democrats, Work with Generals to End the War Focus the Debate on Readiness, Broader National Security Issues

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

War critics, peace activists, read E. J. Dionne’s column “Democrats’ Last, Best Hope” in the Sept. 11 Washington Post. Dionne says that in his opening remarks before the Petraeus/Crocker hearings on Sept.10, Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked whether “Iraq is the war worth the risk of breaking our army and being unable to deal with other risks to our nation.” Skelton said war critics should transcend the narrow question about whether the surge has succeeded or failed, and keep the focus on a broader debate about “the overall security of this nation. . . . [W]ith so many troops in Iraq, I think our response to an unexpected threat would come at a devastating cost.”

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