Category Archives: Debate

Blood money?

While selling arms may be good business, Senator Paul asks if it may also be immoral, illegal, and strategically dubious:

Senator Chris Murphy adds that, inside Yemen, citizens think they are being targeted by a US bombing campaign, and this action is helping radicalize the Yemeni people against the West.

Despite objections from 27 senators, the sale passed the Senate. The other side of the debate argues that the sale was necessary because Saudi Arabia is fighting a militia backed by the Iranian government. For years Iran has conducted actions that destabilize the region, including support for terrorism and the pursuit of nuclear technology.

The Hill praises the senators who forced the vote for reasserting Congress’s proper role with respect to conducting war and overseeing foreign policy:

 

Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales

This week, Sens. (R-Ky.), (D-Conn.), (R-Utah) and (D-Minn.) managed to singlehandedly do something that the rest of their colleagues would much rather avoid or ignore: They forced the Senate to debate the wisdom of continuing to provide Saudi Arabia with some of America’s best weaponry, no questions asked.

 

Secrecy and scrutiny

Know this:

  1. Military secrecy matters, yes, but only insofar as it protects our soldiers and citizens from harm, helps us to win the day, to defeat our enemies.
  2. Secrecy does not exist to protect bureaucracies, bureaucratic procedures, or provide “top people” with special knowledge as a privilege of power.

The officer discussed in the article following, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, appeared to be trying to help his fellow Marines survive, and when some didn’t make it home, help loved ones of the fallen get through a difficult grieving process. If the story is true, then we’re lucky to have leaders like him.

I will defer to General Stanley McChrystal:

Wasn’t this young man just trying to do the right thing?

A U.S. Marine Tried To Warn A Comrade, Now He Faces A Discharge

Enlarge this image Four years ago, Jason Brezler sent an urgent message to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan, warning him about a threat. The warning wasn’t heeded, and two weeks later, three U.S. troops were dead. Now the Marine Corps is trying to kick out Maj. Brezler because the warning used classified information.

 

— Marcus

The business of war

 

The Man Who Made Millions off the Afghan War

America’s war in Afghanistan, which is now in its fifteenth year, presents a mystery: how could so much money, power, and good will have achieved so little? Congress has appropriated almost eight hundred billion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan; a hundred and thirteen billion has gone to reconstruction, more than was spent on the Marshall Plan, in postwar Europe.

One perspective… forgiveness

How To Forgive Your Torturer

How To Forgive Your Torturer 7/3/2014 1:25:00 PM By Ariel Dorfman Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch. What a way to celebrate Torture Awareness Month! According to an Amnesty International Poll released in May, 45 percent of Americans believe that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable” in order to “gain information that may protect the public.”

 

 

The real winners in post 9/11 America?

Failure begets an angry electorate, contributing to the populist appeal of candidates like Sanders and Trump. Since 9/11, despite years of helping orchestrate trillions of dollars worth of strategic missteps, leaders of the political-military-industrial complex in Washington continue to enrich themselves without shame and with little accountability. Perhaps one of the populist candidates will hold America’s government-funded gilded class up as a subject for the electorate to consider in November.

To be sure, there are many politicians and leaders who earn every bit of their pay; and there are subordinates in the security forces who serve with a sacrifice few in the private sector are willing to make. But if the claim is correct — that our capital has become part of what is driving income inequality in America — then it’s time to take a hard look at the governing system in D.C., and make the right adjustments so that the business of America works for everyone.

— Marcus

How Wartime Washington Lives in Luxury

In no place in America are the abrupt changes in the nation’s security posture so keenly reflected in real estate and lifestyle than the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the decade after 9/11, it has grown into a sprawling, pretentious representation of the federal government’s growth, vices and prosperity, encompassing the wealthiest counties, the best schools, and some of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.

 

 

 

Pardon the torturers?

“What? Do what?” …I can almost hear the chorus of disbelief humming over the electrons. The National Catholic Reporter puts forward the modest proposal below. It’s an intriguing idea, actually: President Obama could do this on his way out of office.

The political realities of our age mean that it will likely be impossible to hold accountable our foolish leaders who concocted the torture policies. A senate report is not accountability. If we have no political will to punish, a pardon at least allows American leaders who say they oppose torture to send a strong, legally relevant message of repudiation.

— Marcus

Prosecution or pardon of torturers?

In her confirmation hearing, Loretta Lynch, the nominee for attorney general, stated mater-of-factly that waterboarding is torture. Some of the senators on the Judiciary Committee holding the hearing disagree with her, but they gave her no argument. They asked where she stood, and she said waterboarding is torture.

 

One more book on diplomacy

“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

— Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Diplomacy (Touchstone Book)

No Description

Though a controversial figure, Mr. Kissinger’s observations are intriguing and relevant in an age that has witnessed America squander trillions idealistically attempting to democratize two minor states, without considering the possibility that this effort could erode regional stability, or that it might not serve our national interests.

It is as if we Americans had in our wealth (or the wealth of some of us, at least) become a Gatsby nation led by unaccountable elites who create trouble and sow chaos, then retreat to the security of a well-paid gig — think tank, lobbying firm, academic leadership — leaving the mess for the military and diplomatic corps to clean up. Nations around the world endure our careless majesty in the same way ordinary Americans look upon the lives of these rich and powerful people: with envy, bafflement and a little bit of contempt.

Given the mistakes of recent past, it is welcoming to see Sec. Kerry’s inroads in Iran and Cuba as efforts that, while ambitious, nonetheless directly serve our interests, a diplomacy Kissinger would have favored. Critically, these efforts could lead to successes that restore the faith of Americans in their political class, while assuring the rest of world that we are returning to a time when we think before we act.

— Marcus

American soldiers must not be punished for standing up for our values

If not for fighting for our values, our ways, and the rights and liberties our nation cherishes, then what exactly is the purpose of serving in the United States military? America must not allow cultural awareness to become moral relativism. Where reform is needed, it must be made. And If we don’t have the stomach for it, then we ought not to send our forces to regions that need change.

A century ago, military officer and reformist president Mustafa Atatürk outlawed social traditions that inhibited Turkey’s modernization. In choosing Western values over Eastern traditions he did not destroy Turkish culture, but saved it. Similarly, over a thousand years ago, Westerners (Northern Europeans) adopted a religion rooted in Middle Eastern traditions; it had a progressive, civilizing influence over existing norms.

To the point, if we must force something on Afghans — because that’s what a military does: force things to happen — for God’s sake let it be a sanction against the ugly tradition of child sex slavery (see article below).

— Marcus

Green Beret Who Hit Afghan Child Rapist Should Be Reinstated, Lawmakers Say

Lawmakers are calling on the Pentagon to fully reinstate a decorated United States Army sergeant whose career status is under review after he hit an American-backed Afghan militia officer for raping a boy. The Special Forces member, Sgt.

 

 

Yes, close GTMO

The reasons are many, but chief among them, for me, is what the prison symbolizes: abuse, illegality, and the politicization of justice.

To be sure, extremists who attack free and open societies like America deserve tough punishment, but if we want to keep our societies free and open, we must honor our values when we carry out that punishment. The gulag-like institution of GTMO has as of this writing yet to effectively try and sentence 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad — he lives while his victims fade into history — but when we honor our laws the system works: The Justice Department effectively tried and sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death in 2015.  Likewise, in the aftermath of World War II, American civil prosecutors led the Nuremburg trials that brought swift justice to Nazi war criminals.

Some politicians continue to cynically use GTMO to manipulate voters. This is foolish. When President Obama ran for office eight years ago on a platform to close the institution, voters, many of them conservative, sent a clear message of agreement, electing him in a landslide. In a tough battle for a second term — against a popular conservative who opposed closing GTMOObama continued his efforts to close the prison, and won again. Promoting torture and gulags will always inspire some, but is not a winning strategy in the long term.

GTMO was a mistake. It remains a symbol of failure. It’s time to correct course and close it down, and show the world that America learns from her mistakes — and intends to reassert her role as a world leader in promoting and respecting human rights. Human Rights First presents the case in detail:

Close Guantanamo

The continued detention of prisoners without charge at Guantanamo undermines our national security and is a recruiting bonanza for our enemies. We’ve joined forces with a group of retired generals and admirals; together we are pressing President Obama to deliver on his promise to shut down the prison.

 

— Marcus