A hidden assumption underlies the debate over North Korea. The assumption is that preventive war-war against a country that poses no imminent threat but could pose a threat in the future-is morally legitimate. To be sure, many politicians oppose an attack on practical grounds: They say the costs would be too high.
Below, reporter Bill Moyers’s critical history of the National Security State, told through the lens of the Iran Contra scandal of 1987. What has changed in 30 years under successive administrations? What might President Trump, a man for whom truth is not a huge priority, at least in his public speaking, do differently? The need for open debate and congressional approval of executive branch security action remains critical; conservatives and liberals alike support constitutionally required oversight of war powers.
OLIVER NORTH: And I still, to this day, Counsel, don’t see anything wrong with taking the Ayatollah’s money and sending it to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. [pullquote align=”right”]”Next week, Congress will publish a report on the Iran-Contra scandal. My colleagues and I have been investigating it ourselves.
They serve native populations, once fishermen and tradespeople, as poor as their own ancestors, now made outlandishly rich by the world’s dependence on oil — a happenstance of geography. The fiction book reviewed below, Temporary People, humanizes the “neocoolies” of the present-day international order — those who do the dirty-job work for the wealthy in the Arabian Gulf.
It’s worth pointing out that these individuals are the same men and women who find service as subcontracted workers on America’s military bases throughout the region. Though the wages earned would drive a soldier to mutiny, and have been the subject of controversy, they remain, relative to home opportunities, high enough to continue to lure economic migrants from the poorest of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan.
The DoD is aware of the exploitation that can be part of employing such temporary people and has taken steps to train soldiers and contractors to report abuse.
TEMPORARY PEOPLE By Deepak Unnikrishnan227 pp. Restless Books. Paper, $17.99. Deepak Unnikrishnan’s novel-in-stories narrates a series of metamorphoses. Guest workers dissolve into passports, a man begins “moonlighting as a mid-sized hotel” and a sultan harvests a fresh crop of laborers.
After a week in critical condition, the young Russian journalist and pro-democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has been improving. He remains hospitalized in Moscow, with a diagnosis of “acute intoxication.” Kara-Murza has been a vocal proponent of individual sanctions-so while most Russians have probably never heard of him, he has made a record number of enemies among the people who run the country.
When leaders of a state — or for that matter subordinates operating without accountability within states — abuse powers to harm citizens who question policy and legitimacy, so are planted the seeds of unrest; these seeds, however long they lay dormant, grow, in time, to great stands of resistance.
“And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”
— Thomas Jefferson, Traitor to King George, President of the United States of America
Or maybe not…
Our new commander-in-chief had the good instincts to appoint a man to lead the Armed Forces who opposes stooping to the values of our enemies, who stood his ground against unexamined impulses and offered wise counsel when asked about torture. The new Secretary of Defense also skillfully assures America’s allies that the crew of the United States ship of state will avoid sailing her into uncharted waters at the whim of her new captain. Below, an internet link said to be former general and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s recommended reading list from his days in command — worth a look for those who wish to understand (and perhaps learn a thing or two from) a key leader in the new administration:
75 books based on 15 votes: Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield, The Rommel Papers by Erwin Rommel, One Bullet…
Another source is here.
Secretary Mattis writes about the value of reading here.
When America claims moral superiority over regimes that torture, murder and imprison their own, we must recognize that these claims carry with them a duty to set a higher standard for ourselves. The use of isolation and long-term sentencing in our prisons is therefore a shame we must correct, just as was the use of torture to gain intelligence information.
When we are the example for the world to follow, we embolden dissidents who fight for enlightened, humane democracy, encourage brave citizens to expose authoritarian regimes, and cast aside the sophistry of those who point to hypocrisy within our borders to excuse oppressive systems without.
(National Research Council via Washington Post)
Approximately 400,000 people in our prison population move in and out of solitary, and many of America’s over two million prisoners know they can be put in solitary even if they are jailed for the most minor offenses. Between 80,000 and 120,000 men and women are held in solitary confinement every day.
Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is the odds-on favorite for Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of defense. It’s worth exploring his views on Iran particularly in light of the ultra-hawkish positions of both National Security Adviser-designate Gen.
America will no doubt survive the election of a celebrity with dubious qualifications and temperament to her highest office, but if our experiment in self-rule is to continue unblemished, if not humbled, let us keep our eyes wide open to the effects of Mr. Trump’s ascendancy, and make every effort to stand up for the rights his unexamined impulses threaten.
With respect to Trump’s support for torture, leaders who want to return to a dark era must be convinced that such a path is unwise. Remember, sirs, we tried torture already. It did not lead to the end of Al Qaeda, but did convince fence sitters to join the jihad, creating additional death and chaos. America is tougher, “greater”, when we rebuke the calculated savagery of Islamic extremism. They aren’t like us. Let’s not be like them.
With respect to unconstitutional police actions, while we must keep secrets secret, we must not spy on ourselves. The 4th amendment exists because of state overreach. Our forefathers fought and died for this right. Let’s honor that sacrifice and reject the surveillance state.
We must be vigilant. We must reward competence. We must be purposeful when we have information about a threat, act on leads, and crucially, hold trials where judges, weighing evidence, condemn the worst of the worst, imprison enablers, and, with courage, free the innocent. Let’s remember: Trials and systems are what civilization does, cruelty and caprice are the manners of savagery. When we are the model for other states to follow, cooperation will improve with our neighbors. Such cooperation is the key to our security.
Let us hope that thoughtful citizens now come forward to assist Mr. Trump, help him understand that his primary role is to defend what really matters about America. Brave men and women can advise Mr. Trump to think beyond impulse and instinct, and to uphold the principles that have already made America great, namely:
Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Right to bear arms
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Quartering of soldiers
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Search and arrest
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Rights in criminal cases
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Right to a fair trial
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Rights in civil cases
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Bail, fines, punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Rights retained by the People
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Alongside reasonable, affordable access to health care (whether through private or public means, we can leave it up to the politicians to debate) there’s an argument to be made that internet access should be a right. When the state controls access to information, the result is more often than not oppression:
Zimbabwe has joined a growing list of African nations that have curbed social media in the last year. Fearing the power that social media gives to rivals, activists and ordinary citizens, governments in Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Chad, Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia have switched off access to the internet for days or weeks, including during elections.