Tag Archives: iraq

Chemical Weapons and Propaganda: AP Reporter is Misguided Cheerleader for War Against Syria

This year’s “Shame On You, That’s Propaganda, Not Journalism” award goes to AP reporter Julie Pace, the Associated Press for distributing it, and the dozens of newspapers and blogs that ran the story on President Barack Obama’s decision to consult Congress before going to war with Syria over chemical weapons.

Pace’s story, “Analysis: Obama’s credibility on line in reversal,” greeted me from Page 1 of my local newspaper this morning. Her message: Obama will be seen as weak if his line-in-the-sand on chemical weapons doesn’t lead him to military action.

Perhaps channelling the discredited Judith Miller of the New York Times, who helped drum up domestic support for the ill-advised, illegal, and tragic war in Iraq during the George W. Bush presidency, Pace writes, among other zingers,

President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to instead ask Congress for permission left him with a high-risk gamble that could devastate his credibility if no action is ultimately taken in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack that crossed his own “red line.”

The stunning reversal also raises questions about the president’s decisiveness and could embolden leaders in Syria, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, leaving them with the impression of a U.S. president unwilling to back up his words with actions.

If you ask ME…

  1. The President is constitutionally required to get Congress’s permission. Even G.W. Bush did so, though based on a tangled web of fabrications, untruths, and misleading statements.
  2. It is fairly clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria, and that is definitely not acceptable. However, there’s been quite a bit of speculation about who actually used them. Here, for example, a Congressman in Obama’s own party expresses skepticism about who used the weapons—and about their use to justify military action. And here, an AP story that speculates the rebels may have been the ones using chemical weapons, in order to draw other countries into the conflict.
  3. Pace makes an assumption that military force is the only acceptable response. That, frankly, is just plain crazy. Why not just send in a small, well-protected squad of international peacekeepers to arrest Assad, and try him? This is not so different from the way the US killed Bin Laden, after all.
  4. If the justification is to save innocent lives, please explain to me how the far greater bloodshed that inevitably occurs in war will accomplish anything other than the embitterment of the local populace against us and their recruitment by terror elements, as has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan—which, not coincidentally, undermined most of our credibility and our reservoir of good will in those parts of the world.
  5. War generally does not solve problems. Usually, it makes things much worse.
  6. In this case, war with Syria runs huge risks of involving Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran. Do we really want to create a regional holocaust and the potential for World War III?
  7. Diplomacy and example are much more powerful credibility builders than macho posturing.
  8. Speaking of example, the US is not in a position to throw stones here. The US has a long and ugly history of using unconscionable weapons that disproportionately affect civilians. Examples include the Dresden firebombing against German civilians and the use of atomic bombs against Japanese civilians during World War II, Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam (aren’t those chemical weapons?), and depleted uranium in Iraq.

Lastly, which part of Obama’s noncredibility do we want to focus on? Is it the red line in the sand about chemical weapons that Pace focuses on—or the deeper issue that even she mentions later in the article?

Obama could make good on the promises he made as a senator and presidential candidate, when he called for restraint and congressional consultation by White House’s seeking military force. And with the American public weary of war and many opposed to even modest military action against Syria, Obama could share with Congress the burden of launching an attack.

To me, he started losing credibility when he failed to make good on those promises of peace for which he was elected. He has proven himself a war hawk, a lover of the Bush-era NSA spy apparatus, an enabler of torture and false imprisonment at Guantanamo, a suppressor of dissent, and  unworthy of my trust. If he tries to be a Boy Scut about his promise of retaliation if chemical weapons are used, he breaks those earlier, more crucial promises yet again.

Barack Obama is still an improvement over Bush, but it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference.

OMG! Barack Obama, Fighting Two Wars, Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Woke up this morning to the startling news that US President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price–and a perceptive entry on Huffington Post wondering why.

After all, he has initiated a slow and limited timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, pretty much continuing the “progress” of his predecessor–and has made very clear his intent to expand the war in Afghanistan.

Now it’s true that these were wars he inherited, and that he’s had a very full plate even by presidential standards. It’s also true that he has moved us forward on climate change and the environment, on labor, and on the idea that foreign affairs should be primarily addressed through diplomacy And that last bit has certainly help the slow process of rebuilding the U.S.’s stature in the world, after eight years of a rogue coup d’etat regime that left the world negatively astounded and quite terrified. His speech in Cairo was a terrific example.

But the Nobel award does seem a bit, ummm, premature. I’d have rather they waited until he successfully extricated us from the Bush wars, or until he made a speech like this:

Ladies and gentlemen, both my fellow Americans, and my fellow citizens of the world–in the 21st century, war simply has no place in the arsenal of foreign policy. The last significant example of a war achieving policy ends was World War II, when the world responded to a series of power-mad totalitarian regimes with equal force, stopped the aggressors at a great cost in human lives, and installed democratic governments in West Germany, Italy, and Japan. That was 64 years ago, and took six bloody, difficult years to achieve. Korea was a stalemate, Vietnam was a failure, and both Iraq and Afghanistan are succeeding only in giving strength and comfort and eager recruits to the enemies of freedom. Therefore, I have ordered the immediate drawdown of troops. Over the next three months, all US military personnel in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be coming home, along with the private US military contractors that participate. In their place, we will devote significant resources toward hunger relief, education, rebuilding of bombed infrastructure, and eliminating corruption in those countries. There will be a small security presence whose mission is to protect the workers for social and economic justice that we will send over, but there will be no military mission beyond that. We can learn from the powerful example of countries like South Africa, Poland, and Northern Ireland, where peace and democracy were not imposed through the barrels of guns, but by the powerful leadership of indigenous residents who organized together to say, ‘enough of this.’ It’s long past time, in the words of John Lennon, to Give Peace a Chance.

The Nobel committee has made strange choices before (can you say Henry Kissinger?). I can only hope that they’re following the philosophy of rewarding the behavior they want to see in the hopes that the behavior will rise to meet the treatment. This is a great strategy in parenting, in conflict resolution between individuals, in customer service desks (I even write about it in my sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First). It would be great if it turns out to work in international politics too.

Oh, and President Obama, I give you free and full permission to use the above speech in full or in part, at any time—including your Nobel acceptance speech in Sweden!

Corruption Roundup: Many 'Stories, One URL

Exactly how did Bernie Madoff steal his billions? Why are Halliburton’s hands so dirty? What happened with corruption cases in the rebuilding of Iraq? Following a link from EthicsWorld’s e-newsletter, I came to a single URL that has multiple stories on corruption: http://www.ethicsworld.org/publicsectorgovernance/corruptioninvestigations.php#sec.

This is what we’re up against, those of us who believe in ethics.

Obama's Groundbreaking Middle East Speech

It is so amazing for me to watch a major foreign policy and development speech by a sitting US president and actually agree with more than 80 percent of it–yet that was the case for Obama’s speech in Cairo, Egypt. Even under Clinton, I was lucky if I agreed with him 25 or 30 percent of the time, and the number was far lower for speeches of the other presidents in my conscious lifetime.

As a progressive, I issue this challenge to other progressives: hold him to the grand rhetoric of peace, international cooperation, multicultural tolerance, and yes, feminism in the Arab world and at home…and to keep him maintaining his acknowledgment of the important roles of Israel and Iran as well as the Arab and Muslim countries.

But what was that he said about being in Iraq until 2012? Waaay too long.!

Madoff Goes Transparent–When Will Bush?

Bernard Madoff is, by his own admission, a despicable human being. Here’s the opening paragraph of his statement on sentencing:

Your Honor, for many years up until my arrest on December 11, 2008, I operated a Ponzi scheme through the investment advisory side of my business, Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC, which was located here in Manhattan, New York at 885 Third Avenue. I am actually grateful for this first opportunity to publicly speak about my crimes, for which I am so deeply sorry and ashamed. As I engaged in my fraud, I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal. When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme. However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come. I am painfully aware that I have deeply hurt many, many people, including the members of my family, my closest friends, business associates and the thousands of clients who gave me their money. I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done. I am here today to accept responsibility for my crimes by pleading guilty and, with this plea allocution, explain the means by which I carried out and concealed my fraud.

You can read the whole confession at the AP site, here.

Well, I’m glad he’s finally decided to be transparent. Yes, it’s far too little, too late. But it’s better than we ever got from Ken Lay…or for that matter, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the other war criminals who brought us knowingly into war on false pretenses. They don’t seem to believe in admitting even mistakes, let alone frauds. And let’ face it–the cost of our fraudulent entry into Iraq has been far worse than the $65 billion that Madoff scammed. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes put the cost at a jaw-dropping three trillion–that’s 46 Bernie Madoff Ponzi schemes, and that doesn’t even count the human cost of the dead and the wounded and the broken families and those raised to commit terror to avenge the injustice they’ve experienced at the hands of the US.

When Bush was asked in 2004 what his biggest mistake had been since 9/11, he was unable to come up with an answer. Does that mean Iraq was a fully deliberate decision? And since that time, the litany of mistakes–or, Heaven help us, deliberately wrecking things–includes Katrina, wiretapping, attrition of civil liberties, blatant cronyism, and trashing the economy. Still no apology, not even an admission of being wrong.

So on that level, Madoff’s sudden case of candor is refreshing, if somewhat disingenuous. But I draw the line at “I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal. When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme. However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible.”

Hello! Where’s the personal responsibility here? It continued, because Mr. Madoff knowingly allowed it to continue. At any point, he could have stopped the juggernaut, admitted guilt, repaid the stolen money, and maybe served five or ten years in prison. In what way was he unable to stop? I don’t buy the argument that he was helpless in the matter, any more than I buy the argument that a wife-beater can’t seek help and stop committing violence. Help is available from lots of places, but it all starts with number one: take responsibility for your behavior.