Archive for November, 2012


Friday, November 30th, 2012

The commander-in-chief of the armed forces could be removed from office and prosecuted for the torture of his subordinate Private Bradley Manning. Manning’s testimony at a pretrial hearing yesterday disclosed circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy to subject him to inhuman conditions of imprisonment over the course of many months, including close confinement, sleep interruption, extended exposure to cold, solitary confinement, threats, forced nudity, constant surveillance, and other conditions amounting to torture. Manning is accused of snatching the video of a US Army helicopter crew slaughtering a group of people on a Baghdad street and making it public, along with thousands of other documents his job gave him access to.

All indications are that he was singled out for abuse and that his maltreatment was systematically inflicted as punishment, as well as to force him to testify against others. His case is unprecedented, and there is little question that his maltreatment could not have continued except on orders from the highest level. That would be Barack Obama, commander-in-chief of the armed forces throughout Manning’s captivity.

The conditions Manning described are not simply instances of prosecutorial misconduct or harsh military discipline but serious crimes. A judge hearing such charges is obliged by her oath to initiate an inquiry and ensure that the people responsible are brought to justice. Same with the Army lawyers prosecuting the case against Manning. The judge and prosecutors could be subject to disciplinary measures if they fail to act on Manning’s testimony. The wheels of justice must grind in this case, and the law doesn’t care what offices the culpable people might hold.

“Thank You for Your Service”

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I don’t usually celebrate Veterans’ Day–my cold-war service in Europe while my age-mates were getting shredded in South Asia was never a big source of pride for me–but this year was an exception: it’s not every November 11 that a commanding general and his entourage of military parasites are brought to account. As every common soldier knows, malfeasance of command is seldom exposed and almost never punished, and so this was an occasion for reflection.

David Petraeus, universally recognized as a great leader among war buffs in government and the press, was consumed by a futile mission: to win wars solely by force of arms. In the process, he and his superiors incinerated children, dehumanized populations, turned the USA into a nation of terrorists and dishonored their own army of psychopaths and misfits. Certainly, that’s grounds for removal from the chain of command, but nobody removed him. He quit, citing acts of marital infidelity as his rationale.

It wasn’t his success with girls that brought Petraeus down but his failure in warfare. His fault wasn’t that he fought ineffectively or without resolve, but that he agreed to fight at all. He let his young recruits be used for political ends and advanced his career by this means, and now it’s all over. He’ll have to settle for employment as a law professor or arms-monger and pass into obscurity.

He deserves much worse. Between him and his paramour, a neojournalist and war profiteer, he has to be rated the bigger whore. The damage he and his outfit have done to this nation–if it is still a nation–is incalculable. The war debt alone will cripple the economy for a generation to come. Our moral bankruptcy is now felt as a sense of impending doom. That’s going to get worse. Petraeus knew he was risking all this, and he sold his troops and his command anyway. To get laid.

Bellum Interruptum

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

If 9/11 was a good excuse to wage war in foreign lands, Hurricane Sandy is an equally good excuse to quit. Obama and Congress don’t need any other justification to repudiate their lethal and expensive foreign policy, and they’ll never have a better one. Urgent business with Mother Nature must take precedence. The world will understand.

We have known for at least 30 years that this day was coming. Computer models were predicting with some confidence that warming would begin to change the coastlines beginning about now and starting with low-lying areas like the tip of Manhattan Island, the Mississippi Delta, and the New Jersey shore. A combination of violent weather and rising sea levels was predicted to cause more and more frequent flooding until these land masses were finally submerged permanently, sometime after most of us are dead and gone.

New Yorkers didn’t have to wait quite so long for the future to arrive. Coastal residents are asking whether there is any effective flood control strategy for low-lying areas of Greater New York City or whether it may be time to start thinking about relocation to higher ground. Either way, the costs will be staggering. And it’s not just New York that needs attention, but cities from Bar Harbor to Galveston, from San Diego to Port Angeles. It’s ironic that candidates for office should be concerned about jobs when damaged and endangered roads, buildings, and utilities need immediate attention and could keep every idle person busy for decades.

The big question is who will finance the effort. The rich people who usually advance the funds for this sort of thing have been squirreling away their gold for the past six years, concerned about what they used to call the full faith and credit of the USA. There’s no reason to think a hurricane will shake anything loose. More likely, a disaster this big–because it competes for money with debt service–could make it more difficult for us to borrow. Forget about taxation. Rich people won’t allow themselves to be taxed, and the rest of us simply can’t pay enough to finance projects of this magnitude.

If we can’t borrow the money or raise taxes for necessary removals, repairs and precautions, we’ll have to get it elsewhere, and so we’re forced to reconsider the wasteful military adventures we’ve been conducting thousands of miles from home. Without exception, the campaigns have been lost causes, and they cost us billions. What if we declared a world-wide truce and used the money saved to finance this effort? Armed forces of the USA could cease all hostile action everywhere, in preparation for deployment home, where the soldiers could put on civilian clothes and take government jobs preparing for the next storm or cleaning up the debris from the last one. If people weren’t ready for this before Sandy, they’re as ready now as they’ll ever be.

Call it disaster socialism. A critical mass of people–people of all political persuasions and all but the highest income levels–abruptly finds itself in desperate need of assistance. Suddenly and without warning, socialism sets in. Masses in trouble find out nobody’s there to help but the rest of us, acting in concert, with public services, public employees and public resources. Mobilized for rescue and relief and, maybe, with sufficient resources, to accomplish climate adaptation and infrastructure transformation projects, the sort of thing that can’t be left to private enterprise. Public projects carried out with public money we all stopped spending on war, not because we don’t care what happens in foreign lands, but because our resources are better applied to urgent matters here.