Thursday, September 5, 2013

“War Is the Health of a Totalitarian State. And Peace Is Its Disease” (Norman Mailer): Important Commentary on Syria and U.S.

War, of course, always starts out like this: as bright and hopeful as the sunrise. It’s almost beyond belief to me that we can have such a clean, bloodless national conversation about a new war in the Middle East while the old wars continue to fester and our moral wounds still haunt us. The image of George Bush on the aircraft carrier in his padded flight suit, proclaiming “mission accomplished,” is one the 21st century’s most bitterly ironic icons.

The Bush administration led us to a well that they knew was poisoned. Skepticism began to displace trust as the lies came into full resolution. Our faith had been misplaced; our confidence had been betrayed.

Thus,  as General Zinni points out, America will likely find itself saddled with another long-term, very expensive and perhaps unwinnable war.   We need to remind ourselves what Afghanistan did – bankrupting the Soviet Union  - and what Iraq cost us -- about 4,500 American dead, over 100,000 wounded, many of whom will never recover, and perhaps $6 trillion. 

And also (Polk again):

America used various chemical agents including white phosphorus in Vietnam (where it was known as “Willie Pete”) and in Fallujah (Iraq) in 2005.  We encouraged or at least did not object to the use of chemical agents, although we later blamed him for so doing, by Saddam Husain. Just revealed documents show that the Reagan administration knew of the Iraqi use in the Iraq-Iran war of the same poison gas (Sarin) as was used a few days ago in Syria  and Tabun (also a nerve gas).  According to the US military attaché working with the Iraqi army  at the time, the US government either turned a blind eye or  approved its use (see the summary of the documents in Shane Harris and Matthew Aid, "Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran," Foreign Policy, August 26, 2013).

Intelligence? A sow’s ear.

McGovern is speaking of the kind of intelligence Mr. Kerry offered the nation on television last Friday when, per McGovern, "[He] hawked the dubious evidence against the Syrian government."

Part of me continues to wonder why Rumsfeld is still allowed to speak in polite company. Lance Armstrong isn't asked for his opinions about athletes and performance-enhancing drugs; Miley Cyrus isn't sought out for analysis on public modesty; so why should anyone take seriously what Donald Rumsfeld has to say about foreign policy and the use of military force abroad?

Schools, libraries, post offices and other public services are closing across the country in the wake of budget cuts, and Congress may have just voted to cut $1.5 trillion from programs like Head Start over the next decade, but many officials still feel confident the US is positioned to fund yet another expensive military operation in Syria.

Keep in mind that a farm bill could pass Congress next week, if House Speaker John Boehner hadn’t given the conservative wing of his party veto power over a huge section of Congress’ domestic portfolio. A farm bill was about to pass the House this summer when Republicans abruptly decided to make it considerably more punitive to poor people, and thus lost all Democratic support. But dozens of the Republicans who helped make it more punitive to poor people had no intention of voting for the final bill, and so it failed altogether. 
Striking Syria is nothing like this. 

Pope Francis via National Catholic Reporter:

May a powerful cry for peace go up from every land!

The tragic dilemma we now face is that the murderous Assad regime in Syria should have been overthrown long ago, but the U.S. has no moral standing or credibility to be the agent of that overthrow.  . . .  In the fierce urgency of this moment we must look beyond the tired options and rhetoric that have brought us to this place. The options are only limited by the narrow visions of the elite and the powerful. The options are only limited by a discourse and set of assumptions that should have been replaced many decades if not centuries ago.

In early 2012, best-selling novelist Joel Rosenberg came to Capitol Hill for a meeting with an unidentified member of Congress to discuss the end of the world. "I thought the topic was going to be the possible coming war between Israel and Iran," Rosenberg explained on his website. "Instead, the official asked, 'What are your thoughts on Isaiah 17?'"

And finally, Jessica Van Sack@Maddow:

The graphic: Mr. Fish at Truthdig, talking, of course, about Chelsea Manning--but what he has to say here seems very much applicable to the discussion of the U.S.-Syrian situation.

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