Posts tagged Afghanistan

Whatever liberalism it pretends, whatever name it assumes

From Anthony Gregory (2012-04-26), Only One Way to End the Indecencies of War, in the Huffington Post:

The only solution to this is to stop the indecencies that are being recorded for the world to see. Blaming the publishers of these photos is entirely the wrong approach. It puts the chill on free speech whenever the government insists upon secrecy. Let’s address the underlying issue and stop blaming the messenger.

To this point, we might focus on Panetta’s most telling comment: This is war. I know that war is ugly and it’s violent…

Many would see this as a throwaway line, meant to lend some context to the obscenities, yet it dismisses the true core of the problem. Wars, particularly modern wars, necessarily entail indecencies and atrocities — yet some would have us believe that a few bad apples are all that is tainting an otherwise justifiable and moral war. Surely militarists and the administration encourage this view, but so do some opponents of the administration who imply the war could be waged much better under different leadership. Similarly, liberal critics of Bush sometimes implied that a more capable executive, like Kerry or Obama, would wage war without excessive intervention many Democrats often claimed to characterize Bush’s foreign policy.

NBC’s Col. Jack Jacobs argues that the problem is a lack of sound leadership, but we might be forgiven for wondering which major war in memory — or even in the last century — was devoid of such indecency on the part of soldiers. Where has there ever been a war whose leadership guaranteed the professional behavior whose decline Jacobs laments?

. . . In any event, so long as we blanch at the site of desecrated body parts or soldiers urinating on corpses while we tolerate perpetual war that makes such actions (and even much worse) inevitable, we are totally missing the point. The attempt to ascribe this indecency to a handful of soldiers or poor leadership is a distraction from the full indecency of war itself, much like the Abu Ghraib photos were used to deflect attention from questions of U.S. detention policy.

As of August 2011, Obama’s drone wars killed an estimated 168 children in Pakistan. That is a consequence of U.S. policy. In the last 20 years of U.S. operations in Iraq, Iraqi citizens have suffered under exponential loss of innocent civilians. Much of this misery results from the U.S.-UN sanctions implemented and enforced by the Bush and Clinton administrations. Both administrations have fallen short of accomplishing their missions to prop up a thoroughly backwards regime, defeat an al Qaeda network that is hardly there anymore, and fight an unwinnable war on opium. Obama’s considerable escalation of the war efforts has not yielded greater protection of the Afghan people, who suffered a record number of civilian deaths last year — the fifth straight year that casualties rose.

The Obama administration asks that we look beyond the scandalous photos at the big picture of the war in Afghanistan. Supposedly, this means we should focus on the progress that top officials claim to have made. Yet the situation is as unstable as ever. U.S. officials are negotiating with the Afghans to maintain a serious presence there for more than another decade, as though this prolonged engagement will finally bring about whatever the administration hopes to accomplish there.

Eventually, the U.S. military will withdraw from Afghanistan, and perhaps from its imperial presence throughout the world. Only then will we rid of the indecencies intrinsic to war.

—Anthony Gregory (2012)

From Marja Erwin (2012-04-25), The persecution of Breanna Manning and the incoherence of American Centrist ideology:

American Centrists, Fascists, and other authoritarians are calling for the murder of Breanna Manning, preferably without trial, and of many of her supporters. . . .

The American government claims legitimacy based on the supposed consent of the governed. But consent requires equality. As long as the government keeps secrets from the governed and has power over the governed, it does not have consent, and does not have legitimacy.

The American Centrists grant the government legitimacy based on the supposed consent of the governed. Then they grant the American government unlimited secrecy and unlimited power because of its legitimacy, though they may criticize other governments because of their lack of legitimacy. The American Centrists insist, in particular, that the American government has an inherent right to keep secrets and the people, not the American people, and not the whole world’s people, could possibly have a right to know what the American government is up to. The American Centrists have detached legitimacy from its supposed grounding in consent and now use legitimacy to support secrecy which makes consent impossible. They have liquified the ground they were standing on and are now sinking into.

So they attack Breanna Manning for sharing the secrets of the war machine. If she did what she is accused of, she is one of the outstanding heroes of our time.

But let’s get to the accusations of treason:

First off, there’s the legal definition, which requires the claim that the public is an enemy.

Second, there’s the political definition, that of acting against a legitimate government. [I don’t believe there are any]. But if the government keeps secrets from the public, it cannot have consent, and therefore cannot have legitimacy, and it is incoherent to claim treason when someone reveals its secrets to the public.

Third, there is the religious definition, which refers to oath-breaking. Warrior bands dedicated to war gods such as Woþins/Woden/Odin or Mars/Mamers required oaths as part of their initiation. Each warrior would declare absolute loyalty to the other warriors. This helped separate the warriors from the civilian society and helped make the warrior bands into effective mercenaries, plunderers, and slave-raiders. The practice of oath-keeping has, I think, done little good and monstrous harm throughout history.

And when I see all these knee-jerk accusations of treason and calls for murder, I remember how, because of my opposition to war, I’ve been called anti-American, attacked, severely beaten, and I’ve gotten death threats. There is a very deep pit of hatred in this land.

—Marja Erwin (2012)

All of which is important. And all of which has something, I think, to do with this. From Randolph Bourne (September 1917), A War Diary, in Seven Arts:

Thus the liberals who made our war their own preserved their pragmatism. But events have shown how fearfully they imperilled their intuition and how untameable an inexorable really is. For those of us who knew a real inexorable when we saw one, and had learned from watching war what follows the loosing of a war-technique, foresaw how quickly aims and purposes would be forgotten, and how flimsy would be any liberal control of events. It is only we now who can appreciate The New Republic—the organ of applied pragmatic realism—when it complains that the League of Peace (which we entered the war to guarantee) is more remote than it was eight months ago; or that our State Department has no diplomatic policy (though it was to realize the high aims of the President’s speeches that the intellectuals willed America’s participation); or that we are subordinating the political management of the war to real or supposed military advantages, (though militarism in the liberal mind had no justification except as a tool for advanced social ends). If, after all the idealism and creative intelligence that were shed upon America’s taking up of arms, our State Department has no policy, we are like brave passengers who have set out for the Isles of the Blest only to find that the first mate has gone insane and jumped overboard, the rudder has come loose and dropped to the bottom of the sea, and the captain and pilot are lying dead drunk under the wheel. The stokers and engineers however, are still merrily forcing the speed up to twenty knots an hour and the passengers are presumably getting the pleasure of the ride.

The penalty the realist pays for accepting war is to see disappear one by one the justifications for accepting it. He[1] must either become a genuine Realpolitiker and brazen it through, or else he must feel sorry for his intuition and be regretful that he willed the war. But so easy is forgetting and so slow the change of events that he is more likely to ignore the collapse of his case. If he finds that his government is relinquishing the crucial moves of that strategy for which he was willing to use the technique of war, he is likely to move easily to the ground that it will all come out in the end the same anyway. He soon becomes satisfied with tacitly ratifying whatever happens, or at least straining to find the grain of unplausible hope that may be latent in the situation. . . . Professor Dewey has become impatient at the merely good and merely conscientious objectors to war who do not attach their conscience and intelligence to forces moving in another direction. But in wartime there are literally no valid forces moving in another direction. War determines its own end—victory, and government crushes out automatically all forces that deflect, or threaten to deflect, energy from the path of organization to that end.

All governments will act in this way, the most democratic as well as the most autocratic. It is only liberal naïveté that is shocked at arbitrary coercion and suppression. Willing war means willing all the evils that are organically bound up with it. A good many people still seem to believe in a peculiar kind of democratic and antiseptic war. The pacifists opposed the war because they knew this was an illusion, and because of the myriad hurts they knew war would do the promise of democracy at home. For once the babes and sucklings seem to have been wiser than the children of light.

—Randolph Bourne (1917)

And with this. From Anonymous (1756), A Vindication of Natural Society: or, a View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind from every Species of Artificial Society:

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil; and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary. . . . In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!

—Anonymous (1756)

  1. [1] [Sic. —Ed.]

Change You Can Believe In (At Home and Abroad Edition)

From Mr. Obama’s occupation of Afghanistan, by the government that his war policy has been actively designed to support at all costs.

President Hamid Karzai has backed guidelines issued by Afghanistan’s religious council that relegate women to the position of second-class citizens, raising questions about . . . a government that seems prepared to sell out on the issue in order to engage the Taliban in a peace deal.

The Afghan leader endorsed the repressive guidelines on Tuesday . . . . Men are fundamental and women are secondary, the 150-member Ulema Council said in a statement that was subsequently posted on Mr Karzai’s own website. It also said that men and women should not mix in work or education, and that women must have a male guardian when they travel.

Mr Karzai’s endorsement, which came on the eve of International Women’s Day today, is seen by critics as a huge step back in the effort to promote women’s rights after the Taliban was displaced by the US invasion of the country in 2001.

— Lianne Gutcher, Back to the bad old days: Karzai beats retreat on women’s rights, in The Independent (8 March 2012)

(Via Reason Daily Brickbats.)

See also:

Friday Lazy Linking

Monday Lazy Linking

Lethal force

(Via Tennessee Guerrilla Women 2010-05-17 and @InjusticeNews.)

By now you’ve probably seen the video of the SWAT stormtrooper raid in Columbia, Missouri, during which a gang of heavily-armed cops violently stormed a house in order to serve a search warrant on a suspected possible nonviolent marijuana user. Turned out that his partner and 7 year old child were also there at the time; so were their two dogs, which the cops went ahead to shoot and kill. After murdering pets, they repeatedly lied about their actions to neighbors and the press, and the story has only come out because the video has been released on the Internet. In any case, if you haven’t read it, Radley Balko’s commentary on the story is mostly right on.

In Tulsa County, Oklahoma, a government police SWAT team on another hyperviolent warrant-serving drug-search shot an nearly deaf biker named Russell Doza at least seven times in the back while he awoke from sleeping in a bed in the clubhouse. They were supposedly storming the clubhouse early in the morning in order to serve a warrant for the victimless crime of selling marijuana and methamphetamines. They didn’t actually find any drugs in the clubhouse, and they didn’t find any of the suspects named in the warrant, but they did find Russell Doza, so three cops — Deputy Lance Ramsey, Corporal Tom Helm, and Sergeant Shane Rhames — shot him in the back, in one arm, and at least twice, point blank, in the back of his head. The cops claim he reached for a gun and just somehow got shot in the back of the head at close range. Even if he did reach for a gun, the cops created the violent confrontation in the first place by storming a private club for no just reason at all, in a failed attempt to discover evidence of a crime that never had any victims to begin with. I have no particular reason to believe that the Deppities are telling the truth, but even if they are, they murdered Russell Doza.

Aiyana Jones

In Detroit, a government police SWAT team on another hyperviolent warrant-serving raid killed a 7 year old girl named Aiyana Jones by shooting her in the neck while she slept on the sofa, in her family’s living room, in their hosue on Lillibridge St. on the east side of Detroit. The SWAT team tstormed the house in the middle of the night in order to serve a warrant for a murder suspect. Who, in press releases after the storming of the house and the killing of Aiyana Jones, was indeed found in the location, within the scope of our search warrant. Except the problem is that the house is a duplex and they got a warrant for the home of a completely innocent family, without bothering to figure out where the fugitive was, and even though they had every reason to be aware that there were children living in the house that they planned to mount a high-risk hyperviolent raid on. They neglected to mention that the house they killed Aiyana Jones in was not the house where they arrested their Suspect Individual; when they got there, the door wasn’t even locked. But the cops were on film, being followed around by a camera crew for A&E’s murder-cop reality action show, The First 48. So what better opportunity to show their stuff? They swarmed the front porch, hurled a flash-bang grenade through the plate-glass window into the living room, and then Officer Joe Weekley, a frequent guest star on several A&E cop shows, shot off his gun and put a bullet into Aiyana Jones’s neck.[1] According to the initial excuses from the police, there was a tussle — no, strike that, there was some sort of contact [sic] between Officer Joe Weekley, and Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones. According to the current police story, while the heavily-armed, professional police Officer Joe Weekley was courageously contacting a 46 year old woman who was confused and upset by a bunch of heavily armed strangers blowing up a grenade in her living room in the middle of the night right next to her sleeping granddaughter and storming into her house, somehow, in a Terrible Tragedy, the gun just discharged, somehow or another, in the midst of all the contact. After shooting her granddaughter to death, police wouldn’t say whether or not Mertilla Jones would be charged with assaulting a police officer.

According to the family, the cops are lying. Geoffrey Fieger, a well-known civil rights lawyer in Detroit, has taken on the family’s case, and says that he has a tape which clearly shows the cops shooting blindly into the house from out on the porch, moments after the grenade blew up. I don’t know which is telling the truth, although I will say that the cops have obfuscated, revised, evaded and lied from the start in this case, in a consistent attempt to deny responsibility and create a false appearance of urgency. I have no particular reason to believe that they are telling the truth about this, either, whereas I do have some reason to believe that Fieger probably has the video he says that he has. All that said, it really doesn’t matter what the video shows, or doesn’t. If the cops burned a little girl to hell with an incendiary grenade and then shot her in the neck, accidentally, while storming into a house they had no reason and no right to be in, in order to serve a warrant for a man who wasn’t there, because they couldn’t be bothered to exercise the caution necessary to pick the right unit of the duplex, or to work out some way of catching a suspect whose location they already knew other than a hyperviolent middle-of-the-night paramilitary raid, then they still fucking murdered that little girl. They introduced violence into the situation; they chose a hyperviolent confrontational method which they knew would be endangering the lives of a house full of completely innocent people; if you or I stormed two different apartments on the theory that a dangerous man might be in one of them, hurled explosives, ran around with guns drawn, and we accidentally killed a child in the process, then you or I would be locked up immediately, indicted shortly thereafter, and thrown in prison for years. Because the unhinged maniac who shot a little girl happens to have a badge and a uniform, the shooter has been given a paid vacation from their job. Boss Cop Detroit Police Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee gave a press conference in which he solemnly announced how Very Sorry he was that police just had to gun down a 7-year-old girl in her own home, because of the risk to their sacred hides when Entering a Potentially Dangerous Situation. He wants you to know that this is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude, and that This is every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s also every police officer’s nightmare. I can’t tell you what I think of that, because there aren’t any words that are dirty enough.

In a follow-up post on the Columbia, Missouri raid, Radley Balko posted a letter from a government soldier who took umbrade at his watch-word of police militarization, because the rules of engagement SWAT teams operate under are, in some ways, even looser than those used by counterinsurgency soldiers trying to kill enemy guerrillas in Afghanistan. Balko seriously wonders whether SWAT teams are now more militarized than the military. I’m not convinced, unless the in some ways is doing so much work as to make the statement meaningless. [2] But the mere fact that the comparison might seem plausible is telling. And outrageous. But not at all surprising. How could it be, when every week brings Yet Another Isolated Incident, and when Terrible Tragedy after Terrible Tragedy shows SWAT teams once again storming houses and clubs for no reason other than to protect the investigation of the most utterly trivial and nonviolent offenses, when they consistently use maximal force and freely open fire, even when they know that they may well be in completely the wrong house, even when they have every reason to know that they’re putting children’s lives in danger, and when they brutalize, beat and murder innocent people, over and over again, all with more or less explicit legal guarantees of complete impunity, and the lockstep backing of their departments and their colleagues throughout the government’s criminal system?

Do you feel safer now?

  1. [1] When he’s not shooting 7 year old girls and showing off SWAT tactics on live victims for television audiences, Officer Joe Weekley also drives a tank (Armored Personnel Carrier, sorry) for the Detroit SWAT team.
  2. [2] The process of storming a house in a war zone may offer more opportunities to surrender before escalating the situation to violence; but SWAT teams aren’t firing missiles into apartment complexes from robot aircraft… yet.