Archive | Global Interventionism RSS feed for this section

Ron Paul Rewind: ‘Disband NATO!’

27 Apr

Contrary to how the mainstream media tries to portray the U.S. as an innocent bystander in Ukraine, the reality is that provocative meddling has been going on for a very long time.

Below is a speech that Dr. Paul gave on the U.S. House floor on April 1, 2008. It’s fascinating that the very same speech (with just a few minor tweaks) could be given today:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this resolution calling for the further expansion of NATO to the borders of Russia. NATO is an organization whose purpose ended with the end of its Warsaw Pact adversary. When NATO struggled to define its future after the Cold War, it settled on attacking a sovereign state, Yugoslavia, which had neither invaded nor threatened any NATO member state.

This current round of NATO expansion is a political reward to governments in Georgia and Ukraine that came to power as a result of US-supported revolutions, the so-called Orange Revolution and Rose Revolution. The governments that arose from these street protests were eager to please their US sponsor and the US, in turn, turned a blind eye to the numerous political and human rights abuses that took place under the new regimes. Thus the US policy of “exporting democracy” has only succeeding in exporting more misery to the countries it has targeted.

NATO expansion only benefits the US military industrial complex, which stands to profit from expanded arms sales to new NATO members. The “modernization” of former Soviet militaries in Ukraine and Georgia will mean tens of millions in sales to US and European military contractors. The US taxpayer will be left holding the bill, as the US government will subsidize most of the transactions. Providing US military guarantees to Ukraine and Georgia can only further strain our military. This NATO expansion may well involve the US military in conflicts as unrelated to our national interest as the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. The idea that American troops might be forced to fight and die to prevent a small section of Georgia from seceding is absurd and disturbing.

Mr. Speaker, NATO should be disbanded, not expanded.

 

Advertisements

On Treating Putin as Pariah

27 Apr

“Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world … and effectively making it a pariah state.”

So wrote Peter Baker in Sunday’s New York Times. Yet if history is any guide, this “pariah policy,” even if adopted, will not long endure.

Three years after Khrushchev sent tanks into Hungary, he was touring the USA and celebrating with Ike the new “Spirit of Camp David.”

Half a year after Khrushchev moved missiles into Cuba, JFK was talking detente is his famous speech at American University.

Three weeks after Moscow incited the Arabs in the Six-Day War, Lyndon Johnson was meeting with Premier Alexei Kosygin in New Jersey, where the “Spirit of Glassboro,” was born.

So it went through the Cold War. Post-crises, U.S. presidents reached out to Soviet leaders. For they saw Russia as too large and too powerful to be isolated and ostracized like North Korea.

These presidents also understood that the American people wanted constant efforts made to reduce tensions and avoid war with a vast country with thousands of nuclear weapons. And presidents being politicians, be they Democrats JFK or LBJ, or Republicans Eisenhower, Nixon or Reagan, responded to this political reality.

We may not have liked the Soviets. We could not ignore them.

But if throwing Putin out of the frat house and off campus is an unsustainable policy, what of the hawkish calls for a return to Cold War containment and military countermeasures against Russia?

Well, let us inspect them one by one.

We are urged to go back to building a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. But this is a project of years. And before this shield was ever up and operational, Moscow could deploy hundreds of new offensive missiles targeted on Central and Western Europe.

How would that make our allies more secure? How would Angela Merkel respond to that?

Among Reagan’s achievements was persuading Russia to pull its triple-warhead SS-20s out of Eastern Europe, in return for our taking our Pershing and cruise missiles out of Western Europe.

Do we really want to reverse the Reagan triumph of 1987?

Some conservatives want to send arms to Ukraine. But given the performance of Ukraine’s army in the Crimean crisis, we would be provoking a war Ukraine could not win, while ensuring the casualty count would be higher.

And as almost no Americans favor U.S. ”boots on the ground,” the result of a Russia-Ukraine war our arms provoked would be a beaten Ukrainian army and an occupied country.

Others urge Obama to move U.S. troops permanently into Poland, the Baltic states and Romania. Will Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Britain be sending troops as well?

Is there any time between now and eternity when the world’s richest continent will provide the soldiers for its own defense?

Another idea gaining currency is that we should start shipping oil and gas to Europe to reduce its dependency on Russia.

Certainly, U.S. energy independence, and the restoration of our lately lost industrial independence, is a good idea. But weaning Europe off the Russian gas on which it so heavily depends is another project of years, if not a decade.

Meanwhile, Russia could build pipelines to a fuel-hungry China and cement a Moscow-Beijing alliance, the rupture of which was Richard Nixon’s great achievement.

Are we thus left with no options, in Nixon’s phrase, a “pitiful helpless giant” in preventing Ukraine’s absorption by Russia?

By no means. But as Henry Kissinger argues, “the demonization of Putin is not a policy. It is an alibi for the absence of one.”

What we must recognize is that, Beltway bluster about U.S. troops in the Baltic and warships in the Black Sea aside, the United States is not going to war with Russia over Ukraine, or Estonia.

For we cannot defend Estonia either. By bringing the Baltic nations into NATO, as some of us loudly warned at that time, we were handing out war guarantees no sane president was going to honor.

As we hold a weak hand in Ukraine, we should let Putin take the lead.

If what he wants is a Ukraine that is not in NATO, a Ukraine that is decentralized, where the East retains cultural and economic ties to Russia while the West has ties to Europe, that is no threat to us.

What should we do if Putin seizes Southern Ukraine to Odessa?

What did Ike do about Hungary in 1956, or JFK do when the Wall went up? What did LBJ do about Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Reagan do when Solidarity was crushed?

Mature leaders, they accepted militarily what they could not prevent.

Like those presidents, Obama should take the military option off the table and use his diplomatic, political and economic weapons, and keep communications open. There are big issues, like terrorism, where we still agree.

 

Bismark would have been Horrified

27 Apr

Marbella, Spain – Here in Spain’s sunny south, you wouldn’t know that a new world war over Eastern Europe threatens. In fact, rumor has it that none other than Vlad Putin is house-shopping in this glamorous resort.

Easter is Europe’s most important holiday. While churches are empty, restaurants, clubs and boutiques are packed with visitors and residents. Northern Spain is racked by record unemployment and a deep recession, but armies of British, French and German tourists are back in the south and the mood is upbeat.

To Spaniards, the dangerous fracas over Ukraine seems remote and unimportant. Western Europeans are taking this nasty business calmly. There is none of the media hysteria and patriotic drum beating found in North America. No one that I’ve met thinks Ukraine is worth a war, even a small one.

To paraphrase the great statesman Bismarck, Ukraine is not worth the life of a single Prussian grenadier. I recalled this famous maxim at dinner the other night here in Marbella where I’m a house guest of the Bismarck family, which is reunited here for Easter.

Prince Bismarck would never have allowed Ukraine to boil over and set the United States, its appendage NATO, and Russia on a collision course. He would have been horrified to see Washington foolishly making enemies of Russia and China at the same time. Divide your enemies and set then against one another was the essence of Bismarck’s brilliantly effective diplomacy. Had Kaiser Wilhelm II retained Bismarck as his premier foreign policy advisor, Germany may have avoided blundering into the horrors of World War I.

President Putin keeps bringing up history to justify his assertive policies towards Ukraine and Crimea. This annoys Americans, who know little about history and refuse to accept Russia as a great power- and certainly not as an equal.

Recently, Sen. John McCain, the voice of America’s ignorant right, sneered that Russia was merely “a gas station masquerading as a country.” Gas stations do not produce the likes of Tolstoy, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, or the very smart Vlad Putin. They do, however, produce puny intellects like McCain.

Just as Russia provided the US with a diplomatic exit from blundering into a war with Syria, so the Kremlin is again offering Washington a way out of the Ukraine imbroglio.

That way out consists of a Ukraine-wide referendum to allow each region to determine whether it wants to align with Europe or Russia. Russian must be made a second official language. Most important, the US and NATO have got to halt their daft plan to set up bases in Ukraine and bring it in the alliance. These bases will enrage Russia without boosting NATO’s power.

In fact, NATO’s would-be bases in Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, as well as the Baltic, are a major military liability to the alliance which is incapable of defending them if the Russians get really angry.

Speaking of history, it’s also worth recalling past efforts to weaken Russia by detaching Ukraine, its most important center of agriculture and coal. In 1917, after the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, Russia sued for peace. The result was the rapacious Treaty of Brest-Litowsk in which the Germany and Austria stripped away Ukraine, parts of today’s Romania, and the Baltic states from Russian control.

Ukraine was briefly independent during the 1920’s Russian civil war. Stalin crushed Ukraine’s independent farmers, murdering 6-7 million in a 1930’s holocaust. To no surprise, invading German troops were greeted as liberators by many Ukrainians. But Hitler decided to turn Ukraine into Germany’s granary and its people into serfs.

The US and NATO are now trying to impose a second Brest-Litowsk on Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia can not return to being a world power. Stalin undid Brest-Litowsk. Vlad Putin is determined that the punitive eastern version of the “Versailles Treaty” will not be again imposed on Mother Russia. Pity the poor Ukrainians caught between the crushing millstones of East and West.

After the 1878 Congress of Berlin that Bismarck organized to sort out the great power’s conflicting claims to the volatile Balkans, the Iron Chancellor observed that no one had asked the locals involved their opinion. Fast forward to today’s Ukraine where Bismarck’s wise advise still rings true.

 

A Lifetime of War—Explained

27 Apr

A few days ago, my partner, turning from something about Afghanistan on the television news, said to me, “It seems there’s been a war going on as long as we’ve been alive.”

And we’re well into our 70s.

But think about it: she’s almost right. This country has been at war, or at least has deployed troops, every year since 1940, when we were tots, except for occasional sporadic periods of quasi-peace amounting in all to about 18 years. Not our whole lives, but three-quarters of it.

Let’s do a little of the history. In 1940 we deployed troops throughout the West Indies, to protect those countries and free British troops, and the next year we took over Greenland and Iceland militarily. The next five years saw world war, and after the war we had troops in Germany, Austria, Japan, and South Korea, sent troops into Greece in 1947, and used the Air Force for the Berlin airlift in 1948-49. Then came the Korean War, Indochina, and Vietnam until 1975. From 1960 on we sent troops to the Congo, Colombia (where they’re still at war), the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, and we invaded Grenada in 1983.

After a lull of three years we bombed Libya in 1986, then launched a full-scale invasion of Panama in 1989. (I say “lull,” but of course each year we still sent troops to military bases throughout the world, numbering about 750 posts by 2000, established six military commands on every continent but Antarctica, and continually built and deployed new armaments and munitions.) The Gulf War came the following year, then Somalia in 1992-94, Bosnia and Kosovo from 1992 to the end of the century. A short respite of two years and we invaded Afghanistan, where we’ve been fighting ever since, and then deployments to the Philippines and Somalia from 2002 on, capped by the Iraq War from 2003-2011.

Certainly feels like “every year.” And what could be the point of all this warification of America? Certainly not defense, for we were attacked but once, and all the rest of the time we either initiated action or fabricated an excuse for doing so. No, this all was in aid of what has been called “military Keynesianism,” the idea that if you kept huge standing armies and had frequent wars the military-industrial complex would get constantly bigger and richer and there would be scant unemployment. (And states like South Carolina would grow and grow.)

Now, this has proven to be patently untrue, as our current immense military budget and immense national debt and unending high unemployment make eminently clear. We spend now some $612 billion on “defense,” more than all the rest of the nations combined (though this month Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he wants “only” $497 billion), and maintain a military of 2.2 million active troops that is continually being supplied with new weapons, many of which are not necessary and not even asked for.

A study by the Washington think-tank Center for Economic and Policy Research in 2007 found that our assumptions about defense spending are fundamentally wrong:

“It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.”

I’m not sure that I would call consumption “productive,” considering how wasteful it is, but in an economy traditionally dependent on consumption it has succeeded at least in putting money into circulation for the general benefit. And all the rest of the think-tank’s analysis simply makes good common sense.

Not that such an argument will win over the political establishment. And don’t think it has anything to do with the we-need-a-strong-defense and protect-American-lives blather the politicians give you. It has to do with the genius spending system Congress established during and after World War II, whereby military contractors establish factories in a wide variety of Congressional districts, especially those of politicians on the armed-service and appropriations committees, get funds from the pork barrels these politicians maintain, and in return become generous with campaign funds to them.

One example out of many. Northrup Grumman manufactures the Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned drone at $223 million apiece. The Pentagon has said for years now that it doesn’t want the plane, it’s too expensive, accident prone, and would save $2.5 billion over five years if it was dropped. Northrup is based in Falls Church, Virginia, represented by Democrat Jim Moran, senior member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, and the drone is built principally in Palmdale, California, represented by Republican Howard McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. But there’s more: the plane has 3,480 employees in 22 states—and contracts with 303 suppliers in 36 states.

It will not surprise you that the Global Hawk continues to be made, funded generously by Congress every year, and there is no sign that it will cease production at least for a decade, even if the Pentagon continues to cut it out of its budget every year.

And so the economy grinds on, the military-industrial complex at the controls, and so we will continue to fight wars—Syria, Ukraine, Iran are all candidates—and maintain bases around the world. “War,” as Randolph Bourne once put it, “is the health of the state.”

 

The Strangelove Effect

27 Apr

Or how we are hoodwinked into accepting a new world war

I watched Dr. Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major T.J. “King” Kong goes “toe to toe with the Rooskies” and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it’s left to General “Buck” Turgidson to reassure the President. Strike first, says the general, and “you got no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.”

President Merkin Muffley: “I will not go down in history as the greatest mass-murderer since Adolf Hitler.”

General Turgidson: “Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books.”

The genius of Stanley Kubrick’s film is that it accurately represents the cold war’s lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today, because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant; yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same “invisible government”, as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Strangelove was made, “the missile gap” was the false flag. In order to build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John Kennedy approved the CIA’s propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. This filled front pages as the “Russian threat”. In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in the production of ICBMs, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its “Nato Enlargement Project”. Reneging a US promise to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucuses, Nato’s military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.

In February, the United States mounted one of its proxy “colour” coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital. No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism on the border of Russia. Some 30 million Russians died in the invasion of their country by Hitler’s Nazis, who were supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the UPA, responsible for numerous Jewish and Polish massacres. The UPA was the military wing, inspiring today’s Svoboda party.

Since Washington’s putsch in Kiev — and Moscow’s inevitable response in Russian Crimea, to protect its Black Sea Fleet — the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the “Russian threat”. This is fossilised propaganda. The US Air Force general who runs Nato forces in Europe – General Breedlove, no less — claimed more than two weeks ago to have pictures showing 40,000 Russian troops “massing” on the border with Ukraine. So did Colin Powell claim to have pictures of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What is certain is that Obama’s rapacious, reckless coup in Ukraine has ignited a civil war and Vladimir Putin is being lured into a trap.

Following a 13-year rampage that began in stricken Afghanistan well after Osama bin Laden had fled, then destroyed Iraq beneath a false flag, then invented a “nuclear rogue” in Iran, dispatched Libya to a Hobbesian anarchy and backed jihadists in Syria, the US finally has a new cold war to supplement its worldwide campaign of murder and terror by drone.

A Nato Membership Action Plan or MAP — straight from the war room of Strangelove — is General Breedlove’s gift to the new dictatorship in Ukraine. “Rapid Trident” will put US troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will put US warships within sight of Russian ports. At the same time, Nato war games throughout eastern Europe are designed to intimidate Russia. Imagine the response if this madness was reversed and happened on America’s borders. Cue General “Buck” Turgidson.

And there is China. On 24 April, President Obama will begin a tour of Asia to promote his “Pivot to China”. The aim is to convince his “allies” in the region, principally Japan, to re-arm and prepare for the eventual possibility of war with China. By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific area. This is the greatest military concentration in that vast region since the second world war.

In an arc extending from Australia to Japan, China will face US missiles and nuclear-armed bombers. A strategic naval base is being built on the Korean island of Jeju less than 400 miles from the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US. Obama’s “pivot” is designed to undermine China’s influence in its region. It is as if world war has begun by other means.

This is not a Strangelove fantasy. Obama’s defence secretary, Charles “Chuck” Hagel, was in Beijing last week to deliver a menacing warning that China, like Russia, could face isolation and war if it did not bow to US demands. He compared the annexation of Crimea with China’s complex territorial dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. “You cannot go around the world,” said Hagel with a straight face, “and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation”. As for America’s massive movement of naval forces and nuclear weapons to Asia, that is “a sign of the humanitarian assistance the US military can provide”.

Obama is currently seeking a greater budget for nuclear weapons than the historical peak during the cold war, the era of Strangelove. The United States is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass, stretching from China to Europe: a “manifest destiny” made right by might.

 

How America’s Wars Came Home With the Troops

27 Apr

Up Close, Personal, and Bloody

After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and 16 wounded. When he did so, he also pulled America’s fading wars out of the closet. This time, a Fort Hood mass killing, the second in four and a half years, was committed by a man who was neither a religious nor a political “extremist.” He seems to have been merely one of America’s injured and troubled veterans who now number in the hundreds of thousands.

Some 2.6 million men and women have been dispatched, often repeatedly, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to a recent survey of veterans of those wars conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12% of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.

The media coverage that followed Lopez’s rampage was, of course, 24/7 and there was much discussion of PTSD, the all-purpose (if little understood) label now used to explain just about anything unpleasant that happens to or is caused by current or former military men and women. Amid the barrage of coverage, however, something was missing: evidence that has been in plain sight for years of how the violence of America’s distant wars comes back to haunt the “homeland” as the troops return. In that context, Lopez’s killings, while on a scale not often matched, are one more marker on a bloody trail of death that leads from Iraq and Afghanistan into the American heartland, to bases and backyards nationwide. It’s a story with a body count that should not be ignored.

War Comes Home

During the last 12 years, many veterans who had grown “worse” while at war could be found on and around bases here at home, waiting to be deployed again, and sometimes doing serious damage to themselves and others. The organization Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has campaigned for years for a soldier’s “right to heal” between deployments. Next month it will release its own report on a common practice at Fort Hood of sending damaged and heavily medicated soldiers back to combat zones against both doctors’ orders and official base regulations. Such soldiers can’t be expected to survive in great shape.

Immediately after the Lopez rampage, President Obama spoke of those soldiers who have served multiple tours in the wars and “need to feel safe” on their home base. But what the president called “that sense of safety… broken once again” at Fort Hood has, in fact, already been shattered again and again on bases and in towns across post-9/11 America — ever since misused, misled, and mistreated soldiers began bringing war home with them.

Since 2002, soldiers and veterans have been committing murder individually and in groups, killing wives, girlfriends, children, fellow soldiers, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers, and — in appalling numbers – themselves. Most of these killings haven’t been on a mass scale, but they add up, even if no one is doing the math. To date, they have never been fully counted.

The first veterans of the war in Afghanistan returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002. In quick succession, four of them murdered their wives, after which three of the killers took their own lives. When a New York Times reporter asked a Special Forces officer to comment on these events, he replied: “S.F.’s don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off, like yesterday’s news.”

Indeed, much of the media and much of the country has done just that. While individual murders committed by “our nation’s heroes” on the “home front” have been reported by media close to the scene, most such killings never make the national news, and many become invisible even locally when reported only as routine murders with no mention of the apparently insignificant fact that the killer was a veteran. Only when these crimes cluster around a military base do diligent local reporters seem to put the pieces of the bigger picture together.

By 2005, Fort Bragg had already counted its tenth such “domestic violence” fatality, while on the West coast, the Seattle Weekly had tallied the death toll among active-duty troops and veterans in western Washington state at seven homicides and three suicides. “Five wives, a girlfriend, and one child were slain; four other children lost one or both parents to death or imprisonment. Three servicemen committed suicide — two of them after killing their wife or girlfriend. Four soldiers were sent to prison. One awaited trial.”

In January 2008, the New York Times tried for the first time to tally a nationwide count of such crimes. It found “121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.” It listed headlines drawn from smaller local newspapers: Lakewood, Washington, “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife”; Pierre, South Dakota, “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress”; Colorado Springs, Colorado, “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

The Times found that about a third of the murder victims were wives, girlfriends, children, or other relatives of the killer, but significantly, a quarter of the victims were fellow soldiers. The rest were acquaintances or strangers. At that time, three quarters of the homicidal soldiers were still in the military. The number of killings then represented a nearly 90% increase in homicides committed by active duty personnel and veterans in the six years since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Yet after tracing this “cross-country trail of death and heartbreak,” the Times noted that its research had probably uncovered only “the minimum number of such cases.” One month later, it found “more than 150 cases of fatal domestic violence or [fatal] child abuse in the United States involving service members and new veterans.”

More cases were already on the way. After the Fourth Brigade Combat team of Fort Carson, Colorado, returned from Iraq later in 2008, nine of its members were charged with homicide, while “charges of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault” at the base rose sharply. Three of the murder victims were wives or girlfriends; four were fellow soldiers (all men); and two were strangers, chosen at random.

Back at Fort Bragg and the nearby Marine base at Camp Lejeune, military men murdered four military women in a nine-month span between December 2007 and September 2008. By that time, retired Army Colonel Ann Wright had identified at least 15 highly suspicious deaths of women soldiers in the war zones that had been officially termed “non-combat related” or “suicide.” She raised a question that has never been answered: “Is there an Army cover-up of rape and murder of women soldiers?” The murders that took place near (but not on) Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, all investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities, raised another question: Were some soldiers bringing home not only the generic violence of war, but also specific crimes they had rehearsed abroad?

Stuck in Combat Mode

While this sort of post-combat-zone combat at home has rarely made it into the national news, the killings haven’t stopped. They have, in fact, continued, month by month, year after year, generally reported only by local media. Many of the murders suggest that the killers still felt as if they were on some kind of private mission in “enemy territory,” and that they themselves were men who had, in distant combat zones, gotten the hang of killing — and the habit. For example, Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old Army veteran, went to a party in Seattle in 2012 and got into a gunfight that left four people wounded. He then fled to Mount Rainier National Park where he shot and killed a park ranger (the mother of two small children) and fired on others before escaping into snow-covered mountains where he drowned in a stream.

Barnes, an Iraq veteran, had reportedly experienced a rough transition to stateside life, having been discharged from the Army in 2009 for misconduct after being arrested for drunk driving and carrying a weapon. (He also threatened his wife with a knife.) He was one of more than 20,000 troubled Army and Marine veterans the military discarded between 2008 and 2012 with “other-than-honorable” discharges and no benefits, health care, or help.

Faced with the expensive prospect of providing long-term care for these most fragile of veterans, the military chose instead to dump them. Barnes was booted out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, which by 2010 had surpassed Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, and Fort Carson in violence and suicide to become the military’s “most troubled” home base.

Some homicidal soldiers work together, perhaps recreating at home that famous fraternal feeling of the military “band of brothers.” In 2012, in Laredo, Texas, federal agents posing as leaders of a Mexican drug cartel arrested Lieutenant Kevin Corley and Sergeant Samuel Walker — both from Fort Carson’s notorious Fourth Brigade Combat team — and two other soldiers in their private hit squad who had offered their services to kill members of rival cartels. “Wet work,” soldiers call it, and they’re trained to do it so well that real Mexican drug cartels have indeed been hiring ambitious vets from Fort Bliss, Texas, and probably other bases in the borderlands, to take out selected Mexican and American targets at $5,000 a pop.

Such soldiers seem never to get out of combat mode. Boston psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, well known for his work with troubled veterans of the Vietnam War, points out that the skills drilled into the combat soldier — cunning, deceit, strength, quickness, stealth, a repertoire of killing techniques, and the suppression of compassion and guilt — equip him perfectly for a life of crime. “I’ll put it as bluntly as I can,” Shay writes in Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, “Combat service per se smooths the way into criminal careers afterward in civilian life.” During the last decade, when the Pentagon relaxed standards to fill the ranks, some enterprising members of at least 53 different American gangs jumpstarted their criminal careers by enlisting, training, and serving in war zones to perfect their specialized skill sets.

Some veterans have gone on to become domestic terrorists, like Desert Storm veteran Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the Oklahoma federal building in 1995, or mass murderers like Wade Michael Page, the Army veteran and uber-racist who killed six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August 2012. Page had first been introduced to the ideology of white supremacy at age 20, three years after he joined the Army, when he fell in with a neo-Nazi hate group at Fort Bragg. That was in 1995, the year three paratroopers from Fort Bragg murdered two black local residents, a man and a woman, to earn their neo-Nazi spider-web tattoos.

An unknown number of such killers just walk away, like Army Private (and former West Point cadet) Isaac Aguigui, who was finally convicted last month in a Georgia criminal court of murdering his pregnant wife, Sergeant Deirdre Wetzker Aguigui, an Army linguist, three years ago. Although Deirdre Aguigui’s handcuffed body had revealed multiple blows and signs of struggle, the military medical examiner failed to “detect an anatomic cause of death” — a failure convenient for both the Army, which didn’t have to investigate further, and Isaac Aguigui, who collected a half-million dollars in military death benefits and life insurance to finance a war of his own.

In 2012, Georgia authorities charged Aguigui and three combat veterans from Fort Stewart with the execution-style murders of former Private Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend Tiffany York, 17. The trial in a civilian criminal court revealed that Aguigui (who was never deployed) had assembled his own private militia of troubled combat vets called FEAR (Forever Enduring, Always Ready), and was plotting to take over Fort Stewart by seizing the munitions control point. Among his other plans for his force were killing unnamed officials with car bombs, blowing up a fountain in Savannah, poisoning the apple crop in Aguigui’s home state of Washington, and joining other unspecified private militia groups around the country in a plot to assassinate President Obama and take control of the United States government. Last year, the Georgia court convicted Aguigui in the case of the FEAR executions and sentenced him to life. Only then did a civilian medical examiner determine that he had first murdered his wife.

The Rule of Law

The routine drills of basic training and the catastrophic events of war damage many soldiers in ways that appear darkly ironic when they return home to traumatize or kill their partners, their children, their fellow soldiers, or random strangers in a town or on a base. But again to get the stories we must rely upon scrupulous local journalists. The Austin American-Statesman, for example, reports that, since 2003, in the area around Fort Hood in central Texas, nearly 10% of those involved in shooting incidents with the police were military veterans or active-duty service members. In four separate confrontations since last December, the police shot and killed two recently returned veterans and wounded a third, while one police officer was killed. A fourth veteran survived a shootout unscathed.

Such tragic encounters prompted state and city officials in Texas to develop a special Veterans Tactical Response Program to train police in handling troubled military types. Some of the standard techniques Texas police use to intimidate and overcome suspects — shouting, throwing “flashbangs” (grenades), or even firing warning shots — backfire when the suspect is a veteran in crisis, armed, and highly trained in reflexive fire. The average civilian lawman is no match for an angry combat grunt from, as the president put it at Fort Hood, “the greatest Army that the world has ever known.” On the other hand, a brain-injured vet who needs time to respond to orders or reply to questions may get manhandled, flattened, tasered, bludgeoned, or worse by overly aggressive police officers before he has time to say a word.

Here’s another ironic twist. For the past decade, military recruiters have made a big selling point of the “veterans preference” policy in the hiring practices of civilian police departments. The prospect of a lifetime career in law enforcement after a single tour of military duty tempts many wavering teenagers to sign on the line. But the vets who are finally discharged from service and don the uniform of a civilian police department are no longer the boys who went away.

In Texas today, 37% of the police in Austin, the state capitol, are ex-military, and in smaller cities and towns in the vicinity of Fort Hood, that figure rises above the 50% mark. Everybody knows that veterans need jobs, and in theory they might be very good at handling troubled soldiers in crisis, but they come to the job already trained for and very good at war. When they meet the next Ivan Lopez, they make a potentially combustible combo.

Most of America’s military men and women don’t want to be “stigmatized” by association with the violent soldiers mentioned here. Neither do the ex-military personnel who now, as members of civilian police forces, do periodic battle with violent vets in Texas and across the country. The new Washington Post-Kaiser survey reveals that most veterans are proud of their military service, if not altogether happy with their homecoming. Almost half of them think that American civilians, like the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t genuinely “respect” them, and more than half feel disconnected from American life. They believe they have better moral and ethical values than their fellow citizens, a virtue trumpeted by the Pentagon and presidents alike. Sixty percent say they are more patriotic than civilians. Seventy percent say that civilians fail absolutely to understand them. And almost 90% of veterans say that in a heartbeat they would re-up to fight again.

Americans on the “home front” were never mobilized by their leaders and they have generally not come to grips with the wars fought in their name. Here, however, is another irony: neither, it turns out, have most of America’s military men and women. Like their civilian counterparts, many of whom are all too ready to deploy those soldiers again to intervene in countries they can’t even find on a map, a significant number of veterans evidently have yet to unpack and examine the wars they brought home in their baggage — and in too many grim cases, they, their loved ones, their fellow soldiers, and sometimes random strangers are paying the price.

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch.com.

 

The Smoking Pop-Gun: Obama Endorses a Forgery

27 Apr

On Friday, April 18, President Obama voiced his righteous indignation over anti-Semitic fliers pasted on synagogue walls in the pro-Russian eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The fliers, calling on all Jews to register or face expulsion, had appeared the day before and were instantly denounced by Donetsk leaders as a gross provocation and a forgery.

The next day, however, Obama “expressed his disgust quite bluntly”. At least, that is what his hawkish national security advisor, Susan Rice, told the public. “I think we all found word of those pamphlets to be utterly sickening, and they have no place in the 21st century,” she declared.

This presidential reaction occurred 24 hours after the pamphlet in question had been thoroughly denounced as a fake, not only by the Donetsk leader, Denis Pushilin, who said his signature on the document had been forged, but by local Jewish community leaders and even by The New Republic, which cannot be accused of indifference to anti-Semitism.

Scarcely had the fake document been glued to a wall than Secretary of State John Kerry mounted his habitual high horse to declare resoundingly that: “In the year 2014, after all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable.”

(It is an essential part of the Imperial rhetoric to assert on every such occasion what is or is not acceptable in “the second American century”.)

Now let’s be logical. When John Kerry denounces this document before the ink is dry, when President Obama and Susan Rice publicly endorse this forgery after it has been amply exposed in world media as disinformation, we must logically conclude that this propaganda morsel was a deliberate part of the US strategy to destabilize Ukraine by slandering pro-Russian anti-fascists as anti-Semitic. The purpose is clearly to drown out news of the pro-Nazi sympathies of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector that the US has chosen as anti-Russian allies. How can top US leaders be perfectly aware of what is written in Ukrainian on a piece of paper glued to a synagogue in Donetsk, and not know what was written in Haaretz and The New Republic? These endorsements are strong evidence of complicity in the forgery, since it is not credible that Kerry, Rice and Obama were too innocent to suspect a forgery.

I call this the smoking pop-gun.

And meanwhile, while the US neocons try to smear the Eastern Ukrainian anti-fascists as anti-Semites, Benyamin Netanyahu is trying to cozy up to Putin. The Israeli leader is clever enough to bow out of a losing game. All those US leaders who constantly pledge their allegiance to Israel are outraged at such disloyalty.

Never before have U.S. leaders been quite so reckless in asserting falsehoods as in this Ukrainian operation. They have a scenario and they are carrying it out, despite revelations that Victoria Nuland personally selected the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, that the Kiev snipers who facilitated the putsch that put Yats in office were hired by the pro-Western rebels, that their “freedom fighters” this time are Hitler fans and that about half the population of Ukraine identifies with Russia.

Never mind, the show must go on. They are counting on the vast, bottomless ignorance of the American masses concerning the rest of the world to allow them to get away with anything. The public doesn’t need to know anything about Ukraine, all they need is to be persuaded that it is Goldilocks being threatened by a big bad bear.

But the whole world is not that ignorant.

Notably not the Germans.

All Is Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

German media, who, like other NATO satellites, have been largely following the anti-Putin Russophobe line laid down by Washington, are being besieged by complaints from readers and television spectators. The German public seems to know where Ukraine is located and what is happening.

Just as John Kerry was reminding the world of US moral leadership in the 21st century, three hundred German intellectuals addressed a respectful and supportive letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Directly answering Putin’s request for understanding from the German people, the letter recalled that “the Soviet Union had made the decisive contribution to freeing Europe from National Socialism, at an incomparable loss of life,” and was ready in 1990 “to support German reunification, to dissolve the Warsaw Pact in 1991 and to accept united Germany’s membership in NATO”. But the West had failed to honor its agreement, and had rewarded Gorbachev’s generosity by aggressively expanding NATO right up to Russia’s doorstep.

It is fully documented, the letter notes, that “the United States has taken advantage of the justified protests of the Ukrainian population for its own aims”, along the model of other countries such as Serbia, Libya, etc.

Under these circumstances, with some thousand US military bases worldwide and US control of straits and the resulting danger to the Russian Black Sea fleet, the German signatories see the secession of Crimea as “a defensive measure with a clear message: up to here and no farther! The decisive difference with the declaration of independence of Kosovo is that for the latter the precondition was an illegal bombing campaign by NATO – unfortunately with German participation.” The U.S. Purpose

The German letter recalls that Putin has called for economic cooperation in a “Common European House” from Lisbon to Vladivostok, in which Ukraine could act as an “ideal bridge” for future cooperation between the European Union and a Eurasian Union.

“We are convinced that the purpose of the United States’ massive seizure of influence is to make this bridge function impossible.”

Observing that recent polls show that a majority of Germans understand the Russian reaction to Ukraine events and reject any confrontation with the Russian Federation, the signatories promise, despite the foreseeable difficulties, to do what they can to prevent the splitting of Europe. They close with personal wishes to Putin for strength, perseverance, wisdom and good luck.

We are certainly not there yet, but it would be some sort of poetic justice if the final historic outcome of the land-grabbing caper by Victoria Nuland, John Kerry, Susan Rice and Samantha Power were to gain control of a divided, quarrelsome and bankrupt Ukraine… and lose control of Germany.

Reprinted from Press TV.