Category Archives: Warfare

Headline of the day: Ever-predictable Obama

From the Intercept:

Obama Went From Condemning Saudis for Abuses to Arming Them to the Teeth

Obama once called for “the arms merchants in our own country [to] stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.” Now he enables them.

Abby Martin vividly dissects Hillary Clinton

Abby Martin, by esnl‘s light the best television journalist to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted the finest dissection of the diabolical nature of the candidate that is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

War-monger, corporateer par excellence, friend of Wall Street, and enemy of the environment. . .Clinton is all of these, and more.

From teleSUR English:

Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes What Hillary Clinton Really Represents 

Program notes:

Digging deep into Hillary’s connections to Wall Street, Abby Martin reveals how the Clinton’s multi-million-dollar political machine operates.

This episode chronicles the Clinton’s rise to power in the 90s on a right-wing agenda, the Clinton Foundation’s revolving door with Gulf state monarchies, corporations and the world’s biggest financial institutions, and the establishment of the hyper-aggressive “Hillary Doctrine” while Secretary of State. Learn the essential facts about the great danger she poses, and why she’s the US Empire’s choice for its next CEO.

Quote of the day: The definition of insanity

From Corey Robin, journalist, theorist, and political science professor at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, in an essay for Jacobin:

By his own admission, President “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars” made the same mistake in Libya that President “Mission Accomplished” made in Iraq. It’s almost as if that Best and the Brightest thing doesn’t always work out.

President Obama’s admission that his failure to plan for a post-reconstruction Libya was his greatest mistake — and his concomitant refusal to say that the intervention was a mistake — makes me wonder how many times a government gets to make the same “mistake” before we get to say that the mistake is no mistake but how the policy works.

I mean when you have a former University of Chicago Law School professor/former Harvard Law Review editor doing the exact same thing that his alleged ignoramus of a predecessor did in Iraq, when you see that the failure to plan for a post-intervention reconstruction is not a contingency but a bipartisan practice, don’t you start wondering about the ideology of intervention itself?

Disturbing parallels and censorship on campus

Israel is marching down a road well-trodden in Europe, the notion of a state composed of an elite destined to create a Greater State by driving out or eliminating the Other, those defined in terms that increasingly echo those uttered decades earlier in Europe.

But to accomplish this, the State of Israel needs to define those who oppose its policies as not anti-Israel but as racist.

Now certainly there are a fair number of folks who oppose the Israeli government who are racists, some of them with murderous intent.

But there are also a goodly number of Jews, especially in the United States, who don’t share the eliminationist sentiments of many in the Israel government.

One of the most effective measures used in recent decades to oppose oppressive governments has been the creation of boycotts and movements calling for divestment of investments in that state, along with official governmental sanctions.

A white minority government in South Africa brutally repressing black South Africans was brought to heel by similar movements after actions by Africans, some of them violent, failed to end the Apartheid regime.

Most nations of the world oppose the brutal repression and occasional open and overwhelming warfare used by the Israeli state to continue to suppress the people from whom that land that comprises the Israel state was seized by force of arms.

But Ziocons, the conservative Zionists who have come to dominate the argument in the United States, in part because of their influence with both major parties, have sought to criminalize and otherwise sanction legitimate actions of opposition to Israeli policies by American citizens and non-citizen residents.

Their goal is nothing less than creating a statutory equivalence between active, nonviolent opposition to the Israeli government and the loathesome antisemitism of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

The most recent convert to this form of extremism is the Board of Regents of the University of California., voting last month to declare anti-Zionism unacceptable on college campuses.

But support for the measure had been dwarfed by opposition before the measure was enacted, as the Los Angeles Times reported a weak earlier:

One letter signed by more than 130 UC faculty members supported naming anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism, saying students need guidance on “when healthy political debate crosses the line into anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and when legitimate criticism of Israel devolves into denying Israel’s right to exist.”

But another letter from more than 250 UC professors expressed fear that the proposed statement would restrict free speech and academic freedom to teach, debate and research about the complex and tumultuous history of Israel and the Zionist movement.

In a 23 March post for the Intercept, Robert Mackey described the rationale for adoption voiced by one of the Regents:

Before the vote on Wednesday, Bonnie Reiss, the vice chairwoman of the Board of Regents, argued that students opposed to Israeli policies, and those questioning the state’s unequal treatment of non-Jews, had fostered a dangerous environment for Jewish students by supporting the effort to pressure Israel to change its policies through a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, known as BDS.

It was necessary for the university to address anti-Semitism, Resiss said, because “members of the Muslim Student Association or Palestinians for Justice groups… that are anti-Israel have brought BDS resolutions” which have “created emotional debates.”

“Anti-Semitic acts against many in our Jewish community have resulted from the emotions over the debates over the BDS-Israel resolutions,” she insisted, without citing evidence of the linkage.

That the backlash against Israel on college campuses might be caused not by unreasoning hatred but by Israeli actions — like the ongoing blockade of Gaza, punctuated by three rounds of punishing airstrikes in the past seven years, the building of illegal, Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank, or the refusal to recognize the rights of Palestinians driven from their homes in 1948 to ever return — seems not to have occurred to students, faculty or politicians whose support for the Jewish state is unquestioning.

But not all Jews agree with the equivalence, as with journalist and author Max Blumenthal, interviewed here by Nadia Kanji for The Real News Network:

The Israel Lobby’s Growing Assault on Free Speech

From the transcript:

KANJI: So I wanted to ask you about this, because in the US, First Amendment free speech rights are one of the strongest in the world. In Canada there are hate speech laws which make it a sort of different ball game. So is there precedent for how they could go about attacking BDS by calling it hate speech, sort of like they’re trying to do in Canada right now?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, the precedent lies in other countries that have less protection for free speech, which really reveals the pro-Israel lobby as the greatest threat to free speech in the West. They’ve already triumphed in France through the Alliot memorandum, named after the former French justice minister, which is still enforced and has resulted in scores of pro-BDS organizers being brought to trial for their speech, for organizing in support of Palestinian equal rights. In the UK you’re seeing the conservative Cameron government attempt to pressure local town counsels, actually to forbid local town counsels from exercising their democratic right to divest from companies who do business in occupied Palestinian territory, and weapons companies. They’re basically attempting to prevent them from enacting other progressive measures.And you can see the smears of Jeremy Corbyn, and how Israel is being instrumentalized to break down progressive social movements across the West. In Canada, where you mentioned that there are hate speech laws, the government of Liberal Justin Trudeau has joined with the Conservatives to condemn BDS in an official resolution, condemning it as a form of anti-Semitic hate speech. [crosstalk] And so–

KANJI: [interceding]–Yeah, well he actually called it the new form of anti-semitism.

BLUMENTHAL: Yeah. Which is just, as I’ve said before, it’s absolutely disgusting, because they’re actually setting parameters on who can be a Jew. Now, what they’re doing in the US to limit speech and to create a free speech exception around Palestine is to force, attempt to force universities and even state houses to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that does away with traditional definitions of anti-Semitism which define it as discrimination against Jews as Jews, and re-orient it into discrimination against Israel, which is held up as the sole representative of world Jewry, according to this definition. It’s been conceived by an Israeli politician of the Likud party who’s a supporter of the settlement enterprise named Natan Sharansky, and he calls it the three-Ds definition, which is delegitimization and demonization of Israel. If you criticize Israel you’re an anti-Semite, according to this definition, and the pro-Israel lobby in the US has already forced the State Department to adopt this definition, and the University of California’s regents have just adopted the same definition, defining anti-Semitism as, defining anti-Zionism, a political perspective which is gaining in popularity among many Jews, I’m an anti-Zionist, as a form of anti-Semitism.So if an anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, then who is a Jew? According to this definition a Jew is necessarily a supporter of Israel, and anyone who stands outside those narrow ideological confines is not a Jew. So Gentile authorities, under pressure from the pro-Israel lobby, are defining what it means to be a Jew. That’s how dangerous it is. Beyond the free speech implications it has implications for the future of Jewish political organizing, and I think we’re going to see this division among Jews in the US grow much more stark, in a much more stark direction.

Quote of the day: It’s not like a video game

From Rory Fanning, former Army Ranger turned anti-war activist, writing in  Jacobin about a talk he gave to Chicago-area high school students:

“Is the military like Call of Duty?” one of the students asks, referring to a popular single-shooter video game.

“I’ve never played,” I respond. “Does it include kids who scream when their mothers and fathers are killed? Do a lot of civilians die?”

“Not really,” he says uncomfortably.

“Well, then it’s not realistic. Besides, you can turn off a video game. You can’t turn off war.”

A quiet settles over the room that even a lame joke of mine can’t break. Finally, after a silence, one of the kids suddenly says, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.”

Days of Revolt: America’s brutalizing ways of war

The latest edition of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English, features a joint interview of two American combat veterans who have seen first hand the brutalization and depersonalization integral to Uncle Sam’s imperial adventures’

Featured are Michael Hanes, a ten-year veteran of the US Marines Corps who served in Iraq as a member of the elite 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, the top echolon the the service’s special forces detachment, and Rory Fanning who served in Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion, that service’s original special warriors.

Both men have become peace activists and work on behalf of military veterans, and both see the brutality of America’s military engagements as the most essential recruiting tool for groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Why the Brutalized Become Brutal

From the transcript:

FANNING: Right, right. So we’d land in there. We’d put a bag over every military aged person?s head, whether they were a member of the Taliban or not, give the person who identified that person money, and then that person would also get that neighbor?s property.

So in a country with as much desperation and poverty as Afghanistan at the time, you’d do anything to put money or food on your family’s table and essentially that?s what we were doing. But we were also bringing people who had absolutely no stake in the fight into the war. And, so we were creating enemies, you know? I signed up after 9/11 to prevent another 9/11 from happening, but soon after arriving in Afghanistan I realized I was only creating the conditions for more terrorist attacks and it was a hard pill to swallow. I mean, we were essentially a bully, you know?

HEDGES: I mean worse than a bully, I mean, you know, we murder.

FANNING: Well we’d have a rocket land in our camp and we wouldn?t necessarily know where it came from. It came from that general direction over there. We’d call in a five-hundred pound bomb and it would land on a village. I mean, we know [because of] the International Physicians Against the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, that a million people have been killed around the world since 9/11. You know, we know, conservatively, that at least 80 percent of those people have been innocent civilians. So, I think to understand Brussels you have to get to the root of some of this stuff.

HEDGES: Yeah, and maybe Michael you can talk a little about some of your experience in Iraq.

HANES: Yes, well I mean, you know, the same thing with me, really. I was in the Iraq invasion and we pushed up into Baghdad and things [became], really, very real for me when we began to kick in doors, place charges in doors and rush into these homes and terrorize these people.

You know, I would say probably about 50 percent or more of the intel that we got was just dead wrong. Busting in these doors you come into a family?s house and there’s elderly women, young little girls, three, four years old, just screaming and horrific, just terrified to where they literally soil themselves. They pee their pants. And then, you know, you’re taking grandma and throwing her up against the wall and interrogating her. And that, you know, hits you right here. It hits you really hard.

And that’s when I began to ask myself, what the hell am I doing? You know? And then if you happen to be a young man in there, in your early twenties or anywhere in that range where you can carry a weapon, then just by mere association of being a young male, a possible insurgent, Saddam Fedayeen loyalist, whatever the case may be, you were taken out of the home and taken somewhere to be interrogated.

Is this the next Prime Minister of Iceland?

Birgitta Jónsdóttir. member of the Icleandic Althing [parliament] and founder of the Pirate Party. Via Wikipedia.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir. member of the Icleandic Althing [parliament] and founder of the Pirate Party. Via Wikipedia.

First up, while the media have reported that Iceland’s prime minister has resigned over the offshore banking scandal triggered by the massive leaks of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, there’s a new twist.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau [emphasis added]:

Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson said he was stepping aside following the largest anti-government protests in modern times in Iceland, a sign of the public anger over his family’s offshore holdings.

Iceland’s fisheries minister announced that Gunnlaugsson had stepped down, according to state broadcaster RUV.

In a statement late Tuesday, Gunnlaugsson’s office said he “has not resigned” and was merely stepping aside “for an unspecified amount of time” and would remain as chairman of his ruling Progressive Party. It said the party’s deputy leader, Sigurdur Ingi Jóhannsson, would take over as prime minister. Whether disgruntled Icelanders would allow Gunnlaugsson to return to the post in the future was far from clear.

But if his ouster becomes official, who’s his likely replacement?

Enter the poetician. . .

Here at esnl, we’ve been longtime fans of Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a poet and artist who cut her political teeth as a high-profile volunteer with Wikileaks, then moved on to electoral politics, forming two political parties and now heading the leading parliamentary power in the parliament that will soon meet to elect a new prime minister.

She heads the civil libertarian Pirate Party, one of the two she founded, and calls herself a poetician rather than a politician.

It’s fitting that the job is now vacant — ore nearly so — because of another leak, the massive document dump listing the clients of a Panamanian law firm specializing in setting up front to hide plutocratic wealth for government tax collectors.

From Judith Ehrlich, Oscar-nominated director of The Most Dangerous Man in America, Daniel Ellsberg & The Pentagon Papers, here’s a quick 2014 look at Jónsdóttir and some of her accomplishments:

The Mouse That Roared

Here’s what Jónsdóttir told the Sydney Morning Herald about the latest developments:

Birgitta Jonsdottir, ex Mullumbimby and Melbourne resident, former colleague of Julian Assange, now official ‘poetician’ for Iceland’s Pirate Party, admits with some surprise that she might be her country’s next prime minister.

“Statistically, that’s very possible,” she says. “But then, that is not my main goal.”


Ms Jonsdottir, a member of parliament for the Iceland’s Pirate Party, says Mr Gunnlaugsson had taken his colleagues by surprise with his visit to the president.

“He had not consulted with anybody and they were like so pissed off,” she said. “They did not conceal it, they were just seething.” They had then forced him to resign, she says.

“It’s been a really long day… this whole day was totally bizarre in so many different ways.”

To get an idea of the man whose job she stands to inherit, here’s what hapopened when a Swedish television report held his feet to the fire with questions about those offshore companies incorporated by those Panamanian money hiders.

From videos hahaha:

Iceland’s prime minister walks out of interview over tax haven question

Program notes:

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the prime minister of Iceland, walks out of an interview with Swedish television company SVT. Gunnlaugsson is asked about a company called Wintris, which he says has been fully declared to the Icelandic tax authority. Gunnlaugsson says he is not prepared to answer such questions and decides to discontinue the interview, saying: ‘What are you trying to make up here? This is totally inappropriate’

If you’d like to learn more about Jónsdóttir, here’s a link to a TedX talk she delivered last June. Her Twitter account is here.

UPDATE: Newsweek has just posted an essay by Jónsdóttir on her party’s sudden change in political fortunes, in which she writes:

Currently we are experiencing similar events to that which Iceland experienced in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. And yet we still don’t have a satisfactory system for holding those in power to account—other than standing outside the parliament and screaming it out loud.

The constitution we would implement was written by and for the people of Iceland in 2011 in response to the financial meltdown. It would include the separation of powers to prevent another economic collapse, while also reforming the way MPs are elected and judges are appointed. It is completely unacceptable that despite a referendum in 2012 that saw 67 percent of the electorate voting to put this new crowd-sourced constitution into law, it still hasn’t been.

It is difficult to say at this stage exactly what the complete ramifications of this scandal are, but it is obvious that our nation’s reputation will be severely damaged abroad, simply because we are the only Western European country with a sitting minister—let alone a prime minister—that has been directly implicated in this scandal.

If this was a comedy it would be funny but this is actually our head of state. This is not what Icelanders are like and this is not what Iceland is.