Amerikaz Most Wanted

Things are not going particularly well for President Obama. Not wanting to contribute to his troubles, there is an area where I think the president deserves a passionate defense: the recent contretemps over his iPod. Like most controversies in the news, this is extremely late. People offended by Jay-Z and Lil Wayne’s place on the presidential iPod should know that Obama betrayed a love for rap some 2½ years ago. On the morning after a particularly bruising debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton, then-Sen. Obama met with a throng of supporters, flipped off Sen. Clinton, and then brushed his shoulders off, a la Jay-Z.  

What do you think of rap? Has it been unfairly attacked for destroying family values?

By definition, rock & roll is rebel music, which means if it's not being criticized, it's probably not doing its job. I am troubled sometimes by the misogyny and materialism of a lot of rap lyrics, but I think the genius of the art form has shifted the culture and helped to desegregate music. Music was very segregated back in the Seventies and Eighties — you'll remember that when MTV first came on, it wasn't until Thriller that they played Michael.

I know Jay-Z. I know Ludacris. I know Russell Simmons. I know a bunch of these guys. They are great talents and great businessmen, which is something that doesn't get emphasized enough. It would be nice if I could have my daughters listen to their music without me worrying that they were getting bad images of themselves.

That was Barack Obama in Rolling Stone on June 25, 2008.

Obama came off as a thoughtful, mainstream listener of all kinds of music, including rap. While almost no one embraces the violent gangsterism of some rap, its more talented promulgators like Jay-Z, Tupac Shakur, and even Lil Wayne, to a degree, are enthralling figures. In other words, they spit catchy stuff.

There's more...

The Civilian and the General: he Reality Behind the McChrystal Interview Fall-Out

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            For a few days last week, the harpies of the extreme right assaulted the president of the United States for first considering, and then firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of allied forces in Afghanistan.

             In a 10-day interview with Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone, McChrystal and his senior aides poked fun or criticized almost every civilian in the highest levels of the chain of command, including the President, Vice-President, and National Security Advisor James L. Jones, former Marine Corps commandant who, an aide told the magazine, was a "clown." Another aide told Hastings that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) "turn up, have a meeting with [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful."

             Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and almost the entire tea bag movement supported McChrystal. They screeched that it was not McChrystal who should be fired but Obama for his war strategy. That would be the same strategy that was designed and executed by—Gen. McChrystal.

             This wasn’t the first time McChrystal was out of line. Previously, he tried to box in Obama. His tactic was not to be a part of a vigorous discussion with other military leaders and the Commander-in-Chief about the strategy in Afghanistan. He decided to just go to the media and "tell all," essentially begging the President to significantly increase troop presence in Afghanistan and widen the war, which has now lasted more than eight years. This is also the same general who we now know was one of the major players in covering up the cause of the death of former NFL millionaire star Pat Tillman who became an Army Ranger, and then was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. This is also the general who was in command of a task force that had 34 of its members disciplined for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

             McChrystal wasn't about to get any sympathy from his superiors. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had served George W. Bush prior to being asked to stay by President Obama, said that McChrystal "made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment." Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also supported the firing. But, it was the words of three leading senators who should have provided the beacon to the unenlightened of the reactionary right. In a joint statement, the senators said they had "the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation," but that his comments were "inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military." The three senators, all known hawks, were Joe Lieberman, an Independent; and Republicans John McCain, a former Navy captain; and Lindsey Graham, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

             For his part, Gen. McChrystal knew he was out of line. “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal said, and noted that he believed that in his 34-year military career, he "lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity [and what] is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."

             Of course, the attacking force on the right flank, who were silent when the Bush–Cheney administration choked the First Amendment rights of civilians, put both their brain cells together and claimed Obama was stifling free speech. Here's some constitutional law that will enlighten even the dimmest bulb. Freedom of speech, by law, does not extend to the military. That applies to privates as well as generals. The extreme right, which has proven embarrassing to true conservatives and the Republican party itself, apparently overlooked the fact that George W. Bush, while President, fired or marginalized senior officers for disagreeing with civilian policy. Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not get a usual second term after he not only challenged the Bush–Cheney Administration on its stand about torture and on Administration claims, later proven to be false, that Iran was supplying munitions to Iraqi insurgents. Sealing his fate, however, was his public belief that gays were immoral. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's Chief of Staff, had bluntly told the Senate Armed Forces committee in a mandated appearance that there were significant problems with the Bush–Cheney–Rumsfeld plan for the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. He retired without the customary recognition by civilian leadership. Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U.S. Central Command, was terminated for challenging the Bush–Cheney strategy that might have led to war with Iran. The reality that Shinseki and Fallon were eventually proven to be right was of little consequence. The President, in his role as Commander-in-Chief, has authority to discipline his senior officers for disagreeing with him, even privately.

             While President Obama, perhaps more than most of his predecessors, encourages debate and vigorous discussion, he couldn't have a field commander publically disagreeing with him. McChrystal’s statements, said the President, represent conduct that “undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system." It was a concept fully supported by Gen. George Washington before and during his presidency.  

             When the right-wing got tired of attacking President Obama, they attacked the messenger. Rolling Stone, they shrieked, wasn't even a good magazine. Gen. McChrystal shouldn't even have been talking to it. It was—you know—an entertainment magazine, thus proving how little they truly know about the media or journalism.

             The 24/7 cable news networks, ecstatic that they had a brief diversion from the Gulf Coast oil spill and athletes not kicking soccer balls into nets, for their part brought in all kinds of experts to spew opinions that sometimes seemed to make the pundits look brilliant by comparison.

             Somehow in all this orgasmic hyperbole, Fox's Gretchen Carlson told the "Fox and Friends" audience that being president involves making "these tough, huge, monumental decisions." But then she explained that the work of TV anchors—the real journalists, apparently—was similar to that of the president of the United States, since they have to make decisions on breaking news stories under near-battlefield conditions all the time, and "they would have to carry a story all along." This is the same news anchor who called Ted Kennedy a "hostile enemy" and whose own combat experience was restricted to fighting with double-sided tape to hold her swim suit intact during the Miss America competition.

             There is no question that President Obama needed to relieve Gen. McChrystal of his command or risk appearing to be weak and ineffective during wartime. But there are other realities. The extreme right wing, blinded by their venomous hatred of President Obama, used the words of Gen. McChrystal to bolster their attacks upon the President. The left-wing, already upset with the expansion of the war, piously screamed their support of the President, but only if he got rid of the "troublemaker."

             Lost in the war of words is the reality of who and what Stanley McChrystal is. He is a loyal American who grew up in a military family and who has siblings and in-laws who also were career soldiers. He is, by training and disposition, not a diplomat but a warrior, the kind you want on the front lines of any war. He was obviously frustrated by the lack of progress in Afghanistan, by a war that seemed to be doomed to failure no matter whose strategy was used, by an Afghani army and a civilian population that was easily compromised by warlords and the Taliban, by a country whose cash crop isn't grain but opium.

             McChrystal understands the military system; he has little understanding of civilians and the media. Perhaps in the field, he and his senior aides would have been more cautious than on a diplomatic mission in Paris and Berlin hotels and nightclubs, areas that invaded their comfort zone. He was poorly prepared and ill-advised about being so open when talking to a reporter who had a notepad, a tape recorder, and made clear the rules of the interview. For a junior officer to make these mistakes is understandable; but, a four-star general should have known better. And that, not his words, was his downfall.

 [Among Walter Brasch's 17 books are Sinking the Ship of State, an investigation of the Bush–Cheney administration; and Sex and the Single Beer Can, a humorous and sometimes sarcastic look into the mass media. Both are available at amazon.com and other stores.]

 

 

 

Speaker Pelosi, War Funding Next Week is No "Emergency"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is committed to passing an emergency war supplemental before the July Fourth recess, Roll Call reports.

Let us be perfectly clear, as President Obama might say. There is no "emergency" requiring the House to throw another $33 billion into our increasingly bloody and pointless occupation of Afghanistan before we all go off to celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from foreign occupation.

There's more...

Busted: McChrystal Was a Big Show, Cover for War Vote

As we hear more of the breathless fallout over the McChrystal interview and his staff's foot-in-mouth, you might want to keep in mind the following fact: McChrystal was given the chance to voice objections to the controversial parts of the Rolling Stone article in which drunken aides were quoted, but he signed off anyway.

GlobeNews24.com reports:

"Eric Bates, the magazine’s editor, said during an interview on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" that McChrystal was informed of the quotes prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone's standard fact-checking process — and that the general did not object to or dispute any of the reporting.  Asked if McChrystal pushed back on the story, Bates responded: "No, absolutely not."  "We ran everything by them in the fact-checking process as we always do," the Rolling Stone editor said.

McChrytal then offered his resignation before Obama ever asked for it, and headed for the White House after being summoned by the reportedly "angry" president.

Wait a minute, Let me get this straight.  McChrystal was given the chance to voice objections to his aides' "shitfaced" comments but didn't say, "uh, these guys were drunk.  I know you are a fair publication so can some of this be off the record?"  Other comments made during the now famous bus ride were made after agreement that they be off the record, so the situation would have called for cutting a little slack, at least as far as the "gotchas."


Now it sounds as if it may have been more like: "hey, you forgot the good one about "bite me.""

So what's really going on here?  Are we to believe the explosiveness of these remarks would have escaped someone who has risen to the top of an organization known for some of the most vicious political infighting in the world? What did McChrystal apologize for?  For staff making the remarks?  Or for him approving them? It is interesting that the aides are never associated by name for their remarks, thus shielding them from an Article 88.  

The popular narrative of the party boys getting all chummy with the ruthless reporter they shouldn't have trusted in the first place, then waking up with headaches to see their boss being summoned by the president, falls apart.

Which leaves us with the possibility that this is a show made for the lunkheads in Peoria, to borrow from Mark Twain. I've been had.  I was getting caught up in all this civilian versus military control stuff too.  It precedes an impending vote on war funding which is making the politicians nervous, judging by how long it is taking them to take the vote. Retiring Chairman of the key House Appropriations Committee David Obey has so far kept the funds bottled up, and is starting to look like the anti-war tactician he began his career as, when he came into Congress as an anti-Vietnam War maverick.   It's in the Appropriations Committee's hands now.  (House Appropriations Committee Members)

The bill is laced with many crucial and necessary funds for good program, what peace activists call the "lipstick on the pig" gambit.   The good things need to be separated into another bill, so the war in Afghanistan can get a clean up-or-down vote.  

The mime lays bare what should be clear to most people by now: the policy in Afghanistan is there ain't no policy, except to keep it going.
 Fewer civilian casualties?  More American casualties.  More firepower and more civilian casualties?  More hatred, more Taliban.  As Cindy Sheehan, who first noticed the McChrystal contradiction, writes, the little play we just witnessed is an admission that the war is officially "FUBAR."
"

FUBAR: Military slang for: Fu#ked Up Beyond All/Any Repair/Recognition. FUBAR also has a close military acronym: SNAFU: Situation Normal All Fu#ked Up."

MacBeth, er, McChrystal, the Movie, was along the lines of a considered strategy called "Somebody do something!"  It goes: "Somebody do something!" -- "What?" -- "ANYTHING! We've got a war vote coming up and it's got to look like something's happening!"  

Think our august chamber of Congress couldn't possibly be this vacuous, this shallow when the lives of young Americans hang in the balance?  Not to mention thousands of Afghans, not to mention hundred upon hundreds of billions of your tax dollars which could be used for something else?  The same people who are itching to approve war funding just turned down an extension of unemployment benefits.  

Nope.  Where that money is going is fittin' and proper.  Into the hands of Halliburton and Dyncorp, Xe-Blackwater and General Dynamics, who all pony up quite nicely at election time, thank you.

Sheehan writes:

"All of this posturing and speechifying is nothing but a distraction from the fact that our economy is FUBAR, the Gulf of Mexico is FUBAR, the wars are FUBAR..."

All for a war, people now realize, which could be won for the cost of a few months of military spending in the beginning, for carefully-targeted, Afghan-led jobs and development programs.  This takes advantage of the fact that almost nobody in Afghanistan really wants to fight, or even likes the Taliban.  But if you plop a bunch of foreigners in those foreigner-type uniforms in the middle of a valley, by gosh, they just wouldn't be Afghans if they didn't take a few shots.  Nothing personal.

It is no exaggeration: some remote Afghans have been quoted as asking "which ones are those?" of soldiers in the distance.  Not as in -- are those Dutch or Americans?  But as in, I thought the Russians were gone. British?  They're still here?  I thought we threw them out.

The official policy for Afghanistan is to keep the money flowing no matter what is happening.  That's as much of a policy as there is.
This has nothing to do with COIN, COUNT or anything of the kind.  This has to do with $$$$.  The McChrystal fiasco was theater because the war is theater, a very deadly kind.  The good guys against the bad guys in the fourth poorest country in the world where anyone will fight for whomever pays.  

The fear that if we withdraw, there will be civil war, instability, and possibly a Taliban takeover, is overblown.   What this neglects is the lingering hatred of the Taliban, even among ordinary Pashtuns.  But young men will fight for the ten-dollar-a-day wage in the vacuum of 40 percent unemployment and widespread hunger.  The UN estimates 35% of Afghans are malnourished as well as 40% of children.  Yes, the local Taliban also serves as an outlet for expressing traditional Afghan dislike for foreign occupation.

Unlike in 1992, Afghans are weary to death of war.  Targeted, cash-for-work jobs programs, countrywide, for a couple of years, building basic infrastructure would make warlords irrelevant, as young men drift away and seek to feed their families in less risky ways.  We don't do nation-building?  Too expensive?  We've already spent $250 billion on military operations in a country whose entire GDP is $12 billion a year.  

Most Afghans want both sons and daughters to learn to read.  There are many areas of Afghanistan, such as in the north, where security is far less of a problem.  Wouldn't you know it?  These are the areas that are most ignored for jobs and development, since that would be addressing a problem before it arose, instead of after.  Farsightedness has never been one of the strong points of American foreign policy.  

For whatever the true reasons for the 2001 invasion, whether to fight Al Qaeda or to monopolize an oil pipeline, troops could have been on their way out by now, and stability assured, had the U.S. come through on even a fraction of the assistance it has been promising since Zbigniew Bzrezenski first salivated at the chance to draw the Soviets into "their own Vietnam."  Instead, the assistance has gone to foreign contractors who keep half the money in profits, even though other conduits are now available.

The diversion is important, but we need to tell Congress that it didn't work.  At this moment there are thousands upon thousands of unemployed men lining the street corners in Kabul, the most secure city, still waiting for Western promises to be kept.  The vehicles for Afghan-led development, budding Afghan institutions, and civil society actors independent of the Karzai government, consisting of honest and dedicated technocrats who will be doing the work long after the Karzai and other governments have come and gone, are now in place.  We should insist that Congress deny the Pentagon funding for anything but orderly withdrawal, the way the Vietnam War was ended, and carefully targeted civilian assistance.  This kind of peace plan would cost far less than 10% of what we dump into military operations, year after year, to no avail.  Jobs and development for ordinary Afghans which will put an end to this murderous theater.  No more war for these people, just help.  Amen.

To see how your congressman has indicated he or she would vote if the war funding bill is released from committee, go to AfterDowningStreet.org's WHIP WARS.


CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN

 

 

Busted: McChrystal Was a Big Show, Cover for War Vote

As we hear more of the breathless fallout over the McChrystal interview and his staff's foot-in-mouth, you might want to keep in mind the following fact: McChrystal was given the chance to voice objections to the controversial parts of the Rolling Stone article in which drunken aides were quoted, but he signed off anyway.

GlobeNews24.com reports:

"Eric Bates, the magazine’s editor, said during an interview on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" that McChrystal was informed of the quotes prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone's standard fact-checking process — and that the general did not object to or dispute any of the reporting.  Asked if McChrystal pushed back on the story, Bates responded: "No, absolutely not."  "We ran everything by them in the fact-checking process as we always do," the Rolling Stone editor said.

McChrytal then offered his resignation before Obama ever asked for it, and headed for the White House after being summoned by the reportedly "angry" president.

Wait a minute, Let me get this straight.  McChrystal was given the chance to voice objections to his aides' "shitfaced" comments but didn't say, "uh, these guys were drunk.  I know you are a fair publication so can some of this be off the record?"  Other comments made during the now famous bus ride were made after agreement that they be off the record, so the situation would have called for cutting a little slack, at least as far as the "gotchas."


Now it sounds as if it may have been more like: "hey, you forgot the good one about "bite me.""

So what's really going on here?  Are we to believe the explosiveness of these remarks would have escaped someone who has risen to the top of an organization known for some of the most vicious political infighting in the world? What did McChrystal apologize for?  For staff making the remarks?  Or for him approving them? It is interesting that the aides are never associated by name for their remarks, thus shielding them from an Article 88.  

The popular narrative of the party boys getting all chummy with the ruthless reporter they shouldn't have trusted in the first place, then waking up with headaches to see their boss being summoned by the president, falls apart.

Which leaves us with the possibility that this is a show made for the lunkheads in Peoria, to borrow from Mark Twain. I've been had.  I was getting caught up in all this civilian versus military control stuff too.  It precedes an impending vote on war funding which is making the politicians nervous, judging by how long it is taking them to take the vote. Retiring Chairman of the key House Appropriations Committee David Obey has so far kept the funds bottled up, and is starting to look like the anti-war tactician he began his career as, when he came into Congress as an anti-Vietnam War maverick.   It's in the Appropriations Committee's hands now.  (House Appropriations Committee Members)

The bill is laced with many crucial and necessary funds for good program, what peace activists call the "lipstick on the pig" gambit.   The good things need to be separated into another bill, so the war in Afghanistan can get a clean up-or-down vote.  

The mime lays bare what should be clear to most people by now: the policy in Afghanistan is there ain't no policy, except to keep it going.
 Fewer civilian casualties?  More American casualties.  More firepower and more civilian casualties?  More hatred, more Taliban.  As Cindy Sheehan, who first noticed the McChrystal contradiction, writes, the little play we just witnessed is an admission that the war is officially "FUBAR."
"

FUBAR: Military slang for: Fu#ked Up Beyond All/Any Repair/Recognition. FUBAR also has a close military acronym: SNAFU: Situation Normal All Fu#ked Up."

MacBeth, er, McChrystal, the Movie, was along the lines of a considered strategy called "Somebody do something!"  It goes: "Somebody do something!" -- "What?" -- "ANYTHING! We've got a war vote coming up and it's got to look like something's happening!"  

Think our august chamber of Congress couldn't possibly be this vacuous, this shallow when the lives of young Americans hang in the balance?  Not to mention thousands of Afghans, not to mention hundred upon hundreds of billions of your tax dollars which could be used for something else?  The same people who are itching to approve war funding just turned down an extension of unemployment benefits.  

Nope.  Where that money is going is fittin' and proper.  Into the hands of Halliburton and Dyncorp, Xe-Blackwater and General Dynamics, who all pony up quite nicely at election time, thank you.

Sheehan writes:

"All of this posturing and speechifying is nothing but a distraction from the fact that our economy is FUBAR, the Gulf of Mexico is FUBAR, the wars are FUBAR..."

All for a war, people now realize, which could be won for the cost of a few months of military spending in the beginning, for carefully-targeted, Afghan-led jobs and development programs.  This takes advantage of the fact that almost nobody in Afghanistan really wants to fight, or even likes the Taliban.  But if you plop a bunch of foreigners in those foreigner-type uniforms in the middle of a valley, by gosh, they just wouldn't be Afghans if they didn't take a few shots.  Nothing personal.

It is no exaggeration: some remote Afghans have been quoted as asking "which ones are those?" of soldiers in the distance.  Not as in -- are those Dutch or Americans?  But as in, I thought the Russians were gone. British?  They're still here?  I thought we threw them out.

The official policy for Afghanistan is to keep the money flowing no matter what is happening.  That's as much of a policy as there is.
This has nothing to do with COIN, COUNT or anything of the kind.  This has to do with $$$$.  The McChrystal fiasco was theater because the war is theater, a very deadly kind.  The good guys against the bad guys in the fourth poorest country in the world where anyone will fight for whomever pays.  

The fear that if we withdraw, there will be civil war, instability, and possibly a Taliban takeover, is overblown.   What this neglects is the lingering hatred of the Taliban, even among ordinary Pashtuns.  But young men will fight for the ten-dollar-a-day wage in the vacuum of 40 percent unemployment and widespread hunger.  The UN estimates 35% of Afghans are malnourished as well as 40% of children.  Yes, the local Taliban also serves as an outlet for expressing traditional Afghan dislike for foreign occupation.

Unlike in 1992, Afghans are weary to death of war.  Targeted, cash-for-work jobs programs, countrywide, for a couple of years, building basic infrastructure would make warlords irrelevant, as young men drift away and seek to feed their families in less risky ways.  We don't do nation-building?  Too expensive?  We've already spent $250 billion on military operations in a country whose entire GDP is $12 billion a year.  

Most Afghans want both sons and daughters to learn to read.  There are many areas of Afghanistan, such as in the north, where security is far less of a problem.  Wouldn't you know it?  These are the areas that are most ignored for jobs and development, since that would be addressing a problem before it arose, instead of after.  Farsightedness has never been one of the strong points of American foreign policy.  

For whatever the true reasons for the 2001 invasion, whether to fight Al Qaeda or to monopolize an oil pipeline, troops could have been on their way out by now, and stability assured, had the U.S. come through on even a fraction of the assistance it has been promising since Zbigniew Bzrezenski first salivated at the chance to draw the Soviets into "their own Vietnam."  Instead, the assistance has gone to foreign contractors who keep half the money in profits, even though other conduits are now available.

The diversion is important, but we need to tell Congress that it didn't work.  At this moment there are thousands upon thousands of unemployed men lining the street corners in Kabul, the most secure city, still waiting for Western promises to be kept.  The vehicles for Afghan-led development, budding Afghan institutions, and civil society actors independent of the Karzai government, consisting of honest and dedicated technocrats who will be doing the work long after the Karzai and other governments have come and gone, are now in place.  We should insist that Congress deny the Pentagon funding for anything but orderly withdrawal, the way the Vietnam War was ended, and carefully targeted civilian assistance.  This kind of peace plan would cost far less than 10% of what we dump into military operations, year after year, to no avail.  Jobs and development for ordinary Afghans which will put an end to this murderous theater.  No more war for these people, just help.  Amen.

To see how your congressman has indicated he or she would vote if the war funding bill is released from committee, go to AfterDowningStreet.org's WHIP WARS.


CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN

 

 

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