Archive for the On Foreign Affairs Category

In Suppressing Hong Kong Protestors

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , on October 26, 2014 by playthell
Hong Kong Demnstrations II 
A Mass Demonstration in Hong Kong

 China is really aiming at the Elephant in the Bushes!

When China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong from British rule in 1997 – the city had been annexed by Britain and turned into a Crown Colony in (give date) – they didn’t envision the probability of the kind of mass demonstrations they are facing today; the implications of which spell real trouble for mainland China. Hence I would argue that the strategy employed by the Chinese Communist Party leadership in suppressing the “pro-democracy” movement led by students is really intended to send a message to the rest of China that mass demonstrations will gain them nothing.

In accepting the Basic Law, which amounts to a mini-constitution tailored for Hong Kong under which the city would be governed, the Chinese government announced a unique philosophy of governance based on a two tiered policy: “One Country two Systems.”  This policy was intended to reassure the banks and other financial institutions – the most powerful in Asia – located in the rich and beautiful sea side city that they had nothing to worry about from the Communist Party that ruled the mainland with an iron fist and promoted policies that are anathema to “free market” capitalism.

The Chinese rulers made it clear however, that there would be no attempt to nationalize the “private sector” that had generated so much wealth; indeed they would use it as an engine for generating foreign exchange and an instrument for financing business deals with the capitalist economies.  In other words they viewed the business acumen of Hong Kong as a boon to China’s paramount objective: to achieve a high degree of economic development and modernization in the shortest possible time.

China’s domestic and foreign policy is directed toward this aim. We can readily observe this in their policies on family planning as well as their foreign policy of strict non-interference in the affairs of other countries and their steadfast refusal to become involved in foreign military adventures, while building a formidable technological infrastructure designed to propel their economy into a dominant force in the 21st century, and a military machine that makes an invasion of China unthinkable!

The Chinese communist have shown a unique ability to tailor Marxist dogma to Chinese realities going back to Mao Tse Tung’s scrapping of a fundamental tenet of Marxist/Leninist analysis: that the industrial proletariat is the historically appointed class to lead the socialist revolution.  Instead Mao decided that in China, a quasi-feudal pre-capitalist society with no industrial proletariat to speak of, the revolutionary peasantry would assume the historic task of leading China to socialism. For Marxist this was like denying the theory of evolution to biologists; for the Marxist believes Marxism to be as scientific a method of analyzing the “laws of society” as biology is for analyzing the living world.  In fact, Frederick Engles – a biologist, close intellectual comrade and patron of Karl Marx – argued as much.

The adoption of a policy of allowing a bastion of unfettered capitalism to exist under the rule of a communist party was viewed as no less a heretical act by doctrinaire Marxist.  But as in the beginning the Chinese continue to shape Marxist theory to fit Chinese realities, rather than follow the Russian model of “dismissing reality when it didn’t fit our theories,” which the official ideological advisor to former premier Andropov gave as the major reason for the collapse of Russian communism.   I would argue that this willingness to adjust to reality and innovate is the major reason for the spectacular success of the Chinese Communist Party in converting China from a footstool of the western capitalist nations into a world power in just 66 years!   It also explains why they are still in power even as their would-be Russian Communist “tutors” have receded into history.

By any objective measure – i.e. free of ideological considerations – this is a remarkable achievement.  As I have written elsewhere, I believe the Chinese Communist Revolution is the greatest mass transformative movement in history.   However the Chinese Communist Party is now faced with an unintended consequence of their reclamation of Hong Kong, a spontaneous mass uprising demanding an unfettered democratic process where those who would rule over the people of Hong Kong must have the consent of the governed achieved through popular elections!

In the Basic Law governing Hong Kong agreed to by the Chinese government 19 years ago, the people were given the right to choose their officials through universal suffrage i.e. one person one vote. The present dispute centers around how the candidates will be selected.  The masses of people who have turned out in the pro-democracy demonstrations, led by Student Federation, just like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the fight for Afro-American voter rights in the American south during the 1960’s, insist that the candidates who stand for office should be also selected by a popular vote like the US primary elections.

However the Leader of Hong Kong’s government C. Y. Leung, whose official position is Chief Executive and is backed by the Chinese government in Peking, views the matter differently.  Leung firmly supports the selection process now in place in which a selection committee appointed by Chinese premier Xi Ping will screen and pick the candidates for whom the people of Hong Kong may vote.  Ironically, despite all of the self-righteous chatter from the US State Department, this process resembles the “white primaries” that shaped racial politics in the American South which maintained “white supremacy” based on a legal racial caste system well into the twentieth century, in which black Americans could only choose between pre-selected white racist candidates.

And notwithstanding US denunciations of the Chinese interpretation of “universal suffrage,” the recent Supreme Court decision in “Citizen’s United” will increasingly have the effect of offering up candidates that have been pre-selected by the plutocrats.  Thus one could argue that in essence these two systems of selecting candidates represent a distinction without a real difference: Both are the antithesis of popular democracy. It took a mass movement to attain true universal suffrage in all regions of the US, in which blood was shed and lives were lost as a result of a collaboration between government and white terrorists, which bears a shocking resemblance to the goons now attacking the pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong who appear to have covert government backing.

On Tuesday representatives of the Hong Kong government sat down with leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students to explore the possibility of devising a solution to the crisis.  Alas, based on the statements issued by both sides to the press at the end of their meetings they were like Jack the Bear, made some tracks but got nowhere.  CEO Leung decided to play past the powowaltogether and dispatched his second in command, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who offered the following statement to the press.  “”We should work within the system and enhance the transparency and competitiveness of the system as a whole.  This is a good opportunity and a meaningful dialogue. I hope the community will stay united.”

The student leaders made it abundantly clear that they weren’t buying what the government was selling.  Like all people who are about serious business Alex Chow wanted to establish a time table for reaching specific decisions.  To him this went right to the heart of the matter: deeds not words.   He asked: “Why did people come out? People felt like they had no choice. They had to come out and make their voices heard.”  Secretary Lam assured them that the government heard the voices of the students and added, “But no matter how lofty the sentiments, you must take legal means.”  This is evidently the party line issued from Peking because the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said almost the same thing to American Secretary of State John Kerry at a their recent meeting in the US.

However the Hong Kong students, just like the members of SNCC during Freedom Summer 1964, feel that the law does not address their just grievances and therefore they must petition the government for redress through mass protests by the citizenry.  The resemblance to the US student movement is uncanny.  For instance student leaders, led by their Secretary General Chow, even showed for the meeting with government officials dressed in black T shirts with a favorite slogan of SNCC “Freedom Now!” emblazoned across the front.

And like Afro-American students in the far more oppressive and murderous environment of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, et al – the entire southern half of the USA – the Hong Kong students are willing to pay the price for speaking truth to power. Lester Shum, an aide de camp to Mr. Chow, asked some poignant questions that went straight to the heart of the matter. “”Why are we willing to be arrested? Why are we willing to camp out for 24 days? Why are we willing to bear the risk of being tear gassed, smashed on the head with batons?   We just want the right for democracy.”

When Secretary Lam assured the student leaders that she was compiling a through report on all that has transpired since the demonstrations began, Mr. Chow asked “What concrete change will this report lead to?  Will it help lead to adjustment of the framework or the future direction of legislative council elections?”  His question went unanswered, and thus the stalemate.  However the students can garner some encouragement from the fact that four high ranking members of the government did meet with them to discuss their grievances, and it was broadcast live on television from an auditorium at the Hong Kong  college of medicine and many of the seven million residents of the city tuned in.

Yet when all is said and done the students did not achieve any of their demands from the government, all they got was hollow promises and spurious rhetoric. Hence when viewed in the light of present realities in Chinese politics I fear that the student movement is doomed to defeat.  If the issue was merely a matter of Hong Kong politics perhaps Peking could find a way to accommodate the student’s demands; it would be considered the price of peace.

But they will not make concessions to the demonstrators at the expense of destabilizing the mainland, which they justifiably fear would demonstrate to the billion and a half citizens across the vast expanse of China that government policies can be influenced by mass action.  That is the danger that Peking fears most.   They have witnessed the fall of the Russian Communist Party, and watched numerous well entrenched authoritarian governments all across the Middle-East collapse like paper tigers during the “Arab Spring,” and they do not intend to follow them into oblivion.

When we look at the major ally of the Communist Party in thwarting the popular democratic movement in Hong Kong, we find eloquent testimony to the enduring veracity of Lenin’s axiom: “politics makes strange bedfellows.”  For next to the Communist Party the folks who most want to crush the movement for a wider democracy through universal suffrage are the Hong Kong capitalist elites.  Consider the opinions of CEO Leung Chun Ying regarding true universal suffrage.  After making it abundantly clear that he had no intention of stepping down from his high office, despite student demands, and that he fully supported the committee method of selecting his successor, he offered some candid opinion.

According to the New York Times CEO Leung said: “You have to take care of all the sectors in Hong Kong as much as you can.  And if it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.  Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”  Shades of Marie Antoinette and Mitt Romney; these gluttonous cretins seem to always be the same wherever they pop up on the historical stage, which exonerates the insights and lends gravitas to CLR James axiom: “The rich can only be trusted when they are running for their lives.”

The Chinese communist understand this well as adherents to the communist vision of Marx, but they have made yet another deviation from classical Marxist dogma in their brazen collaboration with the class enemy in order to achieve a larger goal: maintaining the stability of Mainland China so that they can continue a steady march on the path to rapid modernization. Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who is considered the “Paramount Leader” – a title formerly reserved for the late father of New China Mao Tse Tung – is committed to the belief that in order for China to effectively carry out its modernization program the Party must be firmly in charge of the nation’s affairs. He has left no doubt that the Party leadership is totally committed to achieving their goals by any means necessary.  Hence when weighed against maintaining a stable disciplined society, crushing the Hong Kong student movement is no big deal.

 The Chinese are building a 21st Century Infrastructure
 Beijing_Capital_International_Airport_200908
American businessmen marvel over this Airport with high speed trains

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Playthell G. Benjamin

October 24, 2014

Turkey Fiddles While Kobani Burns

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on October 9, 2014 by playthell
kobane Burns
ISISL’S Scorched Earth Policy

 On the Anatomy of a Bloody Quagmire

As I write, President Obama is meeting with his military advisors to discuss US strategy in the war against ISISL, which is on the verge of capturing yet another city and annexing it into their newly formed Caliphate under the ruthless leadership of Caliph Ibrahim – a radical Muslim theologian who regards himself as a soldier of Allah.   It’s a sure bet that anyone with an affection for puzzles, make believe, and games of self-deception would be mightily entertained by the proceedings when Barack meets with his war counselors.

It is obvious to any candid observer well acquainted with the realities of the Sunni Jihad in Syria and Iraq, and the Caliphate they have established,  in an area that includes land from both countries which they intend to extend from Damascus to Baghdad, that the present American policy will not work.  In fact, it is more than fair to say that in the fight with ISISL the US is working at cross-purposes with itself.

There are so many contradictions among the various forces fighting in Iraq and Syria that as the bullets continue to fly, the conflict will increasingly resemble a circular firing squad!  For instance the coalition that could quickly and efficiently wipe out ISISL would include Iran, Turkey and the Kurds, led by US airpower and intelligence.  Since they are the ones directly menaced these countries should supply the main ground forces, with whatever number of American advisors they require on the ground.

But President Obama has repeatedly pledged not to put “American boots on the ground” in any of these countries.  Furthermore identifying an effective coalition is one thing, while being able to forge a working alliance is quite another.  The problem in the present instance is that there are longstanding grievances between the various parties who would make up the coalition, and the kind of wise statesmanship based on realpolitik that the situation demands is sadly lacking.

Alas, since the United States has taken an ironclad position that Iran is our mortal enemy, no alliance can be made with them.  Yet it is the US that has repeatedly launched aggressive actions against Iran, who has no history of aggression against the US, while Iran and the US both share a vital national interest in destroying ISISL.  It is all too clear that eschewing an alliance with Iran is a shortsighted view of diplomacy that may yet prove disastrous, for the paramount US objective in the region is the defeat of the ISISL Caliphate.  Yet as I write the Jihadist forces are advancing on every front.  They are literally at the Turkish border.  However the Turks are content to park their tanks on the hills above Kabone in a show of force while ISISL wreaks havoc below.  Pleas from the Kurds for the Turks to engage ISISL and prevent them from taking the city have thus far fallen on deaf ears. In fact Turkish President Erdogan has said on record that he considers the PKK, the Kurds’ major militia that the US is now arming, to be just as much a group of terrorists as ISISL   The US formerly shared that view.

 Turkish Tanks cover the Hills
Turkis Tanks on Hill above Kabone
All Show and No Go

As of Thursday morning the Turks have refused to engage ISISL Knowledgeable observers of events in the region believe that ISISL forces will soon occupy Kobane because American airstrikes are ineffective in preventing it.  This is largely due to the fact that ISISL forces are now mixed with the civilian populace, which limits the use of bombs lest the US end up killing more innocent people and winning more recruits for the Jihad.

However the hesitation of the Turks is largely due to the fact that they do not wish to see the Kurds armed with state of the art weapons, because the Turks have been engaged in a long standing fight against the creation of an independent Kurdistan.  It also explains why the Turks have blocked the Kurds from using Turkish territory as a thoroughfare to ferry men and materials needed for the fight against ISISL in Kobane, despite the swelling chorus calling for them to do more in the effort to defeat the Jihadists.  But the Turks reply that they see no need to get involved in “a fight between two terrorist groups.”

Furthermore, the US’s stated objective is defeating ISISL but the Turks are also interested in defeating the Assad regime in Syria, which is not part of the US Mission, although the Obama Administration is on record as opposing that regime.   However by opposing ISISL, al Qaeda, the al Nuesra Front and any other offshoots of the radical Sunni Islamists, the US is an objective ally of the Assad regime who also oppose these same forces.  Hence when we consider the main US plan of action which is to arm and train a ragtag force of military novices called “The Free Syrian Army,” whose paramount objective is to defeat the Assad regime, there is not much room for optimism.

Lest we forget, the US spent a decade training the Iraqi National Army and equipping them with top shelf American weaponry, but in their first real battle against ISISL four divisions fled like terrified school boys and left all of their weapons in the field!  Those weapons are now part of ISISL’s arsenal. The question begged by this recent history is: What makes American military planners believe the “Free Syrian Army” – which it is estimated will be ready to take the field in a year – shall fare any better against ISISL forces?   One does not need a crystal ball to see the future here: Any weapons the US supplies to the so-called “Free Syrian Army” are destined to end up in the hands of the Jihadists.

This will make ISISL forces even harder to defeat as they become firmly ensconced within the territory they have claimed for the caliphate; which means that those tasked with extracting them could end up on the job for a long time.  In testimony before the House Committee on Armed Services on July 29th 2014, Dr. Stephen Biddle, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, argued that there was little hope for an Iraqi “government offensive able to regain control over ISIL-occupied areas in the old Sunni Triangle.   Even U.S. Army and Marine forces with massive air support found these areas difficult to control before 2008; this goal will remain beyond the Government of Iraq’s reach for a long time to come. “

Referring to the statistical data regarding civil wars like those in Iraq and Syria Dr. Biddle testified to the committee “Wars of this kind are rarely short. Of 128 civil wars fought between 1945 and 2004, only one-fourth ended within two years. Datasets vary slightly with war definitions and other details, but most put the median duration of such wars at 7-10 years, with an important minority of conflicts dragging on for a generation or more.”  Hence when critics of US policy aimed at “eradicating ISIL”  refer to it as a new  “thirty year war,” such as longtime conservative pundit and presidential advisor Pat Buchannan, they are not just engaging in anti-Obama hyperbole.

In view of these grim realities the US appears to be trapped in a quagmire from which there is no foreseeable road to victory, and no acceptable path of retreat.  It is as if the entire Middle East is a giant quicksand pit in which US forces – like our dreams for a peaceful, prosperous, stable and pro-American region –  are trapped and slowly sinking.  Alas, despite America’s air strikes Kobane burns from ISISL’s fire while our allies the Turks – who possess a formidable military arsenal of almost 4000 tanks and hundreds of aircraft – fiddle away on the hillsides and watch the action as two “terrorist” groups slaughter each other.  In fact the blase Turks wonder what all the American anxiety is about.  “The civilians have all fled Kobane,” said a spokesman for the Turkish government, “there is no tragedy here.”

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 9, 2014

 

 

Dead Men Walking!  

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on September 28, 2014 by playthell

Arab supporters of US against ISIL- Dead Mem Walking

Arab Leaders Allied with the US in Fight against ISIL

 Secular Princes and Powers are marked men among the Jihadists

Much is being made of the fact that the leading Sunni Arab nations have joined a US led coalition formed to fight and destroy the ISIL Caliphate that has seized control of large portions of the territory of Iraq and Syria.  Under the leadership of Caliph Ibrahim – aka Abubakari al Baghdadi – they have instituted Sharia Law in the conquered territory, which is larger than Massachusetts and devised a system for raising revenues by selling oil and ancient treasures on the black market.

They are estimated to have a treasury of a two billion dollars, and are prepared to defend the boundaries of the Caliphate with state of the art American weaponry seized from a fleeing Iraqi army.  This is no hit and run affair that is typical of terrorist groups, the leaders of ISIL regard themselves as pioneers, holy warriors establishing a 21st century Caliphate based on Caliphates of the middle ages, when Islamic civilization was the marvel of the world.

Caliph Ibrahim may be a madman but he is no light-weight; he holds an undergraduate degree in history and a doctorate in Sharia Law.  He is also a poet.  Before the US invaded Iraq he was an Islamic scholar and Imam; after the invasion he became a part of the Sunni resistance movement and was captured by US forces.  He was released after four years of imprisonment and turned over to the Iraqi government, who later released him.  But during his incarceration he met seasoned al Qaeda militants and was tutored in the techniques of terror.    Thus by the time of his release he had become such a committed holy warrior an American Army officer remembers him smirking and saying :”See you guys in New York.”  I bet they wish they had capped him now!  As the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq was devastated, al Baghdadi rose up the ranks and eventually became the most powerful commander of the Iraqi insurgency.

 

Holy Warrior: Caliph Ibrahim of ISIL

 Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi-Al-Qaeda-Iraq-ISIS-400x330

 The Self-proclaimed “Leader of all Muslims”

 He has broken with the central command of Al Qaeda claiming they are too  passive and denounced HAMAS for seeking a cease fire with Israel, despite the shellacking they were taking.  Disgusted with what he precieves as the timidity of the Muslim world in the face of insult and injury from the western world and the transgressions of their Zionist agents, he went on to set up his own caliphate on territory that straddles Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic Caliphate of Iraq Syria and the Levant is governed by strict Sharia Law and practices from the  Islamic Caliphate of the 8th century’  Music is banned and all women are forced to wear veils – indeed they are flogged for “immodesty” and the mere suspicion of adultery, which could result in stoning if she is found guilty.  Thieves have their hands cut off, drinking or smoking are banned, and those who do not submit to Allah and their version of the Koran or profess a belief in Christianity, Judaism and even the Shiite version of Islam will be crucified.  ISIL has routinely destroyed many beautiful and ancient Shiite Mosques, which prompted the Leader of Iran to denounce them as godless barbarians promoting a fake version of Islam.

ISIL is the most vicious organization the Jihadi movement has produced thus far, being too radical even for al Qaeda!  Leaders throughout the Muslim world are terrified to death of them, and for good reason too. Caliph Ibrahim has declared himself the only true servant of Allah and ISIL is the only true Islamic society.  All the leaders of Muslim societies whether monarchs, military men or democratically elected representatives of the people are apostates who should be put to death.

Hence Ibrahim’s intention is to foster their overthrow and annex their countries into the Caliphate he is building.  And he teaches his followers that this objective is to be carried out by the same methods as those employed by the original Jihads that spread Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, which were characterized by invasions of many countries and mass slaughters of unbelievers.  Beheadings was a common punishment for those who refused to convert.

Hence those who argue that he is not practicing “real Islam” have a difficult argument to make because Caliph Omar insist that he has gone back to the foundational practices of Islam…and it is they who are the apostates.  As an Islamic scholar it will be hard to discredit him in the eyes of the zealots who are flocking to his ranks.  And in any case the Caliph is not inclined to settle this dispute in polite theological debate; rather he has denounced them as enemies of the faith.  And he has declared that terrorism is the proper method for Muslims to deal with the enemies of Islam; there is no shame in their bloody game. That’s why they video tape their beheadings and put them on the internet.  Their intention is to terrify all who would oppose them and judging by the way the well-equipped, American trained, Iraqi national army fled and left their weapons in the field when they encountered them it is safe to conclude that their strategy is working.

Since it is their avowed intention to put all of the present leaders of Muslim countries to the blade, preferably lopping off their heads in public executions, it is no wonder that they have flocked to Barack’s banner in his campaign against ISIL.   They are literally trying to keep from losing their heads.  But they are all as skittish as cats on a hot tin roof, because by joining forces with the number one enemy of the Muslim world – given the history of US policy in the region this is an easy case to make – they risk revolts in their own countries.  This fear causes them to adopt more and more repressive policies in an attempt to ferret out any trace of radical Islam in the populace, which in turn drives more youths to radicalism…it becomes a symbiotic relationship.  Hence they have joined the US led coalition as an act of self-preservation.

Ironically, some of these countries have contributed to the rise of radical Islam, especially Saudi Arabia with their Wahabbist version of of the faith.  Lest we forget, about half of the Jihadist who crashed the planes into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon were Saudis.  It was Saudi Arabia that gave a home to members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood when Colonel Nasser turned on them in the early 1960’s, even commissioning Dr. Muhammad Guthb -the brother of Sayeed Guthb, father of the modern Jihad, who was hanged by Nasser in 1966 – to develop an Islamic Studies department at King Faisel University.  The ideas generated by the Muslim theologians in this program produced Osama bin Laden’s fanaticism and is a bedrock element of Caliph Ibrahim’s theology.

The fact that radical Islamist movements have received financial backing from rich Arabs residing in the countries that now make up the Arab contingent of the Obama coalition, testifies to the shaky ground on which these leaders stand.  They, even more than we, want to see the demise of ISIL and the Jihadist movement in general, because as long as the Jihadist are alive and well, the secular princes and powers that rule the Muslim world are dead men walking.  The problem for Caliph Ibrahim is that by declaring war on the entire world – following the logic of the Jihad based on his understanding of the mandate of the Koran which he believes reveals the will of God – he has made himself the target of a lot of big guns – even the Russians have announced that they are joining the coliltion.   Thus the Caliph has put himself squarely in the sights of laser guided bombs and computer programmed drones whose itchy fingered triggermen are anxious to get a shot at him….so he too is a dead man walking.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

President Obama at the United Nations

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on September 25, 2014 by playthell
68th Session Of The United Nations General Assembly Begins
Calling for the world to join the fight against ISIL

              

The Security Council Tackles the ISIL Menace

In an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council chaired by President Obama, the question of Islamic Jihadist terrorism – specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant aka ISIL – and what to do about it was explored.  Due to the gravity and urgency of the matter, even governments that are not members of this omnipotent body were invited to participate in the deliberations if their countries   were menaced by Islamic Jihadists. After discussion and comment Resolution 2170 was passed by the Security Council.

The Resolution was drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes “ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION.“  The action that may be taken by UN member states is spelled out in articles 41 and 42 of the Charter which authorizes military action by “Land, Sea and Air.”   A document of nearly 5,000 words, the resolution is titled “Condemning Gross, Widespread Abuse of Human Rights by Extremist Groups in Iraq, Syria,” was passed by the Council and details a plan of action which addresses issues ranging from “Terrorism,” “Foreign Terrorist Fighters,” “Terrorist Financing,” and Sanctions against those who give financial support to the Jihadists, taking the unprecedented step of naming individuals in the text of the resolutions.

In an earlier speech before the UN general Assembly, President Obama declared “There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”  This declaration will no doubt be viewed as self-serving apologia by many observers around the world, since the US is already bombing Syria without requesting the consent of the Syrian government.  Indeed the Iranians and the Russians have already called these attacks a violation of international law.

This fact, coupled with the long history of the US unilateral intervention in the internal affairs of other nations – over a hundred times in the 20th century – often overthrowing legally constituted governments to impose its will such as in Iran and Iraq, must leave many delegations wondering who is the greater menace to their national security – the Jihadists or the US.  Unfazed by this reality, and convinced that the horrors of ISIL are such that the motion of history is on his side the President declared a no holds barred war on ISIL.

After some opening remarks stating the reason for the Security Council session, President Obama turned the microphone over to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, who laid out the dimensions of the problem.   At this top level meeting attended by Heads of State and Foreign Ministers, the various delegates spoke, giving their analysis of the crisis spawned by Islamic terrorism.   It quickly became clear that there is a multiplicity of views on the phenomenon.  For instance, while the US president only wanted to talk about the evils of radical Islamic Jihadists, the role of Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people was a recurrent theme among the other delegates.

For instance Christina Fernandez, the President of Argentina, expressed scepticism about the US approach to fighting Islamic terrorism.  In an eloquent impassioned speech suffused with frustration and bewilderment, she pointed out that the American decision to arm the so-called “Free Syrian Army” is just old wine in new bottles.  She recounted similar American actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, each time with a certainty that such actions would solve the problem of Islamic terrorism, but in each instance the Jihadists come back stronger.  She pointed out that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIL was born of such policies.

Christina Fernandez: President of Argentina

Argentinian President

Asking Penetrating Questions

President Fernandez also pointed out that we really don’t know who the forces are fighting against the Assad government, and to arm them with sophisticated weapons might well result in a replay of past blunders.  She also pointed out that the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people was a major recruiting tool for the Jihadists, and expressed the view that military power alone would not defeat Jihadism; only addressing the underlying issues that feed the movement with new recruits can accomplish this.

The Russian Foreign Minister reiterated this theme, and called for a deep analysis of the problem that would address the root causes of Jihadist movements.  Among the factors he cited for the dramatic growth of ISIL is the policies Israel imposes on the Palestinians.   Herein lies the problem for President Obama, he cannot honestly discuss the role of Israeli policies in the radicalization of young Muslims everywhere who are then recruited into Jihadist movements like ISIL.  Hence when the President passionately opines that the opponents of radical Islam must win the hearts and minds of young people in the Arab world it comes across as just so much hypocritical mumbo jumbo.

Thus we are once again confronted with the age old paradox, one man’s “terrorist” is another man’s “Freedom fighter!” To the Palestinians and their supporters the Israeli’s are the most dangerous terrorists in the Middle East, and they are by far the oldest; having seized their land by armed force and subjected them to a reign of terror for 60 years!  Yet while the US blocks all criticism of Israel in the UN, it supplies the arms Israel used to kill Palestinians who are virtually defenseless.   They also witness the US slaughtering Muslims everywhere under the banner or fighting tyranny, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When confronted with these facts by radical Arab youths, their elders have no convincing arguments.

Their radicalized children see them as spineless cowards who have surrendered in the face of western aggression in Muslim lands, which they regard as disgraceful and wish to regain the honor of the Islamic world.  That’s why young Muslims of all classes are flocking to join the global Jihad.  Now the US is leading the fight against the ISIL Caliphate, the first Sunni state based on Sharia Law with a territorial base larger than Great Britain, which once ruled much of the world.   Given this fact, I wouldn’t bet the farm on Obama’s chances of “winning the hearts and minds” of radical Arab Youths.

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Alas, as I have pointed out in a previous essay, President Obama’s actions does not match his rhetoric, he has promised to destroy the ISIL Caliphate while quickly assuring the American people – who have demanded that he “do something” to retaliate for the Americans who were beheaded on the internet by ISIL executioners while essentially saying “fuck you pussy!” to the American President and people – that there will be no American boots on the Ground.”  Instead Mr. Obama has restricted America’s military actions to air strikes, intelligence gathering and drones.  But no military expert that I have heard  – and I’ve heard aplenty – believes that ISIL can be destroyed with this strategy: degrade maybe….destroy, not too much.

Given the fact that Barack Obama, like Jimmy Carter, is real swift on the cap, a genuine intellectual, there is no way he does not see the limitations of his program.  If I can peep the flaws in his game plan based on the limited information I can glean from public sources, it’s a safe bet that given the multi-billion dollar world-wide intelligence services that produce the intelligence “product” he reads at the beginning of each day, Barack can see it too.  Yet we have no reliable ground forces, without which it is impossible to destroy ISIL.  When Hillary Clinton and John McCain first suggested that President Obama arm the so called “Free Syrian Army,” the President called the idea “a fantasy.”

Now he has done an about face and announced that the  US will arm and train the Free Syrian Army  as a “moderate Islamic” force to fight both the Jihadist In ISIL and the Al Nusra Front and the Assad government in Syria.  The projection is that 8000 of these summer soldiers will be ready to take the field and wage a war on three fronts against seasoned combat forces armed with state of the arts weapons and employing a scorched earth policy.   I put their chances of success as being less than the chances of a snowball in a pizza oven!  So what’s the real deal here, why is Barack selling woff tickets to the world?

After pondering this enigma I concluded that he must be taking a page from the political playbook of Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, whom he is known to admire.  After meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and getting the low down on the Nazi’s, with whom the British were already at war, Roosevelt came away convinced that Hitler was a murderous mad man who must be stopped and the US had to enter the war to stop him.  However he was up for reelection and needed the vote of Irish Catholics to win.  But memories of their troubles under British rule were so fresh and bitter they would oppose any effort to save Britain, let alone go to war.

So Roosevelt lied to them in order to serve the greater goal of defeating the Nazi’s: He swore he would never send their sons to war in Europe….while all the time planning to do just that.  Since I believe Barack Obama is the most honest, humane and honorable man to ever occupy the Oval Office, a peacenik in his heart of hearts, it seemed to me that Barack had chosen a similar path and is prepared to send American ground troops if that’s what the defeat of ISIL requires.

However, University of Michigan Professor  Juan Cole, one of the world’s most thoughtful scholars on the Middle East and a careful student of American foreign policy in the region, suggests another scenario:

What if Obama is a sharper reader of the Middle East than his critics give him credit for? He knows ISIL is likely not going away, just as, after 13 years, the Taliban have not. US military action may even prolong the lifetime of these groups (that is one argument about Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) even as it keeps them from taking more territory.  Don’t listen to his expansive four-stage program or his retooled, stage-managed John Wayne rhetoric. Look at his metaphors. He is telling those who have ears to hear that he is pulling a Yemen in Iraq and Syria. He knows very well what that implies. It is a sort of desultory, staccato containment from the air with a variety of grassroots and governmental forces joining in. Yemen is widely regarded as a failure, but perhaps it is only not a success. And perhaps that is all Obama can realistically hope for.

Perhaps Dr. Cole’s analysis in the present war will prove as prescient as his predictions regarding the Bush Invasion of Iraq.  Whichever scenario proves to be true we are in yet another war in the Middle-East; this time with cheers and well wishes from around the world, as none of the delegates at the Security Council meeting opposed Resolution 2170.

 

Now They are the Targets

ISIS Mass Killings

We shall see how they fare under sustained fire

************************

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 25, 2014

Arming Syrian Rebels is Folly!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on September 23, 2014 by playthell
Reagan_sitting_with_people_from_the_Afghanistan-Pakistan_region_in_February_1983
President Reagan with Afghan Leaders who organized the Taliban and Al Qaeda
 

An Open Letter to President Obama

Those who fail to learn History’s Lessons are bound to repeat its Mistakes, warned Harvard philosopher George Santayana.  Hence I beseech you Mr. President, before you carry out your decision to arm any faction among the various forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Assad, in the hope that they will prove an effective fighting force against ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – think again, and carefully consider the history of your predecessors who thought they could determine the course of events in that region by supplying weapons to one side in an armed conflict.

The belief that the US government can determine political outcomes in foreign nations by intervening in their internal affairs has clearly been a guiding principle of US Middle East policy, going back to President Eisenhower’s decision to overthrow Muhammad Mossedek, the democratically elected leader of Iran in 1953, by a CIA organized coup.  In place of this liberal, modern, western educated democrat, the US installed Shah Reza Pahlevi, who was a tyrannical modernizing autocrat – a development that energized the Islamist movement in Iran who despised his secularism, profligate life style and police stae methods of suppressing dissent.

Presidents of both parties have continued to entertain this illusion, despite the fact that Eisenhower’s coup led directly to the Islamic revolution in Iran – the world’s first and only thus far – and the emergence of the Islamic Republic that now causes your administration such anxiety.   Alas, if you are not careful the Israeli’s, who are viewed all over the region as US proxys, will attack Iran and we will inevitably be blamed for their aggressions.  And that would surely prove disastrous now that you will need the cooperation of Iran to defeat ISIL, which seems to have emerged from the ether and become the foremost threat to American interests in the Arab world.  As things stand defeating ISIL is a struggle that our finest military minds estimate will take years to accomplish;  some say a as long as a decade.

The misguided American intervention into the internal affairs of Iran in 1953 directly led the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – in which American diplomats were taken hostage as a bargaining chip to force the US government to return the Shah to Iran, where he could be put on trial for his myriad crimes against the Iranian people.  The seizure of American Foreign Service officers was a major factor in Jimmy Carter’s defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1981.  However before departing office President Carter began US intervention into the internal affairs of Afghanistan, by providing assistance to the Afghan Mujahedeen, a diverse coalition of Islamic zealots fighting against the pro-Russian backed government led by the People’s Democratic  Party of Afghanistan.

Although nobody in the US State Department or Central Intelligence Agency knew much about these rag tag insurgents and devoted servants of Allah, the mere fact that they were fervent anti-communist and willing to fight the Russians was enough for Ziebnew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor who is a Polish immigrant with a visceral hatred for Russians fueled by age old conflicts between the Poles and Russians in Europe.   Brzezinski convinced President Carter to order the CIA to fund, arm and train the Mujahedeen.  Everyone at the time thought this grand covert action scheme a great plan that could determine the outcome of that historic struggle between Islam and Communism.  From the US point of view this seemed a great way of checking Russian advances in that region of the world without actually committing American troops.

It was this kind of flawed reasoning that led to the creation of the Taliban, Afgan Islamist who continue to oppose American objectives in Afghanistsn as I write, and Al Qaeda, whose members came from the ranks of the “Afghan Arabs,” that answered the call to Jihad against the godless Russian communists, and whose most famous leader was a deeply religious civil engineer and bulldozer operator from Saudi Arabia named Osama bin Laden.  Just as you are about to enter into a relationship with forces whose identity and loyalty are questionable due to a fear of ISIL, and your refusal to mend fences with Iran and work in partnership to defeat these anti-American Jihadists, making Americans everywhere the premiere target of ISIL’s global Jihad, President Carter, in an attempt to sanction Russia over their Afghanistan policy also made some decisions that proved to be injurious to Americans.

For instance he brought financial ruin to many American farmers when he abruptly cancelled a wheat deal with Russia, and he trashed the dreams and careers of many world class athletes by boycotting the 1980 Olympics.  He also discarded the lessons learned from Vietnam by reviving the Selective Service laws.  And finally, Jimmy Carter’s actions got Ronald Reagan elected, making him a one term President who left office in infamy.

In order to justify his assistance to the Afghan rebels President Carter had resorted to spouting hysterical hyperbole such as “The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War.”  You have been given to similar fits of hyperbole in discussing both the Ukrainian crisis and ISIL.  The Ukrainian crisis could become the greatest threat to peace since WWII, but only if the American policy of encircling Russia with NATO bases and fomenting conflict with their neighbors – like you did in helping to overthrow an elected pro-Russian Ukrainian government in favor of a pro-western leader –i.e. one who is alingened with the interests of the EU and the USA – persists.  And now he is pressuring you to supply advanced weapons to assist the Ukranian government in a conflict with Russia, an idea that was vigorously applauded in his recent speech before the US Congress.  Indeed you are deepening that crisis while warning against its dangers…hence you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy Mr. President.

Furthermore, your declaration of war on ISIL is inconsistent with the strategy you propose to fight it: “this is not and will not be America’s fight alone. After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures.”  The pressing question that is worrying many thoughtful Americans, including me, is who are these “partners on the ground?” that will “secure their own and other countries’ futures?”

The Iraqi forces that the US trained and supplied with billions of dollars’ worth of state of the art weaponry demonstrated that they would rather switch than fight once they were confronted by the fanatical legions of ISIL, who employ a scorched earth policy and take no prisoners.  They fled and left their weapons in the field for the Islamist to collect.  The Kurds are brave fighters but they are too poorly armed to prevail against ISIL, and if they are properly armed for this fight the problem becomes how are you going to get them to remain in a unitary state of Iraq that is ruled by an Arab dominated government – whether Sunni or Shia – once they have the means to establish an independent Kurdistan?   As the old adage goes: “You are sleeping in the same bed dreaming different dreams.”

There is every reason to believe that despite your upbeat attitude and rosy scenarios your decision will bear a far greater resemblance to debacles of the Carter, Reagan and Bush policies than the outcome you envision.  To tell the truth, I am surprised that you could be suckered into a fairytale scenario such as you have outlined.  The forces that you know are unreliable, such as the American trained and equipped Iraqi army, and the shadowy forces with whom you are now gambling America’s blood and treasure – i.e. The Free Syrian Army – remind me of the dogs my grandfather used to call “Sooners” when I was a boy.  He would watch them and say: “That dog will just as sooner shit inside as outside!”

The truth is that many of these people will as just as sooner turn their weapons over to the Jihadist forces – of which ISIL is only one faction – and fight against US interests as to fight ISIL in order to protect US interests.  Yet you prefer to indulge the illusion that this patchwork quilt of brigands, blaggards, scoundrels, thieves, charlatans and murderers, interspersed with doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, et al  summer soldiers who are untested in battle can defeat both the Assad government and ISIL.  Duh?  Both groups are focused on their objectives: the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria, and for many in their ranks all allegiance is based on expedience.  They are down with whoever can help promote their cause, and whenever US objectives differ from theirs they will privilege their own goals….this is not rocket science sir.

It is instructive to consider the Reagan debacle in Afghanistan, for which the US would eventually pay a dear price.  Ronald Reagan, who like George W. Bush years later, had only a foggy idea of what was going on in the world upon entering the Oval Office.  But like Bush he greatly expanded American intervention in the Muslim world.  Reagan adopted Carter’s policy of arming the Afghan Mujahedeen and dramatically expanding it, funneling 20 billion dollars into their coffers and supplying them with deadly Stinger Missiles.  It was these forces that evolved into the Taliban and Al Qaeda who, fifteen years after the end of Reagan’s tenure as President, launched the devastating Jihadist attack on the US on 9-11, after having failed in an attempt led by Ramzi Yousef to topple the giant World Trade Towers in a massive explosion ten years earlier on February 26, 1993.

And finally, the invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush with the announced objective of “regime change” in a sovereign nation on the other side of the world, that had committed no offense against the US, completely destabilized Iraq and unleashed social forces that has thrown the entire region into the chaos of war.  The Islamic Caliphate of ISIL was born out of this chaos and they are taking over entire regions of Syria and Iraq – and holding the territory – with state of the art American weaponry that they seized from their American backed enemies.

They are totally ruthless and contemptuous of the laws of man; adhering only to their interpretation of the call to Jihad and Sharia Law. They are calling upon Muslims everywhere to join the Jihad and defend the Sunni Caliphate they are trying to build in Syria and Iraq with hopes of extending it throughout the Muslim world. And Muslims all over the world, including the US, are responding to the call.

Just today they announced that killing infidels – those who refuse to convert to their version of Islam, and support Sharia law- is justified wherever and however they kill them.  Hence in the view of ISIL’s supreme leader, Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi – aka “Caliph Amir al Mu’minin, “Leader of the Faithful,”  a full blown Muslim fanatic who is convinced that  he is simply a servant doing the will of God, the Geneva Convention’s rules of war is irrelevant and burying opponents alive is no crime.  

ISIL Islamic Zealots!

ISIS Mass Killings

Committing Mass Murderin front of the Cameras

Now this murderous mess has fallen into your lap Mr. President.  And while there are no easy answers to these bewilderingly complex problems, based on all of the available evidence one thing is certain: any arms that you funnel into this region will end up in the hands of ISIL.   If defeating ISIL is as critical to American national security as you say it is – and I believe you are right in this assesment – the wise choice in this situation to insure a victory in the shortest amount of time is to form an alliance with Iran and fully arm the Kurds.

Notwithstanding the passionate pleas of the likes of John McCain – a wacky old guy who wants to wage war on three fronts Syria, Iran and ISIL – arming the so-called “Free Syrian Army,” most of whom have no combat experience, and history tells us that those arms will eventually end up in the hands of our enemies as in the past, is extreme Folly!

 

******************

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 22, 2014

Is Obama Drifting Toward War with Russia?  

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on September 4, 2014 by playthell

Ukraninians provoke Russia

The Ukrainians are trying their best to get America Militarily Involved

 On Provoking the Russian Bear in his Lair

Today President Obama delivered an address on American policy in Eastern Europe as expressed through aims of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an American led diplomatic dinosaur that should have died out with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Warsaw Pact in the last decade of the 20th century. And he made much of the fact that he was the first American President to speak in Estonia.  Since the raison d’etre for NATO, which is a military alliance of capitalist states formed in the post-World War II period, sixty years ago, was to contain the expansion of Russian communism, when the Russian communist Party died NATO should have died with it.

Instead, under US leadership NATO expanded into Eastern Europe and incorporated former members of the Warsaw pact, setting up military bases in what were former Russian Republics.  It was an incredible act of self-righteous arrogance that the wisest American analyst of Russian affairs such as George F. Kennan, Jack Matlock and Stephen Cohen warned would prove to be dangerous folly.  The motion of history now testifies to the prophetic character of their analysis.

The growing crisis in Eastern Europe – whose epicenter is in the Ukraine, a former Republic of Soviet Russia – is at its root a conflict between American Exceptionalism and Russian Nationalism.  Although the American government and mainstream media is engaged in a Herculean effort to define this crisis as a struggle between a beleaguered Ukrainian people fighting for freedom and democracy against the aggression of a Russian autocracy led by Vladimir Putin, the quintessential Russian Autocrat who wishes to enslave them by reincorporating them into Russia.

In this scenario Putin is the heir to a long line of Russian autocrats and dictators that harkens back to the Czars and the Communist Party, while the US led NATO alliance is the champion of freedom and democracy.  From this perspective the growing antagonism between Russia and the “western democracies” led by the US can be reduced to a morality play between good and evil.  And that is precisely how this conflict is being portrayed by the most influential opinion makers in the US.

However this is a self-serving and dangerous misinterpretation of the realities in the growing Eastern European imbroglio.   The fact is that we have a clash of interests between power blocs over spheres of influence in which the US refuses to recognize the legitimate national security interests of Russia.  No objective reading of the facts in the Eastern European crisis can fail to admit this reality.  The fundamental problem arises from the fact that the US defines its national interests as global – which is also why US relations with China are growing more antagonistic as I write.  Hence there is nowhere on earth that is off limits for the projection of American power, whether “soft” or “hard” power i.e. cultural and commercial or military.   This attitude was called “The Arrogance of Power” by the late US Senator William J. Fulbright, who published a book under that title during the Cold War.

This arrogance is informed by the ideology of American Exceptionalism, a counterfeit myth that all America politicians, corporate sponsored pundits and think tank supported intellectuals are expected to endorse without question.  It is a way of viewing the world that is reminiscent of the classical Chinese view i.e. “We are the center of the world and all else is the barbarian fringes.”  This view led the Chinese to build a wall around themselves in the belief that there was nothing of value they could learn from other peoples and cultures.

However this attitude has had the opposite effect on America’s leaders, who feel that they must remake the world in our image and anyone who refuses to go along with their program is the evil enemy.  This belief led the US government to overthrow the democratically elected governk on Iraq inment of Iran in 1953, the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961, the invasion of Vietnam in the 1960’s and the attack on Iraq 2003.  In classical China belief in Chinese Exceptionalism led to its leaders losing touch with what was actually happening with the rest of the world and this resulted in its conquest by Europe.  Alas, the bogus belief in American Exceptionalism propels America’s misguided actions in Eastern Europe and could result in our destruction.

One has only to contemplate the meaning of President Obama’s statements in Estonia – another former Soviet Russian Republic – just his morning to clealy recognize this possibility.  Looking years older than when he first took office six years ago – no doubt from the many intractable crises that weigh on him around the world that he is expected to solve – the President spoke with characteristic eloquence on American solidarity with the Baltic states in a speech suffused with syrupy sentimentalism designed to tug at the heartstrings of his audience. Yet despite his moving oratory, it could prove to be a swan song for humanity.

Speaking on the Independence of the Baltic States after the collapse of the Soviet Union President Obama declared:

You reclaimed your countries. And in your new constitution you declared the independence and sovereignty of Estonia are timeless and inalienable. But the people of the Baltic nations also knew that freedom needs a foundation of security. So you reached out to join the NATO alliance. And we were proud to welcome you as new allies so that those words of your constitution, your timeless independence, will always be guaranteed by the strongest military alliance the world has ever known.”

This was a direct challenge to Russia.  But since Russia has expressed no designs on Estonia, it was an unecissary provocation, and one that would have enraged Americans if Putin made a similar speech in Mexico.  This is the kind of speech one can make in the muslim Mid-East, or South America, where the leading regional powers are Iran is Brazil.  But it borders on madness when made on the doorsteps of Russia, a nuclear superpower that can obliterate the US in a half hour.  What could Barack have been thinking, maybe he drank too much vodka at the meeting with Baltic leaders that have joined NATO, when he met with them earlier in the day.

After rhapsodizing about the virtues of unfettered capitalism – conveniently forgetting the havoc it has wreaked in Eastern Europe with the rise of the oligarchs, or the fact that wealth and the class privilege it brings has virtually frozen socio/economic mobility it the US to the extent that the disparity in wealth among New Yorkers is greater than that in Guatemala – the President” declared:

“And we’re stronger because we stand together. This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ‘Baltics in NATO. A decade ago, skeptics wondered whether your countries were up to the task. And today they need only look at our training exercises where our troops grow even stronger together, shoulder-to-shoulder. They can look at Afghanistan where our forces have sacrificed together to keep us safe and where in just three months the largest operation in NATO history will come to an end, as planned.”

I could hardly believe what I was hearing; did he really refer to Afghanistan as a model for success for Eastern Europe?  This is sheer nonsense!  The real lesson of Afghanistan is that after a decade of pouring American blood and treasure into that military quagmire the Taliban – which an earlier American intervention had created – remains a clear and present danger.  What the US has done – and wisely so – is to declare victory and cut out, despite the actual conditions on the ground.  Perhaps that’s why he went overboard assuring the leaders of the Baltic States that things will be different in Eastern Europe.

During the long Soviet occupation, the great Estonian poet Marie Under wrote a poem in which she cried to the world, “Who’ll come to help? Right here, at present, now!” And I say to the people of Estonia and the people of the Baltics, today we are bound by our treaty alliance. We have a solemn duty to each other. Article 5 is crystal clear. An attack on one is an attack on all. So if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, who’ll come to help, you’ll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America, right here, present, now. (Applause.)  We’ll be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again.”

Apparently not content with vague threats against the Russians President Obama got specific, down to the nitty gritty.

“The new initiative I proposed in Warsaw this spring includes several elements, and we’re working with Congress to get it done. Here in the Baltics, it would mean positioning more American equipment, so it’s ready if needed. It would mean more training and exercises between our militaries. And it would mean more U.S. forces, including American boots on the ground, continuously rotating through Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania.”

Alas, a close reading and content analysis of President Obama’s speech reveals that much of it sounds like it could have been written by the neo-con cabal of policy wonks from the Project for a New American Century that advised George Bush to invade Iraq.  It is a world view that combines a fundamental belief in American Exceptionalism i.e. only the US has the vision and moral gravitas to lead the world, and the military might to impose that vision.

There was a lot of talk about the sanctity of “freedom” and “democracy” accompanied by a very selective reading of history and present realities, glossing over the fact that many in these Baltic nations willingly collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, while the Russian Communist were our allies in that great struggle against German fascism. While praising the collaborators he never mentioned that it was the Russians who paid a greater price in blood than any nation in the world, with 20 million dead and that Russian arms played a greater role in the defeat of the Nazis than any other country.  And even worse was the falsification of the facts surrounding the events that led to the present crisis in the Ukraine.

The whole world heard the hacked conversation of the American Ambassador to the Ukraine on the phone with the US State Department’s Undersecretary for European affairs plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected president of the Ukraine.  The response of the Obama Administration to this embarrassing tape was to denounce the Russians for hacking the phone call….even as the US National Security Agency was hacking into the cell phone of Andrea Merkle, the German Chancellor.

Furthermore, the American Senator John McCain was photographed marching with neo-Nazis in Keiv while calling for the overthrow of a democratically elected Ukrainian government because their president chose a closer economic relationship with Russia rather than joining the European Union, with the closer ties to NATO that such a relationship required.  Why would ethnic Russians want to remain part of a nation that expressed such hatred for Russia?  This is what sparked the present crisis, not “Russian aggression.”

Hence Barack was engaged in an exercise of political propaganda not an objective recounting of history; the former is an attempt to rearrange facts about the past in order to justify policies in the present, while the latter is concerned with an unbiased reading of the evidence in order to uncover the truth about the past so that we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.  They are very different enterprises and are guaranteed to deliver dramatically different results.

The failure of President Obama to admit that the real roots of the present conflict with Russia is the aggressive American led expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe until this anti-Russian military alliance is now at their door steps, will not help find a path to peaceful relations with Russia.  Indeed, it could lead to thermo-nuclear war if NATO makes any attempt to admit the Ukraine into this military alliance.

Yet this is the course of action that Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and other verbose Republican hawks are calling for.  Hence despite the fact that Barack did indeed sound like “the brown face of American imperialism” he emphatically reiterated his position that there is no military solution to the Ukrainian crisis.  This makes him the clearly the lesser evil.  One has only to imagine the state of the world if John McCain had been President for the last six years…or if Mitt Romney were president as I write, in order to envision how lucky we are to have Barack Obama in the Oval office at this dangerous juncture in history.  Compared to these pretenders Barack’s foreign policy choices looks like Solomonic wisdom.

Thus I continue to disagree with the leftist ideologues like Glen Ford and moral absolutists like Cornel West that there is no significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, or John McCain and Barack Obama, the kind of misguided thinking that ignores political reality and led to them helping  elect George Bush over Al Gore.  This nation and the world is still suffering from that disaster but the left has never assumed responsibility for their role in bringing it about.  What the ideologues and moral absolutist refuse to accept is that in real politics, as opposed to rhetorical exercises, one takes the best deal one can get, and in a participatory democracy a people will get the kind of government they deserve.  Hence we are in the mess we are in because of the deeply flawed people Americans have elected to lead them over the years.

I continue to believe that the low level of much of American political leadership, and thus the crux of our problem, is due to the ignorance and apathy of the American electorate.  The ideologues don’t want to face this fact, so they continue to spin fantasies about the “revolutionary masses.”  They refuse to admit that as a politician Barack has to get elected and his party has to win a majority of seats in Congress in order to get anything done on behalf of the American people.  Thus what Abraham Lincoln said at the end of the Civil War is also true of Barack: “Clearly I have not controlled events…but events have controlled me.”

President Obama is bowing to public sentiment in taking a tougher stand against the Russians, although the public has no idea of the danger involved; he must appear to answer the constant Republican charges that he is weak and feckless in the face of the strong and decisive Putin.  That this is foolishness is quite beside the point it is irrelevant in political terms.  Thus he is pushed into a tough guy role with the Russians that in his head and heart he knows this dangerous folly….and appears prepared to shoot craps with the fate of the earth for the sake of domestic politics because the Russian bear will fight if NATO continues to threaten the security of his lair.

Where we are Headed

Atomic Bomb Explosion III

If we push the Russians too far!

********************

Playthell G. Benjamin
 Harlem, New York
September 4, 2014

On Quitting the Iraqi Quagmire

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on August 17, 2014 by playthell

ISIS Mass Killings

The Jihadists are taking no Prisoners

 What to do about ISIS?

As the Iraqi’s struggle to form a viable government under Haider al-Abadi, who replaced a disgraced Al Maliki as Prime Minister, fanatical Muslim Jihadists in ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – gobble up more and more of Iraqi territory in its ruthless march toward Baghdad, destroying Christian and Shia shrines and beheading “non-believers”, it is time for us to question the decisions of our policy makers.

We need to ask: What exactly is going on there?  What was the role of the US in creating this tragic mess that is destroying the nation of Iraq as it existed before the Bush invasion?   And what do we do now? This matter should be examined without regard to past ideological positions and guided by the paramount objective of formulating a policy that best serves US interest.  However, given the complexity of the situation in the Middle East identifying the best policy options is easier said than done.

Looking at the situation on the ground in Iraq from a historical perspective, one is forced to wonder if the professional historians are right when they argue unanimously that history does not repeat itself.    It certainly seems so when observing American foreign policy over the last half century.  The historical record reveals a recurring pattern of the US attempting to impose its will on the politics of other nations, especially Third World countries that are presumed to be easy pickings.

It is a record cluttered with spectacular failures – Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan and now Iraq.  In Vietnam the US picked the wrong side and the result was a multibillion dollar debacle that resulted in the deaths of over a million Vietnamese and many thousands of Americans; the poisoning of the environment in Vietnam with “Agent Orange;” a crisis in American society and thousands of walking wounded who never recovered from their service in that war.

It was such a blunder that the US abandoned the selective service draft, thereby removing the requirement for military service among the more educated and affluent youths of the nation.  This eliminated a major source of anti-war activism of the sort that wreaked havoc on the nation’s college campuses’ during the Vietnam War.

With an all-volunteer army we now have an armed force largely composed of the “have nots ” – the kids who years ago would have come out of high school and gone to work in a factory – thus there has been little protest from American youths.  US corporations that used to provide industrial jobs have become multi-national conglomerates with global interests that are beholden only to their investors, not national states. Thus they have exported their jobs overseas and decimated the US manufacturing sector because they can reap greater profits from non-unionized industrial slaves in foreign countries.  Hence for many poor working class American youths volunteering for the military appears to be their only route to advancement in life…if they survive America’s constant wars with their body and brains intact.

We have now been involved in constant wars in the Muslim world for a generation, whether backing one side in a conflict or directly waging war.  Yet our policy makers appear to have learned nothing!  Just as the decision by President Eisenhower to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of Muhammad Mossedeck in Iran by a CIA led military coup in 1953, led directly to the Islamic Revolution in Iran that the US constantly agonizes over today; the decision to overthrow Sadam Hussein and install and American backed Shia government in Iraq has led us to the ISIS crisis where Islamic Jihadists are threatening to take control of Iraq and establish an Islamic Caliphate under Sharia Law.

Self-righteous Killers
Isis beheadings II
They justify barbaric war crimes with Koranic Scripture

So what should the US government do now?   To begin with US policymakers should be made to take an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath required of medical doctors: “First do no harm!”  That would be an auspicious start given the blunders of previous US administrations, especially the last Bush man.  It is essential that the policy makers are open minded and objective in their analysis, ideology must take a back seat.

The danger of allowing ideology to obfuscate reality is ever present and was at the root of the Invasion of Iraq by George Bush – a clueless neophyte in foreign policy matters who was hoodwinked by the cabal of advisors handpicked from the Project for a New American Century, a think tank founded by “Dirty Dick” Cheney and his ideological cronies. (See: How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank*)

It was because of the ideological obsessions held by these advisors, which were spelled out in position papers written at PNAC, that the US attacked Iraq in the aftermath of the massive 9/11 terrorist attack carried out by the affluent sons of well to do Egyptians and Saudi Arabians, America’s closest allies in the Arab world.  Instead of examining the misbegotten US policy of arming and training Islamic militants – then known as the Afghan Mujahedeen – in terrorist tactics to be employed against the Soviet Union, out of which grew the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who later used them against us, Bush was persuaded to invade Iraq!

The Bushmen callously took this nation into a war of choice against an unoffending country – which according to established international laws that govern the relations of sovereign nations is a crime – in order to achieve the long standing ideological objective of overthrowing its leader Sadam Hussein.

This is what happens when politicized intelligence colored by ideology becomes the basis for policy making – it is the same path that led us defeat in the Jungles of South East Asia.   If Bushmen had listened to the leading scholars on the Mid-East region in the CIA and the academic community – such as Professor Juan Cole -we would have never invaded Iraq and they would have discovered that secular Arab strongmen like Sadam were the frontline resistance against the Jihadists.  If they had heeded the warning of the Arab League that an American invasion of Iraq would “open the gates of hell” history could have taken a far different, less costly and destructive course over the past decade.

For instance, what if the US and formed an alliance with Sadam against al Qaeda?  I would argue that US forces would have captured Osama within a year and two wars waged over a decade –  at a cost of four trillion dollars, untold destruction of the invaded countries, and legions of wrecked families who lost loved ones on both sides – could have been avoided.  Instead, just as in Iran and Vietnam, a misguided incompetent American policy has resulted in just the opposite of their stated objectives.

Are we going to repeat these historical blunders yet again and at even greater cost?  The alternatives before President Obama are limited and distasteful.  Hence the question before the architects of our foreign policy is which are the lesser evils?  Now that the US has abandoned Al Maliki, the Prime Minister that our actions put in power, and is now supporting Haider al-Abadi, the handpicked choice of the Iraqi President in a process that al Maliki initially protested as “unconstitutional” before resigning for the sake of national unity, the question is what now?

One thing is certain: No half-assed rag tag army commanded by a government in disarray is going to defeat ISIS, a highly disciplined force driven by religious passion, armed with state of the art American weaponry and hundreds of millions of dollars to support their mission among men for whom devotion to Allah trumps the comforts of earthly status or personal wealth.  Hence this money will be used to combat the “Great Satan” and his minions in the Muslim world.  That’s how they are managing to support an armed force that some experts on the region estimate at 50, 000 men.

This state of affairs leaves President Obama two choices: arm the Kurdish militias with the most advanced American heavy weaponry and let them fight it out with ISIS, or form an alliance with Iran and let their elite Revolutionary Guards lead the fight to crush ISIS.  In the first instance it would spell the end of the unitary Iraqi state, because the Kurds will seize their long sought independence in a separate state which a grateful US could not oppose.

The other alternative would permanently expand the power and influence of Iran in the region….a development the US has long opposed.  Furthermore an alliance with Iran, although clearly in the US national interests, would enrage Israel – who has tried their best to goad the US into a war with Iran – and thus mobilize the Israel Lobby against the President.  Once that happens it would alienate a cowardly Congress and the President’s agenda for the remainder of his Presidency will be dead in the water.

Yet the alternative to arming the Kurds or forming an alliance with Iran who, like the US, passionately oppose ISIS, is to reintroduce American troops in Iraq; a policy most Americans would vigorously oppose – since we are still withdrawing our troops from that hell hole of our making – or just stand by and watch the murderous Islamic fanatics in ISIS take over a large swath of the oil rich Middle East.

Alas, no thinking person who understands what is at stake in the Middle-East can oppose all forms of American military action, although it should be limited to air strikes and covert operations in cooperation with Iraqi government forces, especially in situations where there is eminent danger of genocide such as ISIS’ attempts to exterminate religious minorities such as the Christians.

However it is long past time for American foreign policy to be driven by an objective cost/benefit analysis based on actual US interests.   We can no longer afford to indulge ideological fantasies such as Senator John McCain is given to; a surreal vision of American military dominance of the world that would commit this nation to perpetual wars that gobble up financial and intellectual capital this nation desperately needs for our own internal development.

By Some Estimat ISIS is 50, 000 strong!
 images (2) Isis ISIS mILITANTS iii
The Consequences of the Bush/Cheney Invasion of Iraq

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
On the Road
August 17th 2014

 

 

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