A Lost Poem by Lord Byron

(This may be an early draft of the famous “Destruction of Sennacherib.”  If it is, Byron was certainly prescient.)



The Destruction of Obama



The American came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were loaded with silver and gold;

And the sheen of their guns was like stars in the sky,

When the Hellfires roll nightly to kill on the fly.



Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,

That host with their weapons in Kabul were seen:

Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,

That host in a decade lay scattered and strown.



For the fighters of God spread their creed with a blast,

And shot at the face of the foe as he passed;

And the hopes of the soldiers waned deadly and chill,

As their friends tread the mines and forever grew still!



And there lay the Humvee, just blown on its side,

With the gas spilling out and the bodies inside;

And the blood of the wounded lay red on the ground,

And the dead and the dying made hardly a sound.



And there lay the soldier all mangled and torn,

With comrades and sweethearts now ready to mourn:

And the barracks were silent, the colors alone,

The rifles unlifted, the trumpet unblown.



And the women now widows are loud in their wail,

And policy lies broke in the Afghani pale;

And the force of the US, almighty before,

Hath melted like snow in the Taliban’s war.

King Obama

King Obama

King Sennacherib

King Sennacherib

Lord Byron

Lord Byron

Ten Years Ago On a Lone Dark Night Someone Got Killed…

(On the occasion of the ten year anniversary of our invasion of Iraq I am posting an updated version of a piece written in December 2011 when the President announced the “end” of the war.)

On 19 March 2003 the United States bombed the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, beginning an eight year war in Iraq. Those eight years came at a stiff price. 4486 American military personnel were killed and 30,327 were wounded, 500 of them amputees, and it is estimated that some 20,000 veterans of the war now suffer some sort of psychological problem. 1487 coalition troops died, along with 281 media and aid workers; 10,569 were wounded. The war cost us about $1.7 trillion, and we are still paying, despite the fact that Iraq is now producing more oil than Iran. The war quickly eliminated the world-wide support for America in the wake of 9/11, fomented more anti-American feelings in the Muslim world, blew our reputation for moral behavior and distracted the US from serious operations against al-Qaeda.



The price for the Iraqis was much greater. The butcher’s bill is very hard to calculate, but while the media now regularly tosses off 100,000 dead, a variety of investigating NGOs has set that as the absolute minimum, suggesting 600,000 as more realistic; some estimates exceed a million. And they continue to die, as the expended depleted uranium ordinance and other toxins of modern war produce birth defects and cancers. Almost two million people fled the country, and a million internal refugees were produced. What little infrastructure the country possessed under Sadam was utterly destroyed, and it appears that the Sunni dictator has simply been replaced by a Shiite one. Meanwhile, all those billions in aid from the US flow into the pockets of the increasingly autocratic Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his completely corrupt government apparatus. Even their very country is falling apart, as the north has emerged as a more or less independent Kurdistan.

And what do we all get in return for this massive expenditure by the American and Iraqi people?



It is clear now, as it was to many then, that Saddam was absolutely no threat to anyone except his own people, and rather than “protecting” America the conflict has only exacerbated the terrorist problem and immensely strengthened the position of Iran. Iraq, once a bulwark against Iran (remember Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam?) is under its emerging Shia dictatorship already falling rapidly under Iranian influence. Only two states in the region have refused to go along with the Arab League and condemn the bloody Syrian government: Iran and Iraq. Indeed, Iranian aid to the Syrian government appears to be moving through Iraq. Under the guise of a program of reconciliation Baghdad is even releasing prisoners accused or convicted of murdering Americans, and as the economic frosting on this ineptly baked cake, it is primarily non-American companies that are signing up to exploit Iraqi resources, should that ever be possible.

Meanwhile, American diplomatic personnel will be hiding out in the biggest and most heavily fortified embassy on the planet, a target so protected that even American journalists are not allowed to see it. Bereft of troops, we will be hiring 5000 mercenaries to protect these people, further enhancing our wonderful image in the region. We get to look like an imperial power and pay mightily without enjoying any of the benefits associated with such a status. And outside the walls of Fortress America, euphemistically called the Green Zone, the life of the average Iraqi is, unbelievably, worse than it was under Sadam.

We got nothing out of the war. (Well, if you are Haliburton or Blackwater Mercenaries or the armaments industry, you actually got plenty, and the Pentagon certainly had a grand time.) Perhaps we learned something from this mistaken adventure? Not likely.



We promptly repeated the whole thing in Afghanistan. Trashing the Taliban for harboring our enemies was fine, but then, as if Iraq had never happened, we determined to create a democracy among people who have not a clue as to what that or nationhood means. The ill-advised and ineptly conducted war of aggression against Iraq appears almost sensible compared to our current hemorrhaging of lives and money for an unbelievably corrupt and ineffective government of an area that is even less of a country than the one time Ottoman province.

Even now, that blatant and shameless cheerleader for the war, the national media, is hypocritically discussing the mistakes of the war while saying virtually nothing of its own disgusting role. Perhaps as a measure of their ignorance and certainly of their arrogance, the neo-con architects of the war are unrepentant. Donald Rumsfield, who should be in prison for criminal incompetence as Secretary of Defense, at least had the good grace to resign and disappear. Dick Cheney, another of those hawks who somehow never found the time to serve (“I had other priorities in the 60s than military service”) and who appears to have been a prime mover in launching the war, even now claims it was justified, though he seems unable to say exactly why. (Perhaps I am biased: his wife put me on an academic black list of “Americans behaving badly.”) Paul Wolfowitz, recognized as the major architect of this stupid policy, continues to defend it, though Richard Pearle, another neo-con mover of the war, now denies he had any serious role, which is simply laughable. (Perhaps I am biased again: in a recent interview he responded to questions about the war by stating that looking back on history does not teach us anything. So much for my profession – and his intelligence or honesty.) These are the bozos who implemented a disastrous and dishonest foreign policy, yet they all still prosper, unlike the 4500 dead American soldiers and the entire country of Iraq.

traitor and idiot

traitor and idiot

So, happy anniversary. The date should be remembered, because this is when American seriously began to shed its historic image as the good guy, the protector of the weak and defender of freedom, the foe of brutality and torture. And in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali and god knows where else the beat goes on.

our democrat in Baghdad

our democrat in Baghdad

Where Are Country Joe and the Fish?

(This does not scan perfectly, but then, neither does the original.  And I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to keep the lines from breaking; like others, WordPress uses vocabulary that is incomprehensible to the non-computer geek.)

Well, come on all of you, big strong men,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Uncle Sam needs your help again.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           We’ve got ourselves in another jam                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In a place far worse than Vietnam.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So give up your job and pick up a gun,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   You’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Congressmen, they don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! you’re all gonna die.

Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow,
Why Haliburton, you gotta know
There’s plenty good money to be made
By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And you make the dough when you blow up the man,                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Whether or not he’s the Taliban.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Congressmen, they don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! you’re all gonna die.

Well, come on generals, let’s move slow;
Endless war is what you know.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Now you can go out and bomb ragheads                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ‘Cause the only good Arab is the one that’s dead,
And you know that peace can only be bad
When so many jerks are on jihad.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Congressmen, they don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! you’re all gonna die.

Come on White House, don’t stay your hand,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Freedom now for Afghanistan.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Come on Congress, and don’t hesitate                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     And vote more money before it’s too late.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               And you can be the first to hold your seat                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For turning Afghanis into dead meat.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Congressmen, they don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! you’re all gonna die.

And It’s One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?

Even what little information about the situation in Afghanistan that dribbles out of our increasingly coy and entertainment-oriented media suggests, at least to a reasonable and non-politically warped person, that things are not going all that well for the freedom-loving saviors from the West.  Our soldiers continue to be blown up in areas declared secure, and well organized strikes take place in Kabul itself.  More telling, the number of attacks on “NATO” troops (this is clearly an American war) by members of the Afghan military and security forces we are training is increasing.  Reports of Afghan officials departing the country with suitcases full of money abound, and the “democracy” we are building charges rape victims with adultery.  And the word is that the Pentagon and White House are annoyed with the pessimistic reports coming out of the CIA, reports which are of course classified.

Well, suspicions are confirmed by an intelligence report leaked in Germany, where Berlin is painting the same rosy picture as Washington, Chancellor Merkel having as much political capital as President Obama invested in a war that has precious little to do with American security and absolutely nothing to do with German interests.  Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, has issued a report on the situation in Afghanistan and the prognosis for the next two years, and though it is marked “classified/confidential” because it so at odds with what both the German and American governments are saying, it has been leaked.

Both governments are claiming that no more combat troops will be needed after 2014, only trainers for the Afghan army, which of course is killing Americans on a regular basis now.  According to the BNDreport, at least 35,000 troops will be required to stabilize the country, and “stabilize” hardly suggests creating a state that can stand alone.  The analysis also found no evidence that the Taliban is willing to enter serious negotiations, especially with the government in Kabul, and is just biding its time.

Afghan President Karzai is the target of particular criticism.  His main goal appears to be maintaining power, not just for himself but also his family: he is positioning his brother to succeed him as president.  His government is thoroughly corrupt, and despite assurances by himself and by Washington he has implemented no reforms, nor is there any evidence that he intends to.  He is certainly willing to deal with the Taliban in order to secure his position, which hardly sounds promising for Afghan women.  But the US must defend him as the democratic reformer, since abandoning him would be an admission of a failure that has cost us a trillion dollars and the lives of more than 2000 soldiers.

Of course none of this is surprising for anyone familiar with Afghan society, which has not changed since the British – and probably Alexander – were there.
The “country” is occupied by several ethnic groups that share a tradition of mutual hostility, and corruption and nepotism are ingrained in Afghan society.  The Afghanis are accustomed to rule by petty kings, tribal leaders and warlords, and it is questionable whether democracy could work even were the country not facing the Taliban and sundry religious whackos coming out of Waziristan.  Even a cursory knowledge of Afghan history would have strongly suggested that attempting anything more than bombing the Taliban and supporting a friendly warlord was complete folly, but the Congress and the White House, motivated by political considerations, have traditionally paid little or no attention to the actual experts in the State Department.  You would think that the British at least would know better, which they probably do, but when Washington speaks Europe must listen.

The prosecution of this war has become positively surreal.  A growing majority of Americans us want to leave immediately, and the vast majority of the citizens of our NATO allies never supported the war in the first place.  The Afghanis, while traditionally hospitable to guests, are also traditionally hostile to foreign soldiers in their land, and they practice a religion that requires conduct seemingly impossible for westerners to adhere to.  We are allied with and provide huge amounts of money to Pakistan, whose people hate us more and more and whose intelligence service is actually aiding the people we are fighting.  And as a breeding ground for international Islamic terrorism Pakistan now leads the world, although the ideological underpinning, Wahhabism, emanates from Saudi Arabia, another of our friends and one of the most oppressive countries on earth.  Finally, while the Taliban government sheltered international terrorists, for which reason we blew them away, they had no real grudge against the US.  They probably do now.

So why are we still there?  Primarily, I suspect, because no politician will ever admit the failure of a policy he is associated with, and everyone was associated with this clearly failed policy of turning Aghanistan into a democratic civilized nation.  But also because neither party, especially those wimpy Democrats, wants to look weak on terrorism (it used to be communism), even though most Americans could not care less, especially since they appear to have forgotten the war altogether.  A true leader in the government could easily make the case that not only is this war an incredible waste of lives and money, but it also actually damages our security by squandering military resources and producing new jihadis by the thousands.  But when was the last time you saw a serious leader among our political class?  Besides, our politicians are all dependent upon big money, which includes the people who make immense profits feeding Mars.

So, for two more years Americans and others will continue to die in some god-forsaken place that has nothing to do with our security and where everyone hates us.  And all because politicians in Washington are afraid of being castigated, not by the voters but by the other party.  Vietnam is beginning to seem like a sensible war:

And it’s one, two, three
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan.

What a Choice!

Why is there no Democratic Policy Guide to match the Republican version?  Well, most simply, while Democrats are as self-serving and dependent on big money as their Republican friends, their party is not nearly so blatantly anti-science, pro-Christian, heartlessly pro-wealth and abusive of females as the GOP.  The Democrats may not do as they say, but what they say – with some glaring exceptions – generally makes sense for an industrialized society in the 21st century.  Their geopolitical thinking of course appears firmly rooted in the 20th century, but even that is attractive contrasted with the Republicans, all of whose policies seem appropriate for the Gilded Age (excepting of course that the Robber Barons of that time actually produced goods and services for the country).  The economic ignorance – or dissimulation – of the GOP is breath-taking, especially considering that even a superficial knowledge of the last hundred years of American history reveals that laissez-faire capitalism can only damage a modern society and generate massive economic inequality.  They are classic extremists, who have set the bar very high.  What positions would Democrats need to take to be as radically to the left as the Republicans are to the right?  Stalinism?  Maoism?

Now, candidate Obama.  Granted, he actually knows (or has people who know) some basic economics (e.g., austerity and deficit pay-off are the worst thing to engage in during a recession) and granted, he inherited a mammoth mess and has lately faced a hostile Congress (including his own party).  But his actions bespeak a man who cannot be bothered to exert himself to fight for his promises and who is just as enamored with the apparatus of national security and the power of the government, especially the Presidency, as any red-blooded conservative.  In fact, this may be the one area where the Democrats outdo the Republicans: hypocrisy.

Being a “progressive” politician apparently does not mean any more commitment to the truth than being a conservative does.  His campaign lies are not as staggering as those of Paul Ryan, but the lies are there (Obama: 1 of 50 statements false; Romney, et al.: 1 of 10), and he avoids the serious media as diligently as Mitt.  After all, they check facts.  Better to talk to People magazine and friendly local radio stations than the White House Press Corps with their annoying regard for facts.  Better the social networks, where disregard for truth is pretty much part of the system.

Obama promised the most transparent White House ever.  That used to be emblazoned on the official White House web site, but I can no longer find it.  Wow!  Are they being honest about their need to be opaque?  All governments want to control their image and avoid letting the public know anything embarrassing, but the present administration might be considered the most opaque ever had it not been preceded by the Bush administration.  Actually, in one area of image control Obama is outdoing his predecessor.   In 1917 Congress passed the Espionage Act, which, as the name suggests, was designed to provide the government with the tools to prosecute those supplying American secrets to a foreign power, i.e., spies. In the 95 years since then the Act has been used on nine occasions to prosecute Americans responsible for leaking classified information not to a potential enemy state but rather to the American media, and thus the American public.  Of those nine instances of the Espionage Act being thusly misused six fall under the Obama administration.  And now he is apparently putting incredible pressure on London to get Julian Assange in a position where he can be extradited to the United States.

Only one aspect of the Bush security apparatus has been eliminated, torture in interrogations, which probably still goes on in the back rooms and undisclosed locations of our countless intelligence agencies. Otherwise, Guantanamo remains open, detainees will receive military trials, we still have detention without trial and none of the provisions of the Constitutionally questionable Patriot Act have been rescinded.  On other fronts, the “too-big-to-fail” banks are now even bigger, and the financial industry appears to be no more regulated now than it was when the economy collapsed.  We are still in Afghanistan, and despite the fact that both the American and Afghani peoples do not want us there, despite the increasingly obvious evidence that the war is a failure, we will be keeping – and losing – our troops there for another year.  Is he afraid of “looking weak” or perhaps the huge collection of war contractors have been on the horn to their purchased congressmen?  To be fair, however, were the Republicans in control, we would be sending more troops to Afghanistan and would still be in Iraq.

Oh, the drones.  Clearly, Bush was a piker when it came to blowing up people around the world, and if anything, Obama is even more oblivious to international law than Bush was.  He has no concern for national sovereignty beyond our own, and while his rhetoric on the Middle East was promising, he has done absolutely nothing in that area except to get more entangled in Israel’s plans to wage a war of aggression.  Perhaps I am unfair here, because who knows what is going on behind the closed doors of diplomacy?  On the other hand, his Attorney General has publically assured us that all of his boss’ activities around the globe are perfectly legal according to international law, a staggering expression of self-serving nonsense.

There seems to be something wrong with Barack Obama, something that goes beyond just being another politician, but for all his faults he and his party are so much better than the increasingly screwball Republicans that were the economy in slightly better shape he would not have to campaign at all.  Nevertheless, I am sick of voting for the lesser of two evils and will drop out of the system.  I am tempted to think in Baader-Meinhof terms and hope that Romney and friends have their chance to ruin the country and demonstrate how utterly wrong they are about most everything, but it is after all my country, and all they are likely to produce is extremism from the other end of the political spectrum.  The nation is in serious trouble.

President Obama and His Stone Cold Killers

Barack Obama’s fall from grace has been startling.  The laurel of the Nobel Peace Prize rests uneasy on the brow of a man who possesses and uses the power to kill anyone virtually anywhere on the planet, seemingly free from any oversight whatsoever.  Apart from a better command of the English language it is becoming difficult to discern any difference between Obama and his predecessor, as he carries on the post-9/11 crusade of increased domestic surveillance, violation of international law and the endless war against terrorism that supposedly justifies this behavior.

Of all his promises to dismantle the immoral, legally questionable and frequently counterproductive practices of the Bush security apparatus he has kept only one: to ban the use of torture in interrogations (and one wonders how thoroughly this is observed in the back rooms and undisclosed locations of our countless intelligence agencies).  Otherwise, Guantanamo remains open, detainees will receive military trials, more troops were sent to Afghanistan, none of the provisions of the Patriot Act have been rescinded, Israel continues to determine our policy in the Middle East, the “too-big-to-fail” banks are now even bigger and the military budget continues to grow.

In contrast to that of Bush his was to be the most transparent administration in history, when in fact it may be even more opaque.  At this very moment he is using the ever popular “executive privilege” to withhold information potentially damaging to his Attorney General, Eric Holder.  But much more telling are his efforts to plug leaks to the media.  In 1917 Congress passed the Espionage Act, which, as the name suggests, was designed to provide the government with the tools to prosecute those supplying American secrets to a foreign power, i.e., spies.  In the 95 years since then the Act has been used on nine occasions to prosecute Americans responsible for leaking classified information not to a potential enemy state but rather to the American media, and thus the American public.  The legality of this use of the law has been questioned and the issue is still not settled, but this is of course a quibble for any government interested in employing this very useful political weapon.  Of those nine instances of the Espionage Act being misused six fall under the Obama administration.

On the foreign front Obama is as oblivious to traditional international standards of behavior as was Bush.  Regard for national sovereignty (except our own) continues to erode, as we carry on drone strikes in Pakistan against their wishes and violate the air space of Iran and other countries.  Despite the objections of the Afghan government our military continues launching the night raids universally hated by the Afghanis.  We are threatening a sovereign nation, Iran, with military action because they might be enriching uranium which might be used for a bomb which might be used against Israel, if the Iranian government could possibly be that stupid and suicidal.  We have implemented economic and financial sanctions against them that would be considered tantamount to an act of war if done to us.  We have fully adopted the Israeli notion that if you think a state might be a threat at some time in the future, you are justified in attacking them, an understanding of international relations that Hitler would have delighted in.  And our chief legal authority, Attorney General Holder, has assured us that all this is completely in accordance with international law.

Then there is the drone, in the use of which Obama has made Bush seem a piker.  Of course, it is cheap, it is an effective killer and it puts no Americans in harm’s way.  More than 2300 individuals, including three American citizens, have been executed by drone launched missiles, requiring us to believe that over two thousand people were so threatening to our security that we had to kill them all.  Well, not all of them were that threatening, since the figure includes hundreds of men, women and children who just happened to be too near someone the US decided was a top terrorist.  How many dead innocents?  Who knows?  The government is reluctant to release that sort of information, and in any case we have only their word that the actual target was himself worth killing.

Now we know the President keeps a “to kill” list, but exactly how one manages to get on this list is of course classified.  Given the great job the military did in rounding up innocent Afghan farmers for a stay at Club Gitmo, one might justifiably wonder about some of these deaths by Hellfire.  Naturally, the Attorney General assures us that these “enemy combatants” must be “senior operational leaders,” who are planning an attack, cannot be captured easily and live in a country that has given us permission to assassinate its people.  This apparently does not apply to operations in Pakistan, which constantly objects to our strikes.  Or in Yemen, where lack of intelligence has lead the military/CIA to conclude from “patterns of behavior” – routines, places visited, associates, etc. – whether an individual is a terrorist who deserves to be exploded.  Could this be getting out of hand?

It is wonderful to think of murdering barbarian scum being vaporized by American technology, but the problem is that many, if not most of those having their body parts scattered across the countryside are not in fact murdering scum but rather the inevitable innocent bystanders, or “splats” as the military more honestly calls them in private.  This is hardly endearing us to the populations we ostensibly want to help and only contributes to the creation of martyrs.  Another problem, more disturbing, is that in three instances the murdering scum were American citizens, meaning that the President, in consultation with his generals and spooks, has acted as judge and executioner in the deaths of Americans.  The slopes do not get more slippery than this.

I fear for the Republic.  Domestic surveillance, both legal and questionable, has increased dramatically in the wake of the destruction of the Reichstag..I mean, Twin Towers.  American citizens can now be detained without charge for some indefinite period, and the constant cries of “secret” and “national security” make all terrorism trials problematic with regard to evidence.  Somehow the CIA, an intelligence agency once prohibited from assassinating people, has now acquired heavy weaponry and the authority to blow up individuals around the world.  The President, on very dubious grounds, seemingly now has the right to send American military forces virtually anywhere, never mind Congressional authorization.  Like the dictators we frequently work with he may now order the execution of anyone he, the military and the intelligence agencies decide upon.  And like the Japanese seventy years ago and the Israelis more recently we have adopted the concept of the “protective reaction strike,” which allows us to attack anyone we deem potentially threatening.  This used to be called a “war of aggression” and we prosecuted Germans for it not so long ago.

The Obama administration is demonstrating something more cynical historians have long believed: the prime directive of any government, be it a democracy, military dictatorship, absolute monarchy or whatever, is to defend and increase its power.  No government, even one momentarily controlled by a liberal speaking President, will ever willingly surrender power.  And unfortunately the American people are demonstrating no inclination to change this situation, if it is even possible, given the utter stranglehold the Democratic and Republican parties hold over our system.

Lost Lyrics of Julia Ward Howe

The Battle Hym of the C.I.A.

Julia Ward Howe

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Drone:

It is trampling on the village where the terrorists are prone;

It hath loosed the Hellfire Missile and Its shards of death are sown:

Its truth is flying on.

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Its truth is flying on.

I have seen It on the runways of a hundred U.S. camps,

They have builded It a hanger ‘mid the Afghan dews and damps;

I can read Its bombing schedule by electric powered lamps:

Its death is flying on.

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Its death is flying on.

Foes have read a fiery gospel writ in guided tubes of steel:

“As ye have hurt our interests, so with you my bombs shall deal;

Let the Hellfire, born of Lockheed, crush the Muslim with its heel;

My bombs are flying on.”

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Its bombs are flying on.

It has sounded forth the radar that shall find the hiding place;

It is snuffing out the lives of men in every tribal space;

As our Predator is searching, we are basking in Its grace;

Our Drone is flying on.

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Our Drone is flying on.

In the bosom of the transports Drones were born across the sea,

With a glory in Their programs that transfigures you and me:

As They fire to make men corpses, let us die as Wall Street’s fee,

While Drones are flying on.

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

While Drones are flying on.

It is coming in the glory of the children in the grave,

It is profit for the mighty, It is heedless of the brave,

So the world shall be our footstool, and the soul of man our slave,

Our Drone is flying on.

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Glory, glory, Lockheed Martin!

Our Drone is flying on.

A 2012 Wish List

This Wish List involves changes that might conceivably be made, though I suspect it will be a frosty day in the nether regions, since most of them would have to be implemented by politicians, and they and the interests that own them would face losing the most.  But they nevertheless may be distinguished from the truly impossible, such as altering our political system to break the grip of the Democratic and Republican parties or requiring an intelligence test for holding national political office (good-bye GOP).



Why wait another two years?  Iraq is actually a country with an infrastructure, albeit damaged, and a serious potential revenue source in the form of oil, yet it is already collapsing, only weeks after the departure of our military.  Afghanistan is less a country than a space defined by the nations surrounding it, and virtually every one of the four major ethnic groups would like to lord it over the others or create its own country.  The last national election was a farce, corruption is an embedded Afghan tradition and any sort of real loyalty can be found only at the tribal level.  The only time Afghanistan has come even close to a national entity is under autocratic strong men, and while the locals might appreciate the odd school or clinic, they clearly do not like foreign military on their soil, especially when that military tends to be a bit casual about collateral damage.  Yes, we have pulled most of our military out of Iraq, but do we need a “diplomatic” presence of some ten thousand, guarded by five thousand of the mercenaries the locals have come to love?  What will all these people be doing as Iraq slides into civil war and/or Iranian control?  With Kuwait (and to a lesser extent Bahrain) being little more than a giant American military base, why do we need Baghdad?



This should be simple.  A relative handful of people almost brought down the global economy, yet very little has been done to correct this liability.  There remains a dangerous lack of transparency, especially regarding arcane financial instruments, and major banks are still finding ways to dodge what little regulation exists, especially given the increasing globalization of banking.  The EU is considering a tax on financial transactions, which would help against the growing number of parasites whose manipulation of markets produces nothing except wealth for themselves and helps distort the relationship between supply, demand and price.  But unless all the industrialized countries participate, this activity will simply move to New York.  Meanwhile, the income gap in America is reaching unprecedented levels.



An incumbent in Congress, unless he is a complete fool, may essentially keep his seat until he dies, which means he can spend his whole life running for reelection.  In the eighties the turnover in the Soviet Politbureau was greater than that of the American Congress, and even in the unhappy year 2010 the Congressional reelection rate was 97%.  Polls indicate that the public feels that all these political lifers should be thrown out, but the feeling apparently rarely extends to their own Senator or Representative.  This reform is actually talked about, but it is hard to imagine someone in Congress voting to limit their own access to the federal gravy train.



It is clearly impossible to limit campaign contributions and thus the power of big money to influence elections: even those laws that do not run afoul of the First Amendment are always easily sidestepped.  Instead, allow anyone or any entity, even foreign governments, to contribute money, but all contributions will be published on a dedicated website, on a periodic nationally broadcast television program and in major newspapers across the country.  Any violation would result in the immediate termination of the individual’s candidacy.  Monies spent by advocacy groups rather than by an individual will be treated similarly, and violations will be rewarded with huge fines.  If Americans cannot be bothered to avail themselves of all this information concerning who is buying whom, which is likely, then we get what we deserve.



For reasons that have everything to do with domestic politics we have with Israel the sort of “passionate attachment” to a foreign power that George Washington warned against.  The interests of Israel are not always the same as America’s; they are in fact increasingly divergent.  Israel is permitted behavior that would immediately stir official outrage were it any other country, and our unqualified support for a state that routinely violates accepted international law, especially regarding Arab populations, contributes mightily to our reputation as self-serving hypocrites.




The size, nature and equipment of our military should be determined by realistic evaluation of the actual threats out there rather than based on outmoded thinking inherited from the twentieth century, the insatiable desires of the Pentagon and the needs of politics and the defense industry.  With economic globalization the chance of a real war with a major industrial and military power like China is becoming vanishingly small and with it the need for $100 million fighter aircraft and more attack submarines.  And any (for the moment inconceivable) war with a power strong enough to require all the systems the Pentagon wants must inevitably go nuclear.



For several thousand years the approach to pirates has been summary execution.  Why are these people now being given trials, especially at a time when we are executing from above even American citizens if they are designated terrorists by the government/military?  Any man who attempts to hijack a ship clearly designates himself a pirate and should thus be liable to execution, preferably by the traditional hanging.  Make it clear to the denizens of Somalia and other places that any unidentifiable vessel found in certain delineated international waters will be immediately destroyed.



Nuclear fission is a proven non-fossil fuel source of power, requiring nothing more than easily produced fissionable material and water for cooling.  It produces no pollutants, and examined sensibly, the issue of what to do with the radioactive waste disappears.  We already have the technology to bury and secure this stuff for the next several centuries, by which time we will have better technology or more likely, no longer exist.  The imagined need to secure this waste for ten thousand years is simply silly.  Further, the industry must produce standardized designs and streamline the licensing process, as has France, which has for decades successfully generated some 75% of its power through fission.  Other green technologies are not yet developed enough, and nuclear power could easily carry us through until technologies like solar and even fusion are perfected.



A mature society should indeed look after its disadvantaged, but not at the expense of those who can contribute the most.  A major problem, among others, in our public education system is the waste of resources and time on those who simply will not learn, a waste exacerbated by the tendency of these same people to degrade the education of those who would learn.  There is of course the problem of what to do with the negative element, but keeping them in school is not the answer, inasmuch as they harm the educational environment of others and end up joining the underclass of the uneducated anyway.  And while we should look to the education of those with “special needs,” mainstreaming them clearly comes at the expense of those who have functioning intellects and bodies.  I cannot confirm this, but I have read that for every $1 spent on those who are in some way dysfunctional, about 3¢ is spent on the gifted.  This is no way to secure the future of our country.  Incidentally, it is of course impossible to remove big money sports and its corrupting influence from American higher education, but at the very least the NBA and NFL should be paying for all those athletic scholarships.


OK, this is emotion-based, but make it clear to the ruthless jerks in Pyongyang that any assault on South Korea or anyone else will result in their capital being turned to glass, China notwithstanding.

I Fought in Iraq and All I got Was This (Bloody) T-Shirt?

On December 12 President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the end of the war in Iraq.  Those eight years of war came at a stiff price.  Approximately 4500 American troops were killed, and some 33,000 received significant wounds; how many thousands will suffer psychological problems in the future can only be guessed at.  The war cost taxpayers a trillion dollars, and the expenses continue despite the departure of our military.  The war quickly eliminated the world-wide support for America in the wake of 9/11, fomented more anti-American feelings in the Muslim world and distracted the US from operations against al-Qaeda.

The bill for Iraq is far greater.  Saddam is dead, but so are more than 100,000 (perhaps many more) Iraqis, and 1.6 million are still refugees abroad.  Over one million internal refugees were also created.  What little functioning infrastructure the country possessed before the invasion has been mostly destroyed, and 23% of Iraqis live in utter poverty, earning $2 or less a day.

And what do we all get in return for this massive expenditure by the American and Iraqi people?

It is clear now, as it was to many then, that Saddam was absolutely no threat to anyone except his own people, and rather than “protecting” America the conflict has only exacerbated the terrorist problem and immensely strengthened the position of Iran, beckoning the US into another armed conflict.  That the new democratic Iraq would be a beacon of freedom and hope in the region has not played out, and the present toppling of authoritarian governments in the Arab world owes absolutely nothing to American efforts.

Whether or not Iraq now has a functioning democracy remains to be seen, and in any case the current government is unable to provide even basic services for its people, who are still being blown up on a regular basis.  Unfortunately for the US, Iraq has also failed to become a compliant “ally” and serve American interests in the region.  Quite understandably, the Iraqis refused to continue granting the American forces immunity from Iraqi law and prosecution, which with the war officially ended would go a long way to marking the American military as an occupying force.  Predictably, Obama took credit for removing our troops, though he actually had no say in the matter, and the Republicans, seemingly unaware of the meaning of “national sovereignty,” complained that we were leaving without having finished the job.

It is not even clear if Iraq can succeed as a country, whatever the nature of its government.  The Kurdish north is already on the brink of becoming a separate state and is increasingly under the influence of Turkey.  Iraqi Sunnis are somewhat less than enthusiastic about the Shiite dominated government and its ties to Iran, and Sunni insurgent activity threatens to turn into an outright civil war, especially if the government proves unable to alleviate the miserable conditions in which most Iraqis live.  Being a province carved by the Ottomans out of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious area is hardly a strong foundation for a nation state.

And for all our blood and treasure and newly enhanced imperial reputation?  Iraq, once a bulwark against Iran (remember Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam?) is already falling rapidly under Iranian influence.  Only two states in the region have refused to go along with the Arab League and condemn the bloody Syrian government: Iran and Iraq.  Under the guise of a program of reconciliation Baghdad is even releasing prisoners accused or convicted of murdering Americans, and as the economic frosting on this ineptly baked cake, it is primarily non-American companies that are signing up to exploit Iraqi resources, should that ever be possible.  Few outside Washington would consider this a successful foreign policy outcome.

Meanwhile, American diplomatic personnel will be hiding out in the biggest and most heavily fortified embassy on the planet, a target so protected that even American journalists are not allowed to see it.  Bereft of troops, we will be hiring 5000 mercenaries to protect these people, further enhancing our wonderful image in the region.  We get to look like an imperial power without enjoying any of the benefits associated with such a status.

On the other hand, this ill-advised and ineptly conducted war of aggression appears almost sensible compared to our current hemorrhaging of lives and money for an unbelievably corrupt and ineffective government of an area that is even less of a country than the one time Turkish province: Afghanistan.

9/11: Who Won?

A decade
after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 there have been no subsequent successful
operations in the US,
al-Qaida in Afghanistan-Pakistan has been decimated and the evil Grecian
Formula mastermind has been eliminated.
It would appear that we have won.
I wonder.

spectacular and horrific, in the cold and callous great scheme of things the
destruction wrought ten years ago was hardly a material blow to our country and
certainly did not threaten national security.
Terrorism is, literally, a bloody nuisance, and even a terrorist with a
nuclear weapon is a far less serious threat to America
than running trillion dollar deficits or tolerating an unregulated financial
sector.  The real damage of 9/11 was to
the American psyche, an unexpected blow to our self-confidence that produced a
level of national fear and anger not seen since Pearl Harbor.  And unlike the Norwegians, we allowed that
emotion, especially the fear, to undermine our principles, and in the end we
defeated ourselves.

immediate retaliation against Afghanistan
was certainly justified, but the decision to somehow guarantee our security by creating
a united and democratic Afghanistan,
a plainly impossible task, has been a catastrophe, contributing immensely to
our current fiscal woes.  Popular fear
and Congressional cowardice in the face of that fear then allowed the Executive
branch to launch an utterly unjustified and costly invasion of Iraq
that has brought us absolutely no benefit and has enhanced the position of Iran.  A fearful citizenry is always more inclined
to unquestioning acceptance of policy, and it is a rare government that does
not take advantage of this fact.

The result
of this emotional rush to judgment and absence of reasoned deliberation was two
very expensive wars (6000 American lives and $3 trillion – so far)  and the complete and rapid evaporation of the global
goodwill that followed upon that September day.
Our apparent carelessness with Arab lives and property, the frequent and
readily obvious employment of torture and humiliation and that still festering
wound to American principles, Guantanamo,
all conspired to tarnish our image around the world and eliminate what little
credibility we had in the Middle East after 30 years of
unqualified and self-destructive support of Israel.  Hellfire missiles and our hesitant
involvement in the Arab Spring certainly make our trumpeting of freedom and
democracy ring a bit hollow.

What we have
done to ourselves is the most serious outcome of 9/11.  When frightened, humans are easily convinced
to surrender freedoms in exchange for security or even the appearance of
security.  So cowed were we that a
Presidential press secretary could publicly state that “Americans need to
watch what they say,” and nary an eyebrow was raised (I think he was
talking about me).  And with all the independence
and resolve of a flock of sheep Congress passed the Patriot Act, the greatest
assault on our civil liberties since the McCarthy era.  They then erected perhaps the most towering
edifice of bureaucratic silliness ever, the Department of Homeland Security,
whose very name evokes images of authoritarian societies.

9/11 was of
course the mother lode for the military, whose budget nearly doubled in the
ensuing decade, though it is a bit unclear against whom we will be using those
attack submarines and advanced aircraft.
Our inclination to solve international problems with violence rather
than diplomacy, already robust, received a shot of steroids, and now even the
CIA, nominally an intelligence agency, has access to and the freedom to use
sophisticated military hardware like drones and missiles.  We now find ourselves in a strange world
where a missile that kills twenty Pakistani civilians is labeled a
“precision weapon,” while a home-made car bomb in Times Square is a
“weapon of mass destruction,” as if the identity of the shooter
determined the nature of the munition.

Though we
did much to shape it and as High Signatories are bound to defend it, our regard
for international law has become extremely ragged, especially in defense of Israel.  For the first time in our history we attacked
a country with absolutely no affirmable cause and now regularly and openly
violate the sovereignty of other nations, particularly Pakistan,
something our government at least tried to keep secret during the Vietnam war.  In the name of security, and with no little
arrogance, we routinely treat other nations in ways that would bring howls of
anger and indignation were we on the receiving end.  We regularly insist that nations heed the
resolutions of the UN Security Council, but promptly ignore them if they are
contrary to our interests; consider our record of vetoes of resolutions
critical of Israel.

Our very
Constitution is being threatened by this government-encouraged mania of fear
and the attendant xenophobia.  Apart from
serious issues concerning the policing powers allowed by the Patriot Act there
is also a threatening growth in the power and autonomy of some federal
entities, most notably the CIA.  Whether
or not death from above is effective (many innocents are killed), the notion
that anonymous individuals in the military and CIA have the authority to judge
who is a terrorist and execute him is a bit disturbing.  And it is now our intention to assassinate an
American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, if he can be found.  Perhaps this is the only way to deal with
this loathsome creature, but we nevertheless thereby place ourselves on a
frightening slippery slope of expediency over principle.

The 9/11
terrorists certainly demonstrated that fear can profoundly affect a society: a
frightened populace is inevitably more willing, even enthusiastic, to grant
government more authority, which will be eagerly accepted by any government,
whatever its nature.  All political entities seek to defend and increase their
powers, and the American Presidency is no exception, its vaguely defined
Constitutional powers constantly expanded and supplemented, especially since
World War II. And once granted,

power will not be easily relinquished; for all its promises the new
administration has kept intact the emergency arrangements of the last.  Power is power, whatever your ideological

is still here, but it is not quite the same.
The terrorists destroyed two buildings and thousands of lives, but it is
we who changed our country, and not for the better.