But this time we do know the victim. Amanullah, a 30 year old auto mechanic and father of five, who made a panicked phone call to his distant relative, Afghan MP Safiya Sidiqi, that the family compound was being raided by what he assumed was a “gang of thieves.”
He had no reason to think anything different. After all, who figures that the US would launch a night raid against the family home of a member of parliament? Shot six times by the raiding US troops, including in the face and heart, Amanullah was slain on the spot.
As far as the hidden agenda behind the war, I couldn’t even begin to guess what that is. I do know that the system is being driven by some people with pretty low morals and values, and they attempt to instill those values in the soldiers.
But the people who are driving the system don’t have to deal with the repercussions. It’s the American people who have to deal with them. They’re the ones who have to deal with all of these soldiers who come back from war, have no outlets and blow up.
I still live with this every day. When I close my eyes I see what happened that day and many other days like a slide show in my head. The smells come back to me. The cries of the children come back to me. The people driving this big war machine, they don’t have to deal with this. They live in their $36 million mansions and sleep well at night.
TomDispatch on the peculiar inability of the United States to withdraw. An excellent read, as usual:
Over the decades, Washington has gotten used to staying. The U.S. has long been big on arriving, but not much for departure. After all, 65 years later, striking numbers of American forces are still garrisoning the two major defeated nations of World War II, Germany and Japan. We still have about three dozen military bases on the modest-sized Japanese island of Okinawa, and are at this very moment fighting tooth and nail, diplomatically speaking, not to be forced to abandon one of them. The Korean War was suspended in an armistice 57 years ago and, again, striking numbers of American troops still garrison South Korea.
Similarly, to skip a few decades, after the Serbian air campaign of the late 1990s, the U.S. built-up the enormous Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo with its seven-mile perimeter, and we’re still there. After Gulf War I, the U.S. either built or built up military bases and other facilities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, as well as the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. And it’s never stopped building up its facilities throughout the Gulf region. In this sense, leaving Iraq, to the extent we do, is not quite as significant a matter as sometimes imagined, strategically speaking. It’s not as if the U.S. military were taking off for Dubuque.
There is a Chinese curse that reads, “May you live in interesting times.” Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also more open to the creative energies of man than any time in history. History will judge us and as time goes by we will surely come to judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society, where the strong are just and the weak secure. “Give me a place to stand,” said Archimedes, “and I will move the world.” Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events.
Bobby Kennedy, Fordham University, 1966
With the fragile state of the economy, much of the attention of American working families has been on the problems of recovery. On the Right, the Tea Party and Libertarians are rallying around the enormous deficits Washington has incurred trying to staunch the bleeding of the financial sector, and the threat of massive tax increases; while, on the Left, progressives and Socialists are fixed on social spending, the environment, and financial reform. For the rest, the catastrophic impact of this crisis – the threat or reality of unemployment, collapsing home prices, eviscerated public and private pensions and 401(k)s – and, the continuing fall of basic living standards menace the well being of everyone without regard to their political or ideological allegiances.
The grievances of working people are many and often appear contradictory, as can be seen by the great divide over the issue of health care reform. Yet, despite all the differences among us over what should be done in Washington to address our grievances – whether we fall into the camp that says government should do more, or the camp that says government should do less – we all know government has escaped our control entirely.
We think both sides in this debate are right. The federal government, despite accounting for one out of every four dollars spent by all national governments on the planet, nevertheless leaves its citizens suffering with public services that are both shameful and embarrassing. We have the worst of both worlds. Our education system is a disaster, our medical care system is literally sickening, our environment borders on catastrophe, and we are constantly warned that we are not secure within our own borders; yet, we spend more on these things than 172 other countries – combined.
It is not our political differences that poses the biggest obstacle in this recovery, but Washington’s crass indifference to us. Unless Washington is forced to address our concerns, it is unlikely we will see a serious debate over how to resolve them. Instead, we will continue to see the sterile exchange of talking points between the two major parties.
So how can we force Washington to address our collective concerns? This is surprisingly easy to do, although it requires outside the box thinking and tactics: We can slow or stop the economic recovery, until Washington consents to proceed in a way that is beneficial to us. We can demand that Washington dismantle its empire and shift those resources to address our concerns, or suffer a prolonged financial crisis created not only by market forces, but also by our unwillingness to cooperate in its schemes.
This only requires borrowing the successful tactics of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 5 year long boycott of grape. lettuce and wine producers led by Caesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union, and the boycott of British goods during the American Revolution, and applying those tactics to Washington’s attempt to restart the consumer debt bubble.
The financial crisis itself was only the result of Washington’s deliberate policy of encouraging consumer debt to mask the stagnation of wages for the last thirty years and especially for the last ten. According to Martin Baily and Susan Lund:
Household borrowing rose along with incomes for decades. But after 2000, interest rates fell well below their long-term average because of the combination of U.S. monetary policy and rising foreign purchases of U.S. government bonds by Asian governments and oil exporters. When low rates were combined with looser lending standards, consumer borrowing soared. From 2000 through 2007, the ratio of household debt to disposable income shot up from 101 percent to 136 percent—as much in seven years as in the previous quarter-century. Even with low interest rates, the ratio of household debt service payments to income rose to a record high.
Washington deliberately encouraged this growing debt bubble by keeping interest rates low, and by making no attempt to regulate lender standards on consumer loans. When this debt bubble encountered the limits of the stagnating wages that serviced it, a crash was certain. Even as the economy tottered on the brink of collapse, and Wall Street scrambled to cover its bets, Washington stepped in, not to protect working families from the fall out, but to bail out the very banks it encouraged to make bad loans in the first place.
Even now, Washington’s entire preoccupation is on holding interest rates – especially consumer rates – as low as possible, for as long as possible in order to restart the consumer debt ponzi scheme. And, this is for good reason, Baily and Lund calculate that if our consumer debt fell to its long term trend level, without an corresponding increase in wages, it would cost some 2.5 trillion dollars in lost GDP. This would dry up demand for imports from China, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, etc., and send shock waves throughout the global economy. Companies could no longer bet on moving their production facilities to these countries and importing back into a US consumer market funded by cheap, easy credit. Economic growth would be strictly limited to the real wages increase of American working families as it should be:
If incomes stagnate, as they have for most U.S. households since 2000, each percentage point reduction in the debt-to-income ratio would require nearly one percentage point more in the personal saving rate. And each extra point in the saving rate translates into $100 billion less spending … [a] reduction in household [debt] would require … $539 billion less consumption [per year].
A boycott of the consumer credit markets now would interrupt the cycle where export of jobs leads to imports of Chinese made goods leading to greater consumer debt.
Now is the time for us to think about economics in a whole new way – Not as a means of enforcing the existing order, but as a weapon in our hands to dismantle the Empire. A boycott of the consumer credit markets until Washington relents and withdraws its troop from Iraq, Afghanistan, and dismantles all of its foreign bases – a goal shared by significant portions of both Right and Left – could decisively change the debate in the United States, and overcome our divisions in a way that points to an entirely new paradigm.
As we look back on the success of Montgomery, Salinas, and the Colonies, we can being to imagine our own success!
To quote Chicago:
We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen
The widow of an Iraqi killed in a notorious US helicopter attack yesterday accepted an apology from two of the soldiers involved. The two wrote an open letter after footage of the 2007 incident was leaked on the internet.
Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, 33, told The Times that she forgave Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber, who wrote “we acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones”, because Mr McCord had also rescued her children: Duaa, 7, and Sajad, 13.
In her home yesterday, the two children lifted up their shirts to show bellies cross-hatched with scars sustained in the airstrike that killed their father, along with 11 other Iraqis including two employees of the Reuters news agency.
It was an attack that has now been viewed by millions after confidential military footage of the incident was released by the Wikileaks website. After the attack, Mr McCord can be seen carrying the injured children to safety.
The endless debate on the size of government spending divides TEA Partier from progressive, and Libertarian from Socialist. But, we have yet to see any examination of the spending presented in such a way as to give us any perspective on the claims of one side or the other.
Germany, it is said, has a lush and sensible social safety net, while our own is crude and stingy. France’s public spending burden is said to be oppressive as compared to the United States. And, Japan’s spending has lead to unprecedented levels of public debt after two decades of deflation fighting.
On Alternet, some members of Code Pink report on their recent attempt to survey members of a recent TEA Party demonstration to see if there is some common ground between the tax resistors movement and the peace movement.
On Tax Day, my CODEPINK colleagues and I conducted 50 interviews with Tea Party members about the cost of war and empire. With military spending eating up 20 percent of the federal budget and half of all discretionary spending, we figured that any serious effort to shrink government would have to deal with this bull in the china shop.
While a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the Tea Partiers to be relatively homogenous group of older, white, mostly males, we found that this group certainly doesn’t speak with the same tongue when it comes to the U.S. role in the world. On one side are the neocon interventionists who think the United States is God’s gift to the world. On the other side are non-interventionists who want to slay the warfare state. The extreme fissure is bound to upset the tea cart as more Tea Party leaders are forced to articulate their foreign policy positions.
Not surprising, they encountered a great deal of hostility to the cause of demilitarization – even to the point of being spat upon by at least one person – and about 70 percent support for present US military policy:
In our very small, unscientific sample, the hawks — many of whom were retired military or have close family in the military — outweighed the doves. Take the first question about the 800-plus bases the U.S. military maintains at a cost of over $100 billion a year. Thirty-five of the 50 respondents wanted to keep the bases. “We need those bases to maintain stability in the world. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if we weren’t there, the Islamists or the Chinese would jump in,” said Bruce Welker, a retired law enforcement officer from Pittsburgh. “I’d hate to see what would happen to the world without our military presence.”
The 15 people who wanted to dismantle the web of foreign military bases included Josh Little, a college student from Alexandria, Virginia. Josh said that his grandfather helped overthrow Hitler, but that was 60 years ago and it was high time for us to leave Germany. “I’d say the same for Japan, Korea and all of Europe. They can take care of themselves.”
The Code Pink activists found support for the idea of an alliance between left and right among those who did not support present US military policy. The common effort of Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul has some resonance within the group. Of the latter, the Code Pink activists note that Ron Paul’s “anti-empire message may be catching on” among these conservatives:
Cong. Ron Paul’s message of cutting the welfare/warfare state has attracted an enthusiastic following within the Tea Party. While progressives are turned off by his call for ending all kinds of domestic social programs, his anti-war and anti-empire message and consistent votes against war funding is a refreshing turn from liberal Democrats who decry war but always vote to fund it.
At the Tea Party Tax Day gathering, Cong. Ron Paul was one of the last to take the stage at the evening rally. He began by chastising liberals for their social spending, and then took on the conservatives for wanting to be the policemen of the world. “We’re stretched too far with all this government spending overseas,” he said to fans who had waited all day to hear him. “We should just mind our own business.”
Even Glen Beck was forced to give some lip service to this tendency in the TEA Party movement. The writer senses a great deal of tension within the TEA Party movement over the issue of Empire:
Tea Party leaders have been trying to keep this huge division between supporters of republic and empire under wraps. Aside from Ron Paul, you’ll rarely here them mention the raging wars or bulging military coffers. Their new Tea Party Contract from America, which talks about a limited government and an end to budget deficits, doesn’t mention military spending.
But you can’t have small government with a humongous military traipsing all over the world. Sooner or later, Tea Party leaders and manifestos will have to articulate their foreign policy positions.
Perhaps, what disappointed us after reading this very interesting report, was the writer’s apparent ignorance of the intellectual contradiction that also exists within the thinking of progressives: can you have big government without an equally “humongous military traipsing all over the world”? As one particularly astute young TEA Partier stated, “The hawks represent the old guard — so do both the Republican and the Democratic parties. With a few exceptions, they all love war and empire. But a small-government movement worth its salt can’t just be anti-Washington, it has to be anti-empire. If not, I’m outta here.”
The writer misses an important opportunity to ask: If you can’t be anti-Washington without also being anti-Empire, is it possible to be anti-Empire, without also being anti-Washington? Is the European Social compact worth the cost of an American Empire? Or, does the cost of the Empire make the compact not a prize but a burden, since the compact relies not on export surpluses, as in Germany, but on the ability to draw in massive surpluses produced abroad, i.e., since the American social safety net relies on the Empire?
Clearly, the division between the TEA Party and Libertarians on the one hand, and, progressives and Socialists on the other comes down to this!