Posts Tagged ‘Robert Scheer’

Arms Dealer Obama Will Win by Default

January 5, 2012

By , opednews.com,  January 5, 2011
reprinted from truthdig.com

 Barack Obama will be re-elected not as a vindication of his policies but because the Republicans are incapable of providing a reasonable challenge to his flawed performance. On the central issue of our time–reining in the greed of the multinational corporations, led by the financial sector and the defense industry–a Republican presidential victor, with the possible exception of the now-sidelined Ron Paul, would do far less to challenge the kleptocracy of corporate-dominated governance.

As compared to front-runner Mitt Romney, who wants to derail even Obama’s tepid efforts at regulating Wall Street, and who seeks ever more wasteful increases in military spending, the incumbent president appears relatively enlightened, but that is cold comfort.

Continues >>

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Here We Go Again

December 3, 2009

by Robert Scheer, TruthDig.com, Dec  2, 2009

It is already a 30-year war begun by one Democratic president, and thanks to the political opportunism of the current commander in chief the Afghanistan war is still without end or logical purpose. President Barack Obama’s own top national security adviser has stated that there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida members in Afghanistan and that they are not capable of launching attacks. What superheroes they must be, then, to require 100,000 U.S. troops to contain them.

Continues >>

Afghanistan looking more like Vietnam

September 3, 2009

Robert Scheer, SF Gate, September 3, 2009

True, he doesn’t seem a bit like Lyndon Johnson, but the way he’s headed on Afghanistan, Barack Obama is threatened with a quagmire that could bog down his presidency. LBJ also had a progressive agenda in mind, beginning with his war on poverty, but it was soon overwhelmed by the cost and divisiveness engendered by a meaningless, and seemingly endless, war in Vietnam.

Meaningless is the right term for the Afghanistan war, too, because our bloody attempt to conquer this foreign land has nothing to do with its stated purpose of enhancing our national security. Just as the government of Vietnam was never a puppet of communist China or the Soviet Union, the Taliban is not a surrogate for al Qaeda. Involved in both instances was an American intrusion into a civil war whose passions and parameters we never fully have grasped and will always fail to control militarily.

The Vietnamese communists were not an extension of an inevitably hostile, unified international communist enemy, as evidenced by the fact that communist Vietnam and communist China are both our close trading partners today. Nor should the Taliban be considered simply an extension of a Mideast-based al Qaeda movement, whose operatives the United States recruited in the first place to go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.

Those recruits included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9-11 attack, and financier Osama bin Laden, who met in Afghanistan as part of a force that Ronald Reagan glorified as “freedom fighters.” As blowback from that bizarre, mismanaged CIA intervention, the Taliban came to power and formed a temporary alliance with the better-financed foreign Arab fighters still on the scene.

There is no serious evidence that the Taliban instigated the 9-11 attacks or even knew about them in advance. Taliban members were not agents of al Qaeda; on the contrary, the only three governments that financed and diplomatically recognized the Taliban – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan – all were targets of bin Laden’s group.

To insist that the Taliban be vanquished militarily as a prerequisite for thwarting al Qaeda is a denial of the international fluidity of that terrorist movement. Al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence sources, has operated effectively in countries as disparate as Somalia, Indonesia, England and Pakistan, to name just a few. What is required to stymie such a movement is effective police and intelligence work, as opposed to deploying vast conventional military forces in the hope of finding, or creating, a conventional war to win. This last wan hope is what the effort in Afghanistan – in the last two months at its most costly point in terms of American deaths – is all about: marshaling enormous firepower to fight shadows.

The Taliban is a traditional guerrilla force that can easily elude conventional armies. Once again the generals on the ground are insisting that a desperate situation can be turned around if only more troops are committed, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal did in a report leaked this week. Even with U.S. forces being increased to 68,000 as part of an 110,000-strong allied army, the general states, “The situation in Afghanistan is serious.” In the same sentence, however, he goes on to say that “success is achievable.”

Fortunately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is given to some somber doubts on this point, arguing that the size of the U.S. force breeds its own discontents: “I have expressed some concerns in the past about the size of the American footprint, the size of the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan,” he said. “And, clearly, I want to address those issues. And we will have to look at the availability of forces, we’ll have to look at costs.”

I write the word fortunately because just such wisdom on the part of Robert McNamara, another defense secretary, during the buildup to Vietnam would have led him to oppose rather than abet what he ruefully admitted decades after the fact was a disastrous waste of life and treasure: 59,000 Americans dead, along with 3.4 million Indochinese, mostly innocent civilians.

I was reporting from Vietnam when that buildup began, and then as now there was an optimism not supported by the facts on the ground. Then as now there were references to elections and supporting local politicians to win the hearts and minds of people we were bombing. Then as now the local leaders on our side turned out to be hopelessly corrupt, a condition easily exploited by those we term the enemy.

Those who favor an escalation of the Afghanistan war ought to own up to its likely costs. If 110,000 troops have failed, will we need the half million committed at one point to Vietnam, which had a far less intractable terrain? And can you have that increase in forces without reinstituting the draft?

It is time for Democrats to remember that it was their party that brought America its most disastrous overseas adventure and to act forthrightly to pull their chosen president back from the abyss before it is too late.

2009 Creators.Com E-mail Robert Scheer at rscheer@truthdig.com.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/02/EDE419HPL5.DTL#ixzz0Q20jWnL8

McNamara’s Evil Lives On

July 9, 2009
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Truthdig.com, Posted on July 7, 2009

McNamara and Johnson
AP photo

President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, confers with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in November 1963.

By Robert Scheer

Why not speak ill of the dead?

Robert McNamara, who died this week, was a complex man—charming even, in a blustery way, and someone I found quite thoughtful when I interviewed him. In the third act of his life he was often an advocate for enlightened positions on world poverty and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. But whatever his better nature, it was the stark evil he perpetrated as secretary of defense that must indelibly frame our memory of him.

To not speak out fully because of respect for the deceased would be to mock the memory of the millions of innocent people McNamara caused to be maimed and killed in a war that he later freely admitted never made any sense. Much has been made of the fact that he recanted his support for the war, but that came 20 years after the holocaust he visited upon Vietnam was over.

Is holocaust too emotionally charged a word? How many millions of dead innocent civilians does it take to qualify labels like holocaust, genocide or terrorism? How many of the limbless victims of his fragmentation bombs and land mines whom I saw in Vietnam during and after the war? Or are America’s leaders always to be exempted from such questions? Perhaps if McNamara had been held legally accountable for his actions, the architects of the Iraq debacle might have paused.

Instead, McNamara was honored with the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson, to whom he had written a private memo nine months earlier offering this assessment of their Vietnam carnage: “The picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.”

He knew it then, and, give him this, the dimensions of that horror never left him. When I interviewed him for the Los Angeles Times in 1995, after the publication of his confessional memoir, his assessment of the madness he had unleashed was all too clear:

“Look, we dropped three to four times the tonnage on that tiny little area as were dropped by the Allies in all of the theaters in World War II over a period of five years. It was unbelievable. We killed—there were killed—3,200,000 Vietnamese, excluding the South Vietnamese military. My God! The killing, the tonnage—it was fantastic. The problem was that we were trying to do something that was militarily impossible—we were trying to break the will; I don’t think we can break the will by bombing short of genocide.”

We—no, he—couldn’t break their will because their fight was for national independence. They had defeated the French and would defeat the Americans who took over when French colonialists gave up the ghost. The war was a lie from the first. It never had anything to do with the freedom of the Vietnamese (we installed one tyrant after another in power), but instead had to do with our irrational Cold War obsession with “international communism.” Irrational, as President Richard Nixon acknowledged when he embraced détente with the Soviet communists, toasted China’s fierce communist Mao Tse-tung and then escalated the war against “communist” Vietnam and neutral Cambodia.

It was always a lie and our leaders knew it, but that did not give them pause. Both Johnson and Nixon make it quite clear on their White House tapes that the mindless killing, McNamara’s infamous body count, was about domestic politics and never security.

The lies are clearly revealed in the Pentagon Papers study that McNamara commissioned, but they were made public only through the bravery of Daniel Ellsberg. Yet when Ellsberg, a former Marine who had worked for McNamara in the Pentagon, was in the docket facing the full wrath of Nixon’s Justice Department, McNamara would lift not a finger in his defense. Worse, as Ellsberg reminded me this week, McNamara threatened that if subpoenaed to testify at the trial by Ellsberg’s defense team, “I would hurt your client badly.”

Not as badly as those he killed or severely wounded. Not as badly as the almost 59,000 American soldiers killed and the many more horribly hurt. One of them was the writer and activist Ron Kovic, who as a kid from Long Island was seduced by McNamara’s lies into volunteering for two tours in Vietnam. Eventually, struggling with his mostly paralyzed body, he spoke out against the war in the hope that others would not have to suffer as he did (and still does). Meanwhile, McNamara maintained his golden silence, even as Richard Nixon managed to kill and maim millions more. What McNamara did was evil—deeply so.

Dick Cheney’s Legacy of Deception

December 26, 2008

Truthdig Report,

December 23, 2008

Cheney and Bush
AP photo / Ron Edmonds

Watching his back: Vice President Dick Cheney looks on as President Bush speaks in this file photo from Jan. 18, 2008.

By Robert Scheer

In the end, the shame of Vice President Dick Cheney was total: unmitigated by any notion of a graceful departure, let alone the slightest obligation of honest accounting. Although firmly ensconced, even in the popular imagination, as an example of evil incarnate—nearly a quarter of those polled in this week’s CNN poll rated him the worst vice president in U.S. history, and 41 percent as “poor”—Cheney exudes the confidence of one fully convinced that he will get away with it all.

And why not? Nothing, not his suspect role in the Enron debacle, which foretold the economic meltdown, or his office’s fabrication of the false reasons for invading Iraq, has ever been seriously investigated, because of White House stonewalling. Nor will the new president, committed as he is to nonpartisanship, be likely to open up Cheney’s can of worms.

Cheney has even had a pass on torture, the “enhanced interrogation” policy that he initiated in his first months in office. “Was it torture? I don’t believe it was torture,” he told The Washington Times on Monday, a week after the release of a unanimous Senate report concluding that the policies Cheney initiated indeed were responsible for torture. In fact, the Senate committee concluded that the model for the Cheney-Bush interrogation policy was the torture practices of the Chinese communists during the Korean War. But it’s not torture when the U.S. president does it, according to the legal judgments that Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, pushed through the administration.

Fortunately, Cheney’s view of the unquestioned unitary power of the presidency was scorned by Vice President-elect Joe Biden: “His notion of a unitary executive” Biden said, “meaning that, in time of war, essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive I think is dead wrong.”

With Biden occupying Cheney’s old office and presumably his secret bunkers as well, maybe we will, at last, learn a bit more of the nefarious truth about the man. One place to start is with the statement of retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff and who stated unequivocally that Cheney was the primary author of the torture policy: “There’s no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated—in the vice president of the United States’ office.”

That lame-duck Cheney was bellowing his claim of innocence in a series of friendly interviews should have been expected. For he, like the president he served, can use the self-proclaimed “global war on terror” as a convenient cover for eight years of treachery on all fronts: “If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II; they went far beyond anything we’ve done in a global war on terror.”

Actually, neither of those presidents authorized the waterboarding of prisoners or the other explicit acts of torture approved by this administration largely under the vice president’s direction. But the true absurdity of Cheney’s self-defense is in placing the nebulous war on terror at the same level of threat as the civil war that tore apart this country or the Nazi military machine that rumbled unstoppable across most of Europe, augmented by the military might of Japan.

The invocation of a “global war on terror” is a big-lie propaganda device that has no grounding in reality. The proof that “terrorism” does not exist as an enemy identifiable by commonality of structure, purpose and leadership comparable to the World War II Axis or the Confederacy can be found in its use as a target to justify the invasion of Iraq. An invasion billed as a response to the 9/11 attacks, which had nothing to do with Iraq.

The Bush administration, with Cheney in the lead, did not so much fight the danger of terrorism as exploit it for partisan political purpose. The record is quite clear that the administration was asleep at the switch before 9/11, blithely ignoring stark warnings of an impending attack. But the hoary warmongering after 9/11 afforded a convenient distraction from the economic problems at home. As I asked in a column on June 26, 2002: “Has the war on terrorism become the modern equivalent of the Roman circus, drawing the people’s attention away from the failures of those who rule them? Corporate America is a shambles because deregulation, the mantra of our president and his party, has proved to be a license to steal.”

That is the true legacy of Dick Cheney and the president he ill-served.

Robert Scheer is editor in chief of Truthdig and author of a new book, “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”


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