Links 1/5/11


  1. Doug Terpstra

    “War is a Drug: the Urge to Surge” by Tom Engelhardt is a withering diagnosis of imperial suicide.

    Barely twenty years after the USSR interred itself in “the graveyard of empires” known as Afghanistan, we have been sucked willingly into the same black hole. The Neocons’ narco-state warlords are laughing all the way to the bank while their own creation, al-Qaeda “freedom fighters” and the Taliban, useful tools against Reagan’s “evil empire”, now relentlessly bleed Gulliver to death from a thousand cuts like the Viet Cong nearly did forty years ago.

    Trajically, Obama proved to be just another violence junkie, and this binge is headed for desolation and ruin, the necessary place to start a new life.

    In more hopeful, related news, charges were dropped against anti-war protesters Hedges, Ellsberg, McGovern, and Veterans for Peace. It appears our fascist government can’t afford the public spectacle that not even the “liberal” media could ignore and quietly dropped charges with patently-lame paperwork excuses. Wholly reliant on fraud, propaganda and terror, it is promising that they fear the public awakening such giants can provoke. Chris Hedges, et al, scored a big win that can be repeated.

    1. Jim Haygood

      At least in terms of drone attacks — a uniquely cowardly form of state terrorism — Peace Laureate O’Bomber is emerging as an even bigger war criminal than his predecessor Airman Bush:

      As many as 2,043 people, mostly civilians, were killed in US drone attacks in northwestern parts of Pakistan during the last five years, research has revealed.

      The yearly report of Conflict Monitoring Centre (CMC) has termed the CIA drone strikes as an ‘assassination campaign turning out to be revenge campaign’, and showed that 2010 was the deadliest year ever of causalities resulted in drone-hits in Pakistan.

      According to the report, 134 drone attacks were reported in Pakistan’s FATA region in 2010 alone, inflicting 929 causalities. December 17 was the deadliest day of 2010 when three drone attacks killed 54 people in Khyber Agency.

      Regarding civilian causalities and attacks on women and children, the report said: “People in the tribal belt usually carry guns and ammunition as a tradition. US drones will identify anyone carrying a gun as a militant and subsequently he will be killed.”

      “Many times, people involved in rescue activities also come under attack. The assumption that these people are supporters of militants is quite wrong,” The Nation quoted the CMC report as stating.

      The document cited the Brooking Institute’s research, which suggested that with every militant killed, nearly ten civilians also died.

      Hey, hey, Barack I say
      How many kids did ya kill today?

    2. Cynthia

      The only reason why General Petraeus got away with fabricating this myth that he pulled off a successful surge in Iraq is because we were on the winning side of a civil war in Iraq. But since we are stuck knee deep in what amounts to a losing side of a civil war in Afghanistan, Petraus won’t be able to fabricate a similar sort of myth that he pulled off a successful surge in Afghanistan.

      Obama and his top general in Afghanistan need to wake up and smell the coffee — no amount of fabrication on their part will change the fact the both of them are bound to go down in history as war-losers. And the soon they realize this, the sooner we can cut our losses in Afghanistan and get back to producing more productive things for our country and our people — like making repairs and upgrades to our schools, roads and bridge. But the way things are shaping up, Afghanistan is destined to become Obama’s Vietnam.

  2. M.InTheCity

    The Bill Daley piece is cute. I love how they note that he’ll be an “outside voice.” Really? Like somehow everyone forgets that Rahm was a bagman (i.e. money scrounger) for the Daleys? This is just getting the real deal and not some high-up soldier. And he’s worked at a bank for the last 10 years after he was Commerce Secretary. Yeah – hope and change has never been better.

    1. lorac

      This little quote caught my eye…

      Obama aides have been discussing naming an executive to a top job as a way to give the business community more of a voice in the administration.

      Surely they jest? I laughed out loud until I realized that it was meant to be serious.

  3. Cynthia

    Facebook is all clicks and no bricks, making it an internet company that is totally virtual in nature. Because of this, Facebook is far from being a labor-intensive company. Look it up: Facebook, despite spanning the globe and despite making its founder into a billionaire in less than five years, needs only a few thousand people to keep it fully up and running.

    Our banking system is another case in point. It is fast becoming nothing more than a virtual component on the World Wide Web. Because of this, our banks, especially the giant TBTF ones, are cutting back on the number of their employees. They are doing this despite that fact they are growing both in terms of their net worth and their global reach.

    My purpose in saying all this isn’t to bash Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook empire. Nor is it to bash the Goldmans of the World. I’m merely making the point, despite being rather poor at it, that America don’t need more entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Lloyd Blankfein who are capable of making billions for their companies by having just a skeleton crew of people working for them. We need more entrepreneurs who can create companies that employ large numbers of people. On top of that, we need more entrepreneurs that are more loyal to the American economy than they are to the global economy, thus refusing to outsource American jobs to low-wage countries. This is the only way that we can get our economy back on a growth curve and get our unemployment rate back down below, say, five percent. And the companies that are most likely to accomplish this are the ones that are rooted in real economy, not the ones that are rooted the the virtual economy.

  4. Jim Haygood

    How do you know you’re living in a police state? When footdragging on the job brings not a reprimand, disciplinary action, or firing, but federal wire fraud charges. I am not making this up:

    The feds are looking into the possibility that [NYC] sanitation workers may have committed crimes by deliberately slowing down work in the early stages of the blizzard cleanup, according to law enforcement sources.

    Sources tell NBC NewYork anyone caught in a work stoppage could be charged with wire fraud for collecting pay and overtime for work they did not perform.

    Investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District are conducting the probe.

    How exactly does collecting a paycheck turn into ‘wire fraud’? Oh … direct deposit! Working in the black market for cash looks better and better … but then depositing your pay turns into ‘money laundering.’

    Isn’t there some way to just check directly into prison, and dispense with all the mucking about? The average person commits three felonies a day, just going about their daily business …

    1. Externality

      This reminds me of the former USSR, where any bad outcome was labeled “wrecking,” “anti-Soviet activity,” or some other crime. Train conductors who ran behind schedule, factory workers who failed to meet production quotas, farmers who grew too little wheat, and “kulaks” (successful farmers) who upset the collective by growing too much wheat were all accused of undermining the USSR, and, after a farcical “trial” sent to the gulag and/or murdered.

      As applied in practice, “wrecking” and “sabotage” could refer to any actions which could be broadly construed to negatively impact the economy in some way, including failing to meet economic targets, causing poor morale among subordinates, lack of effort, or alleged or real incompetence. Thus, it referred to economic or industrial sabotage only in the very broadest sense. Many who were charged were merely scapegoats. In many cases, even those who were not engaged in industrial activity (including scientists) were charged with wrecking. Many of the victims of the Great Purge were charged with wrecking.

      Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his historical account of the prison camps of the Soviet Union, The Gulag Archipelago, describes Nikolai Karlovich von Meck, an engineer who advised heavier-than-average loads being placed on freight trains for the betterment of the economy. He was accused of being a wrecker and shot, his crime being supposedly having overloaded the trains for the purpose of wearing out the rails faster.[1]

      1. Externality

        And, yes, the Soviet state had “norms” for snow removal. Workers assigned to snow removal were expected to remove so many cubic meters per day of snow, or else.

    2. propertius

      And thus is the transition back to serfdom completed. All that remains is to restore the High Justice to the nobility so they need not bother with the inefficiencies of the judicial system before executing unruly vassals.

  5. Jim the Skeptic

    “War is a Drug: the Urge to Surge” by Tom Engelhardt

    That is quite a rant, as anything else it fails!

    The mission in Afghanistan was to secure the extradition of al Qaida and it’s leaders.

    When that failed CIA went in to assist the Northern Alliance to overthrow the government which was controlled by the Taliban. That was accomplished in short order.

    Next came the mission for the US military to kill or capture the members of al Qaida. That mission was given insufficient forces due to the Iraqi War which required the vast majority of available troops. President Bush get’s the blame for that low priority for Afghanistan. He was Commander in Chief. He and his Secretary of Defense set the Afghanistan War up for failure.

    The military drove al Qaida into the Tora Bora cave complex but did not have sufficient forces to complete the capture. They set up Afghanistani militias as a blocking force and proceeded to search. This was doomed from the start. The people of Afghanistan survive by not getting drawn into “blood feuds”, They negotiate relentlessly, which is what they did here, and al Qaida was allowed to escape into the tribal areas of Pakistan.

    If al Qaida leaders had been captured at Tora Bora, we could have left a small embassy, some military aid, and come home. We have no long term interests in Afghanistan.

    But after al Qaida went into Pakistan, it was the Vietnam War all over again. If you allow an armed force to operate from a sanctuary, for whatever reason, the conflict could go on forever. That was one of the most important lessons learned in Vietnam.

    Our Civil War history had already taught some of that same lesson. Union generals had allowed General Lee to come and go as he pleased. General Grant took the Union army into Virginia and followed Lee everywhere he went. Grant was relentless and troop losses were high on both sides, but that series of battles put a end to Lee’s army.

    Pakistan would never allow our ground troops in their country. So they have fought a clandestine war, apparently mostly by armed drone aircraft.

    President Bush is responsible for this mess. Rumsfeld tended to badger military officers until they went along with his plans. He then claimed that those officers had approved. HE WAS THEIR SUPERIOR, THEY WENT ALONG WITH THEIR BOSS AFTER OBJECTING.

    Obama has continued Bush’s war for 2 years. There is no good news about the Afghanistan government or army. Clearing the Taliban out of the provinces serves no long term purpose. Our only interest is al Qaida and we should require the Pakistanis turn them over or allow us to go get them. Failing that, we should pack up and come home.

    Our civilian government completely controls the military. Again that has gotten us in trouble, as civilians set unrealistic limits and allocated insufficient resources. These 2 wars required a draft and an increase in taxes!

    1. Externality

      Jim the Skeptic omitted the Konduz Airlift a/k/a the “Airlift of Evil” where the Bush Administration ordered the Special Forces and Northern Alliance to allow Pakistan to airlift out encircled Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, and their Pakistani “advisers.” The SF and NA both reluctantly complied, amid a near-mutiny among NA troops who wanted to finish off, with or without US air support, the Taliban and AQ fighters trapped in the Konduz pocket.

      If the Bush administration had not intervened, the Taliban and AQ would have been deprived of most of its experienced fighters and mid-level commanders.

      1. KMansfield

        Externality omitted that the Northern Alliance are some nasty men, drug lords and like them some bacha bazi boys.

        Before Bin Laden escaped in the mountains at Tora Bora in Dec 2001,
        The NA with our special forces caputured 8000 Taliban, along with John Walker Lynd, (November 25, 2001)
        In Dec, the NA and our Special Forces supposedly averting their eyes, committed a mass murder otherwise known as the convoy of death.

        Are you advocating more of this? Kill everyone to make sure that you get a few bad guys?

    2. KMansfield

      Jim the Skeptic: ” Our only interest is al Qaida and we should require the Pakistanis turn them over or allow us to go get them. Failing that, we should pack up and come home.”

      You seem to be unaware of the TAPI pipeline. The completion date coincides with our new drawdown date. American intelligence ability to differentiate between civilians and AQ is very poor and they seem to be unable to ascertain if what remains of AQ in pashtunistan is even a threat to Americans, and what of Pakistan’s national interests?

      The Taliban were not ever our enemy but mission creep, or perhaps Cheney’s Oil men’s failure to come to an agreement with them for the construction of TAPI pipeline even before 9/11 has allowed them to become confused.

  6. Sundog

    Here’s some good news for the Greater DC Special Economic Zone. A respected scholar of the Mexican underworld says Afghan heroin reaches US markets via Mexico-based organizations.

    Buscaglia said increasingly close ties between Turkish criminal groups and the Mexican drug cartels make the illegal imports possible.
    “The Sinaloa cartel establishes contacts with suppliers of heroin that allow them to position themselves so that the heroin arrives in Chicago or New York as if through an outsourcer. The Mexican group receives the drugs and distributes them in the local market.”

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