nytimes.com — As I gazed at the faces of the more than 2,000 American service members killed since the war in Afghanistan began almost 11 years ago, I found myself thinking of lines of Kipling: "If any question why we died; Tell them, because our fathers lied. The untruths have been almost too numerous to chronicle, beginning with the great untruth that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that justified the war in Iraq (where more than 4,480 U.S. service members died); and sliding into the smaller, no less lethal untruths about how Pakistan was an ally in the Afghan struggle, and global terrorism beatable on the battle field, and nation-building feasible in Afghanistan, and sacrifice in the cause reasonable when half of the United States was off at the mall shopping, and victory always — always — within reach.
thenation.com — Should the enormous US military budget—which is more than double the combined levels of military spending by China, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Germany—be cut? This question is finally on the table, thanks to the winding down of combat activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and to Washington’s obsession with tamping down the federal deficits that have arisen from the Great Recession. Members of today’s military-industrial complex — the constellation of forces, including Democratic and Republican politicians, weapons manufacturers, lobbyists and the Pentagon leadership, whose influence President Eisenhower warned against in 1961 — claim that significant reductions in the military budget would decimate U.S. defenses and inflict major damage to the economy. In fact, these claims are demonstrably false.
mcclatchydc.com — Can we finally say the thing we have not said so far? Last week, a white supremacist shot up a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, killing six people and wounding three. It is considered likely that the shooter mistook the Sikhs, whose men wear beards and turbans, for Muslims. The massacre came a few weeks after a characteristically baseless charge by Michele Bachmann and several other conservative legislators that a Muslim aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ties to Islamic extremism. The juxtaposition of those two events is emphatically not meant to suggest Bachmann somehow “caused” the Wisconsin rampage. No, the point is that we are looking for terror in all the wrong places. Or, perhaps more accurately, that we are not looking for it in all the right places.n the almost 20 years since the first attack by Muslim extremists on the World Trade Center, the following things have happened.
tomdispatch.com — Some images remain like scars on my memory. One of the last things I saw in Iraq, where I spent a year with the Department of State helping squander some of the $44 billion American taxpayers put up to “reconstruct” that country, were horses living semi-wild among the muck and garbage of Baghdad. Those horses had once raced for Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein and seven years after their “liberation” by the American invasion of 2003, they were still wandering that unraveling, unreconstructed urban landscape looking, like many other Iraqis, for food. I flew home that same day to a country in which schools could not afford to pay teachers a decent wage. To this day I’m left pondering these questions: Why has the United States spent so much money and time so disastrously trying to rebuild occupied nations abroad, while allowing its own infrastructure to crumble untended? Why do we even think of that as “policy”?
democracyarsenal.org — You have to give the Cold War nostalgists at least some credit: what they lack in practicality, they make up for in bluster and pure tenacity. Reading conservative critiques of President Obama on national security like Henry Nau's new National Review Online piece is like going through the looking glass, where success is failure and failure is success. Nau's argument about the relationship between military forces and diplomatic objectives is worth dissecting -- if only because it typifies all the weaknesses of conservatives' case. Their theory says America can whip other nations into line through a combination of military muscle, thick-skinned disregard for others' interests or concerns, and stubborn insistence on getting our way. It's a new twist on an old proverb: build a more bullheaded foreign policy and the world will beat a path to lay down and be your doormat.
truthdig.com — Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate for the American presidency confirms that this campaign is going to be mainly about domestic issues—barring a not-impossible Israeli attack on Iran between here and there. It is likely to count for zero that is intelligent concerning American foreign policy during the next administration. Yet foreign affairs will be the most important issue of all to address as the United States staggers forward into the void. Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan seem close to the hawkish ideology that gave the United States its present military deployments in Asia and Central Asia, and now increasingly in Africa. But they seem to have no clear intellectual position at all, which is to say that they might easily become the instruments of others with aggressive ideologies of their own.
guardian.co.uk — An independent inquiry has established that Anders Behring Breivik, the clean-cut white supremacist who methodically murdered 77 people in Norway, moved around unchallenged for three hours after detonating a car bomb, despite police receiving eyewitness accounts of an armed man in protective gear. While mass killing always has a madness to its method, white supremacists are all too often declared to be psychopathic loners, where others are seen as part of organized ideological networks. While black and, more recently, Muslim anger are widely seen as the problematic pathologies of our times, and thus subjected to the full weight of sociological, scriptural, political and even economic analysis, declared white rage is routinely relegated to the fringes, written off as the result of individual psychopathy, and eliciting passing interest only after blood is shed.
tomdispatch.com — The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces -- coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack. Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place in both.
consortiumnews.com — When the modern Olympics were first conceived, they were intended as a peaceful alternative to war. The nations of the world were supposed to lay down their arms and stop fighting during the games out of respect for the Olympic ideal. That, of course, has not happened. The Games themselves encourage patriotism without reflection, while TV companies fight a war for ratings and revenues. When you turn away from the contests and leave the sports pages to return to the news pages, you note that the games politicians play are less open and much more covert, concealed with rhetoric and labeling that makes it much harder to identify the players or watch their coaches and advisers, who stay in the shadows. It’s far more fascinating, apparently to watch Curiosity rove about Mars, than look closely at the way the battle for Syria is being portrayed.
nytimes.com — IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq. Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards. For starters, he’s brilliant. (Or at least he was.) He speaks Chinese and taught at West Point, and his medical evaluations suggest that until his recent problems he had an I.Q. of about 148. After he graduated from West Point, in 2000, he received glowing reviews. Yet Richards’s intellect almost exacerbates his suffering, for it better equips him to monitor his mental deterioration — and the failings of the Army that he has revered since he was a young boy.