Saturday, January 16, 2021
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President’s Statement Replacing McChrystal

President Obama's statement replaing General McChrystal with General Petraeus

BREAKING: Huffington Post Reports McChrystal Tendered Resignation

Read more here.

Update: McChrystal has told NBC News that he did not tender his resignation.  You can find the reference here.

“Talking Your Book” and One of Its More Dangerous and Immoral...


We can sugar coat it, or face the truth.  We can learn from history, or not.  The course we choose will determine our future in ways we can hardly imagine.  And, yet, as I write this, our nation persists in a version of Fantasyland, unencumbered by history.  The current American Prospect contains an article taking on what Wall Streeters call "talking your book."  According to the article here, talking your book means: "trying to get events to match up with the bets on your balance sheet." We're very familiar with the tactic in Washington, where we call it "spinning."

Our lives are saturated with such spin. Outside of Wall Street, some of the most egregious examples include the military contractor speak which embraces terms such as "spreading freedom" (though war); "democracy in a box," and "grand strategy," (as if all the variables in the world could be captured in one model).  Today, in Part 1, I address the hazards of the first of these.  I contend that we in the US cannot spread democracy by bombing another country, especially when that country did not attack us. Many of us have argued this point till we are "blue" in the face. But hegemonic-, military-, and military contractor- speak try to persuade otherwise.  And, despite the evidence, many still buy what the talking-your-book spinners tell us.

Afghanistan’s Newfound Wealth

Somehow the gang that is still looking for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has managed to stumble upon a trillion dollars in natural resources in Afghanistan. The imagined threat has been replaced by the promise of riches. Anything to justify the effort. Pardon the skepticism but, come on.

This "discovery" will be embraced by the same bunch that saw a free Iraq gratefully reimbursing the United States' expenditures of blood and treasure from the oil wealth under its soil. For years some very fine military personnel traded emails about the find of the day. We all hoped that the justification would prove true. Any trace of precursor chemicals fueled the hope that doubts about the necessity for prosecuting this war would be wiped clean. It never came. It never will.

Now a very dubious report splashes across the front pages that provides a very different justification for a very different prosecution. It fits so neatly. If we only stay the course, if we invest the time necessary, not only can we defeat terrorism at its source, we can also transform an impoverished nation into the "Saudi Arabia of lithium." We have dumped building democracies for building economic engines. Find this in the National Security Strategy under...?

Do the business case. Okay, so there is a trillion bucks worth of unproven resources at best. They are spread throughout the country (conveniently there are deposits near and maybe in Pakistan too). We'll just take all the indigenous heavy equipment and trained labor, pull the minerals/ore from the ground, transport it over the highly developed (and secure) highway system infrastructure to the modern port of... Oh, wait, looks like a job for Halliburton or Brown and Root. Sweet deal! If it turns out there are as many natural resources in Afghanistan as there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no harm, no foul. At least this time we get some of our investment returned indirectly. Oh, maybe that is happening in Iraq too. Talk about redistribution of wealth.

Is The War Making You Poor?

Alan Grayson, the quirky progressive Democratic Congressman from Florida, has introduced a piece of legislation in the House of Representatives with that title: The War Is Making Your Poor Act. It eliminates separate funding for our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so citizens can actually see how much those wars cost. Of course, for the past nine years the wars have been funded through special, "emergency" supplementals, rather than laid out in, and included in, the normal budgeting process. In case you are curious, the Independent Media Institute in San Francisco has figured next year's cost of the two wars at $195,000,000,000.

The War Is Making You Poor Act not only ends the dodgy emergency supplemental funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also eliminates federal income taxes on the first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for couples) and pays down the national debt. What could be wrong with that?  Well, it could be the industrial-defense complex might prefer taxpayers did not know what our military interventions cost us, so Congressman Grayson needs the help of concerned citizens everywhere to support his dandy little The War Is Making You Poor Act, so Don Hazen (Executive Editor at sent around an e-mail with a petition from you can sign, supporting the Act

Bob Herbert has an important column on war and veterans

It's no longer widely understood - now that war is kept largely out of sight and out of mind - just how dreadful warfare is, and the profound effect it has on the participants and their loved ones.
Those words are from the middle of a Bob Herbert column this morning, with the title An Overdue 'Welcome Home', in which he discusses a a "moving" documentary produced by Wisconsin Public Television, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the Wisconsin Historical Society, "Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories."  It will shortly be shown at Lambeau Field with tens of thousands of veterans and their families expected to attend.

You can, and should, read the column.  I want to focus on a few expressions, starting with the one at the beginning of this posting.  

BREAKING: Cartwright Says to Expect 5-10 More Years of War


The Army Times reports here that, according to a high placed military leader, there may be no end in sight to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  "No one I know thinks we'll be out of these kinds of conflicts any time soon," said Marine Corps General and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, James Cartwright at a forum sponsored by Center for Strategic and International Studies. These kinds of conflicts, it's an interesting choice of words.

It makes one think the vice chairman of the joint chiefs thinks there will not only be no end in sight, but also more conflicts.  And, reminds the Army Times article's author John T Bennett, this comes after Gates said he doubted there would be more such conflicts due to the high cost of casualties.

Here's more:

"There is nothing out there that tells us we won't be wrapped up in these conflicts for as far as the eye can see," Cartwright said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies-sponsored forum.

In coming years, however, the military might be tasked with fighting these kinds of wars "in different places and at different levels," Cartwright said.

He did not point to specific nations into which U.S. forces or assets might be deployed over the next decade beyond Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

(More below the fold.)

35 years ago: America ends its Vietnam folly


We are now looking back 35 years.  Tomorrow, April 30, is the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, the images in our mind stark.  The evacuations by helicopter, as shown above.   And this, the image of those helicopters, like one might say of the mission in country, being abandoned, pushed overboard or ditched in the ocean:  

Stones into Schools – a response upon reading the book

On Friday I attended ceremonies at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium honoring Greg Mortensen as the 2010 recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Prize jointly awarded by the Smithsonian Associates in collaboration with the Creativity Foundation.   Each person who attended the ceremony received a free copy of Mortensen's new book, Stones into Schools:  Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The author stayed after the event to sign copies for as many as were willing to stand on line, then came to a reception in his honor at the Cosmos Club, where I was fortunate enough to briefly speak with him.

Much of my Saturday was spent reading the book, which has a foreward by Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

This diary is not a book review, but rather a response.  I will explore some parts of the books that spoke to me.  Then I will offer my response.

I invite you to keep reading.

73% of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Support Clean Energy/Climate Change...

From Operation FREE, a new poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans "finds that 73 percent of them support Clean Energy Climate Change legislation in Congress, 79 percent believe ending our dependence on foreign oil is important to national security, and 67 percent support the argument that such legislation will help their own economic prospects."  As VoteVets president and Iraq War veteran Jon Soltz says:
This poll confirms what we always knew was true - veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know, first-hand, the destructive effect our dependence on oil has on our national security, and on the battlefield. They are well aware of arguments made in favor and against bi partisan clean energy and climate change legislation, and firmly fall into the group of Americans supportive of passing that comprehensive legislation.  Veterans of the wars we're fighting want legislation passed now.

If you agree with Jon Soltz and the vast majority of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, please click here, "sign your name next to theirs and stand strong with the men and women who have put their lives on the line for our security." Thanks.