Last time we discussed your refusal to abide by the Constitution’s hard-and-fast war-making provision, a decision that merits — as it did for most of your post-1945 predecessors — impeachment proceedings. Waging war in the manner you did in Syria is the work of an absolute monarch or a dictator, not that of a popularly elected president of this republic.
Today, we must discuss a topic that has been covered in this space on multiple occasions; namely, the need for you to immediately purge — via forced retirement — scores of your general officers. The American fetish for treating these officers as god-like wonders is baseless, and must be curtailed to the greatest possible extent. Among the most obvious reasons they merit forced retirement are:
–They have regularly betrayed the military men and women entrusted to their care by American parents by taking those troops to fight in wars that neither they nor their political masters intended to win. I do not know of a single case, since 1945, when a general officer resigned and told the citizenry that he did so because he refused to lead their soldier-children into a war no one meant to win, and in which the rules-of-engagement made those soldier-children targets rather than killers.
–They hold their positions for venal self-interest. To understand why no general has resigned and told the foregoing truth to the public, just survey the membership of America’s corporate boards of directors. Those boards are loaded with former generals who are making more mounds of money to add to their already luxurious pensions. The formula-for-success for US general officers obviously is: keep silent, get use to losing, get your troops killed for nothing, and you will be generously rewarded when you retire.
–They are incompetent and, apparently, shoddily educated men and women. One example should suffice. They have been waging war, at various levels of intensity, against Islamists since Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war in 1996, and they have lost on every field of battle on which they have engaged the Islamists. Mr. President, did you know that our Islamist enemies are not professionally trained soldiers; that they are armed almost entirely with small arms, some of Korean War vintage; that they have no air cover or naval support; and that their funding, supply lines, and safe havens are always at risk? Did you know that this is the kind of paramilitary force that has consistently humiliated the United States and its military for two decades, one that has forced your canting generals to obliquely admit to being losers and fantasists with the words like “There is no military solution to this conflict” and “The Islamists have nothing to do with Islam.”
–They are thoroughgoing liars. Again, one example will suffice. Since at least 2003-2004, every Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and every US general officer commanding in Afghanistan, has told the American people that: (1) the remnants of the Taleban, al-Qaeda, and other Islamist groups were being eliminated; (2) that our democracy- and nation-building efforts were bearing durable results; and (3) that the Afghan military was on the verge of being able to defend its country with minimal foreign assistance. Each statement was a transparent lie every time it was spoken, and the general officers who spoke them knew they were lies. Today, the truth is that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Taleban are thriving in Afghanistan, while the Afghan government and its military are collapsing. No number of additional lies will save either. Are these dishonest men and women the ones you are going to trust to restore America’s greatness? They are much more likely to again cover the republic in infamy.
Now is the moment, Mr. President, to fall back on you instincts, commonsense, and, most important, the non-interventionist demands of the people who elected you. America has no life-and-death national interests in Syria or the rest of the Middle East. Very few citizens want to expend trillions of additional tax dollars and their kids’ lives on a war there that is not necessary; which would be fought for Israeli, Saudi, and U.S. corporate interests; and which your generals would surely lose. So, dump your in-house, Cheney-sounding, Neocon war-monger, General McMaster; immediately ban the self-admitted criminal General Petraeus– who lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then deliberately compromised classified information — from the White House grounds; and then get on with a wide-ranging purge that can do nothing but improve the the quality, commonsense, and nationalism of the US general-officer corps.
With this done, Mr. President, recall how much essential work you have pledged to do at home, and how sick your supporters are of unnecessary, interventionist, and always lost wars. Then, Sir, look around the nation and understand two irrefutable facts: (a) that America is located in North America, 5,000 miles from the Middle East’s idiot wars, wars which cannot come here save through the continued lax enforcement of border and immigration laws, and (b) that the republic’s security, unity, and prosperity would not be damaged if those distant peoples killed one another for however long it takes for their wars to burn out, or until there is not a single living soul from Morocco eastward to India.
America First, Mr. President, always, America First.
Reprinted with permission from Non-Intervention.com.
Last week we have seen an escalation of violent activity that we had not experienced since the sad events that started in February 2014 as Guarimbas. Nevertheless today we see a change in the scenery, since Unasur has been momentarily demobilized and the OAS has gained new right wing allies to demolish any revolutionary process around the continent.
Luis Almagro has used all the tools he has at hand in order to demonize Nicolas Maduro’s government, calling it “authoritarian”. Last year he was already saying that Maduro was on the brink of becoming a “petty dictator”. Since what you do with dictators is to oust them, then that should be the easy solution, an international intervention, a humanitarian invasion, a quick solution, but nothing is so easy.
This very week, Williams Davila, an opposition representative of the state of Merida, declared to the international news agency EFE, that their intention is not to get Venezuela suspended from OAS, but to force the government to call elections. This is funny since they are accusing the legitimate government of “breaking the constitutional order”, but calling an election, after failing to comply with the appropiate steps to revoke the President’s mandate, is inconsistent at best.
Davila also said that between 2005 and 2015 they never managed to sit down in a OAS meeting, since José Miguel Insulza would not even receive them, but Almagro is different. He has sat down with all Venezuelan opposition leaders and those from other nations. Definitively this man has an agenda to fulfill.
In any case, the escalation of political violence along with this international “pressure” threatens to build up to an outcome dangerous not only for Venezuela but for the entire region. On Thursday April 6th night I was talking to a friend who remembered the hell of 1989, about how the police entered impoverished neighbourhoods with live rounds of ammunition in order to detain people after the Caracazo, and how this situation went on for days. I replied, the opposition leadership is looking for a dead body, a martyr.
Between 8 and 9 pm. there were people involved in some isolated riots in different areas of the city, including one very near a military zone in El Valle. There had been a skirmish between youngsters and the security forces in Carrizal, a middle-class neighbourhood between Caracas and Los Teques. Some people were banging pots and pans from their buildings and people registered the events in social media.
“Twitter video of the situation in Carrizal” https://twitter.com/DiarioAvanceWeb/status/850171287150481408
And it was about that time the opposition had their prize — a young fellow student of the Universidad Bicenteraria de Aragua was shot dead. Jairo Johan Ortiz Bustamante, 19 years old, who was in a Guarimba probably near his very home in the area of Carrizal, Los Salias Municipality of Miranda State.
For a few hours Jairo Ortiz and Carrizal were the topics among the opposition. Maria Corina Machado (opposition leader and presidential candidate) stated: “This is a Bloody dictatorship”.
On the other hand Capriles boldly accused the Ministry of the Interior and the National Guard of ordering the deadly attack.
Venezuelan national Ombudsman, Tarek William Saab was quick to respond to this terrible event and he sent several messages via Twitter firmly condemning the shooting and assuring that the Ombuds Office as well as all competent instances would investigate the event surrounding this death so that justice is met. Actually, on Friday the Ministry of the Interior and the National Prosecutor announced the material author of the crime was a police officer and he is being prosecuted (we would like to see justice delivered so fast in the States or in Turkey).
Nevertheless, a life has been lost and that is something you can never recover. On Thursday we saw how Henrique Capriles was carried out of the violent demonstration at Fajardo Highway. Allegedly the effects of the tear gas were too much for him. Another opposition leader, Freddy Guevara, was also calling for people to walk toward the Ombudsman’s Office: Guevara was nowhere to be seen after 4pm. The opposition leadership keeps stirring up young people’s sentiment with the promise of a “change” in order to serve their own agenda of ousting Nicolas Maduro and reinstating a regime that is servile to U.S. interests, such as Argentina Macri’s or Brazil Temer’s.
“This crisis is reaching a breaking point”, says Almagro, and in Caracas while we try to reach either our workplace or our home, we can find some of the people’s opposition representatives shouting and screaming at a Metro station saying people must rebel against this repressive regime.
“Opposition Representative Julio Montoya calling to demonstrate on April the 6th” https://twitter.com/sol651/status/849757885848588288
On Saturday the 8th of April we saw another “peaceful” demonstration by opposition members. This time they destroyed a national Supreme Court office in Chacao, Caracas. Every time there’s violence, these elements attack any state office (transport units sometimes) they have at hand. I suppose they intend to privatize all this once they are in power. This is 2014 all over again.
Amidst an orgy of martial patriotism that is finally over, there was a sad irony.
In recent days the Canadian Forces, banks, politicians, sports TV networks, private foundations, the news media, etc. have all promoted the idea that the centennial of Canadian troops capturing some high ground in France during a minor Word War 1 battle somehow represented the “birth” of Canada. The notion that the battle of Vimy Ridge “created our country” is bizarre enough but the celebration of First Nations’ participation in this episode of Canadian imperialism pushed the exercise into the realm of the absurd.
One hundred years ago in northern France 10,000 Canadians and 20,000 Germans were hurt or killed during four days of fighting to capture Vimy Ridge. Despite the claim it represented the “birth” of Canada, the soldiers were under British command and the battle had little impact on the war. The young men fell in a war spurred by intra-imperialist competition in Africa and elsewhere.
Strangely, the recent Vimy commemorations included an indigenous component. The prime minister’s office put out a number of press releases that mentioned the “Indigenous organizations” part of his official delegation to France. APTN did a story titled “Métis man with special connection to Vimy Ridge battle will see history up close” while a CKOM headline noted, “Indigenous veteran reflects on personal ties to Vimy Ridge”. A Two Row Times article was titled “’Indian’ warriors of Vimy Ridge” and on CBC’s Unreserved former Native Women’s Association of Canada president Marilyn Buffalo discussed her grandfather, Henry Norwest, who died at Vimy.
Historically the racist, colonialist narrative erased the contribution of First Nations to Canadian warfare. But, the recent “truth and reconciliation” process has included significant attention devoted to indigenous members of the Canadian armed forces. The Canadian Forces, government commissions and indigenous veterans associations, often backed by Veteran Affairs, have produced much of the laudatory literature on aboriginal war veterans.
A dozen books and theses, as well as hundreds of articles, detailing first nations’ contribution to Canadian/British wars mostly echo the military’s perspective of those conflicts. In The Awakening Has Come: Canadian First Nations in the Great War Era, 1914-1932, Eric Story depicts WWI as a noble affair. “The Great War had put First Nations shoulder to shoulder with Euro-Canadians in a fight for human rights and dignity”, writes Story in Canadian Military History Journal. The editor of We Were There said the aim of the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association book is to convince kids they fought for “freedom”. “I wanted to publish… to let Indian children know that their fathers and grandfathers fought for the freedom we now cherish.” (In truth Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.)
The Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association (alongside other indigenous veterans’ groups) have been pressing the federal government to proclaim November 8 National Aboriginal Veterans Day. In 2016 Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr attended an Ottawa celebration while Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett participated in a Fredericton ceremony. In a statement Hehr noted, “we thank the thousands of indigenous Canadians in uniform who answered the call of duty and made the ultimate sacrifice. Their contributions and efforts have helped our country in its efforts to make this world a safer place.”
There is even a current of ‘progressive’ thinking that draws on indigenous military contributions to legitimate criticism of Canadian colonialism while simultaneously promoting Canadian imperialism. In a 2013 Huffington Post blog titled “Whitewashing Remembrance: I Wear A Poppy For Native Veterans” Elizabeth Hawksworth made an anti-racist argument for wearing the red poppy. “I choose to wear it because as a woman with Native ancestry, I want to remember those whose faces we never see in the Heritage moments or on the Remembrance Day TV spots.… I wear the poppy not just as a way to remember, but as a statement: freedom doesn’t just belong to white folks.”
Of course, the red poppy is the property of, and raises funds for, the jingoist Royal Canadian Legion. Additionally, red poppies were inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian army officer John McCrae. The pro-war poem calls on Canadians to “take up our quarrel with the foe” and was used to promote war bonds and recruit soldiers during WWI.
In a TVO interview marking the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I author Joseph Boyden said indigenous men enlisted to “do what’s right”. As he denounced the mistreatment of indigenous peoples after WWI, the author of Three Day Road, a novel dedicated to “the native soldiers who fought in the Great War”, called their fighting a “beautiful corner” of Canadian history.
But, there was nothing “beautiful” about World War I. It was an inter-imperialist conflict that left 15 million dead. All the ordinary soldiers who participated in it were victims of the ruling classes’ imperial ambitions.
And glorifying First Nations’ participation in imperialist wars as part of overcoming Canada’s colonial treatment of First Nations is, at a minimum, ironic.
This is where blind foreign policy nationalism and so-called patriotism has taken us.
For Palestinians, 2017 is a year of significant anniversaries.
While historians mark May 15th as the anniversary of the date on which Palestinians were expelled from their historic homeland in 1948, the fact is the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians began in earnest in 1947.
In strict historical terms 1947 and ‘48 were the years in which Palestine was conquered and depopulated.
The tragedy, which remains a bleeding wound until this day, started 70 years ago.
June of this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the 22 percent of historic Palestine that was not seized by Zionist militias in 1947-48. Among other notable dates, November 02 is starkly remembered as the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
While the roots of the Zionist campaign to claim Palestine as a Jewish state go back much earlier, the document signed by British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, was the first official commitment made by a major world power to facilitate “a national home for the Jewish people.”
The British made their infamous ‘promise’ even before the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine and most of the modern Middle East officially capitulated in World War I.
A few years after the declaration was made, Britain was entrusted by the League of Nations in 1922 to be the caretaker of post-Ottoman Palestine, mandated to lead the country, like other Arab regions, towards independence.
Instead, the Brits worked to achieve the opposite. Between 1922 and 1947-48, with direct British assistance, Zionists grew more powerful, forming a parallel government and a sophisticated and well-equipped militia. Britain remained decidedly pro-Israel after all these years.
When the British mandate over Palestine officially ended in November 1947, that parallel regime simply moved in to fill the vacant space, in nearly perfect tandem, claiming territories, ethnically cleansing most of Palestine’s Arab population and, as of May 14, 1948, declaring as a reality the State of Israel.
The following day, May 15, has since been recognized by Palestinians as the day of the Nakba, or the catastrophe of war and exile. Nearly 500 Palestinian villages and many cities and towns were depopulated, seized or destroyed. An estimated 800,000 Palestinians were made refugees.
These anniversaries are important not because they form convenient numbers, but because the political context surrounding them is unprecedented.
The United States government has abdicated its long-term commitment to the so-called ‘peace process’, leaving Israel alone to decide the course of its own action, while the rest of the international community stand hapless.
The ‘peace process’ was certainly not designed to create favorable outcomes for Palestinians, but was part of a larger design to formulate a ‘solution’ in which Palestinians were to be granted semi-autonomous, disconnected, mini regions to be called a state.
Now that pipe dream is over – Israel is expanding its illegal settlements at will, constructing new ones and has little interest in adhering to even the US-envisaged ‘negotiated agreement’ paradigm.
In the meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership remains visionless.
Although politically defunct and practically impossible, the Palestinian Authority (PA) still insists on the two-state solution formula, wasting precious time that should be geared towards arranging a future that is predicated upon co-existence in a shared land and a joint future.
It is important that the Palestinians are freed from the stifling discourse which rendered the Nakba of 1947-48 extraneous and molded an alternative narrative in which only the Israeli occupation of 1967 seems to matter.
Indeed, the official Palestinian discourse has been quite confusing and consistent for some time.
Historically, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was forced to concede under American, and sometimes Arab pressures, and alter its demands throughout the years.
The greatest of these concessions was made in 1993 when the PLO agreed to the Oslo Accords, which redefined Palestinian rights around specific UN resolutions 242 and 338. It relegated or discarded everything else.
Not only was this a great folly, but also a strategic mistake for which Palestinians continue to bear the consequences to this day.
Existing now are several Palestinian depictions of the history of their struggle against Israel, while the truth is that there can only be one way of understanding the so-called conflict – one that starts with Zionist settlements in Palestine and British colonialism 100 years ago.
The strange thing is that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is himself sending mixed messages. While on one hand he seemed disinterested in contextualizing the struggle of his people back to the Nakba 70 years ago, his authority announced that it will be suing Britain for the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Britain, on the other hand, had brazenly announced that it will be ‘celebrating’ the 100-year anniversary of the declaration, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the guest of honor.
The country that facilitated the ongoing tragedy in Palestine still refuses to acknowledge the enduring harm it committed one hundred years later.
Israel is experiencing no moral awakening either.
Aside from the small school of Israel’s ‘new historians’, Israel continues to hold into its own version of history, much of which was constructed in the early 1950s under the guidance of then Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Compelled by pressures, fears and lack of vision, the Palestinian leadership failed to grasp the need to hold onto and explain these anniversaries combined as a roadmap towards a solid, unified and sensible discourse.
Politics aside, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 cannot be appreciated without understanding its dreadful consequences which played out in 1947-48; and the Israeli occupation of the remaining 22 percent of Palestine is entirely out of context if read separately from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
Moreover, the Palestinian refugee crisis, which continues to manifest itself in Syria and Iraq until this day, cannot be fathomed or explained without examining the origins of the crisis, which date back to the Nakba.
True, 2017 is burdened with significant and tragic anniversaries, but these dates should not be used as opportunities to protest, registering only a fleeting movement of solidarity. They should offer the chance to re-articulate a unified Palestinian discourse that crosses ideological and political lines.
Without honest understanding of history, one cannot redeem its many sins.
There has been a lot of worry about the Constitution and basic democratic rights since Trump’s election. And worry we should. But, Trump did not fall from the sky, he is a product of our history.
Over the long course of human history, there has been nothing more hostile to democracies and constitutional republics than empire. Empires destroys republics from the inside out.
And, empires demand and create enemies. In the opening act of our empire we fought our race enemy: the natives we tried to assimilate or eliminate. In the climactic scene of empire building after WWII we fought another “red menace:” the Soviet Union and communism.
But the American people were deeply tired of war. President Truman was convinced that he would have to “scare hell” out of the people to commit the US to Cold War and global empire. So evil was the Soviet Union, so alien was their way of life, that the red scare summoned up its opposite: American identity as innocent, good, chosen and exceptional.
Our new enemy was made out to be an existential threat even though Russia had just lost 20 million people fighting — as our ally — against Nazi Germany. Our global superiority was based largely on the fact that World War II had wrecked every major competitor. The US stood astride the world without equal.
But under the cover of Cold War the US empire all but disappeared from public view. We were not, according to the official story, an empire at all but the world’s greatest democracy defending the free world. We were not to blame for the costs of empire building: it was the Russian’s fault or the Chinese or the Vietnamese or the international communist conspiracy. The tyranny to come for America was sold with carrot and stick. Fear was the opener while pride in our might and exceptional character closed the deal. Today we still cloak empire with wars fought for “humanitarian” reasons.
But no justification could hide the fact that empire changed America forever. A new form of government called the “national security state” now referred to as the “deep state,” emerged to manage our far-flung domain. The changes were stunning and decisively tipped constitutional “checks and balances.” Soon the executive branch exercised sweeping powers far beyond what the US Constitution allowed for.
The Imperial Presidency
The US president has war powers that would make a king jealous. The Constitution is crystal clear: only Congress has the right to declare war. The emergence of an executive that could unilaterally declare war and make continuous war preparations overcame the “separation of powers,” and undermined the rule of law.
Tyranny was sure to follow. It was after all an old story.
In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department….
The trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man….War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement…. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace….
The executive is the department of power most distinguished by its propensity to war: hence it is the practice of all states, in proportion as they are free, to disarm this propensity of its influence. [emphasis added]
“In proportion as they are free.” For Madison, the executive’s capacity to declare war has a direct and inverse relationship to freedom.
Not only does this mean that every war since WWII has been illegal — by our own highest law of the land — but that the system of check and balances, so carefully crafted by the framers has been tilted toward tyranny.
Executive power has grown persistently since WWII and every President, Congress and Supreme Court has added and abetting its growth. Only the anti-war movement of the Vietnam Era marshaled popular resistance to slow, for a time, the empire.
After the US lost the Vietnam War the liberal project of “nation-building” could never be fully revived. Nation-building was our illusion and our conceit: we were not aggressors but engaged in the godly task of helping oppressed people build stable democracies and resist communism.
But by the first phase of US war in Afghanistan (1978-1992) the current pattern of disorder and decline emerged. US elites opted for the chaos of weak or failed states. US sponsorship of the Mujahideen gave birth to modern armed “islamic fundamentalism.” The US would come to rely more and more on shifting coalitions of unstable militias prone to terrorism and internecine warfare.
To hide the war and dampen military and civilian dissent the elites grew dependent on corporate mercenaries. And for cover, Bill Clinton sold us “humanitarian war:” noble war, not driven by interest or advantage but for human rights or to end suffering. It is a paternalistic version of nation-building that harkens back to White Man’s Burden.
If this is our history then Trump is very much our President. Trump is an imperial president well suited to a system that values power and authority over democracy and thrives on crisis, chaos and war. And the corporate media agrees that Trump’s wars are full of “heart” and humanitarianism.
Before the Korean War the US regularly maintained only a small army and officer corp. In time of war armies were raised by mass conscription and the citizen-solders were sent home when the fighting stopped. There was no military-industrial complex. Auto and airplane factories were converted to wartime use and converted back. There were war profiteers, yes, but never a powerful and permanent war industry directly linked to government. American has a violent past, true, but we were not militarists.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implication. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted, only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.…We should take nothing for granted.” Today war is big business and we cannot take democracy for granted.
Secret Police Forces
Alcohol prohibition gave us the FBI, the first national secret police force in the US. But, it was after WWII that the secret police grew and became independent actors in both domestic and international affairs.
Starting with the 1948 Italian elections, the CIA quickly developed a global network based on intervention in elections, the overthrow of governments, and assassination. Secrecy, deception and covert activities beyond the rule of law was standard operating procedure from the beginning.
Truman, one of the chief architects of US empire and the Cold war created the CIA . These new institutions were such a troubling departure from US politics that even he feared that the CIA had gone rouge.
Truman shared his concerns in a public letter:
For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government….I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue….
Now we have 17 secret police forces and they have become a “policy making arm of government.” They are real players in the domestic politics of the US, intervening in our own elections, and suppressing free speech and dissent by spying routinely on millions of Americans.
The imperial presidency, militarism and secret police forces have hollowed out the US Constitution and left our democracy in tatters. Tyranny is the price of empire. The struggle against war and empire is essential to the struggle for democracy. We cannot have one without the other. Real resistance to Trump will be made by those willing to confront the history which made Trump possible.
1) For more on US empire see the work of Chalmers Johnson, especially, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. Andrew Bacevich also presents many well-documented and argued accounts. For example see The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.
Trump may have acted with insufficient evidence as to whether the chemical weapons attack was actually the responsibility of Assad and the Syrian government. Would Syrian president Assad be foolish enough to launch a chemical attack against civilians, when a military response from the US would be possible, even likely? Peter Ford, a former UK ambassador to Syria, speaking on BBC Radio, said, “It doesn’t make sense that Assad would do it. Let’s not leave our brains outside the door when we examine evidence. It would be totally self-defeating as shown by the results…Assad is not mad.”
Critics of the US military response have suggested as a possible scenario for the chemical release in Idlib province that the Syrian government attack may have been a conventional bombing that exploded stored weapons in the possession of the Syrian rebels, which may have included chemical weapons.
Trump did not seek and obtain Congressional authorization for his act of war in attacking a Syrian Air Force base. Thus, the attack was illegal under US law. It is not the president’s prerogative to initiate attacks against sovereign nations without Congressional authorization. By acting without such Congressional authorization, Trump has placed himself and the presidency above the rule of law.
Trump did not seek and obtain authorization for his attack against Syria from the United Nations Security Council, as is required under international law. By failing to do so the US has put itself outside the boundaries of the UN Charter, which is also a part of US law, as well as other international law to which the US is bound.
Trump has further undermined US relations with Russia, and has harmed the chances of the US and Russia working cooperatively in resolving the Syrian conflict. Increased tensions between the US and Russia in Syria make conflict between these two nuclear powers more likely.
Trump has demonstrated to the world that in matters of war, as with tweeting, he is impulsive, shoots from the hip and is not constrained by US or international law. These characteristics are not generally accepted by other world leaders as being preferred qualities in a US president.
Trump’s impulsivity in ordering the attack sets a dangerous standard for someone in charge of the US nuclear arsenal. It demonstrates the extreme dangers of allowing a single individual to exercise control over a country’s nuclear arsenal.
Despite the illegality and inherent dangers of his military response, Trump seems to be getting a favorable response from the US media. Nearly all US mainstream media seems to have accepted the assumption that Assad was foolish enough to have launched a chemical attack, and have not questioned Assad’s responsibility for the chemical attack. It appears that neither the US government nor media have conducted a thorough investigation of responsibility for the chemical attack, which should have been done prior to a military response.
Referring to Trump’s ordering the missile strikes against Syria the evening before, a fawning Fareed Zakaria stated, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.” Given Trump’s narcissism, this is the kind of positive response that is likely to keep him returning to impulsive and illegal uses of military force.
For his violations of US and international law in attacking Syria with 59 cruise missiles, it is highly likely that Trump will also be rewarded by the American people with an upward bump in his current ground-level job-approval rating. Too many Americans tend to like their presidents to be fast on the draw and follow the pattern of Ready, Fire, Aim.
As we head into the long Easter weekend, the US Carl Vinson navy strike group is moving toward the Korean peninsula. All eyes are focused on the calendar: May 15 when North Korea is widely expected to conduct the sixth nuclear test on the 102nd anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather of the current head Kim Jong-un. Tension in the Korean peninsula has reached a feverish pitch, not seen in years if not since the end of the Korean War in 1952. Questions on the minds of most are:
1) Will Kim Jong-un defy the intense international pressure and go ahead with the sixth nuclear test?
2) Will America strike at North Korea if it conducts the test?
3) What kind of strike will it be: surgical strike at DPRK’s nuclear facilities, decapitation strike to take out Kim Jong-un, betting that a new leader that emerges will abandon nuclear tests, or a large-scale attack?
4) Will China intervene and under what circumstances?
Tension continues to escalate after the Trump-Xi summit, during which Trump ordered a missile strike at a Syrian airbase at Homs. Such show of force no doubt was partly done to send Xi a strong message that America will take action against North Korea if it insists on proceeding with its sixth nuclear test.
Both corporate and alternative media, such as Zerohedge, have, in recent days, been abuzz with speculation that China may take out North Korea’s nuclear facilities to avert another Korean War. There’re also reports that China has massed 150,000 troops at its border with DPRK either to prevent a huge influx of N Korean refugees in the event of war, or ready to come to North Korea’s defence should it be attacked, as in the first Korean War. There were also reports of China acquiescing to an American strike at North Korea.
Against such torrents of wild speculation, China’s position remains unchanged: That the problem in the Korean peninsula should be solved by diplomatic means, not use of force. An editorial in semiofficial daily Global Times on 5 April put it this way:
“The US must bear the major responsibilities for the mess in Northeast Asia, as it has buried too much strategic distrust in the region. For North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambition voluntarily, it must be convinced the major powers can collectively guarantee its security. But Pyongyang now trusts nothing but nuclear weapons. Despite rounds of sanctions, as long as the regime can hang on, it is unlikely to surrender.
“Before Trump, each US administration generally followed the path of escalating sanctions and military threats over Pyongyang while strengthening security commitments to Seoul. Washington has never tried to seriously communicate with Pyongyang and urge it to abandon its nuclear programme by relieving Pyongyang’s security anxiety.
“When the old strategy doesn’t work, Washington blames China for not cooperating with it. China in fact has imposed very stringent sanctions against North Korea. The accusations are used to defend Washington’s failed policy.
North Korea has every reason to distrust America for a long string of its broken international promises or commitments, from NATO expansion eastward and Iran nuclear deal to Bush Jr. tearing up Bill Clinton’s deal with North Korea to supply light-water nuclear power plants in return for destruction of North Korea’s nuclear facilities. America has deepened the suspicion by staging ever larger and more belligerent annual exercises with South Korea near North Korea.
Facts are abundantly clear: War and peace in the Korean peninsula hinges on America, rather than North Korea, much less China. China has done all it could to dissuade North Korea from continuing its nuclear programme. So much so that It has backed and observed UN sanctions against its once close ally with which it has a defence treaty. Which country in the world has ever done that to its ally?
Even as China-led Six-Party Talks goes on in fits and starts, North Korea and America engaged in direct backchannel talks for some years without success. America rejected North Korea’s demand that they sign a peace treaty first before North Korea would abandon its nuclear programme. The thing is America should have signed such a peace treaty within three years of the armistice of the Korean War. That America had refused to meet the terms of the armistice gave North Korea cause to doubt America’s good faith.
The Global Times editorial drew a Red Line on the North Korea issue: “China has a bottom line. It will safeguard the security and stability of its Northeast area at all costs.” China analysts have elaborated on the Red Line:
1) No nuclear contamination spilling from North Korea into Northeast China.
2) No massive influx of North Korean refugees into China.
3) No regime hostile to China emerging in North Korea.
4) No foreign military presence in the opposite bank of the Yalu River.
No. 1 and 4 are as much directed at America as North Korea. Trump and Pentagon warmongers ignore the Red Line at their peril, as McArthur did crossing the 38th parallel that brought the People’s Liberation Army into the Korean War. And like McArthur, they wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas!