Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
I am pleased to endorse Governor Mike Parson of Missouri. He is very Popular, Strong, and knows what he is doing – he gets it! Based on the fact that Mike has announced he will run again in 2020 for Governor, Mike Parson has my Complete and Total Endorsement!
8:04 PM · Sep 10, 2019
When the gods want to punish you…
Yesterday Representative Vicky Hartzler (r) posted a comment on Twitter about the election in Afghanistan. Later in the day there were a number of additional responses (including ubiquitous “fire Boehner/Obamacare” spam – interestingly, there is no Benghazi truther spam, yet). Some of the responses (we can’t really tell if they’re constituents) in the other comments are illustrative of the obsessions of the 27%:
Patrick Baker @kameleon_o
@RepHartzler So you’re saying they WON’T be electing Obama?? 6:17 PM – 5 Apr 2014
Ah, we get it. They think that President Obama doesn’t believe in upholding freedom and democracy.
Joseph Fye @josephfye
@RepHartzler That’s great.Let’s also pray this requirment into our elections here as well. What would Fear of the Lord in gov’t look like? 12:51 AM – 6 Apr 2014
Who picks which one we all get to fear? Just asking. By all accounts there are people in Afghanistan who have a strongly held opinion about that.
Previously: Rep. Vicky Hartzler (r): keeping up appearances (April 5, 2014)
Representative Vicky Hartzler (r), today, via Twitter:
Rep. Vicky Hartzler @RepHartzler
The people of Afghanistan go to the polls today to choose a new president. I hope they pick a leader who will uphold freedom & democracy. 11:50 AM – 5 Apr 2014
In response, a pragmatic question:
Do you think Karzai will seek asylum in the US when we withdraw US Forces from Afghanistan? @RepHartzler 11:58 AM – 5 Apr 2014
That puts the last decade in perspective.
This week the US Senate considered several amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including one on accelerating the end of the war in Afghanistan, one on detention of US citizens and one preventing the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Senate Amendment 3096 is a non-binding vote that expresses the Senate’s endorsement of the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan and calls for that timeline to be accelerated. It passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support (62-33), though neither of Missouri’s Senators voted for it. Republican Roy Blunt voted no and recently re-elected Democrat Claire McCaskill was one of 5 Senators that didn’t cast a vote.
The war in Afghanistan has now dragged on for over 11 years, the longest war in the history of the United States. Over 2,100 American troops have been killed and thousands more wounded. A poll in March of 2012 found that 69% of Americans thought we should not be at war in Afghanistan, up from 53% four months earlier. With the public increasingly ready for this long war to end, it’s time for officials from both parties to act. This week’s amendment is a start and it’s a shame that our Senators failed to get on board.
Another amendment (3018) to the NDAA made clear that the government is not authorized to detain citizens or lawful residents without charge or trial, even when we are at war. Though the right of habeas corpus is already guaranteed by the Constitution, it is good to see the Senate making this point after years of war and terror have eroded this fundamental right. Both of our Senators, McCaskill and Blunt, voted in favor of the amendment, which passed 67-29.
Though President Obama has made efforts to close down our nation’s offshore prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, Congress continues to prevent him from doing so. Amendment 3245 to the NDAA prohibits the use of funds to transfer or release the 160+ prisoners still held there with murky legal status. It passed (54-41) with McCaskill voting against it and Blunt voting for it. Though the legislation hasn’t been passed yet, and though the White House has made noises about vetoing the whole NDAA, the Republicans seem on track toward getting their wish to keep the prison at Guantanamo open.
Final scores: Blunt gets 1 out of 3 right, and McCaskill gets 2 out of 3 right with a disappointing abstention on the Afghanistan amendment. But hey, at least we don’t have to worry about out how Todd Akin would have voted on these.
Here’s Rep. Todd Akin (R-2) wailing about the threat posed by the deficit:
It is imperative that we address the unsustainable growth in entitlement spending and debt service, which is now eating up the entirety of government revenue. If we fail to address those facts we will be facing a total economic meltdown. …
Here’s Senator Roy Blunt doing his wooden imitation of someone wailing abut the threat posed by the deficit:
I believe we’re facing an historic crossroads in our nation’s long-term financial health. Voters sent a clear message last fall that they expect us to make the tough choices to rein in Washington’s out-of-control spending, and they expect us to do it now.
Keeping in mind that both of these gentlemen were members of Congress during the Bush years, take a careful look at the chart below (from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) which outlines the individual drivers of the federal debt:
Let’s see – great big parts of the debt seem to be due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the Bush tax cuts are undoubtedly the biggest contributor. Both of these expensive exercises, may I remind you, were heartily endorsed by Messrs. Akin and Blunt during their years in the GOP ascendancy. The other big piece of deficit pie seems to be the decline in revenue that resulted from the economy going smash. This event, as I am sure you remember, came about as a result of the mismanagement practiced by the regulation averse Bush administration, aided and abetted by a GOP congress heavily in hock to corporate interests that wanted to keep on playing without adult supervision. TARP and the stimulus (labeled “recovery measures” in the chart), favorite targets of GOPers like Akin and Blunt, were small potatoes in the deficit pantry.
Tell me now, how do these folks who time and time again voted to raise the debt ceiling for Mr. Bush, justify sanctimonious little diatribes like those above? Or, envision putting all our economic welfare on the line in order to play politics with the debt ceiling when it’s the Democratic Mr. Obama in the White House? Of course, I already know the answer. As Jonathan Capehart said today in reference to the graph above, memories are, lamentably, short, which, I would add, means that con artists like Akin, Blunt and their ilk seem to be able to get away with just about any made-up story they want to tell.
“…Well, it’s, it’s because we didn’t have enough people when we went into Iraq. Truth be known, we didn’t have the size of force necessary to do what we were trying to do in Iraq…” – Senator Claire McCaskill (D)
Somebody should have told that to Donald Rumsfeld. Oh, wait…
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) was a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, discussing contractor oversight in Afghanistan. The transcript:
Rachel Maddow: ….Joining us now after way too long an absence is Senator Claire McCaskill of the great State of Missouri, chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Contracting. Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight. Good to see you.
Senator Claire McCaskill: Thanks, Rachel, good to be with you.
Rachel Maddow: After all of these years and all of these billions paid to contractors to do this, did they have any explanation for why they haven’t done something as simple as, as telling people what the sights on their guns are for?
Senator McCaskill: Well frankly, I mean, it’s been like the wild west because nobody’s been watching them. This is a textbook example of complete lack of oversight on contracting. And it wouldn’t be so frustrating if this wasn’t a story that we’ve heard over and over again. If you look at this contract it’s been bounced around, from, uh, Defense to State, uh, now they’re trying to take it back to Defense. And here’s the saddest part of the story, this is a key mission of what we’re doing in Afghanistan. Training these police departments is one leg of a three legged stool that is going to dictate whether or not we succeed or whether we fail. So contracting oversight of the police training mission is incredibly important and it has been an abject failure…
…Rachel Maddow: General William Caldwell is in charge of training Afghan forces. He says publicly that he would rather work with people like the real Italian police or any real police other than working with contractors. Uh, General McChrystal today said that we’re too reliant on contractors and said they don’t save money. He says he wants fewer of them in Afghanistan. Who is actually in favor of these contractors still being there? Why can’t we seem to free ourselves of them?
Senator McCaskill: Well, it’s, it’s because we didn’t have enough people when we went into Iraq. Truth be known, we didn’t have the size of force necessary to do what we were trying to do in Iraq, so the logistic support went to contractors. The, um, training of police went to contractors. Now we’re repeating that in Afghanistan. Now, hopefully, uh, I was in Afghanistan not too long ago, met with both General McChrystal and General Caldwell. I will tell you, General Caldwell gets it. He understands how badly this has been done before. He understands that he’s got to get this under his command and get control of it. But just to give you another example of what, what nonsense there is here, guess who they’re hiring to oversee the contractors that are training the police in Afghanistan? Contractors. [laugh] So, we’ve got to get people in the country that work for our military, that are watching the way these people are being trained because it’s not just training, it’s also mentoring. There’s rampant corruption in these police departments. Uh, and you’re not gonna establish a rule of law unless you work on the mentoring part so they realize there’s a different way to police besides saying what can you pay me to let you go.
Rachel Maddow: I worry about the oversight of, of contracts themselves being, uh, uh, contracted out. Contractors overseeing contractors. I also worry about the fact that we think this is something that can only be done by contractors in terms of devel, uh, delivering this, this service. I mean, Blackwater is up for this police training contract in Afghanistan now, despite Nisour, uh, Nisour Square, despite the State Department investigations, despite this indictment against their former employees. I mean, how badly does a company have to behave before we stop hiring them and just have our troops and our government employees do this stuff?
Senator McCaskill: Part of the problem is that our military wants what they want when they want it. And contracting is a quicker way to get there. Um, we’ve got to realize that that is a luxury we can no longer afford. ‘Cause it hasn’t, hasn’t been a good investment for our taxpayers. And it hasn’t been the kind of support our military needs. So we have to begin to realize that especially training local police for rule of law in a counterinsurgency effort, which is going to be a core competency of our military forever, we’ve got to bring that in house. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the oversight of the contracts that are in the military chain of command so we know who to fire when it goes badly. That’s part of the problem with this mess, is you don’t even know who to hold accountable, because it’s such a cluster. You’ve got NATO in there, you’ve got the military, you’ve got the State Department. Meanwhile these contractors, they’re not really sure who the boss is, so they do what they feel like.
Rachel Maddow: Do you feel like you have support in the administration and at the Pentagon for the views that you’ve expressed here and the way that you’ve approached this issue?
Senator McCaskill: I do, um, you know now, what, what, this is not something you can turn a switch and accomplish. Part of the problem, Rachel, is the area of contracting is not exactly sexy. And you might have noticed that folks around the Capitol kind of like the stuff that’s getting headlines that day. So part of it is attention span. Um, that’s why I’m happy about this committee. We can stay on this even though there may not be a full hearing room, there may, may not be cameras or people covering it in the newspaper. But these agencies are gonna know somebody is paying attention to the way they’re contracting. And I think over time we’re gonna be able to make a real difference, ’cause nobody’s been paying this kind of attention to contracting in the federal government before.
Rachel Maddow: You keep doing these hearings and I promise we will keep covering it. At least at our little show here at nine o’clock. [laugh] Uh, I have one last question [crosstalk] senator.
Senator McCaskill: It’s a deal.
Rachel Maddow: All right, it’s a deal. Uh, [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Sure.
Rachel Maddow: Uh, one last question, is, and I know that you won’t answer it directly, but I’m just gonna ask anyway. Wouldn’t being a Supreme Court justice be an awesome job?
Senator McCaskill: Honestly, for me, I would get way too restless. Um, you know, I, I love, I’m an intellectually curious person and I do love to read, but it’s an isolating job and I kinda need to be out there mixing it up a little bit more than you can do as a Supreme Court justice. So, it’s not something that I, honestly I don’t think I ‘d even be considered, uh, but if I were I’d have to say I, I don’t think I’m the right personality to be a Supreme Court justice.
Rachel Maddow: Senator Claire McCaskill of the great State of Missouri answering that with way more detail than I ‘d ever thought I’d get. Uh, thank you so much for your time today. [laughter] And good luck to the Cardinals tonight.
Senator McCaskill: Thank you very much.
Rachel Maddow: All right….
Give ’em hell, Harry.
As a point of information to perhaps gain some perspective on the business of Empire in the middle of Afghan-war debate, some facts to consider:
• In 2007, there were 22,000 deaths globally due to acts of terrorism; over half were Muslim.
• Each year, 9,125,000 human beings die due to poverty and malnutrition.
At the risk of being accused of over-simplifying the issue, in light of the above stats, the point of our funding priorities has to be brought up.
It strikes me that in regard to US foreign policy one of the best things we could focus on, aside from solely defending American interests, is to make a difference by saving lives and improving people’s quality of life for those most threatened. This, in turn, helps America because it gains us friends showing a responsible and balanced direction of our intention to do the most good in the world.
What are we doing in Afghanistan? Why are we there?
Putting aside reasons like economic strategy or chess-like positioning to counter world powers for a moment, consider the terrorism arguments (the most popular justifications given in the main stream).
We are in Afghanistan not to prevent the unpreventable, say, an isolated suicide bombing here in America. We are in Afghanistan to stop the re-emergence of a terrorist “safe-haven” that would eventually mount an attack on America rivaling 9/11.
This is where “fighting terrorism” as a justification for prolonged military occupation doesn’t hold water.
Because a counter argument that’s just as plausible immediately pops out, that being, an American military Empire conducting combat operations in multiple countries in the Near East and Middle East, will guarantee heightened motivation for our enemies to attack back — here at home. The longer the occupation, the greater the chances for backfire. From this perspective, at a certain point, maybe after eight or nine years of being in country, withdrawal is the best course.
Interminable militaristic behavior will always create determined opposition. Geopolitics, in this way, follows a well-known rule in physics: for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of our enemies, human ingenuity will find a way to exact revenge and more violence. There’s a moment when “running out the clock” and hoping things will get better won’t work for our current posture in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the clock that’s really ticking in the minds of our detractors, is:
When will the United States implode economically because it can no longer borrow money to make war?
We are a debtor nation like no other, and all our “banking creativity” not only caused the recent global economic crisis, but allowing US debt to rise exponentially has produced an Achilles heel that could bring down the giant.
What branch of the Department of Defense deals with this threat to national security?
Domestic manufacturing dismantled, industry pieced out, good jobs shipped overseas – all this paints a picture of the strong self-reliant American eagle slowly boiling into a paper tiger. Producers morphed into dependent debt-ridden consumers.
This is a potentially much greater tragedy for our nation; much greater than the difficult task of looking in the mirror, taking inventory and redefining the manner in which our country makes decisions on how to spend tax payer’s money or how we project force. The economic, military and real collapse of over-extended Empires is well trodden ground in world history: British, Roman, Ottoman, et al.
We currently maintain, at an exorbitant expense, military superiority over much of the planet with 7000 bases (6000 here, 1000 abroad), and US troops stationed in a shocking 77% of Earth’s nations. The United States military spending exceeds the next 45 highest spending countries in the world, combined. Totaling nearly $1.5 trillion dollars. So this, then, brings up the subject of why we’re really “over there”. And why we spend more money on war preparation and defense than anyone now, or ever.
Are there benefits gained by select interests in perpetuating US addiction to war?
Yes. Over the decades, Eisenhower’s prophesied “complex” has equaled trillions of dollars of benefit.
Are the results of those benefits and the political manipulations that captured them at odds with what would be good overall for America?
Proof’s in the pudding: considering the direction we’ve been taken and the state of the Republic, yes.
Do those select interests have power to direct US foreign and economic policy vis a vis Washington and Congress?
Yes. Money is power. When the famous Supreme Court case Buckley vs. Valeo said money is free speech, the inevitable coalescing of political power around Big Money was enthroned. Free Speech is for sale — someone richer can “buy” a lot more First Amendment than someone else — and that goes for multi-national corporations as well, legally acting as “corporate persons“, another court ruling coercing concentrations of political power straight to the top. Hence, the ability to control the public mind “every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers”, became merely a question of how large the PR campaign. The more cash used to steer opinion, the more predictable the results. This is just one way how our Republic has been replaced with a Corporatocracy.
A peculiar dysfunction of practiced economics is the need for limitless growth. When combined with the bottomless well of the US Treasury to fund mindless military expansion, this weak spot is an irresistible target vulnerable to profiteers and fiscal opportunists. This dilemma brings everyday Americans to where we are today, faced with wresting back control of our corridors of power to restore the Republic — we must not ignore these parasites compromising our body politic.
It’s my suggestion that, in the big picture, our hand is being forced. Our economy and long-term prosperity is threatened by the fantasy that the US can forever maintain an increasingly expensive war enterprise. We need to ramp down this business of Empire before Lady Liberty gets the wind knocked out of her permanently.
There are easier and less expensive ways to diplomatically achieve our objectives. President Obama speaks of increased engagement with the international c
ommunity – continued reliance on unilateral military solutions would not be part of that portfolio. Obama the candidate and Obama the President are not entirely congruent – in the case of Afghanistan, maybe some of these inconsistencies can work in our favor. In running for President, we heard that Iraq was the dumb war and Afghanistan “just and necessary” countering accusations of Obama being a weak Commander-in-Chief. Some saw this as political positioning, rather than the true aims of our President.
Well, now that he is President, maybe Obama could act on his nuanced understanding of the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of plunging America deeper into endless war.
President Obama should bring the majority of our ground troops home in Afghanistan and maintain an active collaboration with the Afghan military including over-watch responsibilities with air superiority and intelligence to insure no terrorist “safe-haven” would emerge. Special forces could be utilized on the ground in mission-specific operations to insure terrorist containment focusing on the porous 1,500 mile border with Pakistan. No permanent old-school military occupations to fight this asymmetrical and decentralized foe.
This would answer the ‘fighting terrorism’ question with regard to Afghanistan — but other questions remain.
Should we continue to rely so heavily on military solutions and force projection to answer America’s geopolitical challenges into the 21st Century?
How do we as a national family deal with increasing military budgets and escalating force commitments with no end in sight?
In other words, even if we wanted to continue overdependence on militarism, considering our economically weakened condition, is that a burden too heavy to bear? — the risks of fatal economic collapse too great? Do we have a choice, can we even afford continued military expansion?
These are soul searching questions that dig deep down into who and what we are as a people. Avoiding these difficult issues and pretending we’re still in the springtime of America might be easier, summer soldiers sunshine patriots and all. Many activists have experienced at one time or another the life-draining frustrations associated with attempting to unpack the status quo. It is certainly much easier to just decide not to climb that mountain; to acquiesce and to not stand against the river’s mighty flow.
But as Paine said,
He that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman… what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.
America is dear to us all. The idea of America and what it stands for is sacred, and as forces have led her astray, we are compelled to think, speak and act anew to help straighten her course. It is time to face the music of American Empire sounded, and to make sure she doesn’t play out her last coda.
“We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
At Claire’s Kitchen Table Talk in St. Louis just before last Christmas:
one audience member pleaded with her to urge Obama not to get sucked into Afghanistan. Claire wasn’t having it: “We cannot stand by…We cannot stand by and allow terrorist camps and training to go on without any real consequences in our world. We just can’t.”
If you watch the video, you can hear the resounding applause from an audience that is basically liberal. I react to both McCaskill and the applause the same way sarah jo did when she wrote about the military “solution” in Afghanistan: “Excuse me while I run around the block naked, screaming at the top of my lungs.” But certainly Claire and the clappers are not alone, among those that lean to the left, in believing that al Qaida and the Taliban must be controlled with weapons. A Post-Dispatch editorial last week asserted that:
Mr. Obama also knows he can’t leave Afghanistan to its own devices without creating more problems for neighboring Pakistan, which has nuclear arms and a nervous nuclear-armed neighbor in India.
The concern of the P-D editorial staff about the shaky, nuclear-armed government in Pakistan seems, at first blush, like a rational argument for military action. But consider that the writer did not explain how leaving “Afghanistan to its own devices” will create more problems. Does he fear that al Qaida will revive from its current debilitated state of 100 fighters in Afghanistan? Global sanctions have weakened the organization and its chances of revival are slim.
Perhaps, then, the editorial writer is concerned about the Taliban threatening Pakistan’s weak government. If so, let me refer him to Gail Sheehy’s review of Robert Greenwald’s documentary about Afghanistan
The strongest argument in the film against our mission is made by Robert Baer, the former CIA field operative in the Middle East, whose book See No Evil was the basis for the film Syriana: “The more we fight Afghanistan, the more the conflict gets pushed across the border into Pakistan; the more we destabilize Pakistan, the more likely it is a fundamentalist government will take over the army… and… [we] will have al Qaeda-like groups with nuclear weapons.”
Baer spent a couple of decades understanding how military solutions in the Middle East produced all the wrong outcomes. His warning is credible. So is Molly Ivins’ observation that “it’s damn hard to convince people you’re killing them for their own good.” Every time we bomb villagers into oblivion, we strengthen the Taliban’s hand. Which brings us back to sarah jo and the idea, presented in “Three Cups of Tea”, that education is the key to peace in Afghanistan.
President Obama should earn that Nobel Prize by sending most of our tired troops home, letting those that remain guard all the schools we should build, and focusing on honest elections. And if that solution sounds too Pollyanna, think about the alternative: recall how getting bogged down in Afghanistan contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union. That’s not ancient history and it’s not in another hemisphere. The very same Taliban that did for the Soviets is now, just twenty years later, sucking us into the same quagmire.
Claire worried about allowing terrorist training camps to go unchallenged. But al Qaida has been challenged and has mostly succumbed. And if we want to keep the Taliban from getting hold of nuclear weapons, then perhaps we should refrain from pushing them into nuclear-armed Pakistan.