Saturday, October 24, 2009

The press says the darndest things






From Parliament issues to the US Congress, we're dropping back to yesterday. And we'll start with a question: Does the US Congress exist to help scoundrels rake in more ill gotten gain?

Thursday, we (Ava, Wally, Kat and myself) attended a hearing that was a complete waste of time unless you're a lobbyist/business person needing Congress to give you a stamp of approval. We attended the waste of time hearing because it was entitled "Afghanistan and Iraq: Perspectives on US Strategy." Due to votes, there was a lengthy break in there and, if we'd been smart, we would have bailed during the break because after one hour of that hearing, one hour when NO ONE mentioned Iraq, it was as obvious as it was embarrassing -- embarrassing for the US House Armed Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Do they have trouble reading on the Hill?

For most of us in the United States, a hearing entitled "Afghanistan and Iraq: Perspectives on U.S. Strategy" would be about . . . Afghanistan and Iraq. So where the hell was Iraq?

They didn't have time for it. They had time to call war mongers "public servants."

What the hell is Barry McCaffrey doing testifying to Congress to begin with? Retired general? BR McCaffrey Associates, LLC is his company. And his company is in the business of prolonging wars so when he says the military has to stay and when he refers to the 'justifiable' "anger" Americans had towards Afghanistan -- and laments it being gone -- every damn word out of his mouth is suspect because he's working the street, under the street lamp, trolling for bucks.

Here's SourceWatch on the Old War Whore Barry:

In April 2008 documents obtained by New York Times reporter David Barstow revealed that McCaffrey had been recruited as one of over 75 retired military officers involved in the Pentagon military analyst program. Participants appeared on television and radio news shows as military analysts, and/or penned newspaper op/ed columns. The program was launched in early 2002 by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The idea was to recruit "key influentials" to help sell a wary public on "a possible Iraq invasion."[1]

[. . .]

Shortly after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, McCaffrey exclaimed on MSNBC: "Thank God for the Abrams tank and... the Bradley fighting vehicle." The "war isn't over until we've got a tank sitting on top of Saddam's bunker," he added. The Nation noted, "in March [2003] alone, [Integrated Defense Technologies] received more than $14 million worth of contracts relating to Abrams and Bradley machinery parts and support hardware." [15]

The above says he's got nothing to say that isn't either suspect or paid for. He sells war and he profits from it. There is no reason the US Congress needs to waste their time or US tax payer dollars getting Barry's opinion on Afghanistan. He is not, no matter how many times some members of Congress got it wrong, "a public servant." He is a lobbyist and he lobbies for war. That's reality.

Reality is also that if you're hearing's entitled Iraq and if US forces are in Iraq -- more than are in Afghanistan -- it's pretty damn stupid and insulting not to even shoot the s**t about Iraq in passing during the hearing. Now Pakistan the subcommitee made time for in the hearing despite Pakistan not being in the hearing's title.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert made an idiot of himself (no surprise there) in an online discussion with David Brooks (Brooks was no better but the world has grown accustomed to that). Here's Herbie:

Bob Herbert: David, the president is deciding what we should be doing with regard to troop deployments in Afghanistan. It seems to me that however one feels about this war and the war in Iraq, the environment here on the home front is bizarre. This is as weird a wartime atmosphere as I can imagine. For most Americans, there is nothing in the way of shared wartime sacrifices. There is no draft. We have not raised taxes to pay for the wars. Except for the families of those in the military, most Americans are paying very little attention to these conflicts. I've brought this matter up a few times on college campuses and the response has been, in essence, a collective shrug.

We addressed that in terms of the press last night (click here). But, hey, Bob Herbert, what does it say when the US Congress forgets the Iraq War? Riddle me that, Bob Herbert.

Here's a section of the hearing:

US House Rep Susan Davis: Help me with this issue because we are continuing to raise the issue of the role of women and whether or not we're abandoning them in any way if we move into negotiating or how we're able to have some kind of reconciliation in Afghanistan -- we want to focus on them. Where -- where does security lie because clearly the military has paved the way for many efforts in Afghanistan. I mean there's no doubt about that. And yet on the other hand, I understand that it's perhaps overly ambitious of us to believe that all of those efforts with the military and civilian capacity both are not necessarily in the best -- are picking up the best -- the best interests of the Afghan people -- or the region, assuming that Pakistan we're talking about as well. Do you want to -- Ms. Cole?

Beth Ellen Cole: I think that with governance -- like all of these issues -- we have to enlarge our view of security. I mean security is not just something that military forces can bring to the communities of Afghanistan. In the United States, we think of the security as school guards and bank guards and people who protect judges. And it's not just a question of military or police forces. Border guards, people that are dealing with looking at money laundering and bank operations and we -- in that sense, this -- the debate about troops is a very, very important debate but we have to think about the other assets that we have to bring to bear including -- with the Afghans -- including putting women as police officers in certain places or as school guards which we've shown we can do in Liberia. [. . .]

US House Rep Susan Davis: General Barno, do you have any thoughts?

Lt Gen Dave Barno (retired general): Two things. I think one, on the issue of security, you're absolutely correct that there -- it's not a sequential problem of security and reconstruction and development, these things are concurrent , these things have to parallel with one another. [. . .] The other question I think you alluded to was this idea of "What does it mean to women if we negotiate with the Taliban?" That's a paraphrase of what, perhaps, I think you were saying you were saying. And-and I do think we have to be aware that in my estimation, I think from a policy standpoint right now, having the Taliban be part of the government of Afghanistan is not where this is going, is not the objective. Having reformed Taliban, ex-Taliban, Taliban that have rejected violence, put down their weapons and join the political process, that's a very different outlook. The small "t" if you will, the individuals, not-not the movement. And I think that's where we have to be careful that we don't inadvertently send this message that we're willing to negotiate with the Taliban because we're really trying to exit -- as opposed to we're willing these Taliban, former Taliban fighters, lay down their arms and become part of this political process. Our goal when I was there was not to kill the Taliban -- collectively in the big strategic picture, it was to make the Taliban irrelevant, make no one want to become part of the Taliban, no one aspire to the Taliban and that takes a very nuanced approach of many different elements of simply security and military forces.

US House Rep Susan Davis: Mm-hm. Mr. Waldman, can I just real quickly get a response from you on that?

Matthew Waldman: Sure. I-I-I mean, in terms of security [. . .] But as has been said by Ms. Cole, the notion of security is much broader and-and of course, really security will political strategy which is indigenous In terms of women, you're absolutely right to raise this, I think it's a very serious issue. I think the-the-the -- when one travels the country and talks to Afghans, it's very clear that they want their girls to go to school -- if you look at the numbers now, over 2 million girls in school, yeah, you know, there's this universal desire to see that happen and for women to have the uh, in most areas, for women to be able to work and have rights, freedoms and rights that-that men have. It is alarming that the Shia law was passed recently, which you're probably aware of. And I certainly think that one has to ask about the commitment to the current administration to --

Us House Rep Susan Davis: Yes --

Matthew Waldman: -- women's rights.

US House Rep Susan Davis: -- which is doubtful.

Matthew Waldman: Yeah, yes. It certainly is. And uh we've yet to see real substance behind the-the-the work to try to-to empower women and to uh support their opportunities and rights. But you're also right that there is concern about women's rights after -- as negotiations move forward. Now of course reconciliation -- truth and reconciliation -- is essential in Afghanistan.

To review the participants above: Cole works for the US Institute of Peace (US government), Waldman works for the Carr Center AGAINST Human Rights (US government mouthpiece with a major in counter-insurgency studies and cheerleading) and Barno (Near East South Asia Center For Strategic Studies -- billed as "the preeminent U.S. Government institution for building relationships and understanding in the NESA region"). So the US government is more than well represented and we can all chuckle and pretend the stammering and stumbling Waldman represented the land of academia as well. So what did Barry represent? The War Machine. So that gets a seat at the table in front of Congress? That's really pathetic and really shameful and it's past time that Barry was pulled from Congressional panels because he's not an expert and he uses the fact that Congress calls on him as part of his business portfolio.

Now we didn't highlight the above exchange to say: The US must stay in Afghanistan for the women! That's b.s. The Afghanistan War's gone on long enough. Suddenly, the US gives a damn about women's rights? No, it's time to fly that false flag and see if you can get anyone to salute it.

No one should.

And you need to relate it back to Iraq where women did have a higher social standing, the highest in the region. And they've lost all that. It's much too late to worry about women's rights. Women were sold out by the US government and it was not by accident or happen-stance. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US government made the decision (after making the decision for illegal war) to install thugs with US ties that they thought they could interact with (in stealing the natural resources of both countries) and that they thought could terrorize the local population (the non-exiles) into a state of fear where they would not fight back.

They went for thugs. They installed thugs. Thugs don't respect rights. They don't respect women's rights, they don't respect women. At the start of this month, Najaf banned alcohol -- and not out of any concern over alcoholism but to 'condemn' the 'sin' of drinking alcohol. They're reactionary zealots and thugs and they were installed because that's what they were.

We do not need to get caught up in the cry of "for the women!" -- of Iraq or Afghanistan. The US has destroyed the lives for women in both countries and the US is not the one who can fix it. They've had more than enough time to try. They don't give a damn. With Iraq, US President Barack Obama could have sent a powerful message by making the US Ambassador to Iraq a woman. He wasn't interested. He went with the inept Chris Hill. And, as Republicans in the Senate knew, Chris Hill would screw things up because that's what he does -- as his personnel file demonstrates -- and they knew they could turn around and use him in any campaign. "Chris Hill screwed up Iraq!" "We had the surge and everything was wonderful! Then Chris Hill was installed!"

The Obama administration refuses to learn from mistakes and refuses to anticipate them. The arrogance is what is bringing them down (and, yes, they are being brought down -- the hero worship is over). Republicans (the current incarnation) would not attack Ray Odierno. He's military. So if they wanted to attack on Iraq -- a very serious issue to many voters -- they were going to go civilian. Therefore, who Barack appointed as ambassador was a serious issue. He or she was going to be attacked regardless. A competent woman doing a wonderful job would still have been attacked by the Republicans. But that said (whomever was installed in the post would be attacked), it's no excuse to install an incompetent of either gender but that's what happened with Chris Hill.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"4 reported dead and 5 wounded in Iraq so far today"
"NYT thinks Iraq's Constitution matters . . . sometimes"
"I Hate The War"
"Alito's confirmation "
"Dinner in a skillet in the Kitchen"
"The 'safe' way to 'address' it"
"Ms. magazine"
"Army pays out $4.3 million"
"tony blair and gordon brown - war hawks of a feather"
"now that is scary "
"Iraq wants to skip out on debt to Kuwait"
"Governments shouldn't attack the press"
"Friday, at last"
"Taxi Cab Obsessions"
"Crazy sick"
"False optimism, the Air Force remembers one of their own, and more"
"Harry Reid"
"David Brock, you ought to be ashamed of yourself"
"Idiot of the week: Norm Kent"
"Applause and boos"


"Not even Britney fell so quickly"

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