Solitudinem faciunt, pacem apellant


While it’s true that Obama is going to acquire a glowing halo of sanctity in comparison to the shambling beast that comes after, I would remind you that he was far from perfect. In particular, his foreign policy was rather hawkish and brutal to civilian populations.

In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.

bombsdropped16

Right. We’re kinda sorta at peace, but for some reason we dropped 26,000 bombs on brown people in distant countries.

I’d like to ask the next question: how many people are killed, on average, with every bomb dropped? If it’s a very small number, then we can question the efficiency of a strategy that terrorizes populations and causes destruction but doesn’t, you know, kill that many ‘enemies’. If it’s a middling number, say 10, then the United States killed a quarter of a million people last year.

If it’s a large number, then we are guilty of atrocities to rival the worst despotisms.

Comments

  1. johnson catman says

    I have a feeling that some people would be disappointed if the killed/bomb was not a high number.

  2. says

    Do not forget that bombs also destroy infrastructure causing indirect deaths that are very very hard to account for…

    Not to mention pure plain suffering.

  3. marcoli says

    As bad as that is (and agreed it is really horrible), can you come up with a better way to deal with ISIS? I mean, actually roll them back?

  4. cartomancer says

    Obama as Domitian eh? A provocative comparison, but in military affairs perhaps closer than most would believe. Domitian had the misfortune to be assassinated and have his memory condemned by his successors, so in popular opinion he became a cold, misanthropic and violent figure. The comparison with the genial and wise Nerva who followed sealed the deal. But, as you point out, Obama will be succeeded by someone far worse. He’ll be a Claudius or a Marcus Aurelius thanks to that comparison. Unless Trump follows Nerva and does the world a favour by dying a year into office…

  5. cartomancer says

    marcoli, #3

    A much better way would be to ramp up humanitarian aid for the refugees from Syria, end the sabre-rattling “clash of civilizations” rhetoric, pull all military forces out of the Middle East and get America off the oil and on to renewables.

    The only people who are going to be able to “defeat” ISIS are the people of Iraq, Syria and the Middle East in general. Because ISIS feeds off of anti-US sentiment and local dissatisfaction. using it to leverage just enough support to keep their operations going. There is plenty of hatred for ISIS in the Middle East, and should that sentiment gain dominance in ISIS-held areas there’s little the ISIS people can do to hold on to their position. They’re not a well-funded government-in-waiitng, they’re a band of military adventurers and ideologues. The US bombing campaigns are doing ISIS’s recruitment for them.

  6. says

    Do not forget that bombs also destroy infrastructure

    Unless you’re bombing military targets, it’s a crime against humanity. I know “everybody does it” but it’s always worth remembering that “we try to miss civilian targets and infrastructure” doesnt make it OK to bomb civilians. Hellfire missiles launched into weddings, hospitals bombed and shelled by gunships, the US sending an assassination squad to shoot Osama Bin Laden, etc – those aren’t just “collaterall damage”, they’re war crimes.

    Think how unhappy Americans would be if someone else were so casual with American lives. Imagine the upset if some other nation drone-struck some American politician and their retinue and bystanders, because they thought we could use a little “regime change.” When the shoe’s on the other foot the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments is going to be truly epic.

  7. says

    marcoli@#3:
    can you come up with a better way to deal with ISIS?

    Now that “not create them in the first place” is off the table, the options are all bad. But the obvious way to deal with ISIS was not to destabilize the middle east in the first place.

    Now that mistakes have been made, the inevitable knock-on is to compound the old mistakes with new shiny mistakes. But even if somehow the more recent mistakes help reduce or mitigate a problem, it doesn’t de-mistakeify the original mistake.

  8. says

    Well PZ, I think you need to look at this with a bit more context and specificity. The vast majority of the strikes — all of those in Syria and Iraq — are the war against IS. That’s what war is, blowing people up and killing them. All of the targets are military although indeed there have been civilian casualties, some of which the U.S. has admitted to. You may think the U.S. should not be involved in that war, but that’s a question you don’t address.

    The strikes in Afghanistan are principally against al Qaeda and IS targets. The U.S. seldom takes direct action against the Taliban, although they did in the Kunduz battle and sadly, destroyed a hospital. That was a very bad event, but again, if you don’t think the U.S. should be providing support to the Afghans in combating IS and al Qaeda, you should say so.

    The Pakistan strikes were highly targeted against senior Taliban leadership. Where I think we have an unequivocal beef is in Yemen and Libya.

  9. Dunc says

    I have a feeling that some people would be disappointed if the killed/bomb was not a high number.

    Well, bombs aren’t cheap, so you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

    As bad as that is (and agreed it is really horrible), can you come up with a better way to deal with ISIS?

    You can’t defeat an insurgency with air strikes. You should have learned that in Vietnam… US bombing is the no. 1 factor in the rise of ISIS. Turns out people don’t much like being bombed, and will throw in their lot with almost anybody who opposes it.

    I’d like to ask the next question: how many people are killed, on average, with every bomb dropped? […]
    If it’s a large number, then we are guilty of atrocities to rival the worst despotisms.

    You are guilty of atrocities to rival the worst despotisms.

  10. jrkrideau says

    Why worry about a few bombs? I’d worry about overall US policy that has managed to kill 100s of thousands (See Afghanistan, Iraq, perhaps Libya, Yemen, Honduras, the Gaza Strip…sorry don’t have a complete list of the UN membership here).

    On a more micro level, you might want to look at drone strikes. See https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/. Though I won’t vouch for the accuracy of that site it looks reasonable.

    # 1 johnson catman I have a feeling that some people would be disappointed if the killed/bomb was not a high number.

    Well, yes, but a lot of people feel that attacking weddings, funerals, and Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals is not really sporting. Come to think of it, bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade did not impress a lot of people, either.

    # marcoli As bad as that is (and agreed it is really horrible), can you come up with a better way to deal with ISIS?

    Well, first come up with some vaguely coherent plan? At best, US policy, if we can dignify the shenanigans in Iraq and Syria with that term, seems to have been designed to turn Syria into a failed state. ISIS was just an accidental problem to be welcomed/ contained. This can be seen by the US’s almost total failure to indict oil exports from ISIS areas.

    That part of the Middle East is a snake-pit of competing national, ethnic and religious interests and the US seems to be/have been supporting most of them, usually at the same time. At one point a CIA backed group was battling it out with a US army funded group and so on.

    This “failed state” strategy is almost certainly why Russia is supporting the Syrian Government. Putin and his cabinet are not stupid. They do not need another failed state on their southern border and the US approach with its desire to depose Bashar Al-Assad almost certainly guarantees this.

    This is almost certainly the same reason for the strong Iranian support. A completely failed Syria is of even more direct threat to them and supporting Al-Assad has the added incentive that anything that keeps the Kurds less powerful or independent is a bonus.

    After thirty or more years of vicious dictatorship in Syria there just is no one to replace Al-Assad without total chaos descending on the state. Iraq, Libya and Somalia all show what can happen when there just is no alternative “legitimate” for some value of “legitimate” alternative power structure to take over.

    So the Russians have taken a very straightforward approach: Anyone who opposes the Syrian Government is the enemy. Seems to be working well. Aleppo is/was horrible but Mosul being attacked by US backed Iraqi forces is probably close to being as bad unfortunately

    . Note, ISIS oil exports went to close to zero a few weeks after the Russians arrived.

    And, surprise, surprise, the American military, suddenly,noticed those long oil tanker convoys heading towards the Turkish border just about the same time as the Russians started bombing them. .

  11. numerobis says

    I remember reading that oil revenues for ISIS were down by two thirds thanks to the bombing campaign, GO TEAM GO!

    About the same time, oil revenues in Alberta, North Dakota, Russia, and Venezuela were also down by two thirds. The oil price had crashed.

    ISIS was not AFAICT a direct reaction to US bombing, but rather to the Iraqi government being a brutal bunch of bigots trying to “get back” at the minority Sunni who formed Saddam Hussein’s support in Iraq; and a reaction to “get back” at the minority Shia and Alawite who form Assad’s support in Syria. It’s about oppression organized around ancient and modern grievances.

    They target the West as retaliation for the West’s interference in the Middle East, and we target ISIS as retaliation for their retaliation, ad infinitum. Both sides get to recruit fighters for their cause using the resulting grievances.

  12. says

    #10: Yes, that is something of an understatement. I didn’t think the occasion called for a lot of purple prose. I should add that the Pentagon’s explanation of this event (the destruction of the MSF hospital in Kunduz) was not very plausible, and that the disciplinary outcomes were preposterous — sternly worded letters. Yes, these end officers’ careers but that’s all.

    My point is, you have to say whether you oppose U.S. involvement in these wars. War means blowing stuff up. That’s what happens. It’s war.

    Many people think the U.S.has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are plagued by heavily armed, violent cults. If bombing isn’t an answer, what is? That’s my question.

  13. Vivec says

    Many people think the U.S.has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are plagued by heavily armed, violent cults. If bombing isn’t an answer, what is? That’s my question.

    Pulling out all of our ostensibly military forces and providing the local governments with funding and infrastructure so that they can put out their own brush fires?

    We have an obligation to promote wellbeing wherever possible, but we don’t have an obligation to play world police. Our involvement should be limited to support against anything but a global threat, and “vaguely successful terrorist group” doesn’t meet my standards for that.

  14. Dunc says

    Many people think the U.S.has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are plagued by heavily armed, violent cults. If bombing isn’t an answer, what is?

    Well, it’s a crazy idea, I know, but have you considered the possibility of stopping giving guns and money to violent cultists? In all of these cases, the people you are now fighting are the people you were previously supporting. Heck, in Syria you’ve managed to do both at once in some cases…

    Stop actively promoting violence.

  15. Vivec says

    I should add that by funding and infrastructure, I mean humanitarian aid and civilian infrastructure, not sending them guns and military “advisers”. If someone wants to fight a war, they can pay for it themselves, but we shouldn’t be playing kingmaker and royal guard for every country that has a resource of interest.

  16. says

    Many people think the U.S.has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are plagued by heavily armed, violent cults. If bombing isn’t an answer, what is?

    Well, the US could start by taking in and supporting refugees. The desperate people this benevolent bombing creates are somehow other people’s problem.

  17. thirdmill says

    Giliel, No. 12, if by “this strategy” you mean using the military, probably the last time it worked was World War II. I think there’s no question the world is a better place because we went to war with Germany and Japan. But the difference between then and now is that we had moral clarity (i.e., there was no doubt who were the good guys and who were the bad guys), the public was behind it to the point of accepting higher taxes and rationing and lots of American casualties and lots of young men being drafted, it was understood that it would mean a lot of sacrifice by everyone, and our politicians were willing to do politically unpopular things because they were right.

    I’m not sure that we can do anything at all in the Middle East. We tried nation building in Iraq and it didn’t work because of local politics, infighting among different groups, and corrupt politicians who stole significant amounts of the aid that we sent them. Maybe there is no solution. Maybe we just pull out.

  18. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Cervantes, #14:

    My point is, you have to say whether you oppose U.S. involvement in these wars. War means blowing stuff up. That’s what happens. It’s war.

    I oppose US involvement in these wars. I oppose Russian involvement in these wars. I oppose Iranian involvement in these wars. I oppose local involvement in these wars.

    I oppose wars.

    Many people think the U.S.has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are plagued by heavily armed, violent cults. If bombing isn’t an answer, what is? That’s my question.

    First, that’s an argument from ignorance. You are almost incomprehensibly immoral if your position really is that you support killing people using bombs unless and until you’ve been shown a reason to avoid doing so in that particular time/place.

    Secondly: heavily armed, violent cults? Be careful what you wish, cervantes. When one sail is hidden against the tower, those windmills look an awful lot like crosses, don’t they? Or is your argument that the western powers don’t have many armaments to go ’round? Because if you’re relying on the imagined fact that we aren’t awash in weapons, go back up to the top of the post.

    Third: Look, do you think it’s an accident that the region is both oil-rich and war-plagued? Of course it’s not. The oil-igarchs try to keep the fighting away from the well-heads themselves, but make no mistake, it’s the oil in the region that directly or indirectly funds the acquisition of weapons. You want large-scale fighting to end? Get rid of large-scale weapons-funding.

    How do you do that? Well, how about a massive investment in large scale batteries (Kwhs to Gwhs), solar PV, wind electrical turbines, & micro-hydro? These could be manufactured in the US and other militaristic nations (e.g. UK, France, Russia) to create an employment surge, then distributed around those nations who – gasp! – I just realized also turn out to be major international players in the oil market. With the US & Canada flooded with cheap-to-free electrical power (mostly point-generated and thus avoiding large transmission losses), the US military establishment has no more interest in seeing Yemen at war than they do seeing the Netherlands or Bulgaria or Bhutan or Togo at war.

    Let that continue for a few years and the oil-wealthy Sunni will have less excess cash to use for missiles that their proxies can fire at the proxies of the oil-wealthy Shia. (And, of course, vice-versa). With Russia awash in more than enough oil to power isolated communities though the long dark of Russian winters when their new solar panels are of limited use and more than enough electrical power to address the needs of the rest of the country even in winter, the motives for neighbor-invasion plummet. Who knows? In a decade or two they may even get their act together and cease neighbor-invasions altogether.

    With fewer local missiles and guns as well as fewer militaristic thugs and bullies lobbing bombs and missiles over their borders, a whole new generation of Yemenis could grow up without conceiving of violence as a first-option response when things go to shit. No need to unlearn the language of violence taught to them by US planes, Russian helicopters, central-government tanks, and neighbors’ AK-47s. They simply won’t have learned the first 3 and the last source of violent role-modeling will be constantly questioned since the community that owns them will also be the community damaged by them.

    Not only that, but with the infrastructure present, we could start shipping batteries and green generators all over any conflict-plagued and/or deprivation-plagued area. We’ll probably be behind India, who has a much better long-term plan for investment in green generation as well as a strong tradition of sharing with those in need. But still, we’ll probably still get our electrical grid transformed in time to send some supplies to needy communities in the Middle-East (and the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Bhutan & Togo). Add in some environment-controlled, small-scale agricultural buildings such as MIT has recently started selling/promoting, and you develop famine resistance integral to the community itself. Woohoo!

    It may not work, but I think that’s a far better default position than “I’m gonna bomb the fuck out of those people until either they are all dead or until someone proves to me this person (oops! Sorry about that, these red buttons are all over the place!) this other person does not require a violent, US-sponsored death.

  19. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Thirdmill, #19:

    I think there’s no question the world is a better place because we went to war with Germany and Japan. But the difference between then and now is that we had moral clarity

    I always laugh when I see this kind of thing. Really? You think the US public isn’t certain who the bad guys when comparing the US Air Force to ISIS? You think there’s a whole lot of moral waffling going on? You think there’s more media whinging now than there was in the 30s?

    And, again, you think the US citizenry is less certain that the US is good and those muslim folk are bad than the citizenry 75 years ago was certain the US was good and those German & Japanese folk were bad?

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

  20. thirdmill says

    CripDyke, No. 21, I certainly hope you’re not confusing objective moral clarity with public perceptions of moral clarity. In World War II, we had both. In the Middle East, I’m not entirely sure we have either. For starters, we didn’t fund the problems that created Hitler or Hirohito in the first place (though in retrospect the Treaty of Versailles was far harsher toward Germany than it needed to be). For another thing, we hadn’t spent the past fifty years doing things to undermine the stability of Germany and Japan. And for a third thing, oil wasn’t a consideration in our foreign policy choices.

  21. bryanfeir says

    We tried nation building in Iraq and it didn’t work because of local politics, infighting among different groups, and corrupt politicians who stole significant amounts of the aid that we sent them.

    And a lot of those ‘corrupt politicians’ stealing the aid money were from over here rather than over there. Some of the ‘private security contractors’ (a.k.a. mercenaries) hired by the U.S. were very much a part of the problem.

  22. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @thirdmill:

    What the fuck is “moral clarity” in your usage? What the fuck is “objective moral clarity”? Because if “objective moral clarity” separate from “public perceptions of moral clarity” just means whether something really, truly is objectively good or bad whether or not that status is widely known, THEN you’re just talking about morality, possibly objective morality, but it’s got nothing to do with “clarity” at all. Perceptions are entirely irrelevant.

    So are you talking about “moral clarity” or are you talking about “morality”? And is it a feature or a bug of your language that your vocabulary references perceptions but you really, really don’t want to confuse morality with public perceptions?

  23. thirdmill says

    Morality is doing the right thing for the right reasons. Moral clarity is knowing that you are doing the right thing for the right reasons. Public perceptions of moral clarity mean what the public thinks is the right thing to do, which may or may not be true.

    Example: Ending Jim Crow was the right thing to do, and mostly for the right reasons. Moral clarity was the vision the people ending Jim Crow had that enabled them to make it happen. Public perceptions meant that some people thought Jim Crow was a good thing and others thought it was a bad thing. (NOTE: The people who thought it was a good thing were wrong.)

    Clear?

  24. empty says

    crip dyke@20

    “You are almost incomprehensibly immoral if your position really is that you support killing people using bombs unless and until you’ve been shown a reason to avoid doing so in that particular time/place. “

    Thank you! The willingness to kill other people and their children because – you know – you gotta do something – is brainless, faux serious, macho, posturing that is truly disgusting and reprehensible.

  25. jrkrideau says

    # 13 Numerobis

    ISIS was not AFAICT a direct reaction to US bombing, but rather to the Iraqi government being a brutal bunch of bigots

    Not originally,. ISIS had its origins in the original US invasion and inept/corrupt occupation of Iraq. Most of the original senior leaders in ISIS appear to have been Iraqi officers, fired by the US and then tossed into prisons, usually with no reason. As Abu Ghraib showed, conditions were not always that nice, even if you were a dog lover, This situation, unemployment, unreasonable detention, probably with some physical and mental abuse tossed in, began to create an excellent recruiting ground for Al Qaeda and what became ISIS.

    From what I can tell, there was also the fact that American soldiers, probably unwittingly, seemed to go out of their way to insult Islam. I would attribute most of it to a lack of cultural awareness, not malice but when some US soldiers are pointing guns at you and seemingly deliberately insulting you or your faith, well ….

    These experiences seemed to turn many of the officers/prisoners into jihadists with a distinct dislike of the USA.

    The corrupt and bigoted Al Maliki (the US protegé) government was the next factor. Fired, unemployable because of US policy and then very harshly discriminated against by the Al Maliki gov’t, these men were a fertile recruiting ground for Al Qaeda or ex-Al Quaeda, etc, fanatics. Al Bagdadi seems to have gone from a relatively carefree, football-loving, young man to a radical jihadist after a few months in an American prison. And who says prison does not reform?

  26. jrkrideau says

    19 thirdmill
    We tried nation building in Iraq and it didn’t work because of local politics, infighting among different groups, and corrupt politicians who stole significant amounts of the aid that we sent them.

    This is so incredibly wrong that it is mind-boggling. There were not plans for nation-building. There were no plans for anything!

    The USA went in and fired the entire Iraqi army, apparently forgetting to disarm them, then it fired all the civil service and most of the educational staff (You were fired if you were a member of the Ba’ath Party, unfortunately everyone who wanted a job above street sweeper need to be a party member).

    Then the US occupational forces began handing out reconstruction contracts (to almost exclusively US firms such as Haliburton, Dick Chaney’s old company) when the Iraqis had a highly skilled and experienced workforce who actually know how things like the Iraqi infrastructure worked. This left a lot of skilled, highly educated people hungry and with the impression that the USA was there to rip-off the country. The contractors did.

    At one point, the White House seems to have sent in a 20-something White House/Washington intern with instructions to set up a stock exchange for the country. His main strength was a firm right-wing, Republican ideology.

    This is not nation-building; this is a farce that most TV sit-com producers would have turned down as unrealistic.

    The US occupational government also seems to have shovelled money (cash) to all sorts of sectarian leaders for, as far as I can see, no good reason. If anything, this seems to have fanned the flames of sectarianism. Why the blazes they thought that they should be giving money to religious nutcases… .

    I also remember reading that at one point early in the occupation, the US headquarters in Baghdad had something like 6 or 8 Arab speakers on staff. If you are going to invade a country where the majority of the people speak Arabic, might it not be useful to have a few people who at least can read the street signs?

    You also have to consider that Iraqis may not have been overly fond of the USA to begin with. The sanctions that the US had imposed (actually they may have been UN but everyone knew who was running the show) were severe enough that they were thought to have killed half a million Iraqi children.

    Madeleine Albrecht’s statement on US TV that their deaths were worth it to get rid of Saddam Hussein probably did not endear the USA to most Iraqis–oh, and a lot of educated Iraqis speak excellent English so they could hear the program in the clear so to speak, no way it could be a piece of Saddam Hussein propaganda.

    The American invasion and destruction of Iraq is a textbook case of what not to do when dealing with a dictatorial regime.

  27. leerudolph says

    jkrideau@29: “This is not nation-building; this is a farce that most TV sit-com producers would have turned down as unrealistic.”

    To be fair, some (maybe half) of the Trump pre-inauguration planning is farce of a very similar kind; not up to sit-com standards, perhaps, but Reality TV all the way.

    Of course, it too (and also the other half of the planning) is not nation-building, it’s nation-destroying.

  28. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    Cervantes, you said, “War means blowing stuff up. That’s what happens. It’s war.”

    Sun Tzu, who wrote “The Art of War” says, “Supreme excellence in war is to defeat the enemy without fighting.”

    There are many other less expensive, less destructive, and less alienating ways to win over hearts and minds than bombing and murder.

  29. Jessie Harban says

    While it’s true that Obama is going to acquire a glowing halo of sanctity in comparison to the shambling beast that comes after

    You can’t compare the two as if their actions were independent.

    In actuality, the right-wing economic policies and expensive militarism that Obama was a strong supporter of created the economic privation that led to Trump’s election. The Democrats’ refusal to address the needs of anybody not in the 1% is why the Republicans were considered viable just two years after they ruined the country and got swept out of power in a landslide. Obama’s overreach of executive power is part of why Trump is so scary— he inherits that power.

    Trump’s win is entirely a product of the Democrats’ failures, and a disproportionate chunk of those failures are Obama’s failures personally. Obama is the Hindenburg to Trump’s Hitler— the former is just as bad as the latter because the former is responsible for the latter.

    I would remind you that he was far from perfect. In particular, his foreign policy was rather hawkish and brutal to civilian populations.

    Uh huh.

    It would have been nice if you’d had the guts to take a stand before his term was entirely over and it was too late to do anything about it.

  30. cartomancer says

    jrkrideau, #28,

    I can’t help but be reminded of how the Boudiccan revolt against Roman rule got started after reading that (since we’re on a thread introduced by a Tacitus quote, after all). The Iceni were originally quite happy coexisting with the Imperial system as a client kingdom – they were somewhat pro-Roman by the standards of British tribes. Boudicca’s husband, Prasutagus, left his territories jointly to his daughters and the Emperor Trajan on his death, but local Roman military bigwigs ignored the diplomatic agreements, brutalised Boudicca and her daughters and tried to take everything. After that the Iceni became murderously anti-Roman and took to burning down Roman towns in Colchester, London and Verulam (St. Alban’s). In another twist on the Tacitean account, we learn from Cassius Dio that Roman financiers (including the philosopher Seneca) were trying to exploit the Britons with forced loans.

    Iceni even sounds a lot like ISIS. And it’s hardly an obscure piece of Classical lore – the British Empire plastered Boudicca all over everything it could find for decades. One wonders quite how a government run from a Capitol Building, with a Senate, a Latin motto, an Eagle as their national symbol and a fondness for the trappings of Imperial power could miss the obvious lesson here…

  31. fentex says

    I have at times been very interested in this question and spent some effort looking for accurate reporting. It’s difficult because such efforts are made to obscure and obfuscate the data.

    In the end I found The Bureau Of Investigative Journalism the most credible group that investigated such questions.

  32. fentex says

    “sadly, destroyed a hospital. That was a very bad event”.

    The treaties and agreements which the U.S has signed and ratified about the use of force make it absolutely clear that there is no excuse for firing on a hospital. Which the U.S did knowingly (the hospital was attacked by direct fire by gunners looking straight at it – they knew what they were doing).

    It was a crime against humanity, and an example of the reason the U.S will not join the International Court Of justice because it knows it commits such crimes and is unwilling to submit to any jurisdiction that would hold the U.S to account.

  33. wsierichs says

    jrkrideau #29
    I can’t stay anything better about our self-inflicted disaster in Iraq than you did.

    I will point out that Bush et al made equally disastrous mistakes in Afghanistan – taking over, setting up our own corrupt government and doing nothing to heal/repair the enormous damage of decades of war – a war we triggered by funding Islamic jihadists against a secular government.

    The CIA’s sole purpose was to lure the Soviet Union into an unwinnable war that would bankrupt it, not to help the Afghan people. Helping them would have meant supporting the government and NGOs that could push for improvements. The USSR’s Afghanistan occupation certainly contributed to the USSR’s collapse, but only at the expense of enormous misery, death and destruction for the Afghan people, not to mention the creation of Al-Qaida.

  34. says

    thirdmill@#26:
    Morality is doing the right thing for the right reasons.

    The first rule of tautology club is: all tautologies are tautologies.

    thirdmill@#26:
    Moral clarity is knowing that you are doing the right thing for the right reasons.

    In other words, moral clarity is what you have when you follow circular reasoning? If you know what is right is right, then you can act rightly.

    Public perceptions of moral clarity mean what the public thinks is the right thing to do, which may or may not be true.

    In other words “moral clarity” is an “opinion” And you know, everyone’s got those.

  35. jrkrideau says

    # cartomancer

    Excellent point about the Boudiccan revolt. I had not thought of it but once you mention it the parallels are obvious.

    Of course, my Latin is rusty enough that it took me a minute to even get the title and I think I’d forgotten that Tacitus had written that after the rebellion.

    I think, too, the non-classical but appropriate quote for much of the Middle East is “ Cet animal est très méchant, Quand on l’attaque il se défend.”

    Seems to cover the Iranians, the Iraqis, ISIS and the current Afghan fiascos. And probably much more.

  36. jrkrideau says

    @ 36 wsierichs
    American policy with respect to Afghanistan was terrible and very short-sighted during the Soviet occupation era and after, but it seems hard to beat G.W. Bush for an outstanding series of blunders in Afghanistan and later.

    I would suggest that G.W. Bush must have been an active Al Qaeda agent. I mean, he managed to take a single terrorist attack on New York City and turn it into an endless war in Afghanistan, started a new apparently endless war in Iraq which has spilt over into Syria, and managed to garner support for Al Qaeda and just about any other anti-American group in the Middle East. He also managed to alienate any number of allies over his illegal invasions, blatant human rights violations, and toleration of corruption both in his puppet governments and in US contractors in those countries. Then he managed to crown his career creating his own terrorist group in ISIS. The man was brilliant!

    Osama bin Laden was incredibly farsighted when he recruited George.

  37. Vivec says

    @37
    I don’t know if pointing out tautologies is really that worthwhile when someone’s defining terms. Yes, a term and it’s definition are necessarily equivalent, but that seems like a pointless thing to point out.

    That being said, those definitions don’t really seem that nonsensical. Morality is whether something is right or wrong. Moral clarity is knowing if something is right or wrong. Public perceptions of morality are the consensus about what is right or wrong, which can in itself be true or false.

    Like, assuming that slavery is morally wrong, a person who recognized that it was wrong even in the 1700’s would have moral clarity, even though the public perception of morality tended towards thinking that slavery was moral.

  38. thirdmill says

    Marcus Ranum No. 37, you are an example of why liberals keep losing elections though there are other reasons too. And I say that as a liberal.

    In a public contest between moral clarity and moral ambiguity, the voters will always side with moral clarity. That’s one of the reasons Trump won (there were others). He had a simple message: Drain the swamp. That is clear, concise, and morally unambiguous, whether you agree with it or not. What was Hillary Clinton’s simple, unambiguous, morally clear message (other than I’m not Donald Trump)? Don’t feel bad, I can’t think of it either.

    So long as some on the left talk and act as if morality is just a matter of opinion, expect to keep getting clobbered every two years on election day. People want to be given a reason for why something is the right thing to do. Conservatives offer reasons. They are the wrong reasons, but nevertheless there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that they believe in right and wrong and exude confidence that they can tell which is which. We’ve got to start doing the same, or we can continue to write off winning in the court of public opinion.

  39. thirdmill says

    jrkrideau, I didn’t say we were competent in our attempts at nation building. I said we tried. We pumped a shitload of money into building infrastructure, and trying to turn Iraq into what passes for a democracy in that part of the world. I agree with you that our incompetence was breathtaking, but that’s not the same as not trying.

    And I’m not convinced, given the culture in that part of the world, that the results would have been much different no matter what we did. Different racial and religious and tribal groups hate each other and only live in peace when forced to. The kleptocracy guarantees that most of the money we send won’t be used as intended. There is no tradition of democratic values to work from.

  40. says

    Worse, along with bombs are Obama’s Killer Drones which kill 9 innocent men, women and children for every 1 intended target (which is bad enough as the US created the intended target in the first place. Interesting fact, when you invade nations based on lies and slaughter innocent people, their families and friends become upset and want to retaliate. Which of course is the point. Invade and bomb a nation based on lies, then bomb it back into the stone age creating “terrorists”… which then provide reason for the US to continue bombing and spending $BILLIONS redistributing money from the working class and the poor to those at the top. Rinse and repeat some 40-50 times just since WWII leading to the US being the most violent and terrorist nation in the world….

  41. says

    Harban, shut the fuck up. You routinely play this stupid game of caricaturing people’s positions to the point where they are unrecognizable, and I’m tired of it. You know nothing about my opinions.

    I have routinely criticized Obama’s shortcomings. I do not idealize him as the apotheosis of political perfection. Yet you come along and pretend in your ignorance that I’m some kind of Obama worshipper, or Clinton worshipper, or that everyone, not just me, is incapable of seeing the flaws in our leaders.

    I’m tired of it. Stay out of this thread. Stay out of any thread that provokes you into accusing everyone else of being some kind of political purist, because if I see you pull this shit one more time, you will be banned. Given your past performance, I predict you won’t be here long.

    Jesus fuck, even this thread is about condemning Democratic failures in foreign affairs, and it’s not good enough for you. I can’t burn down the American political system myself, but you sure are tempting me to burn you down.

  42. Dunc says

    We tried nation building in Iraq

    If by “nation building” you mean “completely destroying the government, economy, and basic infrastructure of the country, whilst handing container-loads of guns and shrink-wrapped pallets of cash to sectarian death squads”, then yes, you did, and I’d say that worked out pretty much exactly how any reasonable person would expect.

    The last time the US actually tried nation building was the Marshall Plan, which turned out rather differently.

  43. KG says

    The USSR’s Afghanistan occupation certainly contributed to the USSR’s collapse, but only at the expense of enormous misery, death and destruction for the Afghan people, not to mention the creation of Al-Qaida. – wsierichs@36

    Well yes, but at least now Russia is a vibrant democracy that would never even think of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

  44. KG says

    jrkrideau, I didn’t say we were competent in our attempts at nation building. I said we tried. We pumped a shitload of money into building infrastructure, and trying to turn Iraq into what passes for a democracy in that part of the world. I agree with you that our incompetence was breathtaking, but that’s not the same as not trying. – thirdmill@42

    Are you taking the piss, or are you really this much of a numbskull? The purpose of the illegal invasion was to create a pliant puppet state which would buy American arms and mercenary services, host American troops, and put its oil industry under foreign (primarily American) corporate control. This is abundantly clear if you actually look at what was done – secure the oil installations as a first priority, disband the existing Iraqi armed forces and civil administration and encourage sectarianism so the new regime would be highly dependent on its foreign backers, push for the transfer of oil field development from the state to foreign companies. Certainly you can argue that there was incompetence, because these aims were only very partially achieved: the Iraqi armed forces are indeed tied into long-term dependency on American weapons and training, but the regime was too worried about domestic opposition to risk agreeing to either the permanent stationing of American troops (although “special forces”, trainers, etc. have of course stayed), or the oil law American interests wanted.

    More generally, this ridiculous trope among many self-described American liberals that the USA is constantly benevolent in its military interventions abroad, but unfortunately keeps making “mistakes” or showing “incompetence”, really is long past its use-by date. Somehow, this well-meaning klutz has managed to maintain its military, political and economic hegemony over the world system for more than 70 years. Astonishing.

  45. says

    @#46, Dunc

    If by “nation building” you mean “completely destroying the government, economy, and basic infrastructure of the country, whilst handing container-loads of guns and shrink-wrapped pallets of cash to sectarian death squads”, then yes, you did, and I’d say that worked out pretty much exactly how any reasonable person would expect.

    Yup. It was so successful, in fact, that we decided to repeat the performance with Libya, down to the “Secretary of State gives a speech full of lies to NATO to rake up support so the administration can pretend its calendar of war crimes wasn’t unilateral“. We are still even considering doing it a third time, with Syria. (The only reason that’s “considering” and not “going to be” is because Clinton lost. Whether Trump will do as Clinton wanted to do remains to be seen.)

    @#47, KG:

    Well yes, but at least now Russia is a vibrant democracy that would never even think of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

    Why yes, their hands are almost as clean as ours are. How nice it is to be able to cast the first stone!

  46. numerobis says

    In Libya, François Hollande was leading the charge. French bombers were in the air before NATO agreed to act; they dropped bombs within minutes (before or after its not clear) of NATO officially deciding to impose a no-fly zone.

    Also, France was first to bomb Lycian ground troops, changing the mandate from no-fly to defend Benghazi. I’m not sure who decided to defeat Qaddafi, but certainly Hollande was heavily in favor.

    Several thousand people died in Libya’s war so far — awful, but nothing like the carnage in Syria or Congo/Rwanda or Bosnia, where the west did not intervene heavily.

  47. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Harban is a classic specimen of the lofty lefty–so pure, he can’t even be bothered to wipe his own arse. Ignore him. His inability to compromise means that he and his ilk will never wield any power or influence.

  48. dragon says

    thirdmill @23
    “And for a third thing, oil wasn’t a consideration in our foreign policy choices.”

    So, not a student of World War II history then.
    Please review the buildup of Japanese expansion. Check out how the US rescinded its treaty in 1939 and began restricting shipments of oil, rubber, and metals. By 1941 the US joined a full embargo. Granted, that was nominally about all those wars crimes in Manchuria since the early 30’s. But it was also about restricting Japan from gaining access to oil and rubber in either Siberia or the South Pacific. The Japanese needed oil to power their fleet in support of expansion (as they had learned from the old colonial powers). The UK and US didn’t want Japan challenging the 5-5-3 fleet strengths due to the Washington Treaty. And halting the Japanese territorial expansion from getting oil was part of that equation. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Singapore, Phillipines, and Hong Kong was specifically to limit the ability of the UK and US from enforcing any limits on Japan’s ability to take the oil. That is clear from the rationale described in Japanese documents, though those attacks did not have the expected effect.
    I won’t go into the effects during the war to restrict German access to oil, which drove many of our policy choices and caused Germans to come up with processes for synthetic oil. That was mainly after the start of the war.
    So, in WW2, our foreign policy choices were quite deliberately about oil.

  49. says

    The last time the US actually tried nation building was the Marshall Plan, which turned out rather differently.

    Hey, I’m currently getting my house energy efficient using that money.

    +++
    the Vicar

    Why yes, their hands are almost as clean as ours are. How nice it is to be able to cast the first stone!

    Some weeks ago I watched a German political satire show. In that segment they had a “trial” in which one would always accuse Russia of its atrocities while the other side countered by presenting the US American atrocities. It left the actors and presenter sickend and without any idea about what could actually be done. “No, you!” sounds funny in a blog comment.

  50. dragon says

    PZ Myers @54.

    Indeed, I was trying to limit my evidence to that leading to the war rather than during the war. Hence the teaser about Germany which I wasn’t going to discuss in depth. Oil was a significant reason Germany diverted some troops to Stalingrad rather than Moscow too. Thank you for adding to my point that history tells us that political concerns about oil didn’t start in the 1950’s.

    On an aside, I recall reading a book which included actual bomber crew interviews about the Ploiești raid. They had to set their bombs to go off much later than usual after contact with a solid object because they were flying so low. Very dangerous flying through shrapnel or expanding plumes of oil fires. Contact with the defenses modified flight paths and caused at least one plane to arrive over a portion of the site just as the previous plane’s bombs were exploding, exposing them to the very effect they were trying to avoid.
    I seem to recall 5 minutes (rather than seconds), but it may have been more around 15 minutes. Generally a second or two is all you need for the WW2 bombs to explode deep inside a building rather than on the outer wall. I believe the 12,000 and 22,000 bombs the British used generally had longer fuse delays than the standard bombs.
    Anyway, it has been a while since I read that book, so I cannot be certain about the fuse timing. I might try to find that book in my library again. I enjoy rereading books like that.

  51. dragon says

    Oops, that should have been ‘…12,000 and 22,000 pound bombs…’ The Tallboys and some name I do not recall. I didn’t mean to suggest quantity of bombs.

  52. dragon says

    quotetheunquote #58

    That’s the one! And you probably remember the Tallboys were used in the final assault on the Tirpitz.

  53. says

    @#50, numerobis
    11 January 2017 at 11:05 am

    awful, but nothing like the carnage in Syria or Congo/Rwanda or Bosnia, where the west did not intervene heavily.

    What?! Somebody, please get me that “you dense motherfucker” meme from that Facebook post!

    Practically all of the people that Assad has been fighting in Syria are armed and funded by us! If we hadn’t intervened, the Syrian… whatever-you-want-to-call-it would have been over in about a month, years ago! Wikileaks revealed (and, afterwards, the CIA admitted) that it was arming and training anyone it could find who was dissatisfied with Assad since long before the unrest even started getting in the news, which means that without our intervention, there might not have been any deaths in Syria.

    Metaphorically speaking, Syria is the U.S. grabbing Assad’s hands and forcing him to punch himself while shouting “stop hitting yourself! stop hitting yourself!” — and then we have the nerve to turn around and say “see, I think Assad needs to go, because he keeps hitting himself”.

    But sure, go ahead and claim that Syria is not the result of our intervention. That isn’t a despicable utter lie, not at all.

  54. Jessie Harban says

    @51, a_ray_in_dilbert_space:

    Harban is a classic specimen of the lofty lefty–so pure, he can’t even be bothered to wipe his own arse. Ignore him. His inability to compromise means that he and his ilk will never wield any power or influence.

    How you figure?

    I’ve been accused of political “purity” by all and sundry, yet everyone insists I’m accusing them of “purity.” I really don’t understand this at all.

    Can someone tell me what I’m missing here? Not meaning to be snarky or anything; I’m genuinely trying to figure out the relationship between my post at #32 and the responses from PZ and Ray at 44 and 51. The only thing that comes to mind is that this section:

    It would have been nice if you’d had the guts to take a stand before his term was entirely over and it was too late to do anything about it.

    could potentially be read as: “You never criticized Obama until now” rather than “You have generally supported Obama on balance until now even while criticizing his shortcomings; I don’t think he was worthy of that.”

    But I suspect there’s more to it than that even if I can’t see it now.

  55. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ve been accused of political “purity” by all and sundry, yet everyone insists I’m accusing them of “purity.” I really don’t understand this at all.

    You see things in black and white, and how it ought to be in your mind. I see shades of gray, what is possible to be enacted when everybody has a different opinion.

    Obama has been criticized by you, but not by me, for not having public option in the ACA. The purist in you will condemn out of hand the lack of a public option, as they see that is the right thing to do.

    The non-purist like myself understands, that given the differences of opinions within the democratic party, there probably wasn’t enough votes for a public option within the party (and no support at all with the rethugs, as that is evil socialism), to get the overall ACA passed and put into effect. And Obama knew that, and knew he couldn’t change enough minds. He took what he could get. Which is non-pure compromise. It’s also called how one makes laws.

    We can applaud that the ACA happened, and see it as a chance to start offering a public option (medicare for all) as a competition to places where only one or two private providers are competing. The cheaper public option will eventually drive private health insurers off the side.

    You the purist see lack of resolve as they didn’t do what you wanted. I the non-purist saw the democrats solving a problem, and the ACA a first pass at expanded coverage that could easily turn into the socialized medicine that the US should have.

  56. Jessie Harban says

    You see things in black and white, and how it ought to be in your mind.

    Case in point. You know nothing about my opinions; you just accuse me of seeing things in black and white.

    Obama has been criticized by you, but not by me, for not having public option in the ACA. The purist in you will condemn out of hand the lack of a public option, as they see that is the right thing to do.

    Does that mean you don’t want a public option? That you want it but don’t think it’s worth fighting for?

    It’s entirely possible to condemn and criticize something for not being good enough even if it’s the best you’re probably going to get. We’re not in Congress; we don’t need to compromise to pass laws. Our job is to demand more than the politicians will give to force them to “compromise” higher.

    Demand everything and criticize the politicians who don’t deliver for their failure to deliver. It won’t get us everything, but it’ll get us the most. That’s not “purity.”

    The non-purist like myself understands, that given the differences of opinions within the democratic party, there probably wasn’t enough votes for a public option within the party (and no support at all with the rethugs, as that is evil socialism), to get the overall ACA passed and put into effect. And Obama knew that, and knew he couldn’t change enough minds. He took what he could get. Which is non-pure compromise. It’s also called how one makes laws.

    Except that Obama did change minds by convincing people to oppose the public option. He actively worked to water down the health care bill. This wasn’t a reluctant compromise on his part; he could have passed a public option and even fought for single payer.

    We can applaud that the ACA happened, and see it as a chance to start offering a public option (medicare for all) as a competition to places where only one or two private providers are competing. The cheaper public option will eventually drive private health insurers off the side.

    For all its virtues, the ACA is emphatically not a place to start a public option; it basically precludes one.

    Once the ACA was passed, all momentum for health care reform died out, so I doubt we’re going to see universal health care unless the Republicans scrap the ACA and the Democrats have a new mandate to pass health care reform in 2018.

    You the purist see lack of resolve as they didn’t do what you wanted. I the non-purist saw the democrats solving a problem, and the ACA a first pass at expanded coverage that could easily turn into the socialized medicine that the US should have.

    Do you have any evidence that the Democrats intended to expand the ACA? That they will if reelected?

  57. says

    @#65, Jessie Harban

    Do you have any evidence that the Democrats intended to expand the ACA? That they will if reelected?

    On the contrary, various people who were in office during the period when the ACA was being passed reported that Obama specifically visited people who were trying to push for the public option and strong-armed them into stopping (which strongly suggests that Obama was not interested in having any sort of leverage against Republicans), and Chuck Schumer let slip by accident that the ACA as passed was what Obama originally wanted. The Democrats really wanted this imperfect bill, because it made friends — and therefore donors — of the insurance industry, for a while at least.

    (They also wanted it because all the publicity surrounding it killed off the outrage people were starting to express over the fact that Obama wasn’t going to punish the banks and Wall Street for crashing the economy — which had over 90% support from the American public as a whole, and would have been the sensible thing to do — and wasn’t planning to wind down the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or to punish the Bush administration for starting them. Republicans hated the ACA because Obama suggested it, and all the Democratic tribalists immediately decided it must be the best thing since sliced bread because the Republicans hated it. Both sides were being played like a drum by the 1%, who now get to repeal the law anyway.)

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