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The thin line between friend and foe

The news media reported over the weekend two raids by US special forces. One in Libya resulted in the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby while the attempted capture of Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir in Somali was repulsed and the raid aborted. This illustrates how we have now reached the state where it is no longer remarkable that the US thinks it has the right to go into other countries and kidnap people off the streets.

This is not surprising since president Obama has decided that it is perfectly acceptable to send in forces or armed drones to kill anyone it deems worthy of death, along with any other people who just happen to be in the vicinity of the doomed individual. He has made the bar for what is considered acceptable behavior so low that we now view anything short of murdering anyone that the US government calls a terrorist as a sign of admirable restraint.

But the story of al-Liby illustrates another little-remarked feature, and that is that there is a very thin line that separates those who are considered enemies of the US from those it considers its friends. In fact, they can often be one and the same person, just at different times or different places, with people and groups morphing from ‘freedom fighters’ backed by the US, to ‘terrorists’ to be hunted down, then back to freedom fighters again, and then terrorists again, and so on.

The most famous example is of course the Afghan mujahedeen (many of whom reconstituted themselves later as the Taliban) and Osama bin Laden, both of whom were hailed as friends and heavily supported when they were fighting the Soviet Union but then later became enemies. A similar transition has occurred with some of the armed militias in Libya. In Syria, the US is allied with rebel groups of which al Qaeda is a part, while fighting al Qaeda elsewhere in the world at the same time.

Bill Van Auken writes of the strange history of the US relations with various characters and al –Liby in particular.

For all of the blather from these experts, however, on one thing they are totally silent: the extraordinary history of al-Liby, the target of the US raid. A review of his career points to not some implacable struggle between mortal enemies, but rather a falling out between intimate partners. It is no exaggeration to suggest that Mr. al-Liby knows some of those who planned his capture on a first-name basis. His biography provides a glimpse into the bizarre and frightening world of the CIA and its secret wars, dirty tricks and global murders.

Al-Liby joined Al Qaeda when it was fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s, providing the foot soldiers for a covert CIA-organized war for regime change against the Soviet-backed government in Kabul. At the time, then-US President Ronald Reagan hailed al-Liby and his fellow right-wing Islamist fighters as the “moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers,” while the US government poured some $10 billion into financing the war.

After the Afghan war, al-Liby reportedly followed Bin Laden to Sudan, where he continued to enjoy US and Western backing. It was during this period of the 1990s that Al Qaeda funneled Islamist fighters into Bosnia to go into battle for the US-backed Bosnian Muslim regime. In 1993, Bin Laden received Bosnian citizenship and a Bosnian passport. Al Qaeda terrorists were also sent into Kosovo to join the separatist movement against Serbia, which by 1999 was backed by a full-scale US-NATO air war.

In 2002, it was revealed that six years earlier al-Liby had been a key figure in a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group cell that was paid large sums of money by the British intelligence service, MI6, for an abortive plot to assassinate Gaddafi.

For nearly two years after the African embassy bombings, al-Liby was able to continue living in the UK, fleeing only in May of 2000 around the time he and 20 other Al Qaeda operatives were indicted in a Manhattan federal court as co-defendants of Osama in the African terrorist attacks. He was placed on the FBI’s “most wanted” list.

After a decade as a wanted terrorist, al-Liby returned to Libya in 2011 and once again was transformed into a US-backed “freedom fighter,” joining one of the Islamist brigades that served as proxy troops for the US-NATO war for regime change.

Jeremy Scahill’s excellent book Dirty Wars shows that the same shifting allegiances are taking place right now in Somalia and Yemen, with all manner of unsavory characters fighting on the side of the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC, the military-intelligence outfit that was created to be able to act quickly outside the normal chain of command) and then becoming enemies and then back to friends again. You need a daily scorecard to see on which team any given person is playing.

While the US may think that it is using these groups to achieve its own objectives, these groups may also be using the US to achieve their own goals, such as eliminating their enemies, thus giving them a freer hand to operate.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    Nothing new here. We seem to forget that we were asshole buddies with ole Joe Stalin during WW 2, who was far worse than any of the other assholes we have been allied with since.

  2. dean says

    Joe Stalin … who was far worse than any of the other assholes we have been allied with since.

    Disagree – not that he was horrible, but that he was worse: he simply had a larger population to dominate, so his numbers exceed simply due to scale, not for lack of trying by others.

  3. colnago80 says

    To quote Winston Churchill when he was questioned about Britain’s support of the former Soviet Union: if Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.

  4. colnago80 says

    IMHO, Stalin was as bad as Frankenberger; both were sociopaths. The only difference between them was that in addition to being a sociopath, Frankenberger was a megalomaniac with a messianic complex.

  5. daved says

    I recall reading that the Somali government gave the go-ahead to the US to try to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir. They don’t like him either.

  6. says

    The United States installed the Ba’athist Party in Iraq in 1968, to overthrow a Communist flavored government that had overthrown the US’ puppet 10 years earlier. Saddam Hussein was our puppet for decades: when he invaded Iran in 1980, sparking the Iran-Iraq War, he did so at the command of the US government and will full US backing. We were the ones who supplied his equipment, including the illegal chemical weapons that he would later use in an ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. He became persona non grata when he tried to annex Kuwait in 1990 on his own initiative, and Junior used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to bring him down completely.

    Manuel Noriega was another US installed dictator who got too big for the little boy pants that we insisted he wear. The US supported Mobutu in Zaire, until his policies of ethnic cleansing became public knowledge and an embarrassed US was forced to bring him down. The US put Pinochet into power in Chile. And then there are the MANY dictators that the US has supported but not taken down, like Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Maximiliano Martinez in El Salvador, the Somoza pere and fils in Nicaragua, Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti, Chiang Kai-Shek in Taiwan, Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam, Fernando Marcos in the Philippines, Mohammed Zia Ul-Haq in Pakistan, Suharto in Indonesia, the racist governments of Ian Smith in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and P. W. Botha in South Africa, the Pahlevi dynasty in Iran and George Papadopoulos in Greece, just to name a few.

    The US backing dictators and thugs is definitely nothing new.

  7. Chiroptera says

    If you feel that you have to rank Stalin and Hitler as “more evil” or “less evil,” then you probably don’t understand morality all that well.

    (I’m not disagreeing with you, dean, just sharpening your point a bit.)

  8. trucreep says

    I’m constantly amazed that the government never considers that point – that we’re getting played just as much as we’re playing. Or if they consider it, they somehow think they’re above it. It’s astounding.

  9. Jeffrey Johnson says

    It’s very hard for me to get what the overall point of this piece is. There seems to be lots of vague conspiratorial insinuation that something really unusual or unacceptable is going on here.

    How terrible it is that the United States is friends today with Japan and Germany, our mortal enemies in WWII. And isn’t it awful that we allow states like Texas and Alabama to be part of this country when we fought them and other Confederate states in our bloodiest battles of the Civil War? We fought a war with Britain and now we’re buddies. And fought wars against Mexico and now we allow Mexicans to live here, and even to hold public office, play on our sports teams, and appear in our movies and television. We armed Ho Chi Minh to fight against the Japanese in WWII, and later he was our mortal enemy in the Vietnam War. Today American businesses are involved in commerce in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

    One point is just completely false: we are not allied with any rebel groups that include Al Qaeda. I can’t see what gave you that idea. It certainly isn’t supported by the article you linked to as far as I can see.

    But what really amazes me is that one could be opposed to drone attacks, and also criticize an alternative to drones intended to reduce civilian casualties, which are the Navy Seal raids into Libya and Somalia. At least give a little credit for the improvement. Of course these can be faulted for intruding into foreign territory, but of course if these territories had well established governments we could work with to arrest and extradite people that have been indicted in US courts for crimes against the US, of course we would choose to cooperate with foreign authorities instead. I can’t recall the last time we sent an assault team into England, France, Italy, or even India, Thailand, or Mexico (unless with full cooperation of civilian authorities).

    The worst thing I can see about the Libya raid was that John Kerry blew it by opening his mouth to publicly announce that the US had the approval of the Libyan prime minister for the raid. That was enough to get the Prime Minister kidnapped for half a day, certainly a message that they can kill him any time they want. This is definitely one case where the security of individuals depended on government secrecy, and Kerry should have kept his mouth shut, even if he thought he was providing political cover to the US to quiet all the people who would complain that we had violated Libyan sovereignty.

    My most cynical hypocrisy meter suspects that if rather than attacking with drones or apprehending using Navy Seals, we instead did absolutely nothing about people who bomb US embassies, the same people who love to criticize drone attacks and Navy Seal raids designed to minimize civilian casualties would find a way to complain about doing absolutely nothing, particularly as soon as the individual in question was next involved in fatal attacks against US facilities.

  10. colnago80 says

    Chiang Kai-Shek was not a nice man but compared to Mao Zedong, he was an angel. Similarly, the Shah of Iran was not a nice man but compared to the Assads, pere and fils in Syria, he too was an angel.

    Mao probably ended up killing more people then Frankenberger and Stalin put together.

  11. colnago80 says

    I would have to agree to some extent wit Prof. Singham here. One of the reasons the US has been reluctant to back the rebels in Syria is that it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Just remember what happened in Afghanistan when the folks who formed the Taliban were supported by the US against the Soviet invaders.

  12. Jeffrey Johnson says

    I’m not saying there are no Al Qaeda rebels. But even the article Mano linked to stated that some of these are less concerned with overthrowing Assad than they are with staking out safe-havens in the north of Syria.

    We have to a minimal extent aided the Free Syrian Army, mostly with small arms, but I’ve read recently that even some of the groups under that umbrella had to be weeded out because of Al Qaeda ties. Of course we are doing everything possible to avoid helping Al Qaeda, which is exactly why Obama planned the strikes against Syria to be very limited. It was not designed to help the rebels win, as in Libya. It was designed to provide Assad with a serious disincentive to use chemical weapons again. Already having apparently exhausted diplomatic channels, it was our last resort, and it was the threat of an attack that convinced Putin to cooperate.

    My main point here was to object to the phrasing that we are allied with Al Qaeda rebels. That’s a Michelle Bachman talking point, and it’s a distortion. I hope Mano doesn’t want to keep company with Michelle Bachman. Most of the rebel groups we are not helping at all, and it’s a stretch to say that we are allied with the FSA. We just don’t want them to lose, and to see Assad triumph.

    These are the reasons why we have not entered into this war on either side. We are not trying to overthrow Assad, nor are we trying to help Assad triumph over the rebels. Our strategy all along has been one of hoping to minimize damage in an intractable mess and hope that maybe some improvement might emerge in the future. We don’t want Assad to win, but we don’t want a power vacuum in the event of a rebel victory. And we definitely do not want the conflict to go on and on so that as many people as possible are killed, as some have scornfully suggested. The outcome we have been hoping for, as far as I can tell, is that both Assad and the rebels reach the conclusion as soon as possible that they can’t win any time soon, and to get them to the negotiating table in Geneva. The best outcome would be some kind of moderate government without Assad.

    http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2013/10/07/Syrian-opposition-sets-conditions-for-their-participation-in-Geneva-II.html

    I want world peace as fervently as anyone. But after watching world events for nearly 50 years, I’ve concluded that it is naive to hope for everyone to just get along without conflict, and it’s also naive to think that the world is cleanly divided into friends and enemies. It’s kind of elementary that your friend today could become your enemy, and your enemy today could become your friend. That’s because most of these conflicts aren’t really based on hatred of people, they are based on land, resources, and various other types of power struggle or conflict of interest. Conditions are always changing. Anybody who paid attention to what happened in Iraq noticed that groups that originally welcomed the overthrow of Hussein but hoped the US would leave early, became increasingly hostile toward the US as they saw our intentions to stay on and micromanage Iraqi affairs. During the lengthy occupation various groups went from being US allies to US enemies, or others changed from being US enemies to US allies because we paid them off. And at times US troops would just watch Iraqi insurgents battling against Al Qaeda foreign fighters, both groups being enemies of the US but also not being friends.

    And beyond this, there are times when during war members of enemy contingents help one another or at least find temporary rapprochement. Rather than such blurring of lines between friend and enemy being something to regard with disdain as some kind of hypocrisy, I think it is something to be seen as hopeful and positive, that there really are no permanent or natural enemies among humans, and that we only end up in conflicts because of temporary environmental conditions that can change or be overcome.

    A film I love a lot is Joyeux Noel, which is based on a real event. It depicts a few days around Christmas time when warring German, French, and English troops met in no-man’s land between the trenches and shared some Christmas cheer. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

  13. says

    Chiang Kai-Shek was more inclined to murder than Mao; ffs, unlike the Guomindang, the Communist Party under Mao were considerably less oppressive assholes towards non-Han Chinese people. God damn, it’s Chiang Kai-fucking-Shek; the Long March* was done to prevent the man from exterminating those who marched, not because Mao wanted his funsies. He killed peasants for being ruled over by communists! The only two reasons he ‘looks like an angel’ in comparison is that Chiang Kai-shek only got to rule China for 8 years, and he was the Western puppet dictator!

    And as icing on this shit cake, he was personally involved with the largest criminal syndicate in Chinese history, using opium trade money to bolster his position amongst the Guomindang..

    Mao probably ended up killing more people then Hitler and Stalin put together.

    …But not more than either would have managed had they run China instead of Russia or Germany. And his name is Hitler, you conspiracy theory spewing jackass. It’s also worth mentioning that many of Mao ‘attributed deaths’ are from gross mismanagement – we apparently only blame him for this because he’s communist. Hoover is responsible for a great many deaths (relative to population) from similar mismanagement, but doesn’t see this level of castigation for it at all. Curious, that…

    *Incidentally, for how much people use the the Long March’s death to make a point, Guomindang forces had 50% casualty rates amongst conscripts… before first contact with the enemy. Granted,a non-zero amount of that was desertion, but it was mostly death. The situation was so awful that the US commander of airforce troops stationed in Sichuan, himself a staunch capitalist, lobbied FDR and Truman to support the CPC because it showed greater discipline and respect for their own troops.

  14. Jeffrey Johnson says

    It looks like my comments are now under moderation. I didn’t mean to be a troll or be disrespectful. I just wanted to provide an alternative view to the purely negative and pessimistic view of American actions. I really think we are entitled to arrest or kill people who bomb our embassies killing hundreds of people.

    Perhaps my post was needlessly sarcastic. I wanted to add a little humor, but maybe my sense of humor is not appreciated.

    At any rate, I hope that dissenting views can be tolerated. If my way of expressing myself was over the top, I apologize for that. I try to make useful and as much as possible informed contributions.

    My post prior to this one, which remains blocked, hopefully better explains why there is a positive and hopeful side to the fact that alliances and allegiances change and that the line between friend and enemy can be easily blurred. It doesn’t necessarily only represent unsavory amoral opportunistic self-interest that is evil beyond recovery. It seems fairly natural in a complex world full of complex and contradictory human beings.

  15. Mano Singham says

    The only posts that go into moderation are those by first time commenters or those which have links that cause the blog platform software to think it might be spam. The latter was the case here.

  16. MNb says

    This policy is worse than ethically unacceptable, it is stupid. The USA is building up the reputation of being unreliable ally. There can only be one outcome: everybody against the USA, no allies left. Superpower or not, that’s against American interest (not to mention against the interest of democracy and justice).
    Especially in international politics one has to choose one’s enemies very carefully – something American presidents understood much better between 1940 and 1960.

  17. Jeffrey Johnson says

    Okay, thanks. I jumped to the wrong conclusion. It was probably the link I included that caused moderation.

    I was worried my post had upset you. I think I did get a bit sarcastic, which I feel to some degree helped make the point, but on the other hand it can also be annoying. It’s hard to always get tone and intentions correct from written language. I try never to be insulting and keep debate civil, even if I disagree at times.

  18. Mano Singham says

    The point is not that alliances change. Of course they do. It is that these alliances have changed without any change in the people concerned. al Qaeda fighting the Soviets had the same ideology and practices that it has now.

    The US has refused to extradite to other countries people who have been charged, indicted, tried, and even convicted, such as Robert Seldon Lady (Italy), Luis Posada Carriles (Venezuela), Roberto and William Isaias (Ecuador), Michel Christoph Meili (Switzerland), Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Bolivia), and Orlando Bosch (Cuba).

    I assume that you would approve of commandos from those countries kidnapping them off the streets of the US and whisking them back for trial.

  19. says

    And fought wars against Mexico and now we allow Mexicans to live here,

    “America carried out a war of aggression, but eventually forgave the mexicans for it” is probably the worst example you can raise.

    It’s also worth noting, which Mano alludes to but does not spell out for you, that not only do we deny extradition to other countries without giving them permission to raid us with commandos, but that we do so in contravention of extant extradition treaties with those countries.

    My most cynical hypocrisy meter suspects that if rather than attacking with drones or apprehending using Navy Seals, we instead did absolutely nothing about people who bomb US embassies, the same people who love to criticize drone attacks and Navy Seal raids designed to minimize civilian casualties would find a way to complain about doing absolutely nothing, particularly as soon as the individual in question was next involved in fatal attacks against US facilities.

    Speaking personally? If you make it clear that the only way to apprehend those people was to flout national sovereignty, I would not have a single bad thing to say about not doing that to attack.

  20. colnago80 says

    The number of Chinese who died during the various schemes, such as the great leap forward, enacted by the Chinese Communist Government is estimated at 25 million or more, greatly exceeding the number of Soviets who died during the forced collectivization of agriculture in the former Soviet Union.

  21. colnago80 says

    Re Jeffrey Johnson

    Unfortunately, the US and our Israeli ally tacitly supported the Assad pere and Assad fils regime for 40 years because he kept things quiet on the Golan Highths cease fire line. It has only been in the last six to nine months that the governments of those two nations have decided that Assad fils must go if there is to be a soft landing in Syria. It’s a day late and a buck short because the situation has deteriorated into a Shiite/Sunni war and a soft landing appears not to be in the cards. This brouhaha over chemical weapons is a side show as Assad fils was killing people a good clip before they were used. The only advantage of using chemical weapons is you can kill the opposition without destroying the infrastructure.

  22. colnago80 says

    In fact, there is no possibility of extraditing anyone from Yemen or Somalia, Thus, we are left with the choice of drones or assassination teams consisting of Special Forces or Navy Seals or do nothing. I don’t know the status of extradition treaties with those countries but their governments are incapable of capturing the miscreants.

  23. Nick Gotts says

    But, but, good grief! You’re talking as if the USA was just another state, rather than the Shining City on a Hill and Last Best Hope of Mankind that gets to make the rules for everyone else but is in no way obliged to abide by any treaty it has signed if that happens to be inconvenient!

  24. Jeffrey Johnson says

    @colnago,
    Sure, I agree that the chemical weapons aspect was not part of the main course of events in Syria. That seems pretty obvious.

    I know about the history of the Cold War. The US hypocritically supported oppressive tyrants around the globe while claiming to be the defenders of freedom. It is deeply ironic that we blocked the spread of democracy because in so many places the natural inclinations of voters was toward socialism or communism. Hafez Assad is part of that unsavory history.

    When his son Bashar took over people hoped for a relaxation of the political oppression in post-cold war Syria. But that didn’t happen because Assad still represents a minority in Syria. None of this is a secret.

    Of course the chemical weapons issue is peripheral to most of what is happening in Syria. And chemical weapons usage is the only reason the US would have made an intervention. There is no other reason to, because there is no way for us to use military force to reach a favorable outcome. Fortunately just a threat of intervention seems to have done the trick, because while we may not have been able to control events, would could have messed things up pretty badly for Assad, and he knew it.

    We wanted to stop chemical weapons usage for two reasons: one is that Assad could commit mass murder on a far larger scale than he already has with them in order to save his own skin, and he’s already doing way too much killing. For us to stand by and watch millions killed so a tyrant can keep hold of power would have been unconscionable, especially if we could have nipped in in the bud at a fairly low cost, as we seem to have done. The other reason is that we want to deter their usage and spread elsewhere in the world. It sends a message to other governments that we won’t tolerate it.

    It makes perfect sense that the Syrian Civil War could have proceeded without chemical weapons becoming and issues and without any US intervention. But Assad chose to use the weapons, or perhaps better said that Assad chose to test the international reaction to his usage of chemical weapons, and he got his answer.

    The obvious question, and I’ll answer it because someone will ask it even though I think it has an obvious answer, is why is it not unconscionable to stand by and watch a hundred thousand die? This point came up many times in other threads: why intervene now and not before a hundred thousand were killed? The answers are that 1. of course it is an unconscionable aguish ridden frustration to be able to do nothing to stop this war, but chemical weapons could kill orders of magnitude more people. 2. We could not intervene in the snarled and confused local Civil War in any meaningful way at low cost. It would be another Iraq at least, if not worse. So we could not stop the events of the last two years, but we were able to deter the potentially worse effects of chemical weapons use at a very low cost. Reality requires that tradeoffs be made. There is never an option of achieving all of your goals or ensuring perfect outcomes or controlling all events the way you want them to go.

    Our strategy in Syria, as I see it, and I’m just reading signs with no inside information, remains the same, which is to hope both sides fight to a stalemate as soon as possible and that they can negotiate a transitional government and a future government without Assad, one that has inclusive representation among Syrians, and one that tolerates the Syrian minorities.

  25. Jeffrey Johnson says

    I completely agree that the US is hypocritical. But this isn’t news, and the US is not unique in this. Extradition requests are denied all the time, requests by the US from other countries, and between other countries. I haven’t yet read the details of the cases you cite. I might agree with some and disagree with others. I’m not sure I agree that the US should routinely give up a fugitive every time another country asks us to. I also agree that we shouldn’t pretend other countries are evil if they won’t give up those we request. US extradition requests have been refused by Switzerland, France, the UK, and other solid allies. It’s not that unusual.

    When it comes to international relations the US is particularly unruly, placing its interests above principles when it thinks it is important enough. But again, the US isn’t unique in this. It is a fact of US power that we can get away with this moreso than other countries. On the other hand there is often (not always) a certain amount of restraint in what we do compared to what we could do. In other words, it seems we mostly make exceptions when there are extraordinary circumstances. If Norway or Palau had our power they might be far more virtuous. Or maybe not. Perhaps Iceland could teach us a lot about real restraint and rule of law. I don’t know how they would behave if they had an equivalent amount of global power. But I suspect there are many many countries among the 200 or so that would be far worse than the US at abusing power if they had the power we have.

    We might learn a lot from China about how they carry out foreign policy. They have and might still learn a lot from us on domestic policies.

    The right-wing jingoist patriotism narratives of American Exceptionalism and America as a shining moral example to the world are of course bogus, but they contain grains of truth. We have a mixed record. I’d say left-wing narratives that the US is the new (or original) evil empire are also greatly exaggerated, even if they contain limited truths.

    Our history is full of moral stains, including the decimation of Native American populations, slavery, Jim Crow and still persistent racism against African Americans, and the horrible sins of Cold War support for oppressive tyrants. And it continues today, no denying it. Americans should be humble and somberly reflect on the bad that we’ve done. But we are also not uniquely bad, nor exclusively bad, nor do we set out with malice to indiscriminately take or do everything we want whenever we want. There are limits and constraints. We need to find a balance between the two extremes of self-flaggelation and self-aggrandizement, preferably a balance that is based on a sober acknowledgement of reality. That acknowledgement of reality involves both admitting errors and crimes, and admitting that sometimes we do things that are good. We shouldn’t commit national suicide, nor can we wave a wand and eliminate all moral conflicts.

    Of course I would not want commandos coming into our country, and nobody else would either. But balancing that against having our embassies blown up, our Ambassador killed, or a massacre in a shopping mall in Kenya, I find it hard to get up in arms about the recent intrusions upon Somali and Libyan sovereignty. America does these things because we can, and that is no justification. Others would do them if they could, and that is still no justification. In the abstract there is no justification for violating the law. Yet rules and laws are violated all the time for pragmatic reasons.

    This is the way the world is, not the way I would like it to be. Or maybe we wouldn’t like a world where people are absolutely subjected to law without exceptions. It’s hard to say. Human morality is full of paradoxes. “Thou shalt not kill” competes with “Thou shalt not murder”, which opens up lots of exceptions for killing. It is very common for killing to be seen as a righteous and moral activity, in both war and in vengeance. No matter how stupid this seems, we can’t change people. This is part of the reality of the human mind. We have morals that apply to our tribe, and morals that apply to the defense of our tribe against outsiders. What is evil in the local context can be seen as good in relation to outside threats. What is good in the local context can be seen as evil in relation to outsiders. I think this is an imprint of evolution that leads to all the paradoxes and contradictions in today’s larger and more complicated world. We can only hope we are learning and getting better.

    Whether we consider the triumphal declaration of America as shining model of goodness or the self-righteous and shocked horror at the fathomless depths of American evil, it’s hard to decide which is more idealistic and out of touch with the hard facts of reality. There is a little truth on either side, and a whole bunch of interdependent contradictory moral complexity in between these two idealistic poles.

    We should criticize ourselves and strive to improve, but we shouldn’t be overly despairing about our shortfalls and failings either. Reality is complicated, and there is very little that can be accomplished by pretending purity is the norm we must strive for in a world where purity doesn’t exist.

  26. says

    The Great Leap Forward’s deaths aren’t murder, you disingenuous clown. However inept the management, it was a (horrendously stupid) attempt at improving quality of life for everyone involved. And what a fucking surprise – It’s fucking China. The raw numbers are always going to be higher, by an absurdly high proportion. That’s why I avoided the cheap shot in saying Chiang Kai-Shek was part of the largest criminal organization in the history of the world. Yes, it’s true, but it was a Chinese criminal organization that spanned all of China, and was the largest in its history By raw population, it’s going to be the largest. What’s relevant is that it was the proportionately largest in his nation’s history.

    Comparing mismanagement to murder, which is what you h ave to do in what you tried to say, is stupid. And considering Kai-shek engaged in plenty of mismanagement himself, it’s even more stupid.

  27. colnago80 says

    Re Katreya

    Hey pal, they’re just as dead regardless whether they died due to the incompetence of the government or were deliberately wasted. If you are going to make the argument that the size of the population is what counts, then Pol Pot who caused the deaths of an estimated 1/7th of the population of Cambodia is the greatest mass murderer in history, worse then Frankenberger, Mao, Stalin, Vlad the impaler, the Assads pere and fils, etc..

  28. says

    Hey pal, they’re just as dead regardless whether they died due to the incompetence of the government or were deliberately wasted.

    Yes, but people use mismanagement deaths to claim people were bloody-handed tyrants. That’s exactly what you did, just now, actually. I’m not sure if assholes like you are aware there’s a difference, or if you’re mendacious, but so it goes.

    FFS, now you’re pretending this isn’t about how you claimed Chiang Kai-shek is a fucking angel. REMINDER: The man chose “Murder” as his option 1 in dealing with anyone who disagreed with him and wasn’t particularly highly placed in the Guomindang. He’s only an ‘angel’ by the metric of “What does the USA want”.

    f you are going to make the argument that the size of the population is what counts, then Pol Pot who caused the deaths of an estimated 1/7th of the population of Cambodia is the greatest mass murderer in history,

    If only that had convinced the USA not to back him. But the fact that he fought Vietnam was more important to us.

    Hitler,

    It’s hitler, you deluded fuck.

  29. Jeffrey Johnson says

    Doing nothing doesn’t always amount to a moral choice or a benign outcome. To take an extreme example, what if Hitler had never attempted to expand his territory, but instead had merely run extermination camps within the borders of Germany to carry out genocide. Would you recommend that the world do nothing?

    We did nothing in Rwanda. Are we to congratulate ourselves?

    We could have done nothing in Bosnia or Kosovo. Would millions more dead have justified our noble restraint?

    In the case of Abu Anas, he has been indicted for involvement in planning the bombings of two US Embassies. Over 200 were killed and 4,000 wounded in the attacks. In response to such attacks, the attackers hope we will withdraw and do nothing. The reason is that if we do nothing to disrupt their activities they can more easily cross borders from North Africa to Asia and use violence to gain control of territory and exercise power over local populations in their goal to impose fundamentalist Islamic rule.

    Is doing nothing really the superior option? Will it necessarily lead to the best outcomes for the most people involved? We don’t seem to be able to count on the hope that if we do nothing that they will do nothing. The people we are fighting don’t worry about the law, and they aren’t concerned with sovereignty either. Should we really pretend that the whole world is lawful and benign, and that by doing nothing we really promote peace?

  30. says

    Would you recommend that the world do nothing?

    Militarily, yes. I would not recommend the world had done what it actually did, which was for the most part, turning away refugees.

    We did nothing in Rwanda. Are we to congratulate ourselves?

    What’s to congratulate ourselves on? We didn’t violate national sovereignty. That’s kind of a basic fucking thing.

    We could have done nothing in Bosnia or Kosovo. Would millions more dead have justified our noble restraint?

    …Millions? Do you have any concept of scale, or do you just know that countries were involved, and therefore ‘millions dead’ sounds sexy and vaguely plausible? You’d have to kill a third of the total population of both bosnia and kosovo to reach that.

    Moving along, an impartial ceasefire by the international community is simply not comparable to unilateral military aids to the ‘benefit’ of one nation.

    the attackers hope we will withdraw and do nothing.

    Terrorists want us to behave in an organized, disciplined fashion that doesn’t violate our long term interests or basic national decency? Really?

    Is doing nothing really the superior option?

    Yup.

    We don’t seem to be able to count on the hope that if we do nothing that they will do nothing.

    Let the gadflies sting. Oppose them where you actually have a bloody right to, your own territory.

    Should we really pretend that the whole world is lawful and benign, and that by doing nothing we really promote peace?

    It’s not about promoting peace, you yob. It’s about not pretending the world’s opinions and rights are irrelevant compared to our perceptions of our own safety.

  31. says

    Clarification: I mean prior to Hitler’s expansions. Refugees were turned away. Going to war to prevent his expansion would have been perfectly acceptable, though, and also not what actually happened. …although that might have been disastrous in its own ways, given that hitler was much better prepared for war during the appeasement period.

  32. colnago80 says

    Do nothing means allowing the miscreants to continue their mischief. Not a good idea.

    Going to war to prevent his expansion would have been perfectly acceptable, though, and also not what actually happened. …although that might have been disastrous in its own ways, given that hitler was much better prepared for war during the appeasement period.

    Not true. At the time of the Munich Conference, the reality was that Germany was no better prepared to engage in a European war then were Britain and France. In fact, the Czech armed forces were probably the best prepared for war, being fully mechanized with tanks superior to anything in the armory of Germany, Britain, and France. In addition, the terrain in Czechoslovakia was far more defensible then the terrain in Poland. Britain and France would have been much better off opposing Germany in the Spring of 1938 allied with Czechoslovakia then in the fall of 1939 allied with Poland, whose armed forces based on horse cavalry for mobility were worthless against the Wehrmacht, which was much more mechanized then then it was in 1938. Chamberlain shot himself in the foot by selling Czechoslovakia down the river and eventually handing over the modern Czech armor together with the Skoda Works the most modern such facility in Europe at the time. Pound for pound Czechoslovakia had the best armed force in Europe in the Spring of 1938.

    In addition, elements of the German General Staff were terrified at Frankenberger’s reckless adventurism and were contemplating a coup to remove him from power. Of course, the coup came to nothing when Chamberlain blinked after going eyeball to eyeball with the latter. The unpreparedness of the German armed forces was well known to them, if not to Chamberlain.

  33. Jeffrey Johnson says

    @Rutee,

    The people we are fighting don’t worry about the law, and they aren’t concerned with sovereignty either.

    Why did you skip over this very important point? Al Qaeda and affiliates routinely disregarded borders and laws. They don’t accept the validity of any government that does not conform to their extreme Islamic ideals. They do what they can get away with, and it doesn’t matter to them what people think. They kill those who try to stop them. Is it then a good thing to let them operate unhindered and with impunity? I can’t see how.

    Regarding the numbers in Bosnia and Kosovo, it’s not the accuracy of that number that was the point, though you used it as a distraction. “Million” singular would have been closer. Let’s say hundreds of thousands, a substantial fraction of a million. The Serb intention was ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs.

    In that situation we disrespected what the Serbs felt their sovereignty was, but we acted with UN approval and in concert with NATO, and according to the wishes of the victims of the Serbian Army.

    In Iraq in 1991 we acted with UN approval in expelling an invader who ignored sovereignty.

    In Rwanda we could have easily had UN support. The UN begged us to act and we refused. Would you advocate respecting the sovereignty of the murdering thuggish Hutu regime that was enabling and fomenting the slaughter of every Tutsi in the country?

    In a peaceful country sovereignty can be seen as a defense of the people, as a right, as something to be respected. In other cases sovereignty can be used as a shield to cover and justify heinous atrocities. The idea that it should be respected unconditionally is highly dubious.

    Do you then approve or disapprove of UN approved interventions? And do you approve of turning a blind eye to armed violent groups who do not respect sovereignty or law, and who seek to impose their extreme ideology on unwilling people via threat? Are you arguing absolute pacifism, absolute isolationism, or that sovereignty is absolutely inviolate under all circumstances?

  34. Jeffrey Johnson says

    @colnago,
    Why do you insist on this eccentric “Frankenberger” conceit? The irony that Hitler could have had Jewish ancestors pleases you?

    I’m not Jewish, but It seems to me insulting to Jews. We know his mother was not Jewish, nor was he schooled in the Jewish religion or culture. He was raised Catholic. The existence of the hypothetical Leopold Frankenberger, while never having been documented, seems entirely irrelevant in any case since his mother was not Jewish and he was not raised Jewish.

    So what are your reasons?

  35. colnago80 says

    Actually, Jeffrey is making the assumption that the Frankenberger family, if it existed, was Jewish. It need not have been. Although a name like that in the US would probably be Jewish, not so in Germany/Austria. Consider Alfred Rosenberg, a Nazi war criminal convicted at Nuremberg and hanged. Rosenberg is almost certainly a Jewish name in the US but ole Alfred was not Jewish. Similarly with names like Adler, again almost certainly Jewish in the US but not so in Germany/Austria (AFAIK, the Adler family that started the Adler typewriter company was not Jewish). Don’t jump to conclusions.

    I call Adolf Frankenberger because there is evidence that his biological paternal grandfather the 19 year old son of the Frankenberger family, Leopold Frankenberger, who allegedly knocked up his paternal grandmother, Maria Schickelgruber. Father Alois was christened Schickelgruber and no father’s name is listed on his birth certificate. Calling him Frankenberger shows a total lack of respect for someone who deserves none.

  36. Jeffrey Johnson says

    @colnago

    Actually, Jeffrey is making the assumption that the Frankenberger family, if it existed, was Jewish.

    No, you are the one making assumptions here. I had never heard of this Frankenberger theory until I saw you using the name. I looked it up. I happen to speak German quite well, so I recognize German words and recognize that the name is not necessarily Jewish. Many Jewish families have surnames that are shared with non-Jewish German families. The Yiddish language is largely derived from German.

    If one googles “Frankenberger Hitler” there is no shortage of discussion about the possibility that Hitler had Jewish ancestry derived from the hypothetical Leopold Frankenberger. I made no assumption as you claim.

    I’m not the one that made up the idea that the hypothetical Leopold Frankenberger was Jewish.

    http://www.lloydthomas.org/1-IsraelTimeLine/7-1930-1999/hitler.html

  37. Jeffrey Johnson says

    @colnago,

    I’ve never noticed anyone calling someone Hitler out of respect. Quite the opposite, actually. See Godwin’s Law.

    Your usage of “Frankenberger” seems to accomplish the opposite of what you want it to accomplish. I don’t know if you are Jewish, but I would think a natural Jewish reaction to the idea that Hitler had Jewish ancestry would be to take offense. I can see how it is a bit comical, as in the Chaplin parody of Hitler in “The Great Dictator”, as Hynkel the dictator of Tomania, with his ministers Garbitsch and Herring.

    But whether you think of Frankenberger as Jewish or not, that idea is widespread independently of you, and like it or not you are connecting to that by using Frankenberger for Hitler.

  38. colnago80 says

    Re Jeffrey Johnson

    We might also call him Schickelgruber, which is what we use to call when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley. The main point is that father Alois, who was baptized
    Alois Schickelgruber, was illegitimate as Maria Schickelgruber was unmarried at the time. His father could have been Leopold Frankenberger, Johann Heidler, or somebody else. Nobody knows.

    I would note that the Nuremberg laws considered anyone with a Jewish grandparent to be a Jew, so, if in fact, Adolf’s biological grandfather was a Jew, under the Nuremberg law so was he. By the way, the same applies to Reinhard Heydrich who was known to have at least 1 Jewish grandparent.

  39. says

    At the time of the Munich Conference, the reality was that Germany was no better prepared to engage in a European war then were Britain and France

    In that it had more tanks than either of them put together, yes, and they began to make up the gaps in the period following, I concur.

    Poland, whose armed forces based on horse cavalry for mobility were worthless against the Wehrmacht

    Most nations were attaching tanks to cavalry or infantry. Poland just didn’t have tanks. They were well aware of these facts. Poland was not unique here.

    The people we are fighting don’t worry about the law, and they aren’t concerned with sovereignty either.

    Are we at war with Yemen or Somalia?

    Why did you skip over this very important point?

    Because it’s stupid. What next? “Criminals don’t follow the law, so the police can’t be constrained by it.” Even if I accepted that, see prior – They aren’t the fucking government of the countries we enter.

    They don’t accept the validity of any government that does not conform to their extreme Islamic ideals.

    I’m pretty sure that they are not out to create a New World Order of Islam. In fact, I already know they aren’t, because their goals are entirely focused on restoring the Islamic world to some mythic ideal they invented in their heads.

    Spoiler Alert: You aren’t giving me confidence in your understanding of the enemies you want to go kill.

    In that situation we disrespected what the Serbs felt their sovereignty was, but we acted with UN approval and in concert with NATO, and according to the wishes of the victims of the Serbian Army.

    You don’t see how this breaks down when you try to map it to Al Qaeda,d o you? You don’t see how every step of this, including the immediate and preliminary steps of sanctions, followed by the strict attempts at only a ceasefire, completely go against this, do you? How even the “Our presence was widely asked for by the victims” part fails to map?

    Would you advocate respecting the sovereignty of the murdering thuggish Hutu regime that was enabling and fomenting the slaughter of every Tutsi in the country?

    Barring tutsi requests for intervention, yes, I can. If they didn’t want you there, don’t fucking go.

    Are you arguing absolute pacifism, absolute isolationism, or that sovereignty is absolutely inviolate under all circumstances?

    I am arguing that you do not have the fucking right to invade a nation merely on your own fucking demands for a mythic state of absolute safety. I am also arguing that you are not the fucking world police, and you shouldn’t enter every fucking conflict just because you have an abstract interest in it. Sincere, widespread demand for your entry is the bare minimal requisite. You absolutely lack the right to invade a nation merely because a criminal group that you don’t like and that hates you exists there. It’s the fucking united states of america. Defend yourself on your own fucking soil – it’s not like there isn’t plenty of space to do that in.

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