You ain’t no fortunate one


When I was in high school, the Vietnam War was still going on, and remarkably, it was never discussed in any of my classes. I suspect that if we had, any conversation would have been strongly shaped by those authority figures, the teachers, and I had a good idea that most of them were middle-of-the-road, conservative leaning people who would have praised the American government — or worse. I knew the PE coach would constantly play the “Ballad of the Green Berets” and praise John Wayne as an ideal American. Fortunately, that meant I got most of my training in the ethics of war from Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Bob Dylan, Creedence, Pete Seeger, and CSNY.

Here we are now, 50 years later, and I’m afraid that the loudest voices expressing opinions about war are Fox News, Ben Shapiro, and Charlie Kirk, who are all, I’m afraid, jingoistic assholes. The counter-culture lies bleeding on the ground, wrecked by the profit motive, and if we rely on the populist expression of thoughtful sentiment from mass media outlets like YouTube, I guarantee that we are fucked. One of the failures of the atheist movement is that it ought to have been a solid platform for global humanist ethics, but do you think Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or any of the major atheist organizations are going to condemn our current actions? They’re most likely debating whether they ought to express an opinion on these matters, or gearing up to exult over the deaths of Muslims.

At least Nathan Robinson is talking sense, giving clear lessons in how to avoid being swayed by the deluge of war propaganda we’re swimming in right now. Follow his lessons, and you’ll see all the lies you’re being told.

He even criticizes the approach our Democratic candidates take. Far from being the terrorist-appeasing saps that the Right would like to paint them in, they’ve swallowed a lot of the pro-war justifications as implicit in their premises.

We have to be clear and emphatic in our messaging, because so much effort is made to make what should be clear issues appear murky. If, for example, you gave a speech in 2002 opposing the Iraq War, but the first half was simply a discussion of what a bad and threatening person Saddam Hussein was, people might actually get the opposite of the impression you want them to get. Buttigieg and Warren, while they appear to question the president, have the effect of making his action seem reasonable. After all, they admit that he got rid of a threatening murderer! Sanders admits nothing of the kind: The only thing he says is that Trump has made the world worse. He puts the emphasis where it matters.

I do not fully like Sanders’ statement, because it still talks a bit more about what war means for our people, but it does mention destabilization and the total number of lives that can be lost. It is a far more morally clear and powerful antiwar statement. Buttigieg’s is exactly what you’d expect of a Consultant President and it should give us absolutely no confidence that he would be a powerful voice against a war, should one happen. Warren confirms that she is not an effective advocate for peace. In a time when there will be pressure for a violent conflict, we need to make sure that our statements are not watery and do not make needless concessions to the hawks’ propaganda.

We saw it happen with Vietnam and Iraq — we got this incessant messaging that the Other Side was Evil, making it impossible to support anything but total war unless you wanted to be painted as a traitor, and look what happened: we ended up in these futile, bloody wars that accomplished nothing other than to make defense contractors rich. Now it’s happening again. The stock market is happy, people are implicitly justifying assassination because the victim was Evil, and our president, echoed by the gullible media, is spewing nonsensical jingo nonstop.

It’s a good time to stop and ask ourselves how much of our lives are being wasted at war, and how little we’ve accomplished, and how much the USA is hurting the world.

Pay attention this time around, people.

Some folks are born made to wave the flag
They’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail To The Chief”
They point the cannon at you

Comments

  1. PaulBC says

    I got most of my training in the ethics of war Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Bob Dylan, Creedence, Pete Seeger, and CSNY.

    Not Phil Ochs? My family leaned heavily in that direction, not to dismiss the other voices. I think I would name Vonnegut one of the great American anti-war thinkers of all time. I don’t even know if the “kids” are reading his work now, though I did convince my son to read Slaughterhouse Five at some point.

    That’s an interesting chart. I was born in 1965 and was as aware as I could be of the Vietnam war, obviously not at an age when I could fully grasp what was going on. College in the 80s was a truly different era. I knew quite a few engineering students in ROTC. They were funding their education, and if they were thinking about being “sent anywhere” it was more likely to be pipe dreams about the space shuttle (crushed somewhat in 1986) than any kind of armed conflict.

    Bush Sr., that f***er, changed it all, and let nobody tell me he was the smarter, kinder, gentler “adult in the room.”

  2. Czech American says

    It is definitely not just conservatives. I have never considered myself a conservative, but I have fallen for this in the past. No more.

  3. stroppy says

    History rhymes and we don’t learn apparently.

    Country Joe
    (For those who don’t remember and have tender ears, you may not wish to click on this. It starts off rough profanity-wise.)

  4. petesh says

    @4: Yay, Joe!

    Also, Corbyn may be, ah, controversial but I was delighted to see him evade the “terrorist” trap and insist on international law. (Such as it is.) I can find a link later but so can you. ;-) He kept a straight bat for the entire over, including no-balls. (I assume you speak English.)

  5. jrkrideau says

    I believe that Robinson missed a minor point, Iran actively assisted the US in the invasion of Iran—Iran actually had some good reasons. And the Iranian commander? Qasem Soleimani.

    But that was before the US idiot in chief (Bush not Trump) came out with his notorious “Axis of Evil” speech.

    I remember the Vietnam War and the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. In both cases, especially in the later, it was clear that nothing the USA regime or the US media said was honest.

    Watching Colin Powell being called a liar at a UN Security Council meeting was interesting. Just about everything he said was a lie or completely wrong.

    It seems axiomatic now that just about anything the US media reports nowadays on foreign affairs is either a lie or just wrong.

  6. PaulBC says

    Czech American@3

    It’s definitely not just conservatives. Political writer Matt Yglesias recently explained very precisely the trap that he and a lot of too-smart young centrists fell into during the Iraq war “product release.” From https://www.vox.com/2020/1/3/21048079/trump-pompeo-iran-lies

    In the strongly anti-Bush climate on campus, one popular view was that the administration was simply lying about the strength of its intelligence on Iraqi WMD programs. I felt this was naive; the Bush team not only had direct access to the intelligence, but they were the ones pushing for an invasion that would, if it happened, end up exposing exactly what the state of those programs was. It was preposterous to believe, as my anti-war friends did, that Bush’s team was deliberately engineering a series of events that would simply lead to them being utterly discredited.

    This was, needless to say, flawed logic on my part that was really driven home last night as Bush administration officials Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer appeared on Sean Hannity’s program to advocate for hawkish policy toward Iran.

    It’s always good to see people capable of learning from their mistakes. I won’t say I fell for the Iraq war to the extent Yglesias did (and I followed his blog at the time). It was obvious that the Bush administration was cooking up fake intelligence, and much of this was reported openly, just not in the NYT and TV news, but in very mainstream newspapers published by Knight Ridder.

    Despite all that, I was shocked that they found literally no evidence of any WMDs. I had assumed I was being fed misleading “half truths” when in fact it was all just the most blatant lies and they couldn’t care less.

    About the only difference with Trump is that he doesn’t even try to pretend he’s not lying.

  7. robro says

    Perhaps it depends on what they mean by “war,” but I was born in 1948 and I’m pretty sure that the US has been at war for a lot more than 44.3% of my life. In fact, I’m willing to say that for 100% of my life the US has been at war.

  8. PaulBC says

    robro@8 Very true. They are not including the Cold War, endless proxy wars with “military advisors”, and I am not sure whether they include short “actions” like the 1983 invasion of Grenada.

    As a practical point, I would say that my ROTC friends in the 80s expressed no concern (as far as I could tell) that they would be deployed to a combat zone. I am sure that has changed. It is still useful to know what’s being measured here.

  9. says

    The fortunate ones missed Vietnam by getting a deferment. Like the national guard (Bush) or medical (Trump). Oddly, it’s the chickenshits who avoided that war, that seem to enjoy starting them.

  10. Walter Solomon says

    Smedley Butler, along with people you mentioned, should be required reading at all schools. Particularly at high schools where the students are thought of as trust to the milk by the military-industrial complex.

  11. PaulBC says

    And speaking of Vonnegut, he gave this interview to In These Times in 2003, shortly before the Iraq war http://inthesetimes.com/article/44/kurt_vonnegut_vs_the I find myself going back to it every few years, despite the resigned tone.

    When it became obvious what a dumb and cruel and spiritually and financially and militarily ruinous mistake our war in Vietnam was, every artist worth a damn in this country, every serious writer, painter, stand-up comedian, musician, actor and actress, you name it, came out against the thing. We formed what might be described as a laser beam of protest, with everybody aimed in the same direction, focused and intense. This weapon proved to have the power of a banana-cream pie three feet in diameter when dropped from a stepladder five-feet high.

  12. christoph says

    @Marcus Ranum, # 13: That’s why they call them chicken hawks. They’re pro war, as long as someone else does the fighting.

  13. Walter Solomon says

    @PaulBC #15 It was for “In These Times” that Vonnegut came up with his “Bush, Dick and ‘Colon” joke. It still makes me chuckle.

  14. pilgham says

    Not to forget Tom Paxton. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTyqoV1d2Ys

    I worried the WMD didn’t exist when the current and former weapons inspectors all said they weren’t there. The authorization was passed in 2002, before Iraq let inspectors back in. Inspectors went in, found nothing, US invades anyway. Current events are like a bad amateur performance of some play that bombed on Broadway in the first place.

  15. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 PaulBC

    Despite all that, I was shocked that they found literally no evidence of any WMDs.

    You lived in the US at the time, I assume? Never trust US media!

    I remember Scott Ritter (former US marine and chief UN weapons inspector for Iraq) on CBC Radio. He said that there were no WMD in Iraq. There was not so much as an operational Scud. He was right.

    There was all kinds of media questioning the US regime”s story, just not US media.

    In the aftermath of the disaster, I remember a senior Canadian official saying that the US military would come up and do presentations about why Canada should send troops and that every time the Canadian response was something along the lines of “Pretty slides, pity there are no facts” Reminds me of Colin Powell at the UN.

    @ 19 pilgham

    To be honest, I did think that the US forces might find 4 or 5 Scuds. Armies lose things.

  16. rpjohnston says

    Question: The lyrics are “they point the cannon at you, Lord”; I’ve always wondered if that was meant they’re pointing the cannons at “you, God”, or if Lord is meant as an interjection?

  17. F.O. says

    This was a huge propaganda win for Trump.
    The US inflicted a serious hit on Iran and got away with it without any overt consequence.
    He can paint himself as the bold strategist and Iran as impotent.

  18. PaulBC says

    jrkrideau@21 Well, I was aware of the paucity of evidence. At some level, I probably bought into the Yglesias theory that they can’t possibly be lying this blatantly, when they’ll be found out. Another part of my flawed reasoning was “I believe they’re lying through their teeth and there may be no WMDs at all, but I’ve been wrong about a lot of things before, so I’m probably wrong about this one too.”

  19. says

    It was my lot in high school to be one of those student government types. The first student government meeting after the Kent State Massacre, a couple of other student government types and I wore black armbands to indicate our feelings about the incident to a student government meeting. The student government faculty advisor, Mr. Eagle, said, “If you wear those symbols that dishonor America, there is no place for you in student government. Take them off or get out.” We all left, having learned the most important lesson young people can learn from people in the power structure.

  20. says

    My reasoning then and now was that they HAD to know that Saddam had no working WMD, because if he did and the US invaded, then he would have absolutely no reason not to use them on the US troops.

  21. unclefrogy says

    @21
    almost like it was designed in’it.
    Iran get rid of a guy who is maybe getting too powerful and popular with too many people
    make a big show of being able to hit bases without killing people (they say)
    trump makes a big show of wanting peace
    Iran knows what kind of situation Trump is in and does not look like they are taking the bate (today anyway)
    so they do not give him a win by some all out attack they let trump look bad because he can’t do it any other way.
    the only people who are truly taken in by his lies are his base (30-40% of republicans)
    the rest of the world have their own ways of assessing things that do not depend of fox news or the fake media.
    I do not believe anything coming from the white house these days it looks too much like reality TV to be real.
    and never forget from all appearances this guy can be bought (but only temporarily).
    he is out form himself.
    uncle frogy

  22. stroppy says

    There was at least one tell early on right out in the open that the fix was in. That was Colin Powell, even while playing the obedient, good soldier, citing the Pottery Barn Rule warning: You break it, you own it.

    You had to go into the weeds to really suss things out then. While a lot of the outlets and will for that kind of weediness seems to have died up, at least Trump’s baloney is absurdly transparent. Heh, Mike Lee, “the worst military briefing” he’d ever seen. Rep. Connolly, “sophomoric and utterly unconvincing.”

    What, no Freedom Fries?

  23. Bucket of Rainbows says

    Considering that Sam Harris & Christopher Hitchens justified having a war in Iraq and any other US military intervention, shouldn’t you be surprised that Sam & his ilk would do the same now?

    Atheists should’ve been more anti-war but the whole “enemy of my enemy” against Muslims or other religious minorities is ruining this.

  24. microraptor says

    Bucket of Rainbows @29: It’s less “enemy of my enemy” and more “my racism against brown people is Super Rational and Based on Facts so I will jump on any excuse to act on it.”

  25. quasar says

    @F.O. #29,

    So, it’s a propaganda win because the propagandists lie about it? Killing Soleimani is hardly a “serious hit”: by all accounts his replacement is cut from exactly the same cloth and served as his second-in-command for years.

    This outcome wasn’t planned: Trump had Iran’s top general murdered on an idiotic whim, probably because he was in a bad mood from watching cable news, and Iran recognized the situation for what it was and put a stop to it with a diplomatically soft retaliation. It’s a given that war would be lose-lose for both countries, so I have to give credit to Iran’s leaders for acting in everyone’s best interests to de-escalate the situation.

  26. jrkrideau says

    @ 23 F.O.
    This was a huge propaganda win for Trump.
    Only for the US population. Which is fine if you want to win an election.

    Internationally, meh. He proved that the USA is even more untrustworthy and incompetent than ever imagined.

  27. stroppy says

    Maybe not a serious hit in military terms. Pretty serious in political terms as you see from the outpouring in the streets–comparable in magnitude, as far as Iran’s leadership is concerned, to Iran having taken out a senior official in the Trump administration. This is why the whole situation is so fraught.

    Iran may have relieved some pressure short term, but I suspect the payback has just begun. It’s a propaganda win for Trump, because Trump’s base eats this shit up. And whatever the consequences cold or hot, Trump can spin this to his benefit as far as his base goes.

  28. daemonios says

    As Fischerspooner put it in 2005, shortly after the start of the current Middle Eastern campaign (the lyrics are supposedly by Susan Sontag):

    We need a war
    We need a war to show ’em
    We need a war to show ’em that we can
    We need a war to show ’em that we can do it
    Whenever we say we need a war
    If they mess with us
    If we think they might mess with us
    If we say they might mess with us
    If we think we need a war, we need war
    We need a war,
    If we think we need a war.
    We need a war.
    If we think we need a war.
    A war to make us feel safe,
    A war to make ’em feel sorry.
    Whoever they are
    If they mess with us
    If we think they might mess with us
    If we say they might mess with us
    If we think we need a war, we need war
    We need a war,
    If we think we need a war.
    We need a war.
    If we think we need a war.
    Can we do it?
    Sure we can.
    We need a war.
    We need a war.
    We need a war.

  29. pilgham says

    @21 There were weapons, all over the place to judge by reports. Problem was they were either junk (old, badly stored, lacking any useful platform. He had weapons for submarines, for crying out loud), and known about by the weapons inspectors. The latter were supposed to be destroyed when Saddam kicked the inspectors out in the late 90’s. It was the first thing the inspectors checked when they got back in and it was all there still tagged, sealed, and ready to be taken away. After the war, they checked again and it had been stolen in the chaos.

    The ukranian airliner was probably shot down by Q. He really isn’t on your side.

  30. John Morales says

    It’s not as if the empire being at war affects its citizens much; they just go about their daily lives.

  31. wzrd1 says

    blockquote>
    The counter-culture lies bleeding on the ground

    Sorry, but the counterculture movement died as it partially succeeded, ending one war, losing flame under the balloon, crashed, all ended up freezed dried, or in prison.
    Welcome to our world, senior sirrah.
    Where all of our retirement is tied up in 401k vapor, as we spent that to survive, after the economy went south.
    Currently, I can afford to retire if I live for 450 years.
    Or discuss classified information, which I still refuse to do.

  32. F.O. says

    @quasar #31
    Soleimani was the strategist behind most of Iran’s proxy wars.
    He’s been at that for what, two decades?
    His replacement is going to be another murderous asshole, but a lot of vision and expertise has been lost with Soleimani.

    Certainly the propaganda is lying and the outcome wasn’t planned, but the propaganda job now is quite easy.

    @jrkrideau #32

    Only for the US population.

    Largely yes, and that’s what matters for re-election.
    But do not underestimate his wannabe fascist fans on this side of the Atlantic.

  33. chrislawson says

    pilgham@36–

    The issue wasn’t weapons in general, but weapons of mass destruction, i.e. nuclear, chemical, biological weapons. That was the causus belli offered by the Bush gang. Nobody was going to war with Iraq over obselete submarine parts. All the evidence from both before and after the Second Iraq War points to there being no active WMD program in Iraq for years before the US invasion. The only WMDs found were very old chemical warheads left over from the Iran-Iraq War (ended 1988), most of them buried in the desert near the Iran border and presumably forgotten about as the Iraq military never dug them up in the prelude to the US invasion — and they would have been useless anyway as the chemical agents become inert after 5-7 years.

    In short, from the point of view of the justification for Iraq II, the entire WMD story was a lie and the only evidence in favour of Iraq having WMDs came from a known con artist who was paid by the CIA to say what Bush wanted to hear. The actual professional weapons inspectors knew this was a lie, but the US deliberately undermined them.

  34. says

    As a Warren supporter I just want to point out that when Robinson dings her for talking “strategy” she is talking about how Trump attacked Iran to get impeachment out of the news. That is why she is asking “why now?” I’m not sure even Bernie has suggested this.
    That being said, I still think Bernie’s response on the issue was better and I sent my first donation to him today since about 2016. I still worry about his health, but on the issues he is winning me over.

  35. robro says

    Marcus Ranum @ #13

    The fortunate ones missed Vietnam by getting a deferment. Like the national guard (Bush) or medical (Trump). Oddly, it’s the chickenshits who avoided that war, that seem to enjoy starting them.

    That seems a broad brush. I avoided being inducted in 1970 by filing as a conscientious objector. For my mini-stand against the draft and war, I spent the better part of two years cleaning bed pans in a Sarasota, Florida hospital.

  36. PaulBC says

    robro@43 Good for you! That’s impressive.

    Though I also have nothing against those who left for Canada or used any other means including deferments and medical excuses instead of heading out to a pointless meat grinder (which is a euphemism for saying they avoided killing young people for no reason on the other side of the world). I do have a lot against those who get us into new wars. It’s hypocritical if they also avoided serving themselves, but that’s a secondary issue.

    Imagine a hypothetical Vietnam veteran president (John Kerry or John McCain). He could say “Look at me. I served in a pointless war and killed people for absolutely no reason, so you should trust my non-hypocritical stance as I lead the nation into more pointless violence.” OK, I’ll grant you it’s less hypocritical, but that doesn’t help anyone who gets killed.

    In fact, in the rare and very unlikely event of a defensive war with some reasonable justification, it would likewise be of little practical import if the best military strategist was a “chickenhawk.” (Caveat: every chickenhawk in the world will try to use this argument while claiming their pointless war is “justified.”)

  37. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC, #9:

    robro@8 Very true. They are not including the Cold War, endless proxy wars with “military advisors”, and I am not sure whether they include short “actions” like the 1983 invasion of Grenada.

    I’m not sure either. It sort of depends on how precisely they’re trying to count “% time since birth,” while only using approximate values for the birth year. (Birth years are just years, not a precise date, while many conflicts could be given a much more precise duration, which is sometimes relatively short.)
    Below, I included all conflicts involving the US military to some degree — but not including various other forms of state violence, such as the ’50 Puerto Rican uprising or the ’93 Waco siege, widespread brutality by police/corrections officers throughout this entire period, and so forth. This is roughly how the timeline looks starting from 1945 (via wiki here, here and here), which coincidentally starts with Iran:

    Iran: 45-46, 04-present
    Korea: 45-53, 66-69
    Greece: 46-49
    Philippines: 46-54, 69-present
    Vietnam: 46-54, 55-75, 75-89
    Burma: 48-present
    Czechoslovakia: 53
    Taiwan: 54-55, 58
    Lebanon: 58, 75-90, 06
    Laos: 59-75, 75-present
    Congo: 60-65
    Cuba: 61
    Dominican Republic: 65-66
    Bolivia: 66-67
    Cambodia: 67-75, 75-89
    Mexico: 70-82, 06-present
    Zaire: 78
    Grenada: 83
    Libya: 86, 11, 14-present
    Panama: 89-90
    Iraq: 90-91, 96-97, 01-11, 14-present
    Nepal: 96-06
    Liberia: 98
    Yemen: 98-present
    Afghanistan: 01-present
    Pakistan: 04-present
    Paraguay: 05-present
    Somalia: 06-present
    Multiple countries (North Africa and Saharan desert): 07-present
    Nigeria: 09-present
    Mali: 12-15
    Kuwait :14-present

    Given all that, a person born in 1945 could not accurately say that we’ve been peaceful for “more than half my life,” or roughly 56.2% or some such thing. So if you ask me, those pie charts are very misleading. Instead, nearly everyone in the US today should say it’s been non-stop militarism for their entire lives, because ever since WWII, we’ve essentially just had a kind of third reich of our own (now with 100% less Hitler).

  38. consciousness razor says

    Uh … that didn’t include Israel!
    Of course, we were technically just providing more indirect types of support without being Belligerents™ in some official sense. Still, that’s a pretty nasty technicality, with probably dozens more where that came from. How much countries are there now? That many.

  39. gcstroop says

    As someone who served in Iraq (I joined 4 months before 9/11 and was sent there in 2004, 2005 and 2006). I was fortunate to be in a non-combat role, but I saw many of the results of Soleimani’s work. Many of the 663 Americans who died because of him didn’t have much of a say. You just did your job and always assumed it would be some other guy who got hit. Many of us signed up before the war. Whether America was right or wrong to be in Iraq is irrelevant. The kids dying there had about as much say in it as everyone else: a single political vote.

    The only difference between Bin Laden and Soleimani is that Soleimani was state-sponsored and had the title of “General” in front of his name. As far as I’m concerned, it was a long time coming…

  40. chigau (違う) says

    gcstroop #48
    Whether America was right or wrong to be in Iraq is irrelevant.
    Really?

  41. gcstroop says

    Yes. The article paints this picture that as long as America was wrong, Soleimani was justified to teach the opposition how to build shape charges to blast through MRAP’s. In that context there is no difference whether America was wrong or right. This was the general of a foreign power teaching armed insurgents how to kill American soldiers who were there whether they liked it or not.

  42. consciousness razor says

    That’s irrelevant, chigau. It doesn’t matter whether gcstroop is right or wrong, or whether gcstroop even believes that bullshit.
    Because I said so. Because bullshitting is easy.

  43. chigau (違う) says

    If those kids had stayed home and got a job flipping burgers or pumping gas, would they be dead?

  44. consciousness razor says

    The article paints this picture that as long as America was wrong, Soleimani was justified to teach the opposition how to build shape charges to blast through MRAP’s. In that context there is no difference whether America was wrong or right.

    You don’t explain your reasoning. Maybe start by telling me factually how many people died because we invaded Iraq again — if you don’t already know, fucking look it up — not just the “American lives” which you might sometimes give a shit about, but all of the other people too. That’s the context you ostensibly care about, and it’s one in which the Iraqis are defending themselves. Isn’t it? Don’t they have some justification for defending themselves, just like anyone else? Of course, one can make a very solid case that disproportionate force isn’t justified even in “defensive” situations, but the actual proportions we’re talking about here tell the opposite kind of story: millions on the one side which you utterly ignore or treat as “irrelevant,” while looking only at a tiny fraction of that on the other.

  45. John Morales says

    gcstroop, I am sure you are very patriotic:

    As someone who served in Iraq (I joined 4 months before 9/11 and was sent there in 2004, 2005 and 2006).

    Good pay, good benefits. Better than factory-line work.

    This was the general of a foreign power teaching armed insurgents how to kill American soldiers who were there whether they liked it or not.

    Yeah, but you mob have such people, even more so: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_advisor#US_advisors_during_the_%22War_on_Terror%22

    I think that either you are hypocritical, or you admit the justification works both ways.

    (Assassinating foreign generals when not at war is a thing, now?)

    PS

    Many of the 663 Americans who died because of him didn’t have much of a say.

    Not too many Iraqi or Iranian military bases and “advisers” in the USA, are there?

    (It’s like you don’t notice the asymmetry; you are over there, not the other way around)

  46. stroppy says

    gcstroup #50

    The article paints this picture that as long as America was wrong, Soleimani was justified to teach the opposition how to build shape charges to blast through MRAP’s.

    I don’t think so. More likely you’ve painted a caricature, a biased misreading, of the article. No doubt your position on the ground put you in the best position to see the trees. But the forest, not so much.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re a pawn on a very complicated chessboard and that the generals are the players. Trump is a pigeon who swoops in, knocks over pieces, poops on the board, and then flies off to brag to his bird brained flock about what a mighty dragon he is. Meanwhile, back at the board, extra chaos and shit storms ensue with the possibility of the situation going completely sideways.

    That’s how I see the article.

  47. gcstroop says

    Wow… I’d like to respond to all the comments I’ve received, but I’m a little unfamiliar with the forum and how to quote people and external sources. As a sidebar, can someone briefly explain how to quote other comments so I can do my best to address them without things looking like shit? I’m on mobile if that makes a difference.

  48. stroppy says

    The easiest thing is to just use quotes as with a typewriter.

    But you can use html tags with angle brackets. Enclose your quoted text with blockquote tags:
    <blockquote> text </blockquote>

    text

    Like that.

  49. gcstroop says

    Stroppy #57

    The easiest thing is to just use quotes as with a typewriter.
    But you can use html tags with angle brackets. Enclose your quoted text with blockquote tags:

    Got it! Thanks!

  50. stroppy says

    I often don’t bother with the tags, and just play with extra lines to separate the quoted text from the rest of the comment. Sometimes I get more creative with spacing, lines and whatnot.
    ……….
    But check it out in “Preview” before you “Post Comment” to make sure it will look the way you want it when the server spits it into the comment list.

  51. PaulBC says

    gcstroop@48

    The only difference between Bin Laden and Soleimani is that Soleimani was state-sponsored and had the title of “General” in front of his name. As far as I’m concerned, it was a long time coming…

    And that is precisely the difference between “taking out a bad guy” and declaring war on a sovereign nation. Sorry, but I did not sign up for a war with Iran and I don’t believe it will turn out well.

  52. PaulBC says

    gcstroop@50

    This was the general of a foreign power teaching armed insurgents how to kill American soldiers who were there whether they liked it or not.

    And do other generals in other wars make a distinction between whether or not the soldiers want to be there?

    To be clear, Soleimani was a terrible human being, and the world is better off without him, but I am struggling to see your point.

  53. PaulBC says

    And (to no one in particular) did we not end the occupation in 2004 and state at that time that Iraq is a sovereign nation? So if Iraq decides that our troops are no longer welcome, and we choose to keep our troops there anyway, are we not also declaring war on Iraq?

  54. dianne says

    This was the general of a foreign power teaching armed insurgents how to kill American soldiers who were there whether they liked it or not.

    Killing US soldiers when they threaten your country seems to me to be the legitimate function of a foreign military leader. Didn’t they tell you that you might get shot at when you joined the military?

  55. consciousness razor says

    Besides, there was no draft. The soldiers who “didn’t like it” or “didn’t want to be there” were not conscripts.
    So, okay, it’s fair that we shouldn’t blame them for the mistakes others made (like political/military leaders, etc.), but that obviously doesn’t mean they lack responsibility for their own decisions.
    You may not want to now, but you have to fucking own those choices, which were certainly yours, whereas people drafted in WWII, Vietnam, etc. (including several relatives) were not in that kind of situation at all. You’re not them, because they were not glorified mercenaries who were somewhat dissatisfied with their jobs. So please don’t act like you were coerced into it, were somehow fooled into thinking an imperialistic military like ours wouldn’t be fighting anyone, or some shit like that.

  56. gcstroop says

    PaulBC @ 61

    And that is precisely the difference between “taking out a bad guy” and declaring war on a sovereign nation. Sorry, but I did not sign up for a war with Iran and I don’t believe it will turn out well.

    And when the US was in Iraq, we weren’t in Iran and we weren’t at war with Iran. The Iranians took it upon themselves to fuel an insurgency which was comprised largely of not only Iraqis but a large number of foreign fighters. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, for example, was the Jordanian born leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq -the same group who later became known as ISIS. His ties with Soleimani are rather well documented and their relationship extended well past just killing US troops. For example, it was Soleimani who helped Al-Zarqawi carry out the bombing of the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad.

  57. gcstroop says

    Chigau #52

    If those kids had stayed home and got a job flipping burgers or pumping gas, would they be dead?

    Yeah…. Because otherwise they’d have just been working blue collar, minimum wage jobs. You conveniently leaving out the concept of college or other fruitful endeavors is duly noted.

    Some of them, myself included, wanted to go to college, but weren’t born into a life of luxury and felt that college (even back then) was too expensive. So, what did a lot of us do? We signed up thinking we’d do 4-6 years, learn a valuable trade or skill, and go to college later on Uncle Sam’s dime.

  58. gcstroop says

    Consciousness Razor @65

    Besides, there was no draft. The soldiers who “didn’t like it” or “didn’t want to be there” were not conscripts.

    I think most of us wanted to be part of something. I didn’t agree with the premise of the war from the start, but I also didn’t feel very strongly about it. In my mind at the time (2004-2006) it wasn’t the horrible mistake I now know it to have been.

    As for those who truly didn’t want to be there, you make it sound like all you have to do is walk out the gate and disappear. That didn’t work out well for Bowe Bergdahl at all. It also doesn’t work out stateside. You can expect to do jail time at a minimum. You can, in some instances be charged with desertion, which is punishable by death. Needless to say, simply objecting is not as fundamentally simple as picking up a witty sign, protesting, and getting locked up for a night.

    So, okay, it’s fair that we shouldn’t blame them for the mistakes others made (like political/military leaders, etc.), but that obviously doesn’t mean they lack responsibility for their own decisions.

    Agreed. Personally, I’d have much rather seen GW Bush and Saddam duke it out in a ring. The military personnel are truly just pawns. Some willing. Some unwittingly.

    You may not want to now, but you have to fucking own those choices, which were certainly yours, whereas people drafted in WWII, Vietnam, etc. (including several relatives) were not in that kind of situation at all.

    Yep. I own it. I’m proud of my service and I won’t apologize for it. That said… I’d like to remind you that the premise of my initial post was that the article linked in the OP more or less implied that Soleimani was justified because America was wrong.

    Even if we play that game and assume that every soldier killed was full of “Freedom, God, and Guns” to be delivered to every Iraqi citizen, then why was Soleimani involved with any of the insurgency? Might I remind you that he was Iranian. He was assisting an insurgency largely led by foreign fighters like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi to prolong violence and bloodshed. This included suicide bombing open marketplaces, bombing foreign embassies, destroying Shiite religious sites, and yes, killing US troops. Am I to presume that the Shiite religious sites and other foreign embassies were in the wrong somehow too?

    I’m sure we agree. No America, no insurgence. That, however, is irrelevant with respect to a foreign general aiding and abetting terrorists.

    So please don’t act like you were coerced into it, were somehow fooled into thinking an imperialistic military like ours wouldn’t be fighting anyone, or some shit like that.

    If I have the impression that I was coerced then that’s my fault. What I simply meant to imply is that pre-9/11, there really wasn’t much we were worried about. I joined thinking I’d do 4-6 years, get the GI Bill, go to school and go on with life with a few cool stories of me traveling the world. 4 months later, 9/11 happens and you know the rest.

    I’m sure your clarity of the future at 18 years old was perfect too….

  59. gcstroop says

    Dianne @ 64

    Killing US soldiers when they threaten your country seems to me to be the legitimate function of a foreign military leader. Didn’t they tell you that you might get shot at when you joined the military?

    Soleimani was Iranian. We were in Iraq. Why was an Iranian general assisting a bloody insurgence in a country not his own that not only killed US soldiers but also untold numbers of innocent people in horrific ways?

    And, yes, I was aware of the dangers when I enlisted in the same way that seatbelt signs make you aware of the dangers of driving. You understand it, but rarely think about it being you as the one who actually will get in the accident.

  60. says

    And when the US was in Iraq, we weren’t in Iran and we weren’t at war with Iran. The Iranians took it upon themselves to fuel an insurgency which was comprised largely of not only Iraqis but a large number of foreign fighters.

    In that case, you’re saying that the General of Govt A is the same as bin Laden if General A trains irregular and/or regular soldiers of country B and those soldiers of country B then kill soldiers of country C who are actually in country B and responsible for the deaths of many people in country B.

    If that’s confusing, I’ll also try it this way, “When country B is invaded by country C, any aid or training rendered by country A to country B in order to help get rid of invaders actually makes country A’s generals the equivalent of bin Laden.”

    But the US government trains foreign soldiers all the time. So if we send in advisers – like we did with the Kurds – to fight people who are trying to take over some land, like ISIS did with the Kurds’ territory, then we are the bin Laden.

    What you’re saying isn’t a logical argument unless it applies to everyone. And if it applies to everyone, then every general in CentCom (and probably several other Coms) is the equivalent of fucking bin Laden!

    Right now you’re calling for other countries to assassinate US Generals! Why would you do that?

    And if you’re not doing that, then assassinating Suleimani for engaging in the exact same behavior in which US generals engage is a completely illegitimate, no good, very bad move.

    So I guess I’m not sure which you want to argue, that CentCom = bin Laden, or that assassinating Suleimani is bad.

  61. says

    FTR:

    If I have the impression that I was coerced then that’s my fault. What I simply meant to imply is that pre-9/11, there really wasn’t much we were worried about. I joined thinking I’d do 4-6 years, get the GI Bill, go to school and go on with life with a few cool stories of me traveling the world. 4 months later, 9/11 happens and you know the rest.
    I’m sure your clarity of the future at 18 years old was perfect too….

    I’m very sympathetic to this. It’s not the choice I made at 18 and it wasn’t even close, but other people have different experiences and different options going forward. I had some scholarship money and other reasons to go directly to college. I also was from a family where both of my parents had graduated college and of my closest 3 friends, 4 of the 6 parents also graduated college. Going right to college was seen as normal.

    I didn’t pick how my first 18 years would play out or who raised me or what school I went to or what teachers would be there teaching me what lessons. I get this.

    I’d love to live in a world where no 18 year old wants to join a military, but I don’t blame the 18 year olds who do sign up for enlisting.

  62. says

    @gcstroop:
    and something else I just noticed because I was typing my first comment before your last comment went up:

    He was assisting an insurgency largely led by foreign fighters like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi to prolong violence and bloodshed. This included suicide bombing open marketplaces, bombing foreign embassies, destroying Shiite religious sites, and yes, killing US troops. Am I to presume that the Shiite religious sites and other foreign embassies were in the wrong somehow too?

    Obviously any targeting of civilians is never okay. (I actually think that targeting anyone is never okay, but I a pacifist utopian and even I say, which some people don’t understand, that even if violence is never okay, there can exist times when violence is the least bad of bad options – in particular, true, immediate self defense. That said, the world doesn’t subscribe to my morality, and in particular the law doesn’t resemble my morality at all, and the laws that exist for warfare permit it to exist and accept that killing people in uniform is “acceptable”.)

    When I wrote my first comment, I was responding mainly to the bit you had articulated about training irregulars to set up explosive devices that would penetrate the armor on military vehicles.

    To the extent that he was providing advice and training and even material support to irregulars resisting an occupying army, his actions are clearly identical to many US military training/support actions including the Kurds.

    However, so far as I know, there was nothing like training a Kurdish group to target civilians or providing material support to a Kurdish group who did. That would not be a parallel example. (Of course, if I wanted to reach back farther in history it would be easy to find US support of terrorist and/or irregular groups that targeted civilians, but the Kurds would be a bad parallel and I don’t know of any other examples that have occurred under Trump.)

  63. unclefrogy says

    if I wanted to reach back farther in history it would be easy to find US support of terrorist and/or irregular groups that targeted civilians,

    you could try central and south amarica it should be easy to find such examples and not particularly that long ago either.
    one the biggest problems we have is facing the reality of our actual foreign policy as we apply it and the ideals we publicly expound and the fact that they are in conflict.
    it is very uncomfortable to wrestle with and over come much loved illusions about the real nature of things and the people in the world.

    uncle frogy

  64. chrislawson says

    unclefrogy–

    The US is doing this right now. One of the US’s major military allies, Saudi Arabia, is levelling Yemen. The US occasionally makes tut-tut noises when a particularly nasty massacres gets into the international news, but they’re still happily selling arms and munitions to the Saudis.

  65. says

    @Chrislawson:

    THANKS! That’s the example I was looking for. I knew we did this all the time, but I wanted an example that’s actually current and I’d forgotten Yemen.

    I wanted it to be something happening under Trump b/c Trump’s the one who assassinated Suleimani, so I didn’t want an older example so things didn’t get complicated with, “but that doesn’t count, b/c another prez did it.”

  66. stroppy says

    gcstroop @ #69

    Soleimani was Iranian. We were in Iraq. Why was an Iranian general assisting a bloody insurgence in a country not his own that not only killed US soldiers but also untold numbers of innocent people in horrific ways?

    Let’s back up a bit. I can’t begin to pack an answer to this into a comment thread, so I’ll just give it a quick gloss.

    We stepped into a post-colonial region with arbitrarily drawn borders and a history of chaos largely influenced by foreign, especially European, interference; where politics has long been a blood sport. We went into Iraq needlessly out of pure, way over the top arrogance supported by lies and pure ignorance. Hell, Bush didn’t even know that there were Sunni and Shia muslims there or what they were. So right from the get-go it’s questionable how you define the good and bad guys here. (Side note, “shock and awe” is just a euphemism for industrial scale terrorism.)

    Now Soulemani, was there at the behest of the Iraqi government. And Iran can be said to be our frenemy in the sense that they have helped combat ISIS. There’s a lot to criticize about Iran, but I can guarantee you that the situation there is way, way more complicated than you might imagine from the simple Neocon talking points aimed a ginning up war with Iran.

    At a tactical level you have an assignment to do, go out and solve this or that threat. Strategically it behooves you to be able to put yourself in the shoes of both your friends and your enemies at any number of levels, socially, psychologically, politically, and historically.

  67. dianne says

    Soleimani was Iranian. We were in Iraq. Why was an Iranian general assisting a bloody insurgence in a country not his own that not only killed US soldiers but also untold numbers of innocent people in horrific ways?

    Well, let’s see…Killing innocent people in horrific ways seems to be a US specialty and maybe he was concerned about having a bunch of sadistic armed thugs on his border? Or wanted to help his less powerful neighbors? Or even felt that this should be Iran’s sphere of influence, not the US’s? Given that the US invaded Iraq on less than no excuse and deposed a secular if dictatorial government for no specific reason than Dubya wanted to prove his manhood, I don’t think the US has any claim to the moral high ground here.

  68. dianne says

    Some of them, myself included, wanted to go to college, but weren’t born into a life of luxury and felt that college (even back then) was too expensive. So, what did a lot of us do? We signed up thinking we’d do 4-6 years, learn a valuable trade or skill, and go to college later on Uncle Sam’s dime.

    Ah. Poverty draftee. My condolences.

  69. dianne says

    @74: There are also numerous stories of civilians of no particular political or military connection ending up in US run torture camps. And US military personnel shooting civilians with no consequences and sometimes with apparent approval of the military and/or government.

  70. microraptor says

    dianne @79:

    And US military personnel shooting civilians with no consequences and sometimes with apparent approval of the military and/or government.

    Heck, sometimes they even get publicly praised by the president.

  71. dianne says

    microraptor@80: Yep. Hard to claim the moral high ground with this background. Also see kidnapping babies for terrorist purposes and running concentration camps.

  72. gcstroop says

    Hi Again!

    I really appreciate the back and forth. Obviously, I’m a bit outnumbered here, and I feel like every response I give spawns 3-4 more responses I feel obligated to respond to. I’d like to address all your points individually, but I feel like I’d be stuck in a long term commitment with Ummm… No end in sight. Sound familiar? :-)

    First of all, I appreciate all your viewpoints, comments, and insights. I know my opinion isn’t the popular one on here so I also appreciate most of your pleasantries. Thank you.

    Second, I’d like to address a few general themes as it’s starting to get difficult to address every point. I tried a numbering system, but the comments won’t allow it, so I’m spelling the numbers out:

    ONE: There seems to be this idea that the more America is wrong, the more right/justified Soleimani’s actions become. The basic premise of my first few posts was that America’s rightness or wrongness was irrelevant. I used the example of the penetrative explosives used to kill American troops because that’s what impacted me, personally, the most. That said, Soleimani had a long and bloody history dating back at least as far as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. A lot of his support and guidance led to the indiscriminate bombing deaths of hundreds or thousands of Iraqi civilians who had virtually nothing to do with the US invasion. This was simply blowing up a marketplace to blow up a marketplace. More than likely, it was blowing up a marketplace to continue to sow the seeds of discontent and harbor further anti-American sentiments. Either way, blowing up a marketplace is blowing up a marketplace.

    So, let’s get this right: Soleimani wasn’t just some guy who was blamelessly defending a neighboring country from foreign invaders. He was a puppet master of death and destruction, using terrorists to kill innocent civilians for the presumable purpose of harboring a longer term engagement for the US in Iraq. Whether the US was right or wrong to be there is entirely irrelevant in this regard. Whether you view American generals or our military as one and the same as him is irrelevant. The guy used the lives of civilians to further a campaign of terror. In my opinion, this makes him no better than Bin Laden. He just had a fancy title. I’m also certain that given the opportunity, the opposition would love to have their hands on one of our generals.

    TWO: There is another theme that seems to go something like, “Americans are basically terrorists in the eyes of Iraqis and/or other countries of the world.” I don’t doubt this. I’m not really here to defend America’s actions all over the globe because I probably actually agree with most of you on this point more than I disagree. I would like to point out, though, that there is a pretty distinct difference between our actions and those of the “other terrorists.”

    We DO go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Do things get botched up horribly and civilians die? Yep. It’s atrocious. Do we occasionally have rogue nut jobs who seem to enjoy killing a little too much? Absolutely. We do have a legal system that does a fairly good job of holding soldiers responsible for their actions despite the latest debacle with the Eddie Gallagher trial. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS, and other groups go out of their way to inflict harm on civilian casualties. It’s a central theme to their actions and appears to be highly encouraged by their leadership.

    I always viewed the concept of building schools, handing out candy to kids and other endeavors (Hearts & Minds Campaign) as a disingenuous way of coercing populations. It’s as if to say, “I know you hate us because your parents are dead. Here, have a Tootsie Roll.” That said, I think it’s better than sending a 5 year old into an open market with a bomb on her chest (this happens). Imperialist countries throughout history pretty much raped, pillaged, and destroyed their newly conquered territories. Our system isn’t perfect, but there is a more humane element to our general approach than, say, The Huns. We have a lot to answer for, but we’re (for the most part) not abhorrent monsters like the guys Soleimani had doing the dirty work.

    THREE: Given Soleimani’s track record and his penchant for pulling the strings of violence, we had what seemed to be a coordinated riot developing outside the US Embassy in Iraq. We had intelligence that he was in Iraq and responsible for the uprising. Given what happened in Libya and the American public’s response to that, given Soleimani’s track record of inciting violence, and knowing that he was in the country, I think it’s at least reasonable to suspect he was up to his old tricks again.

    The debate over the legality of the strike, the riskiness of it, the potential outcomes it might have on the world stage, and all the rest is a different argument for a different day. For me, personally, I’m glad he’s gone and I don’t mind that Trump did it. I know that won’t be popular with most of you, but it’s just my opinion. For the record, I’m not a Trump fan by any stretch, I just happen to agree with him on this one thing.

    FOUR: I get the distinct impression that there are a few people on here who think that all members of the military are bloodthirsty ogres who enlisted to quench their thirst for the blood of brown people in the Middle East. The truth is that this is just a model shaped by Hollywood that you’ve bought into.

    Probably 90% of military personnel serve in some sort of support role. Supply personnel, truck drivers, mechanics, finance clerks, etc…. make up the bulk of the force. Yes, they are supporting the 10% who’ve committed themselves to action, but the overwhelming majority of military personnel will see zero combat whatsoever – and probably don’t want to.

    Most of us came from lower income families. Many of us were enticed by the prospects of “seeing the world,” or having college paid for, or some other line the recruiter gave us. To be honest, I did see the world, and my college was paid in full. It’s not like they lied. In fact, nothing they told me was a lie.

    What is certain is that I didn’t join with this notion that I was going to go abroad and spread Freedom to all those who need it. I didn’t go into it thinking, “I gotta get me some brown folks dead.” I don’t really have a malicious bone in my body. I couldn’t pay for school. I had an interest in technology and airplanes. I was spinning my wheels at home and not doing much with my life. It seemed like a good fit. I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of enlistees were the same way.

    Ultimately, I did find myself in a war zone on multiple deployments. It was non-combat, but I was there, and I got to see just how “glorious” war is. Spoiler: Not Glorious.

    Anyway, thanks for the conversation. I’ll poke around and read responses, but I don’t intend on any more long-winded answers. I simply don’t have enough hours in a day. Be well!

  73. John Morales says

    gcstroop:

    Obviously, I’m a bit outnumbered here

    Each commenter is but one person, you are one of us.

    ONE: There seems to be this idea that the more America is wrong, the more right/justified Soleimani’s actions become.

    So you claim, but nobody here buys that claim.

    The actual stance is if something is wrong, it is wrong whether or not it applies to a wrongdoer.

    (Or: you’re supposed to be better than them, not the same or worse)

    TWO: There is another theme that seems to go something like, “Americans are basically terrorists in the eyes of Iraqis and/or other countries of the world.”

    Ahem; you miss the point.

    I refer you to my #54: your justification works both ways.

    (Look at what they do, not what they say. Who is it doing the assassinating of generals, again?)

    THREE: Given Soleimani’s track record and his penchant for pulling the strings of violence, we had what seemed to be a coordinated riot developing outside the US Embassy in Iraq.

    Ah, yes, the “imminence” claim. Well, the assassination was even more imminent, no?

    (FFS!)

    FOUR: I get the distinct impression that there are a few people on here who think that all members of the military are bloodthirsty ogres who enlisted to quench their thirst for the blood of brown people in the Middle East.

    You are mistaken.

    We are very aware that the military is there to kill people, break things, and impose policy (and profit corporations and politicians with pork). If anything, it’s their bosses, safe in their plush offices, who are the bloodthirsty ogres. But they are more venal than that, really.

    PS

    Probably 90% of military personnel serve in some sort of support role.

    Stupid distinction, that. Either you are military, or you are civilian, or you are in a grey area. Military personnel are, by definition, part of the military.

    (duh)

    Anyway, thanks for the conversation. I’ll poke around and read responses, but I don’t intend on any more long-winded answers. I simply don’t have enough hours in a day.

    You are welcome.

  74. KG says

    Soleimani had a long and bloody history dating back at least as far as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. – gcstroop@83

    Your ignorance is truly astounding. Al Qaeda in Iraq – the predecessor of Daesh – was a militant Sunni terror group, dedicated, among other things, to slaughtering Iraqi Shia. Soleimani is about as likely to have been helping them as Mike Pence.

    The debate over the legality of the strike

    There is absolutely no honest debate about this: assassinating a senior official of a foreign country, on the territory of a third country he was visiting by invitation, and without the approval of that third country, is as blatant a violation of international law as it is possible to find.

  75. KG says

    Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, for example, was the Jordanian born leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq -the same group who later became known as ISIS. His ties with Soleimani are rather well documented and their relationship extended well past just killing US troops. For example, it was Soleimani who helped Al-Zarqawi carry out the bombing of the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad.

    Where is the documentation for this? I notice you give no source for these claims. I’m aware of the book by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy that provides evidence members of Al Qaeda were housed in a Revolutionary Guard facility in Iran, then released to travel to Iraq, but even the Wall Street journal says the latter happened before the American invasion of Iraq, and stops short of claiming Soleimani assisted al-Zarqawi’s terrorist bombing campaign in Iraq. If there was evidence he had, you can bet the WSJ, in an article justifying Soleimani’s murder, would have cited it. The same article quotes General David Petraeus as blaming Soleimani for the deaths of 600 of the forces invading Iraq, and many others, but only in the context of arming and training Shia militias.

  76. KG says

    I didn’t agree with the premise of the war from the start, but I also didn’t feel very strongly about it. In my mind at the time (2004-2006) it wasn’t the horrible mistake I now know it to have been. – gcstroop@68

    Characterising the invasion as a “mistake” completely misses the point. To decide whether it was a “mistake” you first have to know what it was intended to achieve – which was a secure base for American forces, a compliant regime in Iraq, and fat profits for US corporations. It achieved maybe half of what was intended in all three cases. But what the invasion was, primarily, is a war crime under international law. Again, there is no honest debate about this – only simple truth on one side, and complicated and ever-changing justificatory lies on the other.

  77. stroppy says

    gcstroop,

    I appreciate that you’re at a disadvantage here in terms of numbers, but please be more careful about how you characterize the view points here as a whole.

    There seems to be this idea that the more America is wrong, the more right/justified Soleimani’s actions become.

    No.
    No, no, no. You don’t get off that easy. I appreciate that a soldier on the ground has a job to do and is not responsible for the mess that’s not of his making. But you aren’t necessarily in the best position to evaluate the rightness of strategic decisions either, in this case whether or not to assassinate Soulemani.

    Broadly speaking, you get rid of him and another steps up and takes his place, same threat, same shit, different day… BUT Soulemani wasn’t just some guy and taking him out has made your position more dangerous.

    There are reasons he’s been left alone up to now, and Trump’s decision to take him out was precipitous and made for his benefit not yours, not America’s, and not for anybody in the region.

    Furthermore, you are just wrong about your depiction of Soulemani and ISIS. Iran is Shia and “Persian” and ISIS is Sunni and Arab, they are threats to each other and there is a history of blood between them. Don’t take my word for it, take it from somebody who knows what he’s talking about:
    All the Times the US allied with Gen. Soleimani against Common Enemies, giving him Air Support at Tikrit
    https://www.juancole.com/2020/01/soleimani-against-support.html

  78. dianne says

    We DO go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Do things get botched up horribly and civilians die? Yep. It’s atrocious.

    I believed this for a long time too. It’s a standard trope of US propaganda, the claim that the US is trying to do good but is sometimes just a bit clumsy. Pictures of children running down the road naked and on fire due to US dropped napalm? Oh, silly us! Massacres? Lone wolves. Bad apples. Certainly not policy. Destroyed a country? We were only trying to help! Dropped two atom bombs on a country trying its best to surrender? How were we to know? We had only broken their code two years before and anyway their terms that we accepted later were totally unacceptable. Used torture? Well, they were really bad guys and it’s always okay when the hero does it in the movies.

    Sorry, no. Any given instance might be shrugged off as an error, a misunderstanding, or a paving stone on the road to hell. But with this much history behind it, this many times when it was “botched up”? That argues gross incompetence or malice. Or both.

  79. dianne says

    Either way, blowing up a marketplace is blowing up a marketplace.

    Just to be clear, you’re saying that blowing up a marketplace is never justified and should always be condemned no matter who did it and why?

  80. consciousness razor says

    We DO go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Do things get botched up horribly and civilians die? Yep. It’s atrocious.

    My whole life, I’ve successfully avoiding civilian casualties, and I didn’t need to go to any great lengths to do that. It took zero effort on my part to not go around threatening people with deadly weapons, dropping bombs on them, invading their homes, taking whatever I wanted from them, forcing them to do whatever I said, carrying out belligerent attacks against “targets” of whatever kind, etc. I’ve found it extremely easy to avoid all of those things. (And then some: for instance, no cannibalism from me thus far.) Maybe I’m weird. But all I can say is that none of that shit was ever part of my fucking lifestyle, and I can report no ill effects as a result of those lifestyles choices.
    However, I think I would’ve needed to go to great lengths, in order for there to be even the slightest chance that any of this was “botched up” somehow. I don’t think I could’ve simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time, taken a wrong turn somewhere, or miscalculated a situation I was in, to have found myself saying anything substantively different now. Instead, I would’ve needed to be radically different from the ordinary, peaceful, mostly-law-abiding person writing this comment. Maybe that sort of person would need to go to great lengths to pull off the same thing, but it sounds like they’d also have some big fucking problems to sort out with their therapist. Has the US thought of talking to a therapist?

  81. says

    @gcstroop:

    I appreciate your good faith participation in this thread and recognize that our viewpoints do have a lot of overlap.

    That said, I’m going to articulate something that I don’t think came through in your summary (or response) on in others’ responses to your latest comment.

    The point for me isn’t so much that the US is a terrorist in the eyes of the world as that the justification for bombing Suleimani that you’d given earlier (which did NOT focus on killing civilians) was the same as that given by the Trump administration: Suleimani was involved in training and supplying people who killed military personnel who were occupying a country that they had invaded.

    I think this is a horrible rationale not because accepting it makes Trump = Hitler or something (I judge Trump pretty badly, but supporting the training of another nation’s armies isn’t what makes Hitler so reviled so this wouldn’t be anything like a justification for equating the two, even if there were other good reasons to equate them). I think this is a horrible rationale because it makes US generals and leaders “legitimate” targets in whatever sense Suleimani was a “legitimate” target.

    Your later clarification goes a long way toward changing this argument for me, because you no longer are resting Suleimani’s evil on training people that killed uniformed soldiers of an occupying army, but rather resting the case for his evil on training and supporting people killing civilians.

    However, as inapplicable as my earlier argument might be now that the focus is on killing civilians, the School of the Americas and many other projects undertaken by the US government (including, as mentioned, the US support of the Saudi invasions and incursions into Yemen, where civilians are routinely attacked) still seem to parallel Suleimani’s behavior pretty darn closely. You can make distinctions between the Saudi’s dropping air-to-ground munitions on children’s school buses and sending a child into a market strapped to a bomb, but I don’t find those distinctions very meaningful.

    But more to the point, I don’t think other peoples around the world would find those distinctions meaningful. Thus, as I currently understand your position, others would be justified in lobbing missiles at Reagan National Airport in attempting to kill high ranking generals or other government officials involved supporting the Saudis when the Saudis are bombing school buses.

    I worry that this would be perceived in the US as a drastic escalation and lead to a much larger war with much larger casualty counts – mostly, but not entirely, uniformed military members of all the various countries involved who don’t deserve to die any more than any civilian does. While in the logic of war and self-defense and whatever the fuck the deaths of uniformed members of the military might be more understandable, and while if someone is pointing a gun at you it’s more justified to physically attack them then if they weren’t physically threatening you, the death of any particular service member is no less a tragedy than the death of any civilian.

    In short, the justifications for assassinating Suleimani (as I have seen them expressed) so far contain no limiting principle that would justify the attack on Suleimani but would logically or morally prohibit an attack on a US official at Reagan National. Such attacks risk wider war and many more deaths.

    I argue, then, that assassinating Suleimani is bad and dangerous policy, whether or not he’s a bad and dangerous guy.

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