Lindsay Graham the monster


American loves to go to war and does so often. And the reason they do so is because the wars always take place elsewhere and there are no civilian casualties or damage at home. The costs are borne by people in other countries, almost always people of color or poor or both and they simply do not matter. For the US, the only cost that matters is the economic cost or the level of US military deaths that the public will accept.

That this cynical calculation is always at play should be of no doubt to anyone. It is usually unspoken but sometimes explicitly stated, such as former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright who, when told by an interviewer of the deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to US imposed sanctions on that nation, blithely replied “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” Why wouldn’t it be worth it in her eyes? The cost-benefit analysis is clear. The costs of the deaths of children are borne by the Iraqis. The benefits are to the US. What’s not to like?

And now senator Lindsay Graham, inexplicably considered a moderate in the eyes of the US media but a truly horrible person who urges going to war against pretty much everyone, has also come out in the open and, as Mehdi Hasan reports, said that a war with North Korea would be worth it and why.

“All the damage that would come from a war [with North Korea] would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in an interview with CNN last week.

Why? Because non-American blood is cheap. Because non-American lives are considered collateral damage. Because the non-American victims of American bombs and bullets in faraway war zones — Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan — are what the British historian Mark Curtis calls “unpeople”: those whose “lives are deemed worthless, expendable in pursuit of power and commercial gain.”

Does that sound hyperbolic? Well, listen again to the Republican senator from South Carolina, who has form when it comes to calling for the killing of innocent civilians on the Korean peninsula. “If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there,” Graham told NBC’s Today show last August. “If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And [Trump’s] told me that to my face.” Graham continued: “That may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.”

That these outrageous comments passed largely unnoticed should tell you all that you need about the deep-seated contempt with which the people of color in in the rest of the world are viewed. This attitude is utterly bipartisan.

Yet whether or not Graham is “out of his damn mind,” to quote former Obama-era National Security Council official Tommy Vietor, is besides the point. As Albright’s 1996 interview so vividly illustrated, showing indifference to the dark-skinned victims of U.S. wars, sanctions and arms sales has always been a bipartisan habit in Washington, D.C. Remember: dozens of top Democrats, including presidential candidates such as John Kerryand Hillary Clinton, lined up to endorse President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and later ignored the growing number of Iraqi civilian casualties. “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was,” Leon Panetta, Obama’s defense secretary, nonchalantly remarked in 2011, “I think the price has been worth it.”

The problem is that the US government does not suffer any political costs for its wars of aggression as long as its casualties are low enough. And so it goes to war again and again.

Comments

  1. Jean says

    “Long-term stability”. Ha! That worked so well in the middle east and Afghanistan. The only stability will be in the new revenue stream for the US arms dealer and their stooges. That’s the only thing that really matters. Not to mention the new front of the war on terror that this would inevitably create with a few brand new terrorist groups.

  2. says

    “If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here.

    That is a great argument for why small countries should have nuclear weapons. My reservoir of contempt is drained; I’ve got to go get some more.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    the deep-seated contempt with which the people in in the rest of the world are viewed

    FIFY. You really didn’t need to put “of color” (sic) in there. You think USAians have some deep-seated respect and empathy for white people in South Africa, or Australia, or Europe? As they say on Wikipedia, “citation needed”. Every indication shows that American contempt and disregard is absolutely universal for anyone not holding a US passport and, ideally, a gun.

    @Marcus

    That is a great argument for why small countries should have nuclear weapons capable of reaching the USA

    FIFY. If a North Korean nuke glasses Seoul, who in the US really gives a fuck? If it could, even in theory, glass Seattle, that might go some way to concentrating minds.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    Fair enough to lambaste Albright for her callous response in that interview. But whenever I see mention of it, I never see anyone pointing out that the “deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to US imposed sanctions” is bullshit.

  5. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#6:
    I never see anyone pointing out that the “deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to US imposed sanctions” is bullshit.

    I agree, it’s bullshit. If I recall, Hitchens pointed that out in his debate with George Galloway and Galloway called bullshit right back, pointing out that the original estimates were signed off on by Johns Hopkins Hospital and The Lancet.

    Frankly, I think it’s extra horrible frosting on top of a horrible cake that there’s an argument about how many died one way or another, given that the whole war to liberate Iraq from itself was engaged on false pretenses. If 5 terminal cancer patients’ deaths were sped up by the US sanctions that would have been 5 too many. It reminds me of a bad joke that went around briefly before the war started and it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny to begin with, really.
    Dick Cheney is being briefed by Rumsfeld and the joint chiefs prior to the Iraq war. He asks, “what do you estimate casualties will be?” Rumsfeld says, “200,000 Iraqis give or take, and a blonde cheerleader from Florida.” Cheney sits bolt upright, “Why a cheerleader?” and Rumsfeld says, “see, I told you he wouldn’t ask about the 200,000 Iraqis.”

  6. says

    Also, I hate hate hate the “children dying” trope. OK, maybe I don’t like children in general, but I think it’s just as bad when middle aged people die. Or old people die. Or prematurely graying people die. Whatever people, die. Why is it so much more inexcusable that children die? We shouldn’t be counting the dead at all; once you go past one it’s “too many.”

  7. deepak shetty says

    @Rob Grigjanis
    Because the number is irrelevant. Let it be 5000 or even 5 extra deaths. nothing changes

    @Marcus Ranum

    Why is it so much more inexcusable that children die

    Probably because we think that children lose a lot more than an adult – atleast in the number of years that they would have lived, on average.

  8. fentex says

    Why is it so much more inexcusable that children die?

    Obviously Utilitarian ethics – more life (counted in expected years lived) is lost, for the sum of people. And to some the presumably innocent youth are inherently more valuable (greater potential for net good to be done in their as yet un-formed life).

    Also I think it reveals how prevalent the Just World fallacy is – older people are just assumed to deserve (or have had opportunity to defend against) what happens to them more, but children who have not yet had the opportunity to live justly are more egregiously offended against.

    And there’s the fact that killing children alongside adults suggests a greater chance of having ended a line of people – more serious than a light culling of stragglers, don’t you think?

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    deepak shetty @9: Ah, so if five people had died in the Hiroshima bombing, or in the Nazi concentration camps, they would have been equally horrific. Whatever you’re drinking, I don’t want it.

    Marcus @8: For me, it does matter. I don’t particularly like kids either, but the little fuckers haven’t even had a chance to fulfill (or not) whatever potential they have. I find that profoundly tragic. It’s akin to how I feel when a swallow chick falls out of her nest too soon (we’ve had nests in our carport for yonks). It’s almost a certain death sentence, and it never fails to break my heart a bit.

  10. komarov says

    Re: fentex (#10):

    Obviously Utilitarian ethics – more life (counted in expected years lived) is lost, for the sum of people. And to some the presumably innocent youth are inherently more valuable (greater potential for net good to be done in their as yet un-formed life).

    That would still be a strange way to argue the case. If you really wanted to take an almost “mathematical” approach like this you’d also have to admit that it is riddled with assumption on what life is or ought to be. If I had to argue about the “severity” of the deaths of younger vs. older people, I might instead point out that children are already fairly help- and defenceless in normal circumstances. Adults could at least in theory take some measures to protect themselves.* But even that is a terribly weak argument, so I agree with Marcus: There is no difference between the death of children or not-children.
    Using the death of children in particular is an emotional appeal and nothing more. As such it may be effective but the underlying argument shouldn’t be treated any differently than the deaths of any other group.

    *Meaningful self-defence is pretty much off the table in this day and age.

  11. rjw1 says

    “The costs are borne by people in other countries”

    Not always, there was 9/11. A very rare instance of US citizens suffering the horrors their government has inflicted on people in the Third World. The attack was counterproductive since an enraged US decided to bomb the crap out of Iraq and Afghanistan and strangely, not Saudi Arabia.

    Marcus Ranum,@7

    “false pretences”. Yes indeed. If the US war lords had really believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction they never would have invaded the country. What surprised me is that the Americans didn’t ‘find’ any WMD.

  12. Holms says

    I find it interesting that someone would claim that a benefit of going to war is to end the instability of the region. In the case of the Koreas, the instability referenced is that the region might one day erupt in war. Meaning the threat of potential war should be met with actual war – and they call this a solution!

  13. sonofrojblake says

    [9/11] was counterproductive since an enraged US decided to bomb the crap out of Iraq and Afghanistan and strangely, not Saudi Arabia

    That sounds extremely productive to me (from the point of view of Saudi Arabia).

  14. says

    fentex@#10:
    And there’s the fact that killing children alongside adults suggests a greater chance of having ended a line of people – more serious than a light culling of stragglers, don’t you think?

    I think that’s it – it’s the “watch your children die!” as the ancients used to practice it. Wipe out the entire clan, like the US did to Saddam Hussein and his kids, and Anwar Al Awlaki and his.

    I do agree that it feels worse when the kids die. It made me wonder why. With a lot of the utilitarian arguments, it’s easy to come up with an alternate utility (e.g.: “It is worse when the clan elders die because they take with them the wisdom of their lives; the kids are insignificant, like kittens that can be drowned before their eyes open.”)

    Rob Grigjanis@#11:
    It’s akin to how I feel when a swallow chick falls out of her nest too soon

    Yes, I have had that experience too.
    When I was a kid I witnessed someone drowning unwanted puppies. I still freak out when I think of that.
    It may be, actually, one of those “instinct” things the evolutionary psychologists say must be there.

  15. says

    rjw1@#13:
    What surprised me is that the Americans didn’t ‘find’ any WMD.

    They tried a couple times; there were a few reports of things found buried (including nuclear plans, etc) but the stories never got news traction because, I think, they sounded pretty much like desperate grasping at straws.

  16. deepak shetty says

    @Rob Grigjanis

    have been equally horrific.

    The equally horrific has been added by your imagination since its not in any response that I made.
    The point is if you fight a war/ impose sanctions on false grounds , the absolute number of people killed by that is hardly the most relevant aspect. Its only used to try to downplay the impact on real peoples lives.
    But go ahead – what is the acceptable number for Albrights response ? if only 5 “others” had died rather than the half million does it change anything in your reaction ?

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    deepak shetty @18:

    The equally horrific has been added by your imagination since its not in any response that I made.

    “the number is irrelevant” is in your response. No imagination required to add anything. If you actually meant “the number is irrelevant to the callousness of Albright’s response” (the only way I can see you not meaning “equally horrific”), you should have made that clear.

    But yes, the number is relevant if you’re telling the Albright story. The point of telling the story is to show what a horrible person Albright is (and if you think most people don’t care whether the number is 5 or 500,000 you’re fooling yourself). But if you’re not correcting the number, you’re letting a whole lot of folk go off believing that Albright is horrible (fair enough), and that 500,000 kids died because of sanctions. If you do that knowingly, it’s called disinformation.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    I missed this

    due to US imposed sanctions on that nation

    The sanctions were imposed by the UN Security Council.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *