Saturday, April 23, 2011

David Swanson Correct on War in Libya: Other High Profile Progressives Wrong

Libya: Another Neocon War

By David Swanson

April 22, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- The US department of justice (DOJ) has submitted a written defence of the US role in this new war in Libya to the US Congress. The DOJ claims the war serves the US national interest in regional stability and in maintaining the credibility of the United Nations. Who knew?

The regional stability line would be a stretch for the UK but is downright nuts for the US. Who, outside of US strategic command types working on weapons in space, thinks Libya and America are in the same region? (In fact, the US is in Northcom and Libya in Africom, in the lingo of the Pentagon’s structure of global domination. Europe is in Eucom.) And what has done more good this year for the region that Libya is actually in than instability (think Tunisia, Egypt)? 

The bit about the credibility of the United Nations is really cute coming from a government that invaded Iraq in 2003 – despite UN opposition and for the express purpose (among others) of proving the UN irrelevant. This also comes from the same government that just this month refused to allow the UN special rapporteur to visit a US prisoner named Bradley Manning to verify that he is not being tortured. How does that maintain UN credibility? And how exactly does authorising the CIA to violate the UN arms embargo in Libya maintain UN credibility? How does violating the UN ban on “a foreign occupation force of any form” in Libya maintain UN credibility?

So, one of the main justifications offered to the first branch of the US government is that the war in Libya is justified by a UNresolution, the credibility of which must be maintained even while violating it. But the DOJ memo also stresses that such a justification is not needed. A US president, according to this memo, albeit in violation of the US Constitution, simply has the power to launch wars. Any explanations offered to Congress are, just like the wars, acts of pure benevolence.

The DOJ memo also argues that this war doesn’t really measure up to the name “war”, given how quick, easy and cheap it’s going to be. In fact, President Obama has already announced the handover of the war to Nato. I think we’re supposed to imagine Nato as separate from the US, just as Congress does when it conducts no investigations of any atrocities in Afghanistan that the US attributes to Nato. Do the other Nato nations know that this is the purpose Nato serves in US politics?

But how quick and easy will this war really be? One expert predicts it will last 20 years, with the US eventually pulling out and allowing the European Union to inherit the illness of empire it had earlier shared with us. Certainly, the promise of a quick and easy war in Iraq in 2003 was based on the same baseless idea as this one, namely that killing a president will hand a country over to outside control (excuse me, I mean, flourishing democracy). The blossoming democracy in Iraq has just banned public demonstrations. The fact is that Gaddafi has a great deal of support, and making him a martyr would not change that.

Popular “progressive” US radio host Ed Schultz argues, with vicious hatred in every word he spits out on the subject, that bombing Libya is justified by the need for vengeance against that Satan on earth, that beast arisen suddenly from the grave of Adolf Hitler, that monster beyond all description: Muammar Gaddafi. But you can’t really fight a war against one person. The last time we did that to Gaddafi, we killed his little daughter, while he survived.

Even if you had the legal or moral right to assassinate foreign leaders, and even if you independently and rationally worked up your passion to kill a particular dictator by sheer coincidence in the same moment in which your government wanted to bomb him, you couldn’t do it without killing innocent people and shredding the fabric of international law (with or without UN complicity). Hatred of a single individual is great propaganda – until people begin to question what killing him will involve and what will come next.

Popular US commentator Juan Cole supports the very same war that Ed Schultz does, but supports it as a gentle act of humanitarian generosity. The Libya war has become less popular more quickly in the US than any previous US war, but it has its supporters. And to them, it doesn’t matter that half their fellow war supporters have a different or even opposing motive. For years, Americans cheered the slaughter of the hated Iraqi people while other Americans praised the Iraq war as a great act of philanthropy for the benefit of the Iraqi people (whether they wanted it or not).

But let’s examine Cole’s claims about Libya, because they are quite popular and central to the idea of a “good war”. One claim is that the Nato countries are motivated by humanitarian concern. Another is that this war might have humanitarian results. These have to be separated because the former is laughably absurd and the latter worthy of being examined. Of course, many people in Nato countries are motivated by humanitarian concern; that’s why wars are sold as acts of philanthropy. Generosity sells. But the US government, which has become a wing of the Pentagon, does not typically intervene in other nations in order to benefit humanity. In fact, it’s not capable of intervening anywhere, because it is already intervened everywhere.

The United States was in the business of supplying weapons to Gaddafi up until the moment it got into the business of supplying weapons to his opponents. In 2009, Britain, France and other European states sold Libya over $470m-worth of weapons. Our wars tend to be fought against our own weapons, and yet we go on arming everyone. The United States can no more intervene in Yemen or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia than in Libya. We are arming those dictatorships. In fact, to win the support of Saudi Arabia for its “intervention” in Libya, the US gave its approval for Saudi Arabia to send troops into Bahrain to attack civilians, a policy that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly defended.

The “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, meanwhile, whatever civilians it may have begun by protecting, immediately killed other civilians with its bombs and immediately shifted from its defensive justification to attacking retreating troops and participating in a civil war. The United States has very likely used depleted uranium weapons in Libya, leading American journalist Dave Lindorff to remark:

It would be a tragic irony if rebels in Libya, after calling for assistance from the US and other Nato countries, succeeded in overthrowing the country’s long-time tyrant Gaddafi, only to have their country contaminated by uranium dust – the fate already suffered by the peoples of Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Irony is one word for it. Another is hypocrisy. Clearly, the military power of the west is not driven by humanitarian concerns. But that still leaves the question of whether, in this particular case, such power could accidentally have humanitarian results. The claim that a massive massacre of civilians was about to occur, on careful review, turns out to have been massively inflated. This doesn’t mean that Gaddafi is a nice guy, that his military wasn’t already killing civilians, or that it isn’t still killing civilians. Another irony, in fact, is that Gaddafi is reportedly using horrible weapons, including landmines and cluster bombs, that much of the world has renounced – but that the United States has refused to.

But warfare tends to breed more warfare; and cycles of violence usually, not just occasionally, spiral out of control. That the United States is engaging in or supporting the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere, while ignoring the killing of civilians in various other countries, is not a reason to tolerate it in Libya. But escalating a war and doing nothing are, contrary to Pentagon propaganda, not the only two choices. The United States and Europe could have stopped arming and supporting Gaddafi and – in what would have been a powerful message to Libya – stopped arming and supporting dictators around the region. We could have provided purely humanitarian aid. We could have pulled out the CIA and the special forces and sent in nonviolent activist trainers of the sort that accomplished so much this year in the nations to Libya’s east and west. Risking the deaths of innocents while employing nonviolent tools is commonly viewed as horrific, but isn’t responding with violence that will likely cause more deaths in the end even more so?

Washington imported a leader for the people’s rebellion in Libya who has spent the past 20 years living with no known source of income a couple of miles from the CIA’s headquarters in Virginia. Another man lives even closer to CIA headquarters: former US Vice President Dick Cheney. He expressed great concern in a speech in 1999 that foreign governments were controlling oil. “Oil remains fundamentally a government business,” he said. “While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.
Former supreme allied commander Europe of Nato, from 1997 to 2000, Wesley Clark claims that in 2001, a general in the Pentagon showed him a piece of paper and said:

I just got this memo today or yesterday from the office of the secretary of defence upstairs. It’s a, it’s a five-year plan. We’re going to take down seven countries in five years. We’re going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan, we’re going to come back and get Iran in five years.
That agenda fit perfectly with the plans of Washington insiders, such as those who famously spelled out their intentions in the reports of the thinktank called the Project for the New American Century. The fierce Iraqi and Afghan resistance didn’t fit at all. Neither did the nonviolent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. But taking over Libya still makes perfect sense in the neoconservative worldview. And it makes sense in explaining war games used by Britain and France to simulate the invasion of a similar country.

The Libyan government controls more of its oil than any other nation on earth, and it is the type of oil that Europe finds easiest to refine. Libya also controls its own finances, leading American author Ellen Brown to point out an interesting fact about those seven countries named by Clark:

What do these seven countries have in common? In the context of banking, one that sticks out is that none of them is listed among the 56 member banks of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). That evidently puts them outside the long regulatory arm of the central bankers’ central bank in Switzerland. The most renegade of the lot could be Libya and Iraq, the two that have actually been attacked. Kenneth Schortgen Jr, writing on, noted that
‘[s]ix months before the US moved into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein, the oil nation had made the move to accept euros instead of dollars for oil, and this became a threat to the global dominance of the dollar as the reserve currency, and its dominion as the petrodollar.’

According to a Russian article titled ‘Bombing of Libya – Punishment for Gaddafi for His Attempt to Refuse US Dollar’, Gaddafi made a similarly bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar. Gaddafi suggested establishing a united African continent, with its 200 million people using this single currency. During the past year, the idea was approved by many Arab countries and most African countries. The only opponents were the Republic of South Africa and the head of the League of Arab States. The initiative was viewed negatively by the US and the European Union, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling Libya a threat to the financial security of mankind; but Gaddafi was not swayed and continued his push for the creation of a united Africa.

[…] If the Gaddafi government goes down, it will be interesting to watch whether the new central bank [created by the rebels in March] joins the BIS, whether the nationalised oil industry gets sold off to investors, and whether education and healthcare continue to be free.

It will also be interesting to see whether Africom, the Pentagon’s Africa Command, now based in Europe, establishes its headquarters on the continent for which it is named. We don’t know what other motivations are at work: concerns over immigration to Europe? Desires to test weapons? War profiteering? Political calculations? Irrational lust for power?

Overcompensation for having failed to turn against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak until after he’d been unseated? But what about this one: actual fear of another Rwanda? That last one seems, frankly, the least likely. But what is certain is that such humanitarian concern alone did not launch this war, and that the continued use of war in this way will not benefit humanity.

The United Nations, far from being made credible, is being made the servant of wealthy nations making war on poor ones. And within the United States, where the United Nations is alternatively held up as a justification or mocked as irrelevant, the power to make war and to make law has been decisively placed in the hands of a series of single individuals who will carry the title “president” – precisely the outcome American revolutionaries broke with Britain in order to avoid.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bachman's Fundamentalist Idiocy Totally Mischaracterises Traditional Christianity

Editor's NOTE:

The statements made by Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann are typical of the total misunderstanding of Traditional (Roman Catholic) Christianity that characterizes most Fundamentalist Protestant "Christians."

Protestantism in general but especially Fundamentalist Protestant "Christianity" represents a bizarre adulteration (a sect really) of Traditional Christianity that is more akin to parts of ancient Judaism [without the animal sacrifice] than Christianity. It fails to recognize the way in which Jesus Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law of Justice in part through the addition of the higher virtue of Mercy or Love (e.g. the woman he saved from stoning for committing adultery) and as such is overly Old Testament focused in an improper way.

As a result, Protestant Fundamentalist's believe that modern Israel which came into existence in 1948 is the "new Israel" destined to be protected for all time by God. This is not the case. The Church that Christ started (the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church) is the "new Israel" according to Traditional Christian teaching. For similar reasons, "Christian" Fundamentalists believe that Armageddon is imminent and that they will be removed from the Earth before it begins. This belief is the result of a modern yet bizarre theory without Traditional Scriptural hermeneutical support referred to as the Rapture.

So-called "Christian" Fundamentalist's who believe they have a duty to support modern Israel no matter what she does are horribly mistaken in thinking that they may do so based on Traditional Christian teaching. Here is Congresswoman Bachmann demonstrating that she is as ill-informed about Christian teaching as she is about American history and geography.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert   

Bachmann: America ‘Cursed’ By God ‘If We Reject Israel’

By Andy Birkey

February 08, 2011 "Minnesota Independent" -- At a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Los Angeles last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann offered a candid view of her positions on Israel: Support for Israel is handed down by God and if the United States pulls back its support, America will cease to exist.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is the same organization that recently hired former Sen. Norm Coleman. Bachmann’s appearance on Feb.1 is part of a whirlwind of national events for Bachmann in February. Next up: she’s keynoting the Take Back Washington North Dakota event in Bismarck this Friday night.

Here’s a transcript of some of her remarks at the RJC event:

I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United States . . . [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle.

Right now in my own private Bible time, I am working through Isaiah . . . and there is continually a coming back to what God gave to Israel initially, which was the Torah and the Ten Commandments, and I have a wonderful quote from John Adams that if you will indulge me [while I find it] . . . [from his February 16, 1809 letter to François Adriaan van der Kemp]:

"I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization."

. . . So that is a very long way to answer your question, but I believe that an explicit statement from us about our support for Israel as tied to American security, we would do well to do that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Sugar Coating for the Bitter Pill of ObamaCare

Editor's NOTE:

The timely piece below was written by an Orthopedic Surgeon who has authored a book for the Acton Institute entitled; A Prescription for Health Care Reform. Unfortunately, one must spend 6 dollars plus shipping to read it. 

In my opinion, books on public policy are best presented as so-called "white papers" free of charge. Presumably, Dr. Condit's views as represented in this piece reflect those in his book.

Based on what he has written in this essay, I encourage Dr. Condit to make copies of his book available on-line for free.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

by: Donald P. Condit MD, MBA
Acton Institute
April 6, 2011

Remember Mary Poppins singing, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way”?

If so, be concerned, because you or your parents are probably on Medicare – or will be soon -- and last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed regulations for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).

The sugar-coated rhetoric in this announcement from HHS cannot disguise the bad medicine in this part of this part of the Affordable Care Act, which intends to bureaucratically cut as much as $960 million in Medicare spending over three years. This Obam-Care prescription threatens patients, the physicians who care for them, and the common good. The only clear winners are the consultants and lawyers busy trying to decipher this 429-page tome of acronyms and encrypted methodology that will compromise the doctor-patient relationship and is contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. (Editor: the greatest beneficiary is clearly the private health insurance industry)

Medicare beneficiaries will be “assigned” to 5,000 patient-minimum organizations to coordinate their care. While HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius talks about improvement in care, the politically poisonous truth is that Medicare is going broke and ACOs are designed to save money. The words “rationing” or “treatment denial” or “withholding care” are not part of her press release, but reading the regulations reveals intentions to “share savings” with those who fulfill, or “penalize” others who fall short of, the administration’s objectives. The administration’s talking points include politically palatable words which emphasize quality improvement and care enhancement when the real objective is cost control by a utilitarian calculus.

Physicians and other health care providers will find themselves in conflict with the traditional ethos of duty to patient within ACOs. Ever increasing numbers of doctors are leaving private practice and becoming employed by hospitals, due to a variety of challenges inherent in these uncertain times . The hospitals are the most likely recipient of bundled payments for caring for Medicare patients. Doctors will face agency conflicts between the time honored primary duty to patient, which may conflict with hospital administration, and ACO goals of fiscal savings. (Editor: in my personal experience they usually do)  Medical care providers will receive incentives for controlling spending, and penalties if they do not. "No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Not even physicians.

The physician’s ACO conundrum is illustrated in the language where these regulations proclaim that, “Providers should be accountable for the cost of care, and be rewarded for reducing unnecessary expenditures and be responsible for excess expenditures.” Yet the very next sentence stipulates that, “In reducing excess expenditures, providers should continually improve the quality of care they deliver and must honor their commitment to do no harm to beneficiaries.” (page 14)

The principle of subsidiarity (Editor: according to Wikipedia, an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority or in this context the Roman Catholic Church teaching that decisions should be made by those closest to the people they affect) guides policy makers to empower decision making and scarce health care resource allocation at the doctor-patient level. However, the Affordable Care Act moves in the opposite direction. It increases bureaucratic power and responsibility. This is not the antidote needed to reform health care in the United States. The complexity, cost, and confusion of implementing these ACO regulations defy comprehension. We can only hope ACOs will follow “just say no” HMOs into the historical ash heap of misguided health policy.
There is no question that significant – and scarce -- health care resources are consumed in the Medicare population toward the end of life. ACOs intend to limit this spending -- the government way. The Ethical and Religious Directives by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggest a better path forward:

While every person is obliged to use ordinary means to preserve his or her health, no person should be obliged to submit to a health care procedure that the person has judged, with a free and informed conscience, not to provide a reasonable hope of benefit without imposing excessive risks and burdens on the patient or excessive expense to family or community. (32)”

The patient must be the focal point of concern. They, or their surrogate, with the help of their physician, need to become informed. They must also participate in the expense of their care, which will better allocate resources for the community than would more distant bureaucratic panels or regulation.

A person may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life. Disproportionate means are those that in the patient's judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community (57).  [Editor: this is another reference to The Ethical and Religious Directives by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in which the author is citing paragraph #57 of that document. Readers should be aware that debate exists even among Roman Catholic Moral Theologians/Philosophers about the definition of the words  "disproportionate" and "benefit" in this loaded moral context. The editor has written on this subject in a piece for Catholic Online entitled: "Fr. Richard McBrien and Others Mislead Catholic Public: Allege Schiavo Feeding Tube Removal OK"]

Enabling all patients, with and without means, to “proportionally” participate in the cost of their care will better allocate scarce health care resources than further sugar-coated, and non-delightful, misguided administrative policies.

By the way, if you didn’t recognize the Mary Poppins song, that’s OK. Worry instead about your grandparents for now, and consider how your generation will counter-reform ObamaCare in the future.

[Editor: Comments are kindly invited.]

Deconstructing the US Military: America's Global War against Planet Earth

By Dana Visalli
Global Research
April 18, 2011

While in Kabul in March of this year, I visited the U.S. military base in that city, Camp Eggers . Knowing I would need a pretext to gain entry, I typed up a letter offering to give a presentation on wildlife in Afghanistan, which I had been studying. When approaching the base, one passes through an initial checkpoint, where a Hummer topped with a machine-gun nest stands guard. Then there is a 100-yard walk down a narrow corridor between high concrete blast walls, at which point one arrives at a guarded entry point through the wall. I showed my passport and letter, and was escorted through a second layer of blast walls to a little wooden information booth in this still-peripheral circle of defense. The pimply young lad manning the booth was flustered by my request; he had never seen anything quite like it. He did what all soldiers do when faced with something new; he phoned his superior for orders on how to proceed.

Permission was granted to pass to the next entry level. At hut #2 another friendly young male soldier by the name of Ryan was equally baffled by my written request, and he dialed up his commanding officer for instructions on what to do with me. Then, with Ryan as my escort, I made it into the inner sanctum of the base, where soldiers and military contractors strolled leisurely around the streets of the former Kabul residential area. After being passed around to several more levels of authority, I finally ended up at the office of Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The female officer in charge there was as confused by my presence as everyone else had been, and after reading my proposal asked rather sternly, “How did he get on the base?” She reprimanded Ryan for bringing me to the center of Camp Eggers, then realized that she would have to phone her commanding officer because there was no standardized protocol on how to deal with me. As we retraced our steps, Ryan remarked that he certainly could not be held accountable for letting me on the base because all he had done was follow orders. In fact, the primary concern of everyone I interacted with at Camp Eggers was to follow the directives of their superiors; no one appeared to have the capacity to take responsibility for their actions.

In the mid-1960s, political scientist Hannah Arendt published a book-length study of how some of the great evils of history, such as slavery and the Holocaust, managed to occur. Her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, concluded that generally such crimes are not carried out by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their superiors and their state and therefore do what they are told to do, and participate with the view that their actions are normal. The word “banal” is defined as “something that is trite, normal, and commonplace.” The root of the word comes from the Old French word ban, referring to feudal military service, which was compulsory and thus commonly accepted. Thus, military culture is by definition synonymous with banal, which my acquaintances at Camp Eggers demonstrated as they strove to find orders to follow and avoid responsibility for their actions.

Most members of the military establishment receive extensive training in combat techniques, including of course how to kill other human beings. One common drill at boot camp is to have recruits lunge repeatedly at mock human targets with mounted bayonets, shouting “Kill! Kill!” as they stab their imaginary victims. After months of such training, killing itself becomes banal, something normal and commonplace. The military culture of thoughtless submission to authority combined with heavy conditioning to snuff out human life creates a wide path towards the “great evils” that Hannah Arendt addressed.

Examples of what a sane society would call evil acts abound in the annuals of our current wars. For example, in 2010 a group of five American soldiers murdered a number of Afghan civilians “for sport,” and collected fingers of their victims as trophies. Killing for them had become normal and banal; it was in fact what the soldiers were trained to do.

In March of 2011 two U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters came upon 10 Afghan children ages 7 to 13 gathering brush to warm their huts and attacked them with heavy machine gun fire. When the parents of the children arrived on the scene, attracted by the gunfire, they could only collect body parts of their children. For the pilots of the helicopters, killing was their job, a normal part of military life.

On March 12, 2006, four U.S. soldiers entered the home of a 14-year old girl in the Iraqi city of Mahmudiya, took her mother, father and sister into a bedroom and shot them, and then gang-raped the girl. Afterwards, they shot her in the head and attempted to burn her body. They then reported the deaths as being the result of an insurgent attack.

On March 25, 2003, Marine Sgt. Eric Schrumpf was participating in the U.S. invasion of Iraq when he spotted an Iraqi soldier in his field of view behind a female Iraqi citizen. He couldn’t get a clear shot with the woman blocking his line of sight, so he shot her to get her out of the line of fire. “I’m sorry, but the chick was in the way,” Schrumpf explained. Later he elaborated, “We had a great day. We killed a lot of people.”

Over the long term, most soldiers committing such murders become victims of their own lack of judgment, unable to live with the profoundly antisocial acts they have committed. Sergeant Schrumpf is himself now debilitated by PTSD, and can scarcely function in civilian society. He has attacked people in movie theaters because he mistakes their cans of Coke for military weapons. "I'll never be the same again," says Schrumpf, who seems somehow mystified by the etiology of his emotional dysfunction.

Similar stories of the fruits of combat duty are limited only by time available to tell them. After serving in the Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq , Lance Cpl. Walter Rollo Smith returned home and soon killed his wife, Nicole Marie Speirs, the 22-year-old mother of his twin children. He drowned her in a bathtub without any evident provocation or reason. In reflecting on his heinous crime, Smith said, “I know for a fact that before I went to Iraq , there’s no way I would have taken somebody else’s life.”

After serving in the Army in Iraq in 2004, Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C, came home and stabbed his wife Nabila Bare, 18, at least 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver. About three dozen of the wounds were on her head and neck. Killing is what he was trained to do.

Mental angst and dysfunction in soldiers returning from combat is commonplace. A recent study indicates that 62% of soldiers returning from the war in Iraq have asked for mental health counseling, with 27% showing dangerous levels of alcohol abuse. Suicide rates among soldiers and vets have increased dramatically in recent years. Over 100,000 Vietnam vets have now killed themselves, far more than died in the Vietnam War. More than 300,000 veterans of the U.S. military are currently homeless, another study reveals.

If war is in fact destroying the youth of America by turning them into trained and traumatized killers, one could at least hope that the wars themselves have some value to American society.

Objective evidence indicates otherwise. The actual conduct of war bears more resemblance to a circus act than the noble endeavor it is often portrayed to be. To cite one of the many examples of the senselessness of war related in the book Achilles in Vietnam, author and Vietnam vet Jonathan Shay describes how, “During one patrol in the dry season, a U.S. Army squad ran out of water and was not resupplied. They walked for a day and a half in search of water in Vietcong-controlled territory. When men started to collapse from dehydration in the heat, an officer’s plea for emergency resupply was heeded: a helicopter flew over and “bombed” the squad with cases of Tab, seriously injuring one of the men. The major whose helicopter dropped the Tab was recalled to evacuate the casualty. There was no enemy activity. I subsequently read in the division newspaper that the major had put himself in for and had received the Bronze Star for resupplying the troops and evacuating the wounded ‘under fire.’ ” Remember that story the next time you see a soldier’s chest full of medals.

The Vietnam war itself was fought because at the end of World War II, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from the colonizing French, reading from the U.S. Declaration of Independence to emphasize his people’s reasonable claim to self-determination. Instead of supporting this universal urge that humanity has for freedom, the U.S. supported the French effort to regain their colony for 10 long years (1945-1954). After the French were defeated, the U.S. fought the Vietnamese for another 22 years (1955-1975). Thus, 32 years of brutal mayhem took place, when all the Vietnamese people were asking for was their independence. The American lives that were ruined—the 58,000 combat deaths, 100,000+ suicides, 300,000 homeless men—were all expended for nothing, as were the 3.4 million Vietnamese who died in that war. To briefly mention another of our recent wars, today the nation of Iraq lies in ruins, the people impoverished, a million dead and 5 million living as refugees, while the entire basis of the U.S. invasion in 2003 is widely acknowledged to have been a complete fabrication.

War itself is not only a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” as Dwight Eisenhower noted in a speech in 1953, but war is also destructive to the physical earth, the very source of human life, and indeed of all life. The U.S. has dropped 15 million tons of bombs on the earth’s surface in last 60 years, spread 1 million tons of napalm on fields and forests, and sprayed 20 million gallons of defoliants on some of the most diverse rainforests on the planet. By any measure, the U.S. military is conducting a war against the earth itself. Such an inane effort does not come cheaply. The total cost of all military expenses for 2012 is estimated to be $1.2 trillion dollars, one-third of the total federal budget. It is the U.S. military that is driving the U.S. itself into bankruptcy.

In summary, the U.S. military is destroying the lives of its own young men while at the same time it devastates other human cultures; it threatens the economic survival of the United States while it is fraying the ecological fabric that makes life on earth possible.

Mikhail Gorbachev once noted that the Soviet system was evil and had to be dismantled. The U.S. military is a similarly evil force loosened on the world. As was done to the repugnant Soviet system, the equally repugnant U.S. military should be completely dismantled, (editor's bold emphasis throughout) with all soldiers and ships and planes and weapons brought home from the vast web of 1000 American military bases spanning the globe. The savings in terms of human lives, human suffering, ecological integrity and American dollars will be immeasurable. We can then begin to rebuild a national defense consisting of a small militia that can guard our borders and “repel invasions,” as called for in the U.S. Constitution, all the while remembering that the best defense is the making of friends.

Dana Visalli is an ecologist, botanist, and market gardener living in Washington state.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Health Care Spending in the Light of Wisdom and Justice

Editor's NOTE:

The following opinion piece by a reader of this blog--is presented in way of adding to our understanding of the current debate in Congress with respect to altering Medicare and Medicaid.

The pespective presented by Dr. Gibbons is fairly consistent with Traditional Roman Catholic Moral Theology and is worthy of consideration. My comments follow his piece.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Health Care Spending in the Light of Wisdom and Justice

By:  Joel Clarke Gibbons
Logistic Research & Trading Co.
Saint Joseph, Michigan.

We have to get a few basic points in order before we are ready to weigh the pros and cons of the Republican plan, or of any plan, to change Medicare and Medicaid. I offer the following in the cause of reason and balance on this topic.


Justice demands that we accord to every person what is his or her due. That precept -- or more exactly, that definition -- covers justice in all its manifestations; between individuals, in what is called commutative or transactional justice, it defines the just claims of one party against another. It also covers claims that a person makes on his community or society, which we call distributive justice. The issue of public funding of medical treatments through programs like Medicare and Medicaid is distributive in nature, raising the question of which claims a person can legitimately make on his/her fellow citizens. He does not have the right to bankrupt them.

No person has a just claim which – if it was honored across the board for all the people – would simply break the bank. That certainly applies to claims which everyone might raise, like free food for all, but it also applies to claims which many persons would register for themselves, but which if they were available to all would find enough claimants to break the bank. So while not everyone would like to have a heart transplant, if even a fraction of citizens wanted that treatment and if as a result to public Treasury would be so drained as to force grave limitations on its other expenditures, then that is not a just claim.

No person has a just claim – a commutative right – to escape the consequences of his own folly. We nonetheless tend toward charity which softens this rule. The citizens have moreover a just expectation of charity on our part. But they do not have the right to repeated folly. St. Paul made that clear when he reminded the Thessalonians of the rule he had enforced, that whoever would not work, should not eat (II Thessalonians 3: 10).  This probably applies in some ways to how the person cares for his or her own body, but I won't go there. With regard to the economics, the citizen does not have the right to spend all his money on the good life, and expect the Treasury to pay his medical bills. The community is entitled to demand that the citizens make provisions for their own needs, and in this case, that requires them to buy some sort of insurance, or alternatively to have the personal wherewithal to pay their own bills.

We have a moral duty both to save for future needs, to the extent possible, and to develop and employ our talents to provide for us and for those who depend on is, and we do not have a just claim to be absolved of this duty. This duty follows directly from the Seventh Commandment, which enjoins us not to live by theft, because the choice to be dependent on the community, to expect to be supported by others or by the State are in fact a kind of theft.

We often say that distributive justice endows everyone with a right of sorts to an equal chance. In many areas that is the case. It endows us, for instance, with a right to basic education at public expense but of course it does not endow anyone with a right to learn as much as everyone else. How much we gain from education is governed also by our unequal endowments and by our unequal attention to the work of learning. Life however is filled with unequal opportunities right at the start. Unequal outcomes moreover quickly become unequal opportunities too. If I am unable for reasons good or bad to exploit my equal opportunity to learn nuclear physics, I will be very disadvantaged in the competition for university faculty positions. Thus the opportunity/outcome test is not nearly as revealing in practice as we had hoped it would be. Nonetheless the idea is a good one and comes down to this. It is unjust to defend inequality in opportunity – to defend artificial barriers – but it is not unjust to accept inequalities as they arise. We should always look for ways to lower barriers of inequality, both as a matter of charity and of justice, no matter what has caused them, but we accept that they are all around us no matter what we do.

In the matter of equal opportunity as it applies to medicine, it is imperative to weigh the costs and benefits of various treatments. As a very clear example, no one should have to suffer broken limbs without treatment. It is simply too easy to set them, or even to repair them surgically; this technology is widely known and available and the benefit far outweighs the cost. Even in this case however, we do not lose sight of the requirement that any particular course of treatment reasonably accomplish the purpose. There is no cost-benefit analysis that would deny that treatment, except in the most desperately poor society.

Now we move up the line to cost, invasiveness, frequency, and prognosis. As we do that, we keep track of the cost in the aggregate to the society. At some point, well above setting broken bones but almost surely before we get to the triple heart-lung-liver transplant, we run out of money and we run out of medical logic too. Cost in this, as in most cases is defined not in the absolute sense but in the economists' sense: the value of other kinds of outlays begins to swamp the value of another surgery.

At that point – and I do not mean in any way to suggest that this is easily done or that it is something we do once and for all – the just claims on society are exhausted. Everyone has a claim – depending on the wealth of the community – to basic medical care, understanding that the standard of “basic” is fundamentally economic in the sense that it hinges on the trade off between more care and more highways and other demands on the Treasury. In no sense do I vote for descriptively “basic” – i.e. minimal – care. On the contrary, we want to be as generous as possible, especially since I myself might come down with one of those really expensive needs. But there has to be a cutoff.

As a matter of justice, no person should be denied any kind of medical treatment that he or she is prepared to pay for out of his own pocket, or to pay for from the voluntary donations of other citizens. If there is some kind of treatment that costs a billion dollars, only billionaires will have it. Well, let that be a reminder of just how nice it is to be a billionaire, although realistically speaking no one would want to suffer from whatever might require such a treatment. In justice we cannot out of envy prevent anyone from treating himself – in effect – nor can we hold him hostage to exorbitant claims to pay for our medical care. From time to time the proposition is advanced that equality of access implies that access be identical for all persons. That would be a manifest perversion of justice.

Distributive justice is sometimes framed as an exception to transactional justice, but that is never correct. In reality, there is only one kind of justice. The Lord God created society for the benefit of the people, and thus they have just claims on it. Society has duties under the moral law. The most obvious of these duties is to secure for us the demands of transactional justice: to defend our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when they are infringed by our neighbors, which is to say that in practice, the guarantee of transactional justice is itself an example of distributive justice. Of equal merit however are the just claims that we have on the society; and in rich societies like ours, those claims can be defined in very generous terms. These are the claims of fairness and of fellowship, and of concern for our neighbors and for the solidarity of the community.

Justice always ensures to the poor an adequate living and to the infirm the care and solicitude of the community. The claims we have individually on the community are of course only the reflection of claims it has on us, and while we are entitled to grumble, we must in justice submit and pay our taxes and do whatever else is needed and right. This is never an engine for extortion and jealousy, because that would pit communal justice against the rights of the person. It is for that reason that the claims of the citizen for public support must be weighed on a scale of reason, and in light of all the demands on the Treasury.


So what does this say about changing Medicare? It says that the cost of Medicare is in principle limited, as is everything else in life, and that the society has duties both to respond to just claims against it, and to deny unjust claims on its generosity. At this time, medicine has undergone such revolutionary change, carrying with it extraordinary benefits and costs that it is exceedingly difficult to know where to draw the line. At what point do claims cease to be fair and just, and become exploitative? Justice demands that we collectively put our heads together in an honest attempt to discern where this very elusive line is hiding. It implies also that attempts to uncover the line and to calibrate it in practical and financial terms cannot be and should not be thought of in moralistic terms alone. The moral demand of justice itself sets us to the task of finding the answers.

Wisdom is the virtue that leads us to find the best course of action under all kinds of particular circumstances. It serves justice, because justice really is blind. Justice doesn’t know what works medically from what doesn’t work, and that “working” and “not working” are not simple, blanket judgements but are specific to each case. Justice doesn’t know either medicine or the technical details of any of the myriad other goods that press their demands on the Treasury. It is for wisdom to inform justice, and in that sense we concede that justice is not sufficient, but there is no escape from it.


Dr. J. P. Hubert's Comments:

I am largely in agreement with Dr. Gibbons. Some additions and commentary follow:

Justice is only one criterion/virtue by which to consider the question of whether to change Medicare, Medicaid or any other federally funded government program—in the light of reason. As Dr. Gibbon's suggests, other criteria are important as well, for example, 1) societal expectations based upon accepted practices people have come to rely upon, 2) the precepts of the common morality which flow from the Natural Moral Law e.g. (do good, avoid evil, treat your neighbor fairly and so forth) 3) available resources, 4) best practices based upon documented outcomes in the case of health care and 5) comparative cost analyses of US vs.: other developed nation’s health care costs among others.

With regard to the issue of what to do about those procedures that are controversial, extremely expensive or demanded by the patient: it is important to note that medical recommendations must be made only after applying stringent criteria which include a consideration of alternative therapies as well as expected outcomes when performed in settings capable of “best practices.”

It is not appropriate to deny care simply because it is very expensive and high-tech., but it must be demonstrably shown to be a better choice than any other alternative and associated with reasonable morbidity/morality. The “cut-off” is not simply based on economics but must also be based upon stringent medical/surgical criteria in order to avoid unnecessary morbidity/mortality and waste.

A critical issue in this debate is the fact that the private health insurance industry has a virtual monopoly over American Health Care which was reflected in the ommision of an effective "Public Option" from the bill passed and signed by President Obama last year. Similarly, the pharmaceutical industry lobby is so strong that the federal government has not been allowed to negotiate over the price of drugs. Finally, the entire financial reimbursement scheme should be addressed as well. These are all defects which must be fixed if we are to solve our health care problems and reduce the budget deficit and national debt.

This is a very complex topic, one which would require an extended essay to “flesh-out.”  We encourage comments.

The Colonial "Axis of Evil" prepares for the invasion of Libya

U.S., Britain and France step up war plans

April 15, 2011
By Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

The stage is now set for the imperialist invasion of Libya.

The former colonizing and enslaving powers of Africa—Britain, France and the United States—have committed themselves to the ouster of the Libyan government.

Frustrated that the NATO bombing campaign has failed to secure a victory for the anti-Gadaffi rebels, the main NATO powers are preparing a dramatic escalation of the war. They hope the threat of escalation will convince Gadaffi and his associates to leave power as the threat of a land invasion in June 1999 led Milosevic to capitulate and allow NATO forces to take over Kosovo. Or, as an alternative, they will launch a military invasion of the country.

“… [I]t is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power,” wrote Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, and David Cameron in a joint article published simultaneously in the New York Times and several European newspapers on April 15.

Their stated pretext to “protect civilians” in Libya’s civil war (Resolution 1973 passed by the U.N. Security Council on March 17 with Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, and India abstaining) has given way in this latest public proclamation to their actual intention to replace the Libyan government with a new proxy regime in the country that holds the largest oil reserves in the African continent.

“No political settlement in which the dictator remains in place will work. The West and its partners must be ready to maintain political, economic and military pressure until he is gone,” states the New York Times in its April 15 lead editorial.

Do not be fooled by the anti-dictatorial motivation of the New York Times. When the CIA and British intelligence overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and replaced it with the dictatorship of the Shah, the New York Times editorialized: “Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost to be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism.”
Mossadegh had earned the label of “fanatic” because he had dared nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (aka British Petroleum) and use the profits of Iran’s oil to bring the country out of immense poverty.

All the targets of imperialist invasion and “regime change” strategies are fully demonized prior to aggression. From Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in 1961, Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 to Iraq in 2003, the process of selective demonization of leaders is a precursor to aggression. The motives of the invaders are pure and noble. The bombs they drop are smart. They only kill bad people who are the enemies of freedom.

At these moments, the money-gouging corrupt politicians of both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C.—from Tea Party Republicans to most Democratic Party politicians—mainly put aside all differences to join the chorus of the holy condemning the targeted demon as the troops are assembled, the war planes take to the skies and the cruise missiles crash into their targets. They are patriotic to the Empire and realize that their privileged and pampered employment as the “people’s representatives” can be quickly ended if they resolutely defy the war makers and their mass media propaganda machine. They, too, can be demonized if they step too far out of line.

The people of the United States do not want this war. They want the war in Afghanistan and Iraq—two other wars for Empire—ended now. They can see through the lies of the government that says the country is so broke that tens of thousands of teachers, nurses and other public sector workers must be fired. Yet the same government, pursuing a global imperialist foreign policy that benefits the biggest banks and oil corporations, has limitless funds to invade and occupy the lands of other working people.

Paul Craig Roberts Says War In Libya is About China

'US To Recoup Libya Oil From China'

Interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of US Treasury

by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Press TV
April 17, 2011

Press TV has interviewed Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of US Treasury from Panama City, who gives his insight on the revolution in Libya and why US President Barack Obama needs to overthrow Qaddafi when no other US presidents did.

Press TV: Russia has criticized NATO for going far beyond its UN mandate. In other news a joint Op Ed is going to be written by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy who have said that “leaving Qaddafi in power would be an unconscionable betrayal to the Libyan people”.

We do know that the mandate does not call for regime change; the Obama administration has been saying they are not in there for regime change; but things seem a little different now don't they?

Roberts: Yes they do. First of all, notice that the protests in Libya are different from the ones in Egypt or Yemen or Bahrain or Tunisia and the difference is that this is an armed rebellion.

There are more differences: another is that these protests originated in the eastern part of Libya where the oil is - they did not originate in the capital city. And we have heard from the beginning credible reports that the CIA is involved in the protests,  (Webster Tarpley also makes this point here) and there have been a large number of press reports that the CIA has sent back to Libya its Libyan asset to head up the Libyan rebellion.

In my opinion, what this is about is to eliminate China from the Mediterranean. China has extensive energy investments and construction investments in Libya. They are looking to Africa as a future energy source.

The US is countering this by organizing the United States African Command (USAC), which Qaddafi refused to join. So that's the second reason for the Americans to want Qaddafi out.

And the third reason is that Libya controls part of the Mediterranean coast and it's not in American hands.

Press TV: Who are the revolutionaries. The US say they don't know who they're dealing with, but considering the CIA is on the ground in contact with revolutionaries - Who are the people under whom Libya will function in any post-Qaddafi era?

Roberts: Whether or not Libya functions under “revolutionaries” depends if the CIA wins - we don't know that yet. As you said earlier, the UN resolution puts constraints on what the European and American forces can achieve in Libya. They can have a no fly zone, but they are not supposed to be in there fighting together with the rebels.

But of course the CIA is. So we do have these violations of the UN resolution. If NATO, which is now the cover for the “world community,” succeeds in overthrowing Qaddafi, the next target will be Syria. Syria has already been demonized.

Why are they targeting Syria? - Because the Russians have a very large naval base in Syria. And it gives the Russian navy a presence in the Mediterranean; the US and NATO do not want that. If there is success in overthrowing Qaddafi, Syria is next.

Already, they are blaming Iran for Syria and Libya. Iran is a major target because it is an independent state that is not a puppet of the Western colonialists.

Press TV: With regards to the expansionist agenda of the West, when the UN mandate on Libya was debated in the UN Security Council, Russia did not veto it. Surely Russia must see this expansionist policy of the US, France and Britain.

Roberts: Yes they must see that; and the same for China. It's a greater threat to China because it has 50 major investment projects in eastern Libya. So the question is why did Russia and China abstain rather than veto and block? We don't know the answer.

Possibly the countries are thinking to let the Americans get further over- extended, or they may not have wanted to confront the US with a military or diplomatic position and have an onslaught of Western propaganda against them. We don't know the reasons, but we know they did abstain because they did not agree with the policy, and they continue to criticize it.

Press TV: A sizeable portion of Qaddafi's assets have been frozen in the US as well as some other countries. We also know that the Libyan revolutionaries have set up a central bank and that they have started limited production of oil and they are dealing with American and other Western firms. It begs the question that we've never seen something like this happen in the middle of a revolution. Don't you find that bizarre?

Roberts: Yes it's very bizarre and very suggestive. It brings back the fact of all the reports that the CIA is the originator of this so-called revolt and protest and is fomenting it and controlling it in a way that excludes China from its own Libyan oil investments.

In my opinion, what is going on is comparable to what the US and Britain did to Japan in the 1930s. When they cut Japan off from oil, from rubber, from minerals; that was the origin of World War II in the pacific. And now the Americans and the British are doing the same thing to China.

The difference is that China has nuclear weapons and it also has a stronger economy than do the Americans. And so the Americans are taking a very high risk not only with themselves, but with the rest of the world. The entire world is now at stake on American over-reach; American hubris - the drive for American hegemony over the world is driving the rest of the world into a World War.

Press TV: In the context of America's expansionist policies, how far do you think the US will stretch beyond the UN mandate? Are we going to see boots on the ground?

Roberts: Most likely - unless they can find some way of defeating Qaddafi without that. Ever since we've had Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now Obama, what we've learned is law means nothing to the executive branch in the US. They don't obey our own laws; they don't obey international law; they violate all the civil liberties and buried the principal of habeas corpus, no crime without intent, and the ability for a defendant to be legally represented.

They don't pay any attention to law so they're not going to pay any attention to the UN. The UN is an American puppet organization and Washington will use it as a cover. So, yes, if they cannot run Qaddafi out they will put troops on the ground - that's why we have the French and the British involved. We're using the French elsewhere in Africa also; we use the British in Afghanistan - they're puppets.

These countries are not independent. Sarkozy doesn't report to the French people - he reports to Washington. The British PM doesn't report to the English people he reports to Washington. These are puppet rulers of an empire; they have nothing to do with their own people and we put them in office.

Press TV: So these other countries would welcome having NATO troops on the ground?

Roberts: Of course. They are in the CIAs pocket. It's a CIA operation, not a legitimate protest of the Libyan people. It's an armed rebellion that has no support in the capital city. It's taking place in the east where the oil is and is directed at China.

Press TV: Where do you see the situation headed? There seems to be a rift between NATO countries with Britain and France wanting to increase the momentum of these air strikes, but the US saying no, there is no need.

Roberts: The rift is not real. The rift is just part of the cover, just part of the propaganda. Qaddafi has been ruling for 40 years - he goes back to Gamal Abdel Nasser (before Anwar Sadat) who wanted to give independence to Egypt.

He (Qaddafi) was never before called a brutal dictator that has to be removed. No other president has ever said Qaddafi has to go. Not even Ronald Reagan who actually bombed Qaddafi's compound. But all of a sudden he has to go. Why?

Because he's blocking the US African Command, he controls part of the Mediterranean and he has let China in to find its energy needs for the future. Washington is trying to cripple its main rival, China, by denying China energy. That's what this is really about; a reaction by the US to China’s penetration of Africa.

If the US was concerned about humanitarianism, it wouldn't be killing all these people in Afghanistan and Pakistan with their drones and military strikes. Almost always it's civilians that are killed. And the US is reluctant to issue apologies about any of it. They say we thought we were killing Taliban or some other made-up enemy.

Press TV: Who will benefit from all of this other than the US? The other countries that comply with US wishes - What do they stand to gain from this?

Roberts: We are only talking about NATO countries, the American puppet states. Britain, France, Italy, Germany, all belong to the American empire. We've had troops stationed in Germany since 1945. You're talking about 66 years of American occupation of Germany. The Americans have military bases in Italy - how is that an independent country? France was somewhat independent until Washington put Sarkozy in power. So they all do what they're told.

Washington wants to rule Russia, China, Iran, and Africa, all of South America. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) Washington wants hegemony over the world. That's what the word hegemony means. And Washington will pursue it at all costs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Progressive Democrats Almost Silent on Republican Plan to End Medicare

By: Dr. J. P. Hubert

US House Republicans have voted for Congressman Paul Ryan's deficit reduction plan which if passed would end Medicare and Medicaid as we know them. This plan would legislatively enact health care rationing on a level never before seen in this country, certainly not since 1965.

Only wealthy and middle class Americans with private health care plans would receive needed medical care while the poor, elderly, disabled and others would be left to suffer and die.

Where are the progressive Democrats who should be literally screaming from the rooftops about how Republicans are trying to introduce massive class-based health care rationing and even legislatively sanctioned assisted suicide/homicide?  When do the Democrats intend to "take off the gloves."  This degree of Republican hubris and brashness has not occurred before in my lifetime.

Virtually the entire US House Republican caucus is now on record favoring class-based health care rationing and death by neglect. Who will make the case against them effectively? The moral high-ground rests with those who wish to provide medical care to all Americans not with those who callously voted to deny care to tens of millions of our citizens!