Montana Candidates Agree: War, War, War

by lizard

In yesterdays post about progressive Democrats supporting Obama’s dangerously incoherent foreign policy, one comment stood out, and it wasn’t the bullshit inquiry about what I would do if I was president for a week—it was this comment from feralcatoffreedom:

This is all terribly sad. On “Moon of Alabama” somebody quoted Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi writer. I had the privilege of interviewing him once. Before we invaded that country it had the highest # of PHds per capita. 40% of marriages were mixed ones between Sunni and Shia. There was no big divide. Same for Yugoslavia.

Sarajevo was a wonderful cosmopolitan city where different religions and ethnic people got along just fine.
Everywhere we go, we purposely cause chaos and destruction in order for the war profiteers to line their pockets. On Sundays we dressed in painted faces and pretend to be “Vikings” and watch as soldiers parachute into gladiator arenas. We drink beer and have a good time.

Well everybody else in the world, at least the 99%, also want to have fun on Sundays with their families and watch a little sports or fish or make love. BUT NOOOOO! We make sure that they are all running for cover from bombs and drones or starving or in richer countries are worried about their jobs.

It is too sad for me to really put into words.

I concur, especially the sentiment that everywhere “we” go, we purposely cause chaos and destruction.

Montana Public Radio gave candidates Curtis, Lewis, Daines and Zinke a chance to weigh in on the military strikes that have already started falling on the new terrorist product line, ISIS. Here is Curtis showing what kind of worthless Senator she would be when it comes to the congressional role of authorizing the president to go to war:

Curtis says she doesn’t think Obama needs congressional authorization to implement his plan. Some critics wonder why the President is planning military strikes when ISIS hasn’t directly attacked the United States. Curtis says Senator John Walsh – a veteran who led over 700 troops in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 – has convinced her that these radicals present a clear threat:

“…and that some of the folks who are working with ISIS have the ability to enter into the United States and have made repeated threats that they will continue to kill Americans. I really trust Senator Walsh’s judgment on this and I think he knows what he’s talking about.”

This is such bullshit I don’t even know where to start. Deferring Congressional oversight to the executive is the first mistake. Trusting the judgement of John Walsh is the second mistake. Allowing oneself to become a vehicle for propaganda dissemination regarding the alleged ISIS threat to the homeland is the third mistake.

Since Curtis is a teacher, maybe she would be receptive to a little history lesson. There is a country in the Middle East that funds extremists. The majority of the alleged hijackers on 9/11 came from this country. Oh, and even though they behead their own citizens from time to time (or stone them to death with rocks) they have a cozy relationship with America. Because oil.

And yet, for some odd reason, after the terrorist attack on 9/11, foreign nationals from this lovely country America is allied with were allowed to flee. Patrick Cockburn has a great article at Counterpunch everyone should read, titled Saudi Arabia, 9/11 and the Rise of ISIS. Here’s an excerpt:

The most striking example of Washington’s willingness to protect the Kingdom over complicity in 9/11 is the 28 pages of the official inquiry that were censored and have yet to be published. Senator Graham is not allowed to reveal what is in the chapter that was redacted, but other sources say that they are about connections between Saudi government officials and the 9/11 attacks. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, in their book The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, quote a senior American official, who saw the 28 pages before they were excised, apparently on the initiative of President Bush, as saying: “If the 28 pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight.”

Senator Graham has long campaigned to have the 28 pages of the 9/11 inquiry and other documents released. He says, knowing their content, that there is no national security justification for keeping them a secret 13 years after 9/11. He says that some government agencies, notably the FBI, have a motive in keeping information from the public about “their actions and their competence at the time of 9/11”. In Sarasota, Florida, the FBI initially denied having any documents relating to hijackers who were based there but has now handed over 80,000 pages that might be relevant under the Freedom of Information Act, according to Tom Julin, the Miami-based attorney handling the FoI application.

Asked why the US government has been so eager since 2001 to cover up for the Saudis, Senator Graham says that one explanation is the long-term US strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, going back to the Second World War. There is also the close personal relationship between the Bush family and the Kingdom. But what he finds more difficult to explain is why the “policy of covering up Saudi involvement [in 9/11] persisted under the Obama administration”. Though Mr Obama had pledged to the families of the 9/11 victims during the 2008 presidential election campaign to release the 28 censored pages, it has failed to do so six years later.

From the perspective of the bipartisan perpetual war camp, suppressing the role of an “ally” like Saudi Arabia is not a failure, but a success. Amanda Curtis’ apparent naiveté regarding the US role in enabling the rise of ISIS is another success.

For everyone else trying to eek out a living in our increasingly hostile world, US foreign policy is an absolute fucking disaster.

Some younger people know this, and have articulated their perspective with a manifesto, titled There Is No Future In War. It’s lengthy, so I’ll conclude this post with a shorter selection:

Our true foes–– those endlessly gunning for war–– have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools – which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow – and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

Pay attention, Amanda Curtis. These youth are trying to teach you something.

  1. You’re right. We can learn a lot from our youth.

  2. Turner

    Liz: Asking you to think about what you’d do in Obama’s place was not a bullshit inquiry. I really wanted to know what you, a constant critic of his, would do that’s different from what he’s doing.

    You said you’d make a speech telling the truth. Which was disappointing in its vagueness.

    I expected you to offer specific policy changes. For example, withdrawing all troops from the Middle East and Europe. Or using our resources to extricate victims of terrorism in Syrian and Iraq. Of course, then you’d have to consider the consequences of these policies — something Obama has to consider each time he acts.

    So by dismissing my challenge to you as bullshit you can quickly move on to your main job: attacking Democrats.

    You mention Curtis, Zinke, Lewis, and Daines being interviewed by NPR. But, of these, whom do you choose to attack? Only Curtis. All the others get a free pass.

    What Curtis says, by the way, isn’t necessarily wrong. She’s stating the obvious: ISIS are dangerous in the same way that Al-Qaida are dangerous. To claim that they’re not dangerous is foolish. How far we should go militarily to degrade them is another question — which Curtis doesn’t go into because she apparently wasn’t asked.

    And she doesn’t go into the long history of European-American imperialism in the Middle East, an imperialism underlying many of the current problems in the region. I doubt she was asked about this, either.

    If you’re a Daines supporter, please be open about your position. It’s a free country. You’re free to support whomever you wish to support.

    • lizard19

      if people don’t have an accurate understanding of how US foreign policy creates these problems, then there will be no support for the policy changes that need to happen. so yes, they need to be told explicitly how US policy helped create al Qaeda and ISIS.

      as for Amanda Curtis, she doesn’t even seem to understand the constitutional role of Congress in providing checks and balances on the executive office’s ability to wage war, which is incredibly disappointing.

      and, unfortunately, the statement from the Daines campaign was better than Curtis’:

      “Our foreign policy is unraveling. Any strategy must have a clear objective and all necessary authorizations from Congress. It must confront Islamic extremism comprehensively, without placing new troops on the ground.”

      all this is just empty rhetoric, though. campaigns are built on deceit, that should be apparent to anyone with a pulse. at the national level, regarding foreign policy, it no longer seems to matter much what party is in power—they do the same insane shit, over and over.

      America is out of control, and servile Democrats have done more damage in solidifying perpetual war than Republicans.

      • JC

        To be fair to Curtis, she jumped into a race she is ill-prepared for — she was drafted by a state party in disarray. It takes years and years of study to understand geopolitics, political economy and constitutional government, and all their interrelationships. She has no time to devote to the sorts of studies many of us have been doing for years, so unfortunately she’s going to say some stupid.

        Now, she has to rely on a quickly assembled ad hoc team of advisers. Unfortunately, the same party in disarray that picked her as their torch-bearer, is the party that is supplying her with militant advisers like John Walsh. Hopefully the party in disarray will not permanently soil her as a future candidate, if she is going to use this election as a launching pad to say, the governorship or a house seat.

        • lizard19

          if she’s playing it safe to use this election as a launching pad for her political career, and she’s willing to abdicate her congressional role regarding war powers, then there is no way in hell I’m voting for her.

        • ” It takes years and years of study to understand geopolitics, political economy and constitutional government, and all their interrelationships.”

          In reality, when there is agreement on high about a policy, the parties do discuss it. Consequently, Keystone, for example, is not considered a campaign issue, as both parties are lockstep. Therefore, no issue.

          And in truth, there is very little the two parties disagree on, so that wedge issues take the place of real issue-oriented politics. They will talk about abortion, immigration, gun control until the cows come home, knowing that once elected those issues are put on the shelf to collect dust.

  3. JC

    Turner says: “…the long history of European-American imperialism in the Middle East, an imperialism underlying many of the current problems in the region…”

    You asked what Liz would do in Obama’s place, but it isn’t fair to ask what any one person would do about any one event for a week or two.

    You want a coherent answer about what to do about America’s foreign policy? Ask what they would do if they were elected president. Here’s a start:

    Renounce our imperial past (and the Bush/Obama Doctrine), quit manipulating other countries and economies for our oligarchical gains, drastically cut back on the budget of the pentagon the intelligensia, focus on mutualism, and honor the rights of people and countries to self determination.

    If a politician isn’t willing to address these points, then no amount of “progressivism” and “liberalism” in the guise of positive social justice stances is reason to go to the polls and vote for them.

    The American electorate has been so dumbed down by wedge politics (social, racial and class issues) that they no longer are concerned with the greater troubles that American Imperialism and oligarchical rule has rained down on them. It is all a smokescreen to keep the little people chattering about nonsense while Rome burns.

    Give me a politician who addresses the above points, and I’ll go to the polls and vote for them. Otherwise, I’ll stick to local/state elections where a vote might actually be worthwhile.

    I think what I hear from Liz is that it doesn’t matter whether or not we have democrats or republicans in national offices. Either is as likely to favor policies that would lead us into an ill-advised WWIII.

    Unfortunately, those candidates who espouse what to me is a more sane foreign policy are libertarians that have some decidedly regressive stances on some social, class and environmental issues (though to be fair they have some far more progressive stances on some like drug, lgbt and marriage policy).

    Given the choice between a foreign policy articulated by the Paul’s, the Clinton’s or the Bush’s, I’d vote for the Paul’s in a heartbeat if foreign policy was the only concern.

    • Turner

      Is it asking for too much to ask someone critical of specific policies to suggest specific alternative policies? I’ve yet to hear one from Liz or you.

      You, for example, say we should “focus on mutualism, and honor the rights of people and countries to self determination.” That doesn’t sound very specific to me. Are you saying that as ISIS grows in strength and slaughters millions of Muslims and others in their path, that this is “self determination” we should respect?

      If you and others are going to criticize Obama personally for specific policies and acts then you should personally say what specific alternative policies or acts he should pursue or should’ve pursued. But, instead, you retreat to the realm of generalities.

      By the way, I don’t feel “dumbed down” for being concerned with social issues. I consider them very important. Middle-class, lower-middle-class, and poor people are having a very rough time. Unless we can protect programs and institutions like SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, foot stamps, unemployment insurance, public education, and even Obamacare, a lot of people’s lives are going to be greatly worsened.

      Liz’s hero Steve Daines would kill all these programs if he could.

      • You’ve yet to take the time to research ISIS. How is a group like that born as a full adult with billions in resources and weapons and trained leaders? Is it asking too much for you to think about that issue?

      • lizard19

        cute, Turner. maybe you can use that non-dumbed-down brain of yours to connect the cost of endless war with the push for austerity here at home. then maybe you can tell me how lucky we are to have Democrats who used medicaid expansion as a political football in the primary while our AG used his stalling tactics to keep the ballot initiative from getting enough votes. then you can tell me how lucky we are to have a Missoula progressive who cared so much about the visibility of dirty homeless people that she sponsored an ordinances to criminalize sitting on downtown sidewalks. I’ve written about those kind of social issues as well. you may remember how it took the vote of a young conservative to keep Missoula from being sued by the ACLU.

        • Turner

          Uh, our AG is a Republican. He prevented the initiative from going forward. You can blame that on Democrats if you want to, but it’s pretty weak.

          I don’t advocate endless war abroad. I protested against both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Interfering with ISIS in a limited way is a far cry from shock and awe. It’s about as close as a military action can be to humanitarian intervention.

          And I admit to having reservations about bombing ISIS troops. What happens when one of our planes is shot down and the crew gets captured? Do we put boots on the ground to rescue them?

          I admit that I don’t know much about Missoula issues. I seldom get there.

      • JC

        I’ve got a boat-load of specific policies. But you can only put so much into a blog comment. And there were specific policies, you just aren’t acknowledging them because you don’t like them.

        For instance: renounce the Bush/Obama Doctrine, and create a new foreign policy revolving around mutualism and respect for self-determination. To flesh that out would take a series of thousand word posts.

        How about ISIS? ISIS is a construct that we were responsible for creating, feeding, and using for our own purposes.

        And what is the bigger moral dilemma? ISIS potentially killing millions of Muslims (thank you very much the anti-Muslim imperialists will say)? Or the U.S. having already killed and maimed a million Muslims in Iraq and the Middle east?

        Which is the worse moral dilemma, Turner? The potential killings of a boogyman, or the actual killings of our government?

        And it is worthless to espouse what we think Obama should do, as he has proven himself over and over to not do what he says he’s going to do, much less doing the bidding of his electorate.

        And I’m not accusing you personally of being dumbed-down, though you may feel reason to take offense. But on the whole, wedge politics have driven the electorate and politicians away from addressing the truly great problems of our time, no?

        You may lambast Liz for Daine’s potential policy failures, but was it not Obama who put Social Security on the table as a trading chip for the “grand bargain?”

        Was it not Max Baucus who single-handedly excised single-payer out of the health care discussion? Who stood at Bush’s side smiling as the the president signed bills that would further the wealth inequality in our country?

        Did not Bill Clinton bring us NAFTA, accelerating the export of jobs?

        Did not Obama’s Fed Chairman Bernanke pursue a policy of quantitative easing (QE) that is hugely responsible for the current stagnation of our economy for all but the wealthy? QE is one of the main driving forces behind wealth inequality and the consolidation of power of the oligarchy. The Fed bought up 4.5 trillion dollars of bad debt, effectively putting all that money in the hands of oligarchs to do with as they please. This is an amount equal to 1/4 of the national debt and the GDP. Just think what that kind of money could have accomplished if used for education, health care and social services.

        Is it not the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein, that prevents any real oversight of our intelligentsia?

        Did not Jon Tester’s legislation begin the disassembly of the Endangered Species Act with his wolf delisting rider, and the disassembly of the Wilderness Act with his Logging Bill? His unwillingness to support the DREAM Act? Or his support for Wall Street over main street in financial reform?

        Is it not Obama’s Attorney General who refuses to hold accountable those responsible for the war crimes and treasonous acts of the Bush Admin’s torturers? His Secretary of State that beats the war drum every time he opens his mouth? His CIA/NED that is a defacto 5th column force destabilizing dozens of countries around the world, leading to billions of people referring to us as the Empire of Chaos? HIs Education Secretary presiding over the unprecedented explosion in student debt?

        I could go on, but I see no use in supporting democrats in national elections unless they talk and act other than in manners I’ve outlined above. Even if they support gay marriage, marijuana decriminalization, or raising the minimum wage a few bucks.

        If democrats want to lead this country in a different direction, then they need to describe that in detail to the public. I haven’t seen it, nor have I heard it. Otherwise, it’s business as usual. Meh.

        • Turner

          I’ve got other stuff to do now, JC, but I’ll get back to this more specifically later.

          I never supported Baucus. His weakening of Obamacare was inexcusable. And Tester heard from me on his vote against the Dream Act and his statements about not letting “terrorists” in our state — statements which help kill efforts to close Gitmo.

          And I don’t know what to say about the millions killed in Iraq and elsewhere during our ill-considered response to 9/11. I’m just tired of hearing that everything that happened before Obama became president is his fault today.

          • JC

            The truth is, that it is not all about Obama (or democrats or republicans for that matter). He is a figurehead for powerful forces beyond the reach, control and knowledge of the electorate.

            If politicians are going to rise above this, then they need to take radical action (constitutional reforms on campaign finance, corporate personhood, the Fed, and abuses of executive authority).

            I don’t see it coming from our current crop of electeds. And tepid incrementalism (aka “progressivism”) is not sufficient to stem the backsliding our republic is declining from, and that will eventually erode its core and destroy it.

  4. I think that without party politics, those Americans who even bother to think about politics have no bearings, no way to approach the subject. So when radicals like myself step in and say the parties are the same, it flies against common sense. Without party politics, there is no politics. I see the enthusiasm, the genuine pain and joy when their candidates lose and win. It is real. They are completely invested.

    And most interesting, they are invested in the people. Never more than that. That is what confounds me. Obama has shown himself time and again to be a mere NeoCon, and yet partisans are invested in him and fail to look beyond him and into issues. John Walsh was as big a nothing as nothing can be, but people talk about him like he had a real persona and intellect instead of being a statue.

    Him. It is about him. There is nothing larger than the person who holds office.

    It takes a clever person to reach people in this situation. Normally, they simply sign out and cannot be reached because they are out of touch. Conner and Pogie and the like do not come here anymore, as you are now out of bounds. Turner has taken time here to argue. That’s a good sign. But still, how to reach anyone? I ain’t that clever person.

    • Turner

      Let me try to understand you. You want to reach people with the message that party politics are futile?

      I’ve knocked on a lot of doors and the message I get over and over is not that party politics are futile but that people are so stressed or preoccupied in their daily lives that they can’t even think about “politics.” Either that or they’re busy watching a football game on TV and don’t care who wins an election.

      So, in a sense, you’ve already won. Your message has already been absorbed by a lot of folks although they hardly ever put it in the words you use.

      I continue to believe that politics lead to policies that affect not only me but my children and grandchildren.

      I’m watching the Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts now. If you want recent historical examples of why who wins elections matters, check out this series.

      • You make good points. I too have gone door-to-door for candidates and more importantly, issues. I carried petitions for minimum wage increase and clean water, working it as part of my own campaign for legislature even as the Democrats told me to steer clear of those issues. Both ballot issues were heavily favored in the polls, and both were easily destroyed by slick TV ad campaigns.

        I don’t link, but wrote about this very issue today on my own blog. So what I say here is quoting someone who addresses this exact point, but in terms of why people are so very knowledgeable about sports, for example, and clueless about politics. Here goes:

        And I think that this concentration on such topics as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that’s far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that’s in fact what they do. “

        In other words, and this is why my message is so tough to swallow, I am saying that party politics is like sports, a diversion without consequence. Amanda Curtis might be for or against our latest war. It does not matter, She cannot affect it, and voting for her on that issues is futile as well.

        That’s my tough message – partisan politics is like sports, living in a fantasy world. Pretending the fantasy is reality is not the answer. The positive choice: Organize on issues, join a movement that is attempting to build ground level support for such things as peace, conservation, human rights and dignity. The two parties do not do this, It has to be done without their help.

        • I should add, meant to, that the organizing issues are your business, not mine. I suggested the ones that matter to me.

          • Turner

            I try to do both things: working for political candidates and working independently of candidates on issues. For example, I’ve been working hard on a non-discrimination ordinance in Dillon (it failed in its first vote) while supporting with somewhat less energy Dems.

            I’ve worked on the Dave Strohmeier campaign in Missoula not merely because he’s a Democrat but because he’s one of the few people running willing to stand up to oil and coal interests. He actually cares about the environment.

            So it doesn’t have to be either/or.

            • Eric

              Turner I’m surprised that you’re willing to go out of town, to promote an ordinance that no city in Montana is legally able to pass and enforce. Some good did come out of the debate though in Billings because people got to see the true colors of the militant gays when the council turned them down, and they started calling names with their bullhorns. They say they want to promote tolerance, and diverse opinions, right up until they don’t get their way.

              • Turner

                You’re an idiot.

              • Steve W

                Eric, we as a people have protected eagles and fish, and we can protect people too, even if you would rather do violence against them yourself or vicariously.

                Hate doesn’t work. It will eat you up.

          • Of course life never gives us “either/or”, but always degrees of either/or. In matters of public policy, the closer to home the issue, the more likely that there can be some effective organizing to affect policy. But far-away topics like our current set of wars, we have no voice, and it is pointless to pretend we do.

            Strohmeier might be a good man, probably is, but would be more effective if there was ground-level organizing that had his back. In the legislature he is just one man. Because of money in politics, it is impossible to get a majority of Strohmeier’s in office at once. The Timber Lobby can make or break a politician, but they have a whole lot more trouble with a ground level organization.

  5. steve kelly

    Knocking on doors triggers “flight,” and causes guilt and shame more often than not. Frighfully busy; busy “keeping up with the Jones’s.”

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