Benghazi: The Real Scandal

Last week, I posted an update on Facebook noting that Congressional critics and the news media are fundamentally asking the wrong questions about Benghazi. Though it is obvious that the GOP’s focus on the “scandal” represents the worst sort of partisan opportunism – there is, I believe, another story here. It’s not a story about security at the compound, or the military response to the attacks, or what may have been said on television afterward. It’s a story about our government’s complicity to (and culpability for) the attacks themselves.

There is an excellent essay out today from Bill Van Auken that unpacks the situation in great detail.

In its intervention in Libya, Washington utilized Al Qaeda-linked fighters as a proxy ground force in the war to topple the secular regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, arming and advising them and using them to follow up the massive US-NATO bombing campaign. Christopher Stevens was very much the point man in this relationship, having carefully studied the Islamist opponents of Gaddafi before the launching of the war for regime-change. He was deployed in April 2011 to Benghazi, where he coordinated the arming, funding and training of the so-called rebels, elements previously denounced by the US as terrorists and, in some cases, abducted, imprisoned and tortured by the CIA.

So all of the reported “confusion” within the State Department and the Intelligence Community in the wake of the attacks is complete and utter nonsense, as is the portrayal of their interactions as simple bureaucratic interagency bickering. They knew from the very beginning what had happened – that their own assets were involved. The purpose of all the frantic scrambling and deception after the fact was to conceal our government’s relationships with their supposed Al-Qaeda terrorist enemies. There is simply no other way it all makes sense.

The circus sideshow being orchestrated by the GOP is not merely cynical political maneuvering. It misses the point. It helps to conceal from public view the true nature of the events at Benghazi, and ensures that there will be no discussion of the more serious and important issues involved.

READ MORE: Benghazi and the deepening crisis of the Obama administration – WSWS.

The Master Class Has Always Declared The Wars

“Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.”

The Words That Sent Debs To Prison (Full Text) – 16 June 1918, Canton Ohio

We’re Still at War: A Memorial Day Reminder

While Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have lost their lives in service to the United States, we should also remember that Americans are still at war in Afghanistan. Every weekday since June of 2009, Mother Jones has posted photos of those serving in the U.S. military as a reminder that we’re still at war. On this Memorial Day, they’re sharing a slideshow with images from thus far in 2012.

My thoughts and prayers remain with those who serve.

View the full slideshow: We’re Still at War: A Memorial Day Reminder. [Mother Jones]

U.S. Preps for Air War with Iran

David Axe reports for Wired Danger Room:

“The U.S. Air Force is quietly assembling the world’s most powerful air-to-air fighting team at bases near Iran. Stealthy F-22 Raptors on their first front-line deployment have joined a potent mix of active-duty and Air National Guard F-15 Eagles, including some fitted with the latest advanced radars. The Raptor-Eagle team has been honing special tactics for clearing the air of Iranian fighters in the event of war.”

Axe notes “The warplanes are in place. The pilots are ready.”

Read the full story.

Aerial Armada Assembles Off Iran. [Danger Room | Wired]

A Simple Reminder

We are still at war.

U.S. Soldiers with 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the Afghan National Army, and members of the Community Based Security Solutions police organization, climb a steep path above Pata Tili village, on January 29th, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Bill Steele, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Blood Is On The Floor

Inside Homs, ‘The Blood Is on the Floor’. [The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS] – Reports from the besieged Syrian city of Homs paint a dire picture. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that dozens have died there in the last 24 hours, 14 of them children. The assault by Syrian government forces came after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Assad regime. “Assad is using the veto as a license to unload on the opposition,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute.

Still At War

Sgt. Jared Dillon, a member of the Personal Security Detachment for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, carries a duffel bag full of cookies, candy and personal hygiene products for the Soldiers of Forward Operating Base Pacemaker on Dececmber 25, 2011. On Christmas Day Sgt. Dillon and the other Warhorse Soldiers traveled to five different forward operating bases delivering gifts and holiday cheer.

Throughout our decade of war in Afghanistan (and, indeed, throughout the war in Iraq), there has been an eerie disconnect between the reality of the situation for those who have been called upon to serve and the experience of the vast majority of the rest of us in American society. It is like we have been sleepwalking.

I, for one, am redoubling my efforts in 2012 to be mindful of our service men and women, of their families, of the Afghan People and of all others around the world who are living with war.

It is way past time to wake up.

This World In Arms

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

War Is Over If YOU Want It

This past week saw the formal end of a war that lasted more than eight years, resulted in more than 150,000 deaths and countless more injuries, and cost trillions of dollars. I find myself struggling with ambivalence in its wake.

I am thankful, of course, that the last of our troops have finally left Iraq and that they will now be able to come home to their loved ones. I am grateful to all who served. I am hopeful that we may not see another struggle like this in my lifetime.

I am, at the same time, mindful of the continuing war in Afghanistan, frightened by the sabre rattling over Iran, and frustrated at our seeming inability to find better ways to resolve conflicts in the game of nations.

Last year, the United States spent $687,105,000,000 (and change) on the military. That is, by far, that largest military budget of any nation on Earth. It is more than 40% of all military spending on the planet. It is more than was spent by all of the other nations ranking in the top 15 of military budgets combined. It is more than six times what China (number two in military expenditures) spent. It represents nearly 5% of our Gross Domestic Product, and constitutes well over half of our federal budget.

As staggering as those figures may seem, they do not include expenses that are not part of the formal Pentagon budget. When you include related spending that is not under the Department of Defense (such as foreign arms deals, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, defense-related costs at the Department of Energy, FBI Counterterrorism efforts, interest on debt incurred for wars, etc.) the total price tag balloons to more than $1 trillion dollars annually. By some estimates, the figure is close to $1.5 trillion.

China spends less than $75 per capita on the military each year. The United States spends more than $2100 per capita each year on the DoD budget alone. Add in the other defense-related expenses listed above, and we’re crowding five grand per year in military spending for every man, woman and child in the country.

By conservative estimates, the United States now has active duty military personnel on the ground in more than 100 countries around the globe, and maintains more than 650 bases on foreign soil.

Abraham Maslow said “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” America seems cursed with the hammer of military might…

Though the current situation may seem overwhelmingly daunting to people who care about peace and justice, and we may be tempted to think of it as a remote and inaccessible problem, in truth it is not.

Today I pray for an end to the war in Afghanistan. I pray for an end to violence as an accepted solution to conflict on God’s good Earth. Especially in this Season of Christmas to come, I will pray that humankind will open our hearts to the Spirit of the Prince of Peace.

Prayers, however, will not be enough. We need to take away the hammer, or at least put some new tools in the box.

If the events of this past year have taught us anything, they have taught us that the power of ordinary people who come together, resolute in solidarity, seeking justice, is greater than any other power on Earth.

War is over, if you want it.

Do you?



Imagine Peace

The Carter Center

The Albert Einstein Institution

Pax Christi USA

The Peace Alliance

The United Nations Association of the United States

If you are involved in an organization that practices peace and advocates for it, or if you have other resources to recommend, please leave a comment or email me with a link and I’ll consider posting it here.