Tag Archives: war

Hardfire TV guests

Hardfire asks – “Ukraine: Weapons or Immigration?”

Cameron Weber – economist, historian, professor – has a show called Hardfire. Dr. Weber likes thought questions. What are thought questions? They are “what if,” “would you want it?” “what stands in the way?” “what could make it work?” questions. They are questions the Founding Fathers must have asked when someone must have said, “Man, we really need to get rid of King George!” Or maybe questions like President John Kennedy asked when he pledged to put a man on the Moon before the decade ended. For sure, not all thought questions end in successful endeavors – some do, some don’t.

The latest Hardfire show asked the following:

On May 19, 2022, the U.S. Senate approved a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package to Ukraine in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russian invasion. That is not the first package and probably not the last.

From a pragmatic cost-benefit point of view, would it not be cheaper to offer Russian conscripts tasked with fighting in Ukraine immigration into the U.S. plus $100K?

Discussions would need to include cost-benefits of immigration. And cost-benefits of distressing Vladimir Putin any more than he is distressed already.

Here is a link to the Thursday, July 7, 2022, Hardfire show – only about 30 minutes long.

Ukraine: Weapons or Immigration

Shelled buildings in Ukraine

The Hypocrisy of Russia and U.S.

Paul Lovinger, founder of the War and Law League, makes an interesting point regarding politicians’ comments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Lovinger is a frequent contributor to Antiwar.com. In his latest contribution, he lists absolute contradictions between what politicians say regarding war and what they do. Today they condemn Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. Yesterday they supported U.S. invasion of Iraq and Libya. Not the same thing? Paul Lovinger argues otherwise.

Lovinger’s aim is to avoid U.S. involvement into yet another “presidential war.”

Here is his article as it appears in Antiwar.com :

Hypocrisy Abounds in Russia and U.S.

By Paul W. Lovinger March 14, 2022

In March 2003, when the U.S. launched its second war on Iraq, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced it. The attack flouted world opinion and international law, he said. In bypassing the United Nations, America threatened “collapse of the international security system.”

Iraq posed no danger to any neighbor or any other country, Putin said. Noting signs of Iraqi cooperation with arms inspectors, he questioned the claim that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.”

President George W. Bush perpetrated that invasion. Based on his lies that Baghdad had WMD and ties to terrorists, Congress agreed (10/12/02) to let him decide whether to fight Iraq. (He was already hellbent for hostilities. His staff had drafted the resolution relinquishing Congress’s constitutional war power.)

On the following March 19, Bush’s bombs attacked a nation of one-twelfth the U.S. population, commencing a war to topple Saddam Hussein’s government. It sacrificed, some say, as many as a million lives, including those of about 4,840 Americans. Officially it ended December 15, 2011, but U.S. combat forces remain in Iraq, at least through this year.

Nineteen years after the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Iraq, Bush condemned Putin (2/24/22) for his “unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”

He urged “solidarity with the Ukrainian people as they seek freedom and the right to choose their own future. We cannot tolerate the authoritarian bullying and the danger that poses.” Let’s support “our friend and democratic ally.” (The U.S. and Ukraine, non-member of NATO, are not military allies.)

A Warrior Protests the War

Another ex-president, Barack Obama, castigated Putin. First, let’s go back eleven years.

On March 19, 2011, exactly eight years after Bush attacked Iraq, U.S. and NATO bombs began blasting Libya. No congressional vote preceded war, just President Obama’s order. Presented as a humanitarian, UN no-fly zone, it became a gory campaign to oust—and assassinate—Libya’s leader, Muammar Qadafi.

Three years and three months before Libya, Senator Obama wrote The Boston Globe: “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

We return to Obama’s statement (2/24/22), protesting the “brazen attack on the people of Ukraine, in violation of international law and basic principles of human decency.” Russia did so because “Ukrainians chose sovereignty, self-determination, and democracy.” A brutal onslaught kills thousands and displaces untold numbers.

The illegal invasion by authoritarian forces, Obama wrote, “threatens the foundation of the international order and security.” All Americans should support President Biden’s hard-hitting sanctions.

“We all face a choice between a world in which might makes right and autocrats are free to impose their will through force, or a world in which free people everywhere are free to determine their own future.”

The writer had imposed his will on Libya through force, escalated Bush’s anti-Taliban war on Afghanistan, launched an unauthorized anti-Assad war on Syria, committed countless drone assassinations, and helped Saudis bomb Yemenis. Obama was the first president to wage war throughout his presidency (2009–2017).

Donald’s remarkable shifts

In various tweets, citizen Donald Trump opposed an attack on Syria in 2013 when Obama proposed it, called Obama’s foreign policy “reckless,” and extolled peace.

Speaking in 2016 in Washington, DC, candidate Trump repeatedly promised a new policy, aiming at “peace and prosperity, not war and destruction …. Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct.” He pledged diplomacy, caution, restraint, a peacemaker’s role for America, and so on.

Once in the White House, Trump showed that war and aggression did appear to be his first impulse. He soon bombed Syria.

Not only did he continue existing warfare: he intensified it. Looser rules of engagement and disregard of international law swelled civilian tolls. In Afghanistan the devastating MOAB bomb detonated for the first time. Trump continued the policy of furnishing bombs to Saudis to drop on Yemen; additionally, U.S. soldiers shot villagers there. New conflicts transpired in Africa. Trump scrapped weapons treaties, considered giving battlefield commanders nukes, and nearly fought Iran.

Comments by Trump on the Ukrainian crisis have swung wildly from praise of Putin’s “genius” to mocking of Biden’s avoidance of military action in Ukraine for fear of nuclear war with Russia.

Trump proposed a false-flag operation in which U.S. warplanes disguised as Chinese “bomb the s* out of Russia.” That scheme, presented to GOP donors, would supposedly fool Putin into fighting China. (The more likely result would be Russia’s bombing the s**t out of us.)

Joe will ‘defend NATO countries’

Joe Biden exemplifies both hawk and dove. In 1995 he urged Bill Clinton to bomb Serbia. When Clinton did so, in 1999, Biden told him not to let up.

Senator Biden opposed Bush Senior’s 1991 Iraq war, but Bush Junior’s lies about WMD and terrorism bamboozled Biden eleven years later. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he echoed them in a prowar Senate speech. Later, as presidential candidate, he claimed he had opposed the war.

President Biden ended the Afghan war. However, he bombed Iraq and Syria and—contradicting election promises—has continued the Obama-Trump support for Saudi-led bombing of Yemen’s people.

Biden’s State-of-the-Union oration March 1 dealt first with the state of Ukraine. History taught “when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they create more chaos. [But not more aggression?] That’s why the NATO alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II.” (So why has it waged wars from Yugoslavia to Libya to Afghanistan?)

Putin’s attack was “premeditated and unprovoked.” He resisted “repeated efforts at diplomacy and tried to falsely justify his aggression.” (Biden could have been talking about the U.S. aggression against Iraq, which he tried to justify.)

U.S. forces “will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine.” (Knock on wood!) However, “we’ve mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, and ship deployments to protect NATO countries …. [Uh oh!] The United States and allies will defend every inch of territory of NATO countries with the full force of our own collective power.”

Will Congress authorize such a war? Or will Bidden dictate it himself—a la Iraq, Syria, and Yemen? And what keeps it from becoming World War III??

By Paul W. Lovinger
March 14, 2022

Syrian Kurds: Stateless and Depending on Assad

Map of the Kurdish Region
The dotted area on this map is occupied by Kurds. Readers can find this map on the website “The Kurdish Project.”

President Donald Trump last week ordered the withdrawal of U.S. ground troops from Kurdish-occupied northern Syria. Immediately after, invectives rained upon the President’s head for suddenly leaving the Kurds, who helped the U.S. defeat ISIS, to fend for themselves against attack by Turkish troops.

The media is in a frenzy of Trump accusations. Both sides of the Congressional aisle stand united in rebuke of Trump. Vocal opponent of U.S. interventionism, Representative from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard, called the Turkish incursion into northern Syria genocide against the Kurds, and stated that because of “Trump’s failure to end the regime change war in Syria the Kurds are now paying the price.”

President Trump has a way of making his decisions seem impulsive, and he is in the habit of speaking loosely. No one should be comfortable with Turkish troops bombing Kurds, or with taking such a scenario lightly. However, it might be useful to review the other side of the current media narrative.

The Background

Trump was elected in part based on his campaign pledge to end forever wars. After assuming the presidency, Trump has on numerous occasions condemned U.S. foreign incursions, unless the underlying conflict involved clear and resolvable threats to U.S. specific interests abroad. Therefore, the withdrawal of ground troops from Syria should not have surprised anyone.

In December 2018, President Trump specifically said he would withdraw ground troops from Syria. He indicated that ISIS had been sufficiently defeated, and therefore, there was no further need for U.S. fighting in Syria.

ISIS perpetrated enough destruction that it needs to be viewed as a threat to orderly democratic social structures. In 2014, the newly-formed Coalition to Defeat ISIS consisted of 79 member countries, several of which engaged in actual military action against ISIS in the Middle East.  Thus, although the U.S. acted in a leadership position, the U.S. is not the only country responsible for ensuring against the resurgence of ISIS or assuring the safety of Kurds.  Russia is a member of the Coalition and also an ally of Syria.

A rough estimate of 18 million ethnic Kurds reside in Turkey, some of whom have militantly called for a separate Kurdish state for the last 10 years. Turkey has vehemently opposed Kurdish separatism, clamping down Kurdish language and culture inside Turkey. It should not be surprising that as soon as the opportunity arose, Turkish troops started bombing Syria in an effort to establish a buffer zone inside Syria to put distance between Turkey and Syrian Kurds.

Since 2011, millions of Syrians have fled the country’s civil war. Turkey accepted 3.6 million of the fleeing refugees. With the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Turkey wants to carve a “security zone” along the border on Syrian territory in which Syrian refugees can be resettled.  This zone would be in territory occupied by Kurds.

One of President Trump’s responses to criticism over the Syrian withdrawal is that the Kurds and the Turks have been fighting over Kurdish autonomy for a long time, so a new fight upon U.S. troop withdrawal would be nothing new. Indeed, the conflict can be said to date back to the end of World War I.

At the end of WWI, the victorious Allies partitioned the defeated Ottoman Empire into newly-created countries under the control of Britain, France and Italy. Several treaties ensued, but for the purpose of this discussion the last two treaties are the most significant. The Treaty of Sevres (August 1920) included the regions of Anatolia and Kurdistan, and no specific Turkish country. Soon after the signing, prominent Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk, began a fierce battle for Turkish independence. The new Treaty of Lausanne (July 1923) was ratified, Anatolia became independent Turkey, and the Kurds were left without their autonomous region.

Kurds Today

The region today sometimes unofficially referred to as Kurdistan is an area spanning parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey – the general region of Kurdistan under the Treaty of Sevres. Kurds are considered the largest stateless ethnic group in the world. They have some level of autonomy in Iraq, but little or none elsewhere.

Since 2011, the U.S. has been critical of Syria’s President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, accusing him of tyranny and use of chemical weapons. It is understandable that the U.S. military and officials hate to see Kurds in alliance with him, but alliance with Assad is what Kurds had to do, and did, in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. Upon some thought, one should realize that Assad is protecting his own country by agreeing to fight the Turkish incursion.

Statelessness is painful, as Jews, Palestinians, Kurds, and so many other ethnic or religious groups now or formerly without a country can attest. Kurds are a capable people, and of course deserve a country of their own. The question is where. Meanwhile Kurds forcefully defend the territory they inhabit, anticipating that some day they will be able to establish meaningful autonomy for themselves.

The Rough Beast at Your Ballot Box

W.B. Yeats wrote his often-quoted poem The Second Coming in 1919, in the wake of the devastation of WWI and that war’s chaotic aftermath that foretold the inevitability of WWII.

The poem is short, free verse with iambic pentameter, and somewhat to the point – “somewhat,” since, like all good art, The Second Coming does not spell out, but only hints. Here is the poem,

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Battle of SommeClick here for a link to a beautiful audio version.

The images on the audio/visual Youtube post are from the World War II Battle of Somme — 141 days July 1 to November 18, 1916, of trench warfare on the Western Front, with a million men wounded or killed by its end.  The war did not end until 1918.

Why is the Just Vote No Blog Recommending Yeats Poem?

So, why would the Just Vote No Blog recommend The Second Coming? The poem makes for beautiful reading or listening, and it raises a favorite question of the Just Vote No Blog: are the forces of destruction and chaos inevitable reality or the result of bad ideas?

The literati in their analysis of The Second Coming often wax eloquent about Yeats’ reference to “the widening gyre” as testimony of his view of humanity and history as cyclical in the Biblical or mystic sense – birth, death and rebirth. Indeed the history of nations bears out such trajectory, with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire standing as prime example.

But here is what the Just Vote No Blog prefers to offer as testimony instead:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

When a politician says that there ought to be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, he or she makes sure passion and intensity accompanies the message, which “the worst” immediately take up with equal verve and soon turn the message into reality. While “the best” often remain cynically aloof, lacking in conviction.

By the way, defining the difference between “the worst” and “the best” is up to you.  Maybe, though, you could look at results, or promises vs. reality.

The Rough Beast

Yeats ends The Second Coming with possibly the most utilized line in modern western literature:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Biblical second comer is no sloucher,

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Matthew 24:27 

The vision Yates creates is of someone moving patiently but relentlessly towards a goal. What if we chose to take that beast as the embodiment of bad ideas, the type of bad ideas we vote for at the polls, or bad ideas proselytized by politicians? What if we just say no? Would we stop the beast?

Obviously, a website titled the Just Vote No Blog would have to say “yes.”