Archive for iraq

It’s Tough to Argue with Results

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by rottenart

For the past 20 years, one of the most effective attacks Republicans have used against Democrats is the ‘Soft on Defense’ barb. In actuality, one could make the case that Democrats have far more experience (and success) with military conflict but since when has reality had anything to do with politics? It’s been a pretty devastating tactic and one which Democrats have always had a problem defending against, even when it should have been easy.

That era, however, might be coming to an end.

Three distinguished former military members, former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, and retired Major General Paul Eaton, tore into the GOP field and strongly defended President Obama’s foreign policy after Tuesday’s debate. The attacks are pretty brutal, though entirely factual:

“While President Obama has kept his promises across the globe, the leading Republicans have been all over the map, offering sound-bite critiques and shifting positions with every change in the headlines as they seek partisan advantage,” Clark said.

“If you took any six of those candidates, you might find sixteen positions on any issue,” said Danzig. “If you added Governor Romney you’d probably find forty six positions.”


Of course, it has the added benefit of being true. Even leaving aside the end of the Iraq war, the steady dismantling of Al Qaeda, the overthrow of Qaddafi and the unwinding of the war in Afghanistan, Obama still has an ace in the hole that the right will have a hard time attacking: Osama Bin Laden. After ten years, it was this administration that killed him. That alone should be enough to neutralize the ‘Soft on Defense’ sop.

If the Republicans want to attack Obama’s foreign policy credentials, I’m sure it’s a debate the administration would heartily welcome.


It Stands to Reason We’d Get the Bill Wrong Too

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2011 by rottenart

It’s much, much worse than we thought. Keep in mind, the $4 Trillion long-term number is also leaving out such important metrics such as:

  • Future payments for interest on the debt from 2011 forward.
  • Unfunded costs that American[s] paid to care for their war wounded family member[s] (one in five of the cases of serious wounding has this effect).
  • The costs of the CIA Predator and Reaper drone surveillance and strike program in Afghanistan. This “black” budget item, which included the costs of the drones, the operators, fuel, and weapons, is not known publicly.
  • The promised money, yet to be paid, for reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq.

…along with some other important items. Here’s the entire report [PDF] written by Neta C. Crawford and Catherine Lutz. It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs all around. Given the low-ball estimates when we began this great colonial adventure compared to what this report outines, there’s every reason to believe that the numbers only get bleaker from here.

The Docs of War

Posted in Philosophy, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by rottenart

The political world is buzzing today about thousands of classified documents released to the press by Wikileaks, the secretive whistle-blower website, that give a harrowing and detailed look at the war in Afghanistan. It’s a long, hard slog, reading through the dump, which consist of memos, chat transcripts, e-mails, and other communications from 2004 to 2009. The White House has come out swinging in its denouncement of the leaks while Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, defends his decision to release them. Among the sea of documents are tales of special forces “assassination squads” meant to hunt Al Quaeda leaders, civilian deaths at the hands of Reaper Drones, riveting accounts of out-manned NATO forces facing Taliban fighters, revelations that Taliban forces have acquired surface-to-air missiles, and the barely surprising news that Pakistan’s intelligence service has been coordinating with the Taliban for some time. All in all, it’s a detailed, tedious look at how the war in Afghanistan has been prosecuted (notably, it must be said, under the Bush administration). However, the most shocking part of the release is exactly how not shocking it is.

Now, when I say not shocking, I mean it in the sense that the communications show exactly what many people know: war is ugly, brutal, criminal, and generally a horrible business. In this sense, the documents merely put the inner workings on display. Assange pointed out that, despite the White House criticism, the newest material is seven months old which absolves it from affecting current operations and personnel. Therefore, the impact they will have is mostly lifting a curtain on the day-to-day operations of war. As I said, for most people, the reaction is likely, “yes, and?” As to why the leak is important culturally and historically, well, that’s a different matter.

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About That Wikileaks Video

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by rottenart

I missed commenting on this at the time it was released but I have been thinking about it a lot. Nearly everyone I talked to who watched it expressed shock at its brutality. While I can’t argue that it is not horrific, I really don’t know what we expected to be happening in Baghdad. In the midst of a pointless, prolonged war of occupation on two fronts, you send the same young people into battle over and over, train them to shoot at things, and that is what they will do. Wikileaks was right in exposing the story but I think letting this one incident shock you is a little naive. If you think the scenes of testosterone-and-anxiety-fueled mayhem and destruction in that video are disgusting then we should end it, period or do everything we can to try. The situation we’re in is untenable and this is surely the tip of the iceberg. It still pains me to think that America let this happen to herself.

These soldiers shouldn’t be castigated for their obvious passion for shooting people. That is only a symptom. The disease is an unlawful war that is going to tarnish our history (again) for many years to come. I wish there were some way to find every person who appeared in rallies in 2003, screaming for war, and ask them how they feel about it now. Actually, I’d start with Bill Kristol, but I already know what his response would be: blow up Iran. I have always maintained that Afghanistan and Pakistan were the legitimate war made more onerous by being ignored in favor of Iraq. If we must fight wars, then we should have a goddamn good reason. When you don’t, rattled young kids spray groups of people with gunfire from a helicopter all the time.

Art That Matters, Pt. 1

Posted in Art, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by rottenart

“The Combat Paper Project is a collaboration initiated by Drew Matott and Drew Cameron, involving war veterans, activists and artists.”

That humble and straightforward description barely scratches the surface of the incredible project these two have planted.  I had the pleasure of meeting Drew Matott today, as he’s in town for a short stint at WNYBAC and he gave a talk at UB. Seeing his presentation after hearing about the work and spending some time with him at dinner, I was struck by the ease with which he approaches everything he does. And what he and the other Drew do is help the world with art. For such a laid back guy, that’s pretty heavy.

In a nutshell, they get groups of vets together to turn their old uniforms into paper and then journals. Literally. In workshops that are part community activism, part art therapy, they cut these uinforms into tiny bits and make paper with the pulp. This paper is then used to do prints, make journals, and serve as visual and emotional catharsis for all sorts of men and women who have seen combat. The different permutations of this basic idea and the scope of what they have accomplished with it is too vast for any type of listing here. I encourage you all to check out their site and see just what it is they do. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen activist art employed so effectively.

I’m going to try to swing some opportunities their way, though they hardly need my help. This is a bona fide phenomenon they have created and it would just be nice to be a small part of it. If you know any DAVs who might be into it, please pass it on. Here’s hoping more visual thinkers engage our era in such an intriguing way. I think we’ve navel gazed long enough.