Archive for war

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.

It’s Finally Over, Sort Of

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by rottenart

There’s quite a bit  happening around the world these days making it difficult to focus on any one thing. The historic flooding in Pakistan, displacing nearly 20 million people, has the government there struggling, though help is on the way. Israel and Palestine have agreed to peace talks, again, in DC (though Israel continues to thumb its nose at common decency in the run-up). Franklin Graham is having a field day trashing his father’s good name and making quite the ass of himself over the Park51 nonsense and President Obama’s religion. It’s all a bit much. In fact, those are just the headlines I’ve been cursorily following; there’s plenty more just waiting in the wings and on the RSS feed. What’s puzzling, though, is that the headline that you would think might just cheer our particular country up a little is buried waaay down the list of top stories: Operation Iraqi Freedom is done.

Yes, you read it correctly. As per the timetable favored by then-candidate Obama and endorsed all along the campaign trail, the last combat brigades  are leaving. Of course, some 50,000 troops remain, mostly in a training and advisory capacity. For 7 bloody years, our troops, along with those of other nations and the thousands of Iraqi civilians caught in the middle, have fought and died in a mis-guided war of choice. If Obama doesn’t accomplish anything else in his entire presidency, this should be enough to earn him plaudits from the historians. Come to think of it, he’ll get some from me too. I, along with countless others, have argued since the beginning that Iraq was not only an expensive, deadly quagmire but was also a dangerous distraction from the central front of the War on Terror (nevermind the ridiculous terminology). We can only imagine how things might look today if we had committed the same resources to Afghanistan in 2003 that we did in toppling Saddam. The icing on the cake is that the entire criminal enterprise known as the Bush administration didn’t even have the balls to call it as such. They lied their asses off so they could have their war. Halliburton’s stockholders got rich and the rest of the country got screwed.

So, my hats off to you Obama. regardless of what noted has-been John Mccain says, George W. Bush doesn’t deserve one iota of credit for this withdrawal. He and his cronies deceived and disenfranchised the majority of Americans in their quest for… whatever the hell they thought was great about invading and occupying a sovereign nation on a national credit card. You want to find some deficit savings? Look no further than the complete waste of blood and treasure that was the Iraq War. Just as Obama should be praised generations from now for doing as he said, Bush should likewise be vilified for starting the whole mess in the first place.

For now, I merely hope that the population Iraq, including some acquaintances of mine, can start to forgive us for what our leaders do in our name. Similarly, I hope all the families of the dead Americans can break free of the notion that their sons and daughters’ sacrifice was somehow justified. Back in 2003, amidst the sabre-rattling and the flurry of half-truths, many of us thought no one would seriously be so bold and so stupid as to repeat the mistakes that trapped us in Vietnam. Let us hope that in 2033 we aren’t stupid enough to do it all over again.

Actually, let’s hope we’re never that stupid ever again.

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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Art That Matters: Ben Perrone

Posted in Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2010 by rottenart
War Ongoing Project

photos by Rose Mattrey for Artvoice

Not long after I set up my last show, my good friend and contact at Artspace, Joanna, e-mailed me with an interesting proposition: did I want to cross promote the show with another artist’s opening at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center? Of course, the answer was yes. But when I read the actual proposal I was even more enthused about the association. Ben Perrone has been making art in Western NY for a long time and his piece at the Burchfield is  the culmination of a career filled with aesthetic activism and lots of stylistic exploration and innovation.

The installation itself is a brooding monument to the destruction of war and is not to be missed (hurry! It runs through May 30th). It recalls both the numbing repetition of graves at Arlington National Cemetery as well as the formal elegance of the holocaust memorial in Berlin with its imposing grid structure. Juxtaposing the wall of bags is a pile of more, discarded bags, wheelchairs, and video and sound work, forming an enveloping tomb around the viewer. A list of the casualties to date cascades over the scene, visually shattering as they fall across the detritus, mimicking the senseless and chaotic destruction of lives in wartime. You can read a fine article about it and him here and see him talk about it here.

Luckily, some of his figurative work dealing with the conflict in Kosovo  is also on view at Buffalo Big Print and is also a must see, running until June 1st. It’s a great opportunity to see the breadth of work that Perrone makes, with the charged, sparse drawings offering a look at a different medium with the same message.

As if offering to include me in the project’s promotion and attending my opening wasn’t enough, Ben was also kind enough to answer some questions from me about his work, the installation and the state of activist art today. The interview is after the jump…

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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.

John Bolton Will Be the Last American Standing Even if He Has to Kill All of You.

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2010 by rottenart

Don’t hold anything back, John. Tell us how you really feel. Why don’t we just nuke the shit out of everyone now? Those pesky “treaties” and “international laws” aren’t as super awesome as our American US Constitution™ and anyway foreigners probably wrote them. Wouldn’t it be wild to see Jack D. Ripper himself run for Leader of the Free World? Every citizen would be issued a Patriot Missile complete with guidance training for defense against Mexicans, the UN, and/or Commies. Iraq and Afghanistan? A smooth glassy spot where stuff used to happen. Would you believe this wacko was our ambassador to the world in some horrible past?

What’s more frightening is that people continue to take him seriously. His moustache alone should preclude him from that.

(via Spencer Ackerman)