American Policy on Ukraine Crisis is Wrongheaded

March 17, 2014

A recent Post/ABC poll found that 56 percent of Americans would be in favor of the United States and its allies imposing sanctions on Russia for its role so far in the crisis in Ukraine.  This is not surprising given the fact that most Americans get their news one sound bite at a time delivered by a media that generally is complicit in spouting whatever the Washington, D.C. line is on a story.  And it doesn’t help that President Obama ignores the sins of his own government while lying that Russia’s decision to send troops into Crimea is a “violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity…and breach of international law.

Then, there is the obligatory bluster of America’s biggest warmonger – John McCain.  Not only does he favor sanctions against Russia, but he also wants Congress to send American tax dollars to Kiev and U.S. missiles to the Czech Republic to show those evil Ruskies that we mean business.  And just a few days ago he ranted that the Obama Administration is derelict in its duty because it won’t supply the new regime in Kiev with arms, ammunition, and intelligence support for Ukraine’s military.

What makes the view of 56 percent of Americans, John McCain and President Obama ridiculous is that the crisis in Ukraine has American fingerprints all over it.  A leaked phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt indicates American government involvement with protests and the eventual coup in Kiev.

And both Nuland and Pyatt were photographed in Kiev in December handing out baked goods and mingling with anti-government protestors.  For those that say this proves nothing, since when is it appropriate for a sitting ambassador to directly encourage protests against the government he is supposedly engaged in diplomatic relations with?  Can we now understand why ambassadors like Chris Stevens get killed?

The point is, whether the U.S. government supported the coup which overthrew the popularly elected president in Ukraine directly or indirectly is immaterial.  Washington’s support for the coup is primarily responsible for the current tensions between Russia and the U.S.  We rightly wouldn’t like it if Russia facilitated the overthrow of the government in Mexico and supported a new regime hostile to America in that country.  Why do Americans have a hard time feeling empathy towards others?

But, the American response to Ukraine is also wrongheaded because the new Washington supported regime in Kiev is filled with ultra-rightist Svoboda party members and other neo-Nazis.  These are hardly the kinds of folks that share our values of human rights and liberty.  But, in the view of Washington, damn the Ukrainian people as long as their leaders are supportive of the West, not Russia.  Thus, once again, our government is playing politics with the wellbeing of people in another country.  This can only lead to disaster, not a good outcome.

Perhaps the biggest idiocy of the American position on the crisis in Ukraine is the belief that we could enact sanctions against Russia for her part in the crisis with no consequences for ourselves and our trading partners.

First of all, Russia is a major trading partner with all of Europe.  Sanctions against her would also harm her trading partners.

China would support Russia and the two of them could stop using U.S. dollars for international purchases.  Both could also completely stop buying U.S. debt.  The consequences for our economy would be devastating and quite possibly be the final nail in the coffin for the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  Washington would be faced with two choices:  continue to spend at current levels and face hyperinflation at home or live within its means by drastically cutting federal spending and face social unrest from Americans who have become accustomed to federal largess.

The above scenario is inevitable in any event, but Washington would expedite the event by imposing sanctions on Russia now.

At the end of the day, the U.S. should leave Ukraine alone.  She has already caused enormous harm to the Ukrainian people.  And pushing the envelope by imposing sanctions on Russia could wreak economic devastation on her economy.  That is why the American policy toward Ukraine is wrongheaded.


Is the Chemical Attack in Syria a False Flag Perpetrated by Washington?

August 30, 2013

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.  It was that false flag event that persuaded Congress to give President Johnson a blank check to retaliate against the supposedly unprovoked attack by North Vietnam on an American warship patrolling international waters off the coast of Indochina.  The fraudulent claim by Johnson resulted in the Vietnam War fiasco which claimed the lives of over 50,000 young Americans and produced millions of Vietnamese casualties.

Now Barack Obama is potentially up to his own false flag event in Syria.  In an effort to justify U.S. military intervention in the Syrian conflict, the Obama Administration has accused Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad of perpetrating the chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus last week.  Speaking forcefully, earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.”  The Secretary chose his words carefully in an effort to rally a war-weary U.S. citizenry for another military adventure on the other side of the world.

Was al-Assad responsible for the attack?  The Administration has tried and convicted him before a team of U.N. inspectors has had a chance to finish its investigation.  It claims he alone possesses the means to carry out such an atrocity in Syria.  At least 4 U.S. warships are sitting off the coast of Syria waiting for Obama to give the order to attack Syrian military and government targets.  It seems likely that a U.S. attack on al-Assad forces is imminent.

But there are at least two other possibilities of who may be responsible for the chemical attack last week.  In May, members of the Al-Nusra front, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group which many analysts believe to be “the most aggressive and successful arm” of the Syrian resistance, were apprehended by Turkish security forces in Turkey while in possession of 2 kilograms of sarin gas.  Thus al-Assad does not have a monopoly on chemical agents in Syria as the U.S. asserts and it is possible that Al-Nusra perpetrated the chemical attack last week to provoke the U.S. into striking the Syrian regime in an effort to help its own cause.

But there may be an even scarier possibility of who was responsible for the chemical attack last week on the outskirts of Damascus – the Obama Administration.  Emails from the British-based contractor Britam Defence released in January by a Malaysian hacker showed a plan “approved by Washington” that would fund Syrian rebels to carry out chemical attacks in Syria which the U.S. could use as a pretense for military action against al-Assad.

Is it hard to believe that an American administration could be guilty of such an atrocity?  Not really if one looks at history objectively.  American history is littered with examples of our government producing coups, assassinations, lies about weapons of mass destruction, and other events that simply didn’t happen in order to accomplish its goals.

Let’s not forget that the current administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms facilitated the sale of approximately 1400 illegal weapons to Mexican drug cartels in Operation Fast and Furious.  Ultimately the program resulted in the death of a U.S. border agent, Brian Terry, and no doubt scores of others caught up in Mexico’s failed war on drugs.

It is possible that Washington could stoop to any depth to carry out its aims.  Americans who believe that only other country’s governments are capable of heinous acts are simply naïve.

Of course, it is possible that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his people.  But, knowing that it would provoke U.S. military intervention in Syria, it just doesn’t make any sense for him to do it.  On the other hand, just like in 1964 when President Johnson was getting intense pressure from the military-industrial complex to escalate the war in Vietnam, Obama is receiving the same kind of pressure with regards to Syria today.  Unfortunately, like Johnson, he doesn’t seem to have the courage to resist it either.

Benghazi Investigation Entirely Misses the Big Picture

May 24, 2013

By now, unless you have been living under a rock you are aware of the scandals plaguing the Obama Administration – the Justice Department illegally acquiring the phone records of the Associated Press, the Internal Revenue Service illegally targeting the President’s opponents for tighter scrutiny, and Benghazi.  Now, in all fairness to Obama, to date, no improprieties have been proven in any of the above cases.  But, while the scandals involving AP phone records and IRS treatment of the President’s opponents should be investigated, the Benghazi investigation entirely misses the big picture on that issue.

With regards to Benghazi, currently congressional Republicans are focusing their investigation on whether the Obama Administration botched security at our consulate in that city thereby causing the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and 3 other Americans and whether it lied about it in an effort to cover it up.

I say, who cares?  The bigger issue and one that no one seems to be asking is, should we have been meddling in the internal affairs of Libya in the first place?

When Obama sidestepped Congress and unilaterally chose to intervene in the Libyan Civil War, the mission was supposed to be a United Nations sanctioned “no-fly zone” over Libya so Gadhafi could not use his air force to slaughter Libyans on the ground.  However, in very short order, the mission morphed into an all-out air invasion complete with coordinated strategy between NATO forces and anti-Gadhafi fighters and bombings of Gadhafi’s fighters on the ground.  The point man chosen by Obama to serve as a conduit between anti-Gadhafi fighters and the U.S. military was Ambassador Stevens.

What was lacking is the same thing that has failed to happen with all U.S. military engagements since World War II.  Congress did not debate whether American military forces should be employed and it did not vote on whether to grant a declaration of war.  Why is this important?  Because the Founders of the United States knew that the decision making power to send Americans into harm’s way and the consequences of that action for the country was too important to give solely to one person – the president.

Libya was not a national security issue for the United States.  We were allegedly there on a humanitarian mission to help Libyans.  The question is, is that a justified use of our military?  Should its role be to police the world?  Congressional debate could have addressed these questions, prevented our intervention in Libya, and possibly changed U.S. foreign policy in the future for the better.

Additionally, our intervention in Libya has made that country “a center of jihadist terror”.  Consequently, weapons, terrorism, and chaos are emanating from there to the rest of North Africa and the Sahel regions.  Gadhafi may have been a bad guy to his people, but our intervention in his country is having adverse effects on all the people of the region.  With 535 members in Congress, someone would have questioned, during debate in that body, what would happen as a consequence of our intervention?  Perhaps the consideration of that inquiry would have prevented our ill-fated intervention and Ambassador Stevens would still be alive today.

In the final analysis, what needs to be investigated is whether we should have been in Libya in the first place?  This investigation then should lead to a reconsideration of our current foreign policy.  Given that our current foreign policy has our military forces engaged in at least 74 other conflicts around the globe this seems more important than finding out whether the Obama Administration botched security at our consulate in Benghazi causing the death of an American ambassador and 3 other Americans and whether it lied about the matter in an effort to cover it up.  It’s time Congress looks at the big picture.

When Will Americans Learn that Blowback is Real?

April 29, 2013

In 1953 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency at the urging of the British M16 overthrew democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.  In a declassified report completed in 1954 on the 1953 operation “blowback” for the first time entered the CIA’s lexicon.

At the time, analysts were concerned that the U.S. government’s actions in Iran would yield unintended consequences.  It took a long time, but those concerns were finally realized in 1979 when, after 25 years of brutality and corruption from the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution engulfed Iran and Iranian students stormed our embassy and took our people hostage for 444 days.

Then in 2004 a Pentagon Report commissioned by the Bush/Cheney Administration, labeled the President’s approach to the so-called “War on Terror” counter-productive.  It indicated that contrary to the President’s rhetoric, Muslim terrorists don’t attack us because they hate our freedom; they attack us because they loathe our foreign policy.  The report went on to suggest that continuing the policy of occupying Muslim countries will have the effect of radicalizing Muslims and instead of preventing future terrorist attacks will engender them.

Through the patriotic and nationalistic bluster of our politicians and the media the Pentagon report was mostly forgotten.  It took the presidential campaign of Ron Paul in 2008 to bring the issue of blowback back to the forefront.  In a Republican presidential candidates’ debate, Congressman Paul was asked about 9-11.  He talked about how U.S. foreign policy was a “major contributing factor”.  In particular he cited our bombing of Iraq for 10 years through the 1990s.  Then he stated:

“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were –if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

And that is the deep question that all Americans must ask themselves:  what would we think and do if other countries were doing the same things to us?  What would we do if another country occupied our territory, supported through financial and military aid a tyrannical government in the United States, or used drones to kill their enemies on U.S. soil consequently killing innocent American citizens in the process?  We wouldn’t tolerate it in the least bit, so why do we think it is justified to do it to others and label those that take umbrage with our actions terrorists?

And so once again, Americans have experienced a “terrorist” attack on our soil.  This time it was perpetrated in Boston by two ethnically Chechen Muslims.  Once again, we are supposed to believe it was done because they hate our freedoms and prosperity.  We are supposed to believe this even though one of the suspects was a naturalized American citizen who enjoyed the freedoms and prosperity he allegedly was accused of hating.  We are supposed to believe this even though the seriously injured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lying in his hospital bed before he was Mirandized admitted that he and his brother were motivated to carry out the Marathon Bombings by American aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and the thousands of Muslims who had been killed by American forces.

We can continue to delude ourselves that we can do whatever we want to whomever we want and there won’t be consequences.  Or we can learn that the CIA was on to something in 1954 – that blowback is real.

Article first published as When Will Americans Learn that Blowback is Real? on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

Something Else to Think about with the Killings in Connecticut

December 19, 2012

Senseless killings always sting the worst.  Last week, when news had spread that deranged gunman Adam Lanza opened fire at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school killing 20 children, horror, shock and then outrage were experienced by untold numbers of Americans.  Those of us in education especially reflected upon how such a vicious act could be perpetrated on the most innocent of innocence?

Of course, within hours of the carnage in Newtown, profiteering politicians were making statements and gearing up to impose new attacks on Second Amendment rights.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Meet the Press proclaimed that President Obama should make gun control his number one priority for 2013.  Forget about the economy which is slowly and silently slipping into another huge economic downturn.  Then there was California Senator Dianne Feinstein who has promised that she will introduce legislation banning assault weapons on the very first day the Senate is back in session.  Never mind that studies on the same ban in effect between 1994 and 2004 have been inconclusive on whether it reduced violent crime during that time period.

But this piece is not about engaging in the never ending debate over gun rights in our country.  It is about the hypocrisy of Americans who mourn the young victims in Connecticut while totally disregarding the child victims of our government’s war machine overseas.

In the last seven years, first the Bush and then the Obama Administration, has conducted a lethal undeclared drone war over the skies of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border.  Its purpose is to seek and destroy al Qaeda targets in the now open ended War on Terror.  However, those same American drones have killed at least 168 children in the raids including 69 in a single attack in Madrassah in 2006.   Where is the horror, shock, and outrage over these deaths?

Beyond the innocent children killed, the drone war has disrupted the family lives of many other kids in Pakistan.  Strikes that have killed one or both parents have left many kids orphaned and unable to provide for themselves.  Many parents have stopped sending their children to school for fear they will end up at the wrong place at the wrong time and because there are reports that American drone strikes have damaged or destroyed local schools.  Then there are the mental effects of the constant aerial assault.  In a poor country like Pakistan, with virtually no psychological resources families are left to themselves to cope with loss and the traumatic stress of always living in danger of being blown up.

Now, we are told that these attacks on civilian populations are necessary to kill the bad guys and keep us safe.  Have we gotten to the point in America where only “us” count? Are our children’s lives more important than others?  Americans claim the moral high ground in world affairs yet ignore the atrocities committed by our government in the name of national security.

Yes, we are dismayed and outraged that 20 innocent children were taken from their parents last week in Newtown, Connecticut.  And we have a right to be.  But, let’s not forget that on the other side of the world Pakistani parents are suffering because they too have lost children to senseless violence – senseless violence at the hands of our government.

So while we mourn the tragic end of young lives, let’s rededicate ourselves to peaceful coexistence.  We could provide no greater memorial to the 20 innocent children lost in Connecticut than to pressure the Congress and the President to stop at once the drone war over Pakistan and other countries.  We owe it to parents in those countries.  We owe it to ourselves.

Article first published as Thoughts About the Connecticut Killings on Blogcritics.

Ambassador Stevens Died in Vain

September 29, 2012

Ambassador Christopher Steven’s assassination on September 11th in Benghazi, Libya, needless to say, stirred a wide array of reactions from different sources.  There were those that instantly called for war against Libya.  Others, realizing that the deed was a planned attack by a smaller subgroup in that country were more conciliatory by eulogizing the ambassador as a man who gave his very life to make the lives of others better.  And then there was the clumsy and irresponsible reaction of the leader of the Republican party and its current presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.  For his part, the former Massachusetts’ governor reacted by blasting the Obama Administration for “sympathizing with those who waged the attack” because its U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a statement during the attacks meant to quell any potential violence.

Whatever the case, the death of Christopher Stevens was needless and wasteful.  He died in vain for two reasons: his inappropriate involvement in the affairs of a country not his own and the fact that he should not have been in Benghazi on September 11.

Last year when President Obama decided unilaterally to intervene in the Libyan Civil War, he appointed Stevens to work closely with anti-Gadhafi fighters on the ground in Benghazi and serve as a conduit between them and the U.S. military.  At first, NATO involvement was just supposed to include imposing a U.N. sanctioned “no-fly zone” over Libya so Gadhafi could not use his air force to brutalize Libyans on the ground.  However, in very short order, the mission morphed into an all-out air invasion complete with bombings of Gadhafi’s fighters on the ground.

What was lacking of course was any congressional debate whether or not American forces should be employed in Libya and ultimately a declaration of war from Congress as required in the Constitution.  After all, U.S. forces were engaged in direct combat in the Libyan Civil War for months.  Just because no Americans died in the conflict until Ambassador Stevens is beside the point.  Congressional debate could have resulted in a vote not to declare war on a country that posed no national security to us.

So, in essence, the Obama Administration used the pretext of saving lives to commit regime change.  Chris Stevens was the point man on the ground in Benghazi that helped to make that happen.  The regime was Gadhafi’s and chances are good Stevens was killed either by a pro-Gadhafi militia or a fringe militia looking to gain support from pro-Gadhafi forces.  Either way, this is what is called blowback.  Stevens paid for his deeds directly in Libya.  The bottom line is that Americans will continue to experience this phenomenon as long as their government continues to meddle in the affairs of other countries, even if the goal is noble.

The second reason Chris Stevens died in vain was because he shouldn’t have been in Libya on September 11th.  No American should have been.  Since the end of the civil war, Libya has been reduced to a Somalia like haven.  Without a legitimate centralized authority, heavily armed militias operate freely on the streets of Libya’s major cities.  Assassination attempts, shootouts, car bombings, arson, and threats against foreign diplomats are commonplace.  In August, in Tripoli, armed men tried to commandeer a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying American diplomatic personnel.  Stevens and the American diplomatic corps should have been evacuated out of Libya a long time ago.  It was and is simply too dangerous a place for them.

Shortly after Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted asking, “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?”  The answer is easy – American intervention in other countries makes all Americans unsafe.  When Washington picks sides in a conflict there are other sides that are slighted.  When America attempts to militarily or politically dominate another country folks in that country become resentful.  Clearly, these are lessons that Secretary Clinton needs to learn.  If Ambassador Stevens understood them, he would still be alive today.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

It’s Time to Cut Our Losses in Afghanistan

April 25, 2012

Last Sunday the Obama Administration and the Afghanistan government finalized an “agreement” that commits the U.S. taxpayer to financially support the Afghan people for 10 years after the withdraw of American troops from Afghan soil at the end of 2014.  According to U.S. and Afghan officials the pledge of U.S. support will be finalized when both Afghan president Karzai and President Obama sign the document.

Naturally both sides claim the agreement is in the best interests of the U.S. and Afghanistan.  The Afghani’s will get about $2.7 billion a year to build infrastructure, train their security forces, and maintain democratic institutions.  The U.S. will get a stable nation in an unstable neighborhood and a reliable friend in the fight against international terrorism.  At least that is what the party line is from both sides.  Of course one doesn’t have to look to hard at historical examples where our foreign aid actually had the opposite effect on a situation.

Now, in the first place this “agreement” is indicative of how far we have moved away from being a constitutional republic.  In essence, the Obama Administration has negotiated a treaty with Afghanistan. defines a treaty as “a formal agreement between two or more states in reference to peace, alliance, commerce, or other international relations.  Granted this is an open-ended definition, but I would lump what this agreement does with Afghanistan into the alliance category (against terrorists) and into other international relations (foreign aid).  Thus, why is the Senate not required to ratify this treaty as specified by Article 2 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution?

Beyond the illegality of the agreement, it also just doesn’t make sense for our president to commit us financially or otherwise to Afghanistan.  On Sunday, U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker told Afghanistan’s national security council that the United States was pledged to helping Afghanistan as “a unified, democratic, stable and secure state”.  The question is when has Afghanistan ever been “a unified, democratic, stable and secure state”? After over a decade of American occupation She is still crippled by sectarianism, nepotism, instability, and corruption.  The agreement looks more like a scheme to prop up the Karzai government as the only long term option American policymakers have for Afghanistan.  This tactic has been repeated over and over again with American foreign aid all over the world.  It’s never worked effectively.   Why do we think it will be different this time?  Why do we think that our money won’t end up in the Swiss bank accounts of Afghani officials or even Karzai himself?

Entering into a long-term agreement with Afghanistan will simply bog us down in another no-win situation in that country.  It will no doubt contribute to more hostilities toward America and inflame the resolve of our current enemies.  Americans will be called upon to pay even more to prop up the frail Karzai regime or worse yet sacrifice their lives for this unworthy cause.

It is past the time for the United States to cut its losses in Afghanistan.  Financially, physically, and mentally we can no longer continue to support this historical lost cause.  What we couldn’t accomplish in the last decade with boots on the ground we will not be able to achieve with money after the boots have gone home.  That is a historical fact.  It’s time to turn off the lights and close the door on this part of our nation’s history.