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.

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What Obama Should Have Said

May 23, 2011

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last week was nothing really new.  He chastised the usual culprits for suppressing human rights in their countries and assured us all that the United States government would remain vigilant in its pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way when it comes to supporting the oppressed in the Middle East.  Oh, he did shock Israel and her proponents by mandating that any peace talks between her and the Palestinians must begin with an acceptance by both sides of the borders as they existed in 1967.  This proposition of course has Israel losing territory before it has even started to negotiate.  One question is will this really result in successful peace talks this time around?

Of course the bigger question for Americans is, where does Obama get the authority to issue any mandates with respect to Middle East peace negotiations?  The simple answer is he has no authority in that area.  He is the president of our country chosen to protect our rights, defend our Constitution, and enforce our laws.  The issue of Middle East peace is between Middle Easterners and that is who should decide the matter if there is to be any long lasting peace in the region.

But I read the president’s speech anyway.  In fact, at some point as I was reading the usual implied dribble about how America would solve all of the world’s problems I dosed off into a glorious daydream.  Here is the speech Obama gave in that splendid fantasy:

“My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight to mark a new beginning for American foreign policy.  Israel, the Palestinians, and the other Middle Eastern nations are going to have to solve their own problems.  America is done ruling the world.  We have enough problems of our own that need our attention and as a nation we have learned for way too long that when we meddle in the affairs of other nations instead of pursuing a foreign policy of friendship, trade and exchange things normally turn our poorly for us.

Take America’s entry into World War I for instance.  It was meant to “Make the world safe for democracy”.  Instead our involvement ultimately produced Adolph Hitler in Germany.  President Wilson, like all presidents, had good intentions, but America’s unnecessary entry into the war was the deciding factor leading to victory for the Triple Entente.  His support for France’s over the top retribution toward Germany manifested in the Treaty of Versailles economically destroyed that country and paved the way for the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist party.  The result was another word war where millions more died.

Then there are the smaller conflicts our government has gotten engaged in from time to time.  On the Korean peninsula in the 1950s, 40,000 Americans and 2 million civilians lost their lives fighting an enemy that is still a thorn in our side to this day.  In Vietnam, 50,000 Americans and 1.5 million civilians perished and many more vets are still experiencing the effects of that war some 35 years later.

Closer to our own time period, let’s not forget that the CIA’s covert overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeegh in the 1950s ultimately led to the menacing theocracy in present day Iran.  Our military support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan produced the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.  Lastly, our decade’s long support for Israel, even when she has been egregiously in the wrong, has produced terrorist networks bent on violently persuading America to change her policy.

There are many more examples of American meddling that have resulted in dire consequences for our country.  In the interest of time I will stop there.

My friends, it took us 10 years, 3 wars, 5000 American, and countless Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani lives and at least $2 trillion dollars to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.  And what do we have to show for it?  Nothing.  Al Qaeda has appointed an interim head to replace bin Laden, the organization has threatened retribution for his death, and our liberties at home are still being violated in the name of national security.

After deep reflection, I have devised a new direction for U.S. foreign policy.  A foreign policy which will go much further to ensure our safety than any illegal wiretap or airport groping ever could.  Effective immediately, I have ordered the following:

The immediate withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya;

The immediate halt to drone attacks and military incursions into Pakistan;

A cut of hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending;

And the promise to friend and foe alike that the United States seeks peaceful relations with you based on integrity, mutual respect, and trade.

By ending our quest for worldwide hegemony, we will be able to focus all of our attention and resources on the dire state of our economy.  We have a lot of work to do, but by bringing the troops home and cutting our monstrously large military budget we can make great strides to balance the federal budget and get our economy moving again.  Good night.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”

Wouldn’t that have been a better speech?

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


U.S. Cannot Learn from Past Mistakes

May 17, 2011

The fact of the matter is that the terrorist attacks of 911 had more to do with the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of the Middle East for decades than it did as George W. Bush would have us believe because we are free.  All one needs to do is compare say Luxembourg or Lichtenstein with the U.S.  In many ways the two European nations are freer than the U.S. especially economically, but don’t interfere in and bomb Arab nations.  Thus, even a casual observer could deduce that radical Islamists attacked us not because of our political or economic system but because for decades America has supported either directly or indirectly wholesale violence against Muslim people.

You would think we would learn from our mistakes.  But, one thing our government is good at is making enemies and one thing Americans are good at is believing their government even when it is to their detriment.  Take the latest two military actions undertaken by Washington against Muslim people.  The U.S. military is currently engaged directly in two illegal wars against Muslim people.  In Pakistan, our unmanned drones have been striking terrorist targets since at least 2004.  These attacks are justified by Washington as necessary to root out terrorists and thereby make us safer.  The war against Pakistan is illegal because it is being perpetrated against a sovereign nation that has not threatened U.S. security in any way.

The same can be said of our military actions through NATO in Libya.  Yes, Qaddafi is a nut and has had a terrorist past, but all that seemed to be water under the bridge until NATO led by the U.S. decided to set up a so-called “no-fly zone” over Libya to “protect” rebels and civilians from extermination at the hands of the brutal dictator’s forces.  Again, Libya posed no threat to American security, but in the name of protecting Libyans Obama launched his illegal military action against Libya.

Besides the illegality inherent in both missions, on the surface the actions of U.S. forces in Pakistan and Libya seem reasonable given the dangers posed by terrorism and Qaddafi against his own people.  But, make no mistake about it both missions will prove to make us more vulnerable to terrorist attack than if we had not gotten involved in them in the first place.

Since becoming president, Obama has ordered the CIA to carry out more drone strikes in Pakistan than George W. Bush did in his entire eight years in office, killing more than 500 people since 2009.  Roughly a third of this number was innocent civilians. Recently, Obama authorized Seal Team 6 to violate Pakistani sovereignty to allegedly murder Osama bin Laden.  Consequences of the latter U.S. action in Pakistan have already resulted in the dual suicide bombings that killed 80 Pakistani paramilitary recruits in northwest Pakistan.  Threats of revenge for bin Laden’s alleged killing have been made against all navy seals and their families due to the notoriety they as a group have received for allegedly murdering bin Laden.  Hell, Al Qaeda has even made threats against Obama’s step-grandmother in Kenya.  The point is U.S. induced violence in Pakistan puts all Americans at risk of future blowback from terrorists in that country.

Of course, many Pakistanis are seething with anger over the indiscriminate bombing of their country by American forces.  Many Pakistanis view their own government as complicit in the matter.  Is Pakistan getting ripe for a violent overthrow?  Given its strategic location and nuclear arsenal, our leaders will certainly be compelled to intervene with boots on the ground.  How many Americans will lose their lives in the bloodbath that would result?

And the situation is not much better for us in Libya.  The so-called no-fly zone has proven to be a farce.  NATO is in the conflict to cause regime change.  Many innocent civilians have already been killed in NATO bombings of “military targets”.  Just last week 11 imams were killed in a bombing in the eastern Libyan city of Brega.  These deaths strike at the heart of Muslims.  In fact, speaking at a press conference in Tripoli late last Friday, fellow imams urged Muslims across the world to kill “1,000 people for each dead imam” across the world, namely in “France, Italy, Denmark, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.”  Once again U.S. forces under the guise of NATO are seen as Muslim killers – and worst yet Muslim holy men killers.  What blowback will result from this event?

After President Obama reported that he had killed Osama bin Laden, Americans danced in the streets while chanting U.S.A.! U.S.A.!  They were celebrating as if the “War on Terror” was finally over.  I couldn’t help but think how idiotic and premature the celebrating was. For one thing, didn’t we expect Al Qaeda to retaliate for the death of its martyred leader?  For another, were all those delirious Americans not mindful that we are still engaged in military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya?  Did they not understand that their celebrations would be used to recruit even more terrorists to the cause of Al Qaeda?

From the CIA overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 to Bill Clinton’s ordered bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in the 1990s, the U.S. government’s long and sordid history of hostile acts against Muslims has resulted in loads of resentment against us which has manifested itself in terror networks like Al Qaeda.  With the most recent actions of our government in Pakistan and Libya, more resentment and increased terrorist activity are sure to transpire.  You would think our leaders would learn from past mistakes or maybe it is they don’t want to?

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


Evaluating Obama’s Record After More Than Two Years as President

April 26, 2011

Recently, President Obama kicked off his 2012 reelection campaign.  Looking past all the political jabbering of the talking heads and pundits, the most astounding prediction of all about the next race for the White House is that Obama is expected to raise $1 billion for his campaign efforts.  Given the president’s failure to fulfill his previous campaign’s promises of hope and change, a great question to ask is, who is going to donate that large amount of money to his campaign coffers?

I mean the guy has an absolutely abysmal economic record as president.  Adhering to a dogmatic Keynesian policy, in just two years he has increased the national debt by 50 percent with nothing good to show for it.  Unemployment, counting the underemployed and discouraged workers, was about 19 percent when Obama took office.  Currently that number is at about 22 percent.  After more than two years in office, Obama’s economic policies have given no hope to millions of unemployed Americans.

Of course, all of the spending and inflating of the money supply under Obama is beginning to have a huge negative effect on the economy.  Anyone who has grocery shopped or purchased gasoline lately has certainly noticed higher prices.  Now, many would blame Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and his ridiculous easy money policy for current rising prices.  They are correct.  But, let’s not forget that Obama nominated Bernanke for a second term as chairman in 2009.  The president had the opportunity to do the right thing and nominate an individual that could have brought sanity back to our monetary policy.  But then again, Obama and his cohorts in Congress need Bernanke to monetize their lavish spending programs to ensure their reelections.

In fact, Obama won’t recognize his or the Fed’s culpability in bringing about inflation.  Instead he is resorting to the famous political technique of scapegoating.  According to Obama, speculators are potentially to blame for high gas prices and thus rising prices in general.  His Justice Department is going to investigate whether speculators are driving up the price of oil and therefore harming consumers.

Well, of course speculators are driving up the price of oil because they know more about how economics work than anybody in the Obama Administration.  They know that with the trillions of new dollars the Fed has pumped into the economy since 2007 oil prices which are priced in dollars are going to go up, probably way up.  They would not be bidding up the price of oil today if they believed that in the future they will not be able to find a buyer for their oil futures.   They are not causing harm to consumers.  Fed policy under Bernanke is the culprit, but the president seems clueless about this fact.  As general prices continue to rise because of Obama’s Keynesian policies, Americans will continue to lose hope that their lives are getting better.

Obama’s foreign policy is as abysmal as his economic policies.  During the 2008 campaign he promised “change that we can believe in”.  If by “change” Obama meant even more war than George Bush provided than he has fulfilled that campaign promise.  Since taking office Obama has not ended the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  He has increased troop levels in Afghanistan by about 30,000.  He has increased unmanned drone attacks over Pakistan killing innocent civilians and providing a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.  He led the NATO invasion of Libya, which was supposed to be a “humanitarian” effort, but has quickly turned into a regime change operation.  Obama claimed he would not put boots on the ground in Libya and then it was reported that U.S. special operations forces had been on the ground in Benghazi for three weeks training the rebels.  Now, fighting between Qaddafi forces and the rebels is in stalemate and many analysts believe it will take a NATO invasion with ground troops to dislodge Qaddafi from power in Tripoli.  The president has put himself in a tough spot.  If his previous war-like tendencies are any indication, we can expect U.S./NATO troops to be fighting pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya soon.

Barack Obama’s first two years as president has been a catastrophe.  Unemployment and prices are up and we face a national calamity because of burgeoning debt at the state and federal levels.  He has increased not diminished our exposure to war by ramping up military attacks over Pakistan and leading the effort to overthrow Qaddafi in Libya.  These conflicts will only waste more money we don’t have and make us less safe.  Again, it should be asked, if Obama hopes to collect $1 billion in campaign contributions, where will it come from?  My best guess is Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.

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