Saturday, March 23, 2013

Obama, drones and the Pol Pot precedent

This post began life as part of the portmanteau piece below. I have decided that this news deserves more prominence.

The news comes to us by way of Matt Taibbi, who, in his latest, relates a fact which startled the hell out of me: In making the case for Obama's drone programs, the administration's legal beagles cited the precedent of Richard Nixon's decision to bomb Cambodia in 1969-70.

Good God.

Youngsters may not know that the Trickster's monstrous war crime infuriated millions of Americans. I was quite young then, but I can still recall the headlines. I can still recall the "Are you shitting me?" reactions, even from people who had voted for Nixon. The bombing raids were "secret" at first, although you can't reasonably expect to keep a thing like that under wraps for long. When the truth leaked out, there were massive protests involving four million students. One such protest resulted in the Kent State massacre.

Of course, what we went through was nothing compared to what the Cambodians went through.

Before 1969, Cambodia had been a neutral country living a happy existence under a fellow named Sihanouk, whose great sin (from our perspective) was not taking sides in the Cold War. He occasionally made anti-American statements, but he wasn't a communist -- he just wanted us to leave his country alone.

During the war in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese established a supply line (called "The Ho Chi Min Trail") which ran through part of Cambodia's dense jungle near the border. Sihanouk didn't like that situation, but there was only so much he was willing to do to stop it. The jungle was, and is, wild and uncontrollable.

And so the friendly Americans showed up, eager to help as always. We bombed huge sections of the land, killing 150,000 peasants. We also covertly assisted a coup which replaced Sihanouk with a U.S.-friendly military dictator.

You can imagine how well all of that went over with average folk.

Before the bombing began, Cambodia had to deal with another problem, aside from (but related to) the North Vietnam supply lines: There was an indigenous communist group called the Khmer Rouge, led by a pretentious nutcase named Pol Pot. If you're a younger reader learning about this stuff for the first time, you must understand one key point: Before Nixon butted into Cambodia's affairs, the Khmer Rouge had around 400 members. (That's the number William Shawcross gives in his book Sideshow. I've put it in boldface because most current sources, including Wikipedia, go to great lengths to avoid giving you that important piece of information.)

Cambodia's home-grown "revolutionaries" had been little more than a group of starving wackos scuttling about in the forests -- pests, nothing worse. They struggled for survival while Pol Pot talk-talk-talked about his grand plans for the future. Sihanouk thought they were amusing.

Then came the Americans. Our attack on Cambodia -- and yes, "attack" is the right term -- inflamed the citizenry, swelling the ranks of the Khmer Rouge. Most of the peasants who joined the movement thought they were fighting to bring back Sihanouk; they didn't care about Marxist ideology. Later, when we lost the Vietnam war and the Americans pulled out of the region, Pol Pot came to power and instituted a truly insane and barbaric regime.

You may have heard about the "killing fields."

You want to know how the "killing fields" happened? Dick Nixon is how. He radicalized the region. He transformed 400 inconsequential extremists into a potent revolutionary force. Pol Pot would have remained a footnote figure if not for Dick Nixon.

Arguably, the bombing of Cambodia was an even worse decision than was the invasion of Iraq.

And that, my friends, is a bit of history that our textbooks neglect to tell you.

(They also don't tell you that Ronald Reagan's administration, for reasons of realpolitik, supported Pol Pot even after he had been toppled from power.)

It does not take much imagination to see how our past can become our future. If the bombing of Cambodia empowered a previously-tiny sect of anti-American radicals, then why should we expect a different result from Obama's drone program?

Update: I read Shawcross' Sideshow many years ago, and may be recalling the chronology incorrectly. This Wikipedia article on the Cambodian civil war gives the number of pre-bombing Khmer Rouge combatants as 4,000, not 400. A factor of ten is no small error, I must admit. Still, even the larger number shows that the Khmer Rouge was hardly a formidable force before the bombing and the coup.
11 March Guardian article by former KGB London boss Oleg Gordievsky, in which he says the Russian government has as big a spy operation in London as it did in the days of the KGB...oh, and that one of its "informers" is (or should that now be 'was'?) a "famous oligarch".

Gordievsky is a mouthpiece for MI6.

Talk about propaganda before the event!
Consider the possibility that the Masters of War positively WANT to stir up trouble 'cause it's good for business.
All of the wedding parties, funeral processions, and farmers' markets that have been strafed or bombed by drones have created hundreds of real terrorists, potentially at least, and these are the real thing, not like the phony ones created by the FBI. No more need for crude fabrications like the Gulf of Tonkin incident or false claims of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Now we can manufacture real terrorists for reasonable cost and open up whole new fields for expanding the War.

Don't be too hard on Nixon for creating an army of fighters who were led by Pol Pot's psychotically murderous regime. Wait till the scum we placed in power in Libya really get going. And the "rebels" the US has created and is supplying in Syria may be able to rival Pol Pot in their ability to wreck a country before they are done. Even a veteran war criminal like Henry Kissinger will be impressed.
And Putin's spokesman also seems to be saying, for those who have ears to hear, that Berezovsky was KGB (FSB-FSR) all along!

I think he must have become a nuisance for both parties. Maybe Gazprom will now buy into the UK energy sector in a big way, as also perhaps into Cyprus? It wouldn't surprise me if the proportion of the money in London that has been put there by former-Soviet billionaires is comparable to the proportion in Cyprus.
1523 Days of Obama with no Wall Street crony prosecutions.

Obama's Military Industrial Complex masters want to move some hardware before its shelf life expires and the investors holding stock in those companies want to see a decent ROI. And we get to pay for it whit our Social Security and Medicare $$$.

Since I don't watch much broadcast TV I was taken aback by the "realism" of crime and morgue scenes. When did they start this?
B seems to be referring to Gazproms long standing in terest in Centrica.

I havnt heard any details of whats behind Berezovskys death. But it would certainly change the perspective on the death of Litvinenko. Maybe someone back home had just put some pieces of the puzzle together and Boris had to go. I will ask around.

Last month in the Litvinenko inquest, Berezovsky's people were saying Putin and the Brits were collaborating in withholding evidence. Sounds as though he may have known what was coming.

Then on 13 March came the '2+2' meeting in London, with Russian and British foreign and defence ministers. The Russian embassy describes it as "the first meeting of the Russian-UK Strategic Dialogue".

According to a secret recording, heads nodded when someone at the meeting said "And shall we agree we've both had enough of the Berezovsky problem, ******?" It's unclear whether "******" was "old chap" or "tovarishch". OK, I made this paragraph up.

"The Strategic Dialogue is to become an important tool of political dialogue and practical cooperation between Russia and the UK in the realm of foreign policy and defense that will promote trust-based discussion and reconciliation of stands on the most acute issues of the international agenda. The Strategic Dialogue will also be an instrument of bilateral military and political cooperation between the countries."

"During the forthcoming meeting problems of European security will be discussed including prospects of development of cooperation for European ABM architecture on the basis of equality along with the situation in the Middle East and in the Arab World in general. We expect that a thorough discussion will be conducted for such issues as Afghanistan, Iranian nuclear program and the situation on the Korean peninsula."

Which omits reference to big contracts. Such as in the energy sector.

I don't know whether Berezovsky did write a letter in which he tried to become friends with Putin again, but if he did, it's easy to imagine that he wanted to fit into this framework somewhere. The other main option would be to get the hell out, fast, e.g. to Israel, which may have been easier said than done.
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