Friday, August 07, 2015

The problem with Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is old, and he has called himself a socialist. Although those are genuine problems for any American presidential candidate, I am much more troubled by his attitude toward foreign policy: Whenever he starts to talk about the Middle East, Bernie Sanders becomes Hillary Clinton without the pantsuit.
And he said that in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the U.S. government should act jointly with regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. (“Those countries are going to have to get their hands dirty, it cannot just be the United States alone.”)

When pressed for details on military intervention, Sanders has indicated that his differences with the Barack Obama administration are quite minor. Like many Democrats, he supports U.S. air strikes in the Middle East, while asserting that only countries in the region should deploy ground forces there. Sanders shares the widespread view among members of Congress who don’t want boots on the ground but do want U.S. air power to keep dropping bombs and firing missiles.

Sanders has also urged confronting Russian leader Vladimir Putin over Ukraine. (“You totally isolate him politically, you totally isolate him economically,” Sanders said on Fox News last year.)
Wrong, wrong, wrong.

In his handling of the Ukraine situation, Vladimir Putin has done nothing to warrant isolation. If Sanders had any political courage, he would admit that American neocons played an entirely villainous role in fomenting a coup against Ukraine's elected leader, using Nazis as bully-boys.

As for that remark about acting jointly with Turkey and Saudi Arabia against ISIS: Is Sanders kidding? That's like acting jointly with Dr. Frankenstein against reanimated cadavers. Saudi Arabia helped to create ISIS. Turkey has been bombing the perpetually fucked-over Kurds who had been fighting ISIS.

What Sanders should have said is that this country needs to give up its sick dream of regime change in Syria and Iran. What Sanders should have said is that the leaders of this country were insane to take sides in a Sunni/Shiite confrontation that has no bearing on our own history or cultural values. What Sanders should have said is that we will no longer function as the muscle in Israel's long-term scheme to overthrow any state that might aid the Palestinians.

Alas, Sanders did not say such things, nor is he likely to.

I'm not sure that Jim Webb will say the right things either. Nevertheless, I think he is much likelier than Bernie Sanders to challenge Washington's foreign policy groupthink.

Yes, Webb's opposition to the Iran deal is worrying, although he may have taken that position for reasons of political strategy. (I think he wants to stake out a position to Hillary's right, even though he actually stands to her left on a number of issues.) What he has to say here leads me to believe that Webb has a keen understanding of what's really going on in Syria (emphasis added):
Q: What about Syria and ISIS?

WEBB: Now if you take a look at Syria, and these other parts of Iraq, we now have a situation where we're asking these freedom fighters, or whatever you want to call them, who were going after Assad, to help us go after ISIS. The elements that are fighting there are very fluid in terms of the people who declare their alliances. I would be willing to bet that we had people at the top of ISIS who actually have been trained by Americans at some point.
Flynn spills the beans. The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn, has gone some ways toward verifying Webb's suspicions.
Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.
Lt. Gen. Flynn, speaking safely from retirement, is the highest ranking intelligence official to go on record saying the United States and other state sponsors of rebels in Syria knowingly gave political backing and shipped weapons to Al-Qaeda in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime...
Is Bernie Sanders ever going to address what Flynn has revealed? Or will Sanders (like all of the other candidates, Democratic and Republican) continue to pretend that the former head of the DIA never said such things?


gavan said...

We recently saw an attempt by Australia (undoubtedly with US and Ukraine prompting) to foist on the UN a proposal for the prosecution of those who downed MH17. Never mind that the Dutch inquiry has yet to determine who did it and they appear to be dragging their heals because they likely suspect that Ukraine had a hand in it, either through its fighter aircraft (also here) or local militia firing a BUK.

The UN resolution was defeated by Russian veto, attracting the full Western media ire. None of them noted that it was Russia which drafted, proposed and voted for Resolution 2166 shortly after the incident, a resolution which called for an independent investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. That fact is conveniently forgotten and every pundit is repeating the lie that Russia has sought to stymie UN investigations.

There are two dogs that didn't barked here: US intelligence failed to provide satellite and radar data to the Dutch inquiry, and the Ukrainians have refused to provide the air traffic control records. As the Dutch investigators move towards a final report it is likely their findings will be opaque and non-committal about criminal responsibility. Which is why the recent failed UN move was so critical. The narrative that "Russia did it (and they should confess)" has to be maintained in the public consciousness. The 'proof' of rumor and propaganda we have received to date ought to be enough for us. All hail the great God (and fraudster) Eliot Higgins!

gavan said...

So where to from here? Ukraine is an economic basket case, its leadership is now hated by most of its own people, and it is losing militarily in the Eastern provinces. The separatists are so much in command that they publicly withdrew their forces a full 30 km and called on Kiev to implement the Minsk 2 agreement in order to draw attention to this fact.

What's a government under siege like this to do? Stage a false flag, perhaps?

That's a possibility says Oleg Taureg. He notes that the UK Times recently ran a hit piece against Edward Snowden entitled "Snowden betrayed British spies" and Glenn Greenwald tore it to pieces. All the evidence was that this was an MI6 propaganda exercise.

So now the Times is saying that Donetsk militia is engaged in the creation of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in cooperation with Russian scientists from 12 tonnes of Soviet-era radioactive waste housed near Donetsk (more here). Separatist officials are insisting that the storage is sealed and secure, that no material has been removed, and they are calling for OCSE monitors to inspect the site.

The author of the Times piece was Maxim Tucker who styles himself as a freelance journalist. But I suspect his source was the SBU. Interestingly, the Times also features another article by Tucker about four men who were arrested by the SBU trying to sell radioactive uranium-238. My guess is that Tucker got both stories straight from the SBU.

It's probably just BS propaganda but you never know with these people.

Anonymous said...

A major transformation has taken place in American foreign policy. No one, except perspicacious bloggers (you) and far-lefties, has noticed.

In Ukraine, we're supporting a fascist junta that just outlawed criticism of Nazi-era collaborationist militias. We're on the same side as Nazis, and by some bloodless calculus we've decided that's worth it. That kind of thinking makes us vicariously fascist on some level.

In Syria, we're tacitly aligned with Al Nusra. Fourteen years of rage and mourning, and the "with us or against us" ultimatum, over 9/11 have been exposed as a diabolical fraud and hysteria.

In Yemen, we're helping the Saudis wage a war that is really just one giant war crime involving the destruction of civilian infrastructure and even ancient sites a la ISIS. Genocide is pretty much the word for it because this is a campagin against the Shia. It's out in the open.

And this giant transformation in our foreign policy is not remarked upon, and has happened under a Democratic president co-opted by neo-conservatives. This is truly a grim time to be American, but only really for those who are aware of what it really means to be an American right now. I feel more and more like the people aware of this thickening darkness are going into a kind of internal exile.

fred said...

You end up with war pornography being accepted as fact and collective public wisdom. And there is no remedy for it. Once the West has demonized the Serbs, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi,Syria, China, Putin and the entire Russian people what way back is to friendly relations? There isn't any. You might bomb that country or contemptuously decide to tolerate them and "forgive them their crimes" but relations will never be amicable. To tear up human relations in this way and set the world on a war footing is the most evil of crimes. And the public remains convinced of their dangerously false beliefs.