Petraeus fell for the wrong reason

by Sheldon Richman

David Petraeus has fallen — but not as he should have. Before being disgraced by an extramarital affair, the retired four-star general and ex-CIA director should have been shamed out of public life for his horrendous military record in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are we talking about the same David Petraeus who is said to have heroically saved Iraq with the famous surge and then salvaged a floundering military effort in Afghanistan?

That’s the one. But those “accomplishments” are merely the products of sharp public relations.

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War myths and America’s drone terrorism

Just the other day, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. war in Afghanistan is "succeeding" and "has turned an important corner."

Chicago Tribute columnist Steve Chapman had the same reaction I did, “Where have I heard that before?”

Oh yes, could it have been in 2003, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted, “We clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability. … The bulk of this country today is permissive, it’s secure.”

Chapman notes that four years later, Rummy pronounced Afghanistan "a big success," and then in 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates assured us the U.S. effort was "succeeding."

“There is a term for a war that is always ‘succeeding’ but never concluding: a failure. But Barack Obama has followed the custom of George W. Bush in pretending otherwise,” Chapman writes.

Another myth being perpetrated by the Obama Administration is the narrative that the use of drones is a “surgically precise and effective tool” that kills bad guys with minimal “collateral impacts,” meaning killing innocents.

A joint report Living Under Drones by the New York University School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic and Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic exposes this lie.

The use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in Pakistan is by definition itself an act of terrorism.

Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.

Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation notes that the report also finds that the drone strikes killed 2,563-3,325 people in Pakistan from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, of whom 474–881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Incredibly, President Obama continues to deny the strikes kill civilians, even in the light of the U.S. tactic to make multiple drone strikes in one area that result in rescuers being killed.

Terrorist suicide bombers do the same thing, and we’re outraged by it. Why are we not outraged by this misuse of American military might?

“The Obama administration denies that it has killed civilians, but bear in mind that it considers any male of military age a ‘militant,’ Richman writes.

This is also an eerily and disturbingly familiar assertion, like the “body counts” of the Viet Nam war.

The forgotten war and the forgotten debt

Just before the Republican National Convention, the 2,000th American solider was killed in Afghanistan. The death went unnoticed. Afghanistan has become another “forgotten war.”

As the Democratic National Convention opened this week, the U.S. debt topped the $16 trillion mark. That event also went unnoticed.

What’s the connection? Both Republicans and Democrats are complicit in turning the state of our union a perpetual and universal state of war that is driving America deeper and deeper into debt.

It does not matter which of the two major party candidates is elected president in November. America will remain at war, and probably go to war with yet another country, and the debt will keep increasing.

Don’t be fooled by the talk of “cuts” in military spending, Medicare, Social Security or any other federal government program that either the Democrats or Republicans propose. That is another charade, a shell game, in simple terms – a lie. These so-called cuts are not cuts at all. All the are is less of an increase.

It’s like trying to convince your wife to let you buy boat you can’t afford and will have to borrow money to purchase. You tell her you’ll cut spending by buying a $20,000 model instead of the one that costs $30,000.

Anti-war liberals should vote Libertarian

Anyone who opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has a clear choice in this election. They should vote Libertarian said R. Lee Wrights, a potential candidate for the 2012 Libertarian presidential nomination.

“Anti-war liberals who supported President Obama in 2008 should know by now that he’s not going to end America’s foreign wars,” Wrights said. “Instead, he’s sent more troops into harm’s way, with no clear end in sight, and he’s spending an even larger percentage of the GDP on these military adventures than the Bush Administration.”

Wrights said that President Obama has not only failed to reverse the curtailment of our civil liberties begun under Bush, he’s actually shred the Bill of Rights even more. “Not only has he claimed the immoral authority to murder American citizens overseas without indictment or trial, he’s also used the screen of ‘state secrets’ to prevent his targets or their families from challenging him in court.”

“There is nothing liberal about this; Obama is operating out of the neoconservative playbook,” Wrights said. “Even liberals who are proud of being tolerant, patient and understanding should realize by now that they have been betrayed by this president,” Wrights said.

Many Democrats actually voted for the authorizations for these wars and for the PATRIOT Act, yet now are claiming to be opposed to them. “It’s curious that during the Bush Administration, Democrats were openly opposed to the wars, even though they had supported them,” Wrights said. “Now that a Democratic president is doing the war-making, they are strangely silent.”

On the other hand, the Libertarian Party has gone on record opposing the wars, Wrights said. The national committee has passed resolutions opposing both Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.

The anti-war movement in the Libertarian Party itself inspired Wrights to consider seeking the presidential nomination. “I believe the Libertarian message now and in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war,” he said.

Wrights said that anti-war liberals can vote for Libertarians with a clear conscience because in addition to opposing wars, Libertarians share their core values. “We’re uncompromising supporters of free speech and all civil liberties, we oppose corporate welfare, abhor big corporations manipulating the government to get subsidies and protection from competition, and we believe the war on drugs is insane.”

Nearly 82 percent of voters will be able to vote for a Libertarian candidate on November 2, according to Ballot Access News. The party has 21 candidates for U.S. Senate and 169 candidates for U.S. House. As the third largest political party in the U.S., the Libertarians have more candidates on the ballot than any other third party.

Wrights, who was born in Winston-Salem, is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All.

Wars consume our most precious resource

The greatest cost of the endless and needless wars the United States is engaged in can’t be measure in dollars and cents but in the expenditure of our most precious resource, the lives of our young people, said potential Libertarian presidential candidate R. Lee Wrights.

“The greatest cost of war is the toll it is taking on our most precious resources, our young people,” said Wrights. “Every time a young American soldier, sailor, airman or marine is killed, another dream dies, another possibility dies, another prospect dies. Every time a young American is killed, another hope dies.”

One such precious resource was 24-year-old Robert J. Miller. The Special Forces soldier was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration, for his action in Afghanistan in saving the lives of 22 American and Afghan soldiers.

“Staff Sgt. Miller gave his life for his fellow man, the greatest sacrifice any person can make,” Wrights said. “He should be honored, as should every American killed defending themselves or their comrades.”

“But the greatest honor we can bestow on these young people is to stop asking them to sacrifice themselves in endless and needless wars,” he said. “If we truly want to support the troops we should bring them home – now.”

“Most Americans are untouched by the war, other than having to endure invasions of their civil liberties when they try to get on an airplane,” Wrights said. “During the Vietnam war, the anti-war movement was galvanized by the images of death and destruction on their television screens. Sadly, today Americans are either numb or indifferent to very similar images coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has even acknowledged that this is not a shared cost. He told a group of students at Duke University recently that less than 20 percent of Americans know someone who has been in the military and that number is declining. Gates said that despite the “fond sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most Americans the wars remain an abstraction.”

Wrights said that America’s wars are now being fought by a professional military, the standing army that our nation’s founders feared and warned against. In his Duke lecture, Gates said that United States couldn’t sustain such “complex and protracted missions” like Iraq and Afghanistan without the dedication of “seasoned professional who choose to serve and keep on serving.”

The defense secretary also said that whatever mistakes were made in these conflicts were the result of failures and “miscalculations” at the top, not by the troops in the field. “It has taken every ounce of our troops’ skill, initiative and commitment to battle a cunning and adaptive enemy at the front while overcoming bureaucratic lassitude and sometimes worse at the rear,” Gates said.

“This is stunning,” Wrights said. “What the secretary is saying in effect is that these young people who choose to serve their country have more honor and integrity to do the right thing than the leaders who send them to fight and die. I am appalled at such callousness.”

Gates said that the wars are putting extraordinary stress on military members and their families, causing anxiety, increased domestic strife and a growing number of suicides. He said that the divorce rate among Army enlisted personnel has nearly doubled since the wars began.

“Yet neither the secretary nor President Obama offer any solutions to these problems,” Wrights said. “They piously praise the dedication and sacrifice made by America’s young men and women in uniform, yet they continue to promote policies that will cause them and their families to suffer and sacrifice even more.”

“Our military deserves better. Our military deserves a Commander-in-Chief who will honor and respect their devotion to duty by calling on them to fight and die only to defend America when we have been directly attacked,” Wrights said.

Wrights, a military veteran himself, is considering seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 should be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. He has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states.

Wrights  is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All.  The 52-year old writer and political activist was born in Winston Salem, NC and now lives in Texas. Contact Lee at