Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hawks & Vultures

Everything I needed to know about American foreign policy, I learned at last night's presidential "debate".

I learned that no matter their side of the Duopoly, our politicians are firm believers in raining down democracy from the skies upon recalcitrant bodies in dire need of some crushing American freedom.

I learned that is vital for America to champion education and gender equality in Iran at the very same time we surround their country with military bases and destroy their economy with sanctions.

I learned that our political and media leaders persist in the notion of American exceptionalism even though a sizable chunk of the world is feeling neither the love nor the respect.

I learned that "foreign policy" does not encompass either of our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico. The world is comprised of China, Israel, the Muslim nations of the Middle East, and Russia. It apparently does not include Europe, although South America did get a brief mention from Mitt Romney based on all the "opportunities" it presents for people like him. (I think South America should maybe think about watching their skies for both circling capitalist vultures and drones.) They didn't mention Japan, maybe because American soldiers are still raping women on Okinawa, which we have occupied for no apparent reason since World War II. Judging from what the contenders were saying last night, Sinophobia is now vying with Islamophobia for first place in the American Fear-Mongering Industry sweepstakes.

I learned that presidential candidates and the corporatized Commission on Presidential Debates seem to be going out of their way to choose over-the-hill, inside the Beltway, right wing and preferably incipiently senile "journalists" to act as facilitators for the dissemination of political bullshit. Although Bob Schieffer did have one fantastic line: "Obama's bin Laden."

Other memorable (not to mention frightening) moments of verbiage:

"Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea." -- Mitt Romney. (Iran has a nice coastal area all its own, thank you very much.)

"But unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America's influence will grow. But unfortunately, in -- nowhere in the world is America's influence greater today than it was four years ago." -- Mitt Romney. (needs remedial English as well as remedial geography.)

"America is the one indispensible nation." -- Barack Obama. (the rest of the world is not important and therefore, dispensible garbage.)

"...we're going to have to have training programs that work for our workers and schools that finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids first, and the teachers' unions going to have to go behind." -- Mitt Romney. (and lo, the angels of privatized education shall vanquish the demonized teachers' unions. No argument from Barack on that.)

"We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space. That's exactly what our budget does, but it's driven by strategy. It's not driven by politics. It's not driven by members of Congress, and what they would like to see. It's driven by, what are we going to need to keep the American people safe? That's exactly what our budget does, and it also then allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant national security concern. Because we've got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas." -- Barack Obama. (slash the social safety net at home so we can impose our almighty will on the rest of the planet as well as on other planets and throughout the space-time continuum. Cutting your Social Security and Medicare benefits will keep the military industrial complex safe, fat, happy, bloated and financially secure forever. The goal of a strong domestic economy is not to serve the citizens, but to flex our military muscle and 1000-and-counting military bases, a k a mini-occupations.)

"We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles." -- Barack Obama. (I create human misery, and I'm proud of it.)

"I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world." -- Mitt Romney. (If he meant the Geneva Conventions, somebody should tell him that the United States stopped abiding by their precepts when it legitimated torture, extraordinary rendition, detention without trial, and presidentially decreed drone strikes against civilian populations. And in what justice system would Mitt even indict him? The USA has refused, for example, to participate in or ratify the World Court, in order to shield the Bush War Criminals from an international tribunal.)

"There -- there are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world for a better life.... And it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking. It's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office. And the reason is was so important -- and this is a testament to how we've restored American credibility and strength around the world." -- Barack Obama. (I want you to believe that crippling sanctions abroad, not to mention austerity here at home, will somehow stimulate people's aspirations for a better life. Earth to Barack: the only credible thing is that poor opinions of American boorishness have been growing and spreading exponentially.)

"And when it comes to our military and Chinese security, part of the reason that we were able to pivot to the Asia-Pacific region after having ended the war in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan, is precisely because this is going to be a massive growth area in the future. And we believe China can be a partner, but we're also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power; that we are going to have a presence there. We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through; that commerce continues. And we're organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards." -- Barack Obama. (Oh, before we get to that nation-building here at home, I am deploying my military might to surround China on all sides. War is forever, baby. We make friends the old-fashioned way. We saber-rattle with a predatory smile.)

"I've been -- Ann was with someone just the other day that was just weeping about not being able to get work. It's just a tragedy in a nation so prosperous as ours, that the last four years have been so hard." -- Mitt Romney (I run from weepers like the plague. I send the missus out to deal with the floods of lachrymosity.)

"But I love teachers. But I want to get our private sector growing and I know how to do it." -- Mitt Romney (I despise teachers' unions, which are an impediment to the charter schools and privatization of education for the sake of my crony capitalist profiteers. Here, Barack and I are in total agreement. Did you ever hear me saying I'd get rid of his Race to the Top? I love Rahm Emanuel!)

"And we've been through tough times but we always bounce back because of our character, because we pull together and if I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices. I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth." -- Barack Obama. (Embrace the power of magical thinking and believe you will bounce back from the misery created by the unindicted criminal financial class just by dint of my stunning moralizations. Continue to believe the ridiculous canard that America is the greatest nation on earth. Feel the fear, beat the drums. Rah rah, zis boom bah.)

"I want to make sure our take-home pay turns around and starts to grow." -- Mitt Romney (Our profits will grow, not your lousy minimum wage, peons! Did I say anything about a living wage? Less FICA deductions, less withheld tax = less Social Security and Medicare, less revenues, less government and more misery.)

"I leave you with the words of my mom, who said: 'Go vote; it'll make you feel big and strong'". -- Bob Schieffer (Sure, Bob. It'll make us feel big and strong for all of 30 seconds. Then we can go back to living our solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short Hobbesean lives. Go USA!!!)


Anne Lavoie said...

My favorite line came towards the beginning when Romney said to Obama "You can't kill your way out of this".

Pearl said...

As usual, I fell sound asleep almost as soon as they started arguing at the debate and I was going to read the transcript today (although several portions were shown during the news afterwards), but after reading your column today there was no need. You used a surgeon's scalpel to dissect the sickness in the body politic and I learned many facts that I didn't know. Most people who are less knowledgeable therefore had no chance of recognizing what was fiction or fact and both men were capable of convincing the average voter of their true mission as a result. To read the N.Y.Times editorials and comments from democratic voters in response to columnists proves that a virulent sleeping sickness pervades the country. It is a coma that has persisted for a long while and shows no signs of improving since the antidote is unavailable.

Another concern I have is that the conservative news media that prints articles about Obama have the most gross, racially motivated responses, with ugly personal comments which are permitted to be printed. I have to blame Obama for some of it because some of the political criticism is accurate and opens the door to truly vile outpourings and reminds us how dangerous the existing ignorance and bigotry is.

The emphasis on the military strength of our country and how it can be used was not thinly veiled and appealed to the fear people are taught to live under. The chosen president will be the man who offers the mirage of who can best keep people safe and even our best liberal and progressive commentors in the N.Y.Times have fallen for it hook line and sinker. Woe betide us.

Kat said...

Oh God. Glad I'm 0 for 3 with debate watching.
I harbored some hope when McGovern passed away this weekend that this would provide some segue to a discussion of what it really means to talk about peace. And to talk about authentic optimism-- not the fake optimism of that nasty actor from California who hereafter and forever defined optimism as "America is the greatest country in the world" and "someday I'm gonna get mine."
This is the political figure who is beloved by both candidates.

falken751 said...

You really must be a bitter woman Karen, the way you said that our troops are still raping women on Okinawa.

Karen Garcia said...

No, but I imagine the residents of Okinawa are bitter, having been under the yoke of the American military empire for the past 60-plus years. When troops are accused of rape on or near military outposts, they are handed over to the military, not the local justice courts.

Read this:


falken751 said...

You could have said some soldiers or a soldier, if it is true, and I am not sure it is, but not our soldiers.

Karen Garcia said...

Yes, crime by "our" soldiers on Okinawa is an extremely well-documented, ongoing problem. Chalmers Johnson devoted a large portion of his book "Blowback" to the free-for-all culture that exists in and around Okinawa and other American bases. Here is another article in case you don't have time to delve into Johnson:


falken751 said...

Crime and rape in every state and city here in the USA is an ongoing problem as I am sure it is in Okinawa. You don't have to just talk about rape and crime in Okinawa as if our troops are the only ones committing rape and other crimes there. And again, the two rapes you are referring to are aledged and our troops, as well as any person in the USA, are innocent until proven guilty.

Karen Garcia said...

Dear falken751,
Rape and other crimes committed by occupying forces, no matter how "rare", take on a whole new level of importance to those being occupied against their will. Of course, the crime rate in general may be higher among the natives than it is among the base personnel. There are obviously more Okinawans living there than there are Americans, who come and go as their deployments dictate.

However, the crime stats are skewed, because the Japanese police only record and prosecute crimes which occur off base, whereas on-base crime – where soldiers obviously spend most of their time - is dealt with by the US military.

And if you think that the US military is on the ball when it comes to prosecuting sex offenders within its ranks, I have a bridge to sell you. Even American women in the military who are victims of sex crimes are victimized twice, because their complaints are rarely heeded. Leon Panetta has admitted as much and has half-heartedly said he would look into it.

falken751 said...

I have been following you for quite some time now and am in agreement with you on almost everything you write. I am getting to hate this country and it's politics and the job situation and the uninsured problem and I could go on and on. But to just blame the ignorant troops (and they are the only ones that join our armed forces, the wealthy and educated are not serving. Bring back the draft)that are in Okinawa, Iraq and Afghanistan for the crime and rapes in those countries is wrong. If they weren't there our unemployment figures would be much higher. Enough for now,

Stev-o said...

You are very generous to debate falken751. My take is you are not going to convince him and obviously the nuances in your writing evades him/her.


Pearl said...

"But to just blame the ignorant troops (and they are the only ones that join our armed forces, the wealthy and educated are not serving. Bring back the draft)that are in Okinawa, Iraq and Afghanistan for the crime and rapes in those countries is wrong. If they weren't there our unemployment figures would be much higher."

Falcon 751: These young strong soldiers who often join the military
because they have no where else to go could be used to repair the dire broken parts
of our infrastructure: help people in need, be trained in useful skills for
them and our nation. It would cost less to pay them for their labor than
what we are shelling out to keep the military going. The CCC in FDR's day
accomplished amazing things and kept young people busy contributing peaceful
and useful projects, many of of which are still standing. Why President
Obama could not picture this kind of future for our young people instead of
sending more and more troops to Afghanistan is unfathomable. We need a
change of scene which prepares our country to utilize all the skills
available to improve our living standards, our environment, etc. by
employing people to fill in the needs via peaceful means sponsored by our
government and please don't call it socialism - I call it humanistic

Stev-o said...

@Pearl, beautifully said.

James F Traynor said...

I've never been to Okinawa but, long ago, I served with guys who did and one who fought there in WWII. It had a bad rep then and, apparently, things haven't changed a hell of a lot since. Yeah, fish starts to rot at the head.

Neil Gillespie said...


Stars and Stripes is a good source for this type of news. Below are links to a recent rape on Okinawa by two U.S. Navy sailors. About six months ago I read about an off-duty serviceman who got drunk and burned down a Korean brothel after accidentally knocking over a candle. And see the last story below about a US soldier who gave birth while deployed in Afghanistan.

US Navy sailors accused of raping Japanese woman on Okinawa, By Matthew M. Burke and Hana Kusumoto, Stars and Stripes, Published: October 17, 2012


"SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Two U.S. Navy sailors were arrested Tuesday for the alleged rape and assault of an Okinawan woman, an incident that could further inflame anti-American sentiment on the island."

"Okinawa Prefectural Police said they arrested Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, both 23, after the alleged incident was reported to police by an acquaintance of the alleged victim."

"The alleged victim, who according to media reports is in her 20s, told police she was walking home from work in central Okinawa between 3:35 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. when the men followed, assaulted and raped her, police said. A U.S. Navy official said the incident allegedly took place in the parking lot of her apartment building."

"Japanese media reported that both men had been drinking alcohol before the incident."

Top Navy officer in Japan apologizes for alleged rape on Okinawa


"On behalf of the United States Navy and all forces in Japan, please accept my deepest, most sincere and most heartfelt apologies," Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd said during a meeting with Vice Gov. Kanetoshi Yoseda, giving Okinawa, where about half of all U.S. military personnel in Japan are stationed, an assurance of the military’s efforts to prevent a similar incident from happening."

A Rear Adm. apologizing for "alleged" rape?

US soldier gave birth while deployed in Afghanistan
By Steven Beardsley, Stars and Stripes


"GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A U.S. soldier gave birth in Afghanistan this summer after she deployed while pregnant, according to U.S. Army Europe.... Army regulations prohibit a pregnant soldier from deploying and require a pre-deployment pregnancy test, which the soldier was given... "[S]he did not know nor exhibited signs or symptoms typical of pregnancy during deployment up until delivery," Garvey wrote in an emailed statement...."

"Department of Defense regulations have evolved over decades to allow female servicemembers to remain on active duty while pregnant, take leave after birth and return to full duties after."

"But the Army prohibits deployments for pregnant soldiers and limits their duties, ruling out work around fuels and strong chemicals, near heavy vehicle exhaust and in situations with excessive vibrations."

"Pregnant soldiers are also exempt from regular physical fitness and indoor weapons training, and they are encouraged not to wear heavy loads such as body armor during pregnancy. After 14 weeks, heavy loads "must be avoided," according to regulations."