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* Lawrence Davidson (see also To the Point Analyses and Facebook)
* John Grant (see also This Can’t Be Happening)
* Lisa Longo (see also Lisa Longo
* John Mason (see also The Mason Missile)
* Nathaniel Smith (see also Politics: A View from West Chester)
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by Lawrence Davidson, 3/22/18
Donald Trump has finally given John Bolton (a man who apparently believes that war is the answer to all foreign policy problems) a job. Bolton wanted a good job with this administration right from the start but Trump resisted because he didn’t like JB’s mustache (that is not a joke). Obviously, the president has shed that bias. To mark this audacious appointment of a real life “Dr. Strangelove” to high office, I offer a repost of my November 2015 analysis, “John Bolton’s Love of Bombs.”
John Bolton’s Love of Bombs – An Analysis (31 November 2015) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – 1968: “No Innocent Civilians”
The year was 1968. I had just earned a master’s degree in history at Georgetown University, where I had also helped found the university’s chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Unfortunately, there was no time to celebrate, because within days of getting the degree I was on U.S. Army bus, along with about 30 others, heading from Washington, D.C. to Fort Holabird in Baltimore. At that time there was a military draft induction center there, and according to my low draft lottery number, my time had come.
At Holabird we piled into a classroom-like setting and were given a lecture by a rather over-muscled middle-aged sergeant with buzz haircut. He told us (I am paraphrasing from memory here) that “the Vietnam war was absolutely necessary. If the commies got their way the domino effect would see all of Southeast Asia go Red. There was no way you could negotiate with Hanoi and so it was time to increase the intensity of bombing over North Vietnam.” I remember that he ended by telling us that “there were no innocent civilians in Vietnam – when they call their soldiers part of a people’s army, they mean it.” Only later did I realize he was extrapolating on the position laid out by the infamous General Curtis “Bomb Them Back to the Stone Age” Lemay. When the sergeant had talked himself out, he began distributing the written intelligence and aptitude tests that were part of the pre-induction process. As he was doing so he asked if there were any questions. I was the only one who raised his hand.
You have to keep in mind that I was 23 years old, a radical, and not afraid of authority figures. So I asked him, “Why should any of us here believe a word you say about this war when all you have given us are opinions standing in for facts?” He looked at me in a murderous way and said. “What is it about these forms that you don’t understand?” A good number of the boys (I was the oldest among the prospective inductees) in the room laughed – at me. What the heck can you expect from cannon fodder.
I eventually beat the draft and forgot about the above incident. That is, until I read John Bolton’s 26 March 2015 op-ed “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” in the New York Times (NYT).
Part II – 2015: Bolton’s Bombs
John Bolton is a neoconservative veteran of the George W. Bush era. His claims to fame, besides a real talent for temper tantrums, include serving as President Bush’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control. In this capacity he undercut international efforts to limit such things as biological weapons. He also served as Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. It would appear he was chosen for this post mainly because he despised the UN. Under George W. Bush the times were truly Orwellian. Finally – and this is what took me back to 1968 – Bolton’s op-ed demonstrated that he can’t tell the difference between his own opinion and fact.
Let’s analyse Bolton’s NYT op-ed:
First, Bolton is absolutely convinced that Iran will produce nuclear weapons. How does he know? Because “Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.” To firm up his case he misleadingly tells us that “the president’s own director of National Intelligence [James Clapper] testified in 2014 that they [economic sanctions] had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program.” Yes, the quote is accurate, but Mr. Bolton’s use of it is not. As intelligence agencies, including those under Clapper, attest, the nuclear program Iran has been working on since 2003 is not a weapons program. Rather, it is one aimed at the production of energy and nuclear medical capabilities. Again, it should be emphasized that it is the consensus of all U.S. intelligence agencies, dating from 2011, and not 2007 as Bolton asserts, that there is no evidence that Iran seeks to build nuclear weapons. Today there is no evidence that would cause a change of view.
However, Mr. Bolton is so obsessed with bombs that, in the case of Iran, there is no difference between any sort of nuclear program and a weapons program. And, he obviously feels his opinion is more “true” than the estimates of professional intelligence agencies. It is a blindspot he shares with the Republican Party and other certain political leaders, such as Benjamin Netanyahu. Of course, it is exactly to ensure that Iran’s “progress” stays focused on non-weapon use of nuclear power that the present negotiations between the P5 + 1 and Iran are directed. But Bolton will never be satisfied. He “knows” the Iranians are out for weapons. Maybe he is psychic.
Second, Bolton claims that taking the negotiation or diplomatic path with Iran has triggered a nuclear arms race in the region. How does he know this? The Saudis tell him so. The governing oligarchy in Riyadh has already said that if the Shiite Iranians are building the bomb, they want nuclear weapons too. Like Bolton, the Saudis equate know-how with production. So Bolton tells us that we can expect the Saudis to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan – and it is all Iran’s fault. Hold on! Why shouldn’t it be Israel’s fault? Israel was the first country in the Middle East to actually build and stockpile nuclear weapons. In Bolton’s mind, apparently, that’s different. Bolton tells us “other states in the region understood … that Israel’s nukes were intended as a deterrent, not as an offensive measure. Iran is a different story.” This is a proposition for which Bolton offers no proof. Given Israel’s continuous history of aggressive expansion, just what is the Israeli stockpile deterring? After all, holding a nuclear weapon over other people’s heads while you conquer Arab land seems a very offensive use of “deterrence.” And sure “Iran is different story.” It doesn’t even own a nuclear weapon, much less a stockpile.
Third, John Bolton has an answer for all of this. Being a neoconservative who cut his teeth on undermining arms control, the answer is that “only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor … can accomplish what is required.” He goes on to detail the targets and the ultimate goal of his proposed aggression: “Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. …The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”
What this scenario actually proves is that Mr. Bolton has little capacity to think his schemes through. By his own admission such a bombing adventure would only “set back its [Iran’s] program three to five years,” meanwhile killing thousands, making a dangerous enemy of Iran for years to come and, last but not least, risking a war in the Persian Gulf that would seriously disrupt the world’s flow of oil. And let’s not forget that such an attack would, at the very least, disrupt Iran’s fight against ISIS, which is supporting an important U.S. interest.
As for Israel, Bolton is exaggerating. The Zionist state does not have the capacity to “do what’s necessary.” The distance between the two countries is prohibitive, and even if Israeli warplanes could get to Iran and back (say by refueling in, of all places, Saudi Arabia), the operation would take multiple sorties, during which the Israel stands to lose a good number of planes and pilots. In fact Prime Minister Netanyahu has sought to prepare the Israeli air force for an attack on Iran only to have his own military officers strongly object.
Part III – Sloppy Thinking
John Bolton’s op-ed to the New York Times is just a mess – a dangerous flight of fancy based on skewed opinions rather than hard evidence and facts. In what must have been a very weak moment while writing this piece, he actually admits that there is a “lack of palpable evidence” for his case. He then moves right ahead as if the absence of evidence and facts just do not matter.
And what are the facts? Well, the Iranians do have a certain level of nuclear know-how which has been turned toward energy production and medical use. They do not have a nuclear bomb and have repeatedly said they don’t want a nuclear bomb. They have stated that they have religious objections to moving in that direction and know that the use of such a weapon would be a suicidal act. Western governments, pressured by Zionist and other special interests, have decided that the Iranians are not trustworthy, and so draconian economic sanctions have been implemented. Now, negotiations to put in place mechanisms to ensure that the Iranians stay true to their word appear near completion.
However, just like that hard-nosed sergeant back in 1968, Bolton dismisses negotiations. Like the analytically deficient noncom at the induction center, he is much more comfortable with death and destruction. And indeed, given Bolton’s influence on the right, his public advocacy of a nuclear attack on Iran in 2009, and his having become a foreign policy advisor for presidential candidate Ted Cruz, he might be judged the most dangerous man in the U.S. – if it wasn’t for the fact that he has so much competition: all those Republican leaders in Congress beating their breasts and swearing that they are going to destroy the president’s one positive effort to make the world safer; the sharks at AIPAC who are determined, for the sake of Israel, to make war on Iran right down to the last American soldier; and untold millions of Christian Zionists who see any conflagration in the Middle East as a good thing because it brings closer the annihilation for which they positively yearn.
What is the New York Times doing publishing this nonsense? It seems to me when you accept a piece for an op-ed page it should be recognized as having been thought through and demonstrating some relation to reality. And, you should certainly make sure that it does not represent, as Robert Parry put it, an “incitement to murder and violation of international law.” I guess the NYT editors disagree.
From Indivisible, 3/8/18
In a matter of days, the Senate will do something they should have done a long time ago: try to stop Trump from waging illegal war.
Here’s what you should know about the war abuses of our current administration:
No president should be able to take us to war outside our democratic norms of checks and balances.
Trump inherited, and is doubling down on, a war that is both disastrous and illegal. The United States military is participating in the Yemen civil war by helping Saudi Arabia carry out airstrikes. These strikes amount to war crimes, and have killed tens of thousands of people. The US-backed coalition decision to block food and medicine from getting into the country has pushed more than 8 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation. And it’s created the largest cholera outbreak in modern history.
This war doesn’t help US national security. In fact, it places us on the same side of the conflict as terror groups like al-Qaeda and helps them grow stronger. This is outrageous. And it must end.
The Constitution says that Congress — NOT the president — decides when the US goes to war, but Congress has never even voted on this.
Now, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), are using a rare procedure to force the Senate to finally take a vote. This bill, S. J. Res. 54, would declare the war unauthorized, and end it (unless Congress chooses to authorize it). It only needs a simple majority in the Senate — we can win this .
Here’s what you can do:
Review our resource for more information about the situation in Yemen, the United States’ role, and just how important this is.
Use our call script to call both your senators. Don’t assume that a senator will vote the right way or the wrong way on this — the issue divides Republicans and Democrats in surprising ways.
Once you’re on the phone, tell your senator that Congress has never authorized this war, and evidence shows that the US-supported airstrikes are causing a humanitarian crisis and may amount to war crimes. Let them know that you’ll watch how the senator votes.
The Senate needs to vote on this immediately, even though the House may not act. The fact that Congress has never authorized this war is reason enough for senators to support the resolution. But beyond that, this is one of the very few tools that Congress has in its toolbox to stop a president from using unauthorized military force. If we win on this, and pass this resolution, it shows that Congress can do it again if and when they have to in the future — perhaps to stop Trump from starting a new war with North Korea.
This vote will likely happen next week. The Trump administration is lobbying HARD against this bill by pressuring senators on both sides of the aisle. That means your senators need your support to stand firm and vote the right way on this bill.
by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 2/19/18
Dear School Children of America,
Happy Presidents’ Day!
Is this a great country or what? We honor an unbroken succession of (mostly) great presidents going way back to our Founding as a nation.
In school you may be learning things like history and critical reading, but we want to assure you that we, and especially our friends on the U.S. Supreme Court, know exactly what the Founders wanted: a chicken in every pot, a gun in every closet, all that.
You can leave this government stuff to us; it’s too complicated for you to understand right now and we don’t have time to explain it to you. You may well think we can’t have both children and guns, but our sponsors tell us we can and we believe them….
continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester