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July 19, 2014

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Except that there seems to be more political demand for lower taxes than for more war -- perhaps especially in the political groups who favor both. Not, perhaps, a lot more, but cerrtainly some.

Which suggests that just the threat of higher taxes to pay for war would result in fewer military actions. Not, however, in higher taxes -- although a case could be made for (belatedly) raising taxes to pay for the last couple of wars, where they were not raised....

'Way 'way back in the early oughties, I proposed that the mideast war costs (including VA costs) be funded by a tax on oil company profits.

Never would have happened, but it was the right thing to do. Still is.

I think the main problem with the draft is that it is so narrow: it needs to be much wider. It needs to cover adults of all ages. I mean, most people commenting here are not of prime-fighting ages, but I'd wager that most can drive a car which means that they could have driven a truck in Iraq. That job was incredibly dangerous but it is very much something that an overweight 47 year old can do. Likewise, instead of importing tens of thousands of domestic workers from the Phillipines or Bangledash as support staff to cook meals for troops, wash their clothes, etc., we could have Americans who are 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 years old doing that work.

Obviously, it is enormously disruptive to have to ditch your life for a year to serve in Iraq, totally apart from the danger of living in a war zone. But if we're going to consider shredding the liberty of 20 year olds, we damn well better do the same for 47 year olds as well.

And there's so much other work that needs to be done...who provides child care for soldiers' families? Drafted middle age adults of course!

If the government were to pay for its wars via taxes, then the wealthy would pay more than their fair share.

If, however, the government were to pay for its wars via deficit spending, then the wealthy will earn more than their fair share of interest on the money loaned.

There were probably plenty of other reasons Bush chose not to fund the war with a war tax (tough sell! makes the effort seem more difficult than your pitch promises!), but maybe it's a simple as who profits from it.

For the record, I'm in favor of War Taxes tied to specific Wars. Heck, it might be enough to bring RFRA into play.

Turb, forget 47 year olds. 65 year olds (and older!) can still drive trucks and cook meals. Heck, someone in a wheel chair can still probably type and fill out forms -- and the military has a lot of that, even when they get off a peace-time footing.

Part of the problem is that the military still gives at least lip service to the idea that every man can be an infantryman, regardless of whether he is assigned that duty or not. It might make sense, if you have a very small, all-professional army, to have everybody cpmbat capable. But for an army the size of ours, and given how modern warefare works, it is nonsense.

DrSci:

I'm pretty sure that if there'd been an Iraq War tax that hurt the 0.1% as much as stop-loss policies hurt military families, the war would have ended by 2005 if it had been begun at all.

I wouldn't be so sure. There seems to be more support for the wars among veterans (where the burden fell the most heavily) than among the general populace.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/05/afghanistan-and-iraq-veterans-poll-view-of-war_n_995408.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/04/08/few-regrets-89-of-iraq-and-afghanistan-vets-would-do-it-all-over-again/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/04/01/do-iraq-and-afghanistan-veterans-think-the-wars-were-worth-fighting/

And a link to the main KFF/WP poll: http://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/after-the-wars

Note it isn't strong support, just stronger than the general populace. While overall I think war taxes are a good thing (if we must go to war), but I think the major problem with your plan is exactly the same problem you're trying to get around:

Right now, the United States is mostly a plutocracy. Wealthy people tend to be very interested in politics, have access to politicians

The difficulty is selling a war tax, especially a highly progressive one (which seems to be what you are proposing), is that it targets the very people who have access to politicians.

To get over that access, you need a populace that is engaged and energetic on that topic. We have a functioning democracy, and when the populace feels strongly about something, it in general will happen. And bluntly, people don't like voting for higher taxes. It's a hard sell.

But I don't even think this is merely rich people licking their lips over government bonds and reconstruction contracts. The invasion of Iraq was popular in the beginning:

http://www.pewresearch.org/2008/03/19/public-attitudes-toward-the-war-in-iraq-20032008/

Now, even though the cost of war has been unfairly shared in this country, we are war weary. There is limited support for intervention in Syria, or Ukraine. The American populace has seen war for the last decade, and we have been reminded how horrible it really is. We are properly reluctant to use military force.

IMHO, far more effective than threatening to tax the 0.1%, is showing people the cost of war. Embedded reports, gun camera footage, death tolls. We must keep the terrible nature of war near the forefront of our national conscience.

For the record, I'm in favor of War Taxes tied to specific Wars. Heck, it might be enough to bring RFRA into play.

Unlikely. 3rd Circuit rejected a claim brought be a Quaker:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-3rd-circuit/1441988.html

gun camera footage

War porn? The government could make a ton of money by streaming it for a hefty fee. A lot of people (far too many) get off on watching sand-n-words getting slaughtered by US military might and likley consider the cynical remarks by the guys pulling the trigger an added bonus. It's too much like a (sick) videogame.

I wonder: if IUDs had been thrown under U.S. troop transports in Iraq and IEDs inserted into women's vaginas stateside whether Hobby Lobby's manufactured outrage would have gained as much purchase with Alito and company.

I favor a flat tax of 100% on stupidity to fund foreign wars with additional surcharges every time either Dick Cheney or John McCain open their mouths to demand weapons and troops be sent everywhere.

The deficit would disappear overnight, although I disagree with Reagan and Laffer that we would end up with less stupidity.

McCain's most recent bullsh*t that he might not have sent troops to Iraq in the first place is not even believed by him (how the Vietnamese tolerated him is beyond human understanding), and besides, his two Vice Presidents would have undermined him behind the scenes to reverse that position, with Joseph Lieberman manning the neo-conservative barricades to reverse any hesitation on Iraq, and Sarah Death Palin and her Tea Party sh*theads urging both impeachment and a military coup if he dared not spend trillions of borrowed money to bring muscular Putin-style, military terror to the rest of the world.

Speaking of Putin, if things are as they seem in the latest from Ukraine, I just don't see what American Republicans and conservatives find so sexy/powerful about the idiot, outside of shirtless grandstanding and gay bashing.

It looks like Putin has screwed the pooch and the Russian people should rise up and shoot the f*cker in the head.

That should happen a lot of places around the globe.

Hartmut:

A lot of people (far too many)

One is too many. But I would disagree with "A lot of people". Perhaps I am too optimistic about human nature, but I challenge the assertion that by and large, americans enjoy the bloodshed of war.

Often unaware of it, or possessing only a stylized John Wayne concept of it, perhaps.

In the War Tax scenario, there'd be a specific levy for a specific purpose, which is much closer to the ACA exemptions religious orgs (and closely held Corps) enjoy wrt to women's health care.

RFRA says the government can burden a person's religious expression if:

1. the burden is in furtherance of a compelling government interest;

2. it's the least restrictive way for the government to further its interest.

Adams conceded #1, and then failed at #2. The court said the existing tax system -- everybody pays, full stop -- was the least restrictive means.

In the War Tax fantasy world, the government would win at 1, but the Quakers may have a shot at 2. There are plenty of less restrictive means for the government to fund a war than a specific war tax.

It's moot anyway. But fun to think about!

thompson, most would retch if confronted with it first hand. But gun camera footage is the perfect sanitized version. Concrete enough for the thrill but abstract enough to avoid the side effects.
Some war veteran turned movie director (Sam Fuller?) said that it would be necessary to put machine guns into movie theaters firing live rounds right above the heads of the audience to give it at least a glimpse of the real thing. And some other veteran opined that smell was the essential missing ingredient. In "Oh! What a Lovely War" at least he actors got the full package. The trench scenes were shot on/in a waste dump during a heat wave and several lost conscience from the unbelievable stink.

Model62:

Good point, I suppose there could be some legal case for a specific war tax. But I think the everybody pays, full stop idea would still apply. After all, Adams was perfectly willing to pay for other things, if only she could be guaranteed that it wasn't spent on war.

Then again, we allow conscientus objectors to avoid combat duty, perhaps a similar doctrine would apply.

Hartmut:

most would retch if confronted with it first hand.

I'd agree.

Concrete enough for the thrill but abstract enough to avoid the side effects.

Personally, I get no thrill from gun camera footage. Or footage of the aftermath. Or pictures of death and destruction.

Not saying there aren't sanitized depictions, or that people don't glorify war and combat. My point is that confronting voters with the reality of war is the best check against engaging in war.

Maybe you're right, gun camera is too abstract to most people. I don't know, its real enough for me.

In "Oh! What a Lovely War" at least he actors got the full package. The trench scenes were shot on/in a waste dump during a heat wave and several lost conscience from the unbelievable stink.

In a similar vein, Jeremy Irvine contracted trench foot during War Horse:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/dec/19/war-horse-star-trench-foot

I was an extra playing a combat soldier in "Apocalypse Now" while in the Philippines a million years ago and yes, it was a movie, and the rounds were blanks, but with helicopters and aircraft right overhead, explosions set a few feet away (we weren't always told where) and the fusillades of military gunfire, I think I got a taste of the horrible, deafening, disequilibrating noise of war, even though the takes were only a few minutes long.

It was sobering. I'm pretty sure I shot most of my mates nearby, and they me.

No purple hearts.

The combat scenes, especially the first 20 minutes, of "Saving Private Ryan" with the surround sound shrapnel whistling past your ears in the theater did not have me thinking, "God, I wish I'd been in the front row of the Allies landing craft on D-Day."

Some of the war-lovers in this country, luckily, are pinned down at the Bundy Ranch and putting on weight from ordering out for cheeseburgers from the local drive-in.

Others have developed carpel tunnel syndrome from launching cruise missiles via their keyboards in their basements while wearing little more than their bathrobes.

The most egregious, tacky, tasteless, ridiculous, disgusting, and damaging example of such thinking was George W. Bush stuffing a sock down the front of his flight suit britches and fake landing a fighter jet on the aircraft carrier.

It put the concept and tradition of civilian control and command of the military back a couple of centuries.

I challenge the assertion that by and large, americans enjoy the bloodshed of war.

CNN made their bones broadcasting Iraq I live. Millions of Americans watched it. Their ratings were through the roof.

thompson: ... you need a populace that is engaged and energetic ...

We run this republic with the populace we have, not the populace we wish we had.

But in all seriousness, it seems to me that the kind of politics that gets called centrist, or moderate, or bipartisan, by the Very Serious People who always compare it favorably to good old-fashioned win-some-lose-some competitive democracy, is a fine recipe for an indifferent and lethargic populace.

The people who raise hell -- who are not Very Serious, who want what they want and spit on compromise -- are the people politicians actually fear in the end. It's commonplace to speak of the super-rich buying politicians with campaign money, but what they're really doing if you think it through is indoctrinating the populace.

If I were a billionaire, I'd spend money on convincing the populace that taxing me more would be bad for them. I'd push memes like "wealth creation" and pooh-pooh questions about the distribution of that wealth. I would use politicians and pundits as my mouthpieces, of course. And I'd convince a lot of the populace.

Oh wait: it's already been done.

--TP

CNN made their bones broadcasting Iraq I live. Millions of Americans watched it. Their ratings were through the roof.

And the reporting, at least as I recall it, had minimal displays of graphic violence or the results.

We run this republic with the populace we have

Ah, so that is what a democracy is! :)

It's commonplace to speak of the super-rich buying politicians with campaign money, but what they're really doing if you think it through is indoctrinating the populace.

Aren't they doing both? The rich have access to politicians, and have access to media.

However, when the populace cares strongly about something, there is no amount of money, ad buys, etc etc, that can overcome popular will. When people don't care strongly, or are split, it becomes easier to guide the discussion with money.

My point is that I doubt the average person on the street has much appetite for war, if they knew what it entailed. As evidenced by decline in support for military actions, even limited ones, as the reality of Iraq and Afghanistan seeped its way slowly into the national consciousness.

thompson:

when the populace cares strongly about something, there is no amount of money, ad buys, etc etc, that can overcome popular will.

Please give an example of something the populace cares strongly about that political marketing has been unable to sway, because I'm drawing a blank.

The nearest I can come is the absolute resistance to immigration reform by foot soldiers within the Republican Party, despite the wishes of party leaders and oligarchs. But I don't know how much marketing effort has been thrown at them, or if party leaders (during the Bush Administration and now) just expect the followers to, well, follow, and don't know how to cope when they won't.

And the really intensive marketing force in the GOP is the conservative media: talk radio, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal. I don't know of any position conservative media has strongly promoted but which has then been rejected by the GOP rank-and-file -- now centered on the Tea Party. Can you think of any?

People seem to forget that we had a draft during the Vietnam war, and it, although the draft may have engendered protests, it didn't prevent the war from lasting for years.

In any case, even if a draft would reduce U.S. aggression around the world, no benefit could justify slavery, which is what the draft is. The military, like other employers should compete for employees in the open market.

a draft wouldn't stop the CIA from droning people to death.

And the reporting, at least as I recall it, had minimal displays of graphic violence or the results.

I remember live footage of missiles hitting targets full of people. The camera was on the missile, so it's true, no post-impact footage of charred bodies.

Throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq II campaigns there was a quite large fan base for bootlegs of the gorier stuff. To hot and nasty for TV, but not for YouTube and email circulation.

Long story short, challenge away, but IMO you're wrong about American's appetite for and interest in seeing carnage, as long it's other folks.

IIRC, there was something like 85% of public support for universal background checks on gun sales, post Sandy Hook.

Yet somehow, it didn't happen. Would it have happened at 90% support? 95% support? 99% support with the 1%ers dead set against it?

Perhaps if the 85% had the "intensity" of the other 15% it would make a difference, IOW: "drag the politicians out to street and beat them with shovels if they don't do what we want". Rather than "we think it's a good idea. No? Oh well".

thompson: My point is that I doubt the average person on the street has much appetite for war, if they knew what it entailed.

Probably true, if "what it entailed" was higher taxes. Which is DocSci's thesis.

I only say "probably" because I seem to remember that Teddy Roosevelt's splendid little war with Spain was partly funded by a tax on telephone services that remained on the books for about a century. On the other hand, that was a rich man's tax when it was enacted: the average person in the street did not have a telephone back then. (Taking "in the street" literally, nobody did.) So even if I'm remembering correctly, it's not clear what thesis this example supports.

I'm fairly sure, however, that I could make a war extremely unpopular, nowadays, if I could arrange for it to be financed by a tax on cellphone minutes.

--TP

In Germany the tax on sparkling wine/champagne was introduced to get extra revenue for the (then) Imperial Fleet. This tax did not disappear after 1918. It would take some time before it ceased to be just a tax on the wealthy only since the commoners preferred more basic alcoholic beverages.

Vietnam dragged on for a long time (albeit not as long as this centuries examples). But it is perhaps noteworthy that, save in cases where we are clearly and directly attacked, nobody ever sells getting into a way while admitting how long it may run. It's always going to be "a short, victorious war." With the natives greeting our troops with flowers.

Oh yes, and because it will be so quick and easy, there won't be any need for additional taxes to pay for it. War on the cheap. At least until the fighting starts -- at which point we suddenly discover an urgent need for additional men and equipment.

Drat!

"... nobody ever sells getting into a war"

DrSci:

The nearest I can come is the absolute resistance to immigration reform by foot soldiers within the Republican Party

I think immigration is a good example. It likely played a role in the defeat of Cantor, despite his substantial money and support advantage.

Another example is the Syria conflict. I'll admit I don't watch much foxnews, but what little I have seen regarding the conflict tended to follow the lines of Mccain, Graham, etc. Intervention in Syria polls poorly in general, and worse in R's:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/164282/support-syria-action-lower-past-conflicts.aspx

I'll admit neither is a perfect example of what I'm suggesting. Then again, I don't think there are any perfect examples in politics and popular opinion. It's a messy field, and I certainly wouldn't claim any simple answer fully describes it.

russell:

there was a quite large fan base for bootlegs of the gorier stuff.

How large, compared to the voting public? There are fans of child pornography, but I wouldn't consider them representative of the voters in general. Alternatively, I'm also not clear on why the videos were distributed, and to who. Videos of police brutality are common online, some youtube videos have millions of views. But I wouldn't necessarily claim that the majority of people viewing them are doing so because they enjoy and support the violence.

If your point is that there are sick people out there, I would agree. If your point is that its a large percentage of the population, I am unconvinced.

Tony P:

Probably true, if "what it entailed" was higher taxes. Which is DocSci's thesis.

Heh, perhaps. And like I said, I have no objection to war taxes. I think they are unlikely, due to vested interests against increased taxes at the higher levels. I also don't think they are the best strategy, as sometimes people making sacrifices believe in the sacrifices they are making are worthwhile.

As I mentioned, those that carried the burden most heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan are in general more supportive of the war. While its true you can modify behavior with taxes, simply taxing something doesn't eliminate it.

How large, compared to the voting public?

I didn't realize that we were discussing how many as a percentage of the voting public.

Hartmut's claim is that there's an audience for war porn. You think there isn't. My experience is that there is.

How big? Bigger than small. Bigger than trivial, and bigger than inconsequential. Bigger than just weirdos and creeps.

"Please give an example of something the populace cares strongly about that political marketing has been unable to sway, because I'm drawing a blank"

Well, they're sure trying. The BHO admin was absolutely trying to get us into the fray in Syria by lying about who was responsible for the gas attack. It was their yellow cake/wmd/mobile labs moment. It failed and they were wrong, but, undeterred by truth, they're back at it again with the downed Malaysian airliner in the Ukraine. Neither the lefties nor the right wingers will be happy until we are engaged in perpetual war of Armageddon proportions. But it's a soft sell based on whipped up moral outrage.

Working against Assad helped to create ISIS, who we also get to fight.

Now there's Africom (African Command) where we have more troops that most realize fighting someone or another for some reason or another.

Both parties voted unanimously to support Israel's latest slaughter of Palestinian fish in the Gaza barrel; replete with Palestinian children gunned down on a beach while repairing fishing nets.

War is what the US does all over the world and both parties are responsible.

A draft would never work because it would cause people to start examining the concept of perpetual global war; and probably resist.

A war tax would have a similar result, albeit to a lesser degree.

A bad economy with low paying jobs is a defacto draft and I suspect that is in part why we have such a situation.

Essentially, we are f'ed unless we burn down DC, shoot all of the politicians, and start all over again. But that's why gun control is so important. They know that once war with Russia commences, what the reaction might be.

Is there a single politician that is fanning the flames of war?

//Drat!

"... nobody ever sells getting into a war"//

Got side tracked. Yes. Wars are absolutely sold. Remember the Maine! remember the Lusitania! Remember Pearl Harbor! Tonkin Gulf! Red Commies and dominoes! Saddam worse than Hitler (part 1)! dead babies ripped from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals. Remember 9/11! Saddam worse than Hitler (part 2)! WMD! Yellow cake! Mobile germ labs! Assad gassed his own people! Putin responsible for shoot down of passenger airliner!

Those few simple slogans - several lies and most vast oversimplifications - have been (or will be in the latter case) the sales pitches that were bought by the American people, that launched the green machine that killed millions.

Unless you are saying that the American people exist in a constant insatiate hunger for war and the sales pitches were not necessary.

The BHO admin was absolutely trying to get us into the fray in Syria by lying about who was responsible for the gas attack. It was their yellow cake/wmd/mobile labs moment. It failed and they were wrong, but, undeterred by truth, they're back at it again with the downed Malaysian airliner in the Ukraine.

Somehow my recollection is different. It had the Obama administration avoiding getting militarily involved in Syria (to the fury of the neocons). While (to widespread surprise) successfully getting the chemical weapons out of Assad's hands.

As for the situation in Ukraine, I'm just not seeing any effort to get us militarily involved at the moment. And the closest I've seen to that was a suggestion, from outside the admistration, back when Crimea was being grabbed to move some naval vessels into the Black Sea. Which might have actually escallated to the point of getting a war going . . . except that it didn't actually happen.

So far, we seem to be focused on economic, not military, responses to Russia. With, admittedly, a huge assist from Putin's missteps -- he looks to have gotten the EU motivated to sign in on sanctions that were previously more than they would go for.

Informed observer--I don't have any problems with people criticizing the Obama Administration when it's wrong and I'll get right to it in a moment, but I think your Syria analysis is mistaken. Obama drew his red line regarding Syria, but he seemed flummoxed when Syria apparently used poison gas. (I know some people said it was the rebels but don't know enough to say who was right.) But it seemed to me that Obama was relieved to have a face-saving way out. He is in favor of drone killing, but not boots on the ground. Now there was a lot of talk of arming "moderate" rebels. I'm always surprised at how touchingly eager Americans are to arm "moderate" rebels. (Maybe they could have found some moderate Palestinian rebels to arm. In a way, they did, but they expect those arms to be used against other Palestinians, as in the brief Palestinian civil war the US/Israel instigated because they didn't like the fact that Hamas won the election. ) There's maybe a bit less eagerness to get involved in the Syrian war on the side of the "rebels", since the most effective rebels in Syria seem to be the ones who are also rebelling in Iraq, killing Christians and so on. Which is also, btw, why I've read Christians in Syria support Assad.

Regarding the bipartisan consensus about slaughtering Palestinians, you're right. It's this sort of thing that makes the word "bipartisan" leave a bad taste in my mouth. There's something touching in the President's empathy for Israeli children under the "rain of rockets"--he's always talking about how he'd feel if his daughters were under those rockets. He never seems to empathize with Palestinian farmers or fishermen or unarmed protestors getting shot during ceasefires. They don't exist. Their deaths are barely reported and promptly forgotten the instant an Israeli is killed. That, by definition, is when a ceasefire has ended. Though sometimes it only requires some Palestinian rockets without any deaths. But Obama is just doing what apparently every American politician is supposed to do--humanize one side and justify the violence inflicted by them, but not on them.

Draft or tax? In some ways a superficial choice. The problem begins with our definition of "vital" national interests, and the institutional arrangements we have erected to promote them. As always, Andy Bacevick nails it.

For this discussion, see item 6. For my pet peeve, see item 9. The rest are, well, excellent.

Donald it was the Syrian rebels that fired the gas. This has been proven and should have been pretty much known all along. I also think that the US cannot keep poking at Russia, especially in the Ukraine, without some serious martial consequences arising at some point. Remember, no one planned WW1 to occur as the massive conflagration that is was. It just sort of fell into place because of all of the alliances and mindless gratuitous bellicose talk that set the stage.


At any rate, I have diverted from the intended topic. I think both a war tax and a draft are a good idea.

First, it should be a no brainer that if you want to have a war, you're going to have to pay for it. Simply printing money is a bad idea (see macro economics 101).

Second, we have military personnel that have been deployed multiple times and they are burned out. The suicide rate among combat arms troops is quite high, as is the PTSD incidence, TBIs, and citizens aren't fully aware of just how high because the figures are diluted by all of the non-combat arms being included in the denominator. Retention rates in combat arms are not so good either any more. IMO, from a combat effectiveness standpoint, two combat deployments should be the max. A draft should be used to fill the billets since all of our politicians seem to agree that we are involved in a perpetual war against "terrorism" (which seems to include just about anything or anyone that annoys us even slightly) as well as suffering the responsibility to protect (R2P) all over the globe which I suspect is a cover for empire building, but, regardless, means even more combat.

A problem I have with liberals is that they are always talking about the common good; doing what's best for the collective. Liberal politicians want war (liberals are heavily represented in the R2P crowd), but it is the one area of civic life where they are not demanding a contribution from those able to give. Republicans, want war, but, cheap bastards that they are, they don't want to pay for it either.

BTW, what is this fascination with being "strong" and flexing American military might - or even being militarily mighty in the first place - that both sides of the aisle suffer from?

But yeah,if that's how we want to be, then everyone should have to dig deep and contribute.

bobbyp - yep. I agree 100% with everything in your Bacevick link. I read it after putting up my last comment. If I had read it before, I would have simply seconded the value of the link and left it at that.

IO, have you got a reliable citation for the claim that it has been "proven" that the rebels were responsible for the gas attack? Preferably with a plausible explanation for how they got their hands on the gas, and why they would have gassed their own people, rather than Assad's forces.

i must say... i can't wait for the answer to wj's 10:32 !

A problem I have with liberals is that they are always talking about the common good; doing what's best for the collective.

aka "the people".

I also await the proof that it was the Syrian rebels who deployed the gas.

Russell, do you really find it so difficult to believe that radicals that practice cannibalism and that crucify/behead Christians would use captured or home made gas? Do you really not believe that people who trumped up an invasion of a sovereign country based on non-existent yellow cake from Niger, non-existent WMD and non-existent associations with Al Qaeda wouldn't lie about who used gas?

The bottom line here is that Obama, Kerry, et al state that Assad was behind the gas attack. They had no - 0 - evidence for this. Now they're doing it again with regards to the Malaysian airliner shoot down in the Ukraine.

After the dust settled it appeared that it was at least as likely, probably more so, that the Syrian rebels themselves deployed the gas; which accidently went off over the wrong target area. 100% proof? No. But, again, where is the proof that is was government forces as the BHO administration says it was?

We are very stupidly backing the wrong guys in Syria and those chickens are already coming home to roost in the form of ISIS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_International_Commission_of_Inquiry_on_the_Syrian_Arab_Republic

Also in May, according to a report by American journalist Seymour Hersh the CIA briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra's work with sarin, and on Al-Qaeda in Iraq's knowledge of Sarin production methods in Syria.

http://www.itv.com/news/update/2014-04-02/farage-syria-rebels-more-than-likely-to-blame-for-gas-attacks/

http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

http://shoebat.com/2013/08/27/evidence-syrian-rebels-used-chemical-weapons-not-assad/

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304858104579262882620510434

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/09/05/russia-delivers-report-to-u-n-saying-syrian-rebels-behind-sarin-gas-attack-in-march/

http://missingpeace.eu/en/2013/09/freed-belgian-writer-claims-syrian-rebels-responsible-for-sarin-gas-attack/

From Kevin Drum:

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/more-pointless-bluster-foreign-policy-please

Incoherent at best, we are, speaking of the collective.

I repeat: Tax stupidity. You could meter Sarah Death Palin's tweets and the resulting revenue would shore up Medicare for generations.

What the 39% mentioned by Drum seem to want is Vladimir Putin as their leader --- bare-chested, WWF muscle flexing, shooting their f*cking mouths off until something blows up, and then stiffing the rest of us on both the blood and the treasure.

Basically Erick Erickson, though I suspect his man breasts aren't quite as firm.

Hear tell Erickson has instituted a policy whereby only purely pro-life (pre-born life; those born remain eminently killable) types may front page at Red State, narrowing the previous rather amorphous qualification of limiting the privilege to anti-American, murderous sh*thead jagoffs.

The Gavlak disavowal that Slarti linked doesn't mean much--Dale Gavlak wasn't in Syria and admits to helping translate the article. And now wants no part of it. Well, if I were a respectable mainstream reporter I probably wouldn't want to be associated with this story either, true or not, unless it was solid. Bad career move to be in the minority on something like this even if one were right, (I can't remember the name of that San Jose Mercury reporter who committed suicide after saying the CIA was involved in contra drug trafficking) and definitely bad if one is wrong.

I read some of this material last year--not being an expert, I couldn't judge it then and can't judge it now. I expect governments to lie, it's just a question of which governments are lying in any given case and I have no idea. Morally, either side in the Syrian civil war is perfectly capable of slaughtering civilians, as has been demonstrated numerous times.

Russell, do you really find it so difficult to believe that radicals that practice cannibalism...

At this point in my life, there's very little that I would find impossible to believe.

The idea that the rebels gassed themselves by accident actually seems fairly credible to me on principle, even in the absence of specific evidence, because it has that true-to-life element of people screwing up and doing amazingly stupid things.

Especially so because it has that additional sort of high-risk combination of "free lance violence" and "dangerous chemicals".

You seemed quite clear that it was, hands-down, no-question, abso-guaranteed-lutely obvious that it was the rebels.

We all asked if you might like to back that up.

I'll take a look at your links and let you know what I think.

In the meantime, I'm curious to know which is the "right" side in Syria.

More on MintPress from slart's link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mint_Press_News

informed observer, I have no doubt we're "backing" the wrong guys (although that backing seems pretty weak tea compared to previous and blundering U.S. backing in the region) in Syria, but this leaves open the question of who you think the right guys are, and why American backing of them would not result in some similar blowback as all of our other backing since about the time I was born.*

*I'm sick of everything and everyone in the Mideast and think all parties should go f*ck themselves without our assistance.

The weapon shown in some of informed observer's links is the Syrian Hell Cannon, which shoots projectiles that look like rockets that are made from empty propane canisters filled with X, where X is usually some kind of improvised and fuzed HE. It's just a mobile howitzer that is rigged to shoot these things, which (if you look at the video) are basically bolted together out of scrap metal.

If these are Syria's much-vaunted chemical weapons, well, yawn.

IO, I see rumors. I see accusations. I see a report from Russia (which supports Assad, and can't really be considered an objective observer in any case -- c.f. the nonsense coming from them regarding Ukraine). What I don't see is evidence. Not saying there definitely isn't any. Just that I haven't seen any, and your sources don't provide it.

The chemical weapons were in Assad's armories. Which makes him most likely as the user. Not proven, but far more likely. Could the rebels have captured an armory and used some? Yes. Is there evidence that this actually happened? Not that I have yet seen.

what I see in informed observer's links are:

Carla Del Ponte says it might have been the rebels.

The Russian government says it was the rebels.

A Belgian guy says it was the rebels, because he heard them talking about it while he was held captive.

I don't know much about Del Ponte, so I have no opinion as to her credibility.

Syria is a long-time client state of the Russians, so I'm not inclined to take their word for it.

Belgian guy amounts to, basically, hearsay.

Maybe the definitions for "evidence" and "proof" are less than clear.

I don't necessarily believe Kerry and Obama out of hand, either. I'm just unconvinced about any definitive claims about who did what when it comes to Syria, because the place is a freaking mess.

I'm also unconvinced that any side would be the "right" side, for the same reason.

I doubt there is anyone involved who would qualify as a natural ally of ours, or who has our interests in mind. The only US interest I can see there is in the effects the civil war has on the middle east in general.

If somebody can explain why any party in Syria is really our BFF, I'm all ears.

I don't mean to be dismissive of what is a totally crappy and horrific situation for folks living there, I'm just not sure why we need to be jumping into every civil war on the planet.

Or, I *do* understand why we feel the need to jump into this particular one, and per Bacevich's article, find the underlying strategy to be wrong-headed and harmful, to us and others.

Hartmut's claim is that there's an audience for war porn. You think there isn't. My experience is that there is.

No. That's not what I think, nor what I wrote. Specifically, I said:

One is too many. But I would disagree with "A lot of people". Perhaps I am too optimistic about human nature, but I challenge the assertion that by and large, americans enjoy the bloodshed of war.

Or perhaps you're referring to a different comment, where I said I think there is no audience for war porn. If so, point it out. I'll either try to explain it better or retract it. Because that would be incorrect.

Here is a video that purports to be of Syrian rebels building the bombs that are shot from these so-called Hell Cannons.

Note that they are all blue, and also note there are a LOT of them.

This isn't anything like a contradiction of the claim, but it does underscore that these are largely home-made weapons and NOT e.g. chemical weapons warheads mounted on another vehicle.

bobbyp:

I'd agree, that's a great list. I can't actually pick one or two that stand out from the rest in my mind. Thanks for the link.

"In the meantime, I'm curious to know which is the "right" side in Syria"

The lesser of two evils, who, IMO, appears to be Assad. Assad is at least westernized and socially moderate. I don't see how anyone in their right mind can favor ISIS/al Qaeda - and the fact is that the so called moderate rebels have been subsumed by the radicals at this point; CIA and State fantasies of their ability to play chess with maniacs and win aside.

I guess my point is that no one knows for sure who launched the chemical attack, but state was cocksure it was Assad when they thought that would allow US bombs to be dropped. If there was a war tax and a draft then people would ask the right questions and come to the sane conclusion when the politicians and MSN info op.s talking heads start beating the drums of war. I'm telling you, this Syrian gas and Malaysian jet shoot down are way too reminiscent of yellow cake, etc.

I asked the honorable lunatic from AZ, Sen John McCain, why it is a good idea to support the Syrian rebels given their proclivity for radical Islam, murdering Christians, invading countries and declaring caliphates and all that rot. His robot like answer, Assad has killed over 100,000 of his own people. Asad = Hitler. I responded that many of the 100,000 dead in the civil war were killed by the rebels themselves and, of those actually killed by Assad's troops, many are the same extremists that we, ourselves, were killing in Iraq and Afghanistan. So.......Then McCain started rambling something or another about democracy and freedom, to which I countered that Hamas is democratically elected too, but.......end of conversation (true story, not illustrative fiction). Problem is, Obama's crew spouts the same nonsense. It's all the same foreign policy, elephants and donkeys alike.

We need citizens to have some skin in the game or these craven louts will continue on the march toward Armageddon.

Donald:

Morally, either side in the Syrian civil war is perfectly capable of slaughtering civilians, as has been demonstrated numerous times.

To me, this is a far more important aspect of the war than the release of chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are terrible, and especially suited to the slaughter of non-combatants, but people killed by conventional weapons are just as dead.

As russell notes, we don't seem to have any natural allies in that war. And as Bacevich (via bobbyp) notes, we have a very poor history of choosing allies in that region.

It's all the same foreign policy, elephants and donkeys alike.

it really isn't.

If there was a war tax and a draft then people would ask the right questions

I would note, there is neither a war tax, nor a draft, and polling is very much against getting involved in Syria.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/09/politics/syria-poll-main/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/164282/support-syria-action-lower-past-conflicts.aspx

http://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/07/the-collapsing-syria-sarin-case/

probably the best summation of the Syrian chem attack incident

I think the closest there comes to a "right side" in Syria is probably the Kurds -- who would be sufficiently pleased in everybody else just bigger off and leave them alone. They don't seem to have any interest in conquering the rest of the country for their own version of "how the world should be." They don't (from what little I have seen) seem inclined to slaughtering those who disagree with them.

But beyond that, I think our best overall policy is to just stand back and let those in the country battle it out. We succeeded in doing the one thing that was important for the chances of peace elsewhere in the Middle East -- getting rid of Assads chemical weapons stockpile. And beyond that, we really don't have a dog in this fight.

The good news is, so far the administration shows no sign of trying to get us involved. Which, would probably be easy enough to do, if they were so inclined.

Now they're doing it again with regards to the Malaysian airliner shoot down in the Ukraine.

there is ample evidence that the Ukrainian rebels had already captured a missile battery capable of hitting that plane, that they had received training, that the training wasn't necessary complex, that they had already shot down a Ukrainian govt plane that same day, that they bragged about shooting both planes, that they started erasing evidence of all of that once the truth came out, that they are now saying things like "everybody on board was already dead before the plane exploded", etc..

not everything is a conspiracy.

Sadly, Cleek, all too often it is a conspiracy. Or at least we need to consider the possibility seriously. The Maine in Havana harbor? Tonkin Gulf? Light at the end of the tunnel? Everything said in the build up to the invasion of Iraq? Come on. When is enough enough for you?

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2014/07/httpconsortiumnewscom20140720what-did-us-spy-satellites-see-in-ukraine.html

Even if it was the Ukranian rebels, so what? Sh!t happens in the fog of war. The USS Vincennes anyone? Israeli attack on the USS Liberty?

The US wants to bring the regime in the Ukraine under it's control. The Russian ethnics don't want it. The regime is oppressing the Russian ethnics. Russia has valid interests in the Ukraine. Our interests have to do with Chevron. Shades of Smedley Butler here. It stinks. And it playing with fire, nuclear fire at that.

On the larger, original questions of taxing, drafting and selling War to the citizenry, y'all might want to read Paul Fussell's "The Great War", about the origins in grandiose martial, romantic notions in literature, art, and the cult of honor in European culture from deep in the 18th century as the fertile soil that gave rise to the rush into the greatest slaughter perpetrated by the so-called civilized world (because a relatively unimportant ArchDuke was assassinated), is exhaustively explored.

The Great War didn't have to be sold. The people and the military were out front and diplomacy and statecraft were left in the dust.

The people, much-vaunted, but really a mass of silly, lethal stupidity and fed heroic pap for nearly a century in Germany, England, France, Russia, and Austria-Hungarian Empire couldn't wait to hit the trenches.

War-porn? They thought war was going to be a little closed-mouth kissing and then we all get medals and a parade.

The technologies of gas, artillery, Naval warfare, and later tanks quickly brought it to the level of snuff porn and then all of the surviving sensitive poets went home to commit suicide.

Cleek, all too often it is a conspiracy.

no, it isn't.

the assumption of conspiracy utterly eliminates rational thought: it's metastasized confirmation bias.

Even if it was the Ukranian rebels, so what?

298 dead. that's what. FFS.

The US wants to bring the regime in the Ukraine under it's control.

no, it doesn't. there is no conspiracy to bring the Ukraine "under US control".

"His robot like answer, Assad has killed over 100,000 of his own people. "

Yeah and he wasn't the only one. I no longer have the links and figures at my fingertips, but last summer , when the approximate figure from the Syrian Observatory guy was 100,000 dead, only a fraction of those were civilians in the first place.--something like 36,000 if my memory is right. Oddly enough, Assad's forces (the military and associated militia) were dying in comparable or larger numbers to the civilians and the rebel deaths were the smallest. Which was weird, since Assad's side has the heavy weaponry. But anyway, the common Western claim that "Assad" had killed 100,000 of his own people was not supported by what little evidence we actually had.

I've never seen a breakdown on who was killing the civilians, though I gather Human Rights Watch thinks Assad's side has killed the most. But the radical Islamists would probably kill more if they won.

and, put me in the "let them fight it out" column. Ukraine isn't our fight, neither is Syria, neither was Libya.

but one they start killing innocent bystanders (or flyovers, in this case), someone has to answer for it.

No doubt, soon, maybe this afternoon, we'll learn from Newsmax that the second Malaysian jet is sitting on a dirt runway somewhere next to the first Malaysian jet (previously dead bodies also removed) being readied to fly up Louie Gohmert's Texan butt.

There's a word or two missing in the first paragraph of my 1:31 pm, but I don't know which ones.

The US wants to bring the regime in the Ukraine under it's control.

Seconding cleek here. Considering that the US doesn't have even allies such as the EU (or Turkey or Georgia) under anything that could be called "control," why would we think that we could do so with Ukraine? Not to mention, what would be the benefit to us of doing so?

The only reason that Ukraine would be important is if we, for whatever reason, were looking to mount a land invasion of Russia. God knows why we would want to, but still, that is the only way Ukraine would be important militarily. And the case for economic benefit of such control is even weaker. It will be a long time before Ukraine is any kind of economic plus. So what would be the point?

I do wonder the next time Edward Snowden has a sit-down chin wag with Vlad Putin if he could ask him what the deal is with the Malaysian jet.

It's amazing in this world of high-tech intelligence and hacking in which someone, probably in Russia, can cop my credit card info via Target and the NSA can read in real time that I hate their guts right here at OBWI (hello NSA, I hate you. And if the NRA is listening too, do f8ck yourselves), how little we know about bupkis in the world.

Not that the kibitzing isn't fun.

Count:

The Great War didn't have to be sold. The people and the military were out front and diplomacy and statecraft were left in the dust.

The people, much-vaunted, but really a mass of silly, lethal stupidity and fed heroic pap for nearly a century in Germany, England, France, Russia, and Austria-Hungarian Empire couldn't wait to hit the trenches.

Which is why, I'd argue, its important to inform people of the true nature of war.

Or perhaps you're referring to a different comment, where I said I think there is no audience for war porn.

thompson:

IMHO, far more effective than threatening to tax the 0.1%, is showing people the cost of war. Embedded reports, gun camera footage, death tolls.

Hartmut:

War porn? The government could make a ton of money by streaming it for a hefty fee. A lot of people (far too many) get off on watching sand-n-words getting slaughtered by US military might and likley consider the cynical remarks by the guys pulling the trigger an added bonus. It's too much like a (sick) videogame.

thompson:

One is too many. But I would disagree with "A lot of people". Perhaps I am too optimistic about human nature, but I challenge the assertion that by and large, americans enjoy the bloodshed of war.

I disagree with your opinion.

Millions of people watched Gulf I.

Millions of people watched the "Shock And Awe" lightshow.

Millions of people have seen this footage of a helicopter gunship attack, with narration by the crew.

There's no lack of real-life reporting from war theaters, much of it quite graphic. Outside of broadcast media, there's a ton of stuff circulated via email, YouTube, etc., and millions of people look at that.

The only example I can think of where graphic war coverage made a big dent in public opinion was Vietnam. The reason it did so in that case was, IMO, that we were portrayed as the bad guys in a lot of that coverage.

The guy shooting the other guy in the head was an officer of our client state. We were burning down the village that the naked little girl was running away from.

Nobody wants to be the bad guy.

People don't seem to be bothered much by scenes of mayhem, bloodshed, and death if the other guy is the "bad guy". And yes, millions and millions of people look at that stuff.

Meanwhile, while it doesn't always have to be a conspiracy, sometimes it does:

http://www.newrepublic.com/node/118782

The US wants to bring the regime in the Ukraine under it's control.

?!?!??

This seems, to me, to be a somewhat exaggerated claim.

Am I missing something?

There is a reason why the media's tease of "Our next story may shock you!" going into a commercial break turns out to be a rush to make popcorn.

I disagree with your opinion.

Which is fine, but you said "is that there's an audience for war porn. You think there isn't. "

I didn't say that.

On the substance of what you said:

Millions watching news of war does not necessarily imply people enjoy bloodshed. It could also be explained by people wanting to be informed about a war we were engaged in. Wars are significant events, and it should be no surprise that people follow the news.

I'd point out, that one of your examples, the collateral murder video, has been cited in arguments against war. Which is an example of what I'm suggesting.

It has also been used as war porn. I wouldn't suggest otherwise, and yes, that's disgusting.

The question I'd have is does its release overall encourage further military action by the US, or discourage it.

My opinion is that is discourages it.

Nobody wants to be the bad guy.

I couldn't agree more. And its a hell of a lot harder to convince yourself you're not the bad guy when you see video/pictures of "The guy shooting the other guy in the head was an officer of our client state. We were burning down the village that the naked little girl was running away from."

I wouldn't say that's just the media portraying the US as bad. It is bad.

And, as you noted, there was a negative effect on popular opinion of the war.

The US wants to bring the regime in the Ukraine under it's control.

?!?!??

This seems, to me, to be a somewhat exaggerated claim.

I'd agree....depends on the definition of "control". You don't have to buy into a more conspiratorial analysis of international relations (cf Informed Observer-politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows!)to note that the U.S. and its allies have essentially brought NATO right up to the Russian border, and were highly supportive of Ukraine falling into the Common Market system.

If you were a Russian, even a sane one, how would you take this? This is a question we seldom ask ourselves. We just assume our influence is "good" (for them).

It is the paternalism that grates.

Count: Agree. The Fussell book on the Great War is terrific, especially the parts about the suffragettes! A little corner of history I was totally unaware of.

If I were a (sane) Russian, how would I take the Ukraine moving towards the Common Market? Probably my response would be "Hot damn! Maybe we can get in, too!"

As a route to propserity, better governance, etc. it looks to be the best chance on offer for Russia. Not that the current government would agree, or ever consider accepting the limits on its own power that would be required. Heck, there are European governments with a whole lot more interest in their own people which have serious reservations about the EU. But a sane Russian would see it as a possible step forward.

NATO might well be a different story. But a Russia which was joining the EU would mean the end of NATO. You can't really have a defensive alliance when there isn't a credible threat left.

It's all the same foreign policy, elephants and donkeys alike.

it really isn't.

-cleek

With the tragi-comic demise of the Wallace presidential bid (Henry, not George) I would say they are pretty well in agreement as to the basics when it comes to defining where our "national interests" lie. This is a well known consensus that has been in place ever since.

For example, there is no basic disagreement as between Dems and Repulicans that the US armed forces be "the most powerful" in the world.

Such a goal has huge policy implications. Wouldn't you agree?


For example, there is no basic disagreement as between Dems and Repulicans that the US armed forces be "the most powerful" in the world.

true. but wanting the baddest guns and make-workiest make-work defense bucks is a lot different than wanting to get involved in every conflict that pops up. the GOP's leading foreign policy team of McCain and Graham sounds nothing like Obama or any other big name Dem.

I'd point out, that one of your examples, the collateral murder video, has been cited in arguments against war. Which is an example of what I'm suggesting.

The question I'd have is does its release overall encourage further military action by the US, or discourage it.

My opinion is that is discourages it.

I guess my point here is that there is, as best I can tell, zero evidence that the "collateral murder" video made any concrete change in our policies or practices, in Iraq or anywhere.

Lots of folks watch that stuff. They may think it's funny, or they may think it's horrible, but they watch it.

Unlike during the Vietnam era, it hasn't made much of a change in our foreign policy.

If you want to mince words about how many people is "a lot", or how much gore needs to be on display for it to be nasty enough to qualify for purposes of this discussion, or whether it's "porn" or not, we can probably pound the question into the ground for another 100 comments.

But there has been ample coverage of most of the wars we've been in in the last 30 years, including live, real-time coverage of places under active bombardment. There has been ample photographic documentation of dead and mutilated people in major publications. There have been many, many tallies of casualties. People have been very well exposed to the damage caused by wars.

I do not see, as a practical matter, how that has made any material difference in our foreign policy.

Your claim, to which Hartmut's "war porn" comment was a reply, was that exposure to stuff like that would make Americans less inclined to engage in warfare. I see no evidence of that.

To reiterate my point above, the last time I can think of where exposure to real wartime conditions made any kind of dent in American foreign policy was the Vietnam era.

If you can think of examples since then, I'm all ears. I can't think of any.

No doubt, soon, maybe this afternoon, we'll learn from Newsmax that the second Malaysian jet is sitting on a dirt runway somewhere next to the first Malaysian jet (previously dead bodies also removed) being readied to fly up Louie Gohmert's Texan butt.

I am still waiting for the claim that those two Malyasian planes were actually those that were disappeared on 9/11 (with all the passengers*) and replaced by holograms (so the explosives packed into the WTC would be attributed to a plane impact). The perpetrators just waited for an opportunity to dispose of them in pursuit of another nefarious goal. The one dumped in the Pacific was likely linked to Benghazi (the investigation thereof respectively) and the one in Ukrained linked to the Palestine conflict.

*which would explain why the corpses were not fresh anymore.
Joke aside, I just this afternoon went passed a demonstration in Berlin when the guy with the megaphone defended the 'only 50 corpses and already mummified' story while another one added the claim that there are no separatists in Ukraine and it's all a US/EU plot.

To reiterate my point above, the last time I can think of where exposure to real wartime conditions made any kind of dent in American foreign policy was the Vietnam era.

Offhand, I'd say the live images of two jets slamming into the WTC had an impact on foreign policy. Ditto Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Ditto pictures of gassed Kurds in Iraq. Not that the impact on foreign policy was what many here at ObWi wanted.

As for the Doc's post: if the 1% agreed to a war tax, would that trump a vote by the rest not to go to war? Or, if the 1% agreed to a war tax *and* the easily misled masses *also* agreed, would Doc then be on board with the war?

IOW, Doc S, if you got what you wanted and there was still a war, where would that leave you?

I do not see, as a practical matter, how that has made any material difference in our foreign policy.

Syria ?
The previous reluctance to back your NATO allies in Libya ?

Over here, there is no way a UK parliament would now be able to vote in favour of taking part in (for example) another Iraq invasion.

"The US wants to bring the regime in the Ukraine under it's control.

?!?!??

This seems, to me, to be a somewhat exaggerated claim.

Am I missing something?"


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2fYcHLouXY

Yes Russell, you are a smart guy from what I can see, but missing quite a bit re; the Ukraine. Please note the Chevron banner and Victoria Nuland's quasi orgasmic affect.

"Offhand, I'd say the live images of two jets slamming into the WTC had an impact on foreign policy."

This is true.

"Not that the impact on foreign policy was what many here at ObWi wanted."

Many here now, yes. On 9/12, the winds of war blew pretty hard given the makeup of the OBWItariat then.

I would add that a majority of the American public agree now agree with many here at OBWI at the moment and with some here on 9/12, especially regarding Iraq II.

"IOW, Doc S, if you got what you wanted and there was still a war, where would that leave you?"

I suspect vaguely satisfied that the war is being paid for, though personally I would extend the war tax far below the 1%, because why should the eagerness of the middle class go unlevied?

How ya doing, McTX?

russell: There has been ample photographic documentation of dead and mutilated people in major publications. There have been many, many tallies of casualties. People have been very well exposed to the damage caused by wars.

I don't know about the first and third sentences there. The NYTimes or the WaPo has published ample photographs of dead and mutilated people? Perhaps they have, but I have to say, I have been a fairly active reader these past almost 12 years and graphic coverage of, say, dead and mutilated Iraqis in major publications doesn't seem that prevalent to me (Abu Ghraib perhaps being an exception). Instead, it seems to me that the "major" publications and websites aimed at US audiences go out of their way to keep that stuff off the front pages and/or give ample warning that you're likely to come across it should you continue reading/watching/click on this link (trigger warnings!). The sample of people that actively seek such images out for "porn", it seems to me, aren't the ones that are going to be persuaded by the images.

Indeed, it could be that those iconic images from Vietnam were so effective because the general public had no choice to see them if they wanted to read the news. These days, if I don't want to see graphic images of, er, the spoils of war and still be "informed," I don't have to.

If people in the U.S. want to be exposed to the damage caused by wars then they can visit an active war zone or, for a real education, have a full blown war right here in the U.S. Which hasn't happened since, what, the Civil War? Seems like we remember that fairly well, although some seem to have learned the wrong lessons.

IO, I actually listened to the whole speech. I hear the lady say she "told President Yanakovych that he has a choice" -- whether to move Ukraine in the direction of Europe or not. She doesn't hide the fact that she thinks that would be better for Ukraine. You could, I suppose, fault her for offering gratuitious advice. But that really doesn't seem to me to be the usual approach to "bringing someone under control".

And I'm not sure what significance you are reading into the fact that Chevron was sponsoring this particular event (in which her speech was only one item). Is there some large oil deposit in Ukraine that you have heard of, but the rest of us have not? As far as I am aware, Ukraine's only significant natural resource is agriculture. (Not something that Chevron is really focused on.)

Not that the impact on foreign policy was what many here at ObWi wanted.

Do tell us what we think. Wouldn't want to mind reading cap to get dusty...

russell:

If you want to mince words about how many people is "a lot",

We seem to be talking past each other about something which is really a minor part of the larger discussion.

I challenged the use of "A lot of people (far too many) get off on watching [...]". Although "a lot" can mean pretty much anything, I think its misleading in a discussion about the voting public as a whole.

In the same sense I could say 'a lot of people view child pornography'. True statement, depending on what I mean by 'a lot'. But also potentially misleading.

1% of people getting off on war porn is 'a lot' to me, and disturbing. But not really a crippling counterargument, IMO. If Hartmut, or you, or someone else, wants to attach numbers, by all means, go ahead.

Otherwise, we'll probably have to disagree on what 'a lot' is, and/or how relevant that lot is. I'm sure we'll live.

Personally, I'm far more interested in the other aspects of what you said:

I guess my point here is that there is, as best I can tell, zero evidence that the "collateral murder" video made any concrete change in our policies or practices, in Iraq or anywhere.

Fair. It's pretty hard to pick out the effect of one video out of the soup of current events. I can say that the video was fodder for a lot of anti-war blogging and editorials. Perhaps they have no effect, but I find that unlikely.

While I can't find a reputable poll of the video specifically, there is a (small, maybe just noise) loss of support in mid 2010, shortly after release of the video:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/171923/fewer-support-iraq-withdrawal-decision-2011.aspx?ref=image

The timing of the polls isn't really ideal, and its a small bump, so maybe nothing.

And if you consider Abu Ghraib, I think it would be hard to deny that release of the abuse photos had influenced the national conversation:

From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse ):

On November 1, 2003, The Associated Press published a lengthy report[19] on inhumane treatment, beatings and deaths at Abu Ghraib and other American prisons in Iraq, based on interviews with released detainees, who told journalist Charles J. Hanley of inmates attacked by dogs, made to wear hoods and humiliated in other ways.[20] The article gained little notice.

But that changed after the release of photos by 60 minutes and the New Yorker. There were press conferences, hearings, etc. And that had an effect according to CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/05/18/detainee.abuse.lookback/index.html?iref=24hours ):

< A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll immediately after the photos were released showed that nearly three-quarters of Americans said the mistreatment of the detainees was unjustified under any circumstances. Bush's overall performance rating sank to what was then the lowest of his presidency, 46 percent. The poll also showed support for the war at its lowest since before it began, with only 44 percent saying they believed it was worthwhile.

It was a blow from which the administration, especially then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, never fully recovered. Amanpour said Obama's presidential victory and big wins by Democrats in the House and Senate were proof of that.

Again, I can't point to a specific policy that was because Abu Ghraib, but if you look back at the Gallup polling, there is again a shift (this one larger) in support in mid 2004, after the photos were released.

So, if you want me to cite a specific policy enacted after the release of violent imagery of war, I can't. But I do believe it influences the public debate, and public opinion, which in turn influences policy.

Your claim, to which Hartmut's "war porn" comment was a reply, was that exposure to stuff like that would make Americans less inclined to engage in warfare. I see no evidence of that.

That is the claim I made.

And you make a fair point. I have nothing concrete. I see evidence in America's increased reluctance to go to war after a decade of footage, casualty counts, and photos from Iraq and Afghanistan: Either in Syria, combating ISIL in Iraq, or in Ukraine. More directly in the declining poll numbers as the Iraq war dragged on. Many, many things contribute to that reluctance and decline, certainly. I'd suggest those graphic depictions do as well.

Do I have a controlled experiment that demonstrates that irrefutably? No. I have some poll numbers and my perception of the national discussion. Both are likely flawed, and you're free to find them unpersuasive.

Looks like I caused a bit of confusion here. My original statement was a rather narrow one aimed directly at gun camera footage. It is my opinion (and seemingly that of the Pentagon) that this specific kind of 'softcore' war porn will have no 'negative' effect on the American public as far as its acceptance of US led wars is concerned or will even feed it. The more 'hardcore' stuff (like the infamous leaked helicopter dialogue) will have a certain effect but imo there will be more people getting off on it than will get angry enough to work actively against the policies that lead to it. Abu Ghraib went clearly beyond te line causing a double outrage but that exactly is (to me) the second shocking thing. The outrage was not just about what had happened there but also that it got public. Someone remarked above that 3/4 of the public were disgusted. What I see there is that an nonnegligible part of the population was not or for the wrong reason (the scandal to them being that it got leaked not what was committed). The administration's first reaction too was going after the leak. My reading of the whole affair is that there are millions that found nothing wrong about US committed torture and war crimes and many more that were willing to accept such things to happen provied they had not to look at the sausage being made before eating it. The overall effect of even Abu Ghraib seems to have been depressingly low and (at least until there was a change in administration) the only firm conclusion was to keep a better lid on stuff like that (I doubt the abuse itself fully stopped under Cheney/Bush, it just got moved out of sight again). I think the lesson drawn by the executive/policy makers is that the public can be made to swallow almost anything but that there is a small risk of overdoing it and that therefore the flow of info has to be controlled tightly with an eye on the disturbance meter. But still the 'safety margin' seems quite high (and disgustingly so).
A carefully edited reel of only US soldiers dying or getting wounded would be quite a different thing but it would still depend on the circumstances of release. The slightest tone of bragging would 'spoil' it and rather trigger calls for revenge. Plus the 'sunk costs' fallacy still has great power, i.e. the idea of 'we can't give up now after all the sacrifices we have made'. It's losing value currently but mainly outside Washington and I have my doubts about that being a longterm effect. Keep the (visible) sacrifices low for a time and a 'return to normal' mya be in the cards sooner than one might hope.
Clarification: I do not consider the American public especially war hungry but it can be churned up sufficiently long enough to go into war and will then be complacent enough to stay in it absent personal sacrifices. At the moment the public is a bit more sensitive as far as the first part is concerned (unwilling to start a new war) but if the US should get involved without too obviously jumping into it, the second part could still be relied on.
To close with another cynical statement: As long as war is a bipartisan thing in Washington, public opinion can be ignored for the most part with low risk.

Do tell us what we think. Wouldn't want to mind reading cap to get dusty...

Sure, I'll step out on a limb:

1. The majority here did not and do not think 9-11 was sufficient cause to invade Iraq, even knowing Saddam had gassed his own people.
2. Ditto Desert Storm.

I would add that a majority of the American public agree now agree with many here at OBWI at the moment and with some here on 9/12, especially regarding Iraq II.

Mind reader. A good mind reader, but a mind reader nonetheless.

How ya doing, McTX?

Good. Busy. You?

I don't know about the first and third sentences there.

The AP collection of Pulitzer prize winning photos, from the Iraq War.

Dead kid in a box, dead kid on a gurney with his mom, dead soldier on a gurney, carnage at a bomb site, and the famous charred Blackwater guy hanging from a bridge.

Plus some less gruesome shots.

Just off the top of my head.

We seem to be talking past each other about something which is really a minor part of the larger discussion.

Agreed. Also, agreed about Abu Ghraib.

I have no particular argument with anything in your 2:01. I had a fairly tiny point to make, which I've probably over-made by now.

Peace out.

1. The majority here did not and do not think 9-11 was sufficient cause to invade Iraq, even knowing Saddam had gassed his own people.

And that's a fact, Jack.

If you want to invade and overthrow because the guy's a thug and gasses his own people, make that case. Folks will or won't go along.

Iraq was sold on the basis of spurious connections between Hussein and Al Qaeda. I.e., that there was some connection between Hussein and 9/11, and/or that he would supply the dreaded weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, who would in turn use them on us.

All lies.

The correct response to "9-11 happened, let's invade Iraq" on rational, ethical, moral, strategic, tactical, and any other bases you can think of is "put the crack pipe down".

It was, is now, and if appearances do not lie will continue to be, a manifestation of policy made by the stupidest f***ing people on the planet.

And I'll thank you to not make assumptions about what folks' responses to the WTC attacks were.

The correct response to "9-11 happened, let's invade Iraq" on rational, ethical, moral, strategic, tactical, and any other bases you can think of is "put the crack pipe down".

I left out "legal".

The only reason those @ssholes haven't been hauled in front of some international court or other is that the current administration has quashed those efforts.

Stupidest f***ing guys on the planet, then and now, and will be until the day they die.

Russell puts it better than I could. I'd just underline that AQ was in Afghanistan, not Iraq so anyone who was watching the scenes from 9-11 and were thinking 'geez, that Sadaam has gassed his own people', I would have said that they were suffering from a flattened affect...

russell, do you have evidence that the current administration has "quashed" efforts to bring (accused) American war criminals before an international court? Or just that they have failed to "faithfully execute the law" by not initiating prosecutions in American courts themselves?

Then:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/8038/seventytwo-percent-americans-support-war-against-iraq.aspx

Now:

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/179.php?lb=hmpg1


Larison, a conservative cited here by conservatives over the years:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/the-iraq-war-and-getting-angry/

More:

http://www-personal.umd.umich.edu/~atthrall/whyiraq.pdf


Colin Powell, reading his own mind then, and more recently:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/colin-powell-book_n_1503592.html

Regarding earlier gas attacks by Saddam Hussein:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran

One item I'm absolutely sure of from mere mind reading is that no one at OBWI of any political stripe harbored any affection whatsoever for Saddam Hussein, then or now.

But he was a useful murderous thug for carrying out U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast for a long time and rewarded for it by this country and by some of the same folks who engineered his demise, despite his treatment of his own people .... until he wasn't.

It was reported back during the troubles, perhaps falsely, I don't know, that George W. Bush once looked up at a strategery session for the Iraq War and asked which ones were the Shiites and which ones were the Sunnis and at that point I stopped trying to read his mind and went back to reading the backs of cereal boxes, if only for the superior content.

On the level of personal anecdote, one of my best friends, nominally a conservative and who agreed with his very conservative brother and the Administration that Iraq II needed to happen, and I were talking about the War near its beginning and I asked him "Whaddya plan on doing with it (Iraq), once you have it?"

This was before Pottery Barn became a metaphor.

About a year or so ago, he told me that I was the only person he knew at the time who asked that simple question and that he was wrong to support the war, not that either of our opinions meant a rat's ass to anyone.

So, at the anecdotal level, I don't need to read minds because the minds I'm talking to form words, which they speak from their very mouths, and I listen.

I supported the invasion of Afghanistan (again, so what) because it was inevitable but I figured it should be a limited engagement given the nature of the place and the likelihood that we would be treated to the same desserts as the Russians were once we caused enough damage, and once started without an exit plan, I figured the war there would have the duration of the Comanche Wars, with people I knew getting their asses shot off one at a time.

I also voted for Ronald Reagan the first time, so that should be a signal that no one should ever listen to me about anything.

As far as al Qaeda and 9/11 goes, I had moments years ago where I might have been convinced to nuke both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, given their complicity, but I was just shooting my mouth off and besides, no one, especially Americans, is really interested in punishing our real enemies, foreign and domestic, because we kind of like them.


russell, do you have evidence that the current administration has "quashed" efforts to bring (accused) American war criminals before an international court?

The specific case I am thinking of is Baltasar Garzon's pursuit of criminal charges against the "Bush 6" in the Spanish court system.

The case was re-assigned (reasonably) away from Garzon because of his participation in other proceedings involving Guantanamo detainees. Also, because some folks in the Spanish court system apparently thought Garzon to be something of a glory hound.

The case was subsequently dropped. Among the reasons for that were requests from Obama and some US Senators that the Spanish courts let it be.

See here, , here, and here.

The "Bush 6" and Bush himself have subsequently been found guilty of war crimes by a court in Kuala Lumpur, but Malaysia doesn't have a great big army, so nobody cares what they say.

wj, I think by not doing the latter they automatically became guilty of not doing the former since the international courts can only become active when the national ones don't.
Personally I think that no American executive in the forseeable future will create a precedent there because it would bite them in the behind sooner rather than later - domestically. Theatre acts are the only thing that can be expected. Btw, I consider the 'Invade the Hague Act' as primarily for show only too. The international community is aware that the great powers exempt themselves from the rules applying to commoners and that little can be done about it. The world would just appreciate if those above the law would not insist on crowing about it on a regular base while using the same laws as a pretense for their own actions.
Clarification: It's not as if Europe lacks a similar attitude, although a bit less conspicuous. To my knowledge no one in Germany or France suffered serious* legal consequences for selling WMD production capacities to dictators that then used the produce on their enemies (domestic more than foreign).

*There may have been minor charges for faulty paperwork.

oh, btw,

the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just blew a huge hole in the ACA.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/dc-circuit-halbig-obamacare-subsidies

We've been assured by one and all that no one has read the ACA legislation, but apparently someone read the few words that were unintended misprints, and little else.

The President should demand that Congress fix the offending passage toute suite, pending this further appeal to the panel, and if they don't he should campaign in all 36 states and call those who block any such legislation bloodthirsty murderers.

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Whatnot


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