“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Robert Fisk: The shaming of America
Our writer delivers a searing dispatch after the WikiLeaks revelations that expose in detail the brutality of the war in Iraq – and the astonishing, disgraceful deceit of the US
As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.
Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who’d been tortured and you’d be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or “collateral damage”, or a simple phrase: “We have nothing on that.”
Of course, we all knew they always did have something. And yesterday’s ocean of military memos proves it yet again. Al-Jazeera has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the actual Iraqi families whose men and women are recorded as being wasted at US checkpoints – I’ve identified one because I reported it in 2004, the bullet-smashed car, the two dead journalists, even the name of the local US captain – and it was The Independent on Sunday that first alerted the world to the hordes of indisciplined gunmen being flown to Baghdad to protect diplomats and generals. These mercenaries, who murdered their way around the cities of Iraq, abused me when I told them I was writing about them way back in 2003.
Glenn Greenwald: The Nixonian henchmen of today: at the NYT
After Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing the lies, brutality and inhumanity that drove America’s role in the Vietnam War, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger infamously plotted to smear his reputation and destroy his credibility. . . .
This weekend, WikiLeaks released over 400,000 classified documents of the Iraq War detailing genuinely horrific facts about massive civilian death, U.S. complicity in widespread Iraqi torture, systematic government deceit over body counts, and the slaughter of civilians by American forces about which Daniel Ellsberg himself said, as the New York Times put it: “many of the civilian deaths there could be counted as murder.”
Predictably, just as happened with Ellsberg, there is now a major, coordinated effort underway to smear WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and to malign his mental health — all as a means of distracting attention away from these highly disturbing revelations and to impede the ability of WikiLeaks to further expose government secrets and wrongdoing with its leaks. But now, the smear campaign is led not by Executive Branch officials, but by members of the establishment media. As the intelligence community reporter Tim Shorrock wrote today on Twitter: “When Dan Ellsberg leaked [the] Pentagon Papers, Nixon’s henchmen tried to destroy his reputation. Today w/Wikileaks & Assange, media does the job.”
Guardian UK: The Observer: ‘A Moral Catastrophe’: The Final Reasons for Going to War are Being Swept Away
The allegations of allied complicity in torture point to a complete moral failure
There was no single reason why Britain and the US went to war in Iraq. The motives that inspired George W Bush and Tony Blair have been variously dissected, analysed and psychoanalysed. It is too early for history to have formed a settled view on the war, but the case that it was a monumental error gets ever more compelling.
Most of the official justifications for war, on grounds of security from terror and weapons of mass destruction, have been discredited. The only element of moral authority left in the decision might be that Saddam Hussein ran a murderous regime, characterised by torture and extra-judicial killing. It could indeed have been the duty of western powers to intervene against such atrocity. But the western occupiers quickly became complicit in atrocities of their own, as new leaked military documents reveal.
Roger K. Smith: I Am Become Death
One of the most brilliant quips from the social critic Paul Goodman is that “technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science.” Goodman was astute enough to recognize that technological “progress” was not a monolithic process but the consequence of many decisions made by individuals and institutions. Any specific technology will bring about changes, sometimes unexpected ones, for good or ill, often both. The challenge, which Goodman implored us to conceive as a moral one, is to make it likely, if not certain, that the technologies we choose to bring into the world, considering the full spectrum of their likely effects, will make the world a better place to live. . . .
There’s a moral philosophy for you. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Under President Obama, these abuses continue, despite the president’s proclaimed commitment to the “ultimate” objective of a nuclear-weapon-free world. His administration openly acknowledged, for example, that it has pre-authorized the assassination of several American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki, in the name of the ongoing war with terrorists.
Paul Goodman’s awareness of the depths of this “chronic acute emergency” led him to participate in the “Worldwide General Strike for Peace” in early 1962. “When the institutions of society threaten the very foundation of the social contract, namely, biological safety,” he said, “then the social contract is very near to being dissolved.” He advocated “the rational-animal response of saying, No. We won’t go along with it. Stop it.” Easier said than done.
Nicholas D. Kristof: What About Afghan Women?
It’s a fair question, as is: Are those of us who favor a military pullback in Afghanistan sentencing more women to be brutalized? Those are questions that I came to Afghanistan to wrestle with.
Women are fearful, no question. Here in Kabul, far fewer women wear the burqa today than on my previous visits. But several women told me that they were keeping burqas at home – just in case. The gnawing fear is that even if the Taliban do not regain control in Kabul, fundamentalist values and laws will gain ground.
Still, it seems to me a historic mistake to justify our huge military presence in Afghanistan as a bulwark to protect the women. In fact, most women I interviewed favored making a deal with the Taliban – simply because it would bring peace. For them, the Taliban regime was awful, but a perpetual war may be worse.
Abe Berman: Boot the Blue Dogs
IN 2008, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seemed to rewrite all the rules in electoral politics and herald a new progressive era in America. Democrats assembled a huge Congressional majority and, in the euphoria that followed the historic election, were poised to enact sweeping change. However, despite some notable successes – the stimulus package, health care reform, tighter rules for the financial industry – things have not gone according to plan. Just two years later, Democrats face a bad economy, a skeptical public, a re-energized Republican Party and a coming avalanche of losses in the midterm elections.
What happened? One important explanation is that divisions inside the Democratic coalition, which held together during the 2008 campaign, have come spilling out into the open. Conservative Democrats have opposed key elements of the president’s agenda, while liberal Democrats have howled that their majority is being hijacked by a rogue group of predominantly white men from small rural states. President Obama himself appears caught in the middle, unable to satisfy the many factions inside his party’s big tent.
Wingers have dreamed of destroying NPR for years — because they despise its honest news values and openness
Is it plausible that the right-wing uproar over NPR’s firing of Juan Williams is motivated by concern for “free speech” – and not by longstanding conservative animus against public broadcasting? To anyone who has been paying attention to the behavior of politicians, pundits, and media agitators on the right for the past few decades, the latest upwelling of volcanic rhetoric is drearily familiar.
These same voices have reliably exploited every chance to damage public broadcasting, not because of any supposed liberal bias, but because they disdain the straightforward, probing journalism that the public network provides every day. What the NPR haters want to see and hear on America’s airwaves is the “fair and balanced mentality” of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage and nothing else. After all, they hate CNN, CBS, NBC, and ABC with almost equal passion, no matter how much those networks or NPR bend over to accomodate conservative viewpoints.
Ray McGovern: Julian Assange Honored at London Press Conference
You are not likely to learn this from “mainstream media,’ but WikiLeaks and its leader Julian Assange have received the 2010 Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award for their resourcefulness in making available secret U.S. military documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars.
If the WikiLeaks documents get the attention they deserve, and if lessons can be learned from the courageous work of former CIA analyst Sam Adams-and from Daniel Ellsberg’s timely leak of Adams’ work in early 1968-even the amateurs in the White House may be able to recognize the folly of widening the war from Afghanistan to adjacent countries. That leak played a key role in dissuading President Lyndon Johnson from approving Gen. William Westmoreland’s request to send 206,000 more troops-not only into the Big Muddy, but also into countries neighboring Vietnam (further detail below in the description of SAAII).