IPS Blog

Republicans Perpetuate Myths About Missile Defense to Keep Cold War Alive

Wishful thinking

Wishful thinking

In a Reuters blog post titled Why Russia won’t deal on NATO missile defense, Yousaf Butt of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies writes that, to “allay Moscow’s concerns, Washington has invited Russia to participate in [a missile defense] system, helping NATO guard against Iran.”

But, reported the Associated Press in May:

“Republicans … trying to block Obama administration overtures to Russia on missile defense [are] proposing a measure that would bar the administration from sharing classified missile defense data with Russia.

“That would undercut a path that arms control advocates have urged to restart nuclear talks, which have been set back by a missile defense dispute.”

Dr. Butt elaborates.

Representative Michael Turner (R-Ohio), former chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, and other House Republican leaders have said that if the Obama administration hands over to Moscow technical data on the missile defense interceptors — as the White House has proposed — then this could persuade Moscow that the system is not targeting Russian missiles.

So while the administration has insisted it doesn’t intend to target Russia, the House Armed Services Committee leadership appears nostalgic for the Cold War — and wants to use the system against the Russians. Is it any wonder Moscow remains skeptical?

Let’s backtrack. Missile defense systems, such as the NATO system in which the United States is inviting Russia to take part, are, writes Dr. Butt

… known to have serious technological flaws. … Why would Russia want to cooperate on an expensive system that does not work — especially against a threat from Iran and North Korea, which Russia discounts?

Russia may reject two-thirds of the equation – that Iran and North Korea are threats and that missile defense would even be effective against them – but still finds it convenient to act as if missile defense is directed at Russian ICBMs. Never mind that Russia would become privy to the truth of NATO’s motives if it cooperated.

Please don’t misconstrue this as my approval of missile defense in any way, shape or form. The recent news that an East Coast installation was proposed for Fort Drum – 300 miles from where we live in New York State — brought it home to me. But it seems as if we survived a near-miss.

[A] letter from the leader of the Missile Defense Agency to the Senate Armed Services Committee could be a big roadblock. In it, Vice Admiral James D. Syring writes, “There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site.”

Dr. Butt then asks:

If Iran or North Korea could so easily circumvent this vaunted missile defense system, why are the Russians (and Chinese) so up in arms against it?

The answer is simple: Russian and Chinese military planners — like those at the Pentagon — are paid to be paranoid. They must assume the worst-case scenario. Which, in this case, means they must treat a missile system as being highly effective — even when it isn’t.

Or they treat missile defense as if it might be effective in the future.

Russian and Chinese analysts might also be worried about the potential for a major expansion in defensive missile arsenals; technical changes in the systems (such as nuclear-tipped interceptors); and the diversity and scale of sensor systems that are being brought online to support the system.

Republicans seek to turn Russian paranoia to their advantage by shamelessly perpetuating the myth that missile defense is directed against Russian ICBMs. To refresh your memories, remember, too, that missile defense is notorious for destabilizing nuclear deterrence. (Another disclaimer: optimizing nuclear deterrence is of no concern to me personally.)

By theoretically being able to halt an enemy’s first strike in its tracks, it makes the attacker’s remaining nukes vulnerable to a retaliatory strike by the state that was attacked. In other words, missile defense encourages other nuclear states to build more nuclear weapons and delivery systems. They would compensate for both those that would be shot down by missile defense and those destroyed in a retaliatory attack by the state that was attacked.

Missile defense continues to serve a useful purpose. No, not protecting the United States and Europe. But as the gift that never stops giving to keep the Cold War alive and money flowing into a white elephant as destructive to the economy as it is to our national defense.

The Dirt on Fix the Debt’s Advocacy of a Territorial Tax System

On June 12, 2013, the Institute for Policy Studies released the sixth in a series of reports on the Fix the Debt corporate lobby group. This newest report, Corporate Pirates of the Caribbean, uses Fix the Debt members’ SEC filings to calculate how much they would stand to gain from a shift to a territorial tax system. Such a reform would permanently exempt U.S. corporations’ foreign earnings from U.S. income taxes.

In response to this IPS report, Fix the Debt issued a press release denying that they have ever taken a position on this controversial tax reform and spokeswoman Maya MacGuineas described the report as “lies and mudslinging.”

These attacks on our research conflict with clear statements in support of a territorial tax system, both by Fix the Debt directly and by numerous Fix the Debt leaders.

As we pointed out in our first report, published in November 2012, Fix the Debt expressed unambiguous support for a territorial tax system in a PowerPoint on their web site (see slide 11). The PowerPoint was described as a “CEO Tool” to help business leaders recruit others to join Fix the Debt. This IPS report, The CEO Campaign to “Fix” the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks, received significant coverage in the mainstream and alternative press.

More than six months later, with this same PowerPoint still on their web site, Fix the Debt is claiming they have never had a position on a territorial tax system. And even though we reprinted the slide in our new report, Fix the Debt spokespeople did not address this obvious inconsistency.

Support for territorial tax reform is a core plank of the fiscal reform plan articulated by Fix the Debt Co-Chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. In April 2013, Fix the Debt prominently featured Bowles-Simpson 2.0 on their website. In their piece applauding the new Simpson-Bowles plan, Fix the Debt includes “move toward a territorial system” as one of five key components of the plan.

Our plan puts in place a process for comprehensive tax reform to eliminate or scale back tax expenditures in order to generate nearly $600 billion in revenues for deficit reduction substantially reducing marginal tax rates for individuals, corporations and small business, and moving toward a competitive territorial system while maintaining the progressivity of the tax code.

Excerpted from A Bi-Partisan Path Forward to Securing America’s Future, (aka Bowles-Simpson 2.0) Moment of Truth Project; April 2013, p 7.

Other prominent Fix the Debt leaders have also been vocal in their support of a territorial tax system for corporations:

“We shouldn’t be imperiling U.S. companies to be competitive with our foreign competitors by putting in a tax policy that puts them at a disadvantage. So, I’m very much in favor of a territorial system and that’s what we advocated in Simpson-Bowles.
– David Cote, CEO of Honeywell, CEO Fix the Debt Steering Committee member and Member of the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission, Bloomberg Street Sense, August 27, 2012

The U.S. needs to “allow this territorial system [excusing repatriated profits from being subject to domestic taxes] so that companies can repatriate their earning back to the United States.”
– Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, Fix the Debt CEO Steering Committee member, exclusive interview with CNN, October 4, 2012

“We need comprehensive business tax reform that will lower tax rates and provide certainty for all businesses. We also need to move to a competitive territorial tax system in line with other major industrialized nations.”
– Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar, Fix the Debt CEO Steering Committee (with Mary Andringa), op-ed in Roll Call, June 6, 2012

“Tax policy: I think the President’s put out some really good suggestions, but we’ve got to get to the territorial tax.”
– Andrew Liveris, Chairman Dow Chemical, Fix the Debt CEO Steering Committee member, Kudlow Report, CNBC, April 19, 2012

“One of the things that’s always bothered me is that we don’t have a territorial tax system.”
– Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, Fix the Debt CEO Steering Committee member, USA Today, May 20, 2013

The Fix the Debt campaign appears to be facing a dilemma.

On the one hand, they seem to be trying to recruit and maintain CEO supporters by creating a platform for promoting policies that would primarily benefit large corporations. On the other hand, they are trying to build broad public support through slick PR gimmicks emphasizing a message of shared sacrifice.

Rather than attacking IPS research, they may want to focus on resolving these inconsistencies.

Iran’s Election Nuclear, But Not Nuked

Hassan RohaniIran’s new President Hassan Rohani/Rowhani/Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator with Britain, France, and Germany between 2003 and 2005. One of his opponents and Supreme Leader Khameini’s candidate of choice, was Saeed Jalili, the current chief nuclear negotiator. In what other state, would you find two nuclear negotiators running against each other for president? Presumably it’s a sign of Iran’s priorities. (No, not nuclear weapons, but nuclear energy.) As far as the election itself, the first piece of good news is that there may not have been any “jiggery-pokery.” Say what? Reuters reports.

British former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who dealt with Rohani during nuclear negotiations between 2003 and 2005, called him a “very experienced diplomat and politician”. “This is a remarkable and welcome result so far and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be no jiggery-pokery with the final result,” Straw told Reuters, alluding to accusations of widespread rigging in the 2009 election.

Regarding Straw’s kind words about him, at al-Sharq al-Awsat on Thursday (linked to by Juan Cole) Rohani extends olive branch.

“The Iran–US relationship is a complex and difficult issue. A bitter history, filled with mistrust and animosity, marks this relationship. It has become a chronic wound whose healing is difficult but possible, provided that good faith and mutual respect prevail. … As a moderate, I have a phased plan to deescalate hostility to a manageable state of tension and then engage in promotion of interactions and dialogue between the two peoples to achieve détente, and finally reach to the point of mutual respect that both peoples deserve.”

As for ye olde 800-pound gorilla …

Nuclear weapons have no role in Iran’s national security doctrine, and therefore Iran has nothing to conceal. But in order to move towards the resolution of Iran’s nuclear dossier, we need to build both domestic consensus and global convergence and understanding through dialogue.

He actually declares that

Iran should articulate its positions and policies in a more coherent and appreciable manner

What about the disclaimer you always hear that Iranian presidents have little impact on foreign policy, ostensibly Supreme Leader Khameini’s turf? Rohani was national security ddvisor for sixteen years during the administrations of Rafsanjani and Khatami (Ahmadinejad’s predecessors) and continued as one of Khameini’s two representative at the Supreme National Security Council. He maintains:

If elected, I expect to receive the same support and trust from the supreme leader on initiatives and measures I adopt to advance our foreign policy agenda.

Meanwhile, the ball, once again, is in the court of the United States and the West. I have no illusions about Rojani: he is, after all, an Iranian politician – or a politician, period. But it’s tough to disagree with him when he says:

Obama’s policy on Iran should be judged by his deeds, not by his words. His tactic, as he himself has indicated, is to speak softly but to act harshly. Sanctions adopted and implemented against Iran during the Obama administration are unprecedented in the history of bilateral relations between Iran and the US. … In my view, Obama’s policy toward Iran cannot lead to the improvement of the troubled bilateral relations as long as the US’s mischievous treatment of Iran continues to dictate the course. [Emphasis added.]

No need to pull punches, Hassan. A more fitting adjective than mischievous might be malevolent.

Has Intervention by the United States Become, by Definition, a Mistake?

Syrian rebelsAs you’ve no doubt heard by now, using as a justification its conclusion that the Assad regime had killed 150 or more people with sarin gas – technically a weapon of mass destruction – the Obama administration has made decision to supply Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunition.

Besides, the New York Times reports:

Formally designating the Assad government as a user of chemical weapons, [an] official said, will make it easier for Mr. Obama to rally support from Britain, France and other allies for further measures.

What’s more, the administration is considering instituting a no-fly zone over Syria,. Towards that end, reports Reuters:

Washington has moved Patriot surface-to-air missiles, war planes and more than 4,000 troops into Jordan in the past week, officially as part of an annual exercise but making clear that the forces deployed could stay on when the war games are over.

Guess the administration finally took pity on the Syrian rebels after reading Wednesday’s (June 12) report by New York Times weapon expert C.J. Chivers about their efforts to manufacture their own weapons.

The workers arrive by darkness, taking their stations at the vise and the lathe. Soon metal filings and sparks fly, and the stack of their creations grows at their feet: makeshift mortar shells to be fired through barrels salvaged from disabled Syrian Army tanks.

Across northern Syria, rebel workshops like these are part of a clandestine network of primitive arms-making plants, a signature element of a militarily lopsided war. … “Everybody knows we do not have the weapons we need to defend ourselves,” said Abu Trad, a commander of the Saraqib Rebels Front.

In fact

The value of workshop-grade weapons, while once crucial to the rebels’ success in claiming territory in northern Syria, may have substantially declined.

Last spring, when Mr. Assad was struggling to confront the armed opposition that his crackdown had fueled, shops like these forced Syria’s military to change tactics. … But the government has spent a year refitting its troops, Hezbollah has sent in reinforcements, and Iran and Russia have kept Mr. Assad’s forces resupplied. … And most of the shops’ other weapons systems lack … accuracy, range or explosive punch.

Chivers quotes Khaled Muhammed Addibis, a rebel commander, who said, “All we need is effective weapons. … Nothing else.”

I’m as wary as the next guy of a proxy war — with the United States, et al, on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other – of such obviousness that it stands a higher chance than usual of pitting the principals against each other face to face. But, my personal portal into the world of foreign affairs was via the study of genocide. In fact, guilt over failing to halt the Rwandan atrocities may be the reason that former President Clinton has come down, however cautiously, on the side of Syria intervention.

Most progressives reflexively resist intervention because it’s usually – okay, always – an excuse to further U.S. political and energy interests. But, speaking personally, however much I may personally suffer from delusions of heroism about rescuing those being bullied, I’ve always had to force myself to resist calling for intervention in international affairs.

In a perfect world, we could separate the rebel forces worthy of aid from those on a fast track to war-crimes trials, as well as defer our not-so-hidden agenda in the Middle East while we provide emergency military aid to the Syrian people. But neither is likely to happen, and, because we live in an age marked by the absence of a long-overdue, muscular international body, I can’t help but wonder (speaking for myself and not FPIF, of course), if there’s merit to incremental intervention. (Ducks head to avoid incoming barrage from other progressives.)

A Voter’s Guide to Iran’s Presidential Race

What you need to know if you’re voting in the Iran presidential election — or viewing it from afar.

Will the next president actually make us miss Ahmadinejad?

Will the next president actually make us miss Ahmadinejad?

Four years after a contested presidential election that sent thousands of Iranians into the streets, sparked a harsh government crackdown, and ended with the house arrest of two opposition candidates, Iranians are again going to the polls to elect a president. The controversial Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who has long since fallen from favor with the country’s clerical elite, is prevented by term limits from seeking reelection.

Six hopefuls are vying for the highest elected position and second most powerful position in Iran: three affiliated with the ruling conservative party, one from a reformist party, one centrist and one independent. Reformist Hassan Rowhani and conservative Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf are considered the two front-runners in the first-round June 14 election.

Rowhani, a member of the Association of Combatant Clerics, recently received endorsements from ex-presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hasemi Rafsanjani, with the latter describing Rowhani as a “more suitable” candidate to steer the country’s executive branch. As a former chief nuclear negotiator and secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Rowhani calls for a better relationship with the west and greater scrutiny of the nation’s nuclear program. He is an ardent critic of Iran’s current trajectory in global politics and has expressed support for freedom of speech. With his pledge to support and protect women and ethnic minorities, Rowhani has garnered support from the moderates, liberals, and young people, in addition to reformists. Rowhani is running with the slogan “Government of Prudence and Hope” and current polls show him with 27.2 percent of the vote.

Rowhani’s biggest threat comes from Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who unlike Rowhani has significant political experience, serving as the mayor of Tehran since 2005. He represents the conservative party and the Islamic Society of Engineers and has called for greater unity between currently divided political actors, namely Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadenijad but also within his own party. Prior to being elected mayor, Qalibaf served as the chief of national police from 1999 to 2005 under the appointment of Khamenei. Qalibaf is running with the slogan “Love and Sacrifice” and according to current polls has 20.1 percent of the vote.

Saeed Jalili, also a member of the conservative party, is affiliated with the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability. He supports greater privatization and pledges to crack down on corruption in the government. Jalili is the current chief nuclear negotiator and has been the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council since 2007. He lost a leg during the Iran-Iraq war. Although he is thought to be Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s preferred candidate, polls give him just 5.1 percent of the vote.

The candidate representing centrist views, Mohsen Rezaee, is a member of the Moderation and Development Party. Rezaee calls for subsidies for farmers and is an outspoken critic of current president Ahmadinejad’s handling of Iran’s oil revenue. He has presented plans to reduce the country’s inflation and pledges to select cabinet members from different ethnic groups throughout Iran. Rezaee is the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and ran for president in 2009, coming in third. His slogan is “Say hello to life” and he currently has 10.7 percent of the vote.

Ali-Akbar Velayati, the third conservative candidate, is a member of the Islamic Coalition Party. He campaigns for better inter-governmental relations between the parliament and judiciary and economical overhaul, also pledging to address inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. Velayati was Iran’s minister of foreign affairs for more than 16 years and was the first person to hold that position for longer than 10 years. He serves as an advisor to the Supreme Leader and holds beliefs that, ideologically, are very similar to Khamenei’s. Velayati is running with the slogan “Complete government” and currently has 9.1 percent of the vote.

The sixth candidate, independent Mohammad Gharazi, pledges to run an anti-inflation administration. Gharazi has a long history in politics, serving as minister of petroleum from 1981 to 1985, minster of post, telegraph, and telephone from 1985 to 1997, and as a member of parliament from 1980 to 1984. He is campaigning with the slogan “Government against Inflation” and currently only has 1 percent of the vote.

Lizzie Rajasingh is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Limit Graduates’ Debt, Not Their Options

Student Loan DebtIf lawmakers can’t come up with a solution, interest rates on federal student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent starting July 1. When I graduate from college in December, I will join the 37 million Americans with student loan debt.

For me, college has always been synonymous with financial stress. I have spent the last three years on financial aid, scrambling to finish all of my credits in order to graduate early and save on a semester of tuition at my university. If the interest rate on my Stafford loan doubles, I will have to continue to put my dream of law school on hold. The fear of sealing myself into a tomb of debt will prevent me from seizing opportunities at the time in my life when I am supposed to be taking risks.

The number of students and the price of college continue to rise every year. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that not only are more people taking out student loans, but they are also taking out more money. The average student loan balance increased by 49% between 2005 and 2012 and more than half of borrowers took out over $10,000 in loans. Total student loan debt is increasing at a rate of about $2,853.88 per second and it is approaching 1.1 trillion dollars. In the last ten years, this number has nearly quadrupled and has already surpassed credit card and auto loan debt.

Of particular concern is the effect on women. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW)’s study “Graduating to a Pay Gap,” 20 percent of women-compared with 15 percent of men- pay more than 15 percent of their take-home salaries to pay off educational debt. This is directly related to the fact that women earn only 82 cents to every dollar that a man earns.

The plan proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “The Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act,” would allow students to borrow money at the same rate that banks borrow: 0.75 percent. House Republicans passed “The Smarter Solutions for Students Act,” which would increase the rate to an even higher percent than if nothing is done before July 1 based on market rates and fluctuations. In President Obama’s plan, called “Pay as You Earn,” loans would also vary depending on the economy, though it would also allow low-income borrowers to cap their monthly loan payments to 10 percent of their income. Among others offering solutions are Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) ,Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Harry Reid (D-NV) , Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT).

There are lots of ideas but one thing is clear- inaction is not an option. Doubling interest rates on student loans is not an option. Currently, 35 percent of people under 30 and 32 percent of those between the ages of 30 and 49 are near default on their student loans, numbers that will only continue to grow unless something is done. Recent graduates and current students like me have worked hard enough to hear messages of support and encouragement from our lawmakers—not that we are being forgotten about and taken advantage of. When I walk across the stage and receive my diploma this December, I want to feel that the sky’s the limit as it relates to my opportunities, not my debt.

Alina Butareva is an intern at the Institute for Policy Studies and a rising senior at Tufts University.

House Hearing on Tax Havens: Possible “Purple” Issue?

Could tax havens be an issue that the right and left agree on in Congress?When the Republican chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee called a June 13 hearing on tax havens, he expressed concerns that echoed those of many progressives.

Among the general public, opposition to this form of tax avoidance cuts across the political spectrum. Small business owners (who don’t tend to have bank accounts in the Cayman Islands) are particularly upset about the practice, which costs the U.S. Treasury an estimated $100 billion a year.

But could tax havens become a “purple” issue on Capitol Hill?

In his opening statement at the hearing, Committee Chair Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) said: “There is widespread agreement amongst academics, economists, and lawmakers that these practices are both unfair to taxpayers who aren’t able to engage in the strategies and harmful to the U.S. economy.”

Testimony at the hearing suggested abuse of tax havens harmed not only the U.S. economy but those of our major trading partners as well. University of Southern California Law School Professor Edward Kleinbard reported that 37 percent of the income of the foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations was taxed at rates less than 5 percent and spoke of companies “siphoning off profits” that are taxed neither in the home country nor the host country.

Pascal Saint-Amans, who directs the tax policy department of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), observed that corporations are finding their way around bi-lateral global tax treaties by routing that trade through a third nation that is not party to the treaty. “In order for changes to the rules and international standards to be effective, greater transparency will be needed,” Saint-Amans told the Committee. British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to call upon leaders of the G8 to address ways to curtail tax haven abuse and improve tax transparency at their meetings in Northern Ireland next week.

Meanwhile U.S. multinational corporations continue to make lobbying for corporate tax reform a high priority. Fix the Debt, a corporate pro-austerity lobby group, is calling on Congress to adopt “pro-growth tax reform” including a territorial tax system. This reform would increase incentives to exploit tax havens by permanently exempting U.S. corporations’ foreign earnings from U.S. federal income taxes.

Fix the Debt members, who collectively have shifted more than half a trillion dollars offshore, stand to gain as much as $173 billion in tax windfalls if a territorial system is adopted, according to Corporate Pirates of the Caribbean, a just-released report by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Professor Kleinbard worried that a system of “unprotected territoriality” like that favored by Fix the Debt and other corporations “heavily subsidizes foreign investment, at the expense of our own domestic economy.” Kleinbard is not alone in his concerns: a poll sponsored by the American Sustainable Business Council and Main Street Alliance found that 85 percent of America’s small business owners opposed a territorial tax system, including 67 percent of small business owners who self-identified as Republicans.

Ending the gaming of the tax code and restoring confidence in the basic fairness of the tax system is not a Democratic nor a Republican issue. It is not even just an American issue. It is something we all can agree on, and ought to be a first step toward a healthier society, a strong economy, and a business climate which allows all companies – large and small – to prosper.

Emphasis Added: The Foreign Policy Week in Pieces (6/13)

“Failure is not an option”

Nuclear deterrence has to be perfect, or close to perfect. A cata­strophic all-out nuclear war could result from any failure of nuclear deterrence, so there is little margin for error. One could say for nuclear deterrence, failure is not an option.

Rethinking the Utility of Nuclear Weapons, Ward Wilson, Parameters

The Day the World Dismantles its Last Nuclear Weapon, Unicorns Come Out of Hiding

[Air Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Garrett Harencak] also poked fun at the idea that nuclear weapons could be eliminated anytime soon, despite President Obama’s iconic 2009 speech in Prague. At that time, the president promised “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” albeit “perhaps not in my lifetime.”

“I hope that day comes. I hope that day comes soon. And when it does, I want to invite you all over to my house for a party,” Harencak said of eliminating nuclear arms worldwide. “I’d just ask that you don’t feed any of the hors d’oeuvres to my unicorn.”

U.S. General: Nuclear-Capable Bomber Cameo Quieted North Korea, Elaine Grossman, Global Security Newswire

A War Crime as a Robot Might See It

Brandon Bryant says he was sitting in a chair at a Nevada Air Force base operating the camera when his team fired two missiles from their drone at three men walking down a road halfway around the world in Afghanistan. The missiles hit all three targets, and Bryant says he could see the aftermath on his computer screen – including thermal images of a growing puddle of hot blood.

“The guy that was running forward, he’s missing his right leg,” he recalled. “And I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” As the man died his body grew cold, said Bryant, and his thermal image changed until he became the same color as the ground.

Former drone operator says he’s haunted by his part in more than 1,600 deaths, Richard Engel, Open Channel: NBC News

For Erdogan, Short Trip From Micro-manager to Iron Fist

And there’s the hitch. The prime minister has emerged as the strongest leader Turkey has had since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic — but he remains not much of an architect or urban planner. Like other longtime rulers, he has assumed the mantle of designer in chief, fiddling over details for giant mosques, planning a massive bridge and canal, devising gated communities in the name of civic renewal and economic development. The goal is a scripted public realm. Taksim, the lively heart of modern Istanbul, has become Mr. Erdogan’s obsession, and perhaps his Achilles’ heel.

In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel, Michael Kimmelman, the New York Times

Assad or Islamist Militants: a Choice Made in Hell

Just as [the death of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb at the hands of government forces] crystallized the rage against President Bashar al-Assad, [14-year-old Muhammad al-Qatta’s] killing stoked similar feelings against a new power that has emerged during the war. It focused anger on hard-line Islamists, including foreigners, some of whom have seized on the conflict in Syria as an opportunity to impose their mores. For Muhammad’s mother and some her neighbors, the tyrannies were indistinguishable, trapping many Syrians in a vise.

Syrian Teenager’s Public Death Reveals Growing Anger as Civil War Continues, Kareen Fahim and Hania Mourtada, the New York Times

From the Spanish Civil War to Syria: Parceling Out Truth Subverts Justice

OrwellThe New Statesman recently reminisced about its former editor Kingsley Martin’s feud with Tribune’s former literary editor George Orwell about the latter’s attempt to tell the whole truth about the Spanish War. Martin preferred the commodity doled out sparingly, for which Orwell never forgave him.

Like many people who would otherwise swear by the truth as an abstract principle, Martin made it a partisan issue for the “cause.” Orwell, of course, often defied such criticism: that to tell the truth would harm the war effort, or harm unity with the part of the so-called left that had tried to kill him in Spain and was busily executing Socialists across Eastern Europe. Interestingly, twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, its ghosts haunt Orwell’s reputation yet, with vitriolic detractors whose ad-hominem hatred has almost forgotten its original roots in the purges and now uncontested mass murders of the era.

Veracity as a sacred principle has lots of small-print exceptions for so many people. It would be “bad for Israel,” or bad for the Palestinians. Over years of writing, I’ve been told I couldn’t say “that” about Militant in Liverpool, New Labour, UN corruption, and many other causes. In an eerie echo of Martin in the Statesman, I was told that the Nation in the US had a line, so we could not write anything about intervention in Kosovo that was not outright condemnation. It would “aid imperialism” to say that Slobodan Milosevic built his power on unleashing genocidal impulses.

The Hapsburg lip allegedly led generations of sycophantic dons into emulatory lisps — which is a minor lapse — the compared to all those who joined committees to “defend” Rwandan and Balkan mass murderers against “imperialist” justice.

All of us practice a partial vision some extent. Someone might indeed be very ugly, but it behooves us not to point that out. But like the emperor with his new clothes, if such a political figure poses publicly, then it is indeed a writer’s duty to mention their absence of raiment.

Recent weeks have seen some outstanding examples of reckless candour that deserve applause and support. Bradley Manning revealed clear examples of crimes by the Pentagon, notably the murder of a Reuters camera team in Baghdad and the gunning down of innocent civilians coming to help the wounded. It is worth recalling that the Pentagon lied to Reuter’s legal Freedom of Information request by claiming the video was lost.

He deserves all-out support from journalists, not the mumbling diffidence of the New York Times that published his revelations while abandoning their source. Similarly, one hopes that revelations that Edward Snowden supported deranged libertarian right-winger Ron Paul will not detract from support for his deed revealing, dare one say, Orwellian, government surveillance that would have Big Brother green with envy!

One other, almost unrecognised act of non-partisan balance, has come from the UN, in its reports on Syria, which suggest that people on both sides have used chemical weapons and violated human rights. It has resisted attempts to provide the smoking chemical canisters that neocon hawks would like, even though it has indeed made plain that the balance of crimes weighs heavily down on the regime side.

The parallels with Spain are painful. Most atrocities from the rebel side in Syria seem to be associated with their version of the International Brigades, which include fundamentalists coming in to “help.” This week, Russia Today quite correctly reported on their execution of a young Syrian for “heresy.” Somewhat less correctly, RT maintains complete silence on the regime’s mass killings of civilians and opponents.

Orwell’s commitment to the defeat of fascism was unimpeachable. And apart from being one of nature’s awkward squad, he appreciated that publicly ignoring obvious horrors for expediency’s sake does not help the cause of justice and progress in the slightest.

Orwell supported the Republicans in Spain, even though the KGB operating under their aegis tried to kill him — and actually did execute many others. He certainly did not collectively condemn his comrades in arms who went to fight in the Brigades.

The reason that many of us oppose Assad’s regime is because it is ruthless and murderous, so there is absolutely no reason not to denounce such behaviour when committed by some of “our” side. Indeed, there is even more reason to do so, since to be silent implies complicity.

The truth is not only an effective principle, it is also an expedient weapon in the war of public opinion. We should pillory all who betray it.

Ian Williams has written for newspapers and magazines around the world. He is currently writing a book on the Americans who blame the United Nations for all the ills of the United States. For more by Ian Williams visit Deadline Pundit.

This Week in OtherWords: June 12, 2013

This week in OtherWords, Timothy Karr discusses the surveillance scandal (Spygate?). We’re also running immigration op-eds by the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune and a mom who wants the ongoing reform efforts to include stronger protections for au pairs. Are you looking for something with a Flag Day angle? Scott Klinger urges U.S. corporations to stop flying the Jolly Roger.

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  1. Dancing Around the First and Fourth Amendments / Timothy Karr
    The government can keep us safe from terrorism without stifling free speech, invading everyone’s privacy, and seizing our data.
  2. A More Sustainable Future for Us All / Michael Brune
    The Sierra Club strongly supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  3. A Radioactive Waste of Money / Mia Steinle
    The federal government should stop building a pointless $7.7 billion facility to convert plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors.
  4. It’s Time Corporations Flew Old Glory Instead of the Jolly Roger / Scott Klinger
    Instead of gaming the tax system to boost corporate profits, American business leaders need to start investing more in this nation.
  5. Showing Our Caregivers We Care About Them
    The immigration reform bill now pending in the Senate would protect au pairs against human trafficking and abusive recruitment practices before they even arrive.
  6. Stripping Detroit of Its Remaining Riches / Donald Kaul
    The state-appointed emergency manager may be on the verge of selling the local art museum’s masterpieces to pay the city’s bills.
  7. The Day the Music Stopped / Sam Pizzigati
    A banker’s squeeze-play has silenced an entire orchestra.
  8. Casting a Spotlight on Frankenfoods / Jill Richardson
    A legislative victory in Connecticut is the first for American consumers who are demanding the right to know if our food is genetically engineered.
  9. Catching Monsanto’s Drift / Jim Hightower
    Frankenwheat crops are sprouting like weeds in Oregon.
  10. Egging On North Korea / Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins
    The saber-rattling is mutual.
  11. Pirates of the Cayman Islands / Khalil Bendib
    Pirates of the Cayman Islands, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

    Pirates of the Cayman Islands, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

    Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies OtherWords.org

 
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