05 May 2011

Wow. I got some reader mail.

Aubrey, a longtime friend of the 'bastard, writes in regard to my post "Location, location, location":
What I have a problem swallowing is that it took us this long to find him. The timing is certainly opportune; support for American imperialism is fading and morale with continuing unnecessary foreign intervention is rapidly decreasing with the realization of the massive amounts of money we are throwing away on maintaining the military industrial complex at the expense of taking care of citizens at home. Afghanistan just saw one of the bloodiest months since our involvement.

And then there is the stupid birther distraction detracting from the real, important, and pressing issues of the day — like the unchecked monetary policy, the pillage of American prosperity by multinational corporate juggernauts and banks that profiteer off of taxpayer bailouts. Oh, and that huge debt ceiling issue. And the stupid war on drugs. And the complete and total disintigration and denial of civil rights, too many to enumerate here. And the killing of innocent Libyan citizens without Congressional authorization...news of the bombing of the Gaddhafi complex was all but buried by the OBL news.

Yep, OBL's "compound" isn't inconspicuous at all, worth at least a million bucks and sitting right there by a military academy. All the trillions we spend on military and we couldn't manage to find this guy sooner? Give me a break.
Aubrey, I cannot argue with your characterization of "the pressing issues of the day" — particularly with regard to the corporate takeover of the United States government. Congress and the president pretended to be pissed off about the Taxpayer's United decision but, like it was the goddam weather, nobody did anything about it. More recently, there was the even more astonishing holding — unsurprisingly, once again courtesy of the court's ultraconservative moral majority — that corporations may unilaterally strip customers of their right to join a class action lawsuit.

Likewise, the War on Drugs (Failing Spectacularly Since 1914™) is hardly more than a fig leaf for the police-statists' militarization of law-enforcement and their full-frontal assault on the Bill of Rights (limited rights and protections may not apply to you and may be rescinded without notice. See courts for details). The WoD also justifies policy meddling and waging wars in someone else's country, ever the favorite pastimes of the aristocracy.

The cost of all this is jawdropping. Some states spend more incarcerating drug users than they spend on secondary education. But when confronted with budget crisis after budget crisis, are these line items ever put on the table for some long-overdue reconsideration? Heaven forfend! Instead politicians prefer to fire teachers, close schools, cut programs serving the needy and vulnerable, and otherwise chip away at the fine and essential social safety infrastructure America spent generations constructing.

In the midst of an economic depression, the DEA still scored a 5.16% raise. The DEA's current budget is $2.415 billion, or $6.616 million daily. What do we get for the money? The DEA concedes that 98% of the plants destroyed under their domestic marijuana eradication program is uncultivated naturally occurring "ditchweed," and they also concede they can only catch 1% of all drugs that cross the border. The average cost per DEA arrest is nearly $10,000. But probably the most shocking statistic is that, despite being only 5% of the world's population, Americans are 25% of the world's incarcerated population, a statistic that is entirely a function of our insane drug prohibition policy.

And here's the fucking thing: in Western countries, draconian drug laws do not even sorta correlate to lower drug consumption — quite the opposite. Consider the most extreme example: in 2001 Portugal had among the highest levels of hard drug consumption in Europe. That year, they utterly decriminalized drug use. All drugs. Those busted for simple possession are sentenced to...therapy, which may be declined without penalty. Since 2001, Portugal's overally drug use is down, HIV infections are down and drug-treatment program enrollment has doubled. That's success by any measure.

However, there were two things about your letter that I didn't agree with.

#1: The timing of OBL's death is suspicious.

As a preliminary matter, in today's charged partisan political climate, any person could claim the timing of any momentous event seems suspicious. At the extreme end of the spectrum, religious fanatics will even insist natural disasters are timed to create reasonable inferences for the faithful — but of course correlation is not causation. Moreover, I don't disagree with your point that, for some, this incident could be manipulated to stoke the embers of war. However, it could as easily be framed as a justification for ending them.

That said, I think it's a mistake to assume this is the first time OBL was found purely on the basis that this is the first time he was caught. Indeed, one may easily imagine that the whereabouts of OBL (and other high-value AQ and Taliban targets) had been ascertained on dozens of prior occasions, but they escaped with help of treacherous parties within the allied military and intelligence community.

I can even make room for the possibility that the leaks came from within the US military. However, high-ranking US officials have pointed unequivocally at Pakistan on several occasions. For example, in '09 Secretary of State Clinton told the Pakistani press “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and could not get them if they really wanted to.” That's an astonishingly bold statement from our highest-ranking diplomat. That Presidents Bush and Obama both publicly and frankly stated their willingness to violate Pakistan's sovereignty to catch terrorists was also a pretty clear indictment of the Pakistani government's competency and/or willingness to do so.

There is also OBL's modus operandi to consider. After his transformation from ultraprivileged scion to militant jihadi, he became obsessed with his personal security and spent his vast inheritance ensuring it. He has never resided in a country whose government didn't personally provide him some special assurance of protection. When those guarantees evaporated, he entered a new agreement. To wit, when OBL embarrassed and annoyed the House of Saud to the point they banished him from his beloved "holy land," he moved to Sudan where he lived as the government's guest of honor, establishing businesses, building roads, hospitals and other amenities. When the Sudanese finally caved into pressure to show him the door, OBL relocated back to Afghanistan where he lived as the honored guest of his former comrades-at-arms who had morphed into the Taliban, the de facto regional government. OBL supported the Taliban with cash, soldiers, training, logistics and materiel. The Taliban rewarded OBL's devotion with its own, standing by him even when confronted with increasingly ominous U.S. ultimatums.

With the Taliban government deposed, OBL could have moved to the frontiers of Somalia or Chad or some other ungovernable shithole to spend the remainder of his life amongst locals so far removed from modernity they probably couldn't identify Osama's face even if they knew about the price on his head.

But this he did not do.

As usual, OBL relocated where his safety was assured. That's why his discovery in Pakistan has always made perfect sense. OBL made his jihadi bones fighting the Soviet occupation government in Afghanistan, which was also Pakistan's proxy war, a war Pakistan was intimately involved with at every level, particularly within the militant Islamic resistance movement. When Afghanistan formed its post-Soviet government, Pakistan continued to wage their proxy war against then new government, via the Taliban. Thus, OBL fought for years and sacrificed much not merely in the service of the Taliban, but also as Pakistan's ally. No doubt that some of his Pakistani war buddies felt just as bound to protect and defend OBL as the Afghani ones did.

I guessed wrong about where in Pakistan OBL was. I always expected he'd be found in Balochistan: it's wild so there's plausible deniability for Pakistan's government; it sits right on an unguarded border with Iran where he might slip across and dare the US to chase him and conduct an act of war on Iranian soil. So no, I really did not expect OBL to be found in the Pakistani version of Annapolis, and I remain truly astonished. (If Pakistan's president doesn't go straightaway to the PMA and put everybody's head in a vice until he squeezes out precisely who knew what then it's probably fair to assume he already knows).

All this is to say that with committed assistance, it's certainly possible for a fugitive to elude capture for a decade. Eric Robert Rudolph, likewise an ultrafundamentalist terrorist bomber on the FBI's Most Wanted, successfully evaded capture for longer than OBL did, and Rudolph even managed to do it within the US. How committed were Rudolph's allies? That sonofabitch's brother sent the FBI a video of himself sawing off his own hand.

So I'd say the timing and other circumstances of OBL's capture (except the location), far from being suspicious, are entirely explainable and even predictable.

#2: US military forces in Libya are deployed without proper authorization

Here I presume your objection "without Congressional authorization" is predicated on Congress' enumerated powers in Article I §8, "Congress shall have the power...to declare war."

However, that clause is merely an unambiguous statement of where the power is vested, not a description of the form or nature of the power itself. In other words, that statement doesn't require the president to secure Congress' permission before exercising his Constitutional power as CIC. Quite the contrary, the Constitution explicitly divides the war powers. Congress' hands are not tied; should they choose to prevent the CIC from using the military in some way they disapprove, they may defund, ratify a treaty, regulate and/or legislate.

The only unambiguous meaning that can be extracted from the clause is that neither the Executive nor the Judiciary possesses the competency to "declare war" — whatever that means, because it's certainly not self-evidently self-defining. It would have been a simple matter to write the clause to be more restrictive or in greater detail. You, Aubrey, could probably do precisely that while standing on your head.

However, it seems more likely that the framers intentionally left certain things in the Constitution ambiguous to accommodate exigencies and evolution — this being a particularly fine example. Fact is, this clause was initially conceived to grant Congress the power to "wage war," then subsequently revised to its current form after considerable debate.

Thus, it would seem that prudent politicians preferred to take a pass on being entirely responsible for the butcher's bill. I think that interpretation is supported by the fact that Congress reliably avoids exercising even its weaker power to issue declarations supporting the very wars it enthusiastically endorses financially.

Anyway, thanks for reading the crustybastard, and thanks for writing. Cheers!

2 chimed in:

Anonymous said...

Ah....how I have missed this banter. :) I have been following the blog for a long time, but alas, finally could hold the tongue no longer and thus opted to chime in. Long time, no see...

I won't debate with you regarding the timing of OBL's capture; your points are well taken. I just find it ironic that the black sheep of the bin Laden clan was able to evade our military for so long. Here this bearded jerk is, hundreds of millions to his name (purportedly) directing terror operations across the globe. Juxtapose that with the U.S. military, and trillions in taxpayer dollars. Kill OBL? Nah...I vote we should have put OBL in charge of the budget department at the Pentagon. Seems like he can outmaneuver one of the best militaries on the planet on a shoestring budget. Thrifty!

What about cutting off foreign aid to Pakistan? Where's all that taxpayer money going anyway? Not towards intelligence, I can surmise at least that much. How about declaring the War in Afghanistan as over, done, finished, and bringing our troops home....instead of continuing to throw taxpayer dollars down a black hole of never ending and pointless imperalism?

Oh...that's right. We aren't really in Afghanistan to ferret out OBL or any other terrorist group. Nope, we're there to usurp and maintain our stake in the opium trade, which has, by the way, quadrupled since our involvement over there.

As for the vagueness of Art. 1, Sec. 8, your point gives pause. Should it be so easy to commit troops? Shouldn't the taxpayers - via our "representative" form of government have a say? Obviously not, because as you pointed out, we no longer have a representative form of government. What we have is degenerating into something else entirely: Corporatism.

Though not a fan of government largess or intervention, I am even less of a fan of crony capitalism, the red-headed bastard step child of the free market system. Citizens United and the recent AT&T decision are nothing less than a further endorsement of an autocratic, corporate klepto tyranny that continues to spread like a plague and strangle every remaining shred of decency in this nation. Unfortunately, this has been a long, painful, and slow slide into the death grip of corporate pestilence...Santa Clara County v. Southern Pac. Ry. in 1886 was the first nail in the coffin, granting corporations the status of personhood, save the actual accountability that goes along with it. Thanks to Rockefeller, Delaware became the first state to do away with renewable corporate charters. Prior to that, corporations had to be nonprofit and operate for the public good, and the were not allowed to exist in perpetuity. Now, through a progeny of bad SCOTUS decisions, we have created the modern day Godzilla in the Corporation - a multinational entity with more rights than an individual that owes its allegiance to no one, and enjoys greater sovereignty than any nation. And since corporations have only one goal - the bottom line - and few, if any liabilities, from a psychological and sociological standpoint, were one to look at a corporation as one does an individual, one could correctly diagnose a corporation as a sociopath...devoid of pesky morals, values, and principles.

At the end of the day, I'm inclined to think that maybe OBL won. He got what he wanted. Death by a thousand cuts. America is being bled dry. We're broke. Our society is degenerating under what will soon become either bankruptcy or false austerity....we are more than happy to stick it to teachers, schools, unions, the middle class, etc....but god forbid we cease corporate welfare. "Too Big To Fail" is a lie, and so are the endless wars that seek to perpetuate the American Empire. That America is "Too Big To Fail" may be the greatest myth of our time. Rome Part II, if you will.

Human beings suffer from a fatal flaw: that of amnesia. When will we ever learn?


Anonymous said...

PS: Though I take issue with Chomsky on a number of items, I did find his recent article on the bin Laden escape worthy of pause and consideration: http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/2652/noam_chomsky_my_reaction_to_os/