Friday, January 6, 2012
The great fear is that the NDAA will be used to support massive civil liberties abuses. And, that is a really legitimate fear. The Obama administration wrote a secret legal memo to justify the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, and the memo drew its justification from the authorization to use military force (AUMF) against Al Qaeda that Congress enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Now, the NDAA extends the detention provisions of AUMF to US citizens at home. So, by extension, I imagine they could write a memo that draws on NDAA to justify domestic terrorist assassinations. The courts are our last line of defense here. I imagine any President or administration that tried to use the NDAA detention provisions simply to round people up and put them in FEMA prisons would face fierce legal challenges. I think the reason they added the offensive language to NDAA was to allow for military detentions and trials of US citizens captured in the US who may be collaborating with al Qaeda. There were a few 9/11 collaborators who meet that definition and were tried in civilian court and they wanted to keep them in military court. We can only hope the intentions are so benign, but should not have to. These laws should never have been written and we can only hope they will soon be repealed.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Out of all the thrilling and entertaining moments in the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign, perhaps the most galvanizing was when Herman Cain said, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!” It echoed all that is good and true in the conservative movement and its religious belief in taking personal responsibility. It is why Herman Cain rose higher and longer than any of the other non-Romney candidates, and why I think he had a serious shot at the nomination if it turned out he had a grasp of foreign policy and was true to his wife.
I find it ironic that for all of the GOP’s fervor for taking personal responsibility and getting government off our backs, that instead of blaming themselves, most conservatives seem content to blame immigrants, welfare recipients, big government and Barack Obama for most of what is wrong with America. Rather than taking responsibility and enjoying the benefits of one of the least regulated, smallest government, most capitalistic countries in the world it seems that many on the red side of the street spend more time worrying about Obama’s birth certificate, or a non-existent crime epidemic in border cities, or government regulations, instead of knuckling down and building better businesses and better communities.
Like Herman Cain, Ron Paul has it wrong with his small-government, laissez-faire economic policy. But, Paul at least has it half-right on US foreign policy. The part he has right: we should let Iran have nuclear power and become a nuclear country; the wrong part: cut almost the entire military and foreign aid budgets and disengage from the rest of the world completely. I think we need a balance somewhere between the two. We can cut the military budget in half over 5 years and invest in retraining the returning soldiers and out of work contractors in new energy technology. After all, energy security is national security.
Iran knows that one day their oil will dry up and their source of wealth and power as a country will dry up as well unless they have diverse industries and energy resources. It is the same reason Dubai has been diversifying its portfolio for years including the controversial deal to buy part of a US port in 2006. Under pressure from Israel and AIPAC, Democrats and Republicans will do anything to stop Iran from going nuclear. Yet, mutually Assured Destruction has worked everywhere else in the world, so why can’t it work between Israel and Iran? A nuclear Iran is a small price to pay for maintaining the American Empire.
Yes, we are an empire. The US has only 5% of the world’s population, but we use 25% to 50% of its resources and our military budgetequals the next 20 countries’ combined. To many people outside the US it feels like they are being held hostage at gun-point by the US so that we can enjoy an extraordinary standard of living, while everyone else barely gets by.
So, stop your belly-aching, Democrats, and realize that even our poor and oppressed have it great compared to the rest of the world. And stop your whining, Republicans, and notice that the reason everyone wants to kill us is because we are no longer seen as liberators from the Nazis and Japan. That story has gotten old.
Rather, we have become a new empire and “the force” may not be with us. The fact that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator does not absolve us of the crime that was Iraq. The US supports far more dictators and oppressive regimes than we liberate. We’ve also lost our moral authority by gutting the Bill of Rights with the Patriot Act, Guantanamo and now indefinite military detentions of US citizens as codified in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
So, instead of being seen as liberators or a beacon of freedom, the US is seen increasingly as a blood-sucking pig spewing green house gasses in the wake of its vast military and industrial empire. It’s gotten to the point where many in the outside world see us in the same way Republicans view welfare recipients: pointing a gun at their head and forcing them to pay a small percentage of their taxes as welfare.
So, buck up and start blaming yourself America! There’s a reason much of the world hates us, even as they aspire to our standard of living. Mitt Romney can accuse Barack Obama’s foreign policy of “appeasement” all he wants, but Ron Paul and the rest of us will see through that lie and realize that a new US foreign policy requires everyone to take responsibility for their own actions. Even if that means talking to the enemy occasionally and letting them diversify their energy portfolio, just as we need to diversify our own.