awkwardly

Saturday

Like you could give a shit about my comments on last week's debate 7 OCT 2008

john_mccain out loud
1. "That one." It's a stretch to say this was some kind of coded racial slur by McCain. It reminds me of the kind of thing my mom would say about me, or parents say about their kids. "Watch out for that one, he'll give you trouble." For people who demand some level of formality of their politicians (I'm thinking that would be conservatives), this is something they might raise an eyebrow over, not something to clutch their pearls over.

I agree there are some words that have somehow picked up a taint of racism through repeated use like "uppity" or fucking buffoon Biden saying Obama was "articulate." But I've also seen some real stretches lately in the outrages against McCain and Pal. Somebody wrote that a McCain ad sounded racist when it called Obama "disrespectful" about the lipstick on a pig kerfuffle. What's the racism encoded in that word? Is it that Black slang includes the verb "diss" derived from "disrespect"?

I also view McCain's remark "I'll bet you, you may never even have heard of [FannieMae or FreddieMac] before this crisis," as a condescending thing to say to a young person, not necessarily a judgment about Black people being ignorant. Maybe he should have been more sensitive though, I don't know.

However, Sen. Obama's "I'm green behind the ears" slur against Vulcans was explicit, mediated by no codewords, totally inappropriate.

2. McCain elaborated that idea I complained about last time: that if you really need to launch attacks into the territory of allied countries without getting their approval, you don't say it "out loud." He's obviously emphasizing not that it's wrong to use military force against allies, but that it's wrong to admit it.

Unfortunately, the Obama's policy towards "incursions" into Pakistan is basically the Bush Doctrine, or the kind of unilateralism laid out by Clinton. Those usually apply to demonized countries, not allies, but the same principle applies. This is the argument Bush used in launching the war in Afghanistan. Whether or not we’re pals with the Taleban (wasn't he? How many diplomats did he host or give money to just prior to 9/11?), Bush said it was right to launch attacks into Afghanistan to stop Al Qaeda and capture Bin Laden. The kind of things that used to be covered in extradition treaties. In fact, it negates any need for extradition treaties if you say there's some level of crime or transgression where we're not willing to negotiate about extradition and we'll just invade.

It's not something we can just hold against Republicans. I remember sometime in the late '90s (after a little research I found 1998), Clinton authorized missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan in response to Al Qaeda bombing US embassies. In one of these, the US shot missiles at a camp near the border of Afghanistan, but they "accidentally" hit across the border in Pakistan. I remember joking about this with friends, how our smart bombs aren't even accurate enough to hit the right NATION, let alone the right target. But the press didn't raise a stink at the time. I can't even find an article validating this, so I have to rely on my memory. It was just a buried lede that jumped out at me in an article explaining the US response.

Was there an outcry from Pakistan or Afghanistan at the time? Did any US politicians or press care about outcry from those flyover countries? Did we have approval of the governments of Afghanistan or Sudan for the strikes we intended to land there? If Clinton had identified a target in Pakistan and intended to hit there without approval from Musharaff's predecessor, would Clinton or any Democrats or Republicans have cared? The reason it didn't lead to an international incident was because the target countries don't matter as far as most US politicians are concerned. If you launch a strike into Russia's sphere of influence or Europe, then you might have an "incident." If you strike third world countries, you have brown people complaining, as if they mattered.

Did McCain object to Clinton attacking those places, presumably without a green light from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sudan? Did McCain object to Bush attacking in Afghanistan to strike at Al Qaeda and Bin Laden? And if the only difference is that Pakistan is currently an ally, it means Obama is saying we will stop being an ally and we will become enemies of Pakistan if necessary to hit terrorist groups hiding there, same as we've done in the past. Here he is saying it in slightly different terms in last night's (7 Oct 2008) debate:

"But I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can't coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars, and then he's making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants. What I have said is we're going encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our non-military aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants. And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out."

Notice that these military strikes in situations that call for policing are really just a show. The strike in Sudan was later shown to have hit a pharmaceutical plant, with no evidence that chemical or bio weapons were ever made there. One man was directly killed. Germany's ambassador to Sudan, Werner Daum, estimated that "tens of thousands" of Sudanese civilians died from the resulting shortage of pharmaceuticals. But it had no noticeable effect on Al Qaeda. Apparently it didn’t stop them from bombing the USS Cole or WTC or elsewhere. And even if all these attacks had been effective, it would be a utilitarian argument for ignoring sovereignty of other nations and unilaterally attacking, not a moral or legal argument.

Anyway, back to McCain. Listen to or read his words, and I think you'll see another instance where he's saying not that he would swear off this kind of attack, but that he wouldn't announce it ahead of time. Given the kinds of questions that reporters ask, it's a matter of either "plausible deniability" or he's admitting that he will lie if you ask him about these things, on the excuse that "I'm not going to telegraph my punches" to the enemy. Maybe the problem is that McCain's disingenuously pretending that our lists of allies and enemies are stable, or that it depends on their good behavior. A look at US history shows that allies are abandoned casually.

By the way, 700 billion extra credit points to Katie Hamm for ending her question …'or should we ignore their borders and pursue our enemies, like we did in Cambodia during the Vietnam War?"

3. McCain: "But the fact is, America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world." Not only does this play on my pet peeve of saying "the fact is" before stating an opinion, but the opinion is that of a failed student of American history, someone who embraces "American Exceptionalism," rationalizing all of US history as if there were good intentions behind every action and war and massacre. Meanwhile, every nation and dictator claims to have good intentions for their actions and wars and massacres.

4. I don't like hyping insignificant slips of the tongue, like "Roosevelt went on TV" (Biden) or climate change causing all of man's activities (Palin). But I wonder if McCain misspoke or honestly believes that "The Taliban came back in" after the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan. The transcript I'm looking at shows McCain saying, "We drove the Russians out, with the Afghan freedom fighters, drove the Russians out of Afghanistan. And then we made a most serious mistake. We washed our hands of Afghanistan. The Taliban came back in; al Qaeda."

Was that supposed to mean "The Taliban came back, I mean Al Qaeda"? Was this generous transcriber using a semi-colon correctly? Does anyone know how to use a semi-colon correctly? After you look up the history of the Taleban and find they first took control over parts of Afghanistan in 1994, after the end of the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan, look up what Kurt Vonnegut said about semi-colons.

5. Obama: "We are going to have to make the Iraqi government start taking more responsibility." This is not a new criticism but worth repeating. What Bush and Obama and McCain and Hilary Clinton have often talked about in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is a strategy that was attempted in Vietnam. At that time it was called "Vietnamization," a term which is clear as mud. Basically the way they used it, the term means that you're supporting an unpopular government in some foreign country, and you've been propping up that government by force with US troops, keeping democracy at bay. You don't acknowledge that it's an occupation, or that it's a façade puppet govt or an unpopular government that wouldn't be in power if you hadn't intervened, which will fall like Chevy Chase's one-note impression of Gerald Ford as soon as you withdraw the occupying army.

All you need for the unpopular government you support to "stand up for itself" is for lots of indigenous civilians to join the unpopular govt's military, and then they can protect themselves against the will of the people. Then you can withdraw US troops and everybody's happy (everybody who matters). You need to "Vietnamize" the force that is protecting the unpopular government, replace the American occupying force with a favorable Vietnamese occupying force. Thus, the "Vietnamization" of the country. Just pay a ton of local civilians to prop up a government that the majority of their countrymen don't support.

When you put it in the right terms, you can start to blame the citizens for failing to defend the government they hate. They need to "take responsibility" for their own defense. Well, actually not defending the people from attackers but defending the govt they hate from their own people trying to throw the bastards out.

You'll notice this rhetoric from Obama and Hilary Clinton and all up through the pundit records of the Vietnam war. The people of Vietnam weren't taking responsibility to join the ARVN (South Vietnamese army) and defend the series of dictators approved by the US. The people of Afghanistan haven't taken responsibility to defend a ruler who was approved by the US and Coalition in a conference held in fucking GERMANY.

To begin giving your lives in large numbers in support of rulers that the US approves of and most of the indigenous people don't approve of = "taking responsibility." Defending your people against invaders and occupiers and collaborators = not taking responsibility.

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