FM newswire for April 22, interesting articles about geopolitics

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis. If you find this useful, please pass it to a friend or colleague.

  1. A rare moment of insightful reporting by the news media about the War:  “Afghanistan: A Tale of Soldiers and a School“, Joe Klein, Time, 15 April 2010
  2. The Law of Armed Conflict: Six Questions for Gary Solis“, Scott Horton, blog of Harpers, 20 April 2010 — Author of The Law of Armed Conflict, Prof of Law at Georgetown U.
  3. Excellent (in the sense of clear and informative) report on our current ops in Afghanistan:  “Kandahar Cluster**** Watch“, Michael Cohen, Democracy Arsenal, 21 April 2010
  4. Run!  Discovery of yet another shockwave scenario.  “Iceland volcano: why we were lucky we weren’t wiped out“, The Guardian, 21 April 2010 — “The volcanic ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull has caused travel chaos and misery. But we were lucky. An eruption in the future could wipe out the human race.”
  5. Sheep deserve the best government money can buy:  “Rent-A-Front: New Group Wages Stealth Battle Against Wall Street Reform“, Justin Elliott,  TPM, 21 April 2010
  6. Yes, but only after several more rounds of rescue-attempts:  “Greek Math Adds Up to Delusion, Disaster, Default“, Mark Gilbert, Bloomberg, 21 April 2010
  7. Important:   update on the European financial crisis from Eurointelligence, 22 April 2010

Feature Stories

(8)  “Is Greece different? Adjustment difficulties in southern Europe“, Alcidi Cinzia and Daniel Gros, VOX, 22 April 2010 — Abstract:

The fiscal crises faced by countries in southern Europe have led many commentators to group them together in their analysis. This column argues that the causes of these overvalued currencies and twin deficits are different. For Greece and Portugal the problem is insolvency; for Ireland and Spain, illiquidity. Italy has a higher savings rate and its foreign imbalances are much smaller.

(9)  Learning is vital for our success in the 21st century:  “Unlearned lessons from the Steven Hatfill case“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 21 April 2010 — Excerpt:

(1) It requires an extreme level of irrationality to read what happened to Hatfill and simultaneously to have faith that the “real anthrax attacker” has now been identified as a result of the FBI’s wholly untested and uninvestigated case against Bruce Ivins. The parallels are so overwhelming as to be self-evident.

… Yet just as was true for years with the Hatfill accusations, no independent investigations are taking place. That’s true for three reasons. First, the FBI drove Ivins to suicide, thus creating an unwarranted public assumption of guilt and ensuring the FBI’s case would never be subjected to the critical scrutiny of a trial — exactly what would have happened with Hatfill had he, like Ivins, succumbed to that temptation, …

No matter how many times the Government and media jointly disseminate outright lies to the American citizenry — remember Iraq, or Jessica Lynch’s heroic Rambo-like firefight with Evil Iraqi Villains, or Pat Tillman’s death at the hands of Al Qaeda Monsters, or all the gloriously successful air strikes and raids on Terrorists that never happened? — that propagandistic process never weakens. As a result, many Americans (especially when their party is in power) simply place blind faith in whatever the Government claims (even when the claims are issued anonymously and accompanied by no tested evidence). Hence, the Government claims it knows that Ivins is the anthrax killer; the American media largely affirms that claim; and, for so many people, that’s the end of the story, no matter how many times that exact process has so woefully misled them and no matter how many credible and even mainstream sources question it.

The anthrax attacks were one of the most significant political events of this generation — as significant as the 9/11 attack, if not more so, in creating the climate of fear that prevailed (and still prevails) in the U.S., which, in turn, spawned so much expansion of government power. It is worth remembering what happened in the Hatfill case in order to be reminded of just how inexcusable it is that there has been no independent investigation of the case against Ivins and that the current administration is now aggressively and quite strangely blocking any efforts to do so.

(2) More generally, it is hard to overstate the authoritarian impulses necessary for someone — even in the wake of numerous cases like Steven Hatfill’s — to place blind faith in government accusations without needing to see any evidence or have that evidence subjected to adversarial scrutiny. Yet that is exactly the blind faith that dominates so many of our political debates.

Throughout the Bush years, anyone who argued against warrantless surveillance, or torture, or lawless detention and rendition, was met with this response: but this is all being done to Terrorists. What they actually meant was: these are people accused by the Government, with no evidence or trials, of being Terrorists. But the authoritarian mind, by definition, recognizes no distinction between “Our leaders claim X” and “X is true.” For them, the former is proof of the latter. Identically, those who now argue against due-process-free presidential assassinations of American citizens and charge-less indefinite detentions are met with a similar response: but these are dangerous people who are trying to kill Americans, when what they actually mean is: Obama officials claim, with no evidence shown and no process given, that these are dangerous people trying to kill Americans. The authoritarian mind refuses to recognize any distinction between those two very different propositions.

No matter how many Steven Hatfills there are — indeed, no matter how undeniable is the evidence that the Government repeatedly accused people of being Terrorists who were no such thing, even while knowing the accusations were false — the authoritarians among us continue to blindly recite unproven Government accusations (but he’s a Terrorist!) to justify the most extreme detention, surveillance and even assassination policies, all without needing or wanting any due process or evidence. No matter how many times it is shown how unreliable those kinds of untested government accusations are (either due to abuse or error), there is no shortage of people willing to place blind faith in such pronouncements and to vest political leaders with all sorts of unchecked powers to act on them.


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