Democracy? National Security? No, You Fools, for Hillary, the Iraq War Was All About the Money

“It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.” – Hillary Clinton, 2011

There are apparently some interesting items coming out of Hillary Clinton’s released cache of e-mails.

And they seem to strengthen the notion that, after all, the Iraq War was not primarily fought for noble reasons such as ‘protecting national security’ or ‘promoting democracy.’ While boiling this down to the anti-war slogan ‘No Blood for Oil’ might simplify things a tad bid, this article by David Sirota points out in detail how Corporate America saw it as a way to get richer.

And guess who positioned  herself as a champion of those large corporations in Iraq, even a year before publicly declaring the Iraq War as “a mistake?” — Hillary Rodham Clinton.

American voters might want to take note in the upcoming election.

 

Quote: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Russia, Ukraine

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Russia’s flexing of its military on Crimea

While I also find the events in Ukraine, particularly on Crimea, in the last days quite disturbing, there is nonetheless a certain hypocrisy in Kerry’s grandiose statement. The twenty-four hours news cycle may cater to short attention spans, but I still remember the fallacious rationale for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s imaginary mobile laboratories for biological weapons. This arguably “completely trumped up pre-text” for war was based on faulty intelligence by Iraqi informant “Curveball”—interestingly passed on to the U.S. by the German BND—and propagated by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous presentation before the UN Security Council on February 2, 2003.

You might say that I am not fond of any state’s war propaganda. The amoral nature of such deceptions lies in the fact that it is almost never the decision-makers who bear the consequences of their warmongering. Those who die in these wars die in vain, for lies, as pawns in geopolitical games, and for the profits of the military-industrial-complex. It is just horrible.

Odd Political Moves: John McCain’s Benghazi Press Conference Edition

I also demand a hearing into which hearings
I should have attended while demanding more hearings.
– Liberal blog Daily Kos summing up John McCain’s press conference on Benghazi1

Former GOP presidential candidate Senator John McCain recently gave a press conference on the Benghazi terrorist attack, demanding more investigation of the incident. When a CNN reporter pointed out to McCain that, instead of giving a press conference, he might be attending a confidential briefing at the Senate Homeland Security Committee, of which he is a member, McCain lost it. Oh my…

[Update]: “McCain Backs Away From Benghazi Conspiracies.” (Think Progress, 11/20/2012)

Round 4: Romney and Obama’s Third and Last Debate Covers Foreign Policy

Tonight (October 22, 2012), President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney hold their third and final debate, this time at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, and with a focus on foreign policy. During the last debate, Romney already attacked Obama’s foreign policy to some extent, for instance by (falsely) claiming that the president had not called the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 an act of terrorism—the respective transcript produced by the debate moderator proved Romney wrong on this allegation.

Topics that will certainly be on the agenda tonight: Iran’s nuclear program and relations with China. Other issues which I assume will not be discussed, even though they merit serious debate: the expanding drone wars under the current administration in the ‘war on terror,’ in particular so-called signature strikes, and the conscious decision of the justice department not to hold accountable the architects and enforcers of the torture regime in said ‘war on terror,’ which sets a precedent for future administrations. So let us see what the two candidates have to say.

[Update: They did talk about drones and Romney agreed with President Obama’s current policy.]

You can watch the debate here:

The complete final debate on YouTube:

The YouTube election hub also has a plethora of political videos here.

You can also watch the complete third Obama-Romney debate at the New York Times, which has a handy running transcript next to the video.

You can also watch the complete third Obama-Romney debate at the Washington Post, which has a handy running transcript next to the video.

2012 Election Central has a schedule of all 2012 debates here.

Fact-checking:

Fact check: Claims about Syria, Libya, Iraq scrutinized.” (USA Today, 10/23/2012)

Fact checking the third presidential debate.” (Washington Post, 10/23/2012)

Fact-checking Websites:

factcheck.org

politifact.com

Romney All Wet on Ships.” (FactCheck, 10/26/2012)

False Claims in Final Debate.” (FactCheck, 10/23/2012)

Fact-checking the third presidential debate.” (PolitiFact, 10/22/2012)

Fact-checking foreign policy.” (PolitiFact, 10/21/2012)

Fact-checking taxes in the presidential race.” (PolitiFact, 10/15/2012)

Presidential Debate Fact-Check and Updates.” (New York Times, 10/16/2012)

[Infographic and analysis] “Obama’s Numbers: Statistical measures of the president’s term to date.” (FactCheck, 10/08/2012)

How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates.” (Lifehacker, 10/03/2012)

Debate Coverage:

Post-Debate:

[Memes] “About Those Horses and Bayonets ….” (New York Times, 10/23/2012)

A Good Debate for Obama, But Can He Stop Romney?” (Atlantic, 10/23/2012)

Obama’s Two Most Revealing Moments In Last Night’s Debate.” (The New Republic, 10/23/2012)

Romney’s Big Navy Guru Made Millions From Building Ships.” (Wired, 10/23/2012)

Romney’s Final Debate Message: I’ll Be A Better Obama.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/23/2012)

The foreign-policy debate: A win for Obama.” (Economist, 10/23/2012)

[Memes] “Top 5 final-debate memes: ‘Horses and Bayonets,’ and more.” (The Week, 10/23/2012)  via @TheWeek

Obama Unlikely to Get Big Debate Bounce, but a Small One Could Matter.” (New York Times, 10/23/2012)

Obama wins final debate, but does it matter?” ( CNN, 10/23/2012)

Obama, Romney go on attack in final debate.” (USA Today, 10/23/2012)

Presidential debate 2012: 7 takeaways.” (Politico, 10/23/2012)

Obama and Romney Bristle From Start Over Foreign Policy.” (New York Times, 10/22/2012)

Romney Disappoints GOP Base.” (Mother Jones, 10/22/2012)

[Video] “Obama To Romney: The 1980s Called — They Want Their Foreign Policy Back.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/22/2012)

Pre-Debate:

5 Facts To Commit To Memory Before Tonight’s Foreign Policy Debate.” (Think Progress, 10/22/2012)

6 questions that will settle the election.” (Politico, 10/22/2012)

Foreign Policy Debate Puts Focus on Leadership.” (New York Times, 10/22/2012)

Obama vs. Romney: How they plan to win.” (Politico, 10/22/2012)

Presidential debate: 5 things to watch Monday.” (Politico, 10/22/2012)

German Language Debate Coverage:

Drittes Fernsehduell: Romney grenzt sich ab – gegen Obamas Vorgänger.” (FAZ, 23.10.2012)

Letzte TV-Debatte: Staatsmann Obama landet Punktsieg.” (Zeit Online, 23.10.2012)

TV-Duell : Obama punktet mit Souveränität.” (taz, 23.10.2012)

[Podcast] “Swingin’ America – Endspurt im Wahlkampf.” (hr2 Der Tag, 22.10.2012)

Countdown zur US-Wahl: Noch 17 Tage: Wie Twitter den US-Wahlkampf banalisiert.” (Malte Lehming, Tagesspiegel, 20.10.2012)

Background information:

[Podcast] “Obama Plans Another Campaign Marathon For Monday.” (npr, 11/05/2012)

[Podcast] “Red State Blue State.” (This American Life Episode 478, 11/01/2012) – This episode covers how the current hyperpolarized political climate in the US affects families and friends who find themselves in opposite political camps.

Democracy denied: Millions of Americans blocked from voting.” (Al Jazeera English, 10/28/2012)

A Comprehensive Timeline Of Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Positions During The Campaign.” (Think Progress, 10/22/2012)

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney.” (Rolling Stone, 08/29/2012)

[Podcast] “For Many Florida Ex-Cons, Voting Booth Is Off-Limits.” (npr, 10/22/2012)

U.S. Foreign Policy Data Roundup: Candidates and Issues.” (Gallup, 10/22/2012)

An update on the electoral map after the first presidential debate from Talking Points Memo (October 16, 2012):

[Infographic] Here you can find the electoral map from the New York Times.

3 states that may decide the election.” (Politico, 10/15/2012) – Ohio, Florida and Virginia

The Catholic ‘Swing’ Vote.” (Pew, 10/11/2012)

[Podcast] “Science and the 2012 Election.” (Point of Inquiry, 10/15/2012)  – A discussion about the candidates’ positions on matters of science

Debates: Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards.” (Gawker, 10/15/2012)

[Podcast] “All That Stuff Before The Debate.” (My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, 09/12/2012) – A discussion about the intensely scripted nature of presidential debates

[Video] “As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties.” (Democracy Now, 10/03/2012)

Do the US presidential debates matter?” (BBC News, 10/03/2012)

Election 2012: Your Free Ticket to a Popular Stanford Course.” —Stanford University lets you watch a lecture series about this year’s presidential election and broader themes behind political campaigns in the US (via Open Culture)

First Debate Often Helps Challenger in Polls.” (New York Times, 10/03/2012)

[Audio] “How Politicians Get Away With Dodging The Question.” (npr, 10/03/2012)

[Podcast] “How Presidential Debates Work.” (Stuff You Should Know, 11/10/2011)

How Presidential Debates Work.” (HowStuffWorks, 10/13/2010)

[Memes] “2012 United States Presidential Election.” (Know Your Meme) – The Internet is even capable of exploiting the funny bits of presidential elections

German Language Background information:

Amerika wählt: Was sind die Swing States?” (FAZ, 06.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Harvard-Ökonom: US-Mittelschicht steht immer mehr unter Druck.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, Ortszeit, 05.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Praise The Lord! Aber nur, wenn’s opportun ist.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, Politisches Feuilleton, 05.11.2012) – Wie amerikanische Politiker Religion für den Wahlkampf nutzen

[Podcast] “USA vor der Wahl – wohin steuert die Supermacht?” (Deutschlandfunk Kontrovers, 05.11.2012)

Prognose zur künftigen US-Politik: So sieht Amerikas Zukunft aus.” (Spiegel Online, 04.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Romney versus Obama: Die USA vor der Präsidentschaftswahl.” (Deutschlandfunk, Hintergrund, 04.11.2012)

[Audio] “US-Wahlsystem verständlich erklärt.” (MDR Info, 02.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Sondersendung mit Rop Gonggrijp über die US-Wahlen und Wahlfälschung.” (Alternativlos Folge 28, 01.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Das Streben nach Glück – Anspruch und Wirklichkeit: Amerika vor der Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur Lesart, 28.10.2012) – Die Diskussionsrunde nimmt Bezug auf Mark Twains kürzlich nach hundert Jahren der Geheimhaltung veröffentlichten “Geheimen Biographie” sowie David Remnicks Obama-Biographie “Die Brücke – Barack Obama und die Vollendung der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung”, im Original “The Bridge – The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (2010).

[Video/Podcast] “Brennpunkt USA – Eine intellektuelle Spurensuche.” (Schweizer Fernsehen, Sternstunde Philosophie, 24.10.2012) – In der philosophischen Sendung des Schweizer Fernsehens interviewt Barbara Blasch amerikanische Intellektuelle wie Noam Chomsky, Katja Vogt und Michael Walzer zur Lage der Nation kurz vor der Präsidentschaftswahl 2012. Auch als Audioversion im Podcast-Feed der Sendung.

Debattenkultur: Warum wir Amis keine kritischen Denker sind.” (Zeit Online, 02.10.2012)

 

2012 Presidential Election: A Few More Weeks To Go, What Happened So Far?

With the 2012 Republican and Democratic party conventions behind a few weeks, and still some time to go until the actual presidential elections in November, let’s recapture what happened in the meantime.

After the Democratic National Convention, President Obama’s approval numbers increased slightly, a phenomenon known as the ‘convention bounce’ by pollsters.

Mitt Romney did not reap a convention bounce of that magnitude after the Republican National Convention.

How does the electoral map look after the conventions? Among the important swing states, Virginia and Ohio have become slightly more favorable to Democrats. That means 31 more electoral votes for President Obama.

Talking Points Memo explains (09/20/ 2012):

Read more here.

As Gallup reports, one in five swing state voters may change their vote on election day (09/21/2012).

According to a new CBS poll (09/26/2012), prospects look brighter for Obama at the moment in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.

According to a new Washington Post poll (09/25/2012), Obama leads in Ohio and Florida.

Coverage of Ohio:

Ohio County A Historic Predictor Of State’s Vote” (npr, 09/29/2012)

Scramble For Ohio Has High Stakes For Romney” (npr, 09/29/2012)

At the same time, in important swing states like Florida or Ohio, a battle is fought over voter registration, with Republicans framing the issue as preventing voter fraud, while Democrats see it as an attempt at disenfranchising minority voters.

Florida’s voter purge explained” (Washington Post, 06/18/2012)

Voter ID laws: the Republican ruse to disenfranchise 5 million Americans” (Guardian, 08/10/2012)

Ohio Lawmaker’s Quest to Fight Voter Disenfranchisement” (PBS, 09/ 20/ 2012)

“GOP Quietly Hires Firm Tied to Voter Fraud Scandal for Work in Battleground States” (The Nation, 09/26/2012)

“RNC cuts ties to firm after voter fraud allegations” (Los Angeles Times, 09/27/2012)

As opposed to the situation in Germany, where there is a mandatory national ID (Personalausweis), which is used for identifying at the polling place, in the American system there is no such mandatory document. Citizens could so far identify with a host of other documents, such as driver’s licenses. Also, German voters do not have to register as supporter of a particular party prior to voting. Instead, they walk into the polling station, identify, and then cast their vote—nobody knows for whom. Thus, in the US, there is an incentive for parties to register as many voters for their side, and potentially to disenfranchise the other side’s supporters.

Here are developments in the Romney campaign, including amusing/worrying bloopers:

During a TV interview with ABC in mid-September, Romney estimated that a household income of $250,000 should be considered a “middle income,” one that would benefit from tax cuts, should he be elected president. In sharp contrast to Romney, the Census Bureau lists as a median income household those in the range of $50,000.

Still, as Gallup reports, one third of lowest income voters support Romney (09/18/2012).

On September 18, a secret recording of Romney at a fundraiser was leaked to Mother Jones magazine, in which Romney characterized 47% of Americans, which he believes are all Obama supporters, as “dependent on the government” and that his job was “not to worry about those people.” The day the recording was released, the Romney campaign put together an emergency press conference at 10:30 pm.

College students, for one, are not amused.

German Coverage:

US-Medien läuten Romneys politisches Ende ein” (Spiegel Online, 18.09.2012)

When the US Ambassador to Lybia and several embassy staff were killed in an attack by radical Islamists after an anti-Islam video went viral, Romney used the occasion to blame President Obama.

At a press conference, while discussing alternative energy sources, Romney praised Adolf Hitler’s idea of using liquified coal as a fuel source. This, of course, does not imply that Romney endorses any other of Hitler’s ideas, but might still be a somewhat unfortunate political move.

On September 19, while giving an interview to Spanish-language TV network Univision, Romney appeared to have tanned in order to appeal to Hispanic voters. Also, a Univision anchor stated that the Romney campaign demanded a favorable audience for the occasion.

On September 27, Mother Jones magazine published an old video of Mitt Romney as CEO of Bain Capital. In this flashback to the 1980s, Romney explains how Bain Capital “harvests” companies for profit.

And here is what happened in the Obama campaign:

Obama has difficulties in getting the approval of military veterans.

On September 23, Obama claimed in a TV interview that “Over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of” President George W. Bush’s policies and the recession.” Fact-checking website PolitiFact rates this as ‘false.’

Indian tribes, with more clout and money, find an ally in Obama” (Los Angeles Times, 09/24/2012)

Obama Against the World” (Mother Jones, 09/24/2012) – How world events beyond Obama’s control might influence his prospects for reelection

A videotape from 2007 of then-Senator Obama after hurricane Katrina saying “the people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about as much” was found. (Politico, 10/02/2012)

10 quotes that haunt President Obama” (Politico, 10/02/2012)

I will do my best to keep up with the news and post updates continuously.

Tobias Endler: US Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Leipzig Book Fair 2012 Update 1)

Now that the Leipzig Book Fair 2012 (Leipziger Buchmesse) is over, I would like to share some thoughts about my impressions. There was so much to see that any attempt at catching everything of interest was doomed to failure. Nevertheless, I managed to attend some of the readings supported by the US Consulate Leipzig, as mentioned in my earlier post.

On Thursday, March 15, I went to see Tobias Endler of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) presenting his book After 9/11: Leading Political Thinkers about the World, the U.S. and Themselves.

The book is based on a collection of interviews that Endler conducted with a variety American public intellectuals across the political spectrum. These public figures talked at length about how they imagine the role of the US as the remaining superpower after the Cold War.

Endler mentioned that the trauma of 9/11 is still present and informs national discourse in the US. He pointed to the 2012 Republican presidential primaries which had currently reached several Southern states in the US. Within the campaign rhetoric of the current crop of candidates, both the tropes of a potential Iranian nuclear threat and the fear of terrorism featured prominently.

Endler also talked about a specifically American “revolving door of public life,” a phenomenon wherein university professors often transfer to governmental posts, then to think tanks, and finally back to university or into journalism.

This mechanism, which is often difficult to understand from a German perspective, leads to a lively public debate in the US.

The discourses of public intellectuals in the US focus on such topics as the role of the US as a superpower, or the ability to survive crises.

Endler mentioned that in the public discourse, 9/11 entailed a sense of loss of the “free” US security provided by its geographic location. 9/11 was registered as the first attack on US territory since two hundred years, except for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

Since 9/11, the US government has been willing to defend what it defines as American values with military force. This rationale has been put forward by the Bush administration, but also has been acknowledged by President Obama.

Endler mentioned that a look back at the past three years of the Obama administration reveals a shift towards “realism” in its foreign policy approach.

From a German perspective, he noted, US public debate often looks like a traveling circus, and seems rather strange. From the American perspective, on the other hand, this willingness to controversial discussion is seen as embodiment of democracy.

This also includes public opinion about the president, as documented by polls. Endler pointed out that recent polls show diverging evaluations of Obama as person and Obama as politician. While Obama as a person still gets relatively high approval ratings, Obama the politician is seen comparatively worse by the American public. The president also still has an image problem as he is seen as “elitist” by large parts of the population.

Endler also mentioned that in comparison, the political spectrum of the US is generally more to the right of Germany.

A few examples from the interviews with US public intellectuals underscored this point. For instance, he mentioned Michael Novak of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), whom he characterized as an archconservative Catholic who forms a bridge between the Christian Right and neoconservatives. Novak thought of Obama as an extreme leftist.

Endler described how many conservative public intellectuals in the US also see Obama as “great nibbler” who hesitates to tackle problems of foreign policy at the root.

On the other end of the left-right spectrum, Endler gave the example of MIT linguist and icon of the US Left, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky told Endler that there was no substantial debate going on in the US. In his opinion, the educated classes are indoctrinated. Chomsky noted broad support for the US invasion of Iraq, and the absence of a “principled objective” to invading other countries. According to Chomsky, there exists a double standard for other countries’ invasions of foreign countries. In Chomsky’s view, the nature of the discourse on the invasion of Iraq was such that the only question asked was “Does it cost US too much?”

Endler pointed out that foreign policy generally plays a small role in US elections and that war fatigue has risen among the US  public. One case in point, Endler argued, was President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address, which did not discuss foreign policy matters.

In Endler’s opinion, the dialogue between the US and the EU has been set aback lately.

He concluded that there is by and large a consensus across the political spectrum in American public debate about the status of the US as a superpower and the benefit of exporting democracy.

I found the talk very interesting, but it was unfortunately a bit short, as the whole event including introduction and questions at the end had to fit into a thirty minute time slot. I certainly would have liked to hear more about certain aspects of current US foreign policy, especially the aforementioned ‘realist’ turn of the Obama administration.

As the audience of a reading at the Leipzig Book Fair is much broader than merely American studies people, it is certainly sensible to not dwell on details only of interest to (aspiring) specialists. I am of course biased here and would have gladly taken in some more information. Then again, I am probably a little spoiled by attending readings at my university, which usually have the luxury of a ninety minute time slot.

Overall, the talk got me interested and I will put the book on my to-read list.

American Literature at the Leipzig Book Fair 2012 (Preview)

The US Consulate Leipzig is present at the Leipzig Book Fair this year with a booth in hall 4, E301, and it supports a number of authors and performers from the US and dealing with US-related topics.

Among the featured artists are:

  • American writer David Guterson (Seattle), Ed King.
  • American writer Holly-Jane Rahlens (New York/Berlin), Everlasting.
  • American writer Jaimy Gordon (Baltimore), Lord of Misrule.
  • American writer Jeffery Deaver (Glen Ellyn, Illinois), Carte Blanche.
  • American Indian singer/songwriter Mitch Walking Elk, There Will Be No Surrender.
  • Iranian American writer Parochista Khakpour (Picador Guest Professor at the University of Leipzig 2011-2012).
  • American poet Peter Gizzi (Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA)
  • Tobias Endler (Heidelberg Center for American Studies), After 9/11: Leading Political Thinkers about the World, the U.S. and Themselves.

The full list can be found here (.pdf).

Please note that not all events take place at the fair ground. For details, see the pdf document.

I am certainly going to attend some readings between Thursday and Sunday. As I am particularly interested in US politics, I hope I can make it to the 9/11 reading.