Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Letter to McGovern on Libya

Dear friends,

Here is an improved version of the letter I just sent to Rep. McGovern urging his support for H. Con. Res. 31 requiring a Congressional debate of the U.S. War on Libya.

I see President Obama's actions as a grave threat to what is left of the power of Congress to decide on war and peace, indeed as an assault on democracy itself in the name of democracy. If Congress then has no power over matters of war and peace, if it is to be confined to domestic matters when half the Federal budget (and the entire Federal deficit) are for war, to whom will we then write or whom will we attempt to influence when we want to influence our country's policies?


"Dear Rep. McGovern,

"I am writing to urge your support and sponsorship of H. Con. Res. 31 - "expressing the sense that the President is required to obtain in advance specific statutory authorization for the use of United States Armed Forces in response to civil unrest in Libya."

"The war on Libya is wrong in many ways. It is a blatant intervention in a civil war - at first thinly disguised as a humanitarian mission but now brazenly committed to regime change - a goal which was never the UN or the Arab League mandate. The outbreak of demonstrations was used to launch an apparently planned and organized armed uprising, reportedly involving some very unsavory characters with connections to Western intelligence agencies and/or Al Qaeda - some with American blood on their hands - and now the US and its allies have committed to their victory in a war they now say will end only when Qaddafi has been removed.

"It is foreseeable that the result of the war and our intervention will be the destruction of what was a relatively prosperous, relatively modern country, and that the primary beneficiaries will be the oil companies. Presented as a humanitarian intervention, it is almost certainly killing far more people than it is saving, and prolonging a war that was nearly over. And the cost - already huge - will continue accruing because - as the generals as much admitted with their estimate of the cost per year of this adventure - peace will not come to Libya soon.

"Most seriously, President Obama hasn't even a fig-leaf behind which to hide his trashing of the War Powers Act; he is blatantly saying that this is not defense against an assault on or even a threat to America or its armed forces, but a matter of pursuing his ("our") interests and values - clearly a matter that legally requires prior Congressional authorization. The searing irony of Obama's speech was his presentation of this grave assault on the norms of American democracy and on the Constitution itself as a grand and selfless defense of democracy.

"Congress must force a debate and a vote on this war, or it may well mark the end to any formal democratic control or influence over our government's foreign policy, and the end to people's belief that Congress has any power worth calling on. Your loud and vocal opposition will at least give heart to those resisting this usurpation of power, and remind us all that there is a kernel of dedicated progressives around whom we can rally as we try to salvage or reclaim popular sovereignty in America.

"I urge you therefore to co-sponsor and spare no effort in support of H. Con. Res. 31 requiring a Congressional debate of the U.S. War on Libya.

"Your friend and supporter,"

(Signature, street address, city, zip, phone)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya and feelings in the pit of the stomach.

Comments to the T&G article of 3/22/11 "Support, with Caveats, for Mission in Libya":
Who was it that said "there's a smell of sulphur in the air?"

Jim McGovern is a thoughtful, honest, caring and brave man handling an impossible job with grace and humility, attempting to represent our interests in the face of enormous corporate pressure - but this liberal instinct of his to support interventions "in support of democracy" is dangerously naive. He needs to listen better to that feeling in the pit of his stomach and draw some stronger conclusions from it.

If you look at the main players in the US-led coalition - Britain, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman - it is all former imperialist powers or client kingdoms and dictatorships, all concerned with controlling the world oil market. Frankly, anyone who really thinks that they give a rat's tail about democracy in Libya - or that Obama and Hillary really do - has been drinking the Kool-Aide.

Sen. Kerry says this is completely different from Bahrain, and he's right. In Bahrain protesters are being slaughtered by a "friendly" government - friendly to the oil companies and international bankers - under the very guns of the US Naval Base, and the US does nothing but a little bit of meaningless scolding. In Libya we're dealing with a government that nationalized the oil 40 years ago and used the revenue to raise their people from the lowest living standard in Africa to the highest - and the oil companies and bankers want their property back!

My call: this war will end with half a million dead Libyans in a wrecked country governed by another kleptocracy with phony elections, a foreign occupying force that will be there for 20 years fighting another endless low-level war - and the oil fields returned or sold off to Texaco, Chevron, Shell and BP.

The only honest position for anyone who really believes in democracy is to oppose this war.
Qaddafi is no winner and a lot of Libyans want him out. I was at first happy to see this revolution happening - until the curtain was pulled back and we got to see where this is going. But the issue is not whether Qaddafi is good or bad for Libya - however bad he might be he isn't nearly as bad for Libya as this war and the occupation that will follow will be. The issue is: what are "we" doing there? Do you trust the people who are making decisions for our government to act in the interests of us, the American people, never mind the interests of the Libyans?

Liberals imagine that "we" are a group of fair-minded honest democratic liberal smart people who because of "our" great wealth and power have the right and duty to go in and straighten out other people's messes and (in Wilson's words nearly 100 years ago) "make the world safe for democracy." I see no evidence - except maybe, maybe for World War II and its outcome - that the "we" that are making decisions about the use of American power have ever really cared about that.

You don't have to be an ideologue to know when you're being lied to and manipulated by people with hidden agendas.