#28 – The Snake Oil Salesperson of the Year

Winner – Nikki Haley – The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation on Iraq to the United Nations Security Council Powell’s was impressive. His speech was a standard for the misuse of intelligence to sell the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Nikki Haley may be as deceitful as Mr. Powell was on that February day.

Nikki Haley has provided the closest replication yet of that notorious performance in 2003. Haley is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations but recently did her show-and-tell at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington.

Haley used tendentiously and selectively props including physical “pieces” of a missile and other intelligence to stir up hostility in support of the Trump administration’s hostilities towards Iran.

Powell used a small vial as a prop in talking about a biological weapon. Haley displayed a warehouse full of wrecked hardware, including the missile remnants. The featured piece consisted of remnants of a missile fired from Yemen in the direction of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The missile fired at Riyadh was a rather feeble and ineffective response to the continuing air assault on Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition that has turned a civil war sparked by tribal disgruntlement into one of the world’s biggest current humanitarian disasters.

The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) estimates 13,893 civilian casualties (5,144 dead, 8,749 wounded) in Yemen since the Saudi bombing campaign began in March of 2015, but that figure has not been updated in over three months.

As if the situation couldn’t possibly get worse, Saudi Arabia has destroyed all of the Yemeni infrastructure that is the major cause of a cholera outbreak. The cholera outbreak has enveloped Yemen since October of 2016. The World Health Organization currently estimates 900,000 cases of the illness, but expects the figure to exceed 1 million by the end of the year.

The Saudi-led air war is clearly the biggest source of the carnage not a missile aimed at the Riyadh airport that produced no casualties.

The United States aids the Saudi air war. The exact nature and extent of the assistance are unclear, but what is publicly acknowledged includes U.S. provision of targeting information and refueling of Saudi warplanes.

It is morally offensive for Haley to try to focus attention on Iranian-related markings on a missile fragment while her own government abets far more suffering and destruction in the same war of which that missile was a part.

Haley’s remarks at the show-and-tell did nothing to explain how the munitions displayed around her demonstrate had anything to do with Iranian policies or how they are proof that Iran is the driver of conflict and instability in the Middle East.

Coincidently, Iran’s sworn enemies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided most of the material on display. The U.S. officials would not or could not say where the “evidence” had been recovered. Nor could they say when the weapons had been supplied or when they were used.

Officials of the United States, the world’s leading exporter of arms, ought to be especially careful about suggesting that factory markings on munitions equate to evidence about a country’s foreign policy, given how U.S. origin arms have been used by the likes of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Scare tactics were a big part of the Bush administration’s campaign of selling its war, with the brandishing of things like vials. The Bush administration told us to imagine the damage if these vials were filled with bio-chemical weapons, in reference to those being “produced” in Iraq.

Haley got fully into the same mode when she warned about the missile that hit close to the Riyadh airport, “Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin. That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what Iran is actively supporting.”

We still don’t know exactly where Trump, Haley, or anyone else in the current administration wants or expects to go with their campaign of stoking maximum tension and hostility toward Iran. However, more and more of their campaign sounds a lot like what the Bush administration and neoconservatives were saying about Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

Intelligence is to inform policy makers so that they can make decisions that have not already been made. When the U.S. begins a campaign to use selective intelligence and tragic events to sell a threat it usually indicates that a decision for armed conflict has already been made. This campaign is underway both at Iran and at North Korea.

Remember the Maine (Spanish-American War), the Lusitania (WW1), Pearl Harbor (WW2), the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam), Saddam’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), post-9/11’s War on Terrorism (Afghanistan) and saving the Yazidi from ISIS (Syria). These events coupled with “convenient” propaganda were successful in selling those wars.

Congratulations to Nikki Haley as the latest entry into the Snake Oil Salesperson’s gallery of rogues.

 

#27 Afghanistan and the Harvey Weinstein Strategy

Afghanistan – The Harvey Weinstein Strategy

In our post-Weinstein world, men charged with sexual misconduct are guilty until proven innocent, their crimes are capital offenses, there exists no statute of limitations, and “zero tolerance” has become a battle cry. The pain, suffering, and humiliation of the women preyed upon by reprobates should not be minimized but let us consider other victims and their perpetrators.

The American people retain a capacity for outrage. We can distinguish between the tolerable and the intolerable. And we can demand accountability of powerful individuals and institutions. However, I am confused why this same level of outrage is absent when it comes to needless war.

Compare the culpability of these sexual scoundrels to those of the high-ranking officials who have presided over or promoted this country’s various military misadventures of the present century. These wars have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and will ultimately cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars. *

The public treats, with respect, the views of pundits and media personalities who persist in promoting war while condemning any innuendo of sexual harassment. If I was more of a conspiracy nut I would conclude that mainstream media is guilty of colluding with the government to distract the public’s attention away from our executions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalis, Syria, Pakistan and soon to be North Korea or Iran.

When it comes to sexual harassment there are no statute of limitations and “zero tolerance” is expected in response to all allegations. So, why when it comes to war the past doesn’t count. The media prefers to sustain the pretense that tomorrow is full of possibilities. Victory lies just around the corner.

The president, who has yet to visit Afghanistan, in his Thanksgiving message to the troops remarked, “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around,” he continued “We’re fighting to win. And you people [have] turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody has seen.”

The term winning is quite elastic. Trump may think that it implies vanquishing the enemy—white flags and surrender ceremonies on the U.S.S. Missouri. General Nicholson knows better. “Winning,” the field commander says, “means delivering a negotiated settlement that reduces the level of violence and protecting the homeland.”

It took a succession of high-profile scandals before Americans truly woke up to the plague of sexual harassment and assault. What will it take before the public concludes that they have had enough of wars that don’t work? Vietnam had a televised war, body bags returning and the My Lai Massacre to awakened our outrage.

The crime that is not being reported is that General “Mad Dog” Mattis, General Nicholson, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are following the Harvey Weinstein playbook: keep doing it until they make you stop.

Consider a recent article in U.S. News and World Report;

“Armed with a new strategy and renewed support from old allies, the Trump administration now believes it has everything it needs to win the war in Afghanistan. Top military advisers all the way up to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis say they can accomplish what two previous administrations and multiple troop surges could not: the defeat of the Taliban by Western-backed local forces, a negotiated peace and the establishment of a popularly supported government in Kabul capable of keeping the country from once again becoming a haven to any terrorist group.”

Over the past 17 years the US has experimented with just about every approach imaginable: invasion, regime change, occupation, nation-building, pacification, decapitation, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency, not to mention various surges, differing in scope and duration.

We have had a big troop presence and a smaller one, more bombing and less, restrictive rules of engagement and permissive ones. And how about that MOAB that made a big boom but no “surrender” materialized. What is next using nuclear weapons?

If you believe that Harvey Weinstein has learned his lesson and can be trusted to interview young actresses while wearing his bathrobe then the “new strategy” in Afghanistan is right up your alley.

* By 2015, the Afghan project, had already absorbed at least $65 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars and more than 300,000 dead. By the way have those costly military efforts have not eliminated “terrorism,” they have fertilized the terrorist community.