Ron Maxwell: America Last? 


Donald Trump ran and won on a platform summarized by the slogan America First.

Yemen -1Donald Trump campaigned on a promise of no more wars of choice: no military interventions to liberate other countries, to intervene in so-called “humanitarian” crusades, to force regime change, to coercively spread democracy, or to take sides in other people’s wars or civil wars.

In summation, our military would be used only in the defense of our own country or our closest allies. This was the promise. This was the commitment to the American peoplemadeover and over again. It was contrasted with the same old, same old, discredited, interventionist policies embodied first by Jeb Bush, and most of Trump’s primary adversaries, and later by Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump offered Americans a clear, unequivocal choice: America would no longer be policeman of the world. Her sons and daughters would no longer spill their blood in far away countries for causes not directly and plainly tied to our own national security.

As we have seen, in humankind’s history, there is no end to atrocities, massacres, and bloodletting. The Middle East, in particular, is an ever-boiling cauldron of fratricide. Certainly, all people and all nations have an interest in promoting peace and an end to the killing. But it does not follow that the people of the United States should put their safety, their security, and their own people at risk to militarily interfere in these intractable conflicts, however brutal and heinous they may be. Have we learned nothing at all from our disastrous and costly military involvement of the recent sixteen years?

Yemen -2

There is no sure way to know which belligerent used poison gas on its enemies, with the resulting horrific effects on the civilian population. We have heard the vaunted ‘government assurances’ before. Excuse this citizen of skepticism. Here is what we do know for sure: civil wars end when one side wins. Period. The longer the wars drag on, the more people are harmed, brutalized, and killed. The longer the war, the higher the civilian casualties. If we seek to lessen the horror, it is counterproductive to escalate the violence. It is a simple concept: first, do no harm.

Starting wars always seems justified in the moment. The problem is that no one knows what will happen next and no one ever knows how or when it will end. The cost in blood and treasure is inevitably greater than anyone ever thinks.

Then, there’s the question of selective outrage. Saudi Arabian warplanes have been relentlessly bombing civilian areas in Yemen for months.

At least 15,000 have been killed. Where are the images of these dead and mutilated children?

Yemen -5

Yemen -3

Yemen -4

Where is CNN’s outrage with her sanctimonious celebrity pundits calling for regime change in Riyadh? Why hasn’t President Trump initiated a cruise missile attack on a Saudi airbase?

The question must be asked. If the United States militarily intervenes in Syria, effectively taking one barbarous side over the other, what is the effect on our own national security? Is it in the interest of the American people to further undermine any chance of constructive engagement with Russia? Is it to our advantage to return to a neo-Cold War with all the existential risks which may follow? Exactly why should the American people put their own country and their own children at greater risk?

A week ago, President Trump reiterated he is “not president of the world.” Previously he took an oath to defend and protect the U.S. Constitution – not the UN charter or some vague, high-minded, internationalist creed.

The Syrian Civil War is not America’s war. It was raging all during the presidential primaries and the election of ’16. We saw the devastation of Aleppo in the weeks before Election Day. It was all over the headlines. Trump made it abundantly clear that he would not intervene. On the other hand, Clinton advocated arming the ‘rebels’ and the risky enforcement of U.S.- imposed no-fly zones over Syria, effectively putting U.S. warplanes in hair-trigger proximity to Russian, Turkish, and Syrian fighter jets. What could possibly go wrong? The American people elected Trump. The message was loud and clear. Keep out. Stay out. It’s not our war.

But yesterday, we heard the president justifying a military attack with words that could have been spoken by Hillary Clinton. Did we have an election or didn’t we?

President Trump has a choice. He can stay the course he set in the campaign, in his inaugural speech and in the first days of his presidency, keeping America First. Or, he can succumb to the selective hysteria of the Corporate Media, to his most ardent critics, to the omnipresent chorus of NeverTrump Republicans and to the beltway’s permanent war party to choose the path of America Last.

Ron Maxwell is the writer-director of the movie, Gettysburg.

Atrocities you probably haven't heard about through the media

Brutality in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere has been largely overlooked by western media outlets, Julien Mercille writes.

Julien Mercille | Sunday 9 April, 2017

MEDIA COVERAGE OF terrorist attacks like those in Brussels is biased. When atrocities are committed by our “enemies” against us, they get attention. However, when they are committed by ourselves or by our allies, the media too frequently looks the other way.

This is because the mass media reflects the interest of western governments and elites, which control and own news outlets. It means that, as a general rule, the mass media is aligned with the foreign policy objectives of governments.

For example, if a country or group of individuals in the Middle East are western allies, the media will tend to treat them in a more favourable manner. Conversely, enemy governments or groups will receive more negative coverage. What they do wrong will be emphasised.

We’ve heard a lot about the Brussels and Paris bombings: they were committed by enemies of the west like the Islamic State (Isis) or other Al-Qaeda type terrorist groups. Therefore, those terrorist groups received very bad coverage.

But we haven’t heard nearly as much about the following:

1. Saudi Arabia executed 158 people in 2015 and 47 in one day in January 2016. Many executions were by beheading and for non-lethal offenses such as drug-related charges, and “sorcery”. Those executions have been compared to those conducted by Isis. But you won’t hear about them as often in the western media, because Saudi Arabia is our ally.

2. Shannon airport: this is the big elephant in the room in Ireland. About 2.5 million US troops have passed through the airport since 2002. The troops stop there on their way to military operations in the Middle East which have caused much more destruction than in Brussels or Paris. Yet, the media is rarely interested, because the United States is our ally.

3. A few days before the Brussels attacks, 120 people were killed in a market in Yemen, bombed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, which have been targeting the country for a year now to fight the Houthi rebel movement.

The official death toll has passed 6,000 – more than half of which are civilians. The United Nations warned that Saudi Arabia and its allies could be guilty of war crimes for bombing hospitals, schools and markets and even weddings, as documented by Amnesty International.

But western countries have continued to support Saudi Arabia with weapons during the conflict. In 2015 alone, Britain, the US, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain reported licenses and sales of more than $25 billion (€23 million) to Saudi Arabia, including bombs, missiles, rockets, drones and torpedoes. There have not been too many news reports about this because the Saudis are major allies of the west.

People gather on the rubble of shops destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen.

4. The US-led coalition has unleashed over 11,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria since 2014. It has destroyed a total of 23,000 targets, including nearly 6,000 buildings. The cost of the operations for the US alone has now reached $6.5 billion (€5.7 billion).

The US is leading the charge, but other countries that have participated in the strikes include Belgium, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Have you seen detailed and extensive reporting about such airstrikes?

5. Then there is America’s drone warfare programme, which has been referred to as a “global assassination campaign” and that has murdered over 4,000 people.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the strikes have killed about 3,000 in Pakistan, 600 in Yemen, 100 in Somalia and 1,000 in Afghanistan. How many times was this front-page news?

People chant slogans during a rally against US drone attacks in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In sum, media bias is clear. To be sure, none of the above implies that terrorist acts in Europe should not be reported extensively, nor that intrepid competent journalists do not cover western-backed atrocities at all. The problem is that the balance is just not there.

But it should be, because not covering critically what our allies do often blows back in our faces, like in Brussels. Indeed, Isis emerged out of the US invasion of Iraq. Their fighters are reacting against the destruction of Iraq and western support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. And they’re also reacting against the occupation that our ally Israel has been imposing on the Palestinians for decades now.

Of course, none of those justify terrorist acts like happened in Brussels. Killing civilians in such a way is always wrong.

But if we want to understand the context and motivations that lead to such actions, we need to cast a more critical eye on our own actions, and those of our allies, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin specialising in US foreign policy and the ‘war on terror’. Twitter: @JulienMercille.

Content copyright © Journal Media Ltd. 2017

Source: Atrocities you probably haven't heard about through the media