Observations from Outside the Death Star: August

Editor’s note: owing primarily to a recent tumble down a flight of stairs and the resulting injuries accrued therein, I’ve been out of commission for most of the middle portions of August and thus unable to properly keep up with the news here on this site. The last time I found myself in this situation, I wrote a piece called “10 Things I Think About the News – July 22nd” that was reasonably popular with a number of readers; although some of you still felt it was a bit too long and addressed too many dissimilar topics. Today, I’m going to chop that down and look at three things I think about (somewhat) recent events in the news, all centered around one of my favorite and at times woefully neglected topics – the failures of American Imperialism. With any luck the whole thing will come in at a cool 1,500 words or less; including this editor’s note.

As always, while it is not absolutely necessary for you to click on the links spread throughout this piece to understand what I’ve written; your enjoyment of the work will be significantly enhanced by doing so – at a very minimum, please don’t ask me for sources if you haven’t bothered to click on these links.

 

“If you ever had an idea that people were really terrible, you could watch the news and know that you’re right” – Frank Zappa

 

  1. Feeding the Machine: Audit Blues at the DoD & the Social Cost of Imperialism

The next time someone tells you that there’s not enough money in the budget for single-payer healthcare in the United States; you should smack them directly in the mouth and remind them that the Pentagon has either lost, or spent without properly accounting for between 6.5 and 8.5 trillion dollars since 1996. Due to incompetence, mismanagement or purposeful obfuscation, the Department of Defense simply cannot (and likely never will be able to) account for enough money to fund everypie in the sky” pinko/left dreamboat social program you can imagine; including single payer healthcare – possibly for decades!

This is of course simply part and parcel for an imperial war machine that spends roughly $600 billion (recorded) dollars a year on its military – more than the next seven or eight nations combined and more than enough to defeat virtually any military threat the United States could possibly face from anyone else on planet earth. I’ve got a “radical” idea – how about we bomb a few less hospitals abroad and pay for a few more hospital visits back home in America?

Projecting imperial power is abso-fucking-lutely not in the best interest of the average American citizen but ensuring that everyone, regardless of personal wealth has access to adequate medical care most certainly is. The problem isn’t a lack of funds but rather a lack of political will and virtually fucking everyone knows it.

 

2. A Special Relationship with a Psychotic Butcher

Folks, I don’t want to alarm you but there is some “Apocalypse Now” type of shit going on in the Philippines right now and both the American media as well as the Obama administration are almost completely fucking ignoring it. Newly elected Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly empowered police and ordinary citizens to literally execute both drug dealers and largely harmless drug users – promising medals for citizens and pardons for police who carry out these extrajudicial killings.

He’s found plenty of willing executioners too; recent figures estimate that over 1,800 people have been killed in the roughly seven weeks since Duterte was elected and earlier reports indicate that over 114,000 people who simply use drugs have risked overcrowded, inhumane prisons and in some cases torture by turning themselves into authorities – likely out of mortal fear for their lives.

As you might have expected, Duterte himself is almost fucking certainly not playing with a full deck; in addition to his unhealthy obsession with murdering drug users, Duterte has also expressed interest in raping missionaries, requested medical updates on a reporter’s wife’s vagina and referred to a US ambassador as a “gay son of a whore” – classy fella, let me tell you.

Naturally, this disturbing (borderline genocidal) behavior has drawn “concern” from numerous international bodies:

  •  In June, two U.N. Human Rights Council advisors condemned the Philippines President for inciting violence and signaling a permissive attitude towards the murder of drug users and journalists. Duterte responded by saying “Fuck you U.N.” before threatening to withdraw the Philippines from the international body.
  • Horrified by the brutal murders and terrifying human rights violations Duterte’s leadership unleashed, 353 non-governmental organizations sent a letter to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on August 2nd, 2016. The very next day the UNODC released it’s own letter condemning “the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing” in the Philippines.

Curiously enough however, the United States government has been largely silent on the horrifying, state-endorsed murder spree enveloping the island nation; as recently as late July U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Duterte himself and pledged $32 million in US aid for “law enforcement activities” – in a nation where police are murdering suspected drug users daily and the President has already slashed vital government programs to help pay for his genocidal war on drugs.

Could the United States be doing more to help stop Duterte’s killing spree? You bet we could; the US is not only the Philippines third largest trading partner but America maintains extremely strong diplomatic ties to the islands – somewhat akin to the famed US-UK “special relationship” but on a smaller scale. Both the United States and President Obama are at least somewhat popular in the nation and the Philippines relies on significant amounts of military aid from the United States.

So why isn’t the US government doing more to help end the violence in the Philippines? It’s probably because Duterte‘s pro-business policies are largely beneficial to American corporations investing in the nation and this has helped the Philippines become one of the fastest growing economies (and most lucrative business opportunities) in the world.

 

3. Saudi Arabia, Yemen & Obama’s Secondhand Atrocity

Sticking with US-sponsored murder sprees by American allies with questionable intentions – the Saudi Arabian “intervention” in Yemen has finally turned into such a catastrophic shit show that even the mainstream media is calling President Obama out for supporting war crimes; and the US has been forced to withdraw a whole bunch of “advisors” from Yemen.

Look, you can dress up the Saudi invasion of Yemen in as much noble language about stopping a civil war, fighting terrorism and coalition-building as you like; it still won’t change the fact that this has always been the Obama administration’s secondhand war – good journalists and human rights watchdogs have been reporting on America’s heavy (albeit, once-removed) involvement in the carnage for literally over a year now. It’s only now that public outrage has tepidly broken out in America; after Saudi-led coalition planes have bombed a school, destroyed four hospitals operated by Doctors Without Borders and helped slaughter somewhere in the range of 6,500+ (mostly civilian) people – that the United States war machine has started to come down with a case of cold feet.

It is both utterly ridiculous and insultingly dishonest for Washington to pretend that removing some military advisors and sending John Kerry in to hug shit out somehow absolves the government of their complicity in Saudi Arabia’s open slaughter of Yemeni civilians. This idea is especially goddamn ridiculous when the Obama administration has made billions selling the sophisticated weapons the Saudis are using to murder innocent Yemenis – some of which are so bloody complicated, that they literally cannot be operated without our assistance and parts!

So, will the Obama administration get away with it; like so many other imperialist actions this government has undertaken without so much as a public relations scratch these past four years? Yes, probably – especially if Kerry’s brokered “peace deal” manages to hold. After all, it’s taken more than fifteen months, over 6,000 dead bodies and dozens of gruesome photos of Yemeni hospital morgues to get the American media to recognize we should insist the US government stop helping the Saudis bomb goddamn children in Yemen.

In short, Saudi Arabia remains one of America’s closest allies and greatest business opportunities; no number of dead Yemeni bodies or human rights loving pacifists are going to interfere with US military-industrial profits. This particular conflict may well end, but the American war machine has a vested interest in helping Saudi Arabia drops bombs on countries we don’t like; if only so US contractors can sell replacement bombs afterwards. You could hold out hope that national attitudes towards arming human rights abusers to the teeth will change once Obama leaves office – but something tells me that the next POTUS might be more inclined to increase Obama’s record level of arms sales to the desert Kingdom; Hillary Clinton and the Saudis go way back after all.

 

  • Nina Illingworth

 

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