Archive for the ‘military’ Category

These heroes saved the Union 150 years ago today

July 2, 2013

little round top summitAn important responsibility of citizenship it to understand our history and acknowledge our debts to the people who came before us. My friend, Jack Marshall  (ethicsalarms.com) reminds us that today, July 2, is the 150th anniversary of the second day of the battle of Gettysburg.

We Americans are taught that Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. Yes, he did, but it was about to be lost on July 2, 1863, until the Twentieth Maine Volunteers, commanded by Col. Joshua Chamberlain, defeated a major Confederate attempt to turn the Union’s flank at Little Round Top. Many historians believe the desperate counterattack by the Maine unit is what really saved the Union. Read about Little Round Top here.

 

In today’s Ethics Alarms column Jack Marshall describes how the credit really needs to be shared with the heroic First Minnesota. Read and marvel at what we owe to the unquestioning valor and sacrifice of these American citizen soldiers.

Zero Dark Thirty: Did torture lead us to Osama bin Laden?

December 21, 2012

zero-dark-thirty-2012-img02See Zero Dark Thirty. It’s a terrific yarn about the search for Osama bin Laden and about the remarkable raid that killed him. Jessica Chastain is perfect as the real-life CIA agent assigned to the case as a rookie. She starts, sensibly enough, with little confidence, but steadily grows into a single-minded pain-in-the-ass who won’t let anybody, up to the director, get in the way of her search. When the CIA director is finally told that the Agency is “60 per cent confident” of bin Laden’s hiding place, Chastain shouts from the back row, “It’s 100 per cent certain.”

The movie starts with a CIA agent torturing a detainee, with Chastain looking on nervously. There is a strong implication that torture produced information that had an important role in finding UBL, as bin Laden is known in the film.

Now there is a firestorm swirling around the movie, with senators knowledgeable in intelligence arguing that torture played no part in finding UBL, and the neocons and the right arguing that of course it did.

So did it?

The film’s director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal issued this statement:

“This was a 10-year intelligence operation brought to the screen in a two-and-a-half-hour film. We depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden. The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible (more…)

Can the outside world intervene to stop the slaughter in Syria?

February 17, 2012

Last March a few young Syrian boys— all under 17 — wrote on a wall in the farm town of Dara’a in southern Syria, a slogan that had appeared first in Tunisia, then quickly in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya:  “The people want the regime to fall.”

The local governor threw the boys in jail, and so the Syrian revolution started.

Thirty years ago Syria’s brutal president, Hafez al-Assad, put down an anti-government demonstration in the city of Hama by killing 20,000-40,000 residents. His son and successor, Bashar al-Assad, appears to be made of the same stuff. His forces have killed 5,000-7,000* in towns all over Syria, and his killing machine seems to be gaining momentum.

The Arab League and the UN General Assembly have called for an end to the killing and for Assad to leave power. Assad’s answer has been to double down.

It’s anguishing to watch the newscasts or read about the slaughter of innocents and feel helpless to stop it. Until the past few weeks outside help was impossible: unlike Libya, where the rebels controlled large chunks of territory and could be supplied and aided easily, in Syria the opposition was scattered and controlled no territory.

Now that’s changing. CNN’s Ivan Watson is reporting that militants in northern Syria hold substantial territory (more…)

Shocking and inspiring: the story of the Little Rock Nine and the integration of Central High School

December 11, 2011

 

The story of fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford and eight other African-American teenagers still takes my breath away, even though I lived through it on live television. I relearned the story last week on a visit to Little Rock, Arkansas, Central High School, the site in 1957 of ugly, beautiful and inspiring events that changed America.

Returning to Los Angeles I discovered that my friends of baby boomer and subsequent generations knew nothing about what happened outside Central High School on September 4, 1957. Like the story of the Israelites flight from Egypt and the story of the first Thanksgiving, the Central High School story merits retelling every year.

After the US Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that segregated schools violated the Constitution, the Little Rock School Board developed a plan to gradually integrate city schools, starting by admitting nine African-American students to prestigious—and white only—Central High School. On the eve of the first day of school, September 3, 1957, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus ordered troops of the Arkansas National Guard to Little Rock to prevent the nine children from entering the school.

Elizabeth Eckford was one of the nine. She took a bus that dropped her a block from the school, and from there walked with unimaginable grace and courage (Will Counts’s photo above) through a mob of screaming, spitting adults. She tried to enter the campus (more…)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Unless you’re Israel—then you can fool me over and over

September 29, 2011

The Israeli government is inexorably annexing conquered Palestine territory, in contravention of international law and against continual requests by the United States. That’s earning them the anguish of much of the Israeli population and the condemnation of most of the world.

Israel shows exquisite timing in its defiance of the rules of civilization. As the United States shows support for Israel, Israel takes odious actions that outrage the entire Muslim world and wreck America’s credibility with that world.

In March 2010 Vice President Biden traveled to Israel to demonstrate “a total U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.” Israel picked that occasion to announce a plan to build 16oo new homes in East Jerusalem. Biden denounced the Israeli plan, but to no effect,

Last week at the United Nations President Obama cravenly surrendered to the Israeli government’s demand that we oppose the Palestinian request for admission to the UN, and called instead for resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Two days later Israel torpedoed negotiations by announcing yet another 1100 homes would be built on occupied land in East Jerusalem. Secretary of State Clinton condemned the announcement, as if that would have any effect on Israel’s reckless plans.

United States support for Israel has become a blank check for relentless expansionism that threatens to plunge the Middle East into another war, one that Israel will do everything to draw the United States into.

Tripoli falls, Americans and free people everywhere rejoice

August 21, 2011

Government ethics 101:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

These words of Thomas Jefferson are the core principle of government. Perhaps nothing defines being American so much as a belief in these three sentences. So every American must be joyful at the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The bloodbath that the evil dictator promised hasn’t occurred. His troops defending his capital seem to have melted away as the rebel army drove, almost anti-climactically, into Tripoli.

What comes next no one can say. The people who united to oppose the dictator soon will have nothing so powerful to unite them. Qaddafi claimed—like Mubarak before him—that he (more…)

Is Obama a militarist, a peacenik, or a political waffler and difference-splitter?

June 25, 2011

Distrust of the President, and of the government in general, divides our society, emboldens our enemies, and diminishes the effectiveness of our Armed Forces. We owe our elected leaders more respect than that.

President Obama’s Afghanistan drawdown announcement has drawn fire from the left and from the right. He was pilloried on Fox News, on MSNBC, and on CNN, and even ridiculed on The Daily Show after he announced that the U.S. would withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of 2011, another 23,000 by “next summer,” with continuing reductions through 2014.

To the right, the President is recklessly ignoring the advice of his military professionals who know what’s needed. To the left, he’s mindlessly sticking to a hopeless and pointless strategy. To both sides he’s sacrificed principle for politics.

But has he? Is there any chance that his decision was based on what he thought best? If we Americans trusted him we’d give him that much. But we don’t, at least not much: the latest Gallup poll says that just 35% of Americans say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Presidency; 36% have very little confidence or none at all.

But we do trust the military: 78% of us say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence. I’d guess the numbers are even higher on the right. But what happens when the military supports the President? Ah, then it’s a different story. (more…)

A Turkish-style solution for Egypt? The military shepherds transition to democracy?

February 11, 2011

What next for Egypt? Last night was a huge letdown, today’s a high. Up to now the crowds have been united–they all wanted Mubarak to go. Now comes the divisions. Turkey offers a promising model, in which a popular military takes over and shepherds the country to a civilian democracy. This ARTICLE from the Turkish paper, Hurriyet, lays out the promise and the pitfalls.


Pray for Egyptians and hope the Army protects the people, not the regime

February 10, 2011

 

It’s difficult to think of anything but Egypt, and the dangers that Egyptians face, tonight or tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, many having been there for a week or more. They were led to believe —by statements from a senior Army general who came to talk to them today—that “All your demands are being met.”

Their hopes were dashed by President Mubarak’s speech at 11pm Cairo time, in which he blamed the unrest on rash youth who had been stirred up by “satellite television stations” foreign provocateurs, and his favorite long-time bogeyman, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak spoke after the military high command had met, so it’s logical to assume that he has the support of the Army.

The demonstrators are angry. They’re not going to follow Mubarak’s suggestion that they return home and then to work. Tomorrow, Friday, the Egyptian weekend starts, and the biggest crowds yet will mob central Cairo. They likely won’t be docile and they might not be satisfied to stay in Tahrir, perhaps heading for the Presidential palace.

The Army has appeared to be on the side of the people up to now, but after today’s events it appears that it has decided to back the regime.

What’s an American to hope for? (more…)

One-term Obama can bring effective and ethical government to Washington

December 2, 2010

Barack Obama ran for President on a platform of hope and change. While he’s delivered a lot of big things—saving the economy, delivering near-universal health care, beginning to restore America’s reputation abroad, and beginning an end to two wars—he hasn’t begun to change the ways of Washington. His latest attempt lasted only a few hours, before the Republican leadership announced its determination to stop everything unless it got what it demanded in the form of a $700 billion tax break for the rich and super rich.

So what’s an ethical President to do when his attempts at compromise and progress are blocked by House minority leader John Boehner and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who announced on the eve of the 2010 election, ‘The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.”

More important than the managing the budget crisis, more important than ratifying the START Treaty with Russia, more important than reducing the obscenely high unemployment rate, even more important than tax relief for billionaires!

The answer for the President is staring right at him: give McConnell what he wants most of all, in return for the change Obama promised. Here’s how this grand compromise might work: Obama promises not to run for re-election. In exchange McConnell and Boehner promise to work with the Democratic leadership to achieve:

  • Long-term deficit reduction equivalent to that in the report of the bipartisan deficit commission
  • An economic package, including extension of the Bush tax cuts for (more…)

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