The Limits of Individual Morality By James Rothenberg

Dandelion Salad

By James Rothenberg
07/02/08 “ICH

If we as individual citizens are to remain allegiant to the abstraction known as the United States of America, do we have to alter our innate sense of morality where it seems at variance with the morality of the state? Or, in a weaker version, to what extent do we have to alter our innate sense of morality in order to bring it into line with the morality of the state?

Thanks to a new entity known as Wikileaks and the anonymous leaker, ‘Peryton’, we are provided another formal measure of the moral capacity of our government, specifically in how it relates to our conduct in our role as invader and occupier of Iraqi sovereign territory.

The leaked document in this case is the US Forces Rules of Engagement for Iraq, classified Secret. Protocol concerning the authorization for the use of force is specified for circumstances where there can be expected a level of collateral damage.

Leaving aside the moral ambiguity inherent in the use of deadly force in an area where even “no collateral damage” is expected (but may occur), there remain the two higher classifications of expectation, “low collateral damage” and “high collateral damage”.

Dealing with the most obvious dimension of collateral damage, that of non-combatant casualties, we’re taught how to distinguish between the two. The “high” assessment occurs when there is a probability of ten percent that the damage would amount to an estimated 30 or greater non-combatant casualties (sometimes known as “innocents”).

We can infer from this that an assessment of “low”, at least as pertains to non-combatant casualties, would cover the estimated range of 1-29.

The distinction between each of the three assessments (no, low, and high) represents a shift in moral category and therefore signals a shift of moral responsibility for initiation of an action.

Upon the authority of the Multi-National Corps Commander, a low collateral damage strike can be initiated. The high collateral damage strike requires the authorization of the Secretary of Defense.

This means that it takes the Secretary of Defense to authorize a strike with consequences on the order of the Columbine massacre (counting injured as casualties) and the Virginia Tech massacre.

Since we have no hesitation in describing these school shootings as massacres, and since we have no such proclivity (officially speaking) in the case of a mission authorized by our Defense Secretary, the difference would seem to be the stakes.

From the point of view of the state, a massacre is the killing of innocents when there is nothing to be gained (low stakes). When the Secretary of Defense orders a strike with a high collateral damage assessment, the justification is (and must always be) that there is sufficient gain involved (high stakes).

If the morality of an act cannot be ascertained save for its postulated benefit, then who gets to do the postulating? If we can agree that this matter cannot be left in individual hands, this leaves only a collection of hands (an abstraction).

If we regard this collection as valuable, we are led toward answering the question first proposed in the affirmative. We will have to alter our innate sense of morality.

To pose the weaker version of the question is to admit the abdication of individual morality, which can now be no more than a reflection of the collective.

To the extent that one’s patriotism manifests itself as allegiance to the state, such patriotism will involve a forfeiture of individual morality. This is less a statement about the merits of allegiance than it is about its limits.

It simply posits a necessary sacrifice, in this case distinct from the sacrosanct sacrifice (for one’s country) customarily thought of as patriotic. This is the sacrifice of one’s own morality.

Those who regard this sacrifice as low stakes may feel comfortable in the role of patriot. Those who regard it as high stakes may feel more comfortable in the role of partisan. The words have apparent similarities, but the latter is far more involving.

James Rothenberg – jrothenberg@taconic.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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The Threat of Section 1222 By James Rothenberg (link)

The Threat of Section 1222 By James Rothenberg

Dandelion Salad

By James Rothenberg
31/01/08 “ICH

The White House has given ever-shifting rationalizations for invading and occupying Iraq, running the gamut from a claim of self-defense to a purported mission of bringing democracy and thus freedom to the citizens of that country.

Dissenters claim that the two central tenets were instead the establishing of a permanent military presence in order to control Iraq’s oil resources.

Who’s right? The White House or its dissenters? Recently some new evidence has been uncovered. Firsthand source material.

Lets listen to Bush

“Today, I have signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008… Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.”

The President is claiming that Section 1222 could inhibit his ability to defend the Constitution, so he claims the right to ignore it. The drafters of the bill were also sworn to defend the Constitution. What are the requirements in 1222 that the White House finds so inhibiting?

Here is the entire text of 1222:

No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:

(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.

(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq

No, this is not a formal confession from the White House. But it is as formal as you can get.

James Rothenberg – jrothenberg@taconic.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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State of Union Came With a Signing Statement + Signing Statement Silence By David Swanson

Bush Won’t Ban Permanent Bases Pushes For Iraqi Oil Law

The Iraqi Miracle – From Invasion to “Partnership” By James Rothenberg

Dandelion Salad

By James Rothenberg
11/28/07 “ICH

What the U.S. had in mind for Iraq was already clear in the Fall of 2001, even though it would take another year and a half to implement the attack, mercilessly known as shock and awe. By the time of the attack, many millions of U.S. citizens knew full well the real motivation behind it. Not that it mattered, or could matter.

The propaganda campaign waged by the government proved too effective for the scared, at large population. Their gullibility level was pushed to record heights by the administration’s deep handbag of shifting rationalizations and calls to patriotism. In short, the population was overmatched.

With some admirable exceptions, congresspersons, not known for gullibility, went along for different reasons. Ultimately not to stick their necks out.

A politician’s main job is to stay elected. This is true because they are not limited to a single term. If they were limited to a single term they might be more inclined to assert their individuality. The usual argument against the single term limit is that by then they are just learning their way around. But that’s the trouble – that there is a “way around”. That means knowing who to kiss up to, who’s useful, who will deal and who will pay. Do we really think that if we had a totally new Congress nothing could get done, because nobody knows their way around? We did have an all new Congress in this country. Once.

The media, again with a few admirable exceptions, took the occasion to demonstrate their compliancy. Distinguished less by gullibility than by hard-boiled cynicism, they nonetheless faithfully repeated every administration handout without challenge, indeed, without comment.

Now what was it that was so clear to some from the very beginning? That a takeover of Iraq was a natural way to establish a permanent military presence in the heart of the resource-rich Middle East. This was not a departure from longstanding American foreign policy goals but merely its latest iteration. Iraq happens to harbor the second largest proven oil reserves and oil just happens to be entering its scarcity mode.

The morning newspaper carries an Associated Press story detailing the signing by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki of a “declaration of principles” between the two countries, which, for those still interested in the real reason we invaded Iraq, amounts to a full confession. Not in front of the International Criminal Court (that’s not for us) but mainstreamed, normalized, now fit to print.

Iraq’s government will “embrace a long-term U.S. troop presence in return for U.S. security guarantees [referred to in another business as a protection racket] as part of a strategic partnership…an enduring relationship in military, economic and political terms.” In addition, the agreement provides for U.S. support for the “democratic regime in Iraq against domestic and external dangers” (the “danger” being that they would be outside our influence).

One should not be surprised that Iraq’s U.S. supported leaders find amenable the terms set for them by Washington. What else would one expect between a dependent client state and its master, the client obliged to obey and the master prepared to reward useful service?

The agreement specifically seeks (details have to be worked out you see) “preferential treatment for American investments.” At this point we might recall that the clever war marketeers chose not to use Operation Iraqi Liberation which would be lampooned as OIL.

Cutely, Lt. Gen. Lute, Bush’s adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, claims the question of whether military bases are required is “on the negotiating table”. Not according to the Iraqi officials cited in the same story who “foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops” at those bases.

In keeping with established practices of imperialist plunderers, the invader now guarantees the security of the invaded. When you think security, don’t think of being secure. Think prison and graveyard. The security is for the government. And when a state of emergency is declared in this country (just suppose), think that the emergency has nothing to do with the population. The emergency will be real, but it will be to the government.

James Rothenberg – jrothenberg@taconic.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Dems Oppose Permanent Bases in Iraq, But What Will They Do About The Ones Bush Built? (Kucinich)

Fact Sheet: U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship & Cooperation

Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation & Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq & the USA

Impeachment as Political Solution to Iraq War By James Rothenberg


Dandelion Salad

By James Rothenberg
07/31/07 “ICH

It has become cliché to say that this Iraq war cannot be won militarily. Equally comfortable with this admission are hawks who would turn on a dime if they thought the insurgency was capable of collapsing, and doves whose primary objection to the war is its “mismanagement”.

Trouble is it never really was a war because there was no opposing side. What was there was known to be easy picking – minimally armed and quickly demoralized. Mischaracterizing it as a war appears to give credibility to certain concepts such as self-defense (none was needed), appears to justify curtailment of civil liberties (what are they worth if they can be taken away anyhow?), and appears to give meaning to concepts such as winning and losing (you don’t win something you couldn’t lose).

Extending the train of thought from the mentioned cliché, that the war cannot be won militarily, the war is now said to require a “political solution”. Improperly framing Iraq as a war benefits those responsible for it and obscures the clearest path to a saner future. If instead Iraq was framed as the armed assault that it was (billed as “Shock and Awe”), there is a logical, expedient political solution at our disposal – impeachment.

A political solution will have to envelope a perspective greater than that bounded by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Americans may not be fully convinced of the illegality and immorality of our invasion but the rest of the world, especially the affected, is overwhelmingly so. It is unrealistic to think that the very government that displays such unbridled hostility to Iraq, Iran, and Syria can somehow be accepted as a legitimate interlocutor. In foreign eyes, we cannot be trusted to come up with any solution that will ameliorate the deep-seated animosity toward us that was generated by our use of force, and our continuing menace of more force.

A just solution won’t come without a cleansing and we are fortunate to have one handy. Impeachment will tell a story about how and why we started an aggression. It will contain sub-plots about indefinite detention and torture and the means of repression here at home, including the suppression of dissent.

This story will make us better off for the telling. It is the surest way to win the “hearts and minds” of those our present government treats as if they had no hearts and minds at all. If we are willing to impeach our president and vice president, we are willing to admit that our country has done wrong. Admit this and forget the rest.

James Rothenberg – jrothenberg@taconic.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.