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Welcome to the Official Website of James Landrith
I Don't Care (or The Neo-Con Bergdahl Distraction)
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by James Landrith   
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
I don't know what Bowe Bergdahl did or when or how. I also don't care. It is being investigated and will be handled within the jurisdiction of the UCMJ. Whether they get it right or get it wrong will not mean a damned thing for veterans issues overall the next morning. 

It won't. It doesn't. It can't.

Obsessing over Bergdahl isn't fixing one damned thing I find important in my life. What he did and how he did it isn't getting a single fucking veteran a quicker medical appointment. It isn't getting anyone an expedited hearing on their disability claim. It won't result in any form of adult supervision with regard to the way military sexual trauma victims are treated.  People go UA and AWOL all the damned time in garrison and on deployments. It happens. What happens from here on with Bergdahl changes nothing for anyone else but him and his immediate family.

It isn't correcting decades of VA and DoD incompetence on military sexual assault. It isn't getting returning veterans the proper medical and mental health care they need. It isn't ensuring that future politicians are held accountable for elective wars that cost trillions and far too many lives.

I get it why so many neo-cons are frothing at the mouth and expending sooooo much emotion on this topic, even though the vast majority have never worn a uniform themselves. It is about their hatred of Obama for cutting a deal to get him back. They refuse to see him as the Commander in Chief (proving they are not actually comprehending the concept of military service in the first place and lack the discipline that it would require), while simultaneously pretending they are uber-patriots. They care because they are not pro-troops so much as they are pro-war and pro-killing and pro-destruction, so long as it is a Republican doing the honors.

The strange neo-con obsession over Bergdahl is not about patriotism or justice, but politics. When I see those same people spending their own time and money and blood and sweat and tears for veterans on a regular basis, then I'll fucking buy that they actually care. When I see them take the time to get knowledgeable on the issues facing the troops that they claim to "support", then I'll buy it. When I see them marching with veterans and calling foul on the abuses and broken promises of DoD and the VA, then I'll wonder if I've been wrong. 

I won't hold my breath. It ain't coming. Ever.
 
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere
by Sheldon Richman
 
If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States. What could you do that these men have not done to keep Americans mired in distant turmoil?
 
Signs of apparent failure abound while the ruling elite feigns ignorance of the connection between U.S. intervention abroad and widening regional wars. Despite President Obama’s assurances that America’s combat role in the unceasingly violent Afghanistan is over, we know it is not. ISIS expands under American and allied airstrikes, the best recruiting program the Islamists could want. There was no ISIS in Iraq or Syria before America invaded the former and called open season on the regime in the latter. In response, Obama seeks unlimited war power.
 
ISIS franchises are emerging throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Libya, which America and NATO “liberated” from Col. Gaddafi after prodding by then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, is in militia-ridden hell and is now a haven for ISIS sympathizers. Obama can’t make up his mind about what his war on ISIS means for his opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who also opposes ISIS and al-Qaeda.
 
Meanwhile in Europe, the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine, following the in-your-face expansion of NATO to the Russian border, has not had the intended effect of making Russian President Putin skulk to his corner in fear of the global hegemon. Instead, Putin capitalized on the explicit provocation to engineer the dubious annexation of Crimea and to aid separatists (or perhaps federalists) in eastern Ukraine, who are fighting neo-Nazis among others. Despite the current ceasefire, a war between nuclear powers Russia and the United States is not impossible.
 
Well done, Messrs. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, and on back. Each faithfully pursued the geopolitical and economic interests embodied in the idea of American hegemony. We see the results: slaughter and incineration abroad (often by remote control), humanitarian catastrophe for homeless survivors, and American deaths and injuries far outnumbering those of the 9/11 attacks — themselves a response to decades of U.S.-inflicted and -sponsored killing and upheaval in the Muslim world. And then there are the fiscal costs to Americans.
 
Unsurprisingly, the ruling elite has no incentive to reconsider the premise of U.S. foreign policy, namely, that America can and should run the world. It is “our” manifest destiny and not to be questioned. Obama occasionally looks like the reluctant emperor, but whenever he appears to waver, someone — Mrs. Clinton or Samantha Power or Susan Rice — keeps him from “going wobbly” (as Mrs. Thatcher did with George H. W. Bush in 1990 after Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.)
 
We must acknowledge, of course, that what looks like failure to us Americans outside the privileged elite may not actually be failure for our overlords. After all, turmoil is integral to the ingenious political perpetual-motion machine. Turmoil furnishes the “threats” that then can be called on to justify the very policies that manufactured those threats in the first place. How clever! We’ll hear no more talk of a “peace dividend,” that dangerous idea — dangerous, that is, to Pentagon and intelligence budgets and government-contractor bottom lines — that nearly ran amok when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance imploded, 1989–1991. That was indeed a close one. Imagine the world’s only superpower without an enemy. People might wonder what’s the point of it all. Thank goodness there were years of intervention in the Muslim world in the bank, compound interest accruing.
 
While failure may in fact be success for the empire’s custodians and profiteers, the victimized foreign populations and American people have not been so fortunate, and there’s no end in sight.
 
If those populations and the American people are to get any relief, U.S. foreign policy will need deep rethinking from outside elite circles. That won’t be easy. As over two centuries show, American hegemony — “exceptionalism” — is in the nation’s political DNA. Even the opening of foreign markets to American producers was always seen as a government program backed by a navy with global reach.
 
It’s well past time for us to think about what horrifies our rulers: nonintervention.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).
 
Brian Williams Helped Pave the Way to War
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Brian Williams Helped Pave the Way to War
by Sheldon Richman
 
The scandal of the week is NBC anchor Brian Williams’s shabby bid for self-glorification by falsely claiming he was in a U.S. military helicopter forced to land in the Iraqi desert after being hit by ground fire in 2003. Of course so-called news people shouldn’t make up stuff to look good, but there’s something much worse: uncritically passing along official lies intended to prepare the American people for war.
 
Williams, like nearly all of his mainstream media colleagues (with precious few exceptions) did this incessantly in the run-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. As conduits for the Bush administration’s baseless claims about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to 9/11, Williams and the others did Bush’s bidding in manufacturing public support for the illegal and morally outrageous invasion and occupation that would wreck Iraq even more than it had been wrecked in the 1990s through the military and economic warfare waged by George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
 
What did these fake-news presenters learn from that disgraceful episode? Not a thing. If you want proof, tune in to the three major networks’ newscasts or consult the American cable news channels: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. There you’ll find stage actors conveying the Obama administration’s neoconservative line about the ISIS threat to the American people and the need for government military action to counteract it — never noting that there was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in Iraq before the Bush war they helped make possible. Reporting “news” without providing the context is a surefire way to mislead viewers. Why don’t they know that? Or do they know it and prefer to mislead their viewers out of a sense of patriotism and in a quest for ratings?
 
You need another example? Take Iran. (Ukraine would also do.) For quite a while these same media stars have been hawking the claim that Iran has been relentlessly working toward building nuclear weapons. Yet, although the U.S. and Israeli governments have repeatedlythreatened Iran over the years — claiming “all options are on the table” (which logically includes nuclear strikes) — and have engaged in covert and proxy war and terrorism against the Islamic Republic — Iran has not started down the road to acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
 
In his book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, independent reporter and historian Gareth Porter shows that there is no evidence Iran has intended to do anything but obtain a civilian nuclear-power and nuclear-medicine capability. Porter’s book overflows with documentation that supports his case, including a fatwa from Iran’s current leader declaring that possession of nuclear weapons violates Islamic law.
 
I repeat: Iran -- which is routinely inspected by the International Atomic Energy Administration, has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (unlike the Middle East’s only nuclear power, Israel),  and is complying with the interim agreement negotiated with the United States and other powers -- has not sought nuclear weapons. American and Israeli intelligence agencies agree.
 
Have you heard that from Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, Wolf Blitzer or Fareed Zakaria of CNN, David Muir of ABC, Scott Pelley of CBS, or Shepard Smith, Chris Wallace, and Bret Baier of Fox News?
 
No, you have not. Instead, they casually refer to “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” as if it were an indisputable fact. Therefore, in their eyes it is unnecessary to interview anyone who could challenge that claim. Their subtext is: “The U.S. government says Iran has a nuclear weapons program. That’s good enough for us.”
 
This can only have the effect of softening up the American people for a war of aggression against Iran, which has already been devastated by economic sanctions, if the hawks in Congress, in cooperation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, succeed in driving Iran from the negotiating table with even more sanctions.
 
Yet even this is not enough for the government mouthpieces who call themselves journalists. Recently, Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, one-upped this reckless gang by asserting that Iran has “promised to get a nuclear weapon and then has promised to use the nuclear weapon to annihilate Israel.” He then repeated this double lie.
 
Compared to Joe Scarborough, Brian Williams is a piker.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
States, United States: America’s James Bond Complex
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015
States, United States: America’s James Bond Complex
by Sheldon Richman
 
Today, American politicians of both major parties — conservatives, “moderates,” and so-called liberals alike — insist that the United States is an “exceptional,” even “indispensable” nation. In practice, this means that for the United States alone the rules are different. Particularly in international affairs, it — the government and its personnel — can do whatever deemed necessary to carry out its objectives, including things that would get any other government or person branded a criminal.
 
This is nothing new. “American exceptionalism” goes back to the founding. When American politicians set their sights on Spain’s North American possessions, they were driven by the same attitude. In their view the new “Empire of Liberty,” as Jefferson called it, was destined to replace the old, worn-out empires of Europe in its hemisphere. They had no doubt that the Old World’s colonial possessions would eventually fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, either formally or informally.
 
Acquisition through negotiation was preferred over war by a good number of presidents, secretaries of state, and members of Congress, but if war was necessary, they intended to be prepared and to let Spain and her fellow colonial powers know it. Thus the push for a global navy under James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams before 1820. Manifest destiny! (Congress’s constitutional war power was a burr under the saddle for Adams and others, who thought war-making was properly an executive power.)
 
Today we see signs of the doctrine of American exceptionalism all around. U.S. foreign policy is not bound in the ways in which U.S. officials expect other countries’ foreign policies to be bound. America is special, chosen. So the rules are different.
 
We might say America has a James Bond complex. In the eyes of many Americans, the United States has a “Double O.” Bond said the Double O indicated “you’ve had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some assignment.” As Ian Fleming’s series went on, the Double O became a license to kill. Judging by how the U.S. government gets away with murder, terrorism and other horrible offenses, it apparently has a de facto license to kill. Although by the U.S. definition, nothing it does can ever qualify as murder and terrorism.
 
The signs can be perceived in Americans’ pronounced lack of interest in seeing the country’s governing elite held accountable for its aggressive wars, abuse of prisoners, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, sponsored genocide and occupation, and so on.
 
U.S. rulers have waged aggressive genocidal wars (against the Indians and Vietnamese, for example), have brutally put down colonial rebellions (against the Filipinos, for example), facilitated genocidal policies carried out by client dictators (in Indonesia, for example), underwritten repressive dictatorships and brutal occupations (in Egypt and Palestine, for example), and instigated in antidemocratic coups (in Iran and Chile, for example).
 
When has an American official been placed in the dock to answer for these crimes?
 
Instead, officials from whose hands the blood of countless innocents drips are treated like dignitaries, even royalty. When 91-year-oldHenry Kissinger, a former secretary of state who presided over the deaths of countless Vietnamese and others, appears anywhere, such as a Senate hearing, he’s accorded the reverence that parishioners pay to their priests -- while peace activists, who want him held responsible, are called “low-life scum” by a fawning senator. When Madeleine Albright, a former UN ambassador and secretary of state, writes a new book, talk-show hosts climb over one another to interview her — never asking how she could have thought that killing half a million Iraqi children in the 1990s was an acceptable price for the Clinton administration’s attempt to drive Saddam Hussein from office.
 
Will George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld face charges for their wars of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan? For their drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia? For their torture programs? Will Barack Obama ever have to defend himself against murder counts for his drone kills? Will former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bear consequences for the havoc she unleashed in Libya?
 
Of course not. The United States is the Double-O nation. Its rulers need not fear judgment. They have a license to kill.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).
 
Making An Unexpected Impact (or Sgt Landrith is Still Serving)
User Rating: / 1
Blog, Commentary and Articles - Rape, Sexual Assault and Abuse
Written by James Landrith   
Tuesday, 03 February 2015
Sometimes, especially when you write on difficult issues like sexual violence, you wonder about the positive to negative impact ratio. There is soooooo much hate attached to telling your story publicly, while there are many survivors who benefit by feeling validated and less alone. Sometimes you make a much bigger impact than you could have ever anticipated. This is one of those times.

In addition to being a rape crisis worker and Vice President of Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma, I am also a vocal survivor/RAINN Speakers Bureau member and occasionally interviewed for media stories. In 2013, CNN did a story about my own experience as a survivor and Marine in 1990. I was on active duty when it happened, but I did not report it as in 1990, male survivors had almost zero support and I likely would have been forced out or even disciplined myself. I found out recently that the Marine Corps is actually using my experience from the CNN article as part of their Marine Corps Leadership Development program for their Bystander Intervention training under the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training program. 

It was a bit overwhelming when I found this out recently. My inability to seek help in 1990 may actually educate a new generation of Marines in 2015. Speaking out is hard and shaming is very prevalent for those of us who go public. I know that all too well. To see that it makes a difference, helps to put into perspective the backlash and ugliness we experience as speakers and advocates.
 
Changing minds is real work and takes time. I am humbled to have been able to make a contribution to improve the service that was not there for me in my time of need. 

Guided Dicussion - Bystander Intervention

The article adapted for the training:
CNN: Against His Will Female on Male Rape

Marine Corps Leadership Development website

If you are a speaker as well, you have my utmost respect. I know what you know about the price we pay.
 
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