All posts by Lucy Steigerwald

U.S. Army Capt. Brittany Woods, right, an operations officer with the U.S. Army Pacific contingency command post, works with Japan Ground Self Defense Force Capt. Kousei Matunaga, center, an exercise operations officer, in preparation for the Yama Sakura 61 exercise at Camp Itami, Osaka, Japan, Jan 23, 2012. Yama Sakura (YS) is an annual, bilateral exercise between the U.S. military and the Japan Self Defense Force and. YS is the largest command post exercise that focuses predominately on the bilateral and joint planning, coordination, and interoperability of ground based elements of the U.S./Japan security alliance. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Brandy Mort/Released)

Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems

There’s a season for it–the thinkpieces, the brave suggestions, the crawling out to the edge of the limb and saying, yes, I have the answer, we should force America’s youth to come together and serve in some collective cause.

In spite of the right’s fondness for military service and such pageantry, it’s usually the left or the more accurately, the muddy, authoritarian center that suggest this kind of thing. Progressives worry over wars, but they don’t worry enough over the civilian casualties in other countries, or the blowback in America. Sometimes they become overly concerned, insteadn about how poor people join the military, and rich, privileged people don’t. Sometimes they even pull up an extra deep argument, dust the dirt off of it, and say, gee, maybe the draft can stop wars! Charlie Rangel spent decades in congress trying to bring back conscription for that very reason.

And then the thought leaders–the columnists who have to waste space in the New York Times or various blogs each week–they need to get in on this brainstorming. America is broken. America is fractured and overly politicised, and we could be on the brink of a God damned civil war. This is dangerous. Also dangerous is the fact that young people aged, say, 18-25, just keep on choosing their own paths in life. Sometimes they get married or do important things that contribute to society’s togetherness. But sometimes they just eat exotic food and become polyamorists or or Instagrammers. We have to do something.

Why not bring back the draft? What was once the weight on the back of every young man–the fear that he would have to kill or be killed for a broadly-defined goal of patriotism, nationalism, service, whether he wanted to or not–is now gone. Youths are not grinding themselves down under nationalist knapsacks nearly as much as they did before, in the days that were good.

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The New Drug Czar’s ‘Hospital Slash Prisons’ Are a Horrible Idea

Once he was safely a lame duck, President Barack Obama let states set their own marijuana policies, pardoned or commuted thousands of prisoners’ sentences and talked more freely—and less hypocritically—about the need to end the war on drugs. In fact, his Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) concluded that Richard Nixon’s famous War on Drugs was now a relict by sending the wrong message in prioritizing punishment over treatment. (In reality, the war did continue, even if the phrase had been covered neatly with a tarp for a few years under the guise of “laboratories of democracy.“)

Now we’re in Donald Trump’s America, with Trump’s ODCP and Trump’s Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions heads the latter and he’s expressed befuddlement that the American people aren’t cheering his musings on the prospect of kicking the drug war up a notch to prevent some imagined dystopian future of convenience-store marijuana sales. Unfortunately, POTUS’s supposed pick for drug czar, U.S. Representative Tom Marino, is likely to be just as bad as Sessions. A Republican from Pennsylvania, Marino’s voting record on the drug war makes him well-suited for this position in a Trump administration.

As the Washington Post reports, Marino seems to gung-ho on the “Let’s vaguely pretend this is about public health” front, a position that is all the rage on the right. For Marino, protecting public health may involve “hospital-slash-prisons.”

During a 2016 congressional hearing about heroin, Marino wrung his hands on drug abuse and mostly, how it affects children. His full quote, in context: “One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing nondealer, nonviolent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals. Once the person agrees to plead guilty to possession, he or she will be placed in an intensive treatment program until experts determine that they should be released under intense supervision. If this is accomplished, then the charges are dropped against that person. The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison, if you want to call it.”

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American Empire Will Not Be Stopped by a Blundering Semi-Isolationist President

As Donald J. Trump climbed up the polls, and into the Oval Office, to the bafflement of most, and the cheers of some, there was deluded optimism and melodramatic horror freely expressed about his plans once sworn in. The antiwar-cum-xenophobia demonstrated by many self-proclaimed isolationists meant that Trump’s bizarre policy collections had piqued their interest. But even with the relatively low standards that that mentality suggests–less war, perhaps, more domestic misery, certainly, especially when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants–Trump will likely fail. The non-interventionists who value the lives of immigrants, and the freedom of all people to live without police intervention remain unsurprised at Trump’s failures of international peace, even as they scorn the neocons just as much as the isolationists do.

America has been at war since 2001. In other ways, America has been at war nearly nonstop since its founding. As in so many other nation-states, the native population had to be culled and brutalized so that Westerners could flourish. Once that was mostly complete by the late 19th century, America eyed Cuba and the Philippines, and engaged in savage, now-forgotten wars in order to colonize there. World Wars one and two are defended by many people, especially the latter, but the savagery with which America fought even its most justified enemies spoke to its disinterest in a moral highground based on anything besides whatever the US says it right at whatever particular time. Korea and Vietnam, various Middle East scuffles and bombings, coups and interventions, not to mention the two decades spent trampling Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and other places where terrorists occasionally lurk, all of this adds up to a searing black mark on the credibility of the shining city on the hill. Except that among the powerful and the silent majority in middle America, it doesn’t really diminish much of anything.

American wars have been on autopilot for at least the past decade. Mass outrage, most prominently seen during the Vietnam war, is the exceptional response to interventions abroad. And even in the “come on people now/smile on you brother”era, that war wasn’t stopped until two million Vietnamese, nearly 60,000 Americans, and countless Cambodian and Laos citizens were dead. At best, then, outrage as the life and death threat of the draft hangs over American 19-year-olds’ heads, can lead to the stopping of a war after a decade.

How to get out of the death grapple that is the war on terror remains to be seen. Or, perhaps it won’t be. In the grimmest, most borderline conspiratorial interpretations of the post-9/11 world, there is no reason for the US to ever get out of this war against a tactic, an extreme interpretation of a religion, against anyone who consider themselves against the US, and will engage in violence towards that end.

We may or may not have moved away from full-scale invasions like Iraq in 2003. However, Libya and Afghanistan have been destabilized plenty. And the residents of half a dozen other countries now find it necessary to accept the presence of silent robots hovering above them, Hellfire missiles at the ready. The American people are easily exhausted by wars, but they are also easily frightened into them. Letting a few troops, then a few more, then a few drones handle things is the easiest way to keep them distracted, but feeling safe enough.

 

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