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Commentary :: Media
Asking the Wrong Questions About War
20 Mar 2012
Asking the Wrong Questions About War

by Stephen Lendman

Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller now writes Times op-eds on alternate Mondays, as well as articles for The New York Times Magazine.

Too bad his columns get failing grades. Scoundrel journalism is featured. Truth and full disclosure are excluded. His March 18 article is typical.

Headlined, "Falling In and Out of War," it began well. He admitted he's been wrong on war and wants "to avoid repeating the mistake." To his credit, he also said "it's immeasurably more true for those in a position to actually start a war."

He stopped short of explaining the vital role media scoundrels play, especially The Times as America's most influential broadsheet. It's major front page stories get global attention. As executive editor, and earlier as managing editor, he decided what got featured.

Many promoted war and support for wealth and power. Populism was excluded. So was and remains telling readers what they most need to know. Suppressing it is standard Times policy.

In his latest article, Keller wrote:

"What are the right questions the president should ask — and we as his employers should ask — when deciding whether going to war is (a) justified and (b) worth it?"

He asked five "plus two caveats, and some thoughts about how all this applies to" America's wars and prospective ones.

Too bad he omitted what most need saying. More on that below. His questions included:

"1. How is this our fight?"

In 2001, he claimed protecting America's "national interest" required "go(ing) after the homicidal zealots" responsible for 9/11, "and the Afghan regime that hosted them."

Neither Afghan officials, bin Laden, or others there had anything to with it. Kellers knows or should. Yet he lied to readers, calling it the right thing to do.

Francis Boyle is an international law expert. His latest article is titled "End the Crime That Is the War on Afghanistan," saying:

"....the Bush administration's war against Afghanistan cannot be justified on the facts or the law. It is clearly illegal. It constitutes armed aggression. It is creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Afghanistan."

Bush and Obama bear main responsibility for millions of lives lost, mass destruction, unspeakable human misery, daily violence including rape, murder and torture, and Washington's shocking indifference to extreme suffering.

After over a decade, it's also America's longest war. It's unwinnable. Pentagon, administration, and Congressional officials know it. Yet no end of conflict's planned, nor is ending an illegal occupation as Afghans demand immediately.

"2. At what cost?"

Keller claimed overthrowing Gaddafi was right and easy. Ousting Assad is also just but tough. He's dead wrong on both counts.

Putting "a price on freedom" demands not overspending, he claims. Doing so may force Washington "to contract its global posture" like Britain and other empires had to do.

In other words, winning wars at the right price advance America's imperium. Counterproductive ones should be avoided. Keller ignored rule of law principles, right and wrong, and other issues mattering most. It was typical NYT journalism.

"3. Or what?"

What if alternate strategies short of war fail? "The ultimate 'or what' question about Iran is, if sanctions and threats fail, could we live with a nuclear Iran?"

Again, Keller knows or should that Iran threatens no one. It hasn't attacked another country in over 200 years, and US intelligence, Mossad, and IAEA inspectors find no evidence whatever of a nuclear weapons program or intention to have one.

Moreover, possessing any type weapons suggests no intent to use them. In contrast, America's the only country ever to use nuclear weapons - gratuitously, in fact, when Japan was negotiating surrender.

Doing so was cold-blooded murder. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died. Killing them was criminal wrongdoing. Lawlessness is replicated in all US war theaters.

Today, America maintains a preemptive nuclear first-strike policy against perceived or manufactured threats, including non-nuclear states. Israel also is nuclear armed and dangerous.

In his 1997 book, "Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies," Israel Shahak said:

"Israel (is) clearly prepar(ing) itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East (with no) hesitati(on) to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones."

Iran threatens no one. Neither does Syria. America and Israel menace humanity.

"4. And who else?"

Keller favors US wars when allies "share the cost to spread the risk." In other words, he endorses coalition-of-the-willing lawlessness with enough co-conspirators.

Syria's another matter because "no one is volunteering to join us yet."

In other words, collective might is right no matter how wrong.

"5. Then what?"

He's right. Unintended consequences matter, but not ones he mentioned. Invading Iraq, he said, "distracted our attention and energy from the far more important undertaking in Afghanistan."

In other words, unwinnable quagmires are bad enough. "(R)ushing too fast for the exists" exacerbates things. Syria poses the same dilemma. What comes after Assad, and does anyone support occupying another Muslim country?

Before waging war and deploying troops, said Keller, "deploy the fact-checkers" to assure it's done for the rights reasons.

Excluded from Keller's equation was fundamental international and US law. They're clear, unequivocal, and violations constitute lawless aggression.

No nation may interfere in the internal affairs of others for any reason except self-defense when attacked or if clear evidence shows one's imminent.

Moreover, declaring war is the most serious decision nations make. America's founders understood. As a result, they afforded Congress alone the power "to declare war," not presidents on their own authority.

After Vietnam, the War Powers Resolution gave executives the power to act unilaterally for 60 days in response to a "national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." They have another 30 days to disengage, short of congressional assent to continue.

All US post-WW II wars were illegal, including current ones. So will attacking Iran and/or Syria. Compelling reasons, according to law, don't exist. No other justification's legal.

Keller omitted what most needs explaining, highlighting, and repeating. Grade him "F" for his latest op-ed. Give him a second one for betraying his readers.

Give the Times one also for daily scoundrel journalism instead of mandating what writers are supposed to do - their job.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen (at)

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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