There is a simple rule that is followed scrupulously by most U.S. commentators of every stripe on world affairs and war.

This rule allows strong criticism of the US But major official adversaries of the US, Iran, Russia and China, must never, ever be presented as better than the US in any significant way. The US may be depicted as equally bad (or better) than these enemies, but never worse.

The Rule.

  • Major Adversaries: Never better than the US
  • US (and the rest of West): Never worse than the Major Adversaries

Of course this is a recipe for demonization and war. In essence the US must be presented at worst as the lesser evil.

That is the Rule for Respectable Commentary.

Who or what is the enforcer? I have written to other writers who admit that they avoid speaking well of Major Adversaries even when it is warranted. They know that they will come under attack and their credibility will be questioned. They know that editors, ever conscious of their credibility (as they should be) and of their donors (as they should not be) will turn down the writing of one who violates The Rule for Respectable Commentary, hereafter known as The Rule.

So it is censorship that enforces The Rule, but largely self-censorship of the very kind which runs rampant in the Main Stream Media and which is so often bemoaned in the alternative press. "We have met the enemy and they are us."


In recent media appearances, ex-chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, came out strongly against the latest American military campaign in Iraq. Echoing past criticisms, thoroughly voiced in his books Through Our Enemies Eyes, Marching Toward Hell, and Imperial Hubris, Scheuer offers a case against the new Iraq intervention based on his 20+ years of experience as a US intelligence officer, as well as an intimate and detailed knowledge of Islamic extremism.

In Scheuer’s view, another US military intervention in the Middle East against groups such as the Islamic State (IS) will not meet its stated objectives, and will fall into the same errors made in past operations of a similar character. Continuing this policy, he says, will only help to motivate and radicalize Muslims the world over, and will provide exactly the impetus IS needs to step up their drive to establish a long-sought Islamic caliphate in the Levant region.

From a 23 September article published to Scheuer’s home on the web,

And why should we have refused to re-intervene in Iraq?

Because IS is cutting the heads off Westerners to lure America into re-intervening. Why? Because U.S. military intervention in any Muslim country means more donations, recruits, and popular support for IS, al-Qaeda, and other like-minded organizations. US intervention in the Iraq-Syria theater will, over time, make everything it is designed to stop much worse.

For those familiar with Scheuer’s point of view, these comments aren’t out of the ordinary, yet they nonetheless provide a distinct contrast to the general view adopted today by the American public at large. In a recent poll, Americans in substantial majorities are shown to see Sunni insurgents like the Islamic State as an imminent threat to the US national interest, and are increasingly supportive of military action against them.


No single review or interview can do justice to Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War – the new book by James Risen that is the antithesis of what routinely passes for journalism about the “war on terror.” Instead of evasive tunnel vision, the book offers big-picture acuity: focusing on realities that are pervasive and vastly destructive.

Published this week, Pay Any Price throws down an urgent gauntlet. We should pick it up. After 13 years of militarized zealotry and fear-mongering in the name of fighting terrorism, the book – subtitled “Greed, Power, and Endless War” – zeros in on immense horrors being perpetrated in the name of national security.

As an investigative reporter for the New York Times, Risen has been battling dominant power structures for a long time. His new book is an instant landmark in the best of post-9/11 journalism. It’s also a wise response to repressive moves against him by the Bush and Obama administrations.

For more than six years – under threat of jail – Risen has refused to comply with subpoenas demanding that he identify sources for his reporting on a stupid and dangerous CIA operation. (For details, see “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen,” which I co-wrote with Marcy Wheeler for The Nation.)


Like Richard Nixon always said, the nation’s cartoonists are a pox on national security.  And now Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury has gone and exposed the secret calculations behind the latest U.S. intervention in Iraq. Sorta.

If American citizens had real-time access to the secret memos, emails etc. that are driving Obama’s latest bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, the truth would probably be at least as absurd as this cartoon.   It is the secrecy that permits Obama to bomb with impunity.  Secrecy prevents far more opposition to Obama’s latest harebrained scheme for benevolent carnage.

And if the ISIS terrorists begin targeting Americans and U.S. facilities abroad or here, the Obama administration will assure us that there was no way they could have anticipated such a response to the bombing campaign against ISIS.  And homeland security and nitwit pro-bombing foreign experts will win lifetime job security as a result.

On Twitter @jimbovard

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On October 7th, Bloomberg reported that ISIS is spreading to Kobani, a crucial Syrian city bordering Turkey. Kobani’s fall to ISIS would means that the terrorist group has secured over 100 kilometers of land connecting Syria and Turkey. US officials are downplaying the significance of the current battle, but the militaristic importance is clear: ISIS is spreading, and there’s little the United States can do to stop it.

It’s been said time and again that the ongoing crisis with ISIS is similar to the United States’ conflict with al Qaeda. Like last time, we’re faced with a stateless, fundamentalist terrorist group that has grappled the media’s attention because of the needless killings they have committed. Amazingly, while polls suggest that Americans are uncomfortable with boots on the ground in affected countries, they are still overwhelmingly rallying around policies that have been demonstrably ineffective over the past thirteen years. Unfortunately, the media is right. The problems with ISIS directly mirror Iraq and Afghanistan, but policy makers should have learned from our undefined goals, intelligence gaffes, and misuse of the military before confronting another non-state actor.

Ultimately, the United States is treating ISIS like a country instead of an idea taking hold of people across territories around the globe. This disconnect between the US’s strategy and the reality of the battle it’s fighting will lead, and has led, to the ultimate failure of America’s military objectives in the Middle East.