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The National Security State Wins (Again) May 15, 2012

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Why the Real Victor in Campaign 2012 Won’t Be Obama or Romney

By William J. Astore, www.tomdispatch.com, May 15, 2012

Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the media is already handicapping the presidential election big time, and the neck-and-neck opinion polls are pouring in. But whether President Obama gets his second term or Romney enters the Oval Office, there’s a third candidate no one’s paying much attention to, and that candidate is guaranteed to be the one clear winner of election 2012: the U.S. military and our ever-surging national security state.

The reasons are easy enough to explain. Despite his record as a “warrior-president,” despite the breathless “Obama got Osama” campaign boosterism, common inside-the-Beltway wisdom has it that the president has backed himself into a national security corner. He must continue to appear strong and uncompromising on defense or else he’ll get the usual Democrat-as-war-wimp label tattooed on his arm by the Republicans.

Similarly, to have a realistic chance of defeating him — so goes American political thinking — candidate Romney must be seen as even stronger and more uncompromising, a hawk among hawks. Whatever military spending Obama calls for, however much he caters to neo-conservative agendas, however often he confesses his undying love for and extols the virtues of our troops, Romney will surpass him with promises of even more military spending, an even more muscular and interventionist foreign policy, and an even deeper love of our troops.

Indeed, with respect to the national security complex, candidate Romney already comes across like Edward G. Robinson’s Johnny Rocco in the classic film Key Largo: he knows he wants one thing, and that thing is more. More ships for the Navy. More planes for the Air Force. More troops in general — perhaps 100,000 more. And much more spending on national defense.

Clearly, come November, whoever wins or loses, the national security state will be the true victor in the presidential sweepstakes.

Of course, the election cycle alone is hardly responsible for our national love of weaponry and war. Even in today’s straitened fiscal climate, with all the talk of government austerity, Congress feels obliged to trump an already generous president by adding yet more money for military appropriations. Ever since the attacks of 9/11, surging defense budgets, forever war, and fear-mongering have become omnipresent features of our national landscape, together with pro-military celebrations that elevate our warriors and warfighters to hero status. In fact, the uneasier Americans grow when it comes to the economy and signs of national decline, the more breathlessly we praise our military and its image of overwhelming power. Neither Obama nor Romney show any sign of challenging this celebratory global “lock and load” mentality.

To explain why, one must consider not only the pro-military positions of each candidate, but their vulnerabilities — real or perceived — on military issues. Mitt Romney is the easier to handicap. As a Mormon missionary in France and later as the beneficiary of a high draft lottery number, Romney avoided military service during the Vietnam War. Perhaps because he lacks military experience, he has already gone on record (during the Republican presidential debates) as deferring to military commanders on decisions such as whether we should bomb Iran. A President Romney, it seems, would be more implementer-in-chief than civilian commander-in-chief.

Romney’s métier at Bain Capital was competence in the limited sense of buying low and selling high, along with a certain calculated ruthlessness in dividing companies and discarding people to manufacture profit. These skills, such as they are, earn him little respect in military circles. Compare him to Harry Truman or Teddy Roosevelt, both take-charge leaders with solid military credentials. Rather than a Trumanesque “the buck stops here,” Romney is more about “make a buck here.” Rather than Teddy Roosevelt’s bloodied but unbowed “man in the arena,” Romney is more bloodless equity capitalist circling high above the fray in a fancy suit.

Consider as well Romney’s five telegenic sons. It’s hard to square Mitt’s professions of love for our military with his sons’ lack of interest in military service. Indeed, when asked about their lack of enthusiasm for joining the armed forces during the surge in Iraq in 2007, Mitt off-handedly replied that his sons were already performing an invaluable national service by helping him get elected.

An old American upper class sense of noblesse oblige, of sons of privilege like George H.W. Bush or John F. Kennedy volunteering for national service in wartime, has been dead for decades in our otherwise military-happy country. When it comes to sending American sons (and increasingly daughters) into harm’s way, for President Romney it’ll be another case of chickenhawk guts and working-class blood.

For election 2012, however, the main point is that the Romney family’s collective lack of service makes him vulnerable on national defense, a weakness that has already led Mitt and his campaign to overcompensate with ever more pro-military policy pronouncements supplemented with the usual bellicose rhetoric of all Republicans (Ron Paul excepted). As a result, President-elect Romney will ultimately find himself confined, cowed, and controlled by the national security complex — and he’ll have only himself (and Barack Obama) to blame.

Obama, by way of contrast, has already shown a passion for military force that in saner times would make him invulnerable to charges of being “weak” on defense. Fond of dressing up in military flight jackets and praising the troops to the rafters, Obama has substance to go with his style. He’s made some tough calls like sending SEAL Team 6 into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden; using NATO airpower to take down Qaddafi in Libya; expanding special ops and drone warfare in Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, including the assassination of U.S. citizens without judicial process. America’s Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2009 has become a devotee of special forces, kill teams, and high-tech drones that challenge the very reality of national sovereignty. Surely such a man can’t be accused of being weak on defense.

The political reality, of course, is different. Despite his record, the Republican Party is forever at pains to portray Obama as suspect (that middle name Hussein!), divided in his loyalties (that Kenyan connection!), and not slavish enough in his devotion to “underdog” Israel. (Could he be a crypto-Muslim?)

The president and his campaign staff are no fools. Since any sign of “weakness” vis-à-vis Iran and similar enemies du jour or any expression of less than boundless admiration for our military will be exploited ruthlessly by Romney et al., Obama will continue to tack rightwards on military issues and national defense. As a result, once elected he, too, will be a prisoner of the Complex. In this process, the only surefire winner and all-time champ: once again, the national security state.

So what can we expect on the campaign trail this summer and fall? Certainly not prospective civilian commanders-in-chief confident in the vitally important role of restraining or even reversing the worst excesses of an imperial state. Rather, we’ll witness two men vying to be cheerleader-in-chief for continued U.S. imperial dominance achieved at nearly any price.

Election 2012 will be all about preserving the imperial status quo, only more so. Come January 2013, regardless of which man takes the oath of office, we’ll remain a country with a manic enthusiasm for the military. Rather than a president who urges us to abhor endless war, we’ll be led by a man intent on keeping us oblivious to the way we’re squandering our nation’s future in fruitless conflicts that ultimately compromise our core constitutional principles.

For all the suspense the media will gin up in the coming months, the ballots are already in and the real winner of election 2012 will be the national security state. Unless you’re a denizen of that special interest state, we know the loser, too. It’s you.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular. He welcomes reader comments at wjastore@gmail.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Astore discusses how the two presidential candidates are sure to out-militarize each other in the coming election campaign, click here or download it to your iPod here.

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Copyright 2012 William J. Astore

Why body bags prompt support for war September 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, War.
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Roger’s note: those of us who experienced the Vietnam slaughter remember the notorious episode where CBS, under pressure from Lyndon Johnson, refused to allow Pete Seeger to sing the anti-war song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the notorious (ly wonderful) Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  “We were knee deep in The Big Muddy / But the Big Fool said to push on.” 

 Full lyrics are posted below the article.

//
Monday, Sep 19, 2011 14:01 ET

Research confirms the pathology of staying the course

By David Sirota

 

“One of the things that’s very important … is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I’ve made the pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that. And it’s not going to happen under my watch.” — George W. Bush, April 14, 2004

In this memorable quote — which was one of many similar statements –George W. Bush gave us probably history’s most explicit example of how the “sunk cost” argument suffuses today’s national security politics.

While logic suggests mounting casualties should be a reason to end wars, the “sunk cost” phenomenon posits that the more casualties a nation suffers during a war, the more that nation is psychologically committed to the war. The idea is that because we simply don’t want to face the possibility that our countrymen “died in vain,” our natural instinct is to not only push away evidence that they died for lies (WMD), misguided theories (the Vietnam “domino” effect) or petty personal vendettas (“this is the guy who tried to kill my dad!”), we also are prone to “stay the course” for that elusive victory that will supposedly make all the blood and pain and suffering worth it. As Sen. Barack Obama said in criticizing the Bush administration in 2007, the sunk-cost phenomenon basically says, “We’re doubling down; we’re going to keep on going … because now we’ve got a lot in the pot and we can’t afford to lose what we put in the pot.”

Behavioral economists have long hypothesized about this psychological pathology in many different parts of human interaction. In investing, it’s called “throwing good money after bad.” In casino gambling, it’s refusing to cut your losses, and instead trying to big-bet your way back to profitability. I could go on with examples, but you know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it in your own life.

Until now, the “sunk-cost” impulse was seen as entirely reflexive — a natural human reaction hard-wired into our brains and therefore determinative of our politics, whether we like it or not. But this week, a social psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis published the results of a study that is “thought to be the first non-anecdotal demonstration of the ‘activation’ of the sunk-cost effect”–and how that activation can be entirely manufactured.

Here’s the crux of their findings:

Subjects were put into two groups; in one they were asked to solve three decisions, all related to sunk-cost effects; in the other, they solved three different problems, not related to sunk costs …

Those participants exposed to the sunk-cost scenarios unknowingly were being primed to think of the aversiveness of throwing away previous investments, what Lambert calls “the don’t-waste” goal.

In Phase II of the experiment, all subjects were assigned one of two short reading assignments: One assignment was about war casualties, the other about the weather. Next, all subjects took an attitude questionnaire of 25 generic questions about the particular war. Lambert and his group found that those subjects exposed to the don’t-waste goal who read the story about war casualties tended to be significantly more in favor of the war than those controls who weren’t primed the same way.

 

Considering this, we see that standard calls by politicians to “stay the course” lest we “allow our youngsters to die in vain” are less reflections of the country’s natural psyche than sophisticated efforts to artificially “prime” that psyche for an emotional lurch toward a desired pro-war policy position.

With the Obama administration now threatening to break its Iraq withdrawal promises, and with the Afghanistan war still going strong in the face of record casualties, this priming remains powerful. Though the current president (to his credit) isn’t explicitly referencing the “sunk-cost” effect in his rhetoric, that effect still defines our emotional reactions to yet more militarist status quo.

For conservative warmongers, that emotional reaction means remaining steadfastly behind these conflicts, painful consequences be damned. For liberals and independents naturally suspicious of the wars, it means opposing the conflicts in theory (as polls show the country does), but giving up the kind of intense protests and activism that marked those early war years before the costs and casualties skyrocketed — that is, before the huge costs were “sunk” into the endeavors.

The result is exactly the neoconservatives’ original desired effect — a kind of passive preference for “stay the course.” Indeed, we are now so programmed to see news of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan as reason to continue those wars — so fearful of “losing” our investment of blood and treasure — that we barely even discuss what “winning” actually means.

  • David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at http://www.davidsirota.com. More: David Sirota

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Words & Music : Pete Seeger
TRO © 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

It was back in nineteen forty-two

I was a member of a good platoon

We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,

One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,

That’s how it all begun.

We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,

But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”

“Sergeant, go on!  I forded this river

‘Bout a mile above this place.

It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.

We’ll soon be on dry ground.”

We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment

No man will be able to swim.”

“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”

The Captain said to him.

“All we need is a little determination;

Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”

We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,

We heard a gurgling cry.

A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet

Was all that floated by.

The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!

I’m in charge from now on.”

And we just made it out of the Big Muddy

With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body

Stuck in the old quicksand.

I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper

Than the place he’d once before been.

Another stream had joined the Big Muddy

‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.

We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy

When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I’m not going to point any moral;

I’ll leave that for yourself

Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking

You’d like to keep your health.

But every time I read the papers

That old feeling comes on;

We’re — waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a

Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re

Waist deep in the Big Muddy!

And the big fool says to push on!

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)

TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

 

The Military Assault on Global Climate September 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, War.
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Thursday 8 September 2011
by: H. Patricia Hynes, Truthout         | News Analysis

War and the Tragedy of the Commons, Part 7

By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy … Yet, the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements … Any talk of climate change which does not include the military is nothing but hot air, according to Sara Flounders.

It’s a loophole [in the Kyoto Convention on Climate Change] big enough to drive a tank through, according to the report ” A Climate of War.”

In 1940, the US military consumed one percent of the country’s total energy usage; by the end of World War II, the military’s share rose to 29 percent.(1) Oil is indispensable for war.

Correspondingly, militarism is the most oil-exhaustive activity on the planet, growing more so with faster, bigger, more fuel-guzzling planes, tanks and naval vessels employed in more intensive air and ground wars. At the outset of the Iraq war in March 2003, the Army estimated it would need more than 40 million gallons of gasoline for three weeks of combat, exceeding the total quantity used by all Allied forces in the four years of World War 1. Among the Army’s armamentarium were 2,000 staunch M-1 Abrams tanks fired up for the war and burning 250 gallons of fuel per hour.(2)

The US Air Force (USAF) is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world. Fathom, if you can, the astronomical fuel usage of USAF fighter planes: the F-4 Phantom Fighter burns more than 1,600 gallons of jet fuel per hour and peaks at 14,400 gallons per hour at supersonic speeds. The B-52 Stratocruiser, with eight jet engines, guzzles 500 gallons per minute; ten minutes of flight uses as much fuel as the average driver does in one year of driving! A quarter of the world’s jet fuel feeds the USAF fleet of flying killing machines; in 2006, they consumed as much fuel as US planes did during the Second World War (1941-1945) – an astounding 2.6 billion gallons.(3)

Barry Sanders observes with a load of tragic irony that, while many of us assiduously reduce our carbon footprint through simpler living, eating locally, recycling and reusing, energy conservation, taking public transportation, installing solar panels, and so on, the single largest institutional polluter and contributor to global warming – the US military – is immune to climate change concerns. The military reports no climate change emissions to any national or international body, thanks to US arm-twisting during the 1997 negotiations of the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. To protect the military from any curbs on their activities, the United States demanded and won exemption from emission limits on “bunker” fuels (dense, heavy fuel oil for naval vessels) and all greenhouse gas emissions from military operations worldwide, including wars. Adding insult to injury, George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol as one of the first acts of his presidency, alleging it would straitjacket the US economy with too costly greenhouse emissions controls. Next, the White House began a neo-Luddite campaign against the science of climate change. In researching “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Sanders found that getting war casualty statistics out of the Department of Defense (DoD) is easier than getting fuel usage data.

Only recently has the momentous issue of military fuel use and its massive, yet concealed role in global climate change come to the foreground, thanks to a handful of perspicacious researchers. Liska and Perrin contend that, in addition to tailpipe emissions, immense “hidden” greenhouse gas pollution stems from our use of gasoline. This impact on climate change should be calculated into the full lifecycle analysis of gasoline. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compares gasoline and biofuels for their respective atmospheric pollution, the greenhouse gas emissions calculated for gasoline should include the military activities related to securing foreign crude oil, from which gasoline is derived. (But they do not, thanks to the Kyoto Accords military exemption.) Oil security comprises both military protection against sabotage to pipelines and tankers and also US-led wars in oil-rich regions to assure long-term access. Nearly 1,000 US military bases trace an arc from the Andes to North Africa across the Middle East to Indonesia, the Philippines and North Korea, sweeping over all major oil resources – all related, in part, to projecting force for the sake of energy security. Further, the “upstream emissions” of greenhouse gases from the manufacture of military equipment, infrastructure, vehicles and munitions used in oil supply protection and oil-driven wars should also be included in the overall environmental impact of using gasoline. Adding these factors into their calculations, the authors conclude that about “20 percent of the conventional DoD budget … is attributable to the objective of oil security.”

A corresponding analysis by researchers at Oil Change International quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions of the Iraq war and the opportunity costs involved in fighting the war, rather than investing in clean technology, during the years 2003-2007. Their key findings are unambiguous about the vast climate pollution of war and the lockstep bipartisan policy of forfeiting future global health for present day militarism.

  1. The projected full costs of the Iraq war (estimated $3 trillion) would cover “all of the global investments in renewable power generation” needed between now and 2030 to reverse global warming trends.
  2. Between 2003-2007, the war generated at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)(4), more each year of the war than 139 of the world’s countries release annually.(5) Rebuilding Iraqi schools, homes, businesses, bridges, roads and hospitals pulverized by the war, and new security walls and barriers will require millions of tons of cement, one of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the entire world spent on renewable energy investment.
  4. By 2008, the Bush administration had spent 97 times more on military than on climate change. As a presidential candidate, President Obama pledged to spend $150 billion over ten years on green energy technology and infrastructure – less than the United States was spending in one year of the Iraq war.

Just how much petroleum the Pentagon consumes is one of the best-kept secrets in government. More likely, observes Barry Sanders, no one in DoD knows precisely. His unremitting effort to ferret out the numbers is one of the most thorough to date. Sanders begins with figures given by the Defense Energy Support Center for annual oil procurement for all branches of the military. He then combines three other non-reported military oil consumption factors: an estimate of “free oil” supplied overseas (of which Kuwait was the largest supplier for the 2003 Iraq war), an estimate of oil used by private military contractors and military-leased vehicles and an estimate of the amount of bunker fuel used by naval vessels. By his calculation, the US military consumes as much as one million barrels of oil per day and contributes 5 percent of current global warming emissions. Keep in mind that the military has 1.4 million active duty people, or .0002 percent of the world’s population, generating 5 percent of climate pollution.

Yet, even this comparison understates the extreme military impact on climate change. Military fuel is more polluting because of the fuel type used for aviation. CO2 emissions from jet fuel are larger – possibly triple – per gallon than those from diesel and oil. Further, aircraft exhaust has unique polluting effects that result in greater warming effect by per unit of fuel used. Radiative effects from jet exhaust, including nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, soot and water vapor exacerbate the warming effect of the CO2 exhaust emissions.(6) Perversely, then, the US military consumes fossil fuel beyond compare to any other institutional and per capita consumption in order to preserve strategic access to oil – a lunacy instigated by a series of executive decisions.

Short History of Militarizing Energy

Ten of 11 US recessions since World War 11 have been preceded by oil price spikes … Maintaining low and stable oil prices is a political imperative associated with modern petroleum-based economies.

In 1945 the US military built an air base at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the start of securing permanent American access to newly discovered Middle East oil. President Roosevelt had negotiated a quid pro quo with the Saudi family: military protection in exchange for cheap oil for US markets and military. Eisenhower possessed great prescience about the post-World War II rise of a permanent war-based industry dictating national policy and the need for citizen vigilance and engagement to curb the “military-industrial” complex. Yet, he made a fateful decision on energy policy, which set our country and the world on a course from which we must find our way back.

The 1952 blue-ribbon Paley Commission Report proposed that the US build the economy on solar energy sources. The report also offered a strong negative assessment of nuclear energy and called for “aggressive research in the whole field of solar energy” as well as research and development on wind and biomass. In 1953, the new President Eisenhower ignored the report recommendation and inaugurated “Atoms for Peace,” touting nuclear power as the world’s new energy miracle that would be “too cheap to meter.” This decision not only embarked the country (and world) on a fateful course of nuclear power, but it also affixed the centrality of oil, gas and coal within the US economy.

By the late 1970s, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution threatened US access to oil in the Middle East, leading to President Carter’s 1980 State of the Union warmongering doctrine. The Carter Doctrine holds that any threat to US access to Middle East oil would be resisted “by any means necessary, including military force.” Carter put teeth into his doctrine by creating the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, whose purpose was combat operations in the Persian Gulf area when necessary. Ronald Reagan ramped up the militarization of oil with the formation of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), whose raison d’etre was to ensure access to oil, diminish Soviet Union influence in the region and control political regimes in the region for our national security interests. With growing reliance on oil from Africa and the Caspian Sea region, the US has since augmented its military capabilities in those regions.

In 2003, Carter’s doctrine of force when necessary was carried out with “shock and awe,” in what was the most intensive and profligate use of fossil fuel the world has ever witnessed. Recall, too, that as Baghdad fell, invading US troops ignored the looting of schools, hospitals and a nuclear power facility as well as the ransacking of national museums and burning of the National Library and Archives holding peerless, irreplaceable documentation of the “cradle of civilization.” The US military did, however, immediately seize and guard the Iraqi Oil Ministry Headquarters and positioned 2,000 soldier to safeguard oilfields.(7) First things first.

Many factors have converged and clarified over time to support the proposition that, at its core, the Iraq war was a war over oil. Eliminating weapons of mass destruction, deposing a tyrannical dictator, rooting out terrorism linked to 9/11, employing gunboat diplomacy to instill democracy and human rights – all were largely foils for oil. Alan Greenspan put it squarely: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everybody knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”(8)

As we near peak oil production, that is, the point of diminishing returns for oil exploration and production and higher oil prices, OPEC countries’ share of global production “will rise from 46 percent in 2007 to 56 percent in 2030.” Iraq has the third-largest reserves of oil; Iraq and Kazakhstan are “two of the top four countries with the largest [petroleum] production increases forecast from 2000 to 2030. The Middle East and Central Asia are, predictably, epicenters of US military operations and wars. A 2006 report on national security and US oil dependency released by the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that the US should maintain “a strong military posture that permits suitably rapid deployment to the [Persian Gulf] region” for at least 20 years. US military professionals concur and are preparing for the prospect of “large-scale armed struggle” over access to energy resources.

Where We Stand

Our national security has been reduced in large part to energy security, which has led us to militarizing our access to oil through establishing a military presence across the oil-bearing regions of the world and instigating armed conflict in Iraq, sustaining it in Afghanistan and provoking it in Libya. The air war in Libya has given the new US Africa Command (AFRICOM) – itself another extension of the Carter Doctrine – some spotlight and muscle. A few commentators have concluded that the NATO war in Libya is a justifiable humanitarian military intervention. The more trenchant judgment, in my view, is that the air war violated the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the US Constitution and the War Powers Act; and that it sets a precedent and “model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened,” to quote administration officials. The air war in Libya is another setback to non-militarized diplomacy; it marginalized the African Union and it sets a course for more military intervention in Africa when US interests are at stake. Air war a model for future wars? If so, a death knell for the planet. This insatiable militarism is the single greatest institutional contributor to the growing natural disasters intensified by global climate change.

Postscript

In August 2010, as I was conceiving this series “War and the True Tragedy of the Commons,” wildfires caused by drought and heat wave were consuming huge swaths of Russia and choking Moscow with air pollution. A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences warned that fire-induced winds could carry radioactive particles hundreds of miles from the burning forest around Chernobyl, reaching cities in Russia and even in Eastern Europe. The same risk exists for regions elsewhere contaminated with radioactive waste and jeopardized by uncontrollable wildfires. At the same time as the Russian fires, more than one in ten Pakistanis were uprooted, rendered food dependent and endangered by disease from the worst floods in recorded history, floods which engulfed one-fifth of the country from the northwest region to the south. Pakistan – a highly militarized nuclear power with tense relations with its nuclear neighbor India, whose border area with Afghanistan is a war zone, and within whose boundaries the CIA is conducting a drone war – prioritizes militarism over development. It ranks 15 in global military strength and 141 out of 182 countries in the Human Development Index.

In summer 2011, as I was completing this series, forest fires burned almost 50,000 acres in and around the nuclear weapons production and waste storage facilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Among the endangered radioactive materials and waste were as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste stored in fabric tents above ground, awaiting transport to a low-level radiation dumpsite in southern New Mexico. Two months later, Vermont suffered its worst ever floods and flood damage, with no part of the state untouched, from Tropical Storm Irene – considered to be one of the ten costliest disasters in US history.

Coincident with these environmental tragedies intensified by global warming, is the ongoing tradeoff in the US federal budget between militarized defense and genuine human and environmental security. The United States contributes more than 30 percent of global warming gases to the atmosphere, generated by five percent of the world’s population and US militarism. The pieces of the US federal budget pie that fund education, energy, environment, social services, housing and new job creation, taken together, receive less funding than the military/defense budget. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has called the military budget a taxpayer-supported jobs program and argues for reprioritizing federal spending on jobs in green energy, education and infrastructure – the real national security.

The United States has the wealth (currently larding the defense budget) and the technical capacity to revolutionize our energy economy and turn it within a few decades into an economy based on efficiency and renewable energy sources, thus removing a critical demand factor of our Goliath military. How costly would it be to eliminate underlying causes of war and injustice, such as poverty and gender inequality, and to restore the natural environment? In his most recent book “Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization,” Lester Brown estimates that eradicating poverty, educating women, providing reproductive resources and restoring forests worldwide would cost one-third of the US 2008 defense budget. The issue is not public monies.

Another ferocious demand factor is the octopus of defense industry companies that have spread their tentacles to nearly all of the states and control the majority of Congressionals. Thus, another vital scarce resource – some mineral in a contested seabed, for example – could replace petroleum and become the next flashpoint for more military build-up and response, unless that military-industrial complex is neutered.

Perhaps the most elusive driving factor of war is the values that underpin the tradition and habit of militarized solutions. War mirrors the culture of a country. US militarism – from its training, tactics and logistics to its reasons for going to war and its weapons of war – is distinctly shaped by core elements of American identity. These determining cultural forces are, according to military historian Victor Davis Hanson: manifest destiny; frontier mentality; rugged individualism and what he calls a “muscular independence”; unfettered market capitalism; the ideal of meritocracy (no matter what one’s class, one can rise to the top in the US military); and a fascination with machines, modernity and mobility. All converge to generate bigger, better and more destructive war technology. He adds that the integration of military into society is smoothed through the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

This cultural competence for high-tech war, with its origins in our past annihilation of Native Americans, may be our society’s nemesis unless we do critical soul searching about our cultural and personal values and actively engage in transforming them. There are a plentitude of cross currents in our society that have profoundly challenged the dominant cultural profile limned by militarist Hanson: the women’s and civil rights movements, the anti-war and peace movements, public intellectuals and progressive media, peace and justice studies, progressive labor and health workers, the coop and Transition Town movements and the handful of progressive politicians, among others. The challenge is how to build voice, social cohesion and public influence for our shared values of a sense of community, connection to nature, concern for the exploited and thirst for equity and justice against the dominant market messages of wealth, social prestige, image, power through dominance and meeting conflict with force.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” -Martin Luther King

Resources for Education and Action

Bring the War Dollars Home, a growing movement at the state and city/town level, uses the National Priorities Project data to make the case for ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and redirecting defense spending to genuine domestic security. See here and here.

National Priorities Project is a think tank and advocacy group that provides research designed to influence US federal spending priorities. Includes data on costs of wars, local taxes for war and tradeoffs.

Progressive Caucus Budget for 2012, also known as The People’s Budget, is an alternative budget offered by the 81-member Congressional Progressive Caucus that takes steps toward a saner role for government while reducing the deficit more and faster than either Ryan’s “Plan for Prosperity” or Obama’s plan.

Peace and Conflict Studies Programs: Two hundred and fifteen accredited peace and conflict studies graduate programs and grad schools on the leading graduate school web site.

Peace and Justice Studies Association

War Tax Resistance: See the web site of War Tax Resistance/War Resisters League

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was founded in 1915 during World War I. WILPF works to achieve, through peaceful means, world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice, an end to all forms of violence.

Footnotes:

1. Barry Sanders (2009), “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Oakland, California: AK Press, p.39.

2. Barry Sanders (2009), “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Oakland, California: AK Press, p.51.

3. Barry Sanders (2009), “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Oakland, California: AK Press, pps.50,61 for data in this section.

4. Units of carbon dioxide equivalent to combined greenhouse gas emissions.

5. This figure is conservative because there were no reliable numbers on the military consumption of naval bunker fuels for the transport of fuel and troops. Nor was there data on the use or release of intensive greenhouse gas chemicals in war, including halon, an ozone-depleting fire extinguishing chemical banned in the US since 1992 for civilian production and use, but allowed for DoD “critical mission” use.

6. George Monbiot (2006), “Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning,” cited in Sanders, p.72.

7. Chalmers Johnson (2010), “Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope,” New York: Metropolitan Books. pp.40-51.

8. Quoted in Liska and Perrin, p.9.

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H. Patricia HynesH. Patricia Hynes is a retired professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health and chair of the board of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts.

 

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                  Showing 3 comments

  • Jan                                            1 comment collapsed                                    CollapseExpand
            How much petrol is consumed by the jets during their aerosol spraying of chemicals into our once-blue skies day after day?

  • slashpot                                            1 comment collapsed                                    CollapseExpand
            The FOUR years of WWII???
    The allied forces you mention were at war from September 1939 until July 1945. Does this oh so very typical American view suggest that the tens of thousands from several nations who were violently killed, particularly during the blitz in England, are to be found alive somewhere having done a Rip van Winkle for 70 years?
    Of course the ugly fact is, if America had done what allies are supposed to do in 1939 a huge number of people might never have died at all. So why did America ignore the constant pleas from it’s most fervent allies, including England, France & Australia? For the most part, it was because those with the most influence were too busy making vast profits from the Nazi build up or too firmly in support of Hitlers anti-Semitism and the ideology of fascism. American firmness could have prevented both Japan and Germany from launching the most horrific wars the world has ever seen, but then waiting for everyone else to beat themselves senseless and stepping in at the right moment made the USA the superpower it is today.
    Gee, that worked out well!

  • R                                            1 comment collapsed                                    CollapseExpand
            One has to wonder what the endgame result is to be–who wins in a sick world??

War, Debt and the President August 3, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, War.
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Published on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 by TruthDig.com

  by  Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama touted his debt ceiling deal Tuesday, saying, “We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession.” Yet that is what he and his coterie of Wall Street advisers have done.

In the affairs of nations, Alexander Hamilton wrote in January 1790, “loans in times of public danger, especially from foreign war, are found an indispensable resource.” It was his first report as secretary of the treasury to the new Congress of the United States. The country had borrowed to fight the Revolutionary War, and Hamilton proposed a system of public debt to pay those loans.

“President Obama’s debt ceiling deal is widely considered a historic defeat for progressives, a successful attack on the New Deal and Great Society achievements of the past century.” (photo: U.S. Army / Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens)

The history of the U.S. national debt is inexorably tied to its many wars. The resolution this week of the so-called debt ceiling crisis is no different. Not only did a compliant Congress agree to fund President George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with emergency appropriations; it did so with borrowed money, raising the debt ceiling 10 times since 2001 without quibbling.

So how did the Pentagon fare in the current budget battle? It looks like it did fine. Not to be confused with the soldiers and veterans who have fought these wars.

“This year is the 50th anniversary of [Dwight] Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex speech,” William Hartung of the Center for International Policy told me while the Senate assembled to vote on the debt ceiling bill. Speaking of the late general turned Republican U.S. president, Hartung said: “He talked about the need for a balanced economy, for a healthy population. Essentially, he’s to the left of Barack Obama on these issues.”

Michael Hudson, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, explained the history of the debt ceiling’s connection to war:

“It was put in in 1917 during World War I, and the idea was to prevent President Wilson from committing even more American troops and money to war. In every country of Europe—England, France—the parliamentary control over the budget was introduced to stop ambitious kings or rulers from waging wars. So the whole purpose was to limit a government’s ability to run into debt for war, because that was the only reason that governments ran into debt.”

The Budget Control Act of 2011 assures drastic cuts to the U.S. social safety net. Congress will appoint a committee of 12, dubbed the “Super Congress,” evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, to identify $1.2 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. If the committee fails to meet that goal, sweeping, mandatory, across-the-board cuts are mandated. Social services would get cut, but so would the Pentagon.

Or would it? The Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus opposed the bill. Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver called it “a sugarcoated Satan sandwich.” For fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the discretionary funding approved is split between “security” and “nonsecurity” categories. “Nonsecurity” categories like food programs, housing, Medicare and Medicaid (the basis of any genuine national security) will most likely be cut. But the “security” budget will get hit equally hard, which Democrats suggest would be an incentive for Republicans to cooperate with the process.

The security category includes “Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the intelligence community [and] international affairs.” This sets up a dynamic where hawks will be trying to cut as much as possible from the State Department’s diplomatic corps, and foreign aid, in order to favor their patrons at the Pentagon and in the weapons industry.

Hartung explained that the contractors, in addition to having the support of Speaker of the House John Boehner, “had Buck McKeon, the head of the House Armed Services Committee, whose biggest contributor is Lockheed Martin, who’s got big military facilities in his district, [and] Randy Forbes, whose district is near the Newport News Shipbuilding complex, which builds attack submarines and aircraft carriers. They used their influence to get people on the inside, their allies in the House, to push their agenda.”

President Obama’s debt ceiling deal is widely considered a historic defeat for progressives, a successful attack on the New Deal and Great Society achievements of the past century. Congresswoman Donna Edwards, D-Md., summed up the disappointment, in which half the Democrats in the House voted against their president, tweeting: “Nada from million/billionaires; corp tax loopholes aplenty; only sacrifice from the poor/middle class? Shared sacrifice, balance? Really?”

The Project on Government Oversight says of the “Super Congress” that “the creation of the committee doesn’t come with many requirements for transparency.” Who will be the watchdog? With the 2012 election coming up, promising to be the most expensive ever, expect the committee’s deficit-reduction proposal, due by Thanksgiving and subject to an up-or-down vote, to have very little to give thanks for.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2011 Amy Goodman

The Bodies of Those Who Died in Vain Litter our Landscape May 30, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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Sun, 05/30/2010 – 12:15 — Anonymous
by: 

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and I am sick to death of the glorification of war in America.

And I am even sicker of politicians who wrap themselves in the bloody flag and try to rub off some of the stench of death from the bodies of those who have died, mostly in vain for worthless causes, in hopes that taking on some of the odor will cause them to be perceived as admirable patriots themselves.

President George W. Bush, who dodged danger in the Vietnam War by signing up for the Texas National Guard and then ducked even that domestic duty, and Vice President Dick Cheney who used five different excuses to duck military service, morbidly rubbed themselves with that flag for eight long years, even as they sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women into harm’s for their own personal political advantage.

President Barack Obama (who also avoided military service), continued this obscene tradition when, in his weekly PR address to the nation, he urged Americans to “leave a flower” on the grave of a soldier who died in one of America’s wars “so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation.” Obama is also sending young Americans to kill and die halfway around the world in a war that has no purpose other than to demonstrate his political “toughness.” Yet he disingenuously declares that it was “to preserve America and advance the ideals we cherish” that “led patriots in each generation to sacrifice their own lives to secure the life of our nation, from the trenches of World War I to the battles of World War II, from Inchon and Khe Sanh, from Mosul to Marja.”

What utter crap and nonsense!

I’ll grant you that there were noble motivations that led many Americans to die fighting for this country’s independence. The same can be said for those soldiers who fought and died on the Union side in the Civil War who had the noble goal of ending the crime of slavery. And indeed it was the decision by a group of freed slaves in 1866 in South Carolina to disinter the bodies of Union soldiers who had died in Confederate captivity and who had been unceremoniously dumped in a collective grave, and to give them all decent burials, that established the first Memorial Day.

But to claim that the over 100,000 American soldiers who died on the front lines in World War I were defending American freedoms, as Memorial Day speakers like Obama do year after year, is simply a lie. World War I was never about a threat to America. It was a war of empire, fought by the European powers, none of which was any better or worse than the others, and the US joined that conflict not for noble reasons or for defense, but in hopes of picking up some of the pieces. My own maternal grandfather, a promising sprinter who had Olympic aspirations, was struck with mustard gas in the trenches and, unable to run anymore with his permanently scarred lungs, ended up having to settle for coaching high school as a career. (My paternal grandfather won a silver star for heroism as an ambulance driver on the front, but was so damaged by what he experienced that he never talked about it at all, my father says.) Sadly, their sacrifices and heroism served no noble cause.

World War II, at least in Europe, may have had some moral justification, though there can be some legitimate debate as to whether the US and its freedoms were ever really threatened, and certainly many of the Americans who died in that war saw their struggle as worthy, so that we may at least in good conscience honor their deaths.

But Khe Sanh? Mosul? And for god’s sake, Marjah? Let’s get real.

Khe Sanh, one of the major battles in the Vietnam War, was just one little piece of a huge malignant disaster in a war that was criminal from its inception, and that had no purpose beyond perpetuating the neocolonialist control by the US of a long-subjugated people who were fighting to be free, just as our own ancestors had done. The over 58,000 Americans who died in that war, who contributed to the killing of over 2 million Vietnamese, many or most of them civilians, may have engaged in personal acts of bravery, but they were not, as a group, heroes. Nor were they over there fighting for American freedom. Some, like Lt. William Calley, who did not die, were no doubt murderers. Most, though, were simply victims–victims of their own government’s years of lying and deceit.

If we memorialize them, it should be by vowing never again to allow our government to commit such crimes, and to send Americans to fight and die for such criminal policies.

Sadly, we’ve already allowed that to happen, though, over and over again–in the Panama, in Grenada, in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan and perhaps, before long, Iran and/or Pakistan.

Take the president’s mention of Mosul. It is a city in Iraq, and the Americans who died there and in other Iraqi cities died because of the criminality of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who manufactured a criminal war of aggression against Iraq, a country that posed no threat to the US. They died too because of the cowardice and venality of the Democrats in Congress who allowed themselves to be bullied and extorted into supporting that criminal war. The five thousand Americans who died, and the hundreds of thousands more who have been gravely wounded in that war, not to mention the more than a million who fought there or worked in support roles for others who fought, were not defending any of our “cherished ideals.” They were simply helping oil companies like Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, Shell and yes, British Petroleum, secure control of the Iraqi oilfields. They were simply helping Bush and Cheney win re-election. They were simply helping inflate the profits of Halliburton, Boeing, Lockheed, Blackwater and other war profiteers.

Noble deaths indeed.

As for Marjah, its mention at all in the same breath as the American Revolution or the Civil War is simply laughable, but it is also truly grotesque. The little farming communities that the Pentagon PR machine lyingly described as a small city swarming with Taliban fighters was nothing but a staged and carefully managed battle set, designed to make Americans forget that the US was (and is) bogged down in an unwinnable war of conquest and occupation in Afghanistan. The few American soldiers and Marines who died there died for the sake of White House and Pentagon propaganda, not for the sake of defending Americans’ vaunted freedoms. The set has now been torn down, the klieg lights have been turned off, and “Marjah” has reverted to Taliban territory again.

This blind worship of US militarism has got to stop!

Never again should Americans be sent to kill and die for politicians.

If and when America and American freedom are really threatened, I have no doubt that American men and women will rise to the occasion and show the kind of nobility and heroism that was evident in the Revolution and the Civil War. But in the meantime, we need to stop glorifying all these wars that were criminal, or that could have been avoided. Memorial Day should be a day to demand peace, a day to demand an end to a military-industrial complex that claims nearly half of the nation’s general funds, a day to focus on the real threats to American’s “cherished ideals,” most of which are purely domestic, and a day to celebrate what those ideals are: equalty before the law, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom from government intrusion in our lives, the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of our peers, and the right to stand up and say that our political leaders are, for the most part, crooks, charlatans and even war criminals.

Look Out, Obama Seems to Be Planning for a Lot More War May 10, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
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Jack Smith, Asia Times, May 8, 2010

Judging by the Barack Obama administration’s reports, pronouncements and actions
 in recent months point to even greater war-making across the planet.

May 8, 2010  |  
 

There’s more war in America’s future – a great deal more, judging by the Barack Obama administration’s reports, pronouncements and actions in recent months.

These documents and deeds include the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Ballistic Missile Defense Report, the nuclear security summit in New York and the May 3-28 United Nations nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, as well as the continuing wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the 2011 Pentagon war budget request.

The United States government presides as a military colossus of unrivalled dimension, but the QDR, which was published in February, suggests Washington views America as being constantly under the threat of attack from a multitude of fearsome forces bent on its destruction. As such, trillions more dollars must be invested in present and future wars – ostensibly to make safe the besieged homeland.

The NPR says the long-range US goal is a “nuclear-free” world, but despite token reductions in its arsenal of such weapons, the Pentagon is strengthening its nuclear force and bolstering it with a devastating “conventional deterrent” intended to strike any target in the world within one hour. In addition this document, published in April, retains “hair-trigger” nuclear launch readiness, refuses to declare its nuclear force is for deterrence only (suggesting offensive use) and for the first time authorizes a nuclear attack, if necessary, on a non-nuclear state (Iran).

Meanwhile, Obama is vigorously expanding the George W Bush administration’s wars, and enhancing and deploying America’s unparalleled military power.

The Obama administration’s one positive achievement in terms of militarism and war was the April 9 signing in Prague of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia that reduces deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads each. It was a step forward, but all agree it was extremely modest, and it does not even faintly diminish the danger of nuclear war.

The QDR is a 128-page Defense Department report mandated by congress to be compiled every four years to put forward a 20-year projection of US military planning. A 20-member civilian panel, selected by the Pentagon and congress, analyzes the document and suggests changes in order to provide an “independent” perspective. Eleven of the members, including the panel’s co-chairmen – former defense secretary William Perry and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley – are employed by the defense industry.

Although the Pentagon is working on preparations for a possible World War III and beyond, the new report is largely focused on the relatively near future and only generalizes about the longer term. Of the QDR’s many priorities three stand out.

The first priority is to “prevail in today’s wars” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and wherever else Washington’s post-9/11 military intrusions penetrate in coming years. Introducing the report February 1, Bush-Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued this significant statement: “Success in wars to come will depend on success in these wars in progress.” The “wars to come” were not identified. Further, the QDR states that military victory in Iraq and Afghanistanis “is only the first step toward achieving our strategic objectives”.

Second, while in the past the US concentrated on the ability to fight two big wars simultaneously, the QDR suggests that’s not enough. Now, the Obama administration posits the “need for a robust force capable of protecting US interests against a multiplicity of threats, including two capable nation-state aggressors.”

Now it’s two-plus wars – the plus being the obligation to “conduct large-scale counter-insurgency, stability and counter-terrorism operations in a wide range of environments”, mainly in small, poor countries like Afghanistan. Other “plus” targets include “non-state actors” such as al-Qaeda, “failed states” such as Somali, and medium-size but well-defended states that do not bend the knee to Uncle Sam, such as Iran or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and some day perhaps Venezuela.
 Third, it’s fairly obvious from the QDR, though not acknowledged, that the Obama government believes China and Russia are the two possible “nation-state aggressors” against which Washington must prepare to “defend” itself. Neither Beijing nor Moscow has taken any action to justify the Pentagon’s assumption that they will ever be suicidal enough to attack the far more powerful United States.

After all, the US, with 4.54% of the world’s population, invests more on war and war preparations than the rest of the world combined. Obama’s 2010 Pentagon budget is US$680 billion, but the real total is double that when all Washington’s national security expenditures in other departmental budgets are also included, such as the cost of nuclear weapons, the 16 intelligence agencies, Homeland Security and interest on war debts, among other programs.

Annual war-related expenditures are well over $1 trillion. In calling for a discretionary freeze on government programs in January’s state of the union address, Obama specifically exempted Pentagon/national security expenditures from the freeze. Obama is a big war spender. His $708 billion Pentagon allotment for fiscal 2011 (not counting a pending $33 billion Congress will approve for the Afghan “surge”) exceeds Bush’s highest budget of $651 billion for fiscal 2009.

At present, US military power permeates the entire world. As the QDR notes: “The United States is a global power with global responsibilities. Including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 400,000 US military personnel are forward-stationed or rotationally deployed around the world.”

The Pentagon presides over 1,000 overseas military bases (including those in the war zones), great fleets in every ocean, a globe-spanning air force,  military satellites in space and nuclear missiles on hair trigger alert pre-targeted on “enemy” or potential “enemy” cities and military facilities. A reading of the QDR shows none of this will change except for upgrading, enlarging (the Pentagon just added six new bases in Colombia) and adding new systems such as Prompt Global Strike, an important new offensive weapon system, which we shall discuss below.

The phrase “full spectrum military dominance” – an expression concocted by the neo-conservatives in the 1990s that was adopted by the Bush administration to define its aggressive military strategy – was cleverly not included in the 2010 QDR, but retaining and augmenting dominance remains the Pentagon’s prime preoccupation.

The QDR is peppered with expressions such as “America’s interests and role in the world require armed forces with unmatched capabilities” and calls for “the continued dominance of America’s Armed Forces in large-scale force-on-force warfare”. Gates went further in his February 1 press conference: “The United States needs a broad portfolio of military capabilities, with maximum versatility across the widest possible spectrum of conflicts.” Obama bragged recently that he commanded “the finest military in the history of the world”.

Evidently, the Pentagon is planning to engage in numerous future wars interrupted by brief periods of peace while preparing for the next war. Given that the only entity expressing an interest in attacking the United States is al-Qaeda – a non-government paramilitary organization of extreme religious fanatics with about a thousand reliable active members around the world – it is obvious that America’s unprecedented military might is actually intended for another purpose.

In our view that “other purpose” is geopolitical – to strengthen even further the Pentagon’s military machine to assure that the United States retains its position as the dominant global hegemon at a time of acute indebtedness, the severe erosion of its manufacturing base, near gridlock in domestic politics, and the swift rise to global prominence of several other nations and blocs.

The QDR touches on this with admirable delicacy: “The distribution of global political, economic and military power is shifting and becoming more diffuse. The rise of China, the world’s most populous country, and India, the world’s largest democracy, will continue to reshape the international system. While the United States will remain the most powerful actor, it must increasingly cooperate with key allies and partners to build and sustain peace and security. Whether and how rising powers fully integrate into the global system will be among this century’s defining questions, and are thus central to America’s interests.”

At the moment, the QDR indicates Washington is worried about foreign “anti-access” strategies that limit its “power projection capabilities” in various parts of the world. What this means is that certain countries such as China and Russia are developing sophisticated new weapons that match those of the US, thus “impeding” the deployment of American forces to wherever the Pentagon desires. For instance:

    China is developing and fielding large numbers of advanced medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles, new attack submarines equipped with advanced weapons, increasingly capable long-range air defense systems, electronic warfare and computer network attack capabilities, advanced fighter aircraft and counter-space systems. China has shared only limited information about the pace, scope and ultimate aims of its military modernization programs, raising a number of legitimate questions regarding its long-term intentions.

To counter this trend in China and elsewhere, the Pentagon is planning, at a huge and unannounced cost, the following enhancements: “Expand future long-range strike capabilities; Exploit advantages in subsurface operations; Increase the resiliency of US forward posture and base infrastructure; Assure access to space and the use of space assets; Enhance the robustness of key ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities; Defeat enemy sensors and engagement systems; and Enhance the presence and responsiveness of US forces abroad.”

In addition, the US not only targets China with nuclear missiles and bombs, it is surrounding the country (and Russia as well, of course) with anti-ballistic missiles. The purpose is plain: In case the US finds it “necessary” to launch ballistic missiles toward China, the ABMs will be able to destroy its limited retaliatory capacity.

According to an article in the February 22 issue of China Daily, the country’s English-language newspaper: “Washington appears determined to surround China with US-built anti-missile systems, military scholars have observed … Air force colonel Dai Xu, a renowned military strategist, wrote in an article released this month that ‘China is in a crescent-shaped ring of encirclement. The ring begins in Japan, stretches through nations in the South China Sea to India, and ends in Afghanistan’.”

Compared to the Bush administration’s 2006 QDR, there has been a conscious effort to tone down the anti-China rhetoric in the current document. But it is entirely clear that China is number one in the QDR’s references to “potentially hostile nation states”.

According to the February 18 Defense News, a publication that serves the military-industrial complex, “Analysts say the QDR attempts to address the threat posed by China without further enraging Beijing. ‘If you look at the list of further enhancements to US forces and capabilities … those are primarily capabilities needed for defeating China, not Iran, North Korea or Hezbollah,’ said Roger Cliff, a China military specialist at Rand. ‘So even though not a lot of time is spent naming China … analysis of the China threat is nonetheless driving a lot of the modernization programs described in the QDR’.”

Incidentally, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, this year’s Chinese defense budget, for a country four times larger than the United States, is $78 billion, compared to the $664 billion for the Pentagon (without all the national security extras harbored in other department budgets). China possesses 100-200 nuclear warheads compared to America’s 9,326 (when both deployed and stored weapons are included). China is contemplating the construction of an aircraft carrier; the US Navy floats 11 of them. China has no military bases abroad.

In our view, China appears to be constructing weapons for defense, not offense against the US – and its foreign policy is based on refusing to be pushed around by Washington while doing everything possible to avoid a serious confrontation.

Russia as well is treated better in the new QDR than in 2006, but it is included with China in most cases. Despite Moscow’s huge nuclear deterrent and abundant oil and gas supplies, it’s only “potential enemy” number two in terms of the big powers. Washington feels more threatened by Beijing. This is largely because of China’s size, rapid development, fairly successful state-guided capitalist economy directed by the Communist Party, and the fact that it is on the road to becoming the world’s economic leader, surpassing the US in 20 to 40 years.

It seems fairly obvious, but hardly mentioned publicly, that this is an extremely dangerous situation. China does not seek to dominate the world, nor will it allow itself to be dominated. Beijing supports the concept of a multipolar world order, with a number of countries and blocs playing roles. At issue, perhaps, is who will be first among equals.

Washington prefers the situation that has existed these 20 years after the implosion of the Soviet Union and much of the socialist world left the United States as the remaining military superpower and boss of the expanded capitalist bloc. During this time Washington has functioned as the unipolar world hegemon and doesn’t want to relinquish the title.

This is all changing now as other countries rise, led by China, and the US appears to be in gradual decline. How the transition to multi-polarity is handled over the next couple of decades may determine whether or not a disastrous war will be avoided.

Jack A Smith is editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter in New York State and the former editor of the Guardian Newsweekly (US). He may be reached at jacdon@earthlink.net

America Owned by Its Army November 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Monday, November 9, 2009 by CommonDreams.orgby William Pfaff

It is possible that the creation of an all-professional American army was the most dangerous decision ever taken by Congress. The nation now confronts a political crisis in which the issue has become an undeclared contest between Pentagon power and that of a newly elected president.

Barack Obama has yet to declare his decision on the war in Afghanistan, and there is every reason to think that he will follow military opinion. Yet he is under immense pressure from his Republican opponents to, in effect, renounce his presidential power, and step aside from the fundamental strategic decisions of the nation.

The officer he named to command the war in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, demands a reinforcement of forty thousand soldiers, raising the total US commitment to over 100 thousand troops (or more, in the future). He says that he cannot succeed without them, and even then may be unable to win the war within a decade. Yet the American public is generally in doubt about this war, most of all the president’s own liberal electorate.

President Obama almost certainly will do as the the general requests, or something very close to it. He can read the wartime politics in this situation.

The Vietnam war was opposed by the public by the 1970s, when according to the Pentagon Papers, the government itself knew that victory was unlikely. Today the public doubts victory in the war in Afghanistan. However the version of Vietnam history most Americans (who were not there!) read today says there really was no defeat at all.

It is argued that there was only a collapse of civilian support for the war, caused by the liberal press, producing popular disaffection both at home and inside the conscript army, with a breakdown of military discipline, “fraggings” (murders) of aggressive combat leaders, and demoralization in the ranks. This is the version most military officers believe today.

It is an American version of the “stab in the back” myth believed in German military and right-wing political circles after the first world war.

In the US case, the Vietnam defeat was painfully clear at the time, and few believed that either the US Congress or the Nixon Administration (which signed the peace agreement with North Vietnam) were parties to any betrayal of the United States.

Today the revised interpretation of the Vietnam war, claiming that it actually was a lost victory, has become an important issue because most Pentagon leaders are committed to the “Long War” against “Muslim terrorism.” An Obama administration order to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq (or Pakistan) would be attacked by many in Congress and the media, and by implicitly insubordinate elements in the military community, as “surrender” by an Obama government lacking patriotism and unfit to govern.

Conservative politicians are convinced that any policy not set on total victory for the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan – and in coming months, perhaps in Somalia, Yemen, or possibly in Palestine, or sub-Saharan Africa, (or even in an Iran determined to pursue its nuclear ambitions) – would mean American humiliation and defeat.

After Vietnam, Congress ended conscription (which in that war had become heavily corrupt: the poor and working classes were drafted, while many of the privileged had influential families and found complacent doctors or college deans willing to hand over unjustified draft exemptions to those – like the future Vice President Richard Cheney – who had “other priorities” than patriotism and national service.

Congress created a new all-volunteer army. The sociology of the new army was very different from the old citizens’ army. The new one was also composed of people who wanted to be soldiers, or wanted the college education that an enlistment could earn you, or often were high-school graduates who didn’t have much in the way of other career choices, but since 9/11, and the Iraq invasion, the new army has increasingly relied on immigrants or other young foreigners who can earn permanent US residence by way of a US Army enlistment. The US also increasingly has relied on foreign mercenaries hired by private companies.

Its professional character is fundamentally different from the old army. In the old army, career West Point officers were during wartime largely outnumbered by war-service-only officers, the graduates of Officer Candidate schools or Reserve Officers trained in universities (where much of the cost of higher education could be earned in exchange for a fixed term of duty afterwards as a junior commissioned officer).

Thus the US army from the start of the Second World War to the end of Vietnam was effectively a democratic army, with civilian conscripts, and the majority of its non-commissioned and commissioned officers peacetime civilians, with solid commitments to civilian society, often with families at home – doing their temporary (or “for the war’s duration”) patriotic duty.

Professional armies have often been considered a threat to their own societies. It was one of Frederick the Great’s own officers who described Prussia “as an army with a state, in which it was temporarily quartered, so to speak”. The French revolutionary statesman Mirabeau said that “war is Prussia’s national industry”. Considering the portion of the US national budget that is now consumed by the Pentagon, much the same could be said of the United States.

The new army also has political ambitions. It now dominates US foreign relations with a thousand bases worldwide and regional commanders like imperial proconsuls. Both General McChrystal and his superior, General David H Petraeus, have been mentioned as future presidential candidates. The last general who became American president was Dwight Eisenhower. He is the one who warned Americans against “the military-industrial complex”.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services International

William Pfaff is the author of eight books on American foreign policy, international relations, and contemporary history, including books on utopian thought, romanticism and violence, nationalism, and the impact of the West on the non-Western world. His newspaper column, featured in The International Herald Tribune for more than a quarter-century, and his globally syndicated articles, have given him the widest international influence of any American commentator.

The Day of the Dead May 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Monday 25 May 2009, www.truthout.org

by: Cindy Sheehan, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

I was on an airplane flying to Orange County from Sacramento to attend the al-Awda Conference, which is a Palestinian Right’s Conference (al-Awda translates to “The Returning”), when the pilot’s voice filled the cabin to make an announcement that I think went unnoticed by most of my fellow passengers, but I heard it.

    As the plane was on the approach to John Wayne airport, the Captain came on the intercom to remind us all to “remember our brave troops who have died for our freedom.” Even in this post 9-11 paranoid paradigm, if I wasn’t belted in for landing, I would have popped out of my seat at 13D and charged up to the cockpit to let the pilot know that my son was killed in Iraq and not one person anywhere in this world is one iota more free because he is dead.

    As a matter of fact, the people of Iraq, the foreign country thousands of miles away where my oldest child’s brains, blood and life seeped into the soil, are not freer, unless one counts being liberated from life, liberty and property being free. If you consider torture and indefinite detention freedom, then the pilot may have been right, but then again, even if you do consider those crimes freedom, it does not make it so.

    Here in America we are definitely not freer because my son died, as a matter of fact, our nation can spy on us and our communications without a warrant or just cause, and we can’t even bring a 3.6 ounce bottle of hand cream into an airport, or walk through a metal detector with our shoes on. Even if we do want to exercise our Bill of Rights, we are shoved into pre-designated “free speech” zones (NewSpeak for; STFU, unless you are well out of the way of what you want to protest and shoved into pens like cattle being led to slaughter), and oftentimes brutally treated if we decide we are entitled to “free speech” on every inch of American soil.

    If you watch any one of the cable news networks this weekend between doing holiday weekend things, you will be subjected to images of row upon row of white headstones of dead US military lined up in perfect formation in the afterlife as they were in life. Patriotic music will swell and we will be reminded in script font to “Remember our heroes,” or some such BS as that.

    Before Casey was killed, a message like that would barely register in my consciousness as I rushed around preparing for Casey’s birthday bar-be-que that became a family tradition since he was born on Memorial Day in 1979. If I had a vision of how Memorial Day and Casey’s birthday would change for my family, I would have fled these violent shores to protect what was mine, not this murderous country’s. Be my guest; look at those headstones with pride or indifference. I look at them now with horror, regret, pain and a longing for justice.

    I can guarantee what you won’t see this holiday weekend are images of the over one million Iraqi dead. Say we assign, in an arbitrary way for purely illustrative purposes, an average height of five feet for every person killed in Iraq and then line those people up from head to toe. That gruesome line would stretch from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon… 950 driving miles up Interstate 5. If we count the Iraqis who have been forced to flee, we would have to go back and forth between Los Angeles and Portland another four times.

    There are obscene amounts of people who have been slaughtered for the US Profit Driven Military Empire who do not count here in America on any day. People in Vietnam are still dying from the toxins dumped on their country by the US, not to mention the millions who died during that war. Let the carnage escalate in Afghanistan while we protect our personal images by turning a blind eye to Obama’s war crimes. Are you going to feel a lump of pride in your bosom when the coffins start to be photographed at Dover for this imperial crime of aggression? Will you look at those flag-draped boxes of the lifeless body of some mother’s child and think: “Now, I am free.” Is it better to be dead when Obama is president?

    A tough, but real, aspect of this all to consider is, how many of the soldiers buried in coffins in military cemeteries killed or tortured innocent people as paid goons for the Empire? To me, it is deeply and profoundly sad on so many levels. If I have any consolation through all of this, I learned that my son bravely refused to go on the mission that killed him, but he was literally dragged into the vehicle and was dead minutes later – before he was forced to do something that was against his nature and nurture.

    Casey will always be my hero, but he was a victim of US Imperialism and his death should bring shame, not pride, as it did not bring freedom to anyone. I will, of course, mourn his senseless death on Memorial Day as I do every day.

    However, we do not need another day here in America to glorify war that enables the Military Industrial Complex to commit its crimes under the black cloak of “Patriotism.”

    From Palestine to Africa to South America, our quest for global economic domination kills, sickens, maims or oppresses people on a daily basis, and about 25,000 children per day die of starvation. I am not okay with these facts and I am not proud of my country.

    I will spend my reflective time on Memorial Day to mourn not only the deaths of so many people all over the world due to war, but mourn the fact that they are the unseen and uncared for victims of US Empire.

»


Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Bush’s war of terror on 04/04/04. She is the co-founder and president of Gold Star Families for Peace and the Camp Casey Peace Institute. She is the author of three books; the most recent is “Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey Through Heartache to Activism.” Following an unsuccessful challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sheehan launched a radio show on 960AM in the San Fransisco Bay Area that can also be heard on Soapbox.com.

Buying Brand Obama May 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Health, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Pakistan, Torture, War.
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by Chris Hedges

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His administration has spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to reinflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis. Brand Obama has allocated nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next 15 to 20 years. Brand Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, including the use of drones sent on cross-border bombing runs into Pakistan that have doubled the number of civilians killed over the past three months. Brand Obama has refused to ease restrictions so workers can organize and will not consider single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. And Brand Obama will not prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes, including the use of torture, and has refused to dismantle Bush’s secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus. 

Brand Obama offers us an image that appears radically individualistic and new. It inoculates us from seeing that the old engines of corporate power and the vast military-industrial complex continue to plunder the country. Corporations, which control our politics, no longer produce products that are essentially different, but brands that are different. Brand Obama does not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand George W. Bush. The Bush brand collapsed. We became immune to its studied folksiness. We saw through its artifice. This is a common deflation in the world of advertising. So we have been given a new Obama brand with an exciting and faintly erotic appeal. Benetton and Calvin Klein were the precursors to the Obama brand, using ads to associate themselves with risqué art and progressive politics. It gave their products an edge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand with an experience. 

“The abandonment of the radical economic foundations of the women’s and civil-rights movements by the conflation of causes that came to be called political correctness successfully trained a generation of activists in the politics of image, not action,” Naomi Klein wrote in “No Logo.”

Obama, who has become a global celebrity, was molded easily into a brand. He had almost no experience, other than two years in the Senate, lacked any moral core and could be painted as all things to all people. His brief Senate voting record was a miserable surrender to corporate interests. He was happy to promote nuclear power as “green” energy. He voted to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He reauthorized the Patriot Act. He would not back a bill designed to cap predatory credit card interest rates. He opposed a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law of 1872. He refused to support the single-payer health care bill HR676, sponsored by Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers. He supported the death penalty. And he backed a class-action “reform” bill that was part of a large lobbying effort by financial firms. The law, known as the Class Action Fairness Act, would effectively shut down state courts as a venue to hear most class-action lawsuits and deny redress in many of the courts where these cases have a chance of defying powerful corporate challenges. 

While Gaza was being bombarded and hit with airstrikes in the weeks before Obama took office, “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel,” according to Seymour Hersh. Even his one vaunted anti-war speech as a state senator, perhaps his single real act of defiance, was swiftly reversed. He told the Chicago Tribune on July 27, 2004, that “there’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute.” And unlike anti-war stalwarts like Kucinich, who gave hundreds of speeches against the war, Obama then dutifully stood silent until the Iraq war became unpopular.

Obama’s campaign won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference in October. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertiser wants because of how they can make you feel. 

Celebrity culture has leeched into every aspect of our culture, including politics, to bequeath to us what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. Junk politics personalizes and moralizes issues rather than clarifying them. “It’s impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America’s optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain language and gesture,” DeMott noted. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes – “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.” It redefines traditional values, tilting “courage toward braggadocio, sympathy toward mawkishness, humility toward self-disrespect, identification with ordinary citizens toward distrust of brains.” Junk politics “miniaturizes large, complex problems at home while maximizing threats from abroad. It’s also given to abrupt unexplained reversals of its own public stances, often spectacularly bloating problems previously miniaturized.” And finally, it “seeks at every turn to obliterate voters’ consciousness of socioeconomic and other differences in their midst.” 

An image-based culture, one dominated by junk politics, communicates through narratives, pictures and carefully orchestrated spectacle and manufactured pseudo-drama. Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, earthquakes, untimely deaths, lethal new viruses, train wrecks-these events play well on computer screens and television. International diplomacy, labor union negotiations and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting personal narratives or stimulating images. A governor who patronizes call girls becomes a huge news story. A politician who proposes serious regulatory reform, universal health care or advocates curbing wasteful spending is boring. Kings, queens and emperors once used their court conspiracies to divert their subjects. Today cinematic, political and journalistic celebrities distract us with their personal foibles and scandals. They create our public mythology. Acting, politics and sports have become, as they were during the reign of Nero, interchangeable. 

In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion. We ask to be indulged and comforted by clichés, stereotypes and inspirational messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities, and that our future will always be glorious and prosperous, either because of our own attributes, or our national character, or because we are blessed by God. Reality is not accepted as an impediment to our desires. Reality does not make us feel good. 

In his book “Public Opinion,” Walter Lippmann distinguished between “the world outside and the pictures in our heads.” He defined a “stereotype” as an oversimplified pattern that helps us find meaning in the world. Lippmann cited examples of the crude “stereotypes we carry about in our heads” of whole groups of people such as “Germans,” “South Europeans,” “Negroes,” “Harvard men,” “agitators” and others. These stereotypes, Lippmann noted, give a reassuring and false consistency to the chaos of existence. They offer easily grasped explanations of reality and are closer to propaganda because they simplify rather than complicate.

Pseudo-events-dramatic productions orchestrated by publicists, political machines, television, Hollywood or advertisers-however, are very different. They have, as Daniel Boorstin wrote in “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,” the capacity to appear real even though we know they are staged. They are capable, because they can evoke a powerful emotional response, of overwhelming reality and replacing reality with a fictional narrative that often becomes accepted truth. The unmasking of a stereotype damages and often destroys its credibility. But pseudo-events, whether they show the president in an auto plant or a soup kitchen or addressing troops in Iraq, are immune to this deflation. The exposure of the elaborate mechanisms behind the pseudo-event only adds to its fascination and its power. This is the basis of the convoluted television reporting on how effectively political campaigns and politicians have been stage-managed. Reporters, especially those on television, no longer ask if the message is true but if the pseudo-event worked or did not work as political theater. Pseudo-events are judged on how effectively we have been manipulated by illusion. Those events that appear real are relished and lauded. Those that fail to create a believable illusion are deemed failures. Truth is irrelevant. Those who succeed in politics, as in most of the culture, are those who create the brands and pseudo-events that offer the most convincing fantasies. And this is the art Obama has mastered.

A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used to bolster illusion and give it credibility or are discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes-the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment skyrocket-the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe. This is the real danger of pseudo-events and why pseudo-events are far more pernicious than stereotypes. They do not explain reality, as stereotypes attempt to, but replace reality. Pseudo-events redefine reality by the parameters set by their creators. These creators, who make massive profits peddling these illusions, have a vested interest in maintaining the power structures they control. 

The old production-oriented culture demanded what the historian Warren Susman termed character. The new consumption-oriented culture demands what he called personality. The shift in values is a shift from a fixed morality to the artifice of presentation. The old cultural values of thrift and moderation honored hard work, integrity and courage. The consumption-oriented culture honors charm, fascination and likability. “The social role demanded of all in the new culture of personality was that of a performer,” Susman wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”

The junk politics practiced by Obama is a consumer fraud. It is about performance. It is about lies. It is about keeping us in a perpetual state of childishness. But the longer we live in illusion, the worse reality will be when it finally shatters our fantasies. Those who do not understand what is happening around them and who are overwhelmed by a brutal reality they did not expect or foresee search desperately for saviors. They beg demagogues to come to their rescue. This is the ultimate danger of the Obama Brand. It effectively masks the wanton internal destruction and theft being carried out by our corporate state. These corporations, once they have stolen trillions in taxpayer wealth, will leave tens of millions of Americans bereft, bewildered and yearning for even more potent and deadly illusions, ones that could swiftly snuff out what is left of our diminished open society.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, will be out in July, but is available for pre-order.

Barack Obama, Iraq and the Big Lie March 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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By Roger Hollander, March 1, 2009, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com

 

“Don’t piss on me and try to tell me it’s raining”

Judge Judy

 

Does it matter whether it is a moral and intellectual imbecile like George W. Bush or a brilliant and charismatic intellectual like Barack Obama who employ the Big Lie as a tactic to explain and justify the unjustifiable?

In a posting that appeared in towardfreedom.com on February 18, Joel S. Hirschhorn writes, “Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep … mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.”

(http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1529/1/) (italics added)

 

In an ironic and tragic twist of fate, it now appears that Barack Obama’s mesmerizing and melodic rhetoric has turned out to be a two-edged sword.  The same magic timbre that inspired and motivated millions of America to work day and night for his election in order to end America’s disastrous military adventures in the Middle East is now being put to use to give credibility to the Bush/Cheney worldview of the Iraq War and to thwart the desires, interests and welfare of those very same millions.  The delivery hasn’t changed, but God help us, look at the content (which is what this article is all about).

 

In an article entitled “War Is Over (IF You Want It)” that appears in the current edition of The Nation magazine (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/alterman), Eric Alterman calls attention to the radical Republican right strategy of defining the fiasco in Iraq as a “victory.”  He cites, for example, an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that quotes Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen, “As Mr. Bush leaves office, Iraq is a unified and free country, and our enemies there have suffered a devastating defeat. If his successor does not squander that victory, a free Iraq will one day be to the Middle East what a free South Korea has been to Asia.”  (this parallels the same kind of Big Lie that the radical right has propagated about the Vietnam War, that it could have been won if only the politicians had given the military a free hand – to nuke Hanoi presumably).

 

Alterman goes on to cite other neocons in a similar vein and suggests that this is a conscious and concentrated strategy the purpose of which is to set up President Obama up for failure.  If that is indeed the case, then Obama seems to be willingly and blithely walking into the trap.

 

In his speech given on Friday, February 27 at marine Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, Obama both affirms the neocon revisionist history of the Iraq invasion and occupation and lies blatantly to the American public about the proposed withdrawal.

 

First the latter.  Obama: “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end …. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”

A bald faced lie.

Writing in the journal Foreign Policy in Focus on Friday, February 27, (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5910), Phyllis Bennis exposes Obama’s dissimulation about the up to 50,000 allegedly non-combatant troops “left behind.”  Leaving aside the question of why that huge number would be required to “train,equip and advise” (one is reminded of the “advisors” in Vietnam), which even Nancy Pelosi has questioned, Bennis refers to a December New York Times article “describing how military planners believe Obama’s goal of pulling out combat troops ‘could be accomplished at least in part by re-labeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be ‘re-missioned,’ their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis.’”  She adds, “That would mean a retreat to the lies and deception that characterized this war during Bush years — something President Obama promised to leave behind. It would also mean military resistance in Iraq would continue, leading to more Iraqi and U.S. casualties.”

Along with AlterNet’s Jeremy Scahill (“All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast; Why Obama’s Iraq Speech Deserves a Second Look,” (http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/129362/all_troops_out_by_2011_not_so_fast%3B_why_obama%27s_iraq_speech_deserves_a_second_look/), Bettis shows how the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was adopted by the Iraqi government but never ratified by the United States, and which calls for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, is full of loopholes that the Pentagon and presumably the President are ready, willing and able, to employ when the time comes for the helicopters to be evacuating the remaining troops a la Vietnam (in other words, it ain’t gonna happen).

Obama himself (inadvertently, I presume) lets it slip into the speech where he states that he will “retain a transitional force … conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions.”   Such missions can hardly be characterized as anything other than combat missions.  He also telegraphs to both the American people via his warning to the Iraq resistance what his ace-in-the-loophole will be: “But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.”  It’s that flexibility that we knee-jerk peace-mongers worry about.

Sins of omission can be as deceptive, disingenuous and morally corrupt as sins of commission.  As Bettis points out, Obama neglected to mention the future use of air and naval force in Iraq, the disposition of the more than fifty military bases in Iraq, or the future status of the enormous numbers of mercenaries and contractors (e.g. Dyncorp, Bechtel,  and Blackwater, now Xe).  Nor did refer to the city within a city that is the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the history of humankind of which you can bet that it wasn’t built to become redundant in a period of a couple of years. Come December 31, 2111, all logic and experience tell us that United States military presence in Iraq will continue to be substantial.  Obama does himself and the nation a disservice by suggesting otherwise.

As for the Bush, Cheney, neocon, and now apparently Obama fairytale version of the United States involvement in Iraq, it is probably true that it is the only one that would have been palatable for obvious reasons to the marines at Camp Lejeune, not to mention the neo-Fascist right that has ruled the country for the past eight years.  But to speak before the country and the entire world and characterize the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold misery for millions and the virtual destruction of the Iraq infrastructure, as some kind of a noble venture is to contort reality into nothing less than a Big Lie which can only serve to justify past atrocity and foreshadow future ongoing bloodshed and destruction.

Obama: “We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.”  Bush could not have said it any better (which is probably why McCain is salivating as we speak).

The Biggest Lie of all comes toward the end of Obama’s speech: “And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime …We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government …And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life …”

Alleging that “we sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime” contains the truth within a lie.  In making the statement, Obama incredibly admits that the United States government violated the most fundamental precept of the United Nations Charter and international law, to wit, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.  But does the President expect the American people and the world to forget about the intentionally false information about nuclear materials and weapons of mass destruction that was fed to the American people and world community as the justification for the invasion in the first place?  In this instance Obama’s Big lie serves to reinforce the Original Big Lie of the Bush administration.  The growing demand for prosecutorial accountability with respect to Bush and Company include, we should remember, not only torture, rendition, illegal wiretapping, etc. but also the crime of lying to the American public and Congress about the grounds for the invasion.

(To put matters into an even broader historical context, I refer readers to Nora Eisenberg’s excellent piece in AlterNet.com where she documents the Big Lie technique that was used to justify the first Gulf War in 1991 where according to a United Nations report the United States Air Force bombed Iraq “back into the Dark Ages.”  “Obama to Announce Iraq Troop Withdrawal,”

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/128916/why_the_dark_secrets_of_the_first_gulf_war_are_still_haunting_us/)

As for establishing a sovereign government and leaving the Iraqi people the opportunity to have a better life, while the jury may still be out on those counts, the evidence we have to date flies in the face of such empty rhetorical wishful thinking.

Some time ago Bush and the neocons began, ominously, comparing Iraq with South Korea, where the U.S. has had a “successful” military presence for over 50 years.  They neglect, of course, to note the difference, to wit, that South Korea was a military ally of the United States against the North Korean invasion, whereas the U.S. has been bombing the life out of Iraq since 1991 and through its unlawful invasion provoked a near civil war within the country that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?  Will this South Korea paradigm fiction be the next straw that Obama will need to grasp in order to justify occupation in perpetuity? 

There are two other critical concepts, which are central to the forces that were behind the original invasion and which impulse the continued military occupation, that Obama neglected to mention.  One of them is “war profiteering.”  Wipe out the infrastructure, and then as a pretext for reconstructing it, give billions in untendered contracts to the likes of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton.  And that is not to mention the corporate ghouls who manufacture our weapons of mass destruction.

The other concept, however, is one that virtually every American, not to mention the rest of the world, knows in her or his heart to have been, is, and will continue to be the single most – if not the only – motivating force behind the U.S. military adventure in Iraq.  It can be found in the original but quickly discarded acronym for the mission: Operation  Iraqi  Liberation.

Further Deconstruction of President Obama’s February 27 “Withdrawal from Iraq” Speech

Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against tyranny …”

Deconstruction: Those soldiers who have fought tyranny are living in Canada.

Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against … disorder.”

Deconstruction: Disorder created not only by the current invasion and occupation but also by 19 years of U.S. bombing and economic blockade.  Eisenberg: “We never learned that the government’s goals had changed from expelling Saddam’s forces from Kuwait to destroying Iraq’s infrastructure. Or what a country with a destroyed infrastructure looks like — with most of its electricity, telecommunications, sewage system, dams, railroads and bridges blown away.”

Obama: “Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.”

Deconstruction: Sectarian killing and violence that the U.S. invasion and occupation provoked and by which Saddam Hussein’s atrocities pale in comparison.  U.S. inspired violence and killing 2003-2006 conveniently ignored.

Obama: “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces …”

Deconstruction: And has been handed a recruiting opportunity that will dramatically inflate the ranks of revenge-motivated terrorists who will plague us for decades or more.

Obama: “… a transition to full Iraqi responsibility … an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant … The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources.”

Deconstruction: An Iraq that is occupied by the U.S. military in perpetuity, in order to ensure the protection of U.S. interests in the region’s natural resources and to ensure the “election” of government’s that maintain Iraq as a client state of the U.S.

Obama: “There are those … who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing.”

Deconstruction: We don’t insist on more killing we just do it.  Bennis: “And what if the reduction in ground troops is answered with an escalation of U.S. air power? The U.S. appears to be planning to control the skies over Iraq for years to come. That means even more Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military. We need the withdraw all air and naval forces too — something the SOFA agreement mentions, but we have yet to hear anything from the Obama administration. The U.S. has been conducting continuous overflights and regular bombing of Iraq since January 1991 – isn’t 18 years of air war enough?”

Obama: “And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary …”

Deconstruction: Necessary to what and to whose ends?

Obama: “What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals.”

Deconstruction: Forget such wishy-washy idealist notions such as actual peace and justice.

Obama: (with respect to) “millions of displaced Iraqis … America has … a moral responsibility – to act.”

Deconstruction: This is another Obama slip up: America has no “moral responsibility” to help those refugees.  It was Saddam who made us create all those refugees.  Right?  We do it out of the goodness of our gas-guzzling hearts.

Obama: “… the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar.”

Deconstruction: Obama gives us jingoistic triumphalistic patriotism, when the American people hunger for a truthful acknowledgement of the past crimes.

One has to ask the question why the entire sub-text, not to mention the practical implications, of Obama’s speech was addressed directly to the radical Republican right, corporate America, and the military-industrial complex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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