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What The Government Shutdown Teaches Us About the Afghanistan War October 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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An Iraq war veteran’s perspective

By Mike Prysner, VFP Board Member and former U.S. Army corporal and Iraq war veteran.

Let’s look at this debate and the shutdown for what it really is, and what the attitudes about the politicians involved teach us about their management of our lives.

For veterans and service members, the government shut down means the closing down of many essential services. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits, which are critical to so many vets being able to pay their bills. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will be unable to hold hearings, extending our already outrageous wait period even longer.

If the shutdown continues, the 3.6 million veterans who receive disability and compensation payments for wounds in service—many of whom completely rely on these paychecks to eat—will not be paid. “Thank you for your service”?

The Republicans, on their quest to attack all social programs, civil rights and social rights, are mad that 50 million people will have access to healthcare who didn’t before. This is their opportunity to rally their base against “big government” to pad their pockets from lobbyist friends and boost their anti-worker election strategy.

The Democratic Party is cool with the shutdown. Instead of fighting the right-wing assault that will affect millions, they’re excited to use this towards their election strategy, too, with new ammunition to paint the Republicans as causing hardship for the “middle class”—so they’re happy to wait it out. No rush for them.

So these Congressmen, who are mostly millionaires and work only around 135 days out of the year, playing a political chess game and in their rich-guy spat consider our lives fair game to throw on the table. Our lives and the lives of our families are expendable, to enrich the lives and careers of these rich politicians.

These same politicians gush endlessly over loving the troops and veterans, especially when it comes to justifying multi-billion-dollar contracts to defense corporations—like the recent 1.2 billion (yes, billion) dollar deal to buy 48 missiles for the United Arab Emirates. Seems like our tax money well spent, if you’re a Lockheed Martin CEO or a prince in the UAE. (NPR, Sept. 23, 2013)

At home and abroad, their careers more important than our lives

U.S. troops are now dying and loosing
limbs patrolling areas the generals and
politicians knowwe will abandon.

Now the let’s look at how the politicians take this same attitude in the government shutdown to the war in Afghanistan. We’re about to mark its 12th year anniversary. The vast majority of Americans oppose it. But Congress has no qualms about approving funds to keep that war going endlessly.

Those same politicians know and acknowledge from their classified foreign policy briefings that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. Just take it from the general who commanded the war (and the CIA), David Petraeus, when he thought nobody was listening: “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. … This is the kind of fight we’re in for our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

They tell us we’re fighting and dying and killing to keep the Taliban from coming back to power. But that isn’t actually true. The U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban behind the scenes and begging them to join a national unity government (i.e., putting them in power).

But they also know and acknowledge that the Taliban, bolstered by a national, multi-dimensional resistance movement against the U.S./NATO occupation, don’t really care about the offers that include bowing to the U.S. military, because they’re committed to a long war and know, like the U.S. commanders, that they’ve created a no-win situation for the U.S. military effort.

The people of the United States do not support this ridiculous exercise and the politicians also know that the U.S. must withdraw from Afghanistan. But they don’t want to do it right away because none of them want to take responsibility for telling the truth and saying that the war is lost and that we need to leave immediately.

Neither the politicians nor the generals want to even suggest that they would tarnish the image of the U.S. military as the most invincible, powerful force ever known. They use that a lot, in their dealings with many other countries, as we know.

So they keep us there. They “end” the war in a “phased withdrawal” that lasts several years. That way they can maintain the myth that the U.S. is not retreating from the battlefield without “victory.” We die and get badly wounded just so they can save face. What makes this even more disgusting is that these politicians are mostly privileged millionaires who, except in the rarest case, never see their children go to war nor served themselves.

In the meantime, they get bought dinner at 5-star steakhouses with their defense contractor friends, going home to their families in big homes, with no worries about putting their rich-mans-club career in jeopardy. At that same time, we do something very different.

We kill the time losing legs on pointless patrols through fields we know will return to the hands of the people resisting in them; we spend the time getting blown apart by rockets in outposts we know will close down when it is politically convenient for those rich politicians.

While the generals and politicians order us to retreat in slow motion, to protect their image and the endless flow of cash to the defense industry, countless lives and limbs are sacrificed.

Like their current posturing match, they are also playing a political chess game in Afghanistan, in which our lives are expendable to suit theirs.

The government shutdown charade and the saving-face strategy in Afghanistan are both examples of how our “leaders” are incapable of managing our lives, and why we shouldn’t follow their ridiculous orders.

Click here to learn about the movement of veterans and service members advocating for the right to refuse to fight in Afghanistan.

Why The Canadian Right’s ‘Defence Lobby’ Wants Another War February 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, War.
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By Steven Staples

February 18, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – The generals have a big problem. The fighting in Afghanistan is over for Canada, and the thousands of recruits they armed, and the fleets of planes, helicopters and tanks they bought, have nowhere to go but home.

Since 9/11 the military budget has ballooned to its highest level since the Second World War, surpassing the height of the Cold War in adjusted dollars.

How much longer will Canadians be willing to keep picking up the military’s enormous tab with no war to fight or troops in harm’s way to support?

This might explain why celebrated war historian Jack Granatstein, a well-known supporter of the war in Afghanistan and military interests, used the pages of the Ottawa Citizen recently to berate what he described as “the pacifist left” for not supporting the Harper government’s military role in the war-torn West African country of Mali, the military’s newest mission.

Mr. Granatstein argued that “the Canadian Forces’ role has been a minor one.” The Harper government deployed one of our newest and largest transport planes to aid the French military fighting minority ethnic rebels and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Mali. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made clear that there will be no members of the CF in combat in Mali,” he added, and “Islamist terrorism is a threat to democracies everywhere.”

But it comes down to this: who can the public trust?

The fact is the public knows there is a group of people in Canada who benefit from war. It’s ugly, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Prime Minister Chrétien once referred to them as the “defence lobby”: the CEOs and their hired lobbyists, the associations of hawkish academics and retired military officers, even some members of the media. They all benefit when Canada goes to war, through either money, career advancement, or both.

In my 20 years as a defence analyst, I have come to know them well.

Many generals retire from the military to take up well-paid lobbying positions with large, mostly foreign, corporations seeking multi-billion-dollar contracts. Recently one such retired air force general was quoted by the Canadian Press, commenting on the need to replace Canada’s fighter planes. Sounds reasonable, but the reporter neglected to identify him as a registered lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-35 stealth fighter which was in line for the sole-sourced replacement contract.

It gets worse. Many reporters, including the one mentioned above, accept an annual journalism award and cash prize from the Conference of Defence Associations, a group of retired military officers whose funding has come from the Department of National Defence. Mr. Granatstein himself has received a similar award from the CDA. In an unusual twist, their half-million-dollar funding deal with National Defence was contingent on their spokespeople being quoted in the media a specified number of times.

Canadians are right to be wary. Conflicts have been used to justify military projects in the past. The Libya conflict was used by the government to justify their disastrous deal for the underperforming F-35 stealth fighter. The air force tried to use the Libya conflict to fast-track their plan to buy attack drones, the same kind the U.S. is using to carry out assassination missions and kill innocent civilians by the houseful.

Would another conflict like Mali, or the next crisis, provide the political momentum to the defence lobby to advance the military’s floundering weapons projects, and avoid the budget cuts that other departments are experiencing?

Sadly, Mali has many of the hallmarks of Afghanistan: a post–Cold War civil war where tribal and regional grievances are infused by Islamic extremists with their own agenda, both battling a corrupt and illegitimate Western-backed government whose own forces are marginally less abusive than those they are fighting.

Canada could either be engaged in helping the suffering people of Mali, or lured into another fiasco claiming soldiers’ lives, by those with a vested interest in another war. The stakes could not be higher.

Mr. Granatstein noted that both the NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae of the Liberals were supporting the government’s actions. “How fortunate that the Opposition parties had better sense in this instance than the Rideau Institute and Ceasefire.ca,” he wrote, naming two organizations I am intimately involved with.

If opposition parties are indeed supporting the Conservatives, then it seems to me that the “pacifist left” is needed now more than ever to inform the public about the choices this government is making, to end wasteful military spending, and to keep the defence lobby from luring Canada into another reckless war.

Steven Staples is the President of the Rideau Institute and co-founder of Ceasefire.ca, a network of 20,000 people who want Canada to be a peace leader.

This article was originally posted atRabble.ca

Companies Ejected From London Arms Fair for ‘Promoting Cluster Bombs’ September 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, War.
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Roger’s note: there is a half serious joke that goes like this: when the revolution succeeds, the capitalists will sell the revolutionaries the ropes by which they are going to be hanged.  In the insane world of free market corporate capitalism, otherwise known as Murder Incorporated, the merchants of death openly and proudly display their anti-human wares, and the blood-thirsty buyers come a running.  Oh, let’s here it for the Brits for banning cluster bombs.  Now only if we could get them and the Yankees and the rest of the world governments to ban atomic weapons, predator missiles, napalm, and … well,  all weaponry of war.  Be it by a nuclear holocaust or environmental disaster, one way or another corporate capitalism (via the military-industrial complex and their puppets who govern us) are out to destroy the very biosphere that sustains us. 
Published on Friday, September 16, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Violation of Oslo accord discovered by MP who calls for action to investigate ‘what other breaches are occurring’ at the fair

  by Nick Hopkins

The world’s largest arms fair has thrown out two exhibitors after they were found to be promoting cluster munitions that have been banned by the UK and condemned by more than 100 other countries.

Protesters against the Defence and Security Equipment International fair. Photograph: Pete Riches / Demotix/ Pete Riches / Demotix/Demotix/Corbis The organisers of the London exhibition said they had been unaware that the material was available and an investigation had been launched. But campaigners rounded on the Defense and Security Equipment International fair, saying it was “unbelievable” that more thorough checks had not been undertaken.

The action was taken after Caroline Lucas, the Green party leader, discovered that Pakistani arms manufacturers were actively promoting “banned cluster bombs” at their pavilions. Details of the munitions were in brochures readily available to potential customers.

A statement from DSEI confirmed that the two stands had been closed on Thursday evening. “(We) can confirm that the Pakistan Ordnance Factory stand and Pakistan’s Defense Export Promotion Organization pavilion have both been permanently shut down after promotional material was found … containing references to equipment, which after close examination, was found to breach UK government export controls and our own contractual requirements. [The] government fully supports the decision by DSEI to close the stand and the pavilion. We are currently investigating how this breach of our compliance system occurred.”

Three years ago, the UK joined other signatories to the Oslo accord, which specifically prohibits “all use, stockpiling, production and transfer” of cluster weapons; they are considered particularly lethal because they are designed to release dozens, sometimes hundreds of “bomblets” on their targets.

They have been widely condemned because they have killed and injured hundreds of civilians long after conflicts have ended. One third of all such casualties are thought to have been children.

The episode is an embarrassment to the fair, which has had 1,300 firms from more than 40 countries seeking orders for weapons. Earlier this week, the defense secretary Liam Fox gave a speech there, saying that “defense and security exports play a key role in promoting our foreign policy objectives”.

Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, has now written to Vince Cable, the business secretary, saying she remains “deeply concerned” at the level of scrutiny given to the companies who exhibit at DSEI, which has been running all week at the Excel center in London’s Docklands.

“I was able to find illegal advertising materials on the basis of one short visit to the exhibition with few resources at my disposal,” she said. “There’s no telling what other breaches are occurring and might be uncovered with further research.” It should not be left to MPs and campaigners to police illegal promotion of banned arms on British soil.

Lucas said there is an “inherent conflict between the government’s promotion of military exports and its stated desire to help protect human rights overseas.”

Oliver Sprague, of Amnesty International, said: “It is almost unbelievable. It’s not just cluster bombs, either. Earlier this week we found brochures (on different stands) which appear to show illegal torture equipment being advertised. It is quite amazing that it has taken a Green MP and Amnesty international to find things that are clearly illegal.”

Kaye Stearman of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, condemned the “laxness” that had allowed the companies to promote illegal equipment. “They should never have been allowed in,” she added.

A spokesman for DSEI said it had no further comment. The Pakistan Ordnance Factory could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week the Guardian reported that Pakistan was also advertising an “arms for peace” exhibition in Karachi next year as well as “gold-plated” submachine guns, “for collectors”.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

Traitors (How Congress Profits from War) May 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, War.
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‘When you’re the world’s sole superpower, and you’ve been bogged down for eight years by pismire adversaries who don’t have an air force or a navy or an army or even a defense budget, you’re not fighting a “war on terror”, you’re getting fleeced by Congress and crooked private contractors who are opposed to any “exit strategy”‘.

By Christopher Rice
(about the author)// March 27, 2011

opednews.com

In his opening statement, Gates (before Congress on March 2nd 2011) fervently appealed for funds requested by Gen. David
Petraeus for equipment to protect troops in Afghanistan. The money has been held up because it would be taken from a
project benefiting a major contributor to the committee chairman, Bill Young, R-Fa.
“Mr. Chairman, our troops need this force-protection equipment, and they need it now,” Gates pleaded. “Every day that goes
by without this equipment, the lives of our troops are at greater risk.”
He urged action “today” on the funds, admonishing: “We should not put American lives at risk to protect specific programs
or contractors.”
Gates warned that the military would “face a crisis” if Congress continues to fund the government with short-term spending
resolutions, or if it enacts the spending bill recently passed by House Republicans. (L.A. Times 3/6/2011) Gates said it
would leave the military unable “to properly carry out its mission, maintain readiness and prepare for the future.”
But the members of Congress could not function at such a high level of thought.
Gates couldn’t get the lawmakers to agree to his urgent request to shift $1.2 billion in Pentagon funds to protect soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan. He asked for the money a month before, but Young’s committee hadn’t acted.
Because Young objects to the money being taken away from the Army’s Humvee program. Never mind that the Army has more
Humvees than it wants. They are manufactured by AM General – which happens to be Young’s third-largest campaign
contributor. Its executives have funneled him more than $80,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Gates told Young that his delay was putting lives at risk, but the gentlemen from AM General was unmoved.
WHY ARE WE STILL AT WAR? FOLLOW THE MONEY….
Republican and Democratic lawmakers invested $161.3 million in companies under contract with the DoD
When you’re the world’s sole superpower, and you’ve been bogged down for eight years by pismire adversaries who don’t have an air force or a navy or an army or even a defense budget, you’re not fighting a “war on terror”, you’re getting fleeced by Congress and crooked private contractors who are opposed to any “exit strategy”.
The State Department’s inspector general says bomb-sniffing dogs used in Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t being tested properly
and may not be able to detect explosives.
The inspector general said its review found that the companies hired to supply and train the dogs weren’t testing them for
the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance of a dog missing a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts
U.S. lives at risk. (The Sun 10/09/2010 AP)
The companies also used expired or contaminated materials for the scent tests.
Sources:
LA TIMES 3/6/2011 Dana Milbank “Congress earns low reputation”
The Sun 10/9/2010 AP “Bomb-sniffing dog tests fall short”

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.

Don’t Call It a “Defense” Budget February 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, War.
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Tuesday 02 February 2010

by: Norman Solomon, t r u t h o u t | Op-Edphoto
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Spc. Luke Thornberry / The U.S. Army, Paul Bridgewater)

This isn’t “defense.”

The new budget from the White House will push US military spending well above $2 billion a day.

Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.

“Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors,” The New York Times reported February 2.

It isn’t defense to preclude new domestic initiatives for a country that desperately needs them: for health care, jobs, green technologies, carbon reduction, housing, education, nutrition, mass transit …

“When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs must inevitably suffer,” Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out. “We can talk about guns and butter all we want to, but when the guns are there with all of its emphasis you don’t even get good oleo. These are facts of life.”

At least Lyndon Johnson had a “war on poverty.” For a while anyway, till his war on Vietnam destroyed it.

Since then, waving the white flag at widespread poverty – usually by leaving it unmentioned – has been a political fact of life in Washington.

Oratory can be nice, but budget numbers tell us where an administration is headed. In 2010, this one is marching up a steep military escalator, under the banner of “defense.”

Legitimate defense would cost a mere fraction of this budget.

By autumn, the Pentagon is scheduled to have a total of 100,000 uniformed US troops – and a comparable number of private contract employees – in Afghanistan, where the main beneficiaries are the recruiters for Afghan insurgent forces and the profiteers growing even richer under the wing of Karzai-government corruption.

After three decades of frequent carnage and extreme poverty in Afghanistan, a new influx of lethal violence is arriving via the Defense Department. That’s the cosmetically named agency in charge of sending US soldiers to endure and inflict unspeakable horrors.

New waves of veterans will return home to struggle with grievous physical and emotional injuries. Without a fundamental change in the nation’s direction, they’ll be trying to resume their lives in a society ravaged by budget priorities that treat huge military spending as sacrosanct.

“At $744 billion, the military budget – including military programs outside the Pentagon, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons management – is a budget of add-ons rather than choices,” said Miriam Pemberton at the Institute for Policy Studies. “And it makes the imbalance between spending on military vs. non-military security tools worse.”

Of course, the corporate profits for military contractors are humongous.

The Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, Jo Comerford, offered this context: “The Obama administration has handed us the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, not including the $160 billion in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The word “defense” is inherently self-justifying. But it begs the question: Just what is being defended?

For the United States, an epitaph on the horizon says: “We had to destroy our country in order to defend it.”

As new sequences of political horrors unfold, maybe it’s a bit too easy for writers and readers of the progressive blogosphere to remain within the politics of online denunciation. Cogent analysis and articulated outrage are necessary but insufficient. The unmet challenge is to organize widely, consistently and effectively – against the warfare state – on behalf of humanistic priorities.

In the process, let’s be clear. This is not a defense budget. This is a death budget.

The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation December 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by Facing South

by Sue Sturgis

President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to the nation tonight from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in which he’s expected to announce he’s sending up to 35,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

[In this photograph taken on July 2, US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, wait for helicopter transport at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Medics and air force pilots at the main US base in Afghanistan are gearing up for the grim reality of the new US war strategy -- a likely escalation in the number of casualties in an increasingly bloody battlefield. (AFP/File/Manpreet Romana)]In this photograph taken on July 2, US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, wait for helicopter transport at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Medics and air force pilots at the main US base in Afghanistan are gearing up for the grim reality of the new US war strategy — a likely escalation in the number of casualties in an increasingly bloody battlefield. (AFP/File/Manpreet Romana)

Anti-war groups are already planning protests against the escalation. United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 1,400 local and national groups, is holding numerous protest actions around the country today and tomorrow, as is the anti-war group Code Pink.Some are calling the president’s plan to ratchet up the war a betrayal of the Democratic base, which overwhelmingly opposes sending more troops. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Democrats want the president to begin reducing troop levels in Afghanistan.

But while the president may be showing disloyalty to his political base, he’s remaining faithful to the defense industry interests that so generously funded his campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org database, the top recipient of defense industry money in the 2008 election cycle was Barack Obama, whose haul of $1,029,997 far surpassed Republican contender Sen. John McCain’s $696,948.

During the 2008 cycle, the industry contributed a total of $23.7 million to federal candidates — far more than the $17.4 million it invested during the 2006 cycle or the $18.1 million in the 2004 cycle.

The top five defense industry contributors during the 2008 elections were Lockheed Martin at $2.5 million, Boeing at $2.1 million, Northrop Grumman at $1.8 million, and Raytheon and General Dynamics at $1.7 million each.

And it appears their investment may be paying off: The Associated Press reports that analyst Howard A. Rubel of the global investment bank Jefferies & Co. sent out a client note today stating that the fiscal 2010 Defense Department Budget will likely boost demand for precision munitions, communications gear, helicopters, armor and surveillance systems.

Among the companies whose stock Rubel rated as “Buy”? General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

© 2009 Institute for Southern Studies

Our War-Loving Foreign Policy Community Hasn’t Gone Anywhere September 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Published on Monday, September 21, 2009 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

Advocates of escalation in Afghanistan chose Bob Woodward to “reprise his role as warmonger hagiagropher” by publishing Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “confidential” memo to the President arguing for increased troops.  As Digby notes, the vague case for continuing to occupy that country is virtually identical to every instance where America’s war-loving Foreign Policy Community advocates the need for new and continued wars.  It’s nothing more than America’s standard, generic “war-is-necessary” rationale.  That is not at all surprising, given that, as Foreign Policy‘s Marc Lynch notes:

The “strategic review” brought together a dozen smart (mostly) think-tankers with little expertise in Afghanistan but a general track record of supporting calls for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy.  They set up shop in Afghanistan for a month working in close coordination with Gen. McChrystal, and emerged with a well-written, closely argued warning that the situation is dire and a call for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy. Shocking.

The link he provides is to this list of think tank “experts” who worked on McChrystal’s review, including the standard group of America’s war-justifying theorists:  the Kagans, a Brookings representative, Anthony Cordesman, someone from Rand, etc. etc.  What would a group of people like that ever recommend other than continued and escalated war?  It’s what they do.  You wind them up and they spout theories to justify war.  That’s the function of America’s Foreign Policy Community.  As one of their leading members — Leslie Gelb, President of the Council on Foreign Relations — recently wrote in re-examining the causes of his enthusiastic support for the attack on Iraq:

Coming from Gelb, of all people, that observation speaks volumes.  As I wrote in 2007:

The Foreign Policy Community — a term which excludes those in primarily academic positions — is not some apolitical pool of dispassionate experts examining objective evidence and engaging in academic debates. Rather, it is a highly ideological and politicized establishment, and its dominant bipartisan ideology is defined by extreme hawkishness, the casual use of military force as a foreign policy tool, the belief that war is justified not only in self-defense but for any “good result,” and most of all, the view that the U.S. is inherently good and therefore ought to rule the world through superior military force.

That “experts” from the “Foreign Policy Community” endorse more war is about as surprising — and as relevant — as former CIA Directors banding together to decide that they oppose the prosecution of CIA agents.  The only event that would be news is if a group of people drawn from that “community” ever did anything other than endorse more war [and in the few instances where one hears war hesitation from them, it’s always on strategic grounds (“we may not be able to achieve our mission”) and never on legal, moral or humanitarian grounds (“it’s really not morally or legally justified to slaughter enormous numbers of innocent human beings under these circumstances or bomb, invade and occupy a country that isn’t attacking us or even able to”).

* * * * *

We’re not even out of Iraq yet — not really close — and there is already an intense competition underway to determine where we should wage war next.  Escalation in Afghanistan is just one option on the menu.  Iran, of course, is the other (although Venezuela has replaced Syria as a nice dark horse contestant).  In October, 2008, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed from former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) and Dan Coats (R-In.) urging the next President “to begin building up military assets in the region from day one” towards “launching a devastating strike on Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructure.”  That October, 2008 Op-Ed was based on a new report they co-authored for the so-called (and aptly named) “Bipartisan Policy Center,” which I analyzed here.

Today, they have a new Post Op-Ed breathlessly warning that “we have little time left to expend on Iranian stalling tactics” because “Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon by 2010″ and therefore, if there is no quick diplomatic resolution, “in early 2010, the White House should elevate consideration of the military option.”  Today’s Op-Ed is based an updated report they issued which shrieks in its title that “Time is Running Out” (a phrase melodramatically super-imposed on the cover over an Iranian flag and an almost-expired hourglass).  The report itself repeatedly demands that the U.S. threaten Iran with severe military action, beginning with a naval blockade (the Report’s advocacy for that action begins by noting, with a dismissive yawn:  “Although technically an act of war . . . .” – “technically an act of war”:  whatever).

The arguments for attacking Iran are so similar to the ones used for Iraq that it’s striking how little effort they make to pretend it’s different (Iran will get nukes, give them to Terrorists, we’ll lose a city, etc.)  The Bipartisan Policy Center Report never takes note of the irony that it “justifies” a threat of attack against Iran by pointing to that country’s violations of U.N. Resolutions, even as Article 2 of the U.N. Charter explicitly provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” — a prohibition they demand the U.S. violate over and over.  As always, we’re exempt from everything.  Just imagine what our elite class would say if Iran’s leading newspapers routinely published articles from leaders of its two largest political parties explicitly advocating a detailed plan to attack, invade, blockade and bomb the U.S.

Also today in The Post, Fred Hiatt’s Deputy Editor, Jackson Diehl, argues that Israel’s so-called “success” in its attack on Gaza and the lack of bad outcomes from that attack may/should create the view that “even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit.”  When examining the costs and benefits, Diehl does not weigh or even mention the more than 700 civilians killed in Gaza (252 of them children, according to an Israeli human rights group), nor the fact that, according a U.N. Report, Israeli (and Hamas) engaged in war crimes so serious that they may constitute “crimes against humanity” warranting a war crimes tribunal.  When I interviewed one of the “expert consultants” on the Robb/Coats Attack-Iran report, Kenneth Katzman, he explicitly acknowledged that, when formulating its recommendations for attacking Iran,  the “Bipartisan Center” never considered the number of Iranian civilians we would slaughter (you remember Iranian civilians:  the ones whom Bomb-Iran cheerleaders recently pretended to care so much about).  “Number of civilian deaths” never enters the war-justifying equation because the people doing the weighing aren’t the ones who will will be killed.

* * * * *

It’s hard to overstate how aberrational — one might say “rogue” – the U.S. is when it comes to war.  No other country sits around debating, as a routine and permanent feature of its political discussions, whether we should bomb this country or that one next, or for how many more years we should occupy our conquered targets.  And none use war as a casual tool for advancing foreign policy interests, at least nowhere close to the way we do (the demand that Iran not possess nuclear weapons is clearly part of an overall, stated strategy of ensuring that other countries remain incapable of deterring us from attacking them whenever we want to).  Committing to a withdrawal from Iraq appears to be acceptable, but only as long as have our escalations and new wars lined up to replace it (and that’s to say nothing of the virtually invisible wars we’re fighting).  For the U.S., war is the opposite of a “last resort”:  it’s the more or less permanent state of affairs, and few people who matter want it to be any different.

Indeed, the factions that exert the most dominant influence on our foreign policy have only one principle:  ongoing wars are good (the public and private military industry embraces that because wars are what bestow purpose, power and profits, and the Foreign Policy Community does so because — as Gelb says — it bestows “political and professional credibility”).  In his 1790 Political Observation, James Madison warned:  “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded. . . . No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  Can anyone doubt that “continual warfare” is exactly what the U.S. does and, by all appearances, will continue to do for the foreseeable future (at least until we not only run out of money to pay for these wars — as we already have — but also the ability to finance these wars with more debt)?  Doesn’t turning ourselves into a permanent war-fighting state have some rather serious repercussions that ought to be weighed when deciding if that’s something we want to keep doing?

* * * * *

On an unrelated note: Tomorrow at roughly 10:30 a.m., I’ll be on NPR’s On Point with the ACORN-obsessed John Fund of The Wall St. Journal to talk about the ACORN “scandal.”  I have many things to say to/about John Fund (some based on this post); along those lines, note this amazing report that 25 of the GOP Senators who just voted to cut off funding to ACORN opposed, in 2006, legislation to curb abuse and fraud by federal contractors, including the ones eating up billions up billions of dollars in taxpayer funds in Iraq.   Local listings and live audio feed for On Point are here.

© 2009 Salon.com

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

The More Things Change… May 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in War, Women.
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  Cindy%20Sheehan

(Roger’s note: this article caught my attention for two reasons.  I have for some time been using the phrase “Plus ca change … you can believe in” to characterize the Obama presidency.  Further, I always stop to read anything under the byline of Cindy Sheehan, whom I consider to be one of the most courageous and patriotic of Americans.  It is clear that her son’s death has caused her unfathomable grief, but instead of internalizing and being paralyzed by that grief, it has become a springboard for her to work tirelessly to the end that other mothers do not have to suffer what she has.  In a sense she has politicized her grief into a no-holds-barred struggle to analyze, understand and combat the ugly, avaracious, parasitic and bloodthirsty government-led war machine that on a wholesale basis takes the lives of mothers’ sons on all sides of any conflict.  She has achieved political wisdom and sophistication, which she often expresses in the most simple yet profound way.  For instance: “I guess many people still believe to love one’s child who has been wrongfully killed in war, means one has to support that war and the lying American presidents? I didn’t buy it in 2004, and I buy it even less now.”).  She has been slandered and maligned but she keeps on keepin’ on, and she remains a hero in my book).

 

I think many of us know the origins of Mother’s Day were for Peace and a universal declaration that we mothers won’t send our children to die in wars or to kill the children of other mothers.

 

“Angelique and Child” by Edna Hibel 

 

Even though we have always been a genocidal, war-like culture, we have gone so far afield from the original meaning of Mother’s Day it’s ridiculous! Now it’s a day that’s a boon for Hallmark cards and long distance phone carriers. We American mothers are still sending our children off to die in Robber Class wars and to kill the children of other mothers.

 

For my part in being co-dependant with the Robber Class in its wars for imperial profit, I am “celebrating” my sixth Mother’s Day without my oldest child, Casey. No matter what the right-wing spin-doctors like to accuse me of: I do love my son and he loved me.

Just because I think the leaders of his country betrayed him and his good intentions, does not diminish our love. I guess many people still believe to love one’s child who has been wrongfully killed in war, means one has to support that war and the lying American presidents? I didn’t buy it in 2004, and I buy it even less now.

 

Because of my campaign for Congress, I have been operating in high drama-trauma mode for months now, but everything was put into perspective to me this week when my surviving son, Andy, fell very ill and was put into intensive care. He had an astronomically high fever and his liver and spleen were enlarged and the doctors were operating on the theory that he was ill with hepatitis or lymphoma. All of the previous stress became very minor compared to having an extremely sick child. For the first time since Casey was killed, I had a hard time getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other.

 

I am thrilled beyond belief to report that Andy (who is thankfully not one of the 50 million Americans without health insurance) is much better and has been moved out of intensive care to a regular room and looks like he is moving on the road to full recovery: the liver biopsy showed that there was no cancer or hepatitis and he probably has been suffering all week from a bacterial or viral infection.

Even though I don’t have Casey with me this Mother’s Day, I have my other son, two daughters and a wonderful grandson.

 

In spite of all of the challenges of my daily life, I am so blessed. I am beyond blessed when I think of all of the mothers in US-war torn countries that have lost far more than I have.

 

No matter what you personally think of our new president, the Robber Class wars for profit are continuing as bad or even worse than during the last regime and mothers are still losing their children all over the world by and for the empire.

 

Again, the Robber Class wars for profit will never end as long as we in the Robbed Class allow our children to participate.

Barack Obama’s South of the Border Adventure April 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Latin America.
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CB Trinidad Americas Summit Obama

 

By Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 22, 2009

 

It’s amazing what you can learn about a Gringo when you put him together with a bunch of Latinos.

 

Barack Obama, as the adored new president of the giant republic to the North, likely arrived at last weeks Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago expecting to strut his stuff.

 

The President would have been briefed on the question of the Cuban Blockade; the latest shenanigans of his putative hemispheric nemesis, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez; free trade issues, and the like.  But it is not likely that any of his advisors would have thought to advise him about the romantic and spontaneous nature of the Latino soul.

 

You have to have lived amongst Latin Americans (as I have for the past fifteen years) to understand how natural it was for Chávez to greet Obama with open arms (“Chávez Hates America” Republicans and the lapdog North American mainstream media equate disagreement with a government’s policy with dislike of its people; Latin Americans are generally astute enough to be aware there is a difference).  But what was really not only a stroke of genius but also totally in character was Chávez’s presenting Obama with a signed copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic masterpiece on U.S/Latin American relations, “The Open Veins of Latin America.” 

 

And how did Obama react?  According to his spokesperson, the president would probably not read the book because it was in Spanish.  Talk about a dud of a response.  And can you imagine Obama presenting Chávez with the North American counterpart to Galeano’s work, I’m referring to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States?”   I apologize if I’m wrong, but I would bet that President Obama is not even aware of the Zinn’s best seller alternative version of U.S. history, much less read it.  On the other hand, it would be hard to convince me that there is a president of a Latin American republic that is not familiar with Galeano.

 

Next up steps Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega whose speech includes a criticism of US imperialism throughout the 20th century.   In it he mentions the failed U.S. sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.  Obama’s response?  “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”  Ha, ha.  Very funny but quite beside the point.

 

But if there was ever a contrast between Latin American and North American leadership, it is exemplified in the person of Bolivia’s young, charismatic and dynamic President Evo Morales (But Obama is also young, charismatic and dynamic, you say?  True, but wait and see).  Morales, the first native president of a nation that is 60% Indigenous, would have arrived at the Summit a bit under the weather, having just come off a five day hunger strike, which he conducted on a mattress on the floor of the Presidential Palace.  Morales is a former coca farmer and labor leader, who in the tradition of Gandhi and California’s great farm worker leader, Cesar Chavez, is a strong believer in the efficacy of the hunger strike as a political strategy.  His longest previous hunger strike lasted 18 days (can you picture Bill Clinton going more than 48 hours without a Big Mac?).  The current fast was to protest tactics used by obstructionist Congressman that were preventing a vote on a measure that would increase Indigenous representation in Congress, and enable elections to go ahead in December in which Morales would be eligible to run for re-election (and where because of his immense popularity he is virtually a shoo-in).

 

Many if not most North Americans can understand direct action or civil disobedience on the part of a Martin Luther King, but from the President of the United States?  How undignified.  And to what end?  Well, here’s what Morales achieved: the obstructionists backed down, and the Congress approved the election law.  Why would they have done that?  Because Morales enjoys enormous popularity among the Bolivian electorate.  He went over the heads of the right wing congressmen and appealed directly to his people, and his adversaries saw that they had no choice but to back down.  Now can you imagine Barack Obama taking advantage of his enormous popularity to engage in such a heart-felt demonstration of his convictions in order to stand up say to the private health insurance industry and its bought-lock-stock-and-barrel representatives in Congress in order to achieve a single-payer universal healthcare plan (which he once supported but now is “off the table”)?  Can you imagine him conducting a sit-in in the Oval Office in order to face down the Pentagon and the merchants of death military contractors in order to rally the kind of popular pressure that would force approval for a substantial reduction in the gargantuan defense budget?  (Try channeling your inner John Lennon, and Imagine!)

 

So what was the interaction between Morales and Obama at the Summit?  First you must realize that for the past year or so, Morales has been the target of right wing terrorists, who have attempted to destabilize his government by brutally attacking his supporters and who have recently failed in an attempt on his life.  So Morales approached President Obama directly at the Summit – man-to-man, no bureaucratic intermediaries, no diplomatic niceties – and (according to Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, who attended the session) presented him with specific information about U.S. mercenaries who he said were operating in his country.  The President again came up with a non-response response that was as rote and as lame as his others. He stated that his administration ‘does not promote the overthrow of any democratically elected head of state nor support assassination of leaders of any country’ (which, if true, would be quite a radical departure from past U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America!).  Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, confirmed the account.  End of discussion.

 

 

So what is my point?  What I am trying to show is that there is a refreshing authenticity about some Latin American heads of state, who can be candid and direct on a person to person basis in a way that we seldom if ever see in North America.  U.S. presidents go in for photo-ops and prepared statements that more often than not occult hidden agendas.

 

The tragic irony here is that Obama’s speedy and dramatic rise to the presidency was largely due to his ability to convince the American people of his own authenticity.  He convinced us that we could believe in him.  It is said that a person who can dissemble while at the same time projecting unimpeachable sincerity has the recipe for wielding immense power.  And Barack has shown himself to be a first class dissembler.  He convinced the American people that his administration would be a “genuine change” from that of previous administrations while in a few short weeks in office he has forged ahead both with President Bush’s major domestic and foreign policies (continued giveaways to Wall Street and the corrupt banking and finance industries on the home front; military escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a disingenuous promise to leave Iraq which he knows the generals will not stand for, and blind uncritical support for Israeli militarism and apartheid in the area of foreign policy).

 

Barack Obama did not get to where he is today by taking principled stands on issues.  He cut his teeth in the corruption riddled cradle of Chicago ward politics, where winning and holding power is the only principle that matters.  His cynical choice of anti-gay bigot Rick Warren to give the Inauguration prayer and his support of the so-called Jewish Lobby and Israel’s war crimes in Gaza are only two of many examples of his going for the votes and principles be damned.

 

It is interesting to note that early on in his career Obama evidenced his ability to project an image as an agent of change while at the same time remaining snuggly in bed with the status quo.  This is what a colleague said of him when interviewed by the Toronto Star in 1990 in a story about Obama as the Harvard Law Review’s first Black editor:

 

“He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have,” said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. “His election was significant at the time, but now it’s meaningless because he’s becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).”

 

 

But I would add a caveat.  Few if any of the Latin American presidents at the Summit, (with the possible exception of Daniel Ortega, when he was the Sandinista guerrilla leader) have sent men and women into battle to kill and be killed.  They are not the heads of state of the world’s largest military power and self-appointed imperial policeman.  While on the other hand, from the moment that Obama’s hand slipped off the Bible on Inauguration Day, it was awash in blood (he is already responsible, for example, for more civilian deaths in Pakistan that result from U.S. unmanned drone missiles than was President Bush).

 

We should therefore not expect Barack Obama to be anything more than a slightly kinder, gentler enforcer of United States imperial mandates.  That is what he has spent his entire life preparing to do.  We need to realize that it is not “change we can believe in” that we should expect from him, but rather “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

 

Genuine winds of “change you can believe in” are in fact blowing throughout most of Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, but also to a lesser degree in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, El Salvador, Paraguay, Chile and Nicaragua.  It is a refreshing breeze, one that North Americans also hunger for but will soon realize that they have been duped once again.

 

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