Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, History, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, anti-war, civilian casualties, civilian deaths, drone missiles, I have a dream, inaugural address, martin luther king, mlk, nobel peace, norman solomon, obama inaugartion, obama nobel, peace, roger hollander, war
Roger’s note: Shortly after he received it, I started a petition demanding that Obama return his Nobel Peace Prize. Few were willing to sign. Well, let’s not be too hard on Obama. On this side of the revolution, no one will ever ascend to the American presidency who will not act as lap-dog to the military-industrial complex. The US president is not, as often advertised, the leader of the free world, but rather the leader of the rapacious and bloody US Empire. What is so pernicious about President Obama is his hypocritical pose as a democrat and man of peace.
A simple twist of fate has set President Obama’s second Inaugural Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.
Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years ago — but since then, in word and deed, the president has done much to distinguish himself from the man who said “I have a dream.”
After his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, King went on to take great risks as a passionate advocate for peace.
After his Inaugural speech in January 2009, Obama has pursued policies that epitomize King’s grim warning in 1967: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.”
But Obama has not ignored King’s anti-war legacy. On the contrary, the president has gone out of his way to distort and belittle it.
In his eleventh month as president — while escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, a process that tripled the American troop levels there — Obama traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech, he cast aspersions on the peace advocacy of another Nobel Peace laureate: Martin Luther King Jr.
The president struck a respectful tone as he whetted the rhetorical knife before twisting. “I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naive — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King,” he said, just before swiftly implying that those two advocates of nonviolent direct action were, in fact, passive and naive. “I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people,” Obama added.
Moments later, he was straining to justify American warfare: past, present, future. “To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason,” Obama said. “I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.”
Then came the jingo pitch: “Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”
Crowing about the moral virtues of making war while accepting a peace prize might seem a bit odd, but Obama’s rhetoric was in sync with a key dictum from Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
Laboring to denigrate King’s anti-war past while boasting about Uncle Sam’s past (albeit acknowledging “mistakes,” a classic retrospective euphemism for carnage from the vantage point of perpetrators), Obama marshaled his oratory to foreshadow and justify the killing yet to come under his authority.
Two weeks before the start of Obama’s second term, the British daily The Guardian noted that “U.S. use of drones has soared during Obama’s time in office, with the White House authorizing attacks in at least four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is estimated that the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people.”
The newspaper reported that a former member of Obama’s “counter-terrorism group” during the 2008 campaign, Michael Boyle, says the White House is now understating the number of civilian deaths due to the drone strikes, with loosened standards for when and where to attack: “The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands.”
Although Obama criticized the Bush-era “war on terror” several years ago, Boyle points out, President Obama “has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor.”
Boyle’s assessment — consistent with the conclusions of many other policy analysts — found the Obama administration’s use of drones is “encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent.”
In recent weeks, more than 50,000 Americans have signed a petition to Ban Weaponized Drones from the World. The petition says that “weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs or chemical weapons.” It calls for President Obama “to abandon the use of weaponized drones, and to abandon his ‘kill list’ program regardless of the technology employed.”
Count on lofty rhetoric from the Inaugural podium. The spirit of Dr. King will be elsewhere.
Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Imperialism, War.
Tags: africom, civil disobedience, civil resistance, francis a. boyle, geneva conventions, hans morgenthau, history, International law, mckinley, nuremberg, philippine genocide, roger hollander, spanish american war, u.s. army field manual, U.S. imperialism, war, world war iii
by Professor Francis A. Boyle
Wed, 12/12/2012, www.blackagendareport.org
The following is the text of a speech delivered by Professor Francis A. Boyle at the Puerto Rican Summit Conference on Human Rights, University of the Sacred Heart, San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2012.
“The serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration and the neoliberal Democratic Obama administration are now threatening to set off World War III.”
Historically this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions. Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America’s economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the “open door” policy. But over the next four decades America’s aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the so-called “Pacific” Ocean would ineluctably pave the way for Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America’s precipitation into the ongoing Second World War. Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration and the neoliberal Democratic Obama administration are now threatening to set off World War III.
By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Junior administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Middle East and Africa under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against “international terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism”; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled humanitarian intervention/responsibility to protect (R2P). Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundaments and energizers of the global economic system – oil and gas. The Bush Junior/ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America (e.g., the Pentagon’s reactivization of the U.S. Fourth Fleet in 2008), and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. Today the U.S. Fourth Fleet threatens Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador for sure.
Toward accomplishing that first objective, in 2007 the neoconservative Bush Junior administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, steal, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species. In 2011 Libya then proved to be the first victim of AFRICOM under the neoliberal Obama administration, thus demonstrating the truly bi-partisan and non-partisan nature of U.S. imperial foreign policy decision-making. Let us put aside as beyond the scope of this paper the American conquest, extermination, and ethnic cleansing of the Indians from off the face of the continent of North America. Since America’s instigation of the Spanish-American War in 1898, U.S. foreign policy decision-making has been alternatively conducted by reactionary imperialists, conservative imperialists, and liberal imperialists for the past 115 years and counting.
“The Bush Junior/ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.”
This world-girdling burst of U.S. imperialism at the start of humankind’s new millennium is what my teacher, mentor, and friend the late, great Professor Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal book Politics Among Nations 52-53 (4th ed. 1968): The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination–a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind….
The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity.
Since September 11, 2001, it is the Unlimited Imperialists à la Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler who have been in charge of conducting American foreign policy decision-making. After September 11, 2001 the people of the world have witnessed successive governments in the United States that have demonstrated little respect for fundamental considerations of international law, human rights, or the United States Constitution. Instead, the world has watched a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international and domestic legal orders by groups of men and women who are thoroughly Hobbist and Machiavellian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign affairs and American domestic policy. Even more seriously, in many instances specific components of the U.S. government’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well recognized principles of both international law and United States domestic law, and in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, as well as the Pentagon’s own U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 on The Law of Land Warfare, which applies to the President himself as Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.
“Specific components of the U.S. government’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well recognized principles of both international law and United States domestic law.”
Depending on the substantive issues involved, these international and domestic crimes typically include but are not limited to the Nuremberg offences of “crimes against peace”—e.g., Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and perhaps their longstanding threatened war of aggression against Iran. Their criminal responsibility also concerns “crimes against humanity” and war crimes as well as grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare: torture, enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, “shock and awe,” depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, drone strikes, etc. Furthermore, various officials of the United States government have committed numerous inchoate crimes incidental to these substantive offences that under the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956) are international crimes in their own right: planning, and preparation, solicitation, incitement, conspiracy, complicity, attempt, aiding and abetting. Of course the terrible irony of today’s situation is that over six decades ago at Nuremberg the U.S. government participated in the prosecution, punishment, and execution of Nazi government officials for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that these officials of the United States government currently inflict upon people all over the world. To be sure, I personally oppose the imposition of capital punishment upon any human being for any reason no matter how monstrous their crimes, whether they be Saddam Hussein, Bush Junior, Tony Blair, or Barack Obama.
According to basic principles of international criminal law set forth in paragraph 501 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, all high level civilian officials and military officers in the U.S. government who either knew or should have known that soldiers or civilians under their control (such as the C.I.A. or mercenary contractors), committed or were about to commit international crimes and failed to take the measures necessary to stop them, or to punish them, or both, are likewise personally responsible for the commission of international crimes. This category of officialdom who actually knew or should have known of the commission of these international crimes under their jurisdiction and failed to do anything about them include at the very top of America’s criminal chain-of-command the President, the Vice-President, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A. Director, National Security Advisor and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff along with the appropriate Regional Commanders-in-Chiefs, especially for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
These U.S. government officials and their immediate subordinates are responsible for the commission of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as specified by the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as by U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 of 1956. Today in international legal terms, the United States government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, because of its formulation and undertaking of serial wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany. As a consequence, American citizens possess the basic right under international law and the United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance designed to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by U.S. government officials in their conduct of foreign affairs policies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism.
“The United States government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles.”
For that very reason, large numbers of American citizens have decided to act on their own cognizance by means of civil resistance in order to demand that the U.S. government adhere to basic principles of international law, of U.S. domestic law, and of the U.S. Constitution in its conduct of foreign affairs and military operations. Mistakenly, however, such actions have been defined to constitute classic instances of “civil disobedience” as historically practiced in the United States. And the conventional status quo admonition by the U.S. power elite and its sycophantic news media for those who knowingly engage in “civil disobedience” has always been that they must meekly accept their punishment for having performed a prima facie breach of the positive laws as a demonstration of their good faith and moral commitment. Nothing could be further from the truth! Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs! The U.S. government officials are the outlaws!
Here I would like to suggest a different way of thinking about civil resistance activities that are specifically designed to thwart, prevent, or impede ongoing criminal activity by officials of the U.S. government under well recognized principles of international and U.S. domestic law. Such civil resistance activities represent the last constitutional avenue open to the American people to preserve their democratic form of government with its historical commitment to the rule of law and human rights. Civil resistance is the last hope America has to prevent the U.S. government from moving even farther down the path of lawless violence in Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, military interventionism into Latin America, and nuclear confrontation with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, and China.
Such measures of “civil resistance” must not be confused with, and indeed must be carefully distinguished from, acts of “civil disobedience” as traditionally defined. In today’s civil resistance cases, what we witness are American citizens attempting to prevent the ongoing commission of international and domestic crimes under well-recognized principles of international law and U.S. domestic law. This is a phenomenon essentially different from the classic civil disobedience cases of the 1950s and 1960s where incredibly courageous African Americans and their supporters were conscientiously violating domestic laws for the express purpose of changing them. By contrast, today’s civil resisters are acting for the express purpose of upholding the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, human rights, and international law. Applying the term “civil disobedience” to such civil resistors mistakenly presumes their guilt and thus perversely exonerates the U.S. government criminals.
“Civil resistance is the last hope America has to prevent the U.S. government from moving even farther down the path of lawless violence.”
Civil resistors disobeyed nothing, but to the contrary obeyed international law and the United States Constitution. By contrast, U.S. government officials disobeyed fundamental principles of international law as well as U.S. criminal law and thus committed international crimes and U.S. domestic crimes as well as impeachable violations of the United States Constitution. The civil resistors are the sheriffs enforcing international law, U.S. criminal law and the U.S. Constitution against the criminals working for the U.S. government!
Today the American people must reaffirm their commitment to the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles by holding their government officials fully accountable under international law and U.S. domestic law for the commission of such grievous international and domestic crimes. They must not permit any aspect of their foreign affairs and defense policies to be conducted by acknowledged “war criminals” according to the U.S. government’s own official definition of that term as set forth in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956), the U.S. War Crimes Act, and the Geneva Conventions. The American people must insist upon the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all U.S. government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes. That is precisely what American civil resisters are doing today!
This same right of civil resistance extends pari passu to all citizens of the world community of states. Everyone around the world has both the right and the duty under international law to resist ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by the U.S. government and its nefarious foreign accomplices in allied governments such as Britain, the other NATO states, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Georgia, Puerto Rico, etc. If not so restrained, the U.S. government could very well precipitate a Third World War. Here in Puerto Rico we saw the stunning example of the most courageous civil resistors against Yankee Imperialism on Vieques.
The future of American foreign policy and the peace of the world lie in the hands of American citizens and the peoples of the world—not the bureaucrats, legislators, judges, lobbyist, think-tanks, professors, and self-styled experts who inhibit Washington, D.C., New York City, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Civil resistance is the way to go! This is our Nuremberg Moment now!
Francis A. Boyle teaches law at the University of Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes, genocide, nuclear policy, and bio warfare. He received a PHD in political science from Harvard
Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: civilian casualties, collateral damage, drone missiles, kamikaze drone, obama administration, Pentagon, predator, reaper drones, roger hollander, smart bombs, switchblade drones, war, weapons
Roger’s note: According to the Pentagon, this weapon is developed to reduce civilian casualties. This is no surprise, as we know the Pentagon to be nothing less than a humanistic and peace-loving organization. So now Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama has another weapon in his arsenal of terror. It is nightmarish to think of the potential uses for this weapon, at HOME as well as abroad.
The drones, which U.S. officials hope will help reduce civilian casualties in war zones, pack tiny explosive warheads that can destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy.
W. J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
June 11, 2012, 5:00 a.m.
Seeking to reduce civilian casualties and collateral damage, the Pentagon
will soon deploy a new generation of drones the size of model planes, packing tiny explosive warheads that can be delivered with pinpoint accuracy.
Errant drone strikes have been blamed for killing and injuring scores of civilians throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, giving the U.S. government a black eye as it targets elusive terrorist groups. The Predator and Reaper drones deployed in these regions typically carry 100-pound laser-guided Hellfire missiles or 500-pound GPS-guided smart bombs that can reduce buildings to smoldering rubble.
The new Switchblade drone, by comparison, weighs less than 6 pounds and can take out a sniper on a rooftop without blasting the building to bits. It also enables soldiers in the field to identify and destroy targets much more quickly by eliminating the need to call in a strike from large drones that may be hundreds of miles away.
“This is a precision strike weapon that causes as minimal collateral damage as possible,” said William I. Nichols, who led the Army‘s testing effort of the Switchblades at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Ala.
The 2-foot-long Switchblade is so named because its wings fold into the fuselage for transport and spring out after launch. It is designed to fit into a soldier’s rucksack and is fired from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, it begins sending back live video and GPS coordinates to a hand-held control set clutched by the soldier who launched it.
When soldiers identify and lock on a target, they send a command for the drone to nose-dive into it and detonate on impact. Because of the way it operates, the Switchblade has been dubbed the “kamikaze drone.”
The Obama administration, notably the CIA, has long been lambasted by critics for its use of combat drones and carelessly killing civilians in targeted strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. In 2010, a United Nations official said the CIA in Pakistan had made the United States “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world.
In recent weeks, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the issue at a recent news briefing, and he said the Obama administration is committed to reducing civilian casualties.
Although Carney did not mention the Switchblade specifically, he said “we have at our disposal tools that make avoidance of civilian casualties much easier, and tools that make precision targeting possible in ways that have never existed in the past.”
The Switchblade drone appears to be an improvement as an alternative to traditional drone strikes, in terms of minimizing civilian harm, but it also raises new concerns, said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School.
She pointed out that when a drone strike is being considered there are teams of lawyers, analysts and military personnel looking at the data to determine whether lethal force is necessary. But the Switchblade could shorten that “kill chain.”
“It delegates full responsibility to a lower-level soldier on the ground,” she said. “That delegation is worrisome. It’s a situation that could end up in more mistakes being made.”
Arms-control advocates also have concerns. As these small robotic weapons proliferate, they worry about what could happen if the drones end up in the hands of terrorists or other hostile forces.
The Switchblade ”is symptomatic of a larger problem thatU.S. militaryand aerospace companies are generating, which is producing various more exotic designs,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn. “This technology is not always going to be in the sole possession of the U.S. and its allies. We need to think about the rules of the road for when and how these should be used so we can mitigate against unintended consequences.”
The Switchblade is assembled in Simi Valley by AeroVironment Inc., the Pentagon’s top supplier of small drones, which include the Raven, Wasp and Puma. More than 50 Switchblades will be sent to the war zone in Afghanistan this summer under a $10.1-million contract, which also includes the cost of repairs, spare parts, training and other expenses. Officials would not provide details about where the weapons would be used, how many were ordered and precisely when they would be deployed.
AeroVironment, based in Monrovia, developed the weapon on its own, thinking the military could use a lethal drone that could be made cheaply and deployed quickly by soldiers in the field, said company spokesman Steven Gitlin.
“It’s not inexpensive to task an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet from a base to take out an [improvised explosive device] team when you consider fuel, people, logistics support, etc.,” he said.
About a dozen Switchblades were tested last year by special operations units in Afghanistan, according to Army officials, who said the drone proved effective.
The Army is considering buying $100 million worth of the drones in a few years under a program called the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System, Nichols said. The Air Force and the Marine Corps have also expressed interest in the technology.
AeroVironment is not the only company pursuing small, lethal drones. Textron Defense Systems is also working on a small kamikaze-style drone. Named the BattleHawk Squad-Level Loitering Munition, the drone is being tested at an Army facility in New Mexico.
Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare, said the Switchblade’s entry into the war zone is typical of today’s weapons procurement path. Defense contractors, he said, are on their own developing smaller and cheaper but powerful high-tech weapons vital to waging guerrilla-type warfare in the 21st century, and they are finding success.
“This weapon system is the first of its kind,” he said. “If it works, there’s little doubt others will follow.”
Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: 2012 election, imperialism, mic, militarism, military, military industrial complex, military spending, mitt romney, national security state, Obama presidency, permanent war, roger hollander, us empire, war, william astore
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 email@example.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