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DACA Joins the Mad Rush to War January 31, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in armaments, democrats, Imperialism, Republicans, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: I had to chuckle when I read about some worthy progressives who, in response to Schumer’s treasonous betrayal of the Dreamers, were threatening to leave the Democratic Party.  As if there was anything that progressive about the Congressional Democrats in recent memory.  I  myself left the Democratic Party in 1965 after “peace candidate” Lyndon Baines Johnson demonstrated his bona fides by proceeding to bomb the hell out of Vietnam, with Democratic Congressmen dragging their tails behind.

In the November 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats took control of Congress, which created high expectations for the rapid end to George W. Bush’s military adventures in the Middle East.  That Congress and eight years of Obama’s escalations in the Middle East (seven countries, that we’re aware of) later, we’re still waiting.

With well over a hundred military bases spread around the globe, over 600 billion dollars in military expenditures (over half of the country’s discretionary spending), and enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world a dozen times over, the United States imperial adventure is mind boggling to say the least.

One war party in this proud nation: Democratic/Republican.

“Measured in military dollars, the Democratic leadership is more warlike than the Trump administration.”

The top Democrats in Congress have transformed DACA, the effort to protect 800,000 childhood immigrants from deportation, into a gargantuan funding measure for the Pentagon. This past weekend, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer offered to fully fund Donald Trump’s border wall and boost defense spending “far above ” what the White House requested, in a deal to end the government shutdown. The military budget signed into law in December was already $30 billion higher than the White House asked for, and $80 billion bigger than the previous year’s war spending — an increase as large as Russia’s entire defense budget.

It is Democratic congressional leadership — not Donald Trump and his mad generals — that has been the driving force in this year’s military spending insanity. Back in July, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pressured her party to back a defense authorization $57.4 billion bigger than the Pentagon requested. Only a minority of Democratic House members supported the measure, but a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) followed Pelosi’s lead — including all five of the newest members of the Black Caucus, elected in 2016. By inflating the war budget even beyond the Pentagon’s demands, these Pelosi-Schumer-CBC Democrats ensured that what remains of the social safety net will be slashed into oblivion by bipartisan forces of austerity in future Congresses.

“House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pressured her party to back a defense authorization $57.4 billion bigger than the Pentagon requested.”

The Bernie Sanders faction of the Party is just as guilty, through its shameful silence on war. This group includes Our Revolution, whose purportedly “progressive” agenda suggests only that they would “take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established.”

The imperial fist is inexorably crushing the domestic welfare agencies of government. The Democrats’ task in this infernal process is to coax their constituents to swallow the “Satan’s Sandwiches” that emerge from Congress — as suggested by Black Kansas City Rep. Emanuel Cleaver back in 2011, when Barack Obama was presenting his “Grand Bargain” to the Republicans. Having put “all entitlements” on the table for cutting at the start of his presidency, Obama proceeded to wage expensive wars against seven countries. His Grand Bargain offered even larger social cuts than the Republicans demanded, before finally unraveling in the morass of Capitol Hill. Democratic leadership is still seeking that “bargain” with the GOP, knowing full well that it will be paid for by more austerity for people’s programs.

“DACA becomes the excuse to funnel additional tens of billions to the Pentagon.”

The result is both predictable and intended: the military budget expands to consume ever greater proportions of federal “discretionary” spending — that is, moneys not locked into mandated programs like Social Security. Finally, the public is told there is “no choice” but to tap into Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare — as Obama signaled at very the beginning of his presidency, and attempted to pull off in his first term in office.

Schumer and Pelosi have been throwing money at the Pentagon with abandon this year because both wings of the War Party (Democrat and Republican) are anxious to maintain the momentum of Obama’s global military offensive, after the unexpected defeat of the reliable warmonger, Hillary Clinton. That’s why, measured in military dollars, the Democratic leadership is more warlike than the Trump administration. Not trusting Trump to keep the pressure on Moscow, Beijing and any other “threat” to U.S. hegemony, the bipartisan political servants of empire flood the Pentagon with money and poison the political discourse with Russiagate. Although there are clear conflicts within the U.S. ruling class, in general the Lords of Capital appear at this juncture to be more concerned with terrorizing the world than maintaining domestic peace. Schumer and Pelosi were instructed, accordingly.

“Both wings of the War Party are anxious to maintain the momentum of Obama’s global military offensive.”

The Democrats’ cynicism is boundless. DACA, which has great political value to a key constituency but no monetary price tag, becomes the excuse to funnel additional tens of billions to the Pentagon — on top of previous increases — while enhancing Democratic election prospects in 2018 and 2020.

The Democrats can be expected to repeat the formula. If not DACA, any symbolic program will suffice as a political battle flag to rally the various Party constituencies while simultaneously boosting the flow of cash to the war machine.

And they’ll call it “resistance.” But it’s the kind of resistance that is useless when, as Dr. Martin Luther King observed, the “demonic destructive suction tube” of war spending comes to claim its ever-larger share of the budget.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

Merchants of Death, or, your tax dollars at work December 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in armaments, Arms, Chemical Biological Weapons, Nuclear weapons/power, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: The cost of the US inspired wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan is in the trillions of dollars.  So-called “defense” spending amounts to around 60% of US government discretionary spending.  Instruments of death, that is, military weaponry, costs billions of dollars every year.  War profiteers delight in the fact that their “product” is designed to be destroyed and therefore perpetually replaced.  As you can see, the United States manufactures and exports more weaponry than the rest of the world combined.  What all these death dollars could support and jobs create in the areas of health, education. housing, nutrition, and the elimination of poverty worldwide is enough bring one to tears.

Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq 1,455,590

Number of U.S. Military PersonnelSacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In U.S. War And Occupation Of Iraq 4,801

Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 3,487

Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
$1,659,692,160,956

U.S. Foreign Arms Deals Increased Nearly $10 Billion in 2014

Why is the Most Wasteful Government Agency Not Part of the Deficit Discussion? July 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Political Commentary.
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Published on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by On the Commons

Republicans ignore incompetence, bloat and corruption at the Pentagon

 

  by  David Morris

In all the talk about the federal deficit, why is the single largest culprit left out of the conversation? Why is the one part of government that best epitomizes everything conservatives say they hate about government—- waste, incompetence, and corruption—all but exempt from conservative criticism?

Of course, I’m talking about the Pentagon. Any serious battle plan to reduce the deficit must take on the Pentagon. In 2011 military spending accounted for more than 58 percent of all federal discretionary spending and even more if the interest on the federal debt that is related to military spending were added. In the last ten years we have spent more than $7.6 trillion on military and homeland security according to the National Priorities Project.

In the last decade military spending has soared from $300 billion to $700 billion.


When debt ceilings and deficits seem to be the only two items on Washington’s agenda, it is both revealing and tragic that both parties give a free pass to military spending. Representative Paul Ryan’s much discussed Tea Party budget accepted Obama’s proposal for a pathetic $78 billion reduction in military spending over 5 years, a recommendation that would only modestly slow the rate of growth of military spending.

Indeed, the Republican government battering ram appears to have stopped at the Pentagon door. This was evident early on. As soon as they took over the House of Representatives, Republicans changed the rules so that military spending does not have to be offset by reduced spending somewhere else, unlike any other kind of government spending. It is the only activity of government they believe does not have to be paid for. Which brings to mind a bit of wisdom from one of their heroes, Adam Smith. “Were the expense of war to be defrayed always by revenue raised within the year … wars would in general be more speedily concluded, and less wantonly undertaken.”

The Tea Party revolution has only strengthened the Republican Party’s resolve that the Pentagon’s budget is untouchable. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation of Republican votes on defense spending found that Tea Party freshmen were even more likely than their Republican elders to vote against cutting any part of the military budget.

What makes the hypocrisy even more revealing is that the Pentagon turns out to be the poster child for government waste and incompetence.

In 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found “staggering” cost overruns of almost $300 billion in nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 96 major weapons. What’s more, the programs were running, on average, 21 months behind schedule. And when they were completed, they provided less than they promised.

The Defense Logistics Agency had no use for parts worth more than half of the $13.7 billion in equipment stacked up in DOD warehouses in 2006 to 2008.

And these are only the tips of the military’s misspending iceberg. We really don’t know how much the Pentagon wastes because, believe it or not, there hasn’t been a complete audit of the Pentagon in more than 15 years.

In 1994, the Government Management Reform Act required the Inspector General of each federal agency to audit and publish the financial statements of their agency. The Department of Defense was the only agency that has been unable to comply. In fiscal 1998 the Department of Defense used $1.7 trillion of undocumentable adjustments to balance the books. In 2002 the situation was even worse. CBS News reported that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted, “we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.”

Imagine that a school district were to reveal that it didn’t know where it spent its money. Now imagine the Republican response. Perhaps, “Off with their desktops!”

How did Congress’ respond to DOD’s delinquency? It gave it absolution and allowed it to opt out of its legal requirement. But as a sop to outraged public opinion Congress required DOD to set a date when it would have its book sufficiently in order to be audited. Which the Pentagon dutiful did, and missed every one of the target dates. The latest is 2017 and DOD has already announced it will be unable to meet that deadline.

Adding insult to injury, last September, the GAO found that the new computer systems intended to improve the Pentagon’s financial oversight are themselves nearly 100 percent or $7 billion over budget and as much as 12 years behind schedule!

The Pentagon is not just incompetent. It is corrupt. In November 2009 the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the federal watchdog responsible for auditing oversight of military contractors, raised the question of criminal wrongdoing when it found that the audits that did occur were riddled with serious breaches of auditor independence. One Pentagon auditor admitted he did not perform detailed tests because, “The contractor would not appreciate it.”

Why would the Pentagon allow its contractors to get away with fraud? To answer that question we need to understand the incestuous relationship between the Pentagon and its contractors that has been going on for years, and is getting worse. From 2004 to 2008, 80 percent of retiring three and four star officers went to work as consultants or defense industry executives. Thirty-four out of 39 three- and four-star generals and admirals who retired in 2007 are now working in defense industry roles — nearly 90 percent.

retired general working for defense
Generals are recruited for private sector jobs well before they retire. Once employed by the military contractor the general maintains a Pentagon advisory role.

“In almost any other realm it would seem a clear conflict of interest. But this is the Pentagon where…such apparent conflicts are a routine fact of life”, an in-depth investigation by the Boston Globe concluded.

U.S. military spending now exceeds the spending of all other countries combined. Knowledge military experts argue that we can cut at least $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget without changing its currently expressed mission. But a growing number believe that the mission itself is suspect. Economic competitors like India and China certainly approve of our willingness to undermine our economic competitiveness by diverting trillions of dollars into war and weapons production. Some argue that all this spending has made us more secure but all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Certainly our $2 trillion and counting military adventures in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan have won us few friends and multiplied our enemies.

Defense experts Gordon Adams and Matthew Leatherman, writing in the Washington Post offer another argument against unrestrained military spending.

“Countries feel threatened when rivals ramp up their defenses; this was true in the Cold War, and now it may happen with China. It’s how arms races are born. We spend more, inspiring competitors to do the same — thus inflating defense budgets without making anyone safer. For example, Gates observed in May that no other country has a single ship comparable to our 11 aircraft carriers. Based on the perceived threat that this fleet poses, the Chinese are pursuing an anti-ship ballistic missile program. U.S. military officials have decried this “carrier-killer’‘ effort, and in response we are diversifying our capabilities to strike China, including a new long-range bomber program, and modernizing our carrier fleet at a cost of about $10 billion per ship.”

For tens of millions of Americans real security comes not from fighting wars on foreign soil but from not having to worry losing their house or their job or their medical care. As Joshua Holland, columnist for Alternet points out 46 states faced combined budget shortfalls this year of $130 billion, leading them to fire tens of thousands of workers and cut off assistance to millions of families. Just the supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year were $170 billion.

What is perhaps most astonishing of all is that cutting the military budget is wildly popular. Even back in 1995, when military spending was only a fraction of its present size, a poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes reported that 42 percent of the US public feeling that defense spending is too high and a majority of Americans were convinced that defense spending “has weakened the US economy and given some allies an economic edge.”

This March Reuters released a new poll that found the majority of Americans support reducing defense spending.

The next time you hear Republicans insist they want to ferret out government waste and reduce spending and stamp out incompetence ask them why the one part of government that exemplifies everything they say is wrong with government is the one part of government they embrace most heartily.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

 

David Morris

David Morris is Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., which focuses on local economic and social development.

 

 

 

 

Five Eye-Opening Facts About Our Bloated Post-9/11 ‘Defense’ May 30, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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AlterNet /
By Joshua Holland

A dollar spent on guns is one less buck available for butter.
May 28, 2011  |

//

This week, the National
Priorities Project
(NPP) released a snapshot of U.S. “defense” spending
since September 11, 2001. The eye-popping figures lend credence to the theory
that al Qaeda’s attacks were a form of economic warfare – that they hoped for a
massive overreaction that would entangle us in costly foreign wars that would
ultimately drain away our national wealth.

They didn’t bankrupt us the same way the
Mujahadeen helped bring down the Soviet Union
decades before, because our economy was much stronger. But they did succeed in
putting us deep into the red – with an assist, of course, from Bush’s
ideologically driven tax cuts for the wealthy.

The topline
number is this: we have spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland
security since 9/11. The Pentagon’s base budget – which doesn’t include the
costs of fighting our wars – has increased by 81 percent during that time (43
percent when adjusted for inflation). The costs of the conflicts in Afghanistan
and Iraq have now reached $1.26 trillion. But that only scratches the surface;
it doesn’t include the long-term costs of caring for badly wounded soldiers, for
example.

One line-item
suggests that 9/11 has been used to justify greater military spending across the
board; the nuclear weapons budget has shot up by more than a fifth after
adjusting for inflation. How intercontinental ballistic missiles that can
vaporize whole cities are useful in a “war on terror” is anybody’s
guess.

The Pentagon
itself acknowledges these dollars haven’t all been spent effectively – there is
certainly plenty of waste. According to the Washington
Post
, the DoD has blown $32 billion
(enough to offer free, universal college tuition for a year) on canceled weapons
programs since 1997. According to the Post story, which is based on an unreleased Pentagon
report, “For almost a decade, the Defense Department saw its budgets boom
— but didn’t make the kind of technological strides that seemed possible.”

“Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s
modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on
procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains
in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an
address last week.

He called that outcome both “vexing and
disturbing.” Some might find the relentless focus on cutting benefits for
vulnerable Americans “vexing and disturbing” in light of this profligate
spending. Budgets, after all, are a reflection of our priorities.

Toward that end, let’s put these numbers in
perspective by looking at some of the other things we might be doing with those
dollars. Because a buck spent on guns is one less for butter.

1. Post-9/11 Defense Hikes Equal Five Times the
“Medicare Gap”

Economist Dean Baker notes
that “the projections in the Medicare Trustees report, as well as the CBO
baseline budget, show that the program faces a relatively modest long-term
shortfall.” The amount of money needed to balance the program’s finances over
its 75-year horizon, he adds, “is less than 0.3 percent of GDP, approximately
one-fifth of the increase in the rate annual defense spending between 2000 and
2011.”

2. Afghanistan Costs Alone Could Pay for 15.6
Years of Head Start

Head Start provides education, health, nutrition,
and parenting services to low-income children and their families. It’s an
incredibly successful, effective and popular program, but there are only 900,000
places in the program for more than 2.5 million eligible kids. According to the
National Priorities Project, what we’ve spent on the Afghanistan war so far
could fund Head Start for all eligible children for the next 15.6 years.

3. Covering the Uninsured

A 2007
study
conducted by researchers at Harvard University estimated that 45,000
people die every year in the United States from problems associated with lack of
coverage. The study found that “uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40
percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts,” even
“after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline
health.”

According to NPP’s
analysis, the costs of the Afghanistan conflict alone could cover every
uninsured American for 1.7 years.

4. Closing State Budget
Gaps

Forty-six states face budget
shortfalls in this fiscal year, totaling $130 billion nationwide. The
supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year add up to
$170 billion – that doesn’t include the Pentagon’s base budget, nukes or
Homeland Security.

5. Iraq, Just in 2011

Iraq is still a bloody mess, with
an insurgency still underway
. But our politicians have declared vistory and
the media have largely moved on. That doesn’t mean we won’t spend almost $50
billion on those “non-combat troops” which remain, however. What else could we
do with that kind of scratch if we just brought them home? NPP tells us it would
buy:

  • 24.3 million children receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
  • 726,044 elementary school teachers for one year,
    OR

  • 829,946 firefighters for one year, OR

  • 6.2 million Head Start slots for children for one
    year, OR

  • 10.7 million households with renewable electricity
    — solar photovoltaic for one year, OR

  • 28.6 million households with renewable
    electricity-wind power for one year, OR

  • 6.1 million military veterans receiving VA medical
    care for one year, OR

  • 9.8 million people receiving low-income health
    care for one year, OR

  • 718,208 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for
    one year, OR

  • 6.0 million scholarships for university students
    for one year, OR

  • 8.5 million students receiving Pell grants of
    $5,550

The Big Picture

It’s a tragic irony that so much of the discussion
surrounding the public debt centers on “entitlements” like Social Security
(which hasn’t added a penny to the national debt) when we’re still paying for
Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Panama and the first Gulf War and Somalia and
the Balkans and on and on.

Estimates of just how much of our national
debt payments are from past military spending vary wildly. In 2007, economist
Robert Higgs calculated it
like this
:

 

I added up all past deficits (minus
surpluses) since 1916 (when the debt was nearly zero), prorated according to
each year’s ratio of narrowly defined national security spending–military,
veterans, and international affairs–to total federal spending, expressing
everything in dollars of constant purchasing power. This sum is equal to 91.2
percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006.
Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government’s net interest
outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.

 

When Higgs did that analysis four years
ago, he came up with a figure of $206.7 billion just in interest payments on our
past military adventures.

 

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at
AlterNet. He is the author of The
15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want
You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America)
. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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

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

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

May 8, 2010  |  
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost of War February 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Roger Hollander, February 3, 2010

The National Priorities Project has a website that every American should visit daily: www.costofwar.com

On the home page are running totals of the dollar amounts for the cost of all war since 2001, and spicific numbers for the cost of the illegal wars in Iraq (over 705 Billion Dollars) and Afghanistan (over 250 Billion Dollars).  One can watch as the numbers surge (and I use that term advisedly) at the rate of more than a thousand dollars per second.

The site will also tell you what could be purchased for those amounts of money in the areas of health, education, housing,  social welfare, etc.  More specifically it can tell you what could be purchased by state, congressional district, city, town, county, household, person or taxpayer with the proportion contributed to war from that jurisdiction or individual.

A few examples:

Taxpayers in California will pay $114.9 billion for total Iraq & Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
47,305,588 People with Health Care for One Year OR
2,053,320 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
1,623,657 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
17,273,009 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
21,483,103 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
344,035 Affordable Housing Units OR
42,963,476 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
13,748,158 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
1,650,766 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
 
Taxpayers in New York City, New York will pay $344.6 million for proposed ballistic missile defense in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
63,550 People with Health Care for One Year OR
6,651 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
5,248 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
56,235 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
64,412 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
1,959 Affordable Housing Units OR
120,422 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
39,262 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
3,991 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
645,176 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year
Taxpayers in (Obama’s) Cook County, Illinois will pay $238.3 million for proposed ballistic missile defense in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
99,564 People with Health Care for One Year OR
4,904 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
4,157 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
24,119 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
44,551 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
1,728 Affordable Housing Units OR
164,257 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
35,279 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
3,663 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
316,960 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year
I urge you to go to this website and see what you, your family, your local community, your state and your country could have done and could be doing in the areas of human need with your tax dollars that go to kill, destroy, and fill the pockets of the war profiteers.

Will 39 Democrats Stand Up to Stop the War Funding? June 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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Published on Monday, June 15, 2009 by RebelReports by Jeremy Scahill

The White House and the Democratic Congressional Leadership are playing a very dirty game in their effort to ram through supplemental funding for the escalating US war in Afghanistan and continued occupation of Iraq. In the crosshairs of the big guns at the White House and on Capitol Hill are anti-war freshmen legislators and the movement to hold those responsible for torture accountable.

In funding the wars, the White House has been able to rely on strong GOP support to marginalize the anti-war Democrats who have pledged to vote against continued funding (as 51 Democrats did in May when the supplemental was first voted on). But the White House is running into trouble now because of Republican opposition to some of the provisions added to the bill (and one removed), meaning the pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats to switch sides. In short, the current battle will clearly reveal exactly how many Democrats actually oppose these wars. And, according to reports, the White House and Democratic Leadership have the gloves off in the fight:

Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, a leader of the antiwar Democrats, said the White House is threatening to withdraw support from freshmen who oppose the bill, saying “you’ll never hear from us again.”She said the House leadership also is targeting the freshmen.

“It’s really hard for the freshmen,” she said. “Nancy’s pretty powerful.”

On June 11, the relevant committees in the House and Senate approved the $105.9 billion spending package. According to an analysis by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

The bill includes $79.9 billion for the Department of Defense, primarily to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly $4.4 billion more than the amount sought by the Administration. This funding is in addition to the $65.9 billion “bridge fund” in war funding for FY’09 that Congress approved last June. To date Congress has approved over $814 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including the $80 billion recommended by the Conference Committee, In addition, the Obama Administration is seeking $130 billion in for fiscal year 2010. Both the House and Senate could take up the conference agreement as early as this week.In addition to funding combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill provides $10.4 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $7.7 billion for Pandemic Flu Response.

The current battle over war funding has brought with it a couple of high-stakes actions, which have threatened passage of the bill. Many Democrats were up in arms about an amendment sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham that would have blocked the release of photos depicting US abuse of prisoners (which the White House “actively” supported. Facing warnings that the provision could derail the funding package, the White House stepped in, deploying Rahm Emanuel to the Hill to convince legislators to drop the amendment, while at the same time pledging that Obama would use his authority to continue to fight the release of more photos:

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel ‘rushed’ to Capitol Hill and prevailed upon Senate Democrats to remove the torture photo measure in exchange for an explicit White House promise that it would use all means at its disposal to block the photos’ release. Obama also issued a letter to Congress assuring it he would support separate legislation to suppress the photos, if necessary, and imploring it to speed passage of the war-spending bill. The rider would “unnecessarily complicate the essential objective of supporting the troops,” Obama wrote.

In other words, Obama took a position that amounted to providing political cover to Democrats to support the war funding, while pledging to implement, through other means, the very policy they supposedly found objectionable.

Secondly, the White House and Congressional leadership added a provision to the bill that extends up to $100 billion in credits to the International Monetary Fund. While this sent many Republicans to the microphones to denounce the funding, the Democratic leadership portrayed the IMF funding as a progressive policy:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is trying to paint the IMF provision as a “very important national security initiative.” The IMF, she said, “can be a force for alleviating the fury of despair among people, poor people throughout the world.”

It is a pathetic symbol of just how bankrupt the Congressional Democratic leadership is when it comes to US foreign policy that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are trying to use funding for the IMF to convince other Democrats to support war funding. The IMF has been a destabilizing force in many countries across the globe through its austerity measures and structural adjustment schemes. Remember, it was the policies of the IMF and its cohorts at the World Bank and World Trade Organizations that sparked global uprisings in the 1990s.

To support the IMF funding scam, the Center for American Progress, which has passionately supported Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan, released a position paper today called, “Bailing Out the Bailer-Outer: Five Reasons Congress Should Agree to Fund the IMF.”

Thankfully, some anti-war Democrats seem to understand the atrocious role the IMF has played and have tried to impose rules on the funding that would attempt to confront the IMF’s austerity measures by requiring that “the funds allocated by Congress for global stimulus are used for stimulatory, and not contractionary, purposes.”

By adding the IMF provision to this bill, the White House is making a bold statement about the intimate relationship of the hidden hand of US neoliberal economic policy to the iron fist of US militarism.

At the end of the day, the real issue here is: How many Democrats will actually stand up on principle to the funding of the wars, regardless of the bells and whistles the White House and Democratic Leadership attach or the threats they need to endure from their own party?

In order to block passage, 39 Democrats need to vote against it in the House. As of this writing, 34 reportedly are committed to voting against it. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has been doing great coverage of this issue, much of which can be found here. So too has David Swanson at AfterDowningStreet. This does seem to be one issue where phone calls and letters matter-tremendously. See where your representative stands here. As of this writing, these are the legislators who are reportedly leaning toward a “No” vote, but have not yet committed. They are the people most likely to be convinced by hearing from constituents:

  1. Steve Cohen
  2. Keith Ellison
  3. Chakah Fattah
  4. Mike Honda
  5. Doris Matsui
  6. Ed Markey
  7. Jim McDermott
  8. Gwen Moore
  9. Jared Polis
  10. Jan Schakowsky
  11. Jackie Speier
  12. Mike Thompson
  13. John Tierney
  14. Mel Watt
  15. Anthony Weiner

UPDATE: I just spoke to Trevor Kincaid, Jan Schakowsky’s communications director and he told me that Schakowsky will not release a statement on her position on the supplemental “until after the vote.” I asked him if she was concerned about going back on her 2007 pledge never to vote for war funding that did not call for troop withdrawal. He said, “She is currently reviewing the pros and cons of the bill.” He would provide no further comment.

Also, Jane Hamsher reports that it now appears Keith Ellison is voting no.

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

ANSWER Coalition Responds to President Obama’s Iraq Speech of Friday, February 27 February 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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With his speech today, President Obama has essentially agreed to continue the criminal occupation of Iraq indefinitely. He announced that there will be an occupation force of 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for at least three more years. President Obama used carefully chosen words to avoid a firm commitment to remove the 50,000 occupation troops, even after 2011.

The war in Iraq was illegal. It was aggression. It was based on lies and false rationales. President Obama’s speech today made Bush’s invasion sound like a liberating act and congratulated the troops for “getting the job done.” More than a million Iraqis died and a cruel civil war was set into motion because of the foreign invasion. President Obama did not once criticize the invasion itself.

He has also requested an increase in war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, and plans to double the number of U.S. troops sent to fight in Afghanistan.

President Obama has asked Congress to provide more than $200 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the next two years, in addition to increasing the Pentagon budget by four percent.

Based on President Obama’s new budget, the Pentagon would rank as the world’s 17th largest economy—if it were a country. This new budget increases war spending. Total spending in 2010 would roughly equate to an average of $21,000 a second.

This is not the end of the occupation of Iraq, but rather the continuation of the occupation.

There is only one reason that tens of thousands of troops will remain in Iraq: It is because this is a colonial-type occupation of a strategically important and oil-rich country located in the Middle East where two-thirds of the world’s oil reserve can be found.

Obama’s speech was a major disappointment for anyone who was hoping that Obama would renounce the illegal occupation of Iraq. Today, the U.S. government spends $480 million per day to fund the occupation of Iraq. Even if 100,000 troops are drawn out by August 2010, that means the indefinite occupation of Iraq will cost more than $100 million each day. The continued occupation of Iraq for two years or three years or more makes a complete mockery out of the idea that the Iraqi people control their own destiny. It is a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.

It is no wonder that John McCain came out to support President Obama’s announced plan on Iraq. McCain was an supporter of former President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s war and occupation in Iraq.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld—the architects of regime change in Iraq—never had the goal of indefinitely keeping 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. They wanted to subdue the Iraqi people and exercise control with a smaller force. The Iraqi armed resistance prolonged the stationing of 150,000 U.S. troops.

Bush’s goal was domination over Iraq and its oil supplies, and domination over the region. This continues to be the goal of the U.S. political and economic establishment, including that of the new administration.

President Obama decided not to challenge the fundamental strategic orientation. That explains why he kept the Bush team—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Generals Petraeus and Odierno—on the job to oversee and manage the Iraq occupation. They will also manage the widening U.S. war in Afghanistan and the aerial assaults on Pakistan. There have been over 30 U.S. bombing attacks in Pakistan in the last two months.

We are marching on Saturday, March 21 because the people of this country are fed up with the status quo. They want decent-paying jobs, and affordable health care and housing for all. Students want to study rather than be driven out by soaring tuition rates. The majority of people want a complete—not partial—withdrawal of ALL troops from Iraq. They want the war in Afghanistan to end rather than escalate. They are increasingly opposed to sending $2.6 billion each year to Israel and want an end to the colonial occupation of Palestine.
Don’t miss the important announcement about the

Dramatic Action Planned for the March 21st Pentagon

March:

On March 21, 2009, March on the Pentagon
and the Corporate War Profiteers

Get Involved

Go to http://www.pentagonmarch.org for more information.