Tomgram: Hartung and Smithberger, The Pandemic of Pentagon Spending

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Consider the second paragraph of the lead story in the November 20th New York Times:

“The leaders of Western Europe have called Mr. Biden, as has the president of the world’s rising superpower, Xi Jinping of China. PayPal’s chief executive extended his ‘warmest congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden, who will become the 46th president of the U.S.A.’ The Boeing read more

Is the Nationalist Tide Receding?

Nationalism—placing the interests of one’s own nation above the interests of other nations—has been a powerful force in world affairs for centuries.

But it seemed on the wane after 1945, when the vast devastation of World War II—a conflict fostered by rightwing, nationalist demagogues—convinced people around the globe of the necessity to transcend nationalism and encourage international cooperation.  Indeed, the widespread recognition of the interdependence of nations led to the creation read more

Foreign Policy Was Missing from Most 2020 Democratic Campaign Websites

A report by David Swanson for RootsAction.org

November 24, 2020

In 2020 Congressional elections, 78 percent of Democratic candidates’ campaign websites informed the visitor of some sort of policy platform. These varied in length and depth, but many contained substantive proposals on dozens of issues. However, only 29 percent included foreign policy as one of the topics discussed. While militarism alone takes up over half of federal discretionary spending, most of those seeking responsibility to exercise that discretion had little or nothing to say about foreign policy, war, peace, diplomacy, weapons sales, bases, treaties, international law, or budgetary priorities.

Of the 15 Democrats newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, 100 percent had issues sections on their websites, and 33 percent of those included foreign policy.

Areas of possible concern here include the 22 percent of Democratic House candidates who didn’t bother to include on their campaign websites any serious reference to any policies they intended to pursue in office at all; the 71 percent who didn’t think they had to mention the single biggest thing Congress does; and the actual content of those foreign policy platforms that could be found on campaign websites.

Of the foreign policy platforms made available on the campaign websites of House Democrats, 74 percent advocated continued or increased militarism. They went beyond simply promoting the funding of local bases, which was common, and beyond simply promoting concern for veterans and members of the military, which was very common. They advocated militarism as good policy. These statements were a couple of sentences or several paragraphs. The longer ones sometimes included opposition to some war or weapon, but on balance promoted militarism significantly more than peace, nonviolence, or disarmament.

Another 11 percent of the foreign policy platforms of the House Democratic candidates who had any were so mixed or vague or brief that it is impossible to categorize them as more pro- or anti-militarist. But 14 percent clearly promoted decreased militarism. These 10 campaign websites belonged to incumbents Anna Eshoo, Raul Grijalva, Debra Haaland, Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Ben Ray Lujan; and the newly elected Jamal Bowman and Mondaire Jones. (Lujan’s campaign was for the Senate but was included in this study because he is currently in the House.)

To qualify as having a foreign policy section on their website for purposes of the preceding count, a candidate need only have included a couple of sentences on any aspect of foreign policy. In fact, 8 percent of the foreign policy platforms were exclusively about Israel, 1 percent exclusively about Iran, and 2 percent exclusively promoting Russiagate. Fewer than 5 candidates advocated any particular policy on each of the following topics: the military budget or its share in the overall budget, which wars to end or continue or start, which treaties or international agreements to join or abandon, which bases to close or maintain or open, what nuclear weapons to build or dismantle, what secret agencies to support or abolish, whether to continue killing people with missile strikes including from drones, or which nations to sell weapons to or give military training to or give military funding to (apart from lots of somewhat vague “support” expressed for Israel). No candidates took any position on any economic conversion program from militarism to green energy or other peaceful endeavors.

The strongest indication on many campaign websites of awareness that foreign policy even existed, or that by implication the 96 percent of humanity outside of the United States existed, was found in a policy section on veterans. This was found on 46 percent of the websites, in contrast to the 29 percent with a section on foreign policy. For those sites that had both of these sections, they were sometimes separate and sometimes combined into one, blurring the line rather blatantly between caring about veterans and supporting wars. Many sites also had a section on immigration policy.

Newcomers Slightly Improved

Looking just at the 15 new Democratic House members, while they all had issue sections of their websites, only 5 had a section on foreign policy, and one of those was exclusively about Israel. But none promoted more militarism, 3 gave mixed messages, and 2 were among the strongest platforms for demilitarization with the most extensive answers to various foreign policy questions. Those two were the campaign websites of Jamal Bowman and Mondaire Jones.

More to the Story

The campaign website is not the entirety of a campaign. Incumbent Congress members maintain two websites, a campaign site and a Congressional site. The latter virtually always has an issues section, and a majority of those sections mention foreign policy at least with a few words followed by links to press releases. This might help explain the absence of any opposition to war on the campaign sites of Mark Pocan, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Rashida Tlaib, Jim McGovern, Peter DeFazio, or Earl Blumenauer. Even new candidates speak at events, on social media, through mass media, and via printed flyers. If we were comparing Twitter accounts, the newly elected Cori Bush might take the prize for strongest antiwar messaging. Yet it remains somehow acceptable for these candidates to completely omit the largest part (in budgetary terms) of the job they are applying for from their campaign websites.

House Democrats are not the whole of Congress. Republicans and Senate candidates may be slightly more likely to mention foreign policy — which is not necessarily a good thing, considering the content of many of their positions.

Why it Matters

Foreign policy was largely absent from media coverage, from advertising, from debates, and from the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden had no foreign policy section on his website and formed no foreign policy task force. In contrast to, for example, the 2006 elections in which voters told exit pollsters that ending the war on Iraq was their top concern, few voters seem to have been focused on foreign policy in 2020. Yet foreign policy will always be a major part of what Congress does, and holding so-called representatives to their campaign promises is easier if they’ve made any. Even determining what they might be inclined to do is vastly easier if they’ve expressed any opinions.

The Democratic Party Platform expresses a commitment to “end forever wars.” But Congress is currently pushing to keep the war on Afghanistan going and even to keep troops in Germany and Korea. Military funding is regularly up for a vote. Ending the war on Yemen will be on the agenda in the coming months, as will relations with Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. So will disarmament treaties with Russia. So will sanctions against the International Criminal Court. So will weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. What positions Congress members can be expected to take and be lobbied to take would be much clearer if they were asked to express any opinions as part of their election campaigns.

What Can Be Done

RootsAction has created an online action page for emailing your Congress member and asking them to take prominent public positions on key questions of foreign policy and spending priorities, on both their Congressional and campaign websites, as well as in their public appearances.

Methodology and Data

The websites examined for this report were all examined between November 16th and November 22nd, 2020, and were found for the current House Democrats listed on Congress.gov, minus those lacking a relevant website. This included non-voting colonial delegates from Washington, D.C., and Pacific and Caribbean islands. It excluded the deceased Elijah Cummings and Donald Payne; the defeated Eliot Engels, Joseph Kennedy, and Collin Peterson; the retiring Nita Lowey and Jose Serrano; and those no site could be found for: Daniel Kildee, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, and Bennie Thompson (the Homeland Security Chairman’s website appears to have been hacked). Added to the 229 Congress members listed at Congress.gov for whom a relevant website was found were 15 newly elected members, bringing the total of websites examined to 244. Not included were new candidates who failed to win election.

Those websites considered to have an issues section were those with any sort of policy platform under any name — “priorities” or “agenda” or “platform” or “record.” Sometimes these included lengthy treatises on dozens of topics. Other times they consisted of a single sentence or less per issue. Sometimes they were buried in the “about me” section or otherwise hard to find. Sometimes they consisted of lists of bills sponsored or voted for, or just a series of photos with captions. Sometimes the whole issues section was on the homepage. Most issues sections contained numerous topics. Some contained very few. A website that contained only information on COVID pandemic resources was not considered to possess an issues section. Of incumbents’ sites, 176 had issues sections. Of newcomers’ sites, 15 had issues sections. That amounts to 78% of the total 244 websites examined. Of incumbents’ sites, 53 had no issues sections. Of newcomers’ sites, 0 had no issues sections.

Of incumbents’ sites, 65 had a foreign policy section. Of newcomers’ sites, 5 had a foreign policy section. Included in this count were 6 with a section only about Israel, one with a section only about Iran, and 2 with sections only about Russiagate. Not included was one with a section only against nuclear weapons testing. There were 52 websites, all belonging to incumbents, that promoted militarism in some way, usually very briefly, and 8 that were mixed or unclear, but 10 (listed above) that leaned toward reducing militarism.

Of incumbents’ websites, 108, and of newcomers’ 5, had sections on policies related to veterans.

These were the 15 websites of the newly elected House Democrats:

https://sarajacobsforca.com

https://carolyn4congress.com

https://nikemaforcongress.com

https://kaikahele.com

https://marienewmanforcongress.com

https://mrvanforcongress.com

https://jakeforma.com

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Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, What If They Called an Election and Nothing Changed in the War State?

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Here’s the strange thing. In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned vociferously to end America’s forever wars and yet, as he fruitlessly fights departing the White House four years later, he’s probably going to leave more troops (and air power) garrisoned across the Greater Middle East and Africa than were there when he first arrived. American soldiers are still in Syria, still in Iraq, and still in Afghanistan. And in his last moments, he’s still talking about removing some — but not all — of them. In 2019 (the last period for which we have figures), the U.S. dropped a record number of bombs on Afghanistan. Similarly, in the first seven months of 2020, there were more U.S. air strikes in Somalia than during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama years combined (and Kenya might be next). No matter that, in each case, the president invariably claimed that the U.S. military was heading out the door. As it turned out, he proved the easiest president imaginable for the officials of the national security state to bulldoze, bully, or sneak around. Think of him as the classic sucker-born-every-minute when it came to this country’s forever wars.

And here’s an even stranger thing. Hardly noticed in the hubbub, oil well by oil well, suppressed environmental regulation by suppressed environmental regulation, he’s become ever more committed to making forever war on the planet itself.

What a “wartime” president Donald Trump has, in fact, proved to be!

Now, in his own chaotic fashion, whether he thinks so or not, he’s going to turn over both versions of forever war to Joe Biden. In that context, TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen, author most recently of Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War, considers the national security state’s forever-war system that captured The Donald and now seems about to become part of the Biden years. God save us, if it truly does turn out to be a forever system. Tom
What President Biden Won’t Touch
Foreign Policy, Sacred Cows, and the U.S. Military
By Danny Sjursen

In this mystifying moment, the post-electoral sentiments of most Americans can be summed up either as “Ding dong! The witch is dead!” or “We got robbed!” Both are problematic, not because the two candidates were intellectually indistinguishable or ethically equivalent, but because each jingle is laden with a dubious assumption: that President Donald Trump’s demise would provide either decisive deliverance or prove an utter disaster.

While there were indeed areas where his ability to cause disastrous harm lent truth to such a belief — race relations, climate change, and the courts come to mind — in others, it was distinctly (to use a dangerous phrase) overkill. Nowhere was that more true than with America’s expeditionary version of militarism, its forever wars of this century, and the venal system that continues to feed it.

For nearly two years, We the People were coached to believe that the 2020 election would mean everything, that November 3rd would be democracy’s ultimate judgment day. What if, however, when it comes to issues of war, peace, and empire, “Decision 2020” proves barely meaningful? After all, in the election campaign just past, Donald Trump’s sweeping war-peace rhetoric and Joe Biden’s hedging aside, neither nuclear-code aspirant bothered to broach the most uncomfortable questions about America’s uniquely intrusive global role. Neither dared dissent from normative notions about America’s posture and policy “over there,” nor challenge the essence of the war-state, a sacred cow if ever there was one.

That blessed bovine has enshrined permanent policies that seem beyond challenge: Uncle Sam’s right and duty to forward deploy troops just about anywhere on the planet; garrison the globe; carry out aerial assassinations; and unilaterally implement starvation sanctions. Likewise the systemic structures that implement and incentivize such rogue-state behavior are never questioned, especially the existence of a sprawling military-industrial complex that has infiltrated every aspect of public life, while stealing money that might have improved America’s infrastructure or wellbeing. It has engorged itself at the taxpayer’s expense, while peddling American blood money — and blood — on absurd foreign adventures and autocratic allies, even as it corrupted nearly every prominent public paymaster and policymaker.

This election season, neither Democrats nor Republicans challenged the cultural components justifying the great game, which is evidence of one thing: empires come home, folks, even if the troops never seem to.

The Company He Keeps 

As the election neared, it became impolite to play the canary in American militarism’s coal mine or risk raising Biden’s record — or probable prospects — on minor matters like war and peace. After all, his opponent was a monster, so noting the holes in Biden’s block of Swiss cheese presumably amounted to useful idiocy — if not sinister collusion — when it came to Trump’s reelection. Doing so was a surefire way to jettison professional opportunities and find yourself permanently uninvited to the

coolest
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Talk Nation Radio: Daniel Selwyn on Martial Mining

This week on Talk Nation Radio: Martial Mining, or Militarism and Extraction. Our guest is Daniel Selwyn, a researcher and educator with the London Mining Network, an alliance of 21 organisations working to expose human rights abuses and environmental crimes committed by mining companies based in London, and campaigning for social justice and the ecological integrity of the planet. Daniel Selwyn recently authored a report called Martial Mining: Resisting Extractivism and War Together.

See:

https://londonminingnetwork.org

https://londonminingnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Martial-Mining.pdf

On Twitter: @redrosaroo

Daniel Selwyn spoke on this show in his capacity as a researcher and educator with London Mining Network but that not all of his views represent those held collectively by the Network.

Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy.

Download from Internet Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org or at https://davidswanson.org/tag/talk-nation-radio

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

The Peace Almanac has a two-minute item for each day of the year available free to all at http://peacealmanac.org

Please encourage your local radio stations to air the Peace Almanac.

##

Top 10 Reasons to Reject Blinken

Antony Blinken is not the Secretary of State the United States or the world needs, and the U.S. Senate should reject his nomination. Here are 10 reasons:

1. A president elect who has been part of every disastrous war for decades should not be nominating for Secretary of State a key advisor who helped him get numerous critical decisions wrong. Biden was the committee chair who guided the Iraq war authorization through the Senate with Blinken’s help. Blinken helped Biden into catastrophe after catastrophe in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere. If Biden claims to have regrets or to have learned anything, he’s not yet showing it.

2. Blinken has been part even of Biden’s hairbrained schemes that weren’t acted on, such as the plan to divide Iraq into three separate puppet states.

3. Blinken has supported Trump’s bombings in Syria and arming of Ukrainians, militarism that went beyond Obama-Biden policies.

4. Blinken has urged that campaign promises of ending endless wars not be taken too seriously.

5. Blinken is a war profiteer. He doesn’t just promote mass slaughter as a matter of principle. He gets rich from it. He co-founded WestExec Advisors in order to profit from his connections by lining up corporate contracts with the U.S. military.

6. The State Department as weapons marketing firm will grease the revolving door for Blinken, but spells disaster for the world. Blinken is supposedly on board with ending the war on Yemen. But what about ending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE? What about ending weapons sales to all brutal governments, as legislation sponsored by Ilhan Omar would do? Congresswoman Omar worked to elect Biden, but he seems to be taking the opposite approach. The United States is just saying goodbye to a president who both bragged about weapons deals and denounced the influence of the military industrial complex. Biden seems unlikely to talk in either of those ways, but likely to walk in Trump’s footsteps.

7. Blinken co-founded that weapons profiteering firm with Michele Flournoy who could be nominated Secretary of War. The State Department could become more an arm of the military than ever.

8. We’d been (absurdly) warned that corporate hack nominees would be necessary in order to get diversity tokenism. But this is a corporate hack white guy. Exactly how many times are we expected to roll over and play dead?

9. The big bucks (and deaths) are in the buildup to war with Russia and China. Blinken is all in. He’s a Russiagate believer, as well as a believer in militarism as the proper response to all hostility, fictional or otherwise. He’s openly pushing for hostility toward Russia.

10. Blinken supported the Iran deal but not peace with Iran, not truth about Iran. The Blinken-Biden team is dedicated to militarism on behalf of the Israeli, as well as the U.S., government. What could go wrong?