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Cros-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By Alfredo Lopez
Bernie Sanders' stunning success in the campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, highlighted by what is effectively a victory in the Iowa caucuses this past Monday, provokes serious thinking about what a Sanders presidency would look like.
A Proposal from World Beyond War
David Swanson, Director
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has requested budget proposals from organizations and members of the public. Here is a friendly suggestion from World Beyond War.
Last year’s Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposed to cut military spending by, in my calculation, 1%. In fact, no statement from the Progressive Caucus even mentioned the existence of military spending; you had to hunt through the numbers to find the 1% cut. This was not the case in other recent years, when the CPC prominently proposed to end wars and cut particular weapons. With all due respect, how is this censoring of any mention of the military evidence of progressing, rather than regressing?
Military spending is 53.71% of discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project. No other item adds up to even 7%. Whether a budget proposal is progressive, communist, fascist, conservative, or libertarian, how can it avoid mentioning this elephant in the room? Military spending, of course, produces the need for ongoing additional spending on debt, care for veterans, etc., so that total U.S. military spending is somewhere over twice the figure used by NPP.
Using the numbers of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which leaves out huge U.S. military expenses (which are of course in several departments of the government), U.S. military spending is as much as the next several nations’ combined — and most of those nations are close U.S. allies and major U.S. weapons industry customers. Because SIPRI almost certainly leaves out more U.S. spending than spending by other nations, in reality U.S. spending on militarism is probably the equivalent of a great many, if not all other, foreign nations combined.
In addition, U.S. military spending is extremely high by historical standards. Looking at the biggest piece of military spending, which is the budget of the Department of so-called Defense, that department’s annual “Green Book” makes clear that it has seen higher spending under President Barack Obama than ever before in history. Here are the numbers in constant 2016 dollars, thanks to Nicolas Davies:
Obama FY2010-15 $663.4 billion per year
Bush Jr FY2002-09* $634.9 ” ” ”
Clinton FY1994-2001 $418.0 ” ” ”
Bush Sr FY1990-93 $513.4 ” ” ”
Reagan FY1982-89 $565.0 ” ” ”
Carter FY1978-81 $428.1 ” ” ”
Ford FY1976-77 $406.7 ” ” ”
Nixon FY1970-75 $441.7 ” ” ”
Johnson FY1965-69 $527.3 ” ” ”
Kennedy FY1962-64 $457.2 ” ” ”
Eisenhower FY1954-61 $416.3 ” ” ”
Truman FY1948-53 $375.7 ” ” ”
*Excludes $80 billion supplemental added to FY2009 under Obama.
War Spending Drains an Economy:
It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.
War Spending Increases Inequality:
Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved.
War Spending Is Unsustainable, As Is Exploitation it Facilitates:
While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? This is far from clear, and if it were, it would not be sustainable in light of the dangers created by war, the environmental destruction of war, and the economic drain of militarism.
The Money Is Needed Elsewhere:
Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates’ wildest fantasies if some of the funds now invested in war were transferred there. Morally, they must be. As a matter of simple continued human existence, they must be, as they must be transferred to housing, education, infrastructure, and healthcare — at home and abroad.
It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. U.S. foreign aid right now is about $23 billion a year. Increasing it would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering. It would also, if one other factor were added, make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth. A recent poll of 65 nations found that the United States is far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world. Were the United States responsible for providing schools and medicine and solar panels, the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups, but only if one other factor were added — only if the funding came from where it really ought to come from — reductions in militarism.
Some U.S. states are setting up commissions to work on the transition from war to peace industries.
Popular opinion polls show huge support for cutting militarism and increasing spending in useful areas. In 2011 numerous polls found the top public solution to a budget “crisis” was to tax the super-rich, and the second most popular solution was to cut the military. This support increases dramatically when people find out how high military spending now is. Polls show that people have no idea. The Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland showed people the budget and then asked them about it. The results were very encouraging.
If a supposedly “progressive” caucus will not so much as tell people what the basic outlines of the budget look like, why produce a progressive budget? If you will tell people what the budget looks like, you really ought to follow through by proposing to change it.
We recommend eliminating nuclear weapons and working with the rest of the world to do the same globally. We recommend closing foreign bases, removing foreign and ocean-based weapons, and keeping U.S. troops within 200 miles of the United States. We recommend eliminating aircraft carriers, long-range missiles and other weapons that serve an offensive rather than a defensive purpose. We recommend eliminating secret “special” forces and weaponized drones that allow presidential killing sprees without Congressional oversight. This should, of course, be done through a program of conversion or transition that strategically retools and retrains to benefit U.S. and world workers, infrastructure, energy systems, the natural environment, and international relations.
We thank you for your consideration and encourage you to contact us for additional information.
Rethinking Bernie Sanders: Attacking Wall Street and the Corrupt US Political System Makes Sanders a Genuine Revolutionary
By Dave Lindorff
I admit I’ve been slow to warm up to the idea of supporting Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s because I publicly backed Barack Obama in 2008 and quickly came to rue that decision after he took office.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Emails and documents obtained by DeSmog reveal that the U.S. Department of Trade has actively promoted and facilitated business deals for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and export terminal owners, even before some of the terminals have the federal regulatory agency permits needed to open for business.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Just over a week before the U.S. signed the Paris climate agreement at the conclusion of the COP21 United Nations summit, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law with a provision that expedites permitting of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.
By Dave Lindorff
The leaves came off the last trees -- a crabapple, a willow and a hardy Norway maple -- during the first week of December this year, surely the latest I can remember seeing leaves on trees since we moved to the Philadelphia area 18 years ago. But it’s not just that.
Senate Passed Bill Expediting Fossil Fuel Extraction on Native American Land Two Days Before Paris Agreement
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Photo Credit: Indigenous Environmental Network
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The ongoing push to lift the ban on exports of U.S.-produced crude oil appears to be coming to a close, with Congress agreeing to a budget deal with a provision to end the decades-old embargo.
No more veterans!: November 11 or Armistice Day Began as a Time to Contemplate Peace, Not to Celebrate War and Warriors
By Dave Lindorff
Candidate Bernie Sanders’ silence speaks volumes: Budget Deal Fine Print Axes Benefit for Married Social Security Beneficiaries
By Dave Lindorff
By Alfredo Lopez
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, initialed by the delegations of the 12 participating countries in early October, is one of the most talked-about mysteries of our time. The moment the treaty was announced, there was a tidal wave of commentary and criticism: most of it based on previous versions, speculation and a few leaks. Because it won't be published for months (even years perhaps), nobody really knew what the document actually said.
Andrew Bard Schmookler's new book is called What We're Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World -- And How We Can Defeat It. I'll spare you some suspense; the evil force he has in mind is the Republican Party. Here's a video of a speech the author gave when he was running for Congress as a Democrat in a district gerrymandered Republican. As in the book, Schmookler calls out Republicans in the speech as promoting an unprecedented evil force in U.S. culture.
He has in mind wars, torture, environmental destruction, racism, sexism, promotion of plutocracy, defense of gun proliferation, widespread dishonesty, and the valuing of partisanship above all else. Republican cap-and-trade is denounced by Republicans as socialism. Corporate healthcare schemes developed by Republicans are attacked as death panels, once they're advanced by a Democrat.
Schmookler traces the problem to the joining of racism and corporatism in a single political party since the civil rights movement, to the growth of corporatism, and to the ability of affluent people working short hours to get into trouble. I find the last point unconvincing, as so many countries have greater economic security, shorter working hours, and less crazed rightwing politics than the United States.
In fact, I'm unconvinced by much of the book, including the conflation of general cultural trends with a political party. I don't accept the author's contention that the United States is more important than the rest of the world. I'm not persuaded by his demand for a "war" against the evil Republican force (even as his complaints with Republicans include their having turned politics into a "war" and their having waged actual wars). I find little value in all the mythologizing of the "founding fathers" and past actual wars. As for the endless Good-versus-Evil talk, if it gets some people off their butts I'm fine with it, but I'm more interested in the case for the evil of the Republicans that motivated this book than in the 90% of the book that consists of pondering the nature of "good" and "evil."
Are U.S. politics, culture, and the Republican party more evil than ever before? Or just more passionately partisan? Well, I don't know about ever before. This is a country built on slavery and genocide as mainstream acceptable institutions. But certainly the Republican Party has moved rightward in the past 40 years, and many have said, like Lincoln Chafee in the recent debate, that they didn't leave the party, it left them. Others have stuck with the party and left behind basic standards of decency, integrity, fairness, and toleration.
I give a lot more blame to major media outlets, which get the barest mention by Schmookler. I don't think blaming propagandized people is exactly blaming the victims, and Schmookler does point out that people choose to consume the worst media. But the Republican Party would be nothing without the media, the educational institutions, and the wider cultural trends that overlap with its agenda. Neither would the Democratic Party.
I also think Schmookler misses some major trends that have very little to do with partisanship. One is the planet's destruction as a process that has advanced over the decades and centuries. We haven't become more destructive so much as we have become more numerous and -- even more so -- we're simply living in a time that must face up to many years of past destructive behavior. Similarly, many white Americans have not exactly become more racist, they're simply living in an age in which the demographics of the United States are turning them into a minority -- something their pre-existing racism views as a problem.
Then there's war, which has so permeated our culture that Schmookler praises real and metaphorical wars even while lamenting both real and metaphorical wars. He dislikes torture, not murder. He's upset by Republican wars, but Obama's drone murders don't cause any concern. The toxic impact of war on U.S. culture, including in a rise of mass-shootings, is not considered. We have a country very well trained in despising other groups, through its collective disvaluing of 96% of humanity (something Schmookler promotes in his Introduction). We have racism and violence and the erosion of civil liberties imported from distant U.S. wars, and we're not supposed to see that trend as contributing to current evil?
I think part of the trouble in seeing the evil of militarism is that it's bipartisan. It brings peace and harmony to the halls of Congress. When we imagine that bickering in Washington is a more serious problem than, say, the death of the oceans or the slaughter of Yemeni children, that little item known as military spending that eats up over half of Congressional spending every year, has to be set aside as an exception to the important trend of partisan conflict.
Are Schmookler and the millions who agree with him right that the Republicans are evil, while the Democrats are good but weak? Up to a point perhaps. I think the author's desire for the United States to "lead" the world is part of the problem. I think it's just dumb to claim that U.S. torture programs are unprecedented or a political party in the United States opposing science is unprecedented. I think it's simplistic to claim the Republicans are always wrong and the Democrats always right. What about when partisanship overcomes even militarism and Republicans oppose President Obama's proposed bombing of Syria (in 2013)? I think it's a straw man to argue that the two parties aren't working together in a pretense of opposing each other. Democrats don't pretend to more populist and progressive positions as part of a Republican plot, but in order to please voters (and themselves) while actually serving funders and insiders.
I think the danger, although Schmookler does not intend this, in literally urging us to think like Star Wars movies in terms of good and evil forces, and in claiming that an evil force started the war on Iraq, is that we miss individual agency. Bush started that war. Many helped. Chafee, for example, didn't. If we blame a force we may end up blaming millions of people who call themselves Republicans, many of whom could be talked out of supporting the next war in 30-minutes of television-free conversation.
I think the value in screaming at the top of one's voice for 250 pages that there is a serious goddamned threat, and it isn't coming from Iran or Russia but from the rightwing madness of Washington, D.C., can hardly be overstated. If calls to metaphorical arms to rise up and denounce Good Americanism before it's too late might move you to become active in working for peace, justice, and moral decency, then please read this book.
There are dozens of Hillary Clinton scandals that I have no wish to minimize. But how is it that her habits of secrecy themselves attract more interest than the secrets already exposed?
Here is someone who has allowed shipments of weapons to countries that effectively paid her bribes. Last May the International Business Times published an article by David Sirota and Andrew Perez with the headline "Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton's State Department."
As the article recounts, Clinton approved a massive weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, almost certainly involving weapons since used to bomb innocent families in Yemen, despite official State Department positions on Saudi Arabia and, I might add, in apparent violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
"In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing -- the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 -- contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.
"The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton's State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.
". . . American [military] contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements."
Among the nations that the State Department itself criticized for abusive actions (and most of which Clinton herself criticized for funding terrorism) but which donated to the Clinton Foundation and gained clearance for U.S. weapons purchases from Clinton's State Department were: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. In 2010 the State Department criticized Algeria, Algeria donated to the Clinton Foundation, and . . .
"Clinton's State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as 'toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment' after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year."
Also, "The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria's donation until this year -- a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration."
Companies whose weapons sales Clinton's State Department approved to nations it had previously refused included these donors to the Clinton Foundation: Boeing, General Electric, Goldman Sachs (Hawker Beechcraft), Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and United Technologies.
Clinton's State Department, we can observe in the WikiLeaks cables, spent a great deal of time pushing foreign nations of all sorts to buy weapons from the above companies. Here's Fortune magazine in 2011:
"Perhaps the most striking account of arms advocacy . . . is a December 2008 cable from Oslo that recaps the embassy's push to persuade Norway to buy Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) instead of the Gripen, a fighter jet made by Sweden's Saab. The cable reads like a Lockheed sales manual. 'The country team has been living and breathing JSF for over a year, following a road to success that was full of heart-stopping ups and downs,' wrote the American official. He lists helpful suggestions for other diplomats looking to promote weapons: work 'with Lockheed Martin to determine which aspects of the purchase to highlight'; 'jointly develop a press strategy with Lockheed Martin'; 'create opportunities to talk about the aircraft.' 'Promoting economic security and prosperity at home and abroad is critical to America's national security, and thus central to the Department of State's mission,' the department spokesman wrote in an e-mail."
The Washington Post reported in April of last year:
"On a trip to Moscow early in her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton played the role of international saleswoman, pressing Russian government officials to sign a multibillion-dollar deal to buy dozens of aircraft from Boeing. A month later, Clinton was in China, where she jubilantly announced that the aerospace giant would be writing a generous check to help resuscitate floundering U.S. efforts to host a pavilion at the upcoming World's Fair. Boeing, she said, 'has just agreed to double its contribution to $2 million.' Clinton did not point out that, to secure the donation, the State Department had set aside ethics guidelines that first prohibited solicitations of Boeing and then later permitted only a $1 million gift from the company. Boeing had been included on a list of firms to be avoided because of its frequent reliance on the government for help negotiating overseas business and concern that a donation could be seen as an attempt to curry favor with U.S. officials."
Secretary of State Clinton dramatically increased U.S. weapons sales to the Middle East. Between 2008 and 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service, 79% of weapons shipments to the Middle East were from the United States.
Fun as it might be to watch long hours of Congress members asking Clinton why she destroyed emails or how an ambassador bringing peace, love, and happiness to Libya (and Syria) ended up dead, wouldn't it make more sense to ask her something like this:
Secretary Clinton, the Pope recently asked a joint session of this Congress to end the arms trade, and we gave him a standing ovation. Granted, we're a bunch of hypocritical creeps, but my God woman, look at your record! Is there any amount of human life you wouldn't sacrifice for a buck? Can you think of anything that could be found in anyone's secret emails that would be worse than what we already know about you? There is a precedent for impeaching high officials after retirement. They can be stripped of the Secret Service and of the right to run for any federal office. If an intern were to crawl under that table we'd impeach you by Friday. What in the world are we waiting for?
All right. All right! We're a bunch of partisan jack asses who will just get you elected if we try any such thing, and we'd gum it all up anyway. But we're going to keep you here until you answer us this question: how did you get THAT kind of money out of these nasty foreign dictatorships? I mean, seriously, can your people sit down with my staff one day next week? Also, what about drinks, just you, me, and a few of the top people at Boeing? Is that too much to ask?
Only a non-patriot or someone with a bit of respect for the Bill of Rights would have opposed the Patriot Act.
Only a child-hater or someone with a bit of respect for public education would have opposed the No Child Left Behind Act.
And only a genocide-supporter or someone who's fed up with endless aggressive foreign wars would oppose the forthcoming Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
Names can be deceiving, even when supporters of bills and of those bills' names have the best of intentions. Who wouldn't like to prevent genocide and atrocities, after all? I'm of the opinion that I support many measures that would help to do just that.
When the Pope told Congress to end the arms trade, and they gave him a standing ovation, I didn't begin holding my breath for them to actually act on those words. But I've long advocated it. The United States supplies more weapons to the world than anyone else, including three-quarters of the weapons to the Middle East and three-quarters of the weapons to poor countries (actually 79% in both cases in the most recent reports from the Congressional Research Service; it may be higher now). I'm in favor of cutting off the arms trade globally, and the United States could lead that effort by example and by treaty agreement.
Most genocides are the products of wars. The Rwandan genocide followed years of U.S.-supported war-making, and was permitted by President Bill Clinton because he favored the rise to power of Paul Kagame. Policies aimed at preventing that genocide would have included refraining from backing the Ugandan war, refraining from supporting the assassin of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, providing actual humanitarian aid, and -- in a crisis -- providing peaceworkers. Never was there a need for the bombs that have fallen in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere on the grounds that we must not again fail to bomb Rwanda.
Genocidal actions, and similarly murderous actions that don't fit the genocide definition, occur around the world and are recognized by the United States as genocide or unacceptable, or not, based on the standing of the guilty party with the U.S. government. Saudi Arabia is, of course, not committing genocide in Yemen where it is bombing children with U.S. bombs. But the slightest pretext is sufficient to suggest that Gadaffi or Putin is threatening genocide. And, of course, the United States' own decades-long slaughter of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere cannot be genocide because the United States is doing it.
Global standards should be maintained by global bodies, but even I would not complain about the U.S. government appointing itself genocide preventer if it (1) ceased engaging in genocide, (2) ceased providing weapons of mass murder, and (3) engaged in only non-violent attempts to prevent genocide -- that is to say, genocide-free genocide prevention. What we know about Senator Cardin's bill, in addition to its sponsorship by a reliable war-supporter like Cardin, suggests that one of the tools to be used against "genocide" would be the tool that dominates the U.S. government's budget and bureaucracy whenever it is included, namely the military.
"The Act will make it national policy:
"1. to prevent mass atrocities and genocide as both a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility;"
Why both? Why isn't a moral responsibility good enough? Why did the Department of Justice argue for the legality of bombing Libya on the ridiculous grounds that the safety of the United States was endangered by not doing so? Why throw "national security" into a list of reasons to try to prevent mass-murder in some distant land? Why? Because it becomes an excuse, even a quasi-legal justification, for war.
"2. to mitigate the threats to United States security by preventing the root causes of insecurity, including masses of civilians being slaughtered, refugees flowing across borders, and violence wreaking havoc on regional stability and livelihood;"
But to do this, the United States would have to stop slaughtering masses of civilians and overthrowing governments, rather than use the disasters created by its own or others' war-making as a justification for more war-making. And what the hell happened to "moral responsibility"? By point #2 it's already so long forgotten that we're supposed to object to masses of civilians being slaughtered purely because that is somehow a "threat to United States security." Of course, in reality mass slaughter tends to generate anti-U.S. violence when the U.S. does the slaughtering, not otherwise.
"3. to enhance its capacity to prevent and address mass atrocities and violent conflict as part of its humanitarian and strategic interests;"
Terms begin to blur, edges fade. Now it's not just "genocide" that justifies more war-making, but even "violent conflict." And it's not just preventing it, but "addressing" it. And how does the world's greatest purveyor of violence tend to "address" "violent conflict"? If you don't know that one yet, Senator Cardin would like to invite you to move to Maryland and vote for him.
Something else snuck in here as well. In addition to "humanitarian interests," the United States can act on its "strategic interests," which are of course not the interests of the U.S. public but the interests of, for example, the oil companies that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was so concerned for when she pushed for bombing Libya, as seen in the emails that we're supposed to be upset about for something other than their content.
"4. to work to create a government-wide strategy to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities:
A. by strengthening diplomatic, early warning, and conflict prevention and mitigation capacities;
B. by improving the use of foreign assistance to respond early and effectively to address the root causes and drivers of violence;
C. by supporting international atrocities prevention, conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding mechanisms; and
D. by supporting local civil society, including peacebuilders, human rights defenders, and others who are working to help prevent and respond to atrocities; and"
"Government-wide"? Let's recall which bit of the government sucks down 54% of federal discretionary spending. Sub-points A through D look excellent, of course, or would were this not the U.S. government and all of the U.S. government we're talking about.
"5. to employ a variety of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral means to respond to international conflicts and mass atrocities, by placing a high priority on timely, preventive diplomatic efforts and exercising a leadership role in promoting international efforts to end crises peacefully."
If that sort of language were sincere, Cardin could demonstrate it and win me over by simply adding:
6. This will all be done nonviolently.
6. Nothing in this act is intended to suggest the privilege to violate either the United Nations Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact as these treaties are part of the Supreme Law of the Land under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.
A harmless little addition like that would win me right over.
In a letter to Secretary Carter, Secretary Kerry and CIA Director Brennan, the bipartisan group of Senators urge U.S. officials to cease unsuccessful program and seek alternative ways forward
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mike Lee (R-UT) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, U.S. Department of State Secretary John Kerry and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan urging them to end the Syria Train and Equip Program – an unsuccessful effort to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters – which has endangered Americans and further escalated conflict in the region.
The Senators wrote in part: “The Syria Train and Equip Program goes beyond simply being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. As many of us initially warned, it is now aiding the very forces we aim to defeat. On Friday, USCENTCOM confirmed that some of the fighters that we trained and equipped had turned over ammunition and trucks to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Al Nusra Front. In exchange for safe passage, the fighters, trained by the U.S., gave up approximately 25% of their U.S.-issued equipment.”
Please read the full text of the Senators’ letter below or here.
Dear Secretary Carter, Secretary Kerry, and Director Brennan:
We write to express our deep concern about the Syria Train and Equip Program and to call for an end to this failed initiative. When Congress was considering the program last year, many of us expressed concerns about this program endangering Americans and further escalating the conflict. The evidence further supports our belief. It is time for the Department to find a new path forward.
Authorized at $500 million for Fiscal Year 2015, the program has struggled to graduate “vetted” opposition fighters. When General Lloyd Austin III, the commander of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that only "four or five" U.S.-trained opposition fighters were on the ground fighting in Syria. It has since been reported that another 75 United States-trained rebels have entered the fight, but this is still a far cry from the 5,000 fighters the program aimed to train each year.
The Syria Train and Equip Program goes beyond simply being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. As many of us initially warned, it is now aiding the very forces we aim to defeat. On Friday, USCENTCOM confirmed that some of the fighters that we trained and equipped had turned over ammunition and trucks to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Al Nusra Front. In exchange for safe passage, the fighters, trained by the U.S., gave up approximately 25% of their U.S.-issued equipment.
With over 200,000 persons killed, 4 million refugees, and 7.6 million internally displaced people, the situation in Syria is absolutely tragic, and we must ensure that any U.S. efforts do not cause additional harm. We ask that you cease the Syria Train and Equip Program and look for alternative ways forward.
That little smoke-filled room where our despair and paranoia incline us to imagine a small number of evil people run the world clearly forgot to keep an eye on the Republican Party.
A popular movement has struggled to stop such looming disasters as the NAFTA-on-steroids Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the ouster of John Boehner as Speaker of the House puts stopping anything into play. While scholarly studies deem the U.S. government to be an oligarchy, based on whom it actually serves, petty partisan squabbling just might come riding to the rescue of democracy -- accidentally of course.
Boehner wasn't insufficiently right-wing for the other Republicans in the House of Representatives, he was just insufficiently obstinate and insufficiently anti-Obama. The new Speaker's mandate will be to oppose to the death anything Obama supports. Obama could publicly throw himself behind keeping Guantanamo open, and the place would be shut by Thursday.
See, from way out yonder beyond the Beltway we sometimes have to squint to see the difference between the two parties. But from their perspective, one party is on a holy mission while the other is evil incarnate. And the minority of Americans who still bother to vote tend to be disproportionately those who also manage to see a big difference between the two parties. So, candidates get elected with the rather stupid mission of first and foremost opposing anything the other party does.
The little-known-fact that usually makes this look like a silly charade but which, if it's taken far enough, could just be our salvation, is that the two parties agree on most of the big stuff. They both want major job-and-environment-destroying corporate trade agreements, for example. They'll scream at each other about abortion but ram those plutocratic deals right through, against any amount of public opposition. Unless, perhaps, they've sworn an oath on what passes for their honor to oppose anything the other party supports.
Now here's where this could get really really good. The majority of what Congress spends money on each year (some 54% of discretionary spending now) is a single item in multiple departments: the military. The global celebration if a U.S. military spending bill were ever blocked would top probably all past human festivals. But how to stop one? A speech by the Pope clearly won't do it. Protesters getting thrown out of committee hearings hasn't done it. Public opinion polls barely register. After 14 years of a particularly disastrous military campaign, Congress seems perfectly content to roll right along. Unless, perhaps, a partisan disagreement can be introduced into the debate. (I'm thinking a Democratic commitment to passing no military spending without full rights for trans-gender soldiers.)
Gridlock is generally lamented by the U.S. media, but when most of what's being done is damaging, we really ought to work to facilitate gridlock. Bailout a bank? No thanks. Subsidize a coal company? I'll pass. Cut taxes on a billionaire? Maybe later.
Of course, this gets us only so far. You can't fantasize about passing good and necessary legislation under gridlock. Congress won't be able to invest in a radical emergency project to save the earth's climate, for example. But if you think that was about to happen, you may want to roll over and stop snoring. Once in a blue moon some smaller piece of desirable legislation comes to a vote. Those would suffer under Congressional gridlock or shutdown. We'd have to work at the state, local, and global levels instead.
But wouldn't it be worth it to be rid of Congress? C-Span could then switch over to live video feeds of police brutality 24-7.
By John Grant
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. ... The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”
By Dave Lindorff
By Alfredo Lopez
How much noise does the other shoe make when it drops? If the shoe is a law that would complete the development of a police surveillance state in the United States, it's almost silent.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Emails released on July 31 by the U.S. State Department reveal more about the origins of energy reform efforts in Mexico. The State Department released them as part of the once-a-month rolling release schedule for emails generated by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now a Democratic presidential candidate.
By Dave Lindorff
I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.
Puerto Rico's the new Greece, DC's the new Berlin, bankers are the same: Washington and Wall Street to Puerto Ricans: Drop Dead!
By Dave Lindorff
You can read the entire article in the New York Times Tuesday business section reporting on Puerto Rico’s default on a payment on its staggering $72 billion debt without once learning that the little Caribbean island, home to 3.5 million US citizens, is a territory of the United States, or more properly, a colony, insofar as its residents have no representation in Washington, cannot vote for national candidates for office, and furthermore, are subject to US federal courts, whose judges are all appointed by the federal government.