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Military Industrial Complex

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End the Drug War: Happy Pot Legalization Day!

A Special Report today on the issue of ending Marijuana Prohibition and the massively destructive War on Drugs, by TCBH! collective journalist Linn Washington, Jr. and three students in his Temple University journalism class:


Marijuana: Facts and Falacies, by Linn Washington


The bigger threat is the National Security Agency: Despite Heart Bleed, the Internet’s Alive and Well!

By Alfredo Lopez


Some are calling it a "worst nightmare". There have been dire predictions that it represents the end of the Internet or that there is, in fact, no real Internet security or that Free and Open Source Software is dangerous to use.

One thing is sure. The week-old saga of the Heart Bleed flaw (or bug) and its potential exploits has shown more light on the Internet and its security issues than anything else in recent memory.

Fury punches out early: Striking a Blow for Disarmament in Maine Shipyard

By Dave Lindorff

 

Let us pause to honor Charles Fury.

A program to take over human communications?: The Drones of Facebook (and the NSA)

By Alfredo Lopez

 

"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."

A program to take over human communications?: The Drones of Facebook (and the NSA)

By Alfredo Lopez

 

"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."

What are they hiding?: Some Serious Problems with the FBI’s Killing of a Witness in Florida

By Dave Lindorff


In the voluminous report issued by Florida State’s Attorney Jeff Ashton’s Office on the killing in Orlando last May 22 of a witness/suspect under interrogation by the FBI -- an investigation that concluded that the shooting was “justified” -- there is not a single mention of the bruise and contusion on the left side of Todashev’s head.


Florida State’s Attorney takes a dive on FBI slaying probe Two Law Enforcement Officers, Two Stories of a Witness Killing: Who’

By Dave Lindorff

 

The Florida State’s Attorney for the Orlando region, Jeffrey Ashton, today released his conclusion at the end of a 10-month investigation into the FBI slaying of Ibragim Todashev, a suspected witness in the Boston bombing case, saying that he will not be prosecuting the agent. Ashton ruled that the killing, in which the agent, at the end of a nearly 5-hour May 21 interrogation in Todashev’s Orlando apartment, fired seven bullets into Todashev, killing him justifiably, after being attacked.


Did the FBI Snuff a Boston Marathon Bombing Witness? Dark Questions About a Deadly FBI Interrogation in Orlando

By Dave Lindorff


(This article was written as an exclusive for Counterpunch magazine, where the full story can be read, along with photos of the crime scene)


World Has No Idea How U.S. Decides on Wars

People from Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere have told me, and have testified in the U.S. Congress, that they have a hard time convincing their neighbors that everyone in the United States doesn't hate them.  There are buzzing killer robots flying over their houses night and day and every now and then blowing a bunch of people up with a missile with very little rhyme or reason that anyone nearby can decipher.  They don't know where to go or not go, what to do or not do, to be safe or keep their children safe.  Their children have instinctively taken to crouching and covering their heads just like U.S. children in the 1950s were taught to do as supposed protection from Soviet nuclear weapons.

The good news is that, of course, we don't all hate Yemenis or Pakistanis or Somalis or Afghans or Libyans or any of the other people who might suspect us of it.  The bad news -- and the news that I'm afraid would be almost incomprehensible to many millions of people around the world -- is that most of us have only the vaguest idea where any of those countries are, some of us don't know that they ARE countries at all, and we pay far greater attention to our sports and our pets than to whom exactly our government is killing this Tuesday.

This obliviousness comes into sharpest relief perhaps when we elect the officials who are legally called on to decide on our wars.  The extent to which Congress has handed war making over to presidents is also brought out by observing Congressional elections.  It is not at all uncommon for U.S. Congressional candidates' platforms to entirely ignore all questions of war and peace, and to win support from either Democrats or Republicans despite this omission -- despite, in particular, taking no position on the area funded by 57% of the dollars they will vote on if elected, namely wars and war preparations.

Here in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, a man named Lawrence Gaughan recently announced as a Democratic candidate for Congress.  I'd never heard of him, so I took a look at the "Issues" section of his website.  Not only WAS there such a section (some candidates campaign purely on their biography without taking positions on anything), but Gaughan's site had clear forthright statements on a number of important issues.  He backed labor unions despite their virtual nonexistence in his district.  He admitted the existence of climate change.  He backed Eisenhower era tax rates (!!).  And his statements made commitments: "I will not vote for any tax cuts for those making over 250,000 dollars a year." "I support the Dream Act." "I would vote for any legislation that would bring back jobs in construction, manufacturing and production." Either this guy had real principles or he was just too new for anyone to have explained to him how to make his promises vague enough not to commit himself to any specific actions.

All too typically, however, when I scrolled through the "Issues," I noticed a gap.  I sent this note off to the candidate's staff:

"Your candidate has some of the best and clearest positions on domestic issues that I've seen, and dramatically superior to Congressman Hurt's, but judging by his website as it stands today he seems to have no position on foreign policy whatsoever, or even on that 57% of discretionary spending that, according to the National Priorities Project, goes to militarism.  For people who support domestic social justice AND peace in the world in this district, we are put in a bind by our history. Congressman Perriello voted for every war dollar he could, and has made a career of pushing for new wars since leaving office.  Congressman Hurt is a disaster on other issues but listened to us and took a stand against missile strikes on Syria. He even listened to us on lawless imprisonment and voted against a "Defense" Authorization Act on one occasion. Helpful as it is to know what Lawrence Gaughan thinks of 43% of the budget, some of us are really going to have to know what he thinks of the larger part.  Would he cut military spending? Would he oppose new wars? Does he oppose drone strikes? Would he repeal the authorization to use military force of '01 and that of '03? Would he support economic conversion to peaceful industries on the model now set up in Connecticut? Would he advance a foreign policy of diplomacy, cooperation, actual aid, and nonviolent conflict resolution? Are there any foreign bases he would close?  Does he think having U.S. troops in 175 nations is too many, too few, or just right? Does he support joining the ICC? Thanks for your time!"

A couple of days later, Gaughan called me on the phone.  We talked for a while about foreign policies, wars, peace, militarism, the economic advantages of converting to peaceful industries, the danger of handing war powers over to presidents.  He said he opposed wars. He said he wanted to take on the influence of the military industrial complex.  He didn't seem particularly well informed, but he seemed to be coming from a fairly good place or to at least be willing to get there. 

He proposed allowing military veterans to never pay any taxes.  That's not exactly the sort of resistance to militarism that President Kennedy had in mind when he wrote that wars would continue until the conscientious objector has the honor and prestige of the soldier.  Gaughan offered no tax cuts for conscientious objectors.  Still, he said he'd get some good statements on foreign policy added to his website right away. He also said he'd be willing to debate the other candidates, including the incumbent, on foreign relations, should peace groups create such a forum and invite him.

Lo and behold, the next day, this appeared on Gaughan's website:

"Military

"We have strayed from our constitution when it comes to the defense of our nation and declaration of war. I was opposed to the war in Iraq for many reasons.  The enormous price paid by our brave men and women as well as the huge financial debt that we incurred was not necessary.  Republicans in Congress continue to defer those costs on our military personnel and our veterans through the sequester and other austerity measures.

"Not withstanding the government shutdown, the Republican budget proposals that my opponent, Robert Hurt, has voted for over the past three years, have forced the Pentagon into reductions that have taken a tremendous toll on enlisted personnel right here in our district. These political policies are also causing reductions to TriCare, active duty health benefits, and to retired military pensions. As the greatest nation on earth, it is unacceptable that we have homeless veterans or military families who struggle to pay the bills.

"We owe so much to the men and women who serve. Instead of laying off soldiers and cutting funding for the VA, we could begin by eliminating the ongoing fraud by military contractors. Fraud committed by dozens of irresponsible military industry corporations have cost taxpayers more than $1.1 trillion. Eliminating this fraud would offset most of the estimated $1.2 trillion in policy savings required over the next decade in order to realize the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction without 'gutting our military'. Furthermore, as a component of tax reform, there should be a tax exemption status for veterans written into the tax code."


His topic, all too typically -- people around the world should understand -- is not how to relate to the 95% of humanity that is not in the United States, but how to treat "The Military." 

His first sentence echoes our discussion of the past three-quarters century of undeclared wars, but doesn't spell it out.  Will he oppose wars that lack a Congressional declaration or not? 

He picks one past war to oppose without stating his position on future wars.  He describes the costs of a war that killed some million Iraqis and destroyed a nation as all being paid by the U.S. and its soldiers. 

He blames the sequester agreement on only one of the two parties that agreed to it, and buys into the myth that it has resulted in cuts to the military.  (True, Democrats in the Senate recently put up a token effort to fund veterans' needs and were blocked by Republicans.)  Gaughan claims that we owe "so much" to members of the military who "serve."  What exactly do we owe them? Can he name something that we owe them? He doesn't want soldiers to be "laid off," as if employing them is a make-work jobs program. 

In my view we owe veterans housing, healthcare, education, a clean environment, and a healthy society because they are human beings -- and we owe it equally to every other human being.  But we shouldn't pretend that the military's so-called "service" isn't making us hated around the world.  We shouldn't try to produce more veterans as if there were something noble about murdering people.

Gaughan almost closes on an up note.  He acknowledges fraud by military contractors.  He even calls them "military," rather than using the misleading term "defense."  But then he makes clear that he doesn't want to cut the military. He wants to create efficiency to avoid cuts while saving money. 

Would he repeal authorizations to use military force? Who knows. Would he back future wars? Who can tell? Does he believe U.S. troops should be in 175 nations? Perhaps.  But if they were in 182 would he then think 182 was the right number?  Does he favor allowing presidents to murder people with missiles from drones or by any other means?  Does he think antagonizing Russia and China and Iran should remain the focus of U.S. foreign policy?  Does he want the occupation of Afghanistan ended? Who knows. 

He brought up a Department of Peace on our phone call, but it didn't make the website yet.  One can hope that Gaughan's website is a work in progress.  There's certainly a chance he'll become a far better candidate and Congress member than this district has had in a long time. 

But this, dear world, is more or less how the world's largest-ever killing machine operates.  It turns its eyes away from the machine's work and, if pushed, debates the care of the machine itself -- maintaining more or less complete obliviousness to the horrors the machine produces in those far away places where you live and die.

Ego trumps principle: Sen. Feinstein Finally Goes after the CIA, but not for Lying to and Spying on Us

By Dave Lindorff


Of all the people to come to the rescue of the Constitution, who would have thought it would be Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA).

Feinstein, after all, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, has yet to see an NSA violation of the Constitution, an invasive spying program or a creative “re-interpretation” of the law that she hasn’t applauded as being lawful and “needed” to “keep people safe.”

If they drop these charges, why not all of them?: Crowd-Sourcing, Crowd Support and Barrett Brown's Partial Victory

By Alfredo Lopez

 

Federal prosecutors last week dropped several of the most significant charges facing Internet activist and journalist Barrett Brown -- charges that could have drawn a jail sentence of 105 years.

The New Crimean War: Balls, Brains and History

By John Grant


Making political sense out of the events in Ukraine and Crimea has become great sport. Does it mean a new Cold War? Is Vladimir Putin a better, more “potent” man than Barack Obama? Who has bigger balls?

An Honest Article About Military Spending and Corruption Gets Printed by Associated Press

Chris Rickert: Bipartisanship sets sail aboard the USS Defense Spending


CHRIS RICKERT | Wisconsin State Journal | crickert@madison.com | 608-252-6198
Published: Today

Forget about national tragedies, Olympic success or sitting down over a couple of beers.

Nothing brings people together like military spending.

What else could get the thumbs-up from a tea party debt hawk, a cheerleader for “new politics,” one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate, and a massive, left-leaning educational bureaucracy?

Last month, three Wisconsin members of Congress criticized plans from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to curtail production of the Navy’s littoral combat ship, which is made in Alabama and Wisconsin’s own Marinette Marine.

Then last week, UW-Madison backed a bill in the state Legislature that would end a ban on federally funded classified research - including military research - in the UW System and make UW-Madison one of only three Big Ten universities to allow it.

When not proposing $1.4 trillion in federal spending cuts and producing episodes in his “victims of government” series, Sen. Ron Johnson seeks to explain his support for the LCS program as a matter of military readiness, not love of the government contract.

“Sen. Johnson supports the building of the ships and the LCS program,” spokeswoman Melinda Schnell said, “but he by no means feels it is within his role as a U.S. senator to tell the Navy how many of these ships it needs.”

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, whose district includes Marinette, takes a similar tack. His chief of staff said the ship is needed, wanted and comparatively cheap.

Ribble, incidentally, is part of a bipartisan effort called No Labels, which touts itself as “dedicated to a new politics of problem solving.” I guess “new politics” still includes the military-industrial complex.

Speaking of which, in a Feb. 4 statement, Sen. Tammy Baldwin - “a long-time supporter of the LCS program in Wisconsin” -says the LCS program has a “ripple effect across the state, boosting our Made in Wisconsin economy.” No word on whether her support will cause waves among her many peacenik supporters.

In Madison - where college students once rioted against recruiters from napalm-making Dow Chemical - a spokeswoman for today’s student government said the organization is not taking a position on the possible return of classified national security research some 40 years after opposition to the Vietnam War led the UW System to ban it.

The university and the lobbying arm of its Faculty Senate are behind the effort, though, which I suppose is no surprise given the university’s soft spot for secrecy.

Under the original version of the classified research bill, the university lobbied for a provision that would have exempted a broader swath of research from the state’s open records law. That idea was ultimately dropped.

For, well, obvious reasons, peace-minded, military-wary liberals should support curbs to the LCS program and oppose academic research on waging war.

You’d think conservatives would support calls to reduce spending. And secret military research is a little too reminiscent of black helicopters and jackbooted government thugs not to give libertarian-minded conservatives pause.

But principles stand little chance when federal largesse is on the line.

Pentagon Calls Climate Change Impacts "Threat Multipliers," Could Enable Terrorism

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The U.S. Department of Defense released the 2014 version of its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) yesterday, declaring the threat of climate change impacts a very serious national security vulnerability that, among other things, could enable further terrorist activity. 

Released every four years, the QDR is a broad outline of U.S. military strategy discussing how to maintain global U.S. military hegemony. Like the 2010 document, the 64-page 2014 QDR again highlights the threats posed to national security by ever-worsening global climate disruption.

Not funny, but it’s still hard not to laugh: How Can the US Accuse Russia of Violating International Law?

By Dave Lindorff


If you want to make moral or legal pronouncements, or to condemn bad behavior, you have to be a moral, law-abiding person yourself. It is laughable when we see someone like Rush Limbaugh criticizing drug addicts or a corrupt politician like former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) voting for more prisons, more cops, and tougher rules against appeals of sentences.


The same thing goes for nations.

Budget Realignment Reflects Pentagon’s Vision of Covert and Endless War

By Brian J. Trautman
 
The Pentagon’s budget proposal for next year was announced last week by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In an interview with The New York Times, Hagel argued that to meet today’s national security needs, the Department of Defense (DoD) must shift its focus and capabilities away from “fighting grinding ground conflicts” and towards “new arenas of combat.” To achieve these ends, the budget calls for a realignment of the military that would reduce the total number of ground troops to its lowest level since 1940 and discontinue some military equipment deemed obsolete or unnecessary. According to Hagel, current levels of both assets are “larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready.” The proposed budget also includes reductions in personnel benefits and base services, as well as base closings. The targeted cuts, however, are only one aspect of the budget. The other involves the new sources of priority spending.
 
The budget plan includes a call for greater expenditures on computer-based technologies and special operations. The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss reports that the “cuts would fund new projects including cyberwarfare capabilities, $1 billion for a more fuel-efficient jet engine, and plans for a new Navy surface ship.” Despite the cuts to traditional aspects of the military, the DoD has no plans to shrink or limit programs that would undermine America’s ever-growing hegemonic objectives. Dreyfuss writes, “Major weapons systems that might have been cut were sustained, the US special forces units are being increased substantially from already high levels” and “the US Navy would maintain all eleven of its aircraft carriers.”

According to National Priorities Project, a nonprofit, non-partisan federal budget research organization, even as Hagel is requesting “cutbacks in a number of military programs, the Pentagon isn’t planning any major reductions in spending any time soon.” While the cuts translate to savings in specific areas, “the new Pentagon budget does not project a commensurate decline in spending.” In fact, the United States will continue to carry a defense budget which exceeds that of the next 10 countries combined.

In a blog post titled “New War Budget and Strategy Announced by Obama team,” Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, points out that the Pentagon’s approach “actually calls for an increase of more than $115 billion for war making” and “for 'sustaining' the Pentagon's nuclear triad - air, ground, and sea delivery systems of nuclear weapons.” Furthermore, this budget would bring about “an increase in drones and robotic forces as well as significant expansion in cyber warfare capabilities.” Gagnon warns that “We will see an expansion of US 'hidden' wars in the near future and the Obama budget reflects this reality.”

Hagel’s proposal is already receiving pushback from Congress. Most of the criticism has come from lawmakers who financially benefit from the business-as-usual paradigm of the military-industrial complex. Many of these politicians represent districts in which a military base is housed, and therefore both they and their districts could be negatively impacted by the cuts. Few lawmakers, though, are directing their criticism at the fundamental reason the budget is unreasonable and unacceptable; it will facilitate many more clandestine missions across the globe, effectively allowing the DoD and the Executive branch to be less transparent and accountable to the American people and the international community.

The Pentagon’s decision to shift attention to the latest and most deadly technologies should come as no surprise. It is a move that has been in the pipeline for some time, and is already reflected in the deployment of unmanned armed aerial vehicles (e.g., predator drones) and Special Forces or “kill teams.”  Why and how these tactics have been implemented over the past decade has been the subject of scrutiny. Among those who have raised moral and legal questions and warned about the implications of these operations is investigative journalist and best-selling author Jeremy Scahill. His most recent book, “Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield,” which was made into a now-Oscar-nominated documentary film, tells the hidden truth behind America's increasingly covert, privatized, borderless, permanent war machine. With this budget, we should expect much greater use of this machine moving forward.

Make no mistake. The Pentagon’s proposal to transform the military is a smoke and mirrors plan. It does not represent a dismantling of the military-industrial complex but a chilling morphing of it, and will advance American imperial power and further enrich war profiteers even as it cuts out the troops. Anti-war and peace activists who have long demanded meaningful cuts in the bloated military budget have little to celebrate after Hagel’s deceptive announcement. This budget does not signal a change in U.S. foreign policy or the nation’s perceived or actual role in the world. The justification and implications of the new military budget reveal the frightening reality of the government’s intention to continue its quest for global domination. It once again exposes the true face of American Empire as it develops and employs new ways to control governments and natural resources under the veil of counter-terrorism and national security.


Brian J. Trautman writes for PeaceVoice, is a military veteran, an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA, and a peace activist. On Twitter @BriTraut.

Criticizing repression of protest abroad, practicing it at home: What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of This Government?

By Dave Lindorff


Ukraine’s new rulers, in one of their first acts, have disbanded that country’s riot police.


NEW WAR BUDGET AND STRATEGY ANNOUNCED BY OBAMA TEAM

From Space4Peace:

 


Secretary of War Chuck Hagel yesterday announced the Obama administration's Pentagon budget proposal for the coming year.  Despite mandates for cuts in military spending after agreements with Congress under sequestration, Hagel actually calls for an increase of more than $115 billion for war making.

The Hagel budget basically calls for cuts in Army ground forces and cutbacks in military pay, housing and commissary facilities on bases.  Life for the enlisted will become more difficult.  The Pentagon is also calling for the closing of a few National Guard posts in some states.  

Hagel calls for 'sustaining' the Pentagon's nuclear triad - air, ground, and sea delivery systems of nuclear weapons.  Also called for is an increase in drones and robotic forces as well as significant expansion in cyber warfare capabilities.  

Wall Street immediately reacted by joyfully giving Lockheed-Martin all-time high stock gains.  The writing on the wall is clear - cuts in troop levels and increase in high-tech space directed war-making capability.

We will see an expansion of US "hidden" wars in the near future and the Obama budget reflects this reality.  While Hagel wants to pare back the size of the active-duty military by 13% and the reserves by 5% in coming years he would boost the size of Special Operations forces by about 6%.  The plan is to add more than 3,000 personnel to the kinds of special ops forces teams that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. 

These same clandestine forces now operate in more than 75 countries around the world.  In his film “Dirty Wars” investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill reports on the largely unaccountable Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that is now doing targeted assassinations, destabilization, and training of right-wing and terrorist forces used by the US in places like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and beyond. The corporate oligarchy is moving rapidly to consolidate their total control of the people around the world and the US is playing its role of "security export" rather well.

Mainstream media reports of the Hagel announcement also tag two key places on the planet that will receive special emphasis from this new budget.  Those are the African continent and the Asia-Pacific.  This is where the long-range military operations planning and funding are heading.

Our organizing (no matter whether it is local, regional, national or international) needs to take into account this very fundamental direction the Obama supported military complex is tacking toward.  

Secretary Hagel's Cuts Don't Translate into Less Spending

From NationalPriorities.org
 

On Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a speech at the Pentagon that announced cutbacks in a number of military programs:

  • Reductions in military personnel in the active-duty Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and Marine Corps
  • A pay freeze for flag officers and generals
  • A reduction in benefits for active-duty personnel and their families
  • Elimination of some weapons systems, including the Air Force A-10 Attack Jet and U-2 spy plane fleet, and reduction in the number of Navy littoral combat ships

However, despite all of these changes, the new Pentagon budget does not project a commensurate decline in spending.

The president is expected to propose an additional $26 billion for the Pentagon in 2015, on top of the spending limits agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. In addition, the Pentagon receives many tens of billions in additional funding to operate wars overseas, officially known as "Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)," and that money isn't subject to caps.

 

"Five-year spending projections at the Pentagon show that it plans to exceed the spending caps of sequestration by $115 billion over the next five years," said Jo Comerford, NPP Executive Director. "We must hold Secretary Hagel to his promise to make tough choices in Pentagon spending, including examining the OCO 'slush fund.' As a nation, we must redefine what we mean by security and listen to the people's priorities for how to spend our tax dollars."

 

National Priorities Project has the cost per hour of Pentagon spending by city, county, state, and Congressional districts.

 

###

 

National Priorities Project (NPP) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that makes our complex federal budget transparent and accessible so people can exercise their right and responsibility to shape our nation's budget. We are the people's guide to the federal budget. In 2014, NPP was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of our pioneering work to track federal spending on the military and promote a U.S. federal budget that represents Americans' priorities, including funding for people's issues such as inequality, unemployment, education, health and the need to build a green economy. Learn more at nationalpriorities.org.

SPRING DAYS OF DRONE ACTION - 2014

Talk Nation Radio: U.S. Marine Corps Threatens Small Pacific Island

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-u-s-marine

Michael Hadfield is a Professor of Zoology and Principal Investigator at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii, and at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. He discusses the need to save Pagan Island, its people and other species, from the U.S. military. See http://savepaganisland.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Interview with a GOP opponent of militarization: Police State Gears Up

By Dave Lindorff

(This article originally ran in WhoWhatWhy News)

If you’re a small-town police chief, or perhaps the chief of a university security department, the US Department of Defense has got a deal for you!

Thanks to the ending of the Iraq War, and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has 11,000 heavily armored vehicles that it has no use for.  Called MRAPs—Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected—they are designed to protect against AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs. And as pitchman Paul Richards used to say of the ’69 Pontiac Firebird, “They’re practically giving them away!”

Correction, they are giving them away.

All a local police department has to do to get itself an 18-ton MRAP—which originally cost taxpayers between $400,000-$700,000 complete with gun turret and bullet-proof windows—is send a few cops to pick it up and pay for the gas.

There are a few downsides: the things get only five miles to the gallon, can’t go over most bridges (or under them), and have a nasty habit of tipping over on rough terrain.

New weekly ThisCantBeHappening! radio show Climate change: Washington and the Oil Companies Know but Won’t Act to Stop It

ThisCantBeHappening! has a new radio program of the same name. TCBH founder Dave Lindotff  will be hosting the show every Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern Time on theProgressive Radio Network.

Are We Done With War Now?

BY DAVID SWANSON, GUEST COLUMN

<br />
David Swanson David Swanson

Polls showed a large percentage of us in this country supporting the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and even — though somewhat reduced — the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But not long after, and ever since, a majority of us have said those were mistakes.

We’ve opposed attacking Iran whenever that idea has entered the news. We opposed bombing Libya in 2011 and were ignored, as was Congress. And, by the way, advocates of that happy little war are rather quiet about the chaos it created.

But last September, the word on our televisions was that missiles must be sent to strike Syria. President Barack Obama and the leaders of both big political parties said they favored it. Wall Street believed it would happen, judging by Raytheon’s stock. When U.S. intelligence agencies declined to make the president’s case, he released a “government” assessment without them.

Remarkably, we didn’t accept that choice. A majority of us favored humanitarian aid, but no missiles, and no arming of one side in the war. We had the benefit of many people within the government and the military agreeing with us. And when Congress was pressured to demand approval power, Obama granted it.

It helped more that members of Congress were in their districts with people getting in their faces. It was with Congress indicating its refusal to support a war that Obama and Kerry accepted the pre-existing Russian offer to negotiate. In fact, the day before they made that decision, the State Department had stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would never ever give up his chemical weapons, and Kerry’s remarks on that solution had been “rhetorical.”

The war in Syria goes on. Washington sent guns, but refrained from air strikes. Major humanitarian aid would cost far less than missiles and guns, but hasn’t materialized. The children we were supposed to care about enough to bomb their country are still suffering, and most of us still care.

But a U.S. war was prevented.

We’re seeing the same thing play out in Washington right now on the question of whether to impose yet more sanctions on Iran, shred a negotiated agreement with Iran, and commit the United States to joining in any war between Israel and Iran.

In January, a bill to do all of that looked likely to pass through the Senate. Public pressure has been one factor in, thus far, slowing it down.

Are we moving away from war?

The ongoing war in Afghanistan, and White House efforts to extend it beyond this year, might suggest otherwise. The military budget that still eats up, across various departments, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, and which is roughly the size of all other countries’ military spending combined, might suggest otherwise. The failure to repeal the authorizations for war from 2001 and 2003, and the establishment of permanent practices of surveillance and detention and secrecy justified by a permanent state of war, might suggest otherwise. As might the ongoing missile strikes from drones over a number of nations.

But you’ll notice that they don’t ask us before launching drone strikes, and that their assurances that no innocent people are harmed have proven highly misleading.

War may be becoming acceptable only as what its advocates have long claimed it was: a last resort. Of course if we can really make that true, we’ll never have a war again.

DAVID SWANSON will be speaking at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.

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