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High Noon in America or: How I Learned to Love Gun Control

 

By John Grant


Since gun control is such a hot topic, the elite think tank the Project For a New American Decade (PNAD) has come up with a modest proposal to add to the national conversation. We think it’s worth a try.

First, we do the obvious, most sensible things: we establish universal background checks and dignified mental health services for those who exhibit a need for it. The third leg of the current gun control imbroglio -- banning AR-15s -- is a bit trickier.

Joe Biden: Dancing With the Sausage Maker

 

 

By John Grant


Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.

             -- Mark Twain


America’s Political Dysfunction at Root is an Unwillingness to Cut War Spending

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

I was asked earlier this week by an reporter for PressTV, the state television network in Iran, if I could explain why the US political system seemed to be so dysfunctional, with Congress and the President having created an artificial budget crisis 17 months ago, not “solving” it until the last hour before a Congressional deadline would have created financial chaos, and even then not solving the problem and instead just pushing it off for two months until the next crisis moment.

 

Resisting Racism and Militarism in 2013

January 21st will be an odd day in the United States.  We'll honor Martin Luther King Jr. and bestow another 4-year regime on the man who, in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech said that Martin Luther King Jr. had been wrong -- that those who follow his example "stand idle in the face of threats."

I plan to begin the day by refusing to stand idle in the face of the threat that is President Barack Obama's military.  An event honoring Dr. King and protesting drone wars will include a rally at Malcolm X Park and a parade named for a bit of Kingian rhetoric. 

That evening I plan to attend the launch of a new book called We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America.

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is not the mythical man, beloved and accepted by all during his life, interested exclusively in ending racial segregation, and not attracted to activism -- since only through electoral work, as we've all been told, can one be a serious activist. 

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is the man who resorted to the most powerful activist tools available, the tools of creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation, in order to resist what he called the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. 

Taking that seriously means ending right now the past five-year-long ban on protesting the president.  At Obama's first inauguration we held Good Riddance to Bush rallies because pressuring Obama to mend his militaristic ways was not deemed "strategic." 

It turns out that refusing to push people toward peace does something worse than offending them.  It ignores them and abandons them to their fate. 

But pushing is not exactly the verb we should be looking for as we strive to build an inclusive peace movement.  Nor is peace exactly the adjective.  What we need is a movement against racism, materialism, and militarism.

To build that, those working to reduce spending on the Pentagon's pet corporations need to also work against the prison industrial complex.  And those working against police violence need to work for higher taxes on billionaires.  And those working to protect Social Security and Medicare need to oppose the murdering of human beings with missiles and drones.

We need to do these things not just because they will unite a larger number of people.  We would need to do them all even if nobody were already working in any of these areas.  We need to do them because we are taking on a culture, not just a policy.  We are taking on the mental habits that allow racism, materialism, and militarism.  We cannot do so with a movement that is segregated by policy area any more than we can with a movement that is segregated by race.

The torture techniques are shared between our foreign and domestic prisons.  Local police are being militarized.  The latest insanity would have us arm our teachers so that when our children are shot up by failed applicants to the U.S. Marine Corps there will be, as at Fort Hood, more guns nearby.  Violence at home and abroad exists through our acceptance of violence.  Plutocratic greed drives both war and racism.  Racism facilitates and is facilitated by war.

We Have Not Been Moved is a book with many lessons to teach.  King spoke against the war on Vietnam despite being strongly advised to stick to the area of civil rights.  Julian Bond did the same, losing his seat in the Georgia state legislature.  African Americans marched against that war by the thousands in Harlem and elsewhere, including with posters carrying the words attributed to Mohammad Ali: "No Vietcong ever called me nigger!"  So did Asian Americans and Chicanos.  SNCC risked considerable support and funding by supporting the rights of Palestinians as well as Vietnamese, urging draft resistance, and stating its disbelief that the U.S. government's goals included free elections either at home or abroad.

Immigrants rights groups (to a great extent more accurately: refugee rights groups) are sometimes reluctant to challenge the war machine, despite deeper understanding than the rest of us of how U.S. war making creates the need for immigration in the first place.  But, then, how many peace activists are working for immigrants' rights?  Civil rights groups strive to resist rendition and torture and indefinite detention, warrentless spying and murder by drone.  Unless they are brought more fully into a larger coalition that challenges military spending (at well over $1 trillion per year both before and after the "fiscal cliff") the struggle against the symptoms will continue indefinitely.  Environmental groups are often reluctant to oppose the military industrial complex, its wars for oil, or its oil for wars.  But this past year the threat that South Korean base construction and the U.S. Navy pose to Jeju Island brought these movements together -- a process our survival depends on our continuing.

Our movement must be inclusive and international.  The movement to close the School of the Americas has not closed it, but has persuaded several nations to stop sending any would-be torturers or assassins to train there.  The movement to shut down U.S. military bases abroad has not shut them down en masse through Congress, but has shut them down in particular places through the work of the people protesting in their countries.  Where do we find media coverage that sympathizes with domestic struggles for justice within the United States?  In foreign media, of course, in the media of Iran and Russia and Qatar.  Those governments have their own motives, but support for justice corresponds with the sentiments of their people and all people.

Our movement should not oppose attacking Iran purely as outsiders, but working with Iranians.  We should not oppose attacking Iran because all of our own problems have been solved, or because the dollars that will be spent attacking Iran could fund U.S. schools and green energy, or because attacking Iran could lead to attacks on the United States.  We should oppose attacking Iran because we oppose militarism and materialism and racism everywhere. 

We sometimes worry about having too many issues on our plate.  How, we wonder, can new people be attracted to our rally against another war if we unreasonably also oppose murderous sanctions?  How can we welcome new activists who doubt the wisdom of the next war if we unrealistically oppose all militarism?  How can we not turn people off if our speeches demand rights for women and immigrants and workers?  Do people who've never heard of Mumia need to hear about his imprisonment?  Don't we want homophobes to feel they can join our campaign without loving those people?

I think this is the wrong worry.  I think we need more issues, not fewer.  I think that's the genius of Occupy.  The issues are all connected.  They are issues of greed, racism, and war.  We can work with Libertarians on things we agree on.  We need be hostile to no one.  But we need to prioritize building a holistic movement for fundamental change.  Taxing the rich to pay for more wars is not the answer.  Opposing all cuts to public spending, even though more than half of it goes to the war machine is not the answer.  Insisting that banks stop discriminating, while drone pilots do is not the answer.

This is going to take work, huge amounts of work, great reservoirs of patience and humility, tremendous efforts at inclusion, understanding, and willingness to see changed what it is people become included in.  But we can afford to turn off racists.  We can afford to not appear welcoming to bigots.  We are many.  They are few.

The war machine has set its sights on Africa.  Its new name is AFRICOM, and it means business, the business of exploitation and cruelty.  We can better understand 9-11 and everything that has followed from it if we understand the long history of terrorism on U.S. soil.  We need the wisdom of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Muslim Americans, and everybody else here and abroad who has been paying attention.  We need to move from making war to making reparations, at home and abroad.  We will have less reparations to make the sooner we stop making war.

We Have Not Been Moved includes a never before published speech by Bayard Rustin in which Rustin quotes Ossie Davis saying to the President: "If you want us to be nonviolent in Selma, why can't you be nonviolent in Saigon?"

"All the weapons of military power," says Rustin, "chemical and biological warfare, cannot prevail against the desire of the people.  We know the Wagner Act, which gave labor the right to organize and bargain collectively was empty until workers went into the streets.  The unions got off the ground because of sit-down strikes and social dislocation.  When women wanted to vote, Congress ignored them until they went into the streets and into the White House, and created disorder of a nonviolent nature.  I assure you that those women did things that, if the Negro movement had done them, they would have been sent back to Africa!  The civil rights movement begged and begged for change, but finally learned this lesson -- going into the streets.  The time is so late, the danger so great, that I call upon all the forces which believe in peace to take a lesson from the labor movement, the women's movement, and the civil rights movement and stop staying indoors.  Go into these streets until we get peace!"

FBI Ignored Deadly Threat to Occupiers: US Intelligence Machine Instead Plotted with Bankers to Attack Protest Movement

 

By Dave Lindorff


New documents obtained from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security by the Partnership for Civil Justice and released this past week show that the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies began a campaign of monitoring, spying and disrupting the Occupy Movement at least two months before the first occupation actions began in late September 2011.


Wayne LaPierre and the NRA: Helping to Keep America Wacky and Violent

 

By Linn Washington Jr.


Listening to NRA chief Wayne LaPierre lash out at any notion of gun control during that staunch gun advocate’s first public appearance in the wake of the horrific Connecticut school shooting triggered flashbacks to defiance I once heard from 1960s-era segregationist George Wallace.

Wallace rode a racist declaration from his 1963 governorship inauguration in Alabama to campaigns for the U.S. presidency years later: “Segregation now…Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”

What Reponse to Chuck Hagel Says About Us

I've been grumbling to peace activists that they should stop presenting Chuck Hagel as a force for peace and an "Iraq war critic" or an "Iraq war skeptic."  It makes it sound as if he opposed a war that he voted for, voted repeatedly to fund, and never took any radical action to end.  "Iraq war opponents" in the U.S. Senate routinely voted to fund what they opposed.  Funding war is not what comes to mind when one first hears "war opponent."

Playing to Lose? Obama’s Just Another Chicago Player Throwing the Game

 

The latest from ThisCantBeHappening!:

Playing to Lose?

Obama’s Just Another Chicago Player Throwing the Game


By Dave Lindorff


The Wait-Just-A-Goddam-Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

George Mason's original draft reads:

"That the People have a Right to keep and to bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free State; that Standing Armies in Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided as far as the Circumstances and Protection of the Community will admit; and that in all Cases, the military should be under strict Subordination to, and governed by the Civil Power."

Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights had put it this way 12 years earlier:

"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."

The Right-To-Bring-Assault-Weapons-to-School Second Amendment turns out to have its origins in an attempt to avoid maintaining standing armies.  In place of standing armies, the states of the new United States were to create well-regulated militias.  The first half of the Second Amendment explains why people should have a right to bear arms:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ... "

Bearing arms in a well-regulated militia did not mean bearing guns that can reliably shoot well, since such didn't exist.  It certainly didn't mean bearing guns that can kill entire crowds of people without reloading.  It didn't mean bearing arms outside of the well regulated militia.  Much less did it mean bearing arms in school and church and Wal-Mart. 

By "free state" many supporters of this bill of rights meant, of course, slave state.  And by "people" they meant, of course, white male people -- specifically people who would be taking part in well regulated militias.

The Third Amendment reads:

"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

The Second and Third amendments originated as restrictions on what we would later create and come to call a Military Industrial Complex, a permanent war machine, a federal tool of abusive power.

The militias of the Second Amendment are meant to protect against federal coercion, popular rebellions, slave revolts, and -- no doubt -- lunatics who try to mass-murder children. 

The descendants of those militias that we call the National Guard are meant, in contrast, to recruit ill-informed young people who imagine they'll be rescuing hurricane victims into endless occupations of oil-rich lands far from our shores.

To comply with the Second Amendment we must end federal control over the National Guard, regulate such state militias and police forces well, regulate their weapons well, and deny such weapons to all others and for any other use.

The Second Amendment has been made to mean something very different from what was originally intended or what any sane person writing a Constitution would intend today.  This means that we must either reinterpret it, re-write it, or both.

Crime Watch: American Presidents and their Advisors are War Criminals

 

By Dave Lindorff


Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


A Way to Stop the Violence

The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "monsters" and "lunatics") who keep shooting up schools and shopping centers, believe they are solving deeper problems.  We all know, of course, that in reality they are making things dramatically worse.

This is not an easy problem for us to solve.  We could make it harder to obtain guns, and especially guns designed specifically for mass killings.  We could take on the problem with our entertainment: we have movies, television shows, video games, books, and toys promoting killing as the way to fix what ails us.  We could take on the problem of our news media: we have newspapers and broadcast chatterers promoting killing as a necessary tool of public policy.  We could reverse the past 40 years of rising inequality, poverty, and plutocracy -- a trend that correlates with violence in whatever country it's found. 

What we can't do is stop arming, training, funding, and supporting the mass murderers in our towns and cities, because of course we haven't been supporting them.  They aren't acting in our name as our representatives.  When our children run in horror from classrooms strewn with their classmates' bloody corpses, they are running from killers never authorized by us or elected by us.

This situation changes when we look abroad. 

Picture a family in a house in Pakistan.  There's a little dot very high up in the sky above.  It's making a buzzing noise.  The dot is an unmanned airplane, a drone.  It's being flown from a desk in Nevada.  The family knows what it is.  The children know what it is.  They know their lives may be ended at any moment.  And they are traumatized.  They are in a constant state of terror.  And then, one bright clear morning, they are torn limb from limb, bleeding, screaming, groaning out their last breaths as their home collapses into smoking rubble.

Picture a family in a house in Afghanistan.  They're asleep in their beds.  A door is kicked in. Incomprehensible words are shouted.  Bullets fly.  Loved ones are grabbed and dragged away, kicking and screaming with horror -- never to be seen again.

The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "tax-payers") who keep this far greater volume of violence going, believe they are solving deeper problems.  But when we look closely, we see that in reality we are making things dramatically worse. 

That is the good news.  There is violence that we can much more easily stop, because it is our violence.  The U.S. Army last week said that targeting children in Afghanistan was perfectly acceptable.  The U.S. President maintains a list of men, women, and children to be killed, and he kills them -- but the vast majority of the people killed through that program are people not on the list, people in the wrong place at the wrong time (just like the people in our shopping malls and schools). 

In fact, the vast majority of the people killed in our foreign wars are simply bystanders.  And they are killed in their homes, their stores, their schools, their weddings.  The violence that we can easily end looks very much like the violence we find so difficult to address at home.  It doesn't take place between a pair of armies on a battlefield.  It happens where its victims live.

Were we to stop pouring $1.2 trillion each year into war preparations, we would also be stopping the public funding of the manufacturers of the weapons that rip open our loved ones and neighbors in our schools and parking lots.  We would be altering dramatically the context in which we generate public policy, public entertainment, and public myths about how problems can be solved.  We would be saving lives every bit as precious as any other lives, while learning how to go on to saving more. 

One place to start, I believe, would be in withdrawing U.S. troops from over 1,000 bases in other people's countries -- an imperial presence that costs us $170 billion each year while building hostility and tensions, not peace.  There's a reason why, at this time of year, we don't sing about "Peace in My Backyard."  If we want peace on Earth, we must stop and consider how to get it.


--

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

US Intelligence Analysts: American Power is in Terminal Decline

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The US is on the way out as a hegemonic power. 


That is the primary conclusion of a new report out of the National Intelligence Council -- a government organization that produces mid-term and long-range thinking for the US intelligence community.


Corporate Colonization of the Left Message Has to Stop

By Bruce Gagnon
opednews.com

  • The Minneapolis, Minnesota city council passed a version of the Bring Our War $$ Home resolution last week.  St. Paul (MN) has already passed a similar resolution, and Duluth (MN) and Des Moines (IA) are expected to follow with similar statements.  Many other cities across the nation, including Portland, Maine, have passed these same kind of resolutions.  It is becoming clear that people want to connect the dots between endless war spending and fiscal crisis at home.
  • But still some groups around the country who claim they want to save social programs refuse to make the connections to military spending.  It is my opinion, and the opinion of many other grassroots leaders around the nation, that some NGO's refuse to include the military budget in their public articulation because the weapons industry unions and the Democrats don't want these links to be made.  Just today one of my friends called an organizer in Maine and asked why their union sponsored protest event that was calling for tax increases on the rich was not also making the connection to the bloated Pentagon budget.  The organizer told my friend that it is because of the "defense industry" unions in our state.  They won't allow the links to be made.
  • All across the country NGO's that get funding from foundations, or from wealthy individuals, that are linked to the Democrats are often not allowed to go near certain issues like the Pentagon budget, single-payer health care, Israel-Palestine, climate change and more.  In recent years some so-called "progressive" foundations have been telling peace groups that they can't use the word "disarmament" any longer.  Instead they have to use "arms control" because the Democrats don't want the grassroots clamoring for real disarmament.  This "occupation" of the left's issue positions and public articulation is a form of corporate colonization of the progressive movement.  This must end or we will never build an effective movement for change in this country and around the world.
  • I expect to see this whole "issue control" situation come to a head during this coming year.  With climate change and austerity budgets staring us in the face the independent left cannot cower in the face of these mainstream Democrat party operatives that serve as leaders of local non-profit groups but in essence have become "gate keepers" for the oligarchy as they help reduce our public discourse to the lowest common denominator that does not ultimately challenge the system.  
  • If the corporations and Democrats can control the money stream between funders and activists then the organizers get held hostage because they need the job in our declining economy.  So they learn to shave the edges and over time they learn to stay away from the more independent organizers and groups that are not toeing the line.  This essentially leads to splits in the movement and a bifurcation of the "progressive" message and demands that get made on the political system. The public gets confused.  They wonder why the groups are not working together.  No one wants to talk openly about what is really going on.
  • I've seen this same story for years and usually those on the independent left are called disruptive and uncooperative if they try to bring these contradictions to light.  But current realities are making it increasingly evident that we can't any longer afford to deny and sugarcoat these issues and happily a  movement is springing up across the nation to face these challenges in a more direct way.  It's about time.

Talk Show Demoplicans Universally Ignore Possibility of Cutting War Preparations Spending

From Crooks and Liars:

Why Were Defense Cuts Off The Table On Sunday Morning Shows?

The fiscal cliff once again dominated the Sunday morning talk shows (which isn't a surprise), and entitlement cuts were indeed a focal point by the lead bobblehead of each show. But what I found most offensive was that not one Villager or politician discussed cuts to defense spending as a solution for the Mayan Apocalypse of the federal deficit. In part, the reason the fiscal cliff is coming is because the sequester deal has massive cuts to defense spending, 2013 which is freaking out Republicans.

Defense Spending: This is an area where Republicans are likely to launch a major opposition campaign because defense programs would receive a 9.4 to 10 percent reduction from its 2013 budget of $580 billion, or about $55 billion. Although the president exempted military personnel pay and benefits, defense programs, including weapons and procurement programs, are subject to half of the automatic budget cuts, even though defense programs are about one-fifth of the federal budget. States that have a very large defense presence have been very vocal about opposing these cuts.

The fact that entitlement benefits aren't part of the sequester probably has Republicans really angry since they can't use that as leverage in this debate. But if pols and pinheads are so worried about the federal deficit, then why aren't defense cuts a top priority? What we hear instead is that severe cuts to federal spending, coupled with bad job growth and raised taxes, will result in a deep financial recession. While the president won on raising tax rates, that isn't the manna from heaven that will fix our economic problems if Obama includes benefit cuts to Medicare and Medicaid for a small raise in rates. Raising the retirement age doesn't do a thing to help lower federal deficits, so why exactly are Republicans asking for it -- and why does it appear that the president is willing to acquiesce to those demands? Since 'defense" makes up over almost 20% of the federal budget expenditures, why is it off limits in this discussion?

On Face The Nation, Bob Shieffer didn't bring up cuts in defense spending once and the only mention I see of it was by cranky ex-Sen. Simpson calling earned benefits/entitlements a 'destructive force" which would hurt defense spending

SCHIEFFER: So you think they've got to do that. But also, don't you think that the Democrats are going to have to agree to some entitlement reforms?

SIMPSON: ...But, yes, I mean, the bizarre thing, not touching the entitlements. The entitlements are the engine on the train driving us to the cliff. They were on automatic pilot. Health care, it doesn't matter what you call it, is on automatic pilot. And it's going to squeeze out all the discretionary budget -- defense, R&D research, all the things you love. Erskine and I always say, what do you love? And they'll name something and we say forget it because this is wiping everything. It's just a destructive force. And no cost containment till down the road..

What's destructive, Mr. Simpson, are austerity measures being forced upon the people during a recession and after an economic downturn.

On Meet The Press, defense spending was not mentioned once, but cuts to entitlements was at center stage, with the host of MTP seemingly negotiating with Republicans for 'big cuts" to entitlements

GREGORY: All right. Well, senator, let me just-- I want to pin you down on one point about Medicare. You say you want to basically put off this discussion until later. But bottom line, should the Medicare eligibility age go up? Should there be means testing to really get at the benefits side, if you’re going to shore this program up, because as you say, 12 years before it runs out of money?

The segment on the fiscal cliff went mostly like that and again, no mention if Republicans would accept big cuts in defense to fight off rate hikes.

On Fox News Sunday, neither Chris Wallace, Senators Corker or Schumer mentioned cutting defense spending when talking about a fiscal deal. They did, however, go large on entitlement cuts with Sen.Schumer actually agreeing that Corker's proposal was good for America.

Corker; So, and a lot of people are putting forth a theory and I actually think it has merit where you go ahead and give the president the 2 percent increase that he is talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent. And all of a sudden, the shift goes back to entitlements, and all of a sudden, once you give him the right on the top 2 percent, it's actually much lesser tax increase than what he has been talking about, the focus then shifts to entitlements and maybe it puts us in a place where we actually can do something that really saves the nation.

SCHUMER: Well, bottom line is, if Speaker Boehner ends up where Senator Corker has just said he is, we will get a large agreement. And -- but, Speaker Boehner has not said that. And so, we Democrats realize that there have to be two sides to this bargain.

Corker: The shift in focus and entitlements is where we need to go and, again, it is a shame that we're not just sitting down and solving this. But Republicans know that they have the debt ceiling that's coming up right around the corner, and, the leverage is going to shift, as soon as we get beyond this issue.

Wow. And finally ABC's THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos. And the guest stars were Senators Tom Coburn and Debbie Stabenow along with Congressman (D) Raul Grijalva and (R) Jeb Hensarling. How did they do with cuts to defense spending? Nada, nothing, zilch. Only three mentions of the word defense. Once when George set up what would happen if the sequester kicks in and twice more while talking about DOMA.

Coburn was in rare form by saying we don't really need Medicare or Social Security, anyway.

"The fact is we are spending money we don't have on things we don't absolutely need," he concluded. "And there's no grownups in Washington that will say, 'Time out, stop the politics, let's have a compromise rather than play the game through the press and hurt the country.' We're already going to get another debt downgrade just from what's happening now because nobody in positions of power are willing to do what's important and necessary for our country."

Why do people even vote for these Republicans who want to take so much away from them for a crisis caused by crimes the people who will suffer most didn't commit?

Chemical Weapons Testing Verified

A Reporter at Large
Operation Delirium

Decades after a risky Cold War experiment, a scientist lives with secrets.

by

Colonel James S. Ketchum dreamed of war without killing. He joined the Army in 1956 and left it in 1976, and in that time he did not fight in Vietnam; he did not invade the Bay of Pigs; he did not guard Western Europe with tanks, or help build nuclear launch sites beneath the Arctic ice. Instead, he became the military’s leading expert in a secret Cold War experiment: to fight enemies with clouds of psychochemicals that temporarily incapacitate the mind—causing, in the words of one ranking officer, a “selective malfunctioning of the human machine.” For nearly a decade, Ketchum, a psychiatrist, went about his work in the belief that chemicals are more humane instruments of warfare than bullets and shrapnel—or, at least, he told himself such things. To achieve his dream, he worked tirelessly at a secluded Army research facility, testing chemical weapons on hundreds of healthy soldiers, and thinking all along that he was doing good.

Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab: How U.S. Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet

By David Vine, TomDispatch

“Are you monitoring the construction?” asked the middle-aged man on a bike accompanied by his dog.

Ah, sì,” I replied in my barely passable Italian.

Bene,” he answered. Good.

In front of us, a backhoe’s guttural engine whined into action and empty dump trucks rattled along a dirt track. The shouts of men vied for attention with the metallic whirring of drills and saws ringing in the distance. Nineteen immense cranes spread across the landscape, with the foothills of Italy’s Southern Alps in the background. More than 100 pieces of earthmoving equipment, 250 workers, and grids of scaffolding wrapped around what soon would be 34 new buildings.

UN Development Goals Could Be Met With a Few Percent of Military Spending

Here's a useful new report from the International Peace Bureau.  Globally, the report finds, spending on war preparations is higher than ever as an absolute amount and as a percentage of public spending (if not as a percentage of GDP).  This spending is led and dominated by the United States, which of course pressures other nations to try to keep pace.  The United States also dominates the manufacture and sale of weapons to other nations. 

The figures that the IPB uses admittedly leave out many types of military spending.  In fact, they capture less than 60% of U.S. military spending.  So, the conclusions are all extremely "conservative" -- that is to say: dramatically wrong.  Without knowing how much of other nations' war preparations spending is missing, one cannot do the calculations correctly.  Nonetheless, IPB's conclusions are stunning and include these:

--the world's military spending is 12.7 times higher than its official development assistance, and

--604 times higher than UN budgets for peace, security, development, human rights, humanitarian affairs, and international law, and

--2,508 times higher than the combined expenditures of the UN's International Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Organizations.

--the war preparations spending of the world is $249 per day per person on earth. [UPDATE: This cannot be correct.]

--about 5% of that would meet the UN's Millenium Development Goals by 2015.

In other words, war spending does not just generate the well-known Military Industrial Complex's pressure for more war, which takes more lives, but the failure to use a little of that money for something useful means the failure to save and improve countless lives as well.  Our budgets are at once sins of commission and omission.  The millenium goals are goals for ending poverty and hunger, providing education, and protecting health, sustainability, and human rights.

There may not be a war on Christmas, but if our "leaders" have their way there will be several wars on Christmas, and we're paying for them in several senses of the word.

Peace on Earth. Pass the ammunition.

A Case of Just Looking Stupid? The Not-So-Bright Bulbs at the White House and Pentagon

 

By Dave Lindorff


Let me see if I’ve got this right.


Opportunity Costs: Military Spending and the UN Development Agenda

By Colin Archer and Annette Willi, 2012

IPB wrote a Position Paper entitled Opportunity Costs: Military Spending and the UN's Development Agenda. It makes the case that military spending should be taken into consideration in the debate now under way on the UN's Post-2015 Development Agenda (following on from the Millennium Development Goals). In IPB's view, militarization is a significant factor in the sustainable development equation, often undermining the security of citizens. At the same time, the massive resources devoted to the military sector could - if even a small portion were reallocated - make a major contribution to meeting the challenges of mass poverty, unemployment and climate change.

56 Organizations Band Together to Fight Austerity Measures

Jobs Not Wars Campaign: 56 Organizations Band Together to Fight Austerity Measures & Demand Cuts to Runaway Pentagon Spending

www.jobs-not-wars.org

Tax payer dollars have been misallocated – we need a new set of priorities.  Cut billions from runaway Pentagon spending, end war now, corporations and the wealthy need to pay their fair share. It is unnecessary and criminal to shift the deficit burden onto working and middle class families, the elderly and poor.    

Military Law Is to Law as Military Music Is to Music

Jeh Charles Johnson, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, on Friday admitted that murder by drone is not a form of law enforcement:

"Some legal scholars and commentators in our country brand the detention by the military of members of al Qaeda as 'indefinite detention without charges.' Some refer to targeted lethal force against known, identified individual members of al Qaeda as 'extrajudicial killing.'

"Viewed within the context of law enforcement or criminal justice, where no person is sentenced to death or prison without an indictment, an arraignment, and a trial before an impartial judge or jury, these characterizations might be understandable."

Indeed, pretty darn understandable.  So, what's the way around it?

"Viewed within the context of conventional armed conflict — as they should be — capture, detention and lethal force are traditional practices as old as armies. Capture and detention by the military are part and parcel of armed conflict.[13] We employ weapons of war against al Qaeda, but in a manner consistent with the law of war. We employ lethal force, but in a manner consistent with the law of war principles of proportionality, necessity and distinction. We detain those who are part of al Qaeda, but in a manner consistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and all other applicable law.[14]

[13] Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 519 (2004) (“detention to prevent a combatant’s return to the battlefield is a fundamental incident of waging war”).

[14] Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, art. 3, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3316, 75 U.N.T.S. 135.

The notion that U.S. treatment of prisoners complies with the Geneva Conventions is ludicrous, but so is the basic premise here that murdering and imprisoning people is justified because it is part of conventional armed conflict.  There is nothing conventional about soldiers at desks on other continents flying drones, or soldiers jumping out of helicopters to kill and kidnap in residential neighborhoods.  There are no front lines, no trenches, no battlefield, no army, no opposing army, no opposing nation, no territory fought over, no separation between civilians and military action.  That armies have always killed and captured people doesn't legalize killing and capturing people in any, much less in all, circumstances.  Armies have tortured, looted, and raped as well. 

"If I had to summarize my job in one sentence: it is to ensure that everything our military and our Defense Department do is consistent with U.S. and international law."

Hmmm.  Is it consistent with this law?

"The High Contracting Parties solemly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another. The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

How about this law?

"The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice."

Or this law?

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States . . .

"To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

"To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

"To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

"To provide and maintain a navy;

"To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

"To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

"To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress . . .

"To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."

There is nothing legal about war.  If there were there would still be nothing legal about non-U.N. war.  If there were there would still be nothing legal about non-Congressional war.  In fact, Obama's other lawyer Harold Koh has told Congress that it has no power to stop presidential wars, such as the one in Libya, because such actions are neither wars nor hostilities.  Why? Because, as with drone murders, the Americans are not present on the ground and not likely to be immediately killed.

But then how can the conventional nature of war legalize the killing and imprisoning? Either it's war and Congress has control over it, or it's not war and the supposed legal and moral loophole for all evil does not apply.

And if it could, what can possibly constitute "proportionality, necessity and distinction," in the act of killing people with drones, the vast majority of whom are innocent civilians, and the rest of whom are targeted victims who include Americans (is this country at conventional war with itself?) teenagers (is this country at conventional war with minors?) and the citizens and residents of nations the United States is not at war with in any conventional sense.

Were another nation to begin murdering people in the United States with drones and night raids, would the U.S. government consider those actions justifiable as conventional war (or justified in any other way), or would the United States launch a war against that nation?  And if the latter, what would justify it?  What justified the invasion of Afghanistan?  What justifies the bombing of Gaza?  According to President Obama,

"there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

Not Yemen? Not Somalia? Not Pakistan? Not Afghanistan?  Those nations are legally justified in murdering and imprisoning Americans?  This can't be right. 

Nor can it be right to take seriously Johnson's suggestion that the U.S. war on terra will end some day, not while the terrorizing of foreign nations continues producing the sort of resistance that Johnson uses to justify the continuation of the killing.  That's a loop that neither ends nor comes to rest on any legal or moral support.

 

Ending the US War in Afghanistan? It Depends on the Meaning of the Word ‘War’

 

By Dave Lindorff


It is amazing to watch politicians trying to weasel their way around their promises. President Obama is providing us with a good illustration of the art.


Retired Lieutenant Colonel Warns U.S. at Risk of Military Dictatorship

I take the conclusion of today's TomDispatch article to be this: if the next super-hyped general doesn't make as stupid mistakes as Petraeus or McChrystal, he (very likely a he) could slide into the imperial powers built up by Obama, Bush, and their predecessors, and complete the slide away from representative government in any form:

Put simply, Americans need to stop genuflecting to our paper Caesars before we actually produce a real one, a man ruthless enough to cross the Rubicon (or the Potomac) and parlay total military adulation into the five stars of absolute political authority.

Unless we wish to salute our very own Imperator, we need to regain a healthy dose of skepticism, shared famously by our Founders, when it comes to evaluating our generals and our wars. Such skepticism may not stop generals and admirals from behaving badly, but it just might help us radically downsize an ever more militarized global mission and hew more closely to our democratic ideals.

William J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular.  A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), he welcomes reader comments at wjastore@gmail.com.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.  Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2012 William J. Astore

Neither Grand, Nor a Bargain

Liberal groups have been organizing protests of the looming "grand bargain" (a bargain between two political parties aimed at saving us from the fictional "fiscal cliff" by giving more of our money to the super-rich and the war machine).  But they've been doing so only in Republican Congressional districts and with messages placing all the blame on "the Republicans," thus telegraphing the message that all shall be tolerated if labeled "Democratic." 

We're supposed to be against a bargain, but only against one of the two partners to the bargain.  Any bets on how well that'll work?

Meanwhile Obama's senior advisor David Plouffe hypes the danger of the "fiscal cliff," calls for lower corporate taxes and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, but says not one word about military spending. He also claims to want to end tax cuts for the wealthy but is much more passionate about the danger of ending those cuts across the board, suggesting -- as did Obama's statements and silences at his first post-election press conference -- that the White House will not in the end refuse to extend the "Bush" tax cuts for everyone, including the multi-billionaires -- just as it's done before.  At the same press conference, Obama volunteered that we need "deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes."

Liberal groups have written to the president politely suggesting what they'd like, but with nothing in the way of consequences if they don't get it.  And what they'd like is slightly higher taxes on the super-rich, and no cuts to Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid.  Or else . . . or else . . . they'll be sadly loyal until death do them part. 

Neither Plouffe nor Obama nor any liberal activist group mentions that half of discretionary spending goes into war preparations.  None proposes to raise corporate taxes, restore the estate tax, remove the cap on Social Security taxes, tax financial transactions and capital gains, tax carbon emissions, massively and urgently invest in green energy jobs, or cut the $1.3 trillion war preparations budget in half.

We are not broke.  We are being robbed.

I get emails every day now on the "This isn't what we voted for" theme.  "TPP is not what we voted for."  "Drone kills are not what we voted for."  As if you can ignore the candidate's platform and vote for your own fantasy under his name, and then "pressure" him to become what you fantasized even while swearing your allegiance to his party come hell or high water or hurricanes.  Well, guess what, the Grand Bargain is what Democrats and Republicans voted for.  But that doesn't mean we have to stand for it.  Having voted against it wouldn't have stopped it.  Only getting out of our houses and nonviolently resisting it now will stop it.

The peace movement is ready to take to the streets and the suites, but worried that it doesn't have the size to do the job.  Of course it does have the size to start something big if it merely finds the determination.  But imagine what could happen if Tahrir Square inspired us all again and more seriously, and with four years rather than two years to work with before the next debilitation by the latest "Most Important Election of Your Lifetime."  Imagine if liberal organizations and labor unions openly recognized where all the public money is (in the war machine) and demanded it for useful purposes. 

The peace movement is in favor of everything they're in favor of: the right to organize, civil liberties, an end to for-profit prisons and drug wars and racism, affordable housing, a living wage, education, healthcare, and a sustainable environment.  The enemy of these things is the military industrial complex, and if it remains beyond challenge, a just society will remain unachievable.  When Dr. King opposed "racism, extreme materialism, and militarism," he didn't mean for us to ignore the third one.  He didn't mean for us to imagine that the three were separable and that we could oppose one or two of them effectively without opposing the combination.

Let's stop obediently opposing the worst bits of a Grand Catastrophe and begin denouncing and resisting the whole charade, replacing it with a grand vision of our own devising.  RootsAction.org, created just last year, is already approaching 200,000 active members, and has been flooding Congress and the President with this message:

"Here's a grand bargain we want: expand Medicare and Social Security, invest in green energy, raise taxes on the rich and corporations, and cut military spending back to the level of 12 years ago."

The message is editable, meaning that you can and should add your own comments.  I encourage everyone to do so, to ask friends to do so, and to be preparing for serious nonviolent action.

Military Industrial Congressional Media Complex is "modern-day Rasputin"

As Abraham Lincoln once observed, “Public sentiment is everything.’  (Unfortunately Edward Bernays and Goering quickly figured that out too.) 

Now with “embedded reporters” (many “embedded” in more ways than one!) incessantly pressing their readers' natural vices (fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty) and manufacturing public sentiment, the most recent polls show a high majority of Americans have come to love all things military.  Glenn Greenwald aptly calls it our new national religion with US journalists being its high priests.  Most “progressives” got fooled.  It's how war is being made permanent.   

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