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The Future's So Much More Fun than the Past: How to Avoid the Bummer Myth

 

By John Grant


“The elite always has a Plan B, while people have no escape.”
            - Ahmad Saadawi


The Real Obama? The Devil...is in The Details

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


The HISTORY channel is catching righteous hell for crafting the character of Satan in its miniseries “The Bible” to bear an uncanny likeness to U.S. President Barak Obama.

Is it just coincidence that the dark-skinned Satan in this HISTORY channel miniseries looks hauntingly similar to the first black man to occupy the Oval Office seat in America’s White House?

A Great American In History Hugo Chavez and the Knuckleheads

 

By John Grant


Sean Hannity grinned and seemed to bounce up and down like he was plugged into an electric socket as he ripped into Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who had just succumbed to cancer. Hannity was joined in his death gloat by Michelle Malkin, one of the more delightfully odious voices on the far right.

Sex Added to Latest Lockheed Martin Corruption

If Maryland is stopped in its efforts to force Montgomery County to give Lockheed Martin millions of dollars, we may never know whether that could have been done without sex.  And that's a shame.  Yet it certainly should be reported that, according to Maryland Juice, "a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin may be dating one of the bill's sponsors in the State Senate. Several Annapolis sources are now indicating to Maryland Juice that State Senator Rob Garagiola is currently romantically involved with lobbyist Hannah Powers of the Alexander & Cleaver firm. But Garagiola is a sponsor of the Lockheed welfare bill, and Powers is a lobbyist for Lockheed. If true, this seems like a massive conflict of interest."

True, He’s the First Black President But Obama’s the Worst President Ever

 

By Ron Ridenour


Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!


We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.


Maryland: A Government of, by, and for Lockheed Martin

What's the world's biggest war profiteer to do if it already owns the federal government but is having trouble kicking around the local government of Montgomery County, Maryland, where it's headquartered?  Why, hire the state of Maryland to step in, of course. 

Lockheed Martin lives by killing, although nobody ever gives it a background check before allowing it another weapon.  Such a background check would reveal Lockheed Martin to be the number one top offender among U.S. government contractors.  When Congress was defunding ACORN for imaginary crimes alleged by a fraudster who is now having to compensate his victims, one Congresswoman proposed a bill to defund government contractors actually guilty of crimes.  Passing such a bill would strip Lockheed Martin of some 80% of its income. 

The list of abuses by Lockheed Martin includes contract fraud, unfair business practices, kickbacks, mischarges, inflated costs, defective pricing, improper pricing, unlicensed exporting to foreign nations (Lockheed Martin sells weapons to governments of all sorts around the world), air and water pollution, fraud, bribery, federal election law violations, overbilling, radiation exposure, age discrimination, illegal transfer of information to China, falsification of testing records, embezzlement, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, bid-rigging, and much more.

Why, one might ask, does the federal government give such a company a dime, much less $40 billion per year?  Why is it intent on dumping over a trillion dollars into Lockheed Martin for the most expensive and least functioning airplane in history, the F-35?  Lockheed not only funds Republicans and Democrats alike with over $3 million per election cycle, lobbies officials for another $30 million, hires former officials, and shapes corporate news, but Lockheed Martin also creates local panics by threatening to notify every one of its employees that they might be fired if U.S. war preparations spending doesn't continue to grow. 

The pseudo-debate of recent years between those who want to cut healthcare and retirement spending and those who oppose all cuts is a debate that any news outlet interested in selling advertising to Lockheed Martin can accept without hesitation.  A debate over what we actually should cut and what we should instead invest in more heavily would be a different matter.

Of course, we can all send emails to Congress.  Lockheed Martin can too.  But Lockheed Martin, unlike the rest of us, also owns the email system through which Congress receives our communications.

Lockheed Martin is based in suburban Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County, Md.  For years, Lockheed Martin and its friends at the Washington Post have been trying to get the local government to excuse the patrons of Lockheed Martin's luxury hotel from paying taxes.  Montgomery County is home to terrific peace activists who can, of course, get virtually nowhere with Congress, but who can make their voices heard locally.  This has frustrated Lockheed Martin no end.  I recommend reading this article by Jean Athey from a year ago, describing the work she and others have done.  An excerpt:

"Let's put this tax exemption proposal in perspective by taking a quick look at Lockheed Martin's finances. In 2010 the company took home $3.9 billion in profits from the portion of its business that is paid directly by taxpayers (84 percent). Lockheed Martin's CEO, Robert Stevens, received $21.9 million in compensation in 2011.  So this company is doing quite well for itself, thanks to the taxpayers, and our largesse will continue into the future. . . . When Lockheed Martin's own employees stay at the CLE, according to the Post, the corporation passes on the costs of the hotel tax to the appropriate federal contract. In other words, Lockheed Martin is already compensated by the federal government for any lodging costs the company incurs, and given federal procurement regulations, the company can charge indirect costs on top of the local taxes it pays. This means that Lockheed Martin gets its money back, with interest, on its employee lodging costs.  Even if Lockheed Martin didn't get that money back, it would still make no sense to exempt this extremely wealthy company from paying a tax on employee lodging costs. The company also invites contractors and vendors to stay at the hotel. Why should these people not be required to pay a tax that they would pay if they instead chose to stay at the Marriott?  In reality, Lockheed Martin rents rooms to more than its employees, contractors and vendors. It uses its world-class conference center for . . . conferences. . . . It is extraordinary that the company would make an issue of this tax. Although the amount of money—$450,000 per year—is significant to Montgomery County, it is essentially a rounding error for Lockheed Martin.  There's more: not only are Lockheed Martin and The Washington Post furious at the county council for questioning the wisdom of a special million-dollar gift to Lockheed Martin to compensate it for having to pay the tax. They are also still irate that in 2011 the council briefly considered a non-binding resolution asking Congress to support the needs of local communities and cut military spending. Lockheed Martin suddenly had a job for a few of its 91 lobbyists: kill the resolution, which they did."

Here's Jean Athey, speaking this Saturday about the latest developments:

"Lockheed Martin lost the battle in 2011 to convince Montgomery County's council to change the definition of 'hotel' so as to exempt guests at the company's luxury hotel from being subject to a 7% hotel tax that everyone else has to pay. Now, Maryland's state government is considering a bill to force the county to do so, and it looks very likely to pass. This is an unbelievable and outrageous example of corporate welfare, designed for one of the wealthiest companies in the nation.  The bill is also an egregious example of state interference in a local issue and so further diminishes democracy."

This latest outrage has passed a state senate committee, and a companion bill is being considered by the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates.  Here's the Washington Post.  This bill (PDF) would force Montgomery County to exempt Lockheed Martin's conference hotel from the county's hotel tax. In addition, it requires the County to reimburse Lockheed Martin $1.4 million for taxes it has paid the County to date for hotel taxes.

The state legislature, in introducing this bill, did not go through the county delegation prior to presenting it, even though the bill will only affect Montgomery County. Senator Jamie Raskin, for example, only found out about the bill Saturday morning.  He opposes it. 

He should oppose it.  We all should.  There is still a glimmer of representative government in some of our localities.  People are able to get involved in local issues, have some influence, and see majority opinion rule the day.  This is, of course, why people concerned about national and international issues take resolutions to local governments.  Unlike Congress, local governments sometimes listen.  But sometimes when they listen too much, state governments or the federal government will step in and overrule them. 

This is an assault on democracy, not just on the budget of Montgomery County and the balance of wealth in a nation that has created a Wall-Street-and-War-Making aristocracy.  When I worked for ACORN we used to pass restrictions on predatory lending or increases in minimum wages at the local level.  Then the banks or the hotels and restaurants would go to the state level and preempt them.  This was an outrage, but what did ACORN members really count for after all?  Some of them were probably on welfare!

Well, what should we call a tax break for one of the most profitable corporations in the nation, a tax break on expenses it's going to bill to the government anyway?  I'd call it welfare for the undeserving rich, except that it's not really about their welfare.  It's about their insatiable greed.

If you live in Maryland or even if you don't, please contact the legislature to oppose Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 815.  Lockheed Martin is using national resources (ours, in fact, courtesy of the Pentagon and NASA) to turn the state of Maryland against the people of Maryland.  Why shouldn't those of us who care speak up, too, and ask everyone we know in Maryland to do the same?

Senate sponsor:  Nancy King:  nancy.king@senate.state.md.us

Senate cosponsors:
James Degrange:
james.degrange@senate.state.md.us
Jennie Forehand: 
jennie.forehand@senate.state.md.us
Rob Garagiola: 
rob.garagiola@senate.state.md.us
Katherine Klausmeier:   katherine.klausmeier@senate.state.md.us
Roger Manno: roger.manno@senate.state.md.us
Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.
Douglas Peters: 
douglas.peters@senate.state.md.us

House sponsor:  Anne Kaiser:  anne.kaiser@house.state.md.us

House cosponsors:
Kumar Barve: 
kumar.barve@house.state.md.us
Jon Cardin:  jon.cardin@house.state.md.us
Brian Feldman: 
brian.feldman@house.state.md.us
C. William Frick: 
bill.frick@house.state.md.us
Guy Guzzone:
guy.guzzone@house.state.md.us
Jolene Ivey: 
jolene.ivey@house.state.md.us
Eric Luedtke: 
eric.luedtke@house.state.md.us
Aruna Miller:  aruna.miller@house.state.md.us
John Olszewski:  john.olszewski@house.state.md.us
Kirill Reznik:    kirill.reznik@house.state.md.us

Journalistic Malpractice at the Post and the Times Rejecting the Offer of Evidence of US War Crimes

 

 By Dave Lindorff


Thanks to the courageous action of Private Bradley Manning, the young soldier who has been held for over two years by the US military on trumped-up charges including espionage and aiding the enemy, we now have solid evidence that the country’s two leading news organizations, the Washington Post and the New York Times, are not interesting in serious reporting critical of the government.

Gun “Background Check” on Pentagon

By Norman Solomon

Stringent “background checks” are central to many proposals for curbing gun violence. The following is a background check on the nation’s largest buyer of firearms:

The applicant, U.S. Pentagon, seeks to purchase a wide variety of firearms in vast quantities. This background check has determined that the applicant has a long history of assisting individuals, organizations and governments prone to gun violence.

Pentagon has often served as an active accomplice or direct perpetrator of killings on a mass scale. During the last 50 years, the applicant has directly inflicted large-scale death and injuries in numerous countries, among them the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan (partial list). Resulting fatalities are estimated to have been more than 5 million people.

Individual Honor versus Unpleasant History The Battle Still Rages Over What Vietnam Means

 

By John Grant


"The experience we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is thus a lie -- the truth lies rather outside, in what we do."

                -- Slavoj Zizek

Droning On: The US and the M Word

 

By Dan DeWalt


‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’

             -- Richard M. Nixon



Watch Your Wallet! Much Ado about Nothing in Budget Debate

 

By Dave Lindorff


By Dave Lindorff


All the sturm and drang in Washington over the March 1 deadline for a budget deal is an act. Two acts really.

Congress: End Endless War and Stop Becoming “the Evil That We Deplore”

By Norman Solomon

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

Prior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor. “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have. That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch. The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine. Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

When Is a Cut Not a Cut? When It's in the Pentagon's Budget

Bloomberg:

Even if the budget cuts happen, U.S. defense spending is projected to grow about 2.4 percent annually through 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The military, the defense industry and their allies in Congress have gone to war over the automatic cuts, called sequestration, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other leaders saying they would devastate the military.

Read both paragraphs together a few times.

Meet 6 Politicians Getting Rich from America's Endless Wars

The "defense" industry is a powerful and influential lobby.

War is a racket, and perpetual war is a money-printing machine. Though the defense industry as a whole contributes relatively little to members of Congress compared to, say, the pharmaceutical lobby, it remains an incredibly powerful and influential lobby. Below are the six members of the House whose primary industry donor in the 2012 election cycle was the "defense" sector. (Numbers are from the Center for Responsive Politics, unless otherwise noted.)

1. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA): $566,100 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

It's impossible to talk about defense industry beneficiaries without mentioning Buck McKeon. He became the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee in 2009, and then the chairperson after the GOP took the House in the 2010 election. Donations from the defense sector to his 2012 campaign dwarfed all other House campaigns, with McKeon bringing in a whopping $566,100.

That big pile of money certainly seems to have made McKeon a friend to the military. As part of the House, McKeon doesn't have the opportunity to vote on Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, but he still publicly opposed the appointment, due to Hagel's presumed willingness to back defense spending cuts. A statement on McKeon's website reads in part, “[Hagel's] refusal to shut the door on further defense cuts put him at stark odds with the current Defense Secretary and military leaders.” McKeon is also, predictably, against a round of planned automatic cuts to domestic spending and the military budget, known as the sequester, which he has said could “start costing lives.”

Regarding the US' longest war, McKeon thinks it hasn't gone on long enough. He has called the planned troop drawdown next year, “needlessly fraught with risk,” and said that “our hard-fought gains are fragile and reversible.” If that language sounds familiar, it's because he said almost the same thing regarding troops leaving Iraq. "I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be,” he said in a statement posted on his website. “These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.”

McKeon is predictably hawkish on Iran,  consistently supports providing military aid to Israel, and is in favor of expanding military powers as contained in the 2012 NDAA act, which critics say allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens by the military.

Labor Unions Must Take on Conversion from War to Peace Economy

By Bill Shortell

Shortell is an official with the International Association of Machinists in Connecticut.
 
Diverse forces are now converging in an attempt to carve up the military budget. These are (1) those who would cut it to reduce the deficit. There is considerable logic on their side. The solvency of the nation, in many people's eyes, is threatened by the size of the debt compared with our GDP. About 30% of our government runs on borrowed cash. The same proportion can be applied to the military budget.

Bruce Cumings on “Operational Control” of the South Korean Military

Bruce pictureMost Americans are unaware of the role the U.S. Military has played in Korea since World War II. But, ever since then, the U.S. Military has had “operational control” of the Korean army that continues to this day.

Bruce Cumings, a historian and leading expert on Korea and East Asian American relations explains how and why the U.S. controls a standing army of 650,000. He will also explain why the recent change in U.S. policy of allowing S. Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to reach all of N. Korea, and the sale of drones to S. Korea is causing a rise in tensions between the two Koreas.

At a time when N. Korea is defying the international community and the U.S. for launching rockets and detonating a third nuclear test, the danger of the U.S. being dragged into another conflict with the North because of “operational control” has increased exponentially.

One interesting insight that Bruce offered was that Obama’s “pivot to Asia” isn’t really a pivot to Asia, as it is a pivot out of Afghanistan and the Middle East because the U.S. presence in the Pacific has not changed since the end of WWII. He says, all Obama has done is “”shift”" more resources to places in the South Pacific and East Asia.

Enjoy this informative 10 minute excerpt from the two hour interview with Bruce Cumings.

The LAPD Got their Man How They Wanted Him: Dead

 

By Dave Lindorff


It was clear from the outset when fired LAPD cop Chris Dorner began his campaign of terror against his former employer that the California law enforcement establishment, led by the LAPD itself, had no interest in Dorner surviving to face trial where he could continue to rat out the racist and corrupt underbelly of the one of the country’s biggest police departments.

Wanted: Dead, Not Alive: The LAPD is Afraid of What Renegade Cop Chris Dorner has to Say

 

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s not be too quick to dismiss the “ranting” of renegade LAPD officer Chris Dorner.


Dorner, a three-year police veteran and former Lieutenant in the US Navy who went rogue after being fired by the LAPD, has accused Los Angeles Police of systematically using excessive force, of corruption, of being racist, and of  firing him for raising those issues through official channels.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Audit the Pentagon

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013” for increased transparency and accountability in the defense budget. This bipartisan bill will cut the budget of any Federal agency by five percent that does not receive an independent audit for the previous year. To protect benefits for the nation’s veterans, military personnel accounts and the Defense Health Program would be exempt from cuts.

“The American people want some basic measure of accountability in the way the Pentagon spends tax dollars,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “The Department of Defense’s refusal to provide an audit is a recipe for financial disaster. As the daughter of a veteran, I grew up believing in the power and patriotism of the U.S. military, but being patriotic does not mean blindly accepting bloated Pentagon spending.” 

The Good Intentions That Pave the Road to War

By DIANA JOHNSTONE (previously published at CounterPunch)

Paris. -- Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States.
Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities.  Five years ago, an unlikely “Genocide Prevention Task Force” was set up headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, both veterans of the Clinton administration.
The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell”.  Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide”.  It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor.
Why has the U.S. Government so eagerly endorsed the crusade against “genocide”?

Okay -- Don't Believe Me!

 

I was having a hard time falling asleep

When I heard a loud noise coming from the kitchen.

Probably the cat after a mouse

Knocked something off the counter.

I made my way downstairs

Glad to have an excuse to get vertical.

U.S. to become a second-rate power

By Mike Ferner

(Cue sound of emergency alarms.  Insert graphics for panic, terror, devastation and collapse  here ______.)

Yes, believe it, friends.  That is exactly what Outgoing Secretary of War Panetta said in a Feb. 1 exit interview with USA Today, when asked what effects looming cuts will have on the War Department if Congress fails to reach a budget deal by March 1.

Red-blooded Senate and House members eager to protect the military from even a rumor of a budget cut will certainly welcome Panetta’s words.  Whether it will result in the U.S. becoming a “second-rate power” is a little less certain, considering we now spend as much for war as the rest of the world put together, with perhaps the exception of Upper Volta and the Cayman Islands. 

To put the Secretary’s America-as-second-rate-power fears in perspective, the dreaded “sequestering” of the budget means the Pentagon will have to cut 8 to 9 percent out of this year’s $535 billion dollar budget. 

In the near term, according to USA Today, the cuts would require the Air Force to throttle back on flight training, the Navy to keep ships in port longer and the Army to reduce utility costs at its posts.  The U.S. would be able to handle its commitments in Afghanistan and the Middle East but little else.  And continued sequestration cuts over the next decade would leave the Army with only 390,000 soldiers to guard the Empire’s reaches.

“We are the world's most powerful military, and we use that to promote peace and stability in the world,” Panetta stated.  Whether the sequestration cuts would reduce world peace and stability by more than eight or nine percent this year was not clear, nor were any estimates given on peace and stability reductions over the next decade.

"When we're called upon to do other crises, whether it is in Syria or Mali or North Africa or elsewhere, we may not be able to respond," Panetta said…as the Syrians, Malians, North Africans and Elsewherians breathed a sigh of relief.

But let’s give the devil his due.  In truth, I think the War Secretary is on to something.  For most of us in this country, coming in second would be highly welcome, a real improvement over the current state of affairs, considering that among the nations of the world we are now in:

  • 35th place in keeping our fellow citizens above the poverty line
  • 48th place in infant mortality – keeping babies alive until their first birthday – generally accepted as the best overall indicator of a nation’s health

But take heart, Mr. Outgoing Secretary, we just missed a blue ribbon at something – the amount of money spent on health care.  A “We’re Number One!” award just slipped through our grasp when those cagey Maltans figured out how to spend even more than we do, so now we’re only…well, a second rate power on health care expenses.  You’ve sounded the alarm not a moment too soon.

Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio.  He served as a Navy corpsman during the Vietnam war and is a former president of Veterans For Peace.  Email him at mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net

Links? We Don’t Do No Stinkin’ Links: Cognitive Dissonance at the New York Times

 

By Dave Lindorff


For a masterpiece in cognitive dissonance, just look to the foreign editors and the  managing editor of the New York Times, who ran two stories in Saturday’s paper without referencing each other at all.


Wars That Aren't Meant to Be Won

In War Is A Lie I looked at pretended and real reasons for wars and found some of the real reasons to be quite irrational.  It should not shock us then to discover that the primary goal in fighting a war is not always to win it.  Some wars are fought without a desire to win, others without winning being the top priority, either for the top war makers or for the ordinary soldiers.

In Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them, David Keen looks at wars around the world and discovers many in which winning is not an object.  Many of the examples are civil wars, many of them in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, some of them dragging on for decades.  Wars become sources of power, wealth, and prestige.  Exploiting civilians can take precedence for both sides over combatting each other.  So can exploiting international "aid" that flows as long as wars are raging, not to mention the international permission to commit crimes that is bestowed upon those fighting the communists or, more recently, the terrorists.  Of course a "war on terror" is itself blatantly chosen as an unwinnable goal around which to design a permanent emergency.  President Obama has just waived, again, sanctions on nations using child soldiers.  Those child soldiers are on our side.

"The weak (or nonexistent) criticism by aid agencies of human rights abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq in the context of a 'war on terror' -- for example, the massacres of prisoners of war in Afghanistan in November 2001 and the torture at Abu Ghraib -- was used by the government in Sri Lanka (as well as by governments in Russia, Colombia, Algeria and Pakistan) as evidence of 'double standards' on the part of aid agencies that tried to criticise them."

Keen treats Western wars with the same analytical eye as any other wars, and with similar results.  The wars to combat "terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq have actually increased terrorism.  If the overriding goal were to reduce terrorism, we wouldn't continue making war on Muslim nations.  Killing Afghan farmers for supporting the Taliban turns more of them to the Taliban.  And so, more of them are killed.  Paying for safe passage for U.S. materiel funds the Taliban.  Humanitarian aid is tied to the military occupation and resisted as such, fueling corruption and resentment rather than good will.  It also fuels an interest in prolonging a war without end on the part of locals profiting from it. 

Is winning the objective?  Sometimes appearing to be winning in the short term overrides and actually impedes the work of winning in the long term.  One reason this goes unnoticed, I think, is that there is no coherent concept of what winning would look like.  We're less aware, therefore, of not having reached it.  Rather than winning or losing, we think of wars as merely "ending."  And if they end following a "surge" by our side, we imagine they've ended well, even while averting our eyes from the results. 

Do U.S. war makers want their wars to end?  Perhaps if they can end without slowing the flow of war spending, and if they can end violently -- that is, in a manner seeming to justify war.  Leading up to the recent NATO war on Libya, a U.S. weapons executive was asked by NPR what would happen if the occupation of Afghanistan ended.  His reply was that he hoped we could invade Libya.  During President Clinton's second term, this ad was posted on a wall in the Pentagon:

"ENEMY WANTED: Mature North American Superpower seeks hostile partner for arms-racing, Third World conflicts, and general antagonism.  Must be sufficiently menacing to convince Congress of military financial requirements.  Nuclear capability is preferred; however, non-nuclear candidates possessing significant bio chemical warfare resources will be considered. . . ."

Jokes?  No doubt.  But not funny ones and not meaningless ones.

Drastic increases in U.S. military spending in the early 1950s, early 1980s, and early 2000s all followed economic recessions.  Money could have been spent on schools or solar panels or trains, and the economy would have benefited significantly more, but that would have been Socialism.

One reason for the U.S. bombing of Laos: the halting of the bombing of North Vietnam left a lot of planes and bombs without targets.  One reason that Keen offers for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait: Iraq had an oversized military in desperate need of a war.  And when the U.S. occupation recklessly disbanded that military, fuelling the resistance, the goal may not have been to fuel the resistance, but clearly an irrational drive to de-Baathify took precedence over achieving peace.

Beyond profits, wars create support for rightwing politics, and excuses to eliminate civil rights.  This is true at home, but also abroad.  Sanctions on Iran are moving the Iranian government away from where liberal reformers claim to want it.  Providing limited aid to a hopeless opposition in Syria that does not aim for democracy won't produce democracy, but it will produce war.  And not just immediately, but lastingly.  U.S. backing of jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s fueled war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, and the attacks of 911, just as the recent war in Libya is fueling war in Mali.

What lessons can be drawn?  Aid should go first and foremost to places free of war.  Rather than prioritizing the militarization and bombing of areas suffering human rights abuses (militarizing Bahrain when it backs the Pentagon, bombing Libya when it doesn't), our top priority should be disarmament and demilitarization, that is to say: conversion of economies and societies to peaceful sustainable production.  One part of this work should be the enforcement of laws against war.  This week we can look to Guatemala and Italy for signs of hope, and to Washington for evidence that plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Every Dollar of Your Income Tax Except the Last One Goes to Wars and Preparation for Wars

Columbia Journalism Review:

A year ago, in budget reporting on defense costs, the figure of $525 billion got wide play, as did the fact that the number was down slightly from the previous year. The New York Times reported that “the military budget is to be $525 billion,” a decline of $6 billion mostly because of increased health insurance fees paid by military personnel, while the Los Angeles Times reported that “the $525 billion sought in fiscal year 2013 is $6 billion less than Congress approved for 2012.” The $525 billion figure was also cited by The Wall Street Journal,
Bloomberg, and The Associated Press (via Fox).

The Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog did a little better. It used a qualifier word, “core” budget, while Reuters used the a different qualifier—“base”

But even qualifiers like “core” or “base” don’t quite do the trick. They don’t help readers understand the much larger costs of national security. Journalists covering the fiscal 2014 budget that the White House will issue in a matter of days should look carefully at the document as well as at other sources that have analyzed the total costs.

So how misleading is the $525 billion figure?

For starters, the $525.4 billion does not include $88.5 billion for unbudgeted costs of wars overseas, called Overseas Contingency Operations. Add other Pentagon spending details and the projected outlays (see fiscal 2013 budget at p. 84) come to $672.9 billion, which is 28 percent more than the basic Defense budget.

But wait!—There’s more.

Each year the Director of National Intelligence releases a total budget figure for national intelligence. For fiscal 2013 it was $52.6 billion, down from $53.9 billionin fiscal 2012. National security includes the NSA, CIA, and other intelligence services. Military intelligence spending, included in the base Defense budget, was $19.2 billion. (A good place to track these budget issues is the Federation of American Scientists Intelligence Resource Program.)

Next there’s $19.2 billion for the nuclear bomb-making arm of the Energy Department. Homeland Security includes $13.2 billion for customs and border patrol and $10.5 billion for the Coast Guard.

Then there is the considerable cost of wars past. The budget shows almost $139 billion for Veterans Affairs, though the numbers are presented in the budget text in a way that anyone not reading carefully would think is less than half that much.

Add all these up and the total cost grows 86 percent, to $977.5 billion. Most military intelligence spending is buried in these figures.

Meanwhile, wars are debt-financed, even though taxes were raised to help pay for every war American prior to Afghanistan and Iraq. Add in interest costs attributable to past conflicts, as the pacifist War Resisters League does, and the fiscal 2013 cost of national security comes to more than $1.3 trillion—two and a half times the basic Defense budget.

That pretty much all-in cost almost equals the $1.6 trillion expected to be raised through the individual federal income tax in fiscal 2013, as shown in Table S-5 of the proposed White House budget.
By this broadest measure, the cost of national security consumes every individual income tax dollar except the last one paid by each American.

Turning tide? Lawmakers look to Pentagon for budget cuts

McClatchy Washington Bureau

By James Rosen | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON --As another debt-deal deadline looms this winter in Congress, an unusual alliance of lawmakers has joined forces to put the Pentagon budget under greater scrutiny and to end the almost carte blanche status it enjoyed in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In a letter last month to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, 11 Democratic and 11 Republican lawmakers asked that Defense Department spending be put squarely on the table in the coming clashes over debt reduction.

Hey, Hey, Barack! What Do You Say? How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?

 

By Dave Lindorff


I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:


Speaking Events

2015

August 27, Chicago

September 22, DC

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