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Military Industrial Complex
Just as the Bush administration is handing off a host of foreign policy debacles to Barack Obama (including seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), a woefully mismanaged economic bailout, and possibly a second Great Depression, so the outgoing president is leaving the new administration with a public education mess. There's the much maligned and underfunded No Child Left Behind Act which is up for reauthorization this year. The cost of going to college is also rapidly spiraling out of control, as evidenced in a recent report in which every state except California received an "F" for college affordability. And at the same time, student loans are drying up as lenders, fearing economic disaster, scale back their programs.
A Phrase That Launched A Thousand Bombs
By Christiane Brown
One phrase can divide an entire country, one phrase can circumvent 800 years of law, one phrase can justify the horrific, condone the illegal, and bankrupt a nation, both financially and morally. One phrase can kill.
Of the thousands of nefarious actions to emerge from the Bush administration, it is astounding to realize that at the root of the abuse of power, at the very embryo of the fires of destruction – was a deceptively simple enabler, a basic four word slogan that opened all doors before it and paved the way for the misery and misconduct that followed: The War on Terror.
This vague, and yet all encompassing phrase, was first used by President Bush on September 20th 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, and from that moment forward it became root force behind the staggering orgy of lawbreaking that followed.
Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one.
By Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Citing politics and torture, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for war crimes issued an urgent appeal on Friday to a top Bush administration official to withdraw all charges against alleged terrorists here.
"The perception of pervasive torture now saddles the incoming Administration and its efforts to set these proceedings on a just course," Air Force Col. Peter Masciola wrote a former military appeals judge, Susan J. Crawford, known as the Convening Authority for Military Commissions.
Masciola noted that the Obama administration intends to revise the Guantanamo war court and urged Crawford to halt next week's hearings before the Pentagon put dozens of witnesses, judges, reporters, attorneys and other court personnel onto a flight from Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday.
Next week, two military judges have scheduled hearings.
Note for TomDispatch Readers:
The Pentagon pours vast sums of money into many things -- and it isn't only what you imagine. It's not just weapons and equipment, nor even technological and scientific research. Don't forget, for instance, the military money that goes into conferences to talk about carrying out more technological and scientific research to create more weapons and equipment. Just recently, Wired Magazine's Danger Room blog reported that "[l]ast August, the U.S. Army held a three-day conference in Portsmouth, Virginia, to look at new developments in military science and hardware." And what was it called? The "2008 Mad Scientist Future Technology Seminar." Seriously! You can't claim the Pentagon doesn't have a sense of humor.
Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) Seeks National Director | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) seeks an experienced, strategic-thinking national director who is passionate about ending the war in Iraq and who can help MFSO reach its next level of growth and development.
By Dave Lindorff
Congress should do now what it should have done back in the fall: kill the Wall Street bailout program.
After wasting $350 billion on a program that was misrepresented from the outset, and investing hundreds of billions of dollars in failing financial institutions that it could have bought outright for less than it was investing in them (AIG was worth only a few billion dollars in total at the time that the government bailed the company out with an initial investment of $85 billion and Citicorp today is worth less than the $45 billion the government has invested in that failing firm), the Treasury Department, now acting at the direction not of the Bush administration and outgoing Treasurer Hank Paulson, but the Obama administration, is asking for the other half of the Troubled Assets Relief Fund (TARP).
By Rita Beamish and Anne Gearn, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama appointed a Raytheon Co. lobbyist Thursday to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, acknowledging that his choice appeared to break with his self-imposed rules to keep lobbyists at arm's length.
William J. Lynn III, Obama's choice for deputy defense secretary, is a former Pentagon official who now is senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. Lynn hasn't been a registered lobbyist since July, meaning he can't personally lobby Congress or the White House. In the first three months of 2008, his lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence issues, including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced-technology programs and intelligence funding.
US Military Casualties Exceed 70,658
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 29 combat casualties in the week ending Jan. 13, 2009 as the official total rose to at least 70,658. The total includes 34,365 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,293 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 3, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
With combat duty in Vietnam under his belt, Madison County Circuit Judge Charles Romani Jr. knows veterans often have special issues when it comes to drugs and mental illness. Soon, many of them may be getting his special judicial help.
Taking a page from a similar program launched a year ago in New York, court administrators in this suburban St. Louis county plan to launch within weeks a new court designed to deal only with military veterans charged with nonviolent crimes.
The mission: Divert many of the veterans from the criminal courts to a program that, much like popular drug courts, will offer them treatment for underlying issues, perhaps sparing them a criminal conviction if they successfully complete the treatment.
By Dave Lindorff
The real cost of the Bush Administration’s trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street is becoming painfully apparent as the incoming Obama administration attempts desperately to make a case for its own $800-billion economic stimulus package, while warning about “trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.”
On its own merits, all other considerations aside, with the economy slipping into a sinkhole, President-elect Barack Obama’s call for $800 million in stimulus spending should be a slam dunk for Congress. The problem is, Congress already caved in a hurry and approved nearly that same amount--$700 billion—in a matter of days when Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and his Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke said they needed the money to prevent a collapse of the financial industry, as the nation’s biggest banks, investment banks and insurance companies teetered on the brink of insolvency last fall.
I've heard from another defense expert worried about academic freedom at the Army War College. Mark Perry, author of
several books on defense issues, wrote to say that a series of experiences two years ago at the college so concerned him that he sent a letter outlining his worries to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen.
Commenting on yesterday's item, Perry wrote (and I am quoting with his permission):
Tomgram: Body Count Nation
The Ponzi Scheme Presidency
Bush's Legacy of Destruction
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch.com
It wasn't, of course, that no one had been counting. The President, as we know from Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, had long been keeping "'his own personal scorecard for the [global] war [on terror]' in the form of photographs with brief biographies and personality sketches of those judged to be the world's most dangerous terrorists -- each ready to be crossed out by the President as his forces took them down." And the military had been counting bodies as well, but as the possibility of victory disappeared into the charnel houses of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon and the president finally gave in. While this did not stoke an antiwar movement, it represented a tacit admission of policy collapse, a kind of surrender. It was as close as an administration which never owned up to error could come to admitting that two more disastrous wars had been added to a string of military failures in the truncated American Century.
The United States once again leads the world in exporting weapons
By Frida Berrigan, In These Times
A $7 billion missile-defense system for the United Arab Emirates. An estimated $15 billion potential sale of Lockheed Martin’s brand-new fighter plane to Israel. Billions of dollars in weaponry for Taiwan and Turkey. These and other recent deals helped make the United States the world’s leading arms-exporting nation.
In 2007, U.S. foreign military sales agreements totaled more than $32 billion — nearly triple the amount during President Bush’s first full year in office.
The Pentagon routinely justifies weapons sales as “promoting regional stability,” but many of these arms end up in the world’s war zones. In 2006 and 2007, the five biggest recipients of U.S. weapons were Pakistan ($3.5 billion), Iraq ($2.2 billion), Israel ($2.2 billion), Afghanistan ($1.9 billion) and Colombia ($580 million) — all countries where conflict rages.
A veteran who has been out of the military for 15 years and recently received his AARP card was stunned when he received notice he will be deployed to Iraq.
The last time Paul Bandel, 50, saw combat was in the early 1990s during the Gulf War.
"(I was) kind of shocked, not understanding what I was getting into," said Bandel, who lives in the Nashville, Tenn., area.
In 1993, Bandel took the option of leaving the Army without retirement and never thought he would be called back to action.
"Here he's 50 years old, getting his AARP card, and here he's being redeployed with all these 18-year-olds," said Paul's wife, Linda Bandel.
Obama Moves to Counter China in Space With Pentagon-NASA Link
By Demian Mclean, Bloomberg
Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.
Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle, which isn’t slated to fly until 2015, according to people who’ve discussed the idea with the Obama team.
The potential change comes as Pentagon concerns are rising over China’s space ambitions because of what is perceived as an eventual threat to U.S. defense satellites, the lofty battlefield eyes of the military.
By Deepak Chopra, AlterNet
The following is a memo to Barack Obama from Deepak Chopra
You have been elected by the first anti-war constituency since 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected after promising to end the Korean War. But ending a war isn't the same as bringing peace. America has been on a war footing since the day after Pearl Harbor, 67 years ago. We spend more on our military than the next 16 countries combined. If you have a vision of change that goes to the heart of this country's deep problems, ending our dependence on war is far more important than ending our dependency on foreign oil.
The most immediate changes are economic. Unless it can make as much money as war, peace doesn't stand a chance. Since aerospace and military technologies remain the United States' most destructive export, fostering wars around the world, what steps can we take to reverse that trend and build a peace-based economy?
By Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Marvin, US Army Special Forces (Retired), Author of "Expendable Elite - One Soldier's Journey Into Covert Warfare"
Immediately after commanding the memorial tribute at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in honor of President John F. Kennedy on the day he was assassinated, I volunteered for Special Forces. Knowing how much my best friend, Green Beret SFC Gerard V. Parmentier, admired the just slain President, inspired this action.
Here's a story in the Hill which spins the news as its opposite.
By Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times
EL PASO -- A U.S. Army War College report warns an economic crisis in the United States could lead to massive civil unrest and the need to call on the military to restore order.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Freir wrote the report "Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development," which the Army think tank in Carlisle, Pa., recently released.
"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities ... to defend basic domestic order and human security," the report said, in case of "unforeseen economic collapse," "pervasive public health emergencies," and "catastrophic natural and human disasters," among other possible crises.
The report also suggests the new (Barack Obama) administration could face a "strategic shock" within the first eight months in office.
US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,231
by Michael Munk | MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 29 combat casualties in the eight days ending Dec.24 as the official casualty total rose to at least 70,262. The total includes 34,305 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 35,957 dead and medically evacuated (as of Dec. 6, 2008) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 90,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 20,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions--were diagnosed only after they had left Iraq..**
By Jason Leopold, The Public Record
Barack Obama's decision to have the evangelical megachurch leader Rick Warren conduct the invocation at next month's presidential inauguration proves that fundamentalist Christians still wield enormous power within the federal government and will likely continue to be a dominating force under an Obama administration.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the U.S. military where for the past several years, in apparent violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, chaplains have openly proselytized to thousands of active-duty soldiers and, in some cases, have tried to convert Iraqis and Afghans to Christianity.
by Linda Milazzo
For years since the United States invaded Iraq, I've witnessed countless photo and video images of innocent civilians - men, women, teens and children - being rudely and aggressively threatened by hired uniformed militants (mostly men), wielding guns. I've seen these images from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Palestine, and more. Whether they be armed American military threatening Iraqis, armed Israeli soldiers threatening Palestinians, or armed Ethiopian troops threatening Somalis, the images have always disturbed me. There's an inherent injustice to such blatant imbalance of power. An injustice I suffered recently myself.
The oddity here is that unlike those less fortunate innocents in war zones who faced the guns of hired aggressors, I was not in a war zone when I faced mine. I wasn't even in a high crime zone. I was in a gentle middle class suburb, where my aggressor, an armed Brinks, Inc. security guard, was in full combat-mode performing his non war-zone duty. My aggressor more typified the machismo of a Blackwater guard than the demeanor of community-minded Brinks, when he flailed his loaded gun at me, as though he'd done it often before. My armed Brinks aggressor was not merely disrespectful. He was downright hostile and dangerous. He treated me as his enemy and freely showed me his force.
Here's how it happened:
By David Hambling, Wired
The National Institute of Justice, the police's R&D arm, is continuing the development of hand-held equivalents of the military's Active Denial System.
As I report over in New Scientist, one of them uses the same microwaves as the Pentagon's non-lethal pain-ray; the other is based in an infra-red laser which they say achieves the same effect at target, but which can be made smaller and lighter.
The infra-red device is none other than the PHaSR, which we last saw in 2005 being touted as a laser dazzler . The reason for the PHaSR's bulk is now apparent; a dazzler can be the size of a pen, but this has to pack in a lot more power to heat the target, even if it's only the outer 1/64 inch of the skin. According to the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Program's fact sheet on PHaSR:
By CHUCK SPINNEY, Counterpunch
The 21 Dec 2008 editorial in the New York Times, "How To Pay For A 21st-Century Military" purports to advocate tough-minded pragmatism to reform a Pentagon that is clearly out of control. Yet its logic is really another example of the kind of hackneyed thinking that serves to protect the status quo. It also suggests indirectly why the mainstream media are in such trouble.
By Mark Engler, In These Times
At the end of a long electoral season marked by bipartisan vows to bring "change," America’s massive military budget remains a hulking and seemingly immutable fact of national life. Given the financial crisis and the promise of President Bush’s departure from office, many have hoped that overheated defense spending might give way to the need to addressing domestic problems.
Yet, countering these hopes, the Pentagon has already maneuvered to lock the Obama administration into greater military spending. On Oct. 9, Congressional Quarterly reported that a forthcoming spending estimate from defense officials would call for $450 billion in additional funds over the next five years. The publication Defense News subsequently confirmed with Bradley Berkson, the Pentagon’s director of program analysis and evaluation, that the military would indeed be seeking additional funds -- although Berkson cited the figure of $360 billion over six years.
By Anita Dancs with Mary Orisich and Suzanne Smith, www.nationalpriorities.org
Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled
by any means necessary, including military force.
–President Jimmy Carter, Third State of the Union Address, 1978
The United States requires freedom of action in the global commons and strategic access to important regions of the world to meet our national security needs. The well being of the global economy is contingent on ready access to energy resources...current trends indicate an increasing reliance on
petroleum products from areas of instability in the coming years, not reduced reliance. The United States will continue to foster access to and flow of energy resources vital to the world economy.
By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus
Over the next several months there will be a battle for hearts and minds, but not in Iraq or Afghanistan. The war will be here at home, waged mostly in the halls of Congress, where grim lobbyists for one of the top 15 economies in the world are digging in to preserve their stake in the massive U.S. military budget. With the country in deep recession and resources dwindling for the new administration's programs on health care, education, and the environment, the outcome of this battle may well end up defining the next four years.
But coming to grips with the issue, as one military analyst noted, is likely to resemble the worst of World War I trench warfare. "It will be like the British Army at the Somme," Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information (CDI) told the Boston Globe, "you will just get mowed down by the defense industry."
Up Against the Industry
Culture War vs. Class War vs. Holy War vs. Earth War
By Gary Corseri
“… pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks. …” --Mark Twain (The Mysterious Stranger)
Those who take the long view of history often wind up with the short end of the stick.
That’s because, as John Maynard Keynes himself said, in the long run, we’ll all be dead.