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Even Star Spangled War Is Hell

Originally published in the Indypendent Reader

In this bicentennial year of the War of 1812, the StarSpangledBaltimore.com website tells us:
Star-Spangled Banner Sheet Music
"The War of 1812 represents what many see as the definitive end of the American Revolution. A new nation, widely regarded as an upstart, successfully defended itself against the largest, most powerful navy in the world during the maritime assault on Baltimore and Maryland. America's victory over Great Britain confirmed the legitimacy of the Revolution."
 
But the revolution had ended three decades before 1812, and the choice to launch a new war was made by the U.S. government in Washington, D.C.
 
In the lead-up to the War of 1812, the British and Americans exchanged attacks along the Canadian border and in the open seas. Native Americans also exchanged attacks with U.S. settlers, although who was invading whom is a question we've never wanted to face.  But the choice to launch a full-scale war was not made by the "largest, most powerful navy in the world"; it was made by the national government that we now depict as fighting defensively in Baltimore.
 
Maritime offenses, skirmishes, and trade disagreements can be resolved diplomatically, continued at the same low level, or expanded into much more massive killing and destruction.  These are options our government still faces today.  In 1812, the choice of war resulted in the burning of our national capital, the death in action of some 3,800 U.S. and British fighters, and the death of 20,000 U.S. and British from all causes, including disease.  About 76 were killed in the Battle of Baltimore, plus another 450 wounded.  Nowadays an incident in Baltimore that resulted in that kind of carnage would be described with words other than "exciting," "glorious," and "successful."
 
And what was gained that could balance out the damage done?  Absolutely nothing.

Americans Love a Good Killer

 

 

By John Grant

 

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.
- D.H. Lawrence

The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations … where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket … where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing.
- Raymond Chandler
 
 
American pop culture is certainly not unique in having a love affair with killers. Since the first cave man cracked his neighbor’s head open to control a water hole, eliminating others has been top on the list of problem-solving techniques.

NATO to Debate Protesters, Bet G8 Won't Do That, Bet Obama Won't Do That, Bet Pentagon Won't Do That

NATO representatives will meet with members of the largest anti-NATO protest group next week for an unprecedented one-hour public debate, NBC Chicago has exclusively learned.

Word of the strategic gesture toward the protesters came Wednesday afternoon from NATO's secretary-general following his meeting with the president at the White House.

"Our public diplomacy people are reaching out to these groups," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "They will organize some meetings where there will be a possibility to exchange views.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 17 at -- in a bit of irony -- the Pritzker Military Library.

"We get to have a public forum where we are able to convince our fellow residents of this city just how bad and nasty an institution NATO is," said Andy Thayer, an organizer of the Coalition Against the NATO / G8 War & Poverty Agenda.

Thayer and other protesters take issue with the money spent on NATO operations and its occupations in sovereign lands, and he said he hopes the public demonstrations and next week's dialogue will enlighten more people to NATO's actions.

"I would argue that most people in this country, when they get to know the facts about what NATO is ... and what NATO does to places like Afghanistan, they would agree that this is not something that should be supported, that our city should not be supporting the NATO Summit," Thayer said.

During "Chicago Week" at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in March, there may have been a preview of how NATO representatives will respond.

Upon being told of the protest slogan that "NATO is the war machine of the one percent," U.S. Ambassador Ivo Daalder rejected the notion, saying he believes NATO's true mission is sometimes misunderstood.

"I wouldn't regard NATO as a war machine for any percent," he said at the time. "What NATO is is an organization that brings together 28 countries."

The summit is May 20 and 21.

Drones in U.S. Flight Paths: What Could Go Wrong?

On March 9th the Federal Aviation Administration requested comments from the public on drone test sites.  On May 8th, lengthy comments were submitted by Not 1 More Acre! and Purgatoire, Apishapa & Comanche Grassland Trust.  The FAA asked all the wrong questions, but still got a lot of the right answers.  When the drone accidents start, and you're told "Nobody could have known," refer them here: PDF.

I would have asked "Should weaponized drones be permitted to exist on earth?" and "How can surveillance drones possibly comply with the Fourth Amendment?"  The FAA asked:

"The Congressional language asks the FAA to consult with and leverage the resources of the Department of Defense and NASA in this effort.  Since many public operators already have access to test ranges and control the management and use of those ranges, should the management of these new test ranges be held by local governments or should private entity [sic] schedule and manage the airspace?"

Not 1 More Acre! replied:

"Neither.  Although the pilot UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] program is a Congressional mandate, and the timelines are accelerated, the complexities and potential dangers of integration of UAS into civilian airspace must not be delegated to local governments or private organizations in the name of expediency, entrepreneurship, or profit. . . . The wording of Question A suggests that the FAA is contemplating abdicating its inherent authority to manage the NAS [National Airspace System] by ceding broad discretion over UAS flight operations. . . .

". . . The primary driver of the move to integration has clearly been contractors funded by the DOD, working in concert with the secretive Joint Special Forces Operation Command, the Department of Homeland Security, and the CIA, among others. . . . Private defense [sic] contractors increasingly woo local law enforcement agencies and other community groups with grants to help fund the purchase of new UAS.  The FAA should not allow any other federal agency to usurp its authority over the NAS or circumvent the pre-decisional public disclosure requirements of NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] including agencies like the CIA, NASA, and JSOC which are not transparent or accountable to the public."

Of course, there's a catch.  Even the accountable agency has, naturally, ceased to be accountable:

"However, the FAA has never conducted any NEPA review related to UAS.  The agency has never prepared an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment to disclose the potential impacts of UAS to the public and agency officials, despite issuing hundreds of Certificates of Waiver and Authorization to some 60 public agencies."

Have you heard about the 51st State for Armed Robotic Drones?

The 63 drone sites in the U.S.?

The 30,000 drones planned for U.S. skies?

The habit drones have of crashing even on their own?

While initially cheaper than manned planes, unmanned drones of the sort used now tend to require many more personnel: 168 people to keep a Predator drone in the air for 24 hours, plus 19 analysts to process the videos created by a drone.  Drones and their related technologies are increasing in price rapidly.  And to make matters worse, they tend to crash.  They even "go rogue," lose contact with their "pilots" and fly off on their own.  The U.S. Navy has a drone that self-destructs if you accidentally touch the space bar on the computer keyboard.  Drones also tend to supply so-called enemies with information, including the endless hours of video they record, and to infect U.S. military computers with viruses.  But these are the sorts of SNAFUs that come with any project lacking oversight, accountability, or cost controls.  The companies with the biggest drone contracts did not invest in developing the best technologies but in paying off the most Congress members.

What could go wrong?

What the Super Committee Couldn't Do, the Full Congress (and President) Will Now Attempt


http://www.c-span.org/Events/House-Budget-Cmte-Markup-of-Bills-to-Replace-Automatic-Budget-Cuts/10737430474/

House Budget Cmte. Markup of Bills to Replace Automatic Budget Cuts

 

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) heads a markup hearing on a bill that will replace the automatic budget cuts that were set out in last year's Budget Control Act.

The House Budget Committee will be marking up HR 4966, the Sequester Replacement Act of 2012 Monday. Under the bill introduced by Chairman Ryan, language in the 2011 Budget Control Act requiring a sequester or automatic cuts of around $600 billion to defense would be eliminated.

Actually two bills, the first will replace language in the Budget Control Act that require the sequester.  The second will replace the automatic cuts with budget reduction recommendations from the Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means committees.

The sequester was triggered under the Budget Control Act after the Congressional Joint Deficit Reduction Committee failed to find an additional $1.2T in cuts.

People Now Getting Degrees in Drone Studies -- This Is Not the Onion

UAS program confers first degree

 



 

By MICHAEL STRAND

Salina Journal

Imagine majoring in a field that is set for untold growth in the next 10 years -- and being one of the first five people in the country with that degree.

That's the enviable position Zach Powell finds himself in this spring.

Powell, from Colorado Springs, was among about 90 people graduating Saturday from Kansas State University at Salina -- and the first ever to earn a bachelor's degree in the school's new unmanned aerial systems program.

He also earned degrees in professional pilot and technology management and said he was well on his way to those degrees when the UAS program opened two years ago.

READ THE REST.

So then Who in the Hell Are We?

 

By Dan De Walt

 

“This is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.” 

       -- Jeff Gearhart, Wall-Mart general counsel, on the firm’s Mexico bribery 

 

[Torture] “is not the norm.” 

       -- Mike Pannek, Abu Ghraib prison warden.

 

“This is not who we are.” 

       -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the US massacre of 16 Afghan villagers.

 

“This is not who we are.” 

Confessions of an angry young drone

By Pepe Escobar

PARIS - These are tumultuous times in Droneland. Some bewildered United States drones are actually mired in second thoughts about their god-given mission - as expressed in detail to author and blogger David Swanson. [1] They even founded their own awareness group - DAWN (Drones Against War Now).

Others, meanwhile, remain downright defiant. Like this hunter/killer Predator, equipped with Hellfire missiles and sat-guided bombs who, on a strategic partnership visit to Paris, escaped to the chic cabinet of renowned Lacanian master Dr Bernard-Henri Puant in Saint Germain, not far from the Cafe de Flore of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir fame, where they engaged in an impromptu psychoanalytic session.

The Predator was in Paris to manifest his support for extreme right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen ahead of Sunday's French presidential election run-off. He was trying to impress to Madame Le Pen his competence as a trusted ally able to target the Islamicization of French society.

Now Dr Puant may claim a world first; he managed to put a drone on the divan. No one would ever be aware of the contents of their sensitive conversation had the Central Intelligence Agency - which had Dr Puant under surveillance - not intervened. But then the file was conveniently leaked to Medialand as an effort by the embattled Nicolas Sarkozy campaign to discredit the heavily politicized drone. The tactic may yet backfire.

What follows is a rough transcript.

READ THE REST AT ASIA TIMES.

What you need to succeed is sincerity, and if you can fake sincerity you've got it made

The Anti-Empire Report

What you need to succeed is sincerity, and if you can fake sincerity you've got it made. (Old Hollywood axiom)

"A few months ago I told the American people that I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not." — President Ronald Reagan, 1987 1

On April 23, speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama told his assembled audience that as president "I've done my utmost ... to prevent and end atrocities".

Do the facts and evidence tell him that his words are not true?

Well, let's see ... There's the multiple atrocities carried out in Iraq by American forces under President Obama. There's the multiple atrocities carried out in Afghanistan by American forces under Obama. There's the multiple atrocities carried out in Pakistan by American forces under Obama. There's the multiple atrocities carried out in Libya by American/NATO forces under Obama. There are also the hundreds of American drone attacks against people and homes in Somalia and in Yemen (including against American citizens in the latter). Might the friends and families of these victims regard the murder of their loved ones and the loss of their homes as atrocities?

Ronald Reagan was pre-Alzheimer's when he uttered the above. What excuse can be made for Barack Obama?

NATO vs. Rogues?

Institutions rarely vote themselves out of existence. Not if they still have money in their budgets. Large institutions in particular have an almost genetic propensity to cling to life even after their reasons for being have vanished.

Lockheed Throws Its Weight Around (Again)

By Jean Athey, FPIF

lockheed-martin-montgomery-county-marylandIn Montgomery County, Maryland — just outside of Washington, DC — the county executive recently proposed, as a part of his annual budget, a no-strings-attached grant of $900,000 to Lockheed Martin, the largest military contractor in the world. Citizens of the county objected to the handout in public hearings that the county council held on the budget.

One member of the council, after hearing citizen testimony, commented that the county could probably find better ways of spending $900,000. This was the only public comment any member of the council made on the issue.

Yet The Washington Post immediately criticized the county council in a vitriolic editorial in which it accused the council of engaging in “demagoguery masquerading as social justice.”

Lockheed Bites Back

Lockheed Martin and its friends at The Washington Post are still outraged that in 2010 the Council refused to pass a special law to give Lockheed Martin a unique tax advantage that would have cost the county $450,000 per year — at a time when the county was faced with draconian cuts to critical services. The county executive, at the behest of Lockheed Martin, had asked the council to change the legal definition of a hotel, specifically to exempt the patrons of Lockheed Martin’s new luxury hotel in Bethesda, MD from paying the county’s 7-percent hotel tax. The proposed law would have applied to no other facility in the county.

After hearing from citizens on this outrageous bill, the council tabled it and never voted on it, effectively killing it. As a result, patrons of the hotel, called the Center for Leadership Excellence (CLE), must pay the lodging tax, just like the patrons of every other hotel in the county. The Washington Post and Lockheed Martin consider this situation grossly unfair. The proposed grant is designed to recompense Lockheed Martin for two years worth of the tax.

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. One example: It is now estimated that the F-35, a Lockheed Martin product, will end up costing taxpayers a total of $1.5 trillion dollars. If you laid out $1.5 trillion end-to-end in $100 bills, you could circle the Earth at the equator 59 times.

Despite the extraordinary wealth of this company, The Washington Post believes that council members are being “craven” in requiring the CLE to remain subject to the county’s hotel tax, given that only Lockheed Martin’s personal invitees can stay at the CLE — that is, members of the public can’t make a reservation there. Let’s consider this argument a bit more closely. 

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?

Partners Across The Globe: NATO Consolidates Worldwide Military Force

The Emergence of a Truly Worldwide Military Alliance

By Rick Rozoff

partners1The military leaders of 50 nations, more than a quarter of those in the world, opened a two-day conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 25 to discuss, as the Pentagon’s website described it, “the present and future of the effort in Afghanistan” and other topics.

Afghanistan being the main subject of discussion, the military chiefs of NATO’s 28 member states, collectively the Military Committee, presumably met with the chiefs of defense staff of the 22 non-NATO nations supplying the alliance with troops for the war in Afghanistan.

In January top military leaders of 67 countries, over a third of those in the world, met at NATO Headquarters to discuss operations in Afghanistan in what is the largest-ever meeting of chiefs of defense staff in history.

The recently concluded expanded meeting of the NATO Military Committee was the last before next month’s summit in Chicago and was largely focused on that impending event.

partners2Participants in the conference included General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; General John R. Allen (in teleconference), commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, in charge of the largest foreign military force ever to be stationed in that nation; NATO’s two top military commanders, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James Stavridis and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Stéphane Abrial; U.S. military chief Dempsey’s equivalents from 49 nations in Europe, North America, Central America, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Northeast Asia, South East Asia and the South Pacific supplying troops for NATO’s Afghan War. (Armenia, Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Jordan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Tonga, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.)

In short, NATO’s 21st century global expeditionary force and its top commanders. An international military coalition never authorized by the United Nations or discussed at any conference or other fora except at NATO Headquarters and at the bloc’s summits.

On the second day of the Military Committee conference in Brussels, NATO’s Allied Command Operations reported on a training course underway at the Allied Joint Force Command Headquarters in Brunssum, the Netherlands where staff officers from NATO’s Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative military partnerships are being instructed to “work as augmentees in a Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (DJF HQ) environment.

NATO added, “DJF HQ serves as an example of a Joint HQ for non-NATO nations to contribute to the Alliance’s missions.”

READ THE REST AT BOILING FROGS.

US Double Standards: India's Ballistic Missile Test and Pakistan, the Whipping-Boy

 

By Yasmeen Ali

 

India’s successful test of a ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,000 km, was
was uncriticised by the US.

Contrast this lack of concern with the America’s obsessive concern about a suspected or potential nuclear program by Iran, or to US threats over the failed rocket launch by North Korea a few days earlier.

India has increased its military spending by 13% this fiscal year, to roughly US $38
billion, according to an April 20 article in The Independent (UK) titled, ”India’s nuclear
ambition must not be ignored”). Yet this has not raised US ire -- or even US eyebrows!

NEW MOMENT, NEW MOVEMENT: Ideas about Antiwar, Antimilitarist Strategies for the Years Ahead

As the global and U.S. political landscape shifts, a new round of strategic discussion is taking place in many sectors of the antiwar movement. Below are the key assessment points and questions used by War Times to kick off our collective's effort to (1) take stock of the current volatile moment and (2) look for effective paths forward. The third part of this discussion paper is a short essay on antimilitarist strategies by War Timer Lynn Koh that expresses some of what we felt were the most useful ideas coming out of our deliberations. We are sharing this material in hopes of pushing forward a much-needed dialogue not only among activists who are focused mainly on antiwar and international solidarity efforts, but also with grassroots organizers whose work is mainly in other movements but who see the importance of making opposition to war, empire and militarism an integral part of a revitalized U.S. progressive movement. –Max Elbaum, Francesca Fiorentini, Rebecca Gordon, Hany Khalil and Lynn Koh for War Times

1. Taking stock of the big picture: What can we expect on the war/peace/militarism front in the post-Iraq War, new-U.S.-military-doctrine, continuing-Great-Recession years ahead?

The U.S. is an empire in decline. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, intended to be the first steps in securing a whole new level of U.S. global hegemony (and right-wing rule at home) instead over-stretched Washington militarily, financially and politically and accelerated the empire's downward trend. In the wake of these wars and the 2008 financial-then-economic crisis, the U.S. elite is adjusting its strategies to maximize U.S. clout in the period ahead.

The elite is united on the maintenance of U.S. military superiority over all rivals (combined) and the willingness to employ force and threats of force as a key part of its global arsenal. But it is badly divided over how adventurous to be in waging war (especially regarding deployment of ground combat troops) and how unilateral to be. The new military doctrine initiated by Obama, which stresses "rebalancing" toward Asia and use of drones and special operations over deployment of ground troops represents the "realist" strategy for the next stage. The Neocon faction, now out of power, wants much more aggressive use of force particularly in the Middle East; and their crusade is bolstered by the fact that a significant swatch of the white population has embraced a racist 'clash of civilizations' zealotry which sees white Christian-Jewish civilization pitted against a whole range of dangerous anti-American, anti-Western Civilization, anti-Israel "others" ranging from Al-Qaeda to Obama.

Under these circumstances, "low level" wars, expansion of military bases and threats against other countries (in Africa and Latin America as well as in the Asia/the Pacific region and the Middle East) will likely be constant features of the decades ahead. And there will be a near-constant danger of larger scale wars pushed by the far right as well. The kind of push is taking place right now with the right's crusade for an attack on Iran.

Simultaneously, the military-industrial complex and the militarist approaches to human relations it advocates will buttress regressive policies and structures on all fronts of social struggle. Military spending and militarist hostility to "enemies" drain resources from social programs; bolster the elite's austerity-for-the-masses program; distort the economy generally; foster racist, anti-immigrant and sexist views and practices; are key excuses to curtail civil liberties, and are a major force in continuing dependence on fossil fuels and threatening environmental disaster. In other words, militarism as both an institutional reality and set of ideas is an obstacle not only to peaceful relations among nations and peoples but to all social progress.

Questions: What do things look like on the war/peace/militarism front over the next 5-10 years? What impact will the 2012 election campaign, and its potential outcomes, have on what lies ahead?

Readings:

Bob Wing, The Arab Spring and the Changing Dynamics of Global Struggle

Max Elbaum, Fighting for Peace Against an Empire in Decline

Tom Hayden, End to Long War Doctrine?

 

2.  Antiwar/antimilitarist strategies for the period ahead: What kind of strategies and work priorities will most advance antiwar/anti-militarism goals going forward? Where are existing forces in relation to that kind of work? What is our take on public sentiment?

The large antiwar movement that surged in 2002-2006, mainly in response to the Iraq War, has ebbed. A significant but not huge number of groups and activists have continued to make antiwar efforts a main (or at least important) aspect of their work. Most have adjusted their approaches given changed conditions: the official end of the Iraq War, and economic issues/social austerity replacing war/peace as the main axis of progressive activism and the main political issue for the population at large. Action campaigns and educational work on specific U.S. wars and war threats (Iran, Afghanistan, etc.) and key solidarity efforts (especially with Palestine) continue. But these are in a new context, where there is special emphasis on figuring out ways to make pro-peace perspectives and actions an integral part of popular movements and coalitions that are driven mainly by economic or other "domestic" issues. "Move the Money" efforts are one important approach folks are utilizing to try to accomplish this. Likewise, there is a new emphasis on peace activists supporting other movements in an ongoing way and, through ties built, over time working with others to embrace issues of war/peace. These practical shifts are paralleled and informed by a perspective that targets not just specific U.S. wars but U.S. militarism more generally.

The current state of public opinion provides a good deal to build on in conducting this kind of work. Substantial majorities have come round to the view that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are/were "not worth the cost in blood and treasure." The leadership of most large liberal-to-progressive organizations (as opposed to the liberal elite) now takes at least a nominal antiwar, cut-the-military-budget position, as does the Progressive Caucus in Congress. Even within the right there is skepticism and division about the Neocon all-war, all-the-time crusade: Ron Paul has won support for his brand of conservative isolationism; and sectors of the right that reject Paul as "soft" on U.S. enemies are dubious about paying for large-scale wars and skeptical about sending large numbers of U.S. troops to fight elsewhere. Of particular immediate importance, public opinion has swung substantially against continuing the war in Afghanistan, where the U.S./NATO position is rapidly unraveling in front of the eyes of the whole world.

Still, these pluses do not yet translate into the clout needed to halt U.S. interventions much less roll back the military industrial complex. Much antiwar sentiment is at this point passive: it does not translate into large-scale activity, either direct action or as key factor in deciding who to vote for or holding elected officials who run on some kind of peace platform accountable to a consistent antiwar stance. Most progressive organizations not focused on war/peace do not prioritize antiwar anti-militarist education or action, and often the leaderships are hesitant or even unwilling to allow this issue to be flagged in the course of their other (urgent) campaigns. And within the constituencies that are against wars with U.S. combat troops and in favor of cutting military spending, there is still a lot of work to do to get large numbers to oppose drone killings and covert actions; and the connections between war-making abroad and a host of injustices and inequities at home are not prominent in the thinking of millions. Meanwhile the right-wing isolationists do almost nothing to oppose U.S. wars and militarism other than campaign for Ron Paul (who will soon throw his weight behind a Republican hawk in the 2012 election).

This landscape implies several important tasks for antiwar anti-militarist activists:

*Work to strengthen commitment, energy, unity and analytic/strategic acuity within the ranks of those who focus on war/peace issues. A core of energetic activists and groups that prioritize antiwar, antimilitarist and international solidarity activism over the long term, and carry the lessons of each "flow" period through times of relative ebb, is a critical element in the U.S. progressive movement's capacity  to beat back the war-makers and military-industrial complex.

*Keep war/peace/militarism issues in front of progressive leaders and activists whose focus is on other fronts of struggle, constantly drawing linkages and showing how war and militarism prevents the realization of their goals while supporting other movements' efforts on their own terms.

*Beyond the activist ranks, conduct the kind of education work that expands the numbers who oppose war and militarism and embrace an internationalist vision, especially in the constituencies that are key to building a muscle for peace and justice: communities of color, labor, youth, and women.

*Find "pressure points" where actions can be taken that engage the immediate issues on the war/peace agenda and make a difference in their outcomes.  Right now, halting the drive for a war against Iran, and work to end U.S. blank check support for Israel, are key focal points where a lot is at stake and also where catastrophic events can be headed off and gains can be made. Down the road other such focal points might arise: perhaps opposing an AFRICOM-centered military adventure in Africa, mobilizing against a U.S.-backed coup in Latin America, or weighing in to help put nuclear disarmament back at the top of the international agenda, etc.

*Finally, there is the key strategic task of interacting effectively with the motion currently underway toward reconstructing a dynamic and durable multi-issue, multi-sector U.S. progressive movement.  Right now we observe a host of different social forces moving (at different paces and with different degrees of commitment and energy) toward constructing the kind of mass-based, durable jobs-justice-environmental protection-peace bloc that could become a serious force in U.S. politics. Activists and groups that focus on ending U.S. wars face the challenges of doing what we can to help such a bloc come into being and working to make sure that demands to end wars and militarism are an integral part of its program, texture and political culture.  This key strategic point is elaborated upon in some detail in the essay by Lynn Koh which follows.

Questions: What do we think of the shift from an "antiwar" framework to an "antiwar/anti-militarism" framework to provide guidance to our efforts in the period ahead? What are different groups in the peace movement doing, what work do we think is most promising? (What do we assess are prospects for building a powerful progressive current in U.S. politics that includes an end to wars and shift away from militarism in its core outlook and actions?

Readings:

Clare Bayard, Demilitarization as Rehumanization:

New Priorities Network website

 

3. PATHS FORWARD FOR ANTIWAR ORGANIZERS: Making Antiwar Politics Integral to a New Progressive Alliance –Lynn Koh, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras

For some time, the antiwar movement has been struggling to find its political bearings, as street demonstrations decrease in size and frequency.  Obama's election, the Great Recession, the explosion of the Occupy movement, as well as the noxious Republican primary campaign, have created a markedly different political terrain.  This essay is intended as a contribution to the debate over the antiwar movement's strategic direction, and its significance for progressive politics in the U.S.

A look back at the last decade of the antiwar movement[1] helps us understand the challenges and tasks before us.  In the long stretch from 2001 to 2008, what now stands out is what all movement activists then took for granted - that we had a central political demand immediately comprehensible to those within our orbit, as well as the general public.  We wanted to stop the wars, end the wars, and then end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The sides were clearly defined, and we were focused on winning public opinion over to our side.

While antiwar organizing involved diverse constituencies and practices, most antiwar groups converged in efforts to mobilize as many opponents of the wars as possible in street actions and other public demonstrations across the country.  The immense protests of 2003 made a deep impression on me; it was the first time I felt part of a group so massive as to constitute - so I thought - an historical subject.  After a period of disorientation brought about by Bush's decision to invade in the face of active global opposition, there followed a 500,000 person protest at the 2004 RNC under the banner of 'The world says no to the Bush Agenda', and in 2006 UFPJ worked with Rainbow/Push, NOW, and environmental groups to organize a 200,000+ peace-and-social-justice march in NYC.  No other movement was able to put hundreds of thousands of people into the streets during the entire span of the Bush administration, or to draw in mainstream liberal organizations as well as staunchly progressive outfits, and these large demonstrations served as a focal point for the national movement.

In 2005, we experienced a turning point in public opinion and mainstream press coverage of the occupations.  When the invasion of Iraq started in 2003, 75% of the public supported it.  But after Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, and the intensification of sectarian violence, antiwar sentiment surged.  The Bush administration's criminal neglect of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita generated the widespread feeling that desperately needed human resources and finances were funneled into an unnecessary war.  The question of war and peace was at the center of the overall progressive political motion, which mainly took the form of an anti-Bush front.

At the same time, the deepening of outrage against the occupations fueled innovative and inspiring community-based organizing linked to the national antiwar movement.  Of these, I am most familiar with counter-recruitment efforts, which I covered for War Times when I first joined the collective.  In schools across the country, students and veterans, community activists and peace organizers joined to organize military-free zones or to provide an honest description of the military experience.  While these efforts in some cases pre-dated the 2001 antiwar-movement, they were undoubtedly buoyed by the increased momentum and consciousness from 2005 on.  The 2006 Military Out of Our Schools conference in Berkeley, California was a high-water mark in this sector.

During this upsurge, the antiwar movement achieved significant political results - it was able to raise the question of war funding repeatedly in Congress, undercut the credibility of the Neoconservatives, slowed down recruitment into the military, and drove the national electorate away from the right-wing.  The movement's power was supported by a temporary, often fragile alignment of interests between elite Democrats seeking to turn antiwar sentiment into electoral gains; a new crop of Democratic activists seeking the Party's return to progressivism; antiwar organizers, and public opinion.  The young Democratic activists would prove crucial in Obama's victory in Iowa and the overall sense that a candidate who pledged to end the Iraq War was viable.

At the same time, the trajectory of large chunks of the mobilized antiwar base into electoral politics presented fresh challenges for the national movement.  Undoubtedly, it reflected the belief that the sentiments which drove people into the streets and the anti-Bush front could be turned into a broader progressive political force.   But it also drained street protest of an energized (albeit largely white and middle-class) base.  In fact, this move into electoral politics began in 2004 with the Kerry campaign, and continued in 2006 through 2008.   Other problems emerged: the escalation of the war - dubbed 'the surge' '- coincided with the winding down of sectarian violence, although not due to American military efforts but rather because major areas had effectively been segregated along religious and other lines.  This created the impression that the situation was manageable - and thus forgettable - once again.[2]

RECALIBRATING FOR A NEW MOMENT

Nonetheless, the crisis of global capitalism and Obama's election have forced the antiwar movement to recalibrate its strategy.  Economic inequality and jobs have become the front-and-center issues for the vast majority of the antiwar movement's constituency.  Meanwhile, Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan (which was no surprise to War Times readers) broke the temporary alignment between the Democratic leadership, Dem activists, and peace forces.  It became clear even to those that hoped otherwise that the 'realist' wing of the ruling class, which came around to the view that the Iraq fiasco was a terrible mistake, and which strongly backed Obama, remained committed to U.S. military hegemony pursued through all manner of practices short of massive ground troops:  aerial bombardment, drone attacks, the proliferation of bases, assassination, covert ops, and proxy wars.

In short, the antiwar movement now finds itself in a difficult political situation:  where war and peace is not the pivotal issue for progressives, where even small victories will be much tougher to obtain, and many of the key issues the movement hopes to raise are not necessarily understandable to the general public.

These challenges suggest that, first, a durable antiwar movement will require a long-term base-building and community organizing approach.  One example is what Iraq Veterans Against War has done with its 'Operation Recovery' campaign; another is US Labor Against War's work with the key constituency of labor unions, of which more below.  Developing a broader framework around militarism rather than war as it is conventionally understood, and growing an activist core without relying on momentum gained from news headlines, is impossible without ongoing work and political discussions with an active base aimed at achievable, concrete victories. [3]

Furthermore, base-building alone will not suffice, especially when economic issues are first and foremost on the public agenda.  In this period, it is even more important to find ways to integrate the politics of war and peace into the broader progressive alliance that is emerging to challenge both the insanity of the right-wing and the most dangerous tendencies of the Democratic leadership.  Such an alliance would bring together the key organizations and constituencies with the breadth, power, and activity needed to lead a real struggle within our dysfunctional political system for a program of democratic rights, economic and social justice.

The past few years has seen a number of attempts to build a cohesive alliance among forces to the left of, and with varying degrees of independence from, the Democratic Party leadership:  One Nation, Rebuild the Dream, the Wisconsin uprising, and most recently the confluence of forces around Occupy.  While it would be fantasy to expect an alliance to materialize out of thin air (or a few meetings) with organizational and political unity, the on-the-ground solidarity, as well as tension, among combative sections of the labor movement, grassroots organizations rooted in communities of color, and civil rights groups which we've seen in those efforts means we are living through a moment of possibility. The rest of this essay will attempt to flesh out how the antiwar movement can relate to these broader political developments.

There is much to build on from the work of antiwar organizers since 2001, but we are a long ways from gaining real traction within an emerging progressive alliance.  There are two key developments that are crucial for this to happen.  The first is for the antiwar movement to push harder on outreach towards the main sectors within that alliance (a community-peace coalition).  The second is for the organizations and constituencies that are providing the main energy and dynamism within the progressive alliance to foreground antiwar and antimilitarist politics.  In my view, pursuing both of these lines is necessary for success.

The New Priorities Network, highlighted in War Times, is one example of antiwar organizers developing solid coalitions with community groups and unions; its key work has been in winning passage of local resolutions demanding funding for jobs and social needs by ending occupation and reducing military spending.  Its success indicates that the main way the U.S. public will relate to an antimilitarism message is via the military budget.

Antimilitarism also provides a framework for connecting the antiwar movement with other community struggles in new ways.   LGBT bullying, police brutality, border drones, and gun violence are all issues where what is at stake is the question of how conflict is resolved and order created -- based on cooperation rather than force.  It is up to us to seize the initiative and build the bridges.

Much more difficult will be consistently and explicitly inserting antiwar and antimilitarist politics within the leading sectors of progressive politics.  The iconic example of this remains Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Beyond Vietnam' speech, which sharply divided his inner circle and allies.  Today the challenge is not so much ideological - most individuals that would identify with racial, gender, economic, and social justice would support some kind of antiwar stance - it is rather that 30 years of movement silos and fragmentation of the left has taken its toll.

The work of US Labor Against the War, which moved historic antiwar resolutions in both Change to Win and the AFL-CIO, shows that success is still possible today.  In general, however, we must admit that today even leaders within the progressive movement would be hard pressed to explain how war and militarism shape the overall possibilities for U.S. progressive politics; below, I highlight three dynamics I believe are important to consider.  Without this understanding, we are left with either an ideological or humanitarian commitment to internationalism, difficult to rely on given the dominance of pragmatism within our movements.

1.  The Military Budget and Social Change

So far, the U.S. ruling class has proved incapable or unwilling to address the structural issues that led to the 2008 crash.  The result has been probably the weakest economic recovery in recent U.S. history, and continuing devastation of our communities in terms of unemployment, foreclosures, increased poverty, and intensification of racism.  Mass resistance is in its first stages, utilizing tactics ranging from building takeovers to ballot initiatives.

I assume that for this audience I do not have to make the case for cutting the military budget in order to fund jobs and social needs; a politics that is serious about addressing the long-term problems of the economy must - at a minimum - demand a dramatic increase in the social wage, including rights to jobs, housing, higher education, health care, and other public goods.  Organizers that want to move beyond single-issue demands and build a movement for broader social transformation will, sooner or later, have to tackle head-on the issues of tax policy, skyrocketing health care costs, and the military budget. [4]

2.  Militarism as the cornerstone of authoritarianism

As many others have written, the ascendancy of what's widely termed neoliberalism has not meant the retreat of the state from civil society, but rather an expansion of the state's coercive apparatus.  However, the world's purest form of bourgeois democracy - who today could deny that the U.S. ruling class serves the interests of the wealthy - persists as what Sheldon Wolin called, in 2003, 'inverted totalitarianism.'  By this Wolin meant that while the fascism of Italy or Germany needed "a continuously mobilized society that would not only support the regime without complaint and enthusiastically vote 'yes' at the periodic plebiscites, inverted totalitarianism wants a politically demobilized society that hardly votes at all."[5]

Thus, futility and distraction for the masses - and intensified punitive measures and dehumanization for any that break the mold.  Increasingly, these practices are borrowed from the repertoire of techniques used by the U.S. military against so-called foreign threats.  Drones now fly over the southern border; Congress legislates indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, the White House prosecutes whistleblowers in record numbers, and the Justice Department defends the assassination of U.S. citizens as consistent with U.S. and international law.  The normalization of a 'state of war' mentality is at the center of attempts to narrow the limits of legal, democratic struggle.

3.  From Wall Street to the Military Base

Finally, taking on the power of the financial elites and shifting our economy away from neoliberalism will be extraordinarily more difficult without a politics against war and empire.   In the 1970s, the U.S. elites settled on a new economic model to resolve the crisis of 'stagflation'.  This system depended on breaking working class power to lower wages in the U.S., restructuring the global division of labor to facilitate low-priced commodity imports, and a volatile but dynamic expansion of the powers of the financial sector and 'free market' relations throughout the globe.  Key to all this was the ability to draw capital from around the world to the U.S., eventually buttressed by the guarantee of low inflation and long-term stability, in order to finance our deficits and inflate asset bubbles. Why worry about deindustrialization and U.S. workers' mounting debts when you can privatize water in Latin America, grab land in Africa, manipulate currencies, and make money hedging risk for multinational corporations?[6]

This model, now generally termed 'neoliberalism,' coincided with the U.S. elites' development of close military ties with other states that fell within its imperial embrace.  In fact, the U.S. imperial project was essentially to foster close linkages with other economies, the better to induce neoliberal restructuring, while resorting to force to deal with recalcitrant or outright hostile states.  The Neocons wanted to go further - fuelled by hallucinations that a remade Middle East would guarantee U.S. control of energy supplies, and thus eliminate any potential challenge to U.S. global leadership of the capitalist system.  The 'realists' among the U.S. elites, however, remain committed to imperialism lite, namely the use of military hegemony to integrate rising economies into the U.S. orbit (in Southeast Asia, for instance).

For us, the crucial fact is that the imperial aspects of neoliberalism also reflected the deep-seated resentment of U.S. elites toward any solution to the economic crisis that would increase the sense of power of their own working class and exploited communities.  In this they followed British and other imperial ruling classes in looking overseas for profit and growth rather than give up class privilege vis-à-vis their own people.

We face a similar situation today, where the cracks in the neoliberal project are more evident than at any other time in the past 30 years.  But we must recognize that the capacity of finance capital to shape the global economy in the interests of accumulating greater wealth means that it will be loathe to accept reality, and will continue to believe it can prop up a dysfunctional system through an expanding empire.  Dismantling the military hegemony of the U.S. is crucial in undermining the arrogance and power of finance capital and the breaking with neoliberalism.  We cannot occupy Wall Street without decolonizing the globe.

[1]  I recommend looking at the excellent snapshot of the antiwar movement on fellow War Timer Jan Adams' blog, http://happening-here.blogspot.com/2008/04/stalled-us-peace-movement-antiwar.html

[2] I owe the points made in this paragraph to Bob Wing

[3] See Clare Bayard's article "Demilitarization as Rehumanization" at Left Turn http://www.leftturn.org/demilitarization-rehumanization

[4]  Check out "Bombs and Budgets" put out by War Resisters' League and Ya-Ya Network, www.war resisters.org

[5]  Inverted Totalitarianism, The Nation, May 19, 2003

[6]  See, for a clearer and more in-depth explanation, Panitch, Leo and Gindin, Sam "Global Capitalism and American Empire" in Socialist Register 2004, Dumenil, Gerard and Levy, Dominique "The Economics of U.S. Imperialism," and Harvey, David The New Imperialism.

 
Published in War and Militarism

War and Taxes

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A Conspiracy of Whores

 

By John Grant

 

Whore: (verb) To debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money.

-The New Oxford American Dictionary

 

It’s a challenge to make adult sense of the absurdities coming out of Colombia right now.

Trolling for Kids: The Empire is Using Hard Times to Help it Recruit More Imperial Troops and Cannon Fodder

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

In the militarist society in which we live in these latter days of American Empire, all soldiers are “noble heroes” who have signed up at “great personal sacrifice” to “defend our freedoms,” and we are all expected to pay homage and a great deal of our hard-earned money to support them, both in their brutal efforts to subjugate people in desperately poor parts of the world, and (when they leave the service, either to take jobs in the private sector or to live out broken lives if they were wounded) as veterans.

 

But let’s be honest about all this.

 

PENTAGON KEEPS BUILDING OVERSEAS BASES MOST AMERICANS SAY THEY DON'T WANT

By Sherwood Ross

If the Iraq war is over and the Afghan war is winding down, what is prompting the remorseless expansion of the Pentagon's vast network of overseas military bases?

Veteran foreign affairs journalist Eric Walberg says the bases are the modern version of colonies. The U.S. has a whopping 1,100 of them in 63 countries so they're the preferred method by which the Pentagon seeks to dominate the planet.

That's why President George W. Bush could tell an Abu Dahbi audience on Jan. 13, 2008, “The United States has no desire for territory.” It doesn’t need any more. The Pentagon’s real estate holdings include 52,000 buildings on gazillions of acres on bases around the world. It already is in a position to intimidate or attack virtually every country with overwhelming firepower, including nuclear weapons.

Daddy, Where Do Taxes Come From?

I'll tell you when you get a little older.

But I want to know.

Well, I'll tell you where taxes come from in other countries, OK? They come from the idea that if we all pool our resources we can better acquire things like schools, hospitals, parks, trains, you know, things that belong to everybody.

But what about our country?

Well, in our country we pay for private schools if we want good schools, and we all buy something called health insurance to take care of us if we get sick, and a teeny bit of our taxes goes to parks and trains, but we don't have very many of those, and we pay for some of them with local taxes. We pay local taxes, state taxes, and national taxes, and lots of other fees. We pay as much in taxes as people in those other countries, but our taxes are different. They come from a different place, and we'll talk about it when you're a little bit bigger.

Why? Why can't I know now?

The Killers All Around Us

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

I've often wondered why so many innocent people who are shot by police end up dead.

Granted that police officers spend a fair amount of time training with their service revolvers, and are thus likely to be better shots with a pistol than your average gun-owner. But even so, in so many cases where some unarmed person is shot by police, the result is death, and it makes you wonder how cops, often in the dark and on the run, manage with their notoriously hard-to-aim pistols to hit a vital organ with such depressing regularity.

Hi-Ho! The US is a Police State

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Back in the early 1980s, I had the extraordinary good fortune to get to meet one of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, up close and personal.  We shared a police wagon, sitting next to each other for a ride to the station to be booked for blocking the door to the South African consulate in a demonstration against that country’s then policy of white rule and apartheid.

 

I can’t say I got to know the author very well, but he was quite friendly and interesting to talk to, and after our arrest and booking was over, and we were released, I shared a cab as far as his house.

 

U.S. Military Brings Down a Plane -- Its Own, On a Virginia Beach Neighborhood

 

OOPS!

Why don't those planning possible routes toward peace ever have these kinds of accidents?

The Trayvon Blues

By John Grant

 

Founded and preserved by acts of aggression, characterized by a continuing tradition of self-righteous violence against suspected subversion and by a vigorous sense of personal freedom, usually involving the widespread possession of firearms, the United States has evidenced a unique tolerance for homicide.

-David Brion Davis
Homicide in American Fiction 1798-1860

 


The Trayvon Martin story is not going to go away. It was a narrative event waiting to happen, and the story only gets richer with meaning as time goes on. There are the obvious racial aspects, but the most important elements are about police power versus citizen power -- and who can get away with shooting whom?

Catching Rachel Maddow's Drift

People who know better gave Rachel Maddow's new book unqualified praise in blurbs on the dust jacket. Maybe they see more good than bad in the book, which is called "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power."  That's a fair assessment.  I'd love for a hundred million Americans or so who never read books to read this one.  It wouldn't be the first book I'd pick, but it would probably do a lot more good than harm. 

OCCUPY LOCKHEED MARTIN

April 6, 2012, Standing Together to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
 
Join us for nonviolent witness at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale.

Directions - Take Highway 101 to Mathilda Ave. (north) continue to W. Caribbean Dr., turn left on Borregas Dr. and enter entrance to Bay Trail, turn left into parking lot.
 
Gather by 10:00am for readings, music and March.  Arrive at Lockheed Martin gates (Mathilda & Java) at 10:30 for Vigil.  Action
begins at 11:00am
 
Call Peggy for info at 408-221-3424  See http://www.WeVigil.org

Audio: Cindy Sheehan and David Swanson

CINDY SHEEHAN'S SOAPBOX WITH ACTIVIST/AUTHOR DAVID SWANSON

DAVID AND CINDY AT IMPEACHMENT RALLY

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