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Military Industrial Complex
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.
Most 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.
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.
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.
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.”
By DIANA JOHNSTONE (previously published at CounterPunch)
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.
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:
- 22nd place when it comes to keeping our people out of long-term unemployment
- 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
- 50th place in life expectancy at birth
- 91st place in overall equality of income distribution and
- 116th place in the share of income held by the poorest 10% of the population.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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).
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.
By John Grant
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.
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:
By Michael Uhl
Jonathan Schell‘s probing review of Nick Turse’s new book Kill Anything That Moves originated on Tom Dispatch and migrated to Salon, where it appeared under the head “Vietnam was even more horrific than we thought.”
By Dave Lindorff
There were no memorable lines in President Obama’s second inaugural address. Certainly nothing like Franklin Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which was in his first inaugural, or like John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”
But there was plenty he said that was troubling.
The problem mostly wasn’t what he said. It was how he said it, and what he left unsaid.
Escaped slaves fought on the British side, which promised to free them, during the American war for independence for white men. But nobody liked to talk about that much after the French won the war, although -- come to think of it -- nobody much likes to talk about the French winning the war, or for that matter about the big losers being, not the British but the Native Americans.
White folks weren't eager to arm slaves, although an NRA-type genius just said on U.S. televisions this week that if slaves had only been armed they wouldn't have been slaves. The militias famously protected by the Second Amendment included, perhaps primarily, white militias aimed at crushing slave rebellions. Escaped slaves fought for the Union in the Civil War, which may not have been an insignificant factor in Lincoln's decision to announce their freedom.
The massacring of Native Americans conditioned black troops as well as white for the brutalities they would inflict in the name of freedom and democracy on the Philippines and Cuba. Imperial wars abroad brought with them huge surges of violence at home. During the days in which the United States liberated Filipinos and Cubans from their lives, thousands of lynchings and hundreds of riots brought freedom and liberty to African Americans at home. While Haitians were occupied, blacks were attacked in Harlem and Alabama.
African Americans were included in the U.S. military during World War II, in segregated units, and often in non-combat units. The pretense was that they couldn't fight, never had, never would. And yet, just as they had before, many did -- with less training, less equipment, and in riskier positions. And many came to grasp what it all meant. A jim crow nation that locked up Japanese Americans and rioted against blacks and Mexicans, slaughtered innocent civilians for imperial gain in the name of opposing imperialism. "Just carve on my tombstone," said an African American soldier in 1942, "here lies a black man who died fighting a yellow man for the protection of the white man."
The draft was segregated. The military was segregated. Blacks were largely confined to the support labor that is now hired out to contractors. When FDR was finally pushed to support blacks' participation in the army, he insisted that they make up no more than 10 percent and be kept in segregated units. And yet, when African American soldiers in World War II weren't facing the Germans or the Japanese, they were still at great risk of violent assault by white U.S. soldiers, not to mention the abuses they would face back home after their "service." In Guam, U.S. commanders allowed white troops to prepare for assaults on Japanese troops by abusing African American sailors, including by tossing live grenades at them.
African Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign, whose symbol was two V for victory signs, desiring as they did a victory over fascism abroad and at home. Some saw through the military madness, understood the connection between violence abroad and at home, and refused to enlist -- or got themselves declared mentally unfit, as Malcolm X did. Black soldiers resisted, struck, and mutinied. In April 1945, sixty black officers defied a ban on their use of an officers' club and were arrested. Another group defied the ban, and they were arrested. And then another.
Before he integrated baseball, Jackie Robinson refused to move to the back of a bus on Fort Hood.
A budding movement could be recognized that was also forming within U.S. prisons where black and white conscientious objectors were confronting domestic injustice in new ways.
As black and white troops prepared to return from France, black soldiers had their guns confiscated, while white soldiers guarding German prisoners kept theirs and turned them on the African American troops as well. Lest you imagine this the hypocrisy of a few bad apples who failed to grasp the great moral purpose of the war, let's not forget that as the victors put the Nazis on trial for crimes including human experimentation, the United States was giving syphilis to Guatemalans to see what would happen, just as it had long been and would long continue studying (and not treating) African Americans with syphilis in Alabama. In fact, German and Italian troops being held prisoners of war helped white U.S. troops enforce segregation. And Nazi war criminals found an eager employer in the Pentagon. Black veterans of World War II were shot and lynched in such numbers in 1946 that a Chicago Defender columnist wrote that "the Negro press still reads like war."
Returning black troops faced "jim crow shock," when they imagined they'd just killed and risked dying for freedom but got home to find none. Some were more equal than others under the G.I. Bill and within U.S. society. Compared to the mythical "spitting on the troops" after the Vietnam War or the lack of interest or awareness during the -- yes -- still ongoing endless war on everywhere that started in 2001, this was a heavy blow. It led to suicides and violence of all variety.
It did not lead to complete rejection of the military and military "service." For African Americans disproportionately, the military was the best available means of obtaining a paycheck or any sort of skilled employment, as well as a way to prove one's manhood and the right to citizenship. Discrimination within the military, rather than the existence of the military and its draining impact on other possible pursuits and investments, was enemy number one. Everything currently said about gays or women in the military was said about blacks in the military, and -- as in the newer controversies -- even those claiming to oppose militarism prioritized equal access to participate fully in it.
In 1948, A. Phillip Randolph warned,
"I would like to make clear to the Senate Armed Services Committee and through you, to Congress and the American people that passage now of a Jim Crow draft may only result in a mass civil disobedience movement along the lines of the magnificent struggles of the people of India against British imperialism."
Senator Wayne Morse -- remembered, when he is remembered, as an opponent of the war on Vietnam -- charged Randolph with treason.
Truman announced an integrated military, with an executive order, much as Obama closed Guantanamo. Blacks joined up in 1948 and 1949, mainly for the money, expecting an integrated military but finding a completely segregated one. Even brothels providing sex slaves to soldiers in Japan were segregated for black and white.
During the war on Korea, however, the military moved in the direction of integration, and of full combat roles for blacks. The draft disproportionately brought blacks into the military, while at the same time they lost the publicly understood disadvantage of being kept away from combat and acquired the disadvantage understood by soldiers of being sent into combat -- sent into more dangerous combat than others, in fact, and accused of cowardice as a reward.
While black soldiers like James Forman were coming to recognize their participation in foreign occupations for what it was, blacks were enlisting, reenlisting, and being drafted in record numbers -- largely for economic reasons, needing the employment and lacking qualifying grounds for deferment, such as college. From the Korean War forward, blacks were no longer kept out of the U.S. military through quota limits, but made up a greater percentage of the military than of the population at large.
At the same time, in contrast to World War II, the war on Korea met with opposition from many prominent African Americans, and a movement against militarism began to grow, as did the movement at home for civil rights. African American newspapers in the north began sending their war correspondents to places like Mississippi. J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant murdered Emmett Till in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman. Milam said he'd done to Till exactly what he'd done to Germans during World War II -- the war that never stops giving. Conscientious objectors Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, William Worthy, James Farmer, James Lawson, and Bob Moses organized in the U.S. South against violence of all varieties, joined by John Lewis, Julian Bond, Diane Nash, and Gwen Patton.
Vietnam was the same story: ever more African Americans in the military, and yet ever stronger activism against it, including resistance by GIs. The day three SNCC volunteers -- Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney
disappeared were found -- was also the day of the pretended Gulf of Tonkin incident. Robert McNamara in 1966 announced Project 100,000, aimed at lifting 100,000 men out of poverty by moving them into the military and sending them to war. Between 1966 and 1971, the project brought 400,000 men into the military, 40 percent of them African American. Increasingly, through the 1960s, African Americans' opinions turned against war. The Last Poets' 1970 "The Black Soldier" said:
"Here's to you black soldier
"fightin' in Vietnam
"helping your oppressor
"oppress another man."
I found this and a detailed discussion of much of the above in a new book by Kimberley L. Phillips called "War: What Is It Good For? Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military From World War II to Iraq." The author's father fought in Vietnam. Her parents were unable to buy a home in San Luis Obispo because, "local residents' equal disdain for the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement meant no one would sell a black soldier a home."
Phillips, who is the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Brooklyn College, writes that "since the Vietnam War, the armed forces have served as a de facto jobs program for black Americans and a symbol of a gain in their long struggle for full citizenship. In a postindustrial economy of the late twentieth century, the military has provided steady work and important benefits, including health care, child care, and education. For increasing numbers of black immigrants, military service has provided a step toward legal citizenship." That hideous step is being imposed on all sorts of immigrants today.
African Americans disproportionately opposed wars, enlisted in the military, and gave their loyalty to the Democratic Party. So, what happened when a Republican President led major wars that even white people opposed? Between 2000 and 2005, black enlistments in the military dropped 40%, and black presence in the military 25%. These trends continued through 2008, at which point they began to turn back around.
Maybe that's the economy's fault. Maybe it's misperceptions that the war is over. Or maybe it's a question of what the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize President looks like. But the U.S. military is targeting Africa in a big new way, and targeting Asia and the Middle East in a big familiar way. Why should anyone participate in oppressing anyone anywhere for the Pentagon?
A poet in Qatar was recently given a life-sentence in prison for reciting a poem. This is a translation:
Oh, Prime Minister, Mohammad al-Ghannoushi, if we consider your power, it doesn’t come from the Constitution.
We are not nostalgic for Ben Ali, nor for his times, which represent merely a dot on the line of history
Dictatorship is a repressive and tyrannical system and Tunisia has announced its people's revolt.
If we criticize, it is to decry what is base and disgraceful
If we praise, we do it in first person
The revolt began with the blood of the people rising up and has painted liberation on the face of every living creature.
We know they'll do what they wish and that all victories bear tragic events,
But pity the country that lets itself be governed by ignorance and believes in the strength of the American army,
And pity that country that starves its people while the government rejoices of its economic success
And pity that country whose people go to sleep a citizen and wake up poor and stateless
Pity that system that inherits repression
Until when shall we be slaves of all that selfishness?
When shall the people realize their worthiness?
That worthiness that is hidden from them and that they soon forget?
Why don't governments ever choose a way to end a tyrannical power system that is aware of its disease
and at the same time poisons its people who know that tomorrow a successor shall occupy that very seat of power?
He doesn't take into account that the country bears its name and that of his family,
the self-same country that preserves its glory in the glories of the people,
the people that answers with one voice to a single destiny: in the face of the oppressor we are all Tunisian!
Arab governments and those who lead them, all are thieves, to the same degree.
That question that causes sleepless nights for those who ask it will not find an answer from those who embody officialdom.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
America’s corporate news media love highlighting David-besting-Goliath stories…except apparently, when the fallen Goliath is major media mogul Rupert Murdoch – the billionaire owner of America’s caustic FOX News and other entities.
Watch this through the initial propaganda. It gets better:
By Dave Lindorff
What is wrong with America?
By John Grant
Since gun control is such a hot topic, the elite think tank the Project For a New American Decade (PNAD) has come up with a modest proposal to add to the national conversation. We think it’s worth a try.
First, we do the obvious, most sensible things: we establish universal background checks and dignified mental health services for those who exhibit a need for it. The third leg of the current gun control imbroglio -- banning AR-15s -- is a bit trickier.
By Kourosh Zaibari
By John Grant
Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.
-- Mark Twain
By Dave Lindorff
I was asked earlier this week by an reporter for PressTV, the state television network in Iran, if I could explain why the US political system seemed to be so dysfunctional, with Congress and the President having created an artificial budget crisis 17 months ago, not “solving” it until the last hour before a Congressional deadline would have created financial chaos, and even then not solving the problem and instead just pushing it off for two months until the next crisis moment.
January 21st will be an odd day in the United States. We'll honor Martin Luther King Jr. and bestow another 4-year regime on the man who, in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech said that Martin Luther King Jr. had been wrong -- that those who follow his example "stand idle in the face of threats."
I plan to begin the day by refusing to stand idle in the face of the threat that is President Barack Obama's military. An event honoring Dr. King and protesting drone wars will include a rally at Malcolm X Park and a parade named for a bit of Kingian rhetoric.
That evening I plan to attend the launch of a new book called We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America.
The Martin King I choose to celebrate is not the mythical man, beloved and accepted by all during his life, interested exclusively in ending racial segregation, and not attracted to activism -- since only through electoral work, as we've all been told, can one be a serious activist.
The Martin King I choose to celebrate is the man who resorted to the most powerful activist tools available, the tools of creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation, in order to resist what he called the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.
Taking that seriously means ending right now the past five-year-long ban on protesting the president. At Obama's first inauguration we held Good Riddance to Bush rallies because pressuring Obama to mend his militaristic ways was not deemed "strategic."
It turns out that refusing to push people toward peace does something worse than offending them. It ignores them and abandons them to their fate.
But pushing is not exactly the verb we should be looking for as we strive to build an inclusive peace movement. Nor is peace exactly the adjective. What we need is a movement against racism, materialism, and militarism.
To build that, those working to reduce spending on the Pentagon's pet corporations need to also work against the prison industrial complex. And those working against police violence need to work for higher taxes on billionaires. And those working to protect Social Security and Medicare need to oppose the murdering of human beings with missiles and drones.
We need to do these things not just because they will unite a larger number of people. We would need to do them all even if nobody were already working in any of these areas. We need to do them because we are taking on a culture, not just a policy. We are taking on the mental habits that allow racism, materialism, and militarism. We cannot do so with a movement that is segregated by policy area any more than we can with a movement that is segregated by race.
The torture techniques are shared between our foreign and domestic prisons. Local police are being militarized. The latest insanity would have us arm our teachers so that when our children are shot up by failed applicants to the U.S. Marine Corps there will be, as at Fort Hood, more guns nearby. Violence at home and abroad exists through our acceptance of violence. Plutocratic greed drives both war and racism. Racism facilitates and is facilitated by war.
We Have Not Been Moved is a book with many lessons to teach. King spoke against the war on Vietnam despite being strongly advised to stick to the area of civil rights. Julian Bond did the same, losing his seat in the Georgia state legislature. African Americans marched against that war by the thousands in Harlem and elsewhere, including with posters carrying the words attributed to Mohammad Ali: "No Vietcong ever called me nigger!" So did Asian Americans and Chicanos. SNCC risked considerable support and funding by supporting the rights of Palestinians as well as Vietnamese, urging draft resistance, and stating its disbelief that the U.S. government's goals included free elections either at home or abroad.
Immigrants rights groups (to a great extent more accurately: refugee rights groups) are sometimes reluctant to challenge the war machine, despite deeper understanding than the rest of us of how U.S. war making creates the need for immigration in the first place. But, then, how many peace activists are working for immigrants' rights? Civil rights groups strive to resist rendition and torture and indefinite detention, warrentless spying and murder by drone. Unless they are brought more fully into a larger coalition that challenges military spending (at well over $1 trillion per year both before and after the "fiscal cliff") the struggle against the symptoms will continue indefinitely. Environmental groups are often reluctant to oppose the military industrial complex, its wars for oil, or its oil for wars. But this past year the threat that South Korean base construction and the U.S. Navy pose to Jeju Island brought these movements together -- a process our survival depends on our continuing.
Our movement must be inclusive and international. The movement to close the School of the Americas has not closed it, but has persuaded several nations to stop sending any would-be torturers or assassins to train there. The movement to shut down U.S. military bases abroad has not shut them down en masse through Congress, but has shut them down in particular places through the work of the people protesting in their countries. Where do we find media coverage that sympathizes with domestic struggles for justice within the United States? In foreign media, of course, in the media of Iran and Russia and Qatar. Those governments have their own motives, but support for justice corresponds with the sentiments of their people and all people.
Our movement should not oppose attacking Iran purely as outsiders, but working with Iranians. We should not oppose attacking Iran because all of our own problems have been solved, or because the dollars that will be spent attacking Iran could fund U.S. schools and green energy, or because attacking Iran could lead to attacks on the United States. We should oppose attacking Iran because we oppose militarism and materialism and racism everywhere.
We sometimes worry about having too many issues on our plate. How, we wonder, can new people be attracted to our rally against another war if we unreasonably also oppose murderous sanctions? How can we welcome new activists who doubt the wisdom of the next war if we unrealistically oppose all militarism? How can we not turn people off if our speeches demand rights for women and immigrants and workers? Do people who've never heard of Mumia need to hear about his imprisonment? Don't we want homophobes to feel they can join our campaign without loving those people?
I think this is the wrong worry. I think we need more issues, not fewer. I think that's the genius of Occupy. The issues are all connected. They are issues of greed, racism, and war. We can work with Libertarians on things we agree on. We need be hostile to no one. But we need to prioritize building a holistic movement for fundamental change. Taxing the rich to pay for more wars is not the answer. Opposing all cuts to public spending, even though more than half of it goes to the war machine is not the answer. Insisting that banks stop discriminating, while drone pilots do is not the answer.
This is going to take work, huge amounts of work, great reservoirs of patience and humility, tremendous efforts at inclusion, understanding, and willingness to see changed what it is people become included in. But we can afford to turn off racists. We can afford to not appear welcoming to bigots. We are many. They are few.
The war machine has set its sights on Africa. Its new name is AFRICOM, and it means business, the business of exploitation and cruelty. We can better understand 9-11 and everything that has followed from it if we understand the long history of terrorism on U.S. soil. We need the wisdom of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Muslim Americans, and everybody else here and abroad who has been paying attention. We need to move from making war to making reparations, at home and abroad. We will have less reparations to make the sooner we stop making war.
We Have Not Been Moved includes a never before published speech by Bayard Rustin in which Rustin quotes Ossie Davis saying to the President: "If you want us to be nonviolent in Selma, why can't you be nonviolent in Saigon?"
"All the weapons of military power," says Rustin, "chemical and biological warfare, cannot prevail against the desire of the people. We know the Wagner Act, which gave labor the right to organize and bargain collectively was empty until workers went into the streets. The unions got off the ground because of sit-down strikes and social dislocation. When women wanted to vote, Congress ignored them until they went into the streets and into the White House, and created disorder of a nonviolent nature. I assure you that those women did things that, if the Negro movement had done them, they would have been sent back to Africa! The civil rights movement begged and begged for change, but finally learned this lesson -- going into the streets. The time is so late, the danger so great, that I call upon all the forces which believe in peace to take a lesson from the labor movement, the women's movement, and the civil rights movement and stop staying indoors. Go into these streets until we get peace!"
FBI Ignored Deadly Threat to Occupiers: US Intelligence Machine Instead Plotted with Bankers to Attack Protest Movement
By Dave Lindorff
New documents obtained from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security by the Partnership for Civil Justice and released this past week show that the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies began a campaign of monitoring, spying and disrupting the Occupy Movement at least two months before the first occupation actions began in late September 2011.