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Military Industrial Complex
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.
By Linn Washington Jr.
Listening to NRA chief Wayne LaPierre lash out at any notion of gun control during that staunch gun advocate’s first public appearance in the wake of the horrific Connecticut school shooting triggered flashbacks to defiance I once heard from 1960s-era segregationist George Wallace.
Wallace rode a racist declaration from his 1963 governorship inauguration in Alabama to campaigns for the U.S. presidency years later: “Segregation now…Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”
I've been grumbling to peace activists that they should stop presenting Chuck Hagel as a force for peace and an "Iraq war critic" or an "Iraq war skeptic." It makes it sound as if he opposed a war that he voted for, voted repeatedly to fund, and never took any radical action to end. "Iraq war opponents" in the U.S. Senate routinely voted to fund what they opposed. Funding war is not what comes to mind when one first hears "war opponent."
Playing to Lose?
Obama’s Just Another Chicago Player Throwing the Game
By Dave Lindorff
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
George Mason's original draft reads:
"That the People have a Right to keep and to bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free State; that Standing Armies in Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided as far as the Circumstances and Protection of the Community will admit; and that in all Cases, the military should be under strict Subordination to, and governed by the Civil Power."
Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights had put it this way 12 years earlier:
"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."
The Right-To-Bring-Assault-Weapons-to-School Second Amendment turns out to have its origins in an attempt to avoid maintaining standing armies. In place of standing armies, the states of the new United States were to create well-regulated militias. The first half of the Second Amendment explains why people should have a right to bear arms:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ... "
Bearing arms in a well-regulated militia did not mean bearing guns that can reliably shoot well, since such didn't exist. It certainly didn't mean bearing guns that can kill entire crowds of people without reloading. It didn't mean bearing arms outside of the well regulated militia. Much less did it mean bearing arms in school and church and Wal-Mart.
By "free state" many supporters of this bill of rights meant, of course, slave state. And by "people" they meant, of course, white male people -- specifically people who would be taking part in well regulated militias.
The Third Amendment reads:
"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
The Second and Third amendments originated as restrictions on what we would later create and come to call a Military Industrial Complex, a permanent war machine, a federal tool of abusive power.
The militias of the Second Amendment are meant to protect against federal coercion, popular rebellions, slave revolts, and -- no doubt -- lunatics who try to mass-murder children.
The descendants of those militias that we call the National Guard are meant, in contrast, to recruit ill-informed young people who imagine they'll be rescuing hurricane victims into endless occupations of oil-rich lands far from our shores.
To comply with the Second Amendment we must end federal control over the National Guard, regulate such state militias and police forces well, regulate their weapons well, and deny such weapons to all others and for any other use.
The Second Amendment has been made to mean something very different from what was originally intended or what any sane person writing a Constitution would intend today. This means that we must either reinterpret it, re-write it, or both.
By Dave Lindorff
Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "monsters" and "lunatics") who keep shooting up schools and shopping centers, believe they are solving deeper problems. We all know, of course, that in reality they are making things dramatically worse.
This is not an easy problem for us to solve. We could make it harder to obtain guns, and especially guns designed specifically for mass killings. We could take on the problem with our entertainment: we have movies, television shows, video games, books, and toys promoting killing as the way to fix what ails us. We could take on the problem of our news media: we have newspapers and broadcast chatterers promoting killing as a necessary tool of public policy. We could reverse the past 40 years of rising inequality, poverty, and plutocracy -- a trend that correlates with violence in whatever country it's found.
What we can't do is stop arming, training, funding, and supporting the mass murderers in our towns and cities, because of course we haven't been supporting them. They aren't acting in our name as our representatives. When our children run in horror from classrooms strewn with their classmates' bloody corpses, they are running from killers never authorized by us or elected by us.
This situation changes when we look abroad.
Picture a family in a house in Pakistan. There's a little dot very high up in the sky above. It's making a buzzing noise. The dot is an unmanned airplane, a drone. It's being flown from a desk in Nevada. The family knows what it is. The children know what it is. They know their lives may be ended at any moment. And they are traumatized. They are in a constant state of terror. And then, one bright clear morning, they are torn limb from limb, bleeding, screaming, groaning out their last breaths as their home collapses into smoking rubble.
Picture a family in a house in Afghanistan. They're asleep in their beds. A door is kicked in. Incomprehensible words are shouted. Bullets fly. Loved ones are grabbed and dragged away, kicking and screaming with horror -- never to be seen again.
The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "tax-payers") who keep this far greater volume of violence going, believe they are solving deeper problems. But when we look closely, we see that in reality we are making things dramatically worse.
That is the good news. There is violence that we can much more easily stop, because it is our violence. The U.S. Army last week said that targeting children in Afghanistan was perfectly acceptable. The U.S. President maintains a list of men, women, and children to be killed, and he kills them -- but the vast majority of the people killed through that program are people not on the list, people in the wrong place at the wrong time (just like the people in our shopping malls and schools).
In fact, the vast majority of the people killed in our foreign wars are simply bystanders. And they are killed in their homes, their stores, their schools, their weddings. The violence that we can easily end looks very much like the violence we find so difficult to address at home. It doesn't take place between a pair of armies on a battlefield. It happens where its victims live.
Were we to stop pouring $1.2 trillion each year into war preparations, we would also be stopping the public funding of the manufacturers of the weapons that rip open our loved ones and neighbors in our schools and parking lots. We would be altering dramatically the context in which we generate public policy, public entertainment, and public myths about how problems can be solved. We would be saving lives every bit as precious as any other lives, while learning how to go on to saving more.
One place to start, I believe, would be in withdrawing U.S. troops from over 1,000 bases in other people's countries -- an imperial presence that costs us $170 billion each year while building hostility and tensions, not peace. There's a reason why, at this time of year, we don't sing about "Peace in My Backyard." If we want peace on Earth, we must stop and consider how to get it.
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
By Dave Lindorff
The US is on the way out as a hegemonic power.
That is the primary conclusion of a new report out of the National Intelligence Council -- a government organization that produces mid-term and long-range thinking for the US intelligence community.
By John Grant
By Bruce Gagnon
- The Minneapolis, Minnesota city council passed a version of the Bring Our War $$ Home resolution last week. St. Paul (MN) has already passed a similar resolution, and Duluth (MN) and Des Moines (IA) are expected to follow with similar statements. Many other cities across the nation, including Portland, Maine, have passed these same kind of resolutions. It is becoming clear that people want to connect the dots between endless war spending and fiscal crisis at home.
- But still some groups around the country who claim they want to save social programs refuse to make the connections to military spending. It is my opinion, and the opinion of many other grassroots leaders around the nation, that some NGO's refuse to include the military budget in their public articulation because the weapons industry unions and the Democrats don't want these links to be made. Just today one of my friends called an organizer in Maine and asked why their union sponsored protest event that was calling for tax increases on the rich was not also making the connection to the bloated Pentagon budget. The organizer told my friend that it is because of the "defense industry" unions in our state. They won't allow the links to be made.
- All across the country NGO's that get funding from foundations, or from wealthy individuals, that are linked to the Democrats are often not allowed to go near certain issues like the Pentagon budget, single-payer health care, Israel-Palestine, climate change and more. In recent years some so-called "progressive" foundations have been telling peace groups that they can't use the word "disarmament" any longer. Instead they have to use "arms control" because the Democrats don't want the grassroots clamoring for real disarmament. This "occupation" of the left's issue positions and public articulation is a form of corporate colonization of the progressive movement. This must end or we will never build an effective movement for change in this country and around the world.
- I expect to see this whole "issue control" situation come to a head during this coming year. With climate change and austerity budgets staring us in the face the independent left cannot cower in the face of these mainstream Democrat party operatives that serve as leaders of local non-profit groups but in essence have become "gate keepers" for the oligarchy as they help reduce our public discourse to the lowest common denominator that does not ultimately challenge the system.
- If the corporations and Democrats can control the money stream between funders and activists then the organizers get held hostage because they need the job in our declining economy. So they learn to shave the edges and over time they learn to stay away from the more independent organizers and groups that are not toeing the line. This essentially leads to splits in the movement and a bifurcation of the "progressive" message and demands that get made on the political system. The public gets confused. They wonder why the groups are not working together. No one wants to talk openly about what is really going on.
- I've seen this same story for years and usually those on the independent left are called disruptive and uncooperative if they try to bring these contradictions to light. But current realities are making it increasingly evident that we can't any longer afford to deny and sugarcoat these issues and happily a movement is springing up across the nation to face these challenges in a more direct way. It's about time.