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Military Industrial Complex
By Alfredo Lopez
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, initialed by the delegations of the 12 participating countries in early October, is one of the most talked-about mysteries of our time. The moment the treaty was announced, there was a tidal wave of commentary and criticism: most of it based on previous versions, speculation and a few leaks. Because it won't be published for months (even years perhaps), nobody really knew what the document actually said.
If you're into quaint, you can visit a historic village, restore some antique furniture, or for far less trouble pick up a mainstream analysis of the U.S. military from 40 years ago or so.
I just happened to read a 1973 book called Military Force and American Society, edited by Bruce M. Russett and Alfred Stepan -- both of whom have presumably updated their views somewhat, or -- more likely -- veered off into other interests. The problems and trends described in their book have been worsening ever since, while interest in them has been lessening. You could write a similar book now, with the numbers all larger and the analysis more definitive, but who would buy it?
The only point of re-writing it now would be to scream at the end ". . . AND THIS IS ACTUALLY A MAJOR PROBLEM TO DEAL WITH URGENTLY!" Who wants to read that? Much more pleasant to read this 1973 book as it was written, with its attitude of "Welp, it looks like we're all going to hell. Carry on." Here is an actual quote from near the end of the book: "To understand military expansion is not necessarily to arrest it. America's ideology could involve beliefs which are quite true and values which are quite genuine." This was from Douglas Rosenberg, who led up to that statement with 50 pages on the dangerously delusional myths driving U.S. military policy.
An earlier chapter by Clarence Abercrombie and Raoul Alcalá ended thus: "None of this should be taken as an indictment . . . . What we do suggest is that . . . social and political effects . . . must be carefully evaluated." Another chapter by James Dickey concluded: "This article has not been a call for relieving the army entirely of roles with a political context." Of course, it had been just that. Didn't these people realize that humanity just might survive for additional decades, and that copies of this book might survive as well, and that someone might read one? You can't just document a problem and then waive it off -- unless you're Exxon.
The heart of the book is data on the rise of the permanent war economy and global U.S. empire and arms sales with World War II, and the failure to ever return to anything like what preceded World War II. The authors worry, rather quaintly, that the military might begin influencing public policy or conducting foreign policy, that -- for example -- some officers' training was going to include studying politics with a possible eye toward engaging with politicians.
The warnings, quaint or not, are quite serious matters: the military's new domestic uses to handle "civil disturbances," the military's spying, the possibility that an all-volunteer military might separate the military from the rest of society, etc. Careful empirical studies documented in the book found that higher military spending produced more wars, rather than foreign dangers producing higher spending, that the higher spending was economically damaging, not beneficial, and that higher military spending usually if not always produced lower spending on social needs. These findings have by now of course been reproduced enough times to persuade a climate change denier, if a climate change denier were to hear about them.
The real quaintness, however, comes when this group of authors in 1973 tries to explain militaristic votes by Congress members. Possible explanations they study include constituent pressure, race and sex of the Congress member, ideology of the Congress member, and the "Military Industrial Complex," by which author Wayne Moyer seems to mean the Congress member's affiliation with the military and the level of military spending in the member's district or state. That any of these factors would better explain or predict a Congress member's vote on something militaristic, than a glance at the war profiteering funding used to legally bribe the member in recent election "contributions" seems absurd in 2015.
Yet, there is of course a great deal of truth to the idea that Congress members, to one degree or another, adopt an ideology that fits with, and allows self-respect to coexist with, what they've been paid to do. Campaign "contributors" do not just buy votes; they buy minds -- or they select the minds that have already been bought and help them stay that way.
To understand all of this is not necessarily to arrest it, but it damn well should be.
President Barack Obama has vetoed a military authorization bill. Why would he do such a thing?
Was it because dumping $612 billion into a criminal enterprise just finally struck him as too grotesque?
Was it because he grew ashamed of holding the record for highest average annual military spending since World War II, not even counting Der Homeland Security Department or military spending by the State Department, the Energy Department, the Veterans Administration, interest on debt, etc.?
Nope. That would be crazy in a world where pretense is everything and the media has got everyone believing that military spending has gone down.
Was it because the disastrous war on Afghanistan gets more funding?
The disastrous war on Iraq and Syria?
The monstrous drone wars murdering 1 vaguely identified person for every 9 innocents slaughtered?
Oh, I've got it. Was it because building newer, bigger, and smaller more "usable" nuclear weapons is just too insane?
Um, nope. Nice guess, though.
Well what was it?
One reason that the President provided in his veto statement was that the bill doesn't allow him to "close" Guantanamo by moving it -- remember that prison still full of people whom he, the President, chooses to keep there despite their having been cleared for release?
Another reason: Obama wants more money in the standard budget and less in his slush fund for the War on the Middle East, which he renamed Overseas Contingency Operations. Obama's language suggests that he wants the base budget increased by more than he wants the slush fund reduced by. The slush fund got a piddley little $38 billion in the vetoed bill. Yet the standard budget is deemed so deficient by Obama that, according to him, it "threatens the readiness and capabilities of our military and fails to provide the support our men and women in uniform deserve." For real? Can you name a man or woman in uniform who would receive a dime if you jumped the funding of the most expensive military in the history of the known universe by another $100 billion? The President also complains that the bill he's vetoed did not allow him to "slow growth in compensation."
Another reason: Obama is worried that if you leave limits in place on military spending in the "Defense" Department, that will mean too little military spending in other departments as well: "The decision reflected in this bill to circumvent rather than reverse sequestration further harms our national security by locking in unacceptable funding cuts for crucial national security activities carried out by non-defense agencies."
Hope and Change, people! Here's a full list of the areas in which Senator Bernie Sanders has expressed disagreement with President Obama's preferences on military spending:
By Dave Lindorff
The police slaying of musician Corey Jones in South Florida highlights one of the most reprehensible aspects of law enforcement in America -- the ubiquitous undercover cop.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Protests against rampant police brutality occurred recently in the respective capitals of France and the United States – two nations that proclaim strict fidelity to the rule of law yet two professed democracy-loving nations where officials routinely condone rampant lawlessness by law enforcers.
By Alfredo Lopez
As expected, the European Union court has thrown out an agreement, forged in 2000, that allows virtually uninhibited data sharing and transfer between the United States and EU countries and is the legal basis for National Security Agency's on-line surveillance and data capture programs.
Let us bomb your neighborhood
Guided by our intelligence.
Let us erase your neighbor
Out of love.
Kunduz hospital attack was no mistake: US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
By Dave Lindorff
Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the French based international aid organization that operated the hospital.
By Dave Lindorff
Really? The best that Nobel Peace Laureate President Obama can do after the US bombs and destroys a hospital in Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including 12 volunteer doctors from Doctors Without Borders, is to say, “We’re sorry”?
Split between Europe and the U.S. just got wider!: EU Court Advocate General Deals Severe Blow to NSA Surveillance
By Alfredo Lopez
A legal case, virtually unreported in the U.S., could very well unhinge a major component of this country's surveillance system. In any case, it certainly challenges it.
By John Grant
A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.
-- Pope Francis speaking to the US Congress
I lack patience. I admit it.
There's my confession.
I couldn't sit through the Pope's slow and plodding and polite speech to Congress, waiting for him to say something against the primary thing that body does and spends our money on. But finally he got there:
"Being at the service of dialogue and peace," he said, "also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
No, he didn't list the wars that must be ended or the bases that must be closed or the resources that Congress itself must stop investing in militarism. But he told the world's top arms dealers to end the arms dealing.
Perhaps they heard his words as a mandate to end the arms trade by everyone other than the United States, since the United States of course only sells and gives away weapons for the sake of peace and progress. But the Pope explicitly rejected those justifications.
Perhaps, instead, Congress members heard a condemnation of the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, which is using them to slaughter innocents. Perhaps they heard a warning not to promise $45 billion in new free weapons to Israel. Perhaps they heard a verbal slap in the face to a body that often debates the violence of the Middle East without acknowledging that the majority of the weapons of war in the region originate in the United States. Perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry, whose hand the Pope shook on his way to the podium, heard a suggestion to transform the State Department into something other than a marketing firm for weaponry.
Perhaps in combination with the Pope's comments on aiding refugees some listeners heard the responsibility of those fueling the violence to address the results, and to cease making matters worse.
Perhaps they even heard the shout of honesty in the line: "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood."
We do all know that, don't we? But we're told that it's good for the world for weapons to be shipped to dozens of nasty governments. It's for a balance of power. It's for U.S. jobs distributed across unnecessarily large numbers of Congressional districts. It's to counter terrorism with greater terrorism.
The Pope brushed aside such logic and spoke the truth. Weapons of war -- which are sold and shipped by the United States far more than any other nation -- are sold for profit. They encourage, initiate, escalate, elongate, and exacerbate wars for profit.
But in the end, I'm not sure such a remark was hearable by members of Congress. I'm not sure they weren't secretly thinking of something else. Because they gave those lines in the Pope's speech a standing ovation.
Did they mean it? Will the U.S. corporate media ask them if they meant it, if they'll act on it? Of course not, but perhaps we can.
Apartheid law enforcement in the US: Standing While Black in New York Can Get You Attacked by NYPD Thugs
By Dave Lindorff
If tennis great James Blake had done the obvious thing and resisted being tackled by an apparent thug on a New York sidewalk who didn’t identify himself as a cop before attacking him, he would probably be dead today like Eric Garner, or at least seriously injured or tased.
Dad, you believed in evil
To your dying day.
You weren’t a Christian
But it was just your way
Of forgiving human beings for
By Paul DiRienzo
In a remote place in the desert of West Texas, outside the small town of Andrews, something dirty has been going on which threatens the water supply of nearly a third of America’s farmland (and perhaps the millions of people who eat the food grown using that water).
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Over 1,500 miles separate Harris County, Texas and Harrison Township, New Jersey yet public officials in those two jurisdictions seemingly share a disdain for persons who protest against police abuse.
This headline in the Guardian is completely accurate: West Point professor calls on US military to target legal critics of war on terror.
But it hardly covers to content of the 95-page paper being reported on: see the PDF.
The author makes clear that his motivation is hatred of Islam. He includes the false myth of origins of Western Asian violence toward the United States lying in antiquity rather than in blowback. He includes the lie, now popular on all sides, of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons.
He announces, after the recent U.S. losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, that U.S. armies always win. Then he admits that the U.S. is losing but says this is because of insufficient support for the wars and for making the wars about an "economic system, culture, values, morals, and laws."
The key weapon in this war, he says, is information. U.S. crimes are not the problem; the problem, he writes, is any information distributed about U.S. crimes -- which information is only damaging because the United States is the pinnacle of support for the rule of law. It wouldn't matter if you spread news about crimes by some more lawless nation. But when you share news about crimes by the United States it hurts the U.S. cause which is upholding the rule of law and leading the world to lawfulness. The United States is the all-time world champion of the rule of law, we're told, in a 95-page screed that never mentions the Kellogg-Briand Pact and only belatedly brings up the United Nations Charter in order to pretend that it permits all U.S. wars.
You can pack a lot of existing lies about U.S. wars and some new ones into 95 pages. So, for example, Walter Cronkite lost the Tet Offensive (and by the logic of the rest of this article, should have been immediately murdered on air). The mythical liberal media is busy reporting on the U.S. killing of civilians, and the worst voices in public discourse are those of treasonous U.S. lawyers. They are the most damaging, again, because the United States is the preeminent leader of lawibidingness.
The treasonous antiwar lawyers number 40, and the author hints that he has them on a list. Though whether this is a real list like Obama's kill list or something more like McCarthy's is not clear. I lean toward the latter, primarily because the list of offenses run through to fill up 95 pages includes such an array that few if any lawyers have been engaged in all of them. The offenses range from the most modest questioning of particular atrocities to prosecuting Bush and Cheney in court. Nobody doing the latter has any voice in U.S. corporate media, and a blacklist for Congress or for the U.S. Institute of "Peace" would hardly be needed if created.
The 40 unnamed treasonous scholars are, in this treatise, given the acronym CLOACA, which in good fascist form of course means a sewer or an orifice for excreting feces or urine. Their supposed crimes include:
- failing to concede that violations of the Laws of Armed Conflict by Muslims permit the waiving of those laws for the U.S. government;
- interpreting the supposed standards of "distinction" and "proportionality," which the author admits are totally open to interpretation, to mean something the author doesn't like;
- opposing lawless imprisonment and torture;
- opposing murder by drone;
- supporting the supposed duty to warn people before you kill them;
- counting dead bodies (which is too "macabre" even though the U.S. is supposedly devoted to "minimizing civilian casualties" not to mention Western scientific superiority);
- upholding laws; pointing out facts, laws, or counterproductive results;
- filing suits in court;
- or criticizing war advocates.
The heart of the matter seems to be this: opposing war amounts to supporting war by an enemy. And, nonetheless, among the reasons offered to explain CLOACA joining the enemy are "anti-militarism," and "pernicious pacifism." So actual opposition to war drives people to oppose war, which amounts to supporting war for the enemy. I think I've got it.
The prescriptions to heal this illness center on waging total war. The author proposes both dropping nuclear bombs and capturing hearts and minds. No doubt as part of his leading support for lawfulness, he demands that there be no restraint on U.S. warmaking against Muslims. That means no limit in time or place, a rewriting of any laws of war by the U.S. military, and no trust in the "marketplace of ideas." The U.S. must use PSYOPS, must impose loyalty oaths, must fire disloyal scholars from their jobs, must prosecute them for "material support of terrorism" and for treason, and must proceed to murder them in any time and place.
I suppose that when I point out that this illustrates the madness of militarism I should breathe a deep sigh of relief that I have no law degree.
By Dave Lindorff
Americans got a glimpse of what policing is like in a more humane and civilized society last year when four young Swedish cops, on vacation in New York City and riding on a subway, found themselves faced with a bloody fight in the aisle by two angry black men.
Three cheers for Reuters pointing out that the Pentagon can't explain what it did with $8.5 trillion that taxpayers gave it between 1996 and 2013.
Three trillion cheers for a blogger who is pointing out that this fact renders many other concerns ludicrous, and recommending that people bring it up at every opportunity:
"What's that? Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive? How about we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the Pentagon."
"Oh really? There's 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how about the $8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can't account for?"
"Oh really? You think Obamacare is going to cost us almost a trillion dollars over 15 years? How about the 8.5 Trillion that just disappeared into the ether at the Pentagon? What's your take on that?"
"Oh really, you're concerned about deficit spending and the debt? Fully 1/3 of the national debt is money we sent the Pentagon and they can't tell us where it went. It's just gone."
"College for everyone will cost too much? You must be really pissed at the 8.5 Trillion, with a 't', dollars the pentagon's spent and can't tell us where it went."
This is all very good as far as it goes, whether you like the body cameras or corporate health insurance or other items or not. We could add an unlimited number of items including some expressing our concern for the other 96% of humanity:
"You can end starvation and unclean water for tens of billions of dollars; what about that $8.5 trillion?"
But here's my real concern. The $8.5 trillion is just the bit that the Pentagon can't account for. That's far from all the money it was given. U.S. military spending, spread across several departments with the biggest chunk of it to the Department of so-called Defense, is upwards of $1 trillion every year. Over 17 years at the current rate, which rose sharply after 2001, that's upwards of $17 trillion.
Imagine that the Pentagon accounted for every dime of that missing $8.5 trillion, named every profiteer, documented the life history of every man, woman, and child killed, and passed the strictest audit by an independent team of 1,000 accountants reporting to 35 Nobel Laureates -- if that happened, I ask you, exactly what difference would it make?
Why is the $8.5 trillion that went to unknown purposes worse than the other trillions that went to known and named weapons and dictators and militants and recruitment campaigns? The documented and accounted for spending all went to evil purposes. Presumably the unaccounted for "waste" did the same. What's the difference between the two?
As World Beyond War points out, war has a huge direct financial cost, the vast majority of which is in funds spent on the preparation for war — or what's thought of as ordinary, non-war military spending. Very roughly, the world spends $2 trillion every year on militarism, of which the United States spends about half, or $1 trillion. This U.S. spending also accounts for roughly half of the U.S. government's discretionary budget each year and is distributed through several departments and agencies. Much of the rest of world spending is by members of NATO and other allies of the United States, although China ranks second in the world.
Wars can cost even an aggressor nation that fights wars far from its shores twice as much in indirect expenses as in direct expenditures. The costs to the aggressor, enormous as they are, can be small in comparison to those of the nation attacked.
It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.
Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved -- thus concentrating wealth.
While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? Not in a manner that can be sustained.
Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates’ wildest fantasies if the funds now invested in war were transferred there.
By Mel Gurtov
Throughout the Cold War, and doubtless right down to the present, professional people with skills relevant to “national security” have been secretly recruited to work for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. Universities are among those particularly targeted. Scholars and campus research centers have received CIA and DoD funding for conferences and publications, for collecting intelligence while abroad, and even for spying, all under cloak of secrecy.
Among the more notorious examples is the 1985 scandal at Harvard, in which the head of its Center for Middle Eastern Studies Center was found to have a financial contract with the CIA for research and conferences. He was forced to resign. Yale has had unusually close ties with the CIA dating back many years, contributing student recruits and directors.
By Alfredo Lopez
How much noise does the other shoe make when it drops? If the shoe is a law that would complete the development of a police surveillance state in the United States, it's almost silent.
Editor's note: You can sign the letter here.
By Brian Terrell
In recent weeks, I have been part of a haphazard and ad hoc process to compose an open Letter to Pope Francis in advance of his September, 2015 visit to the United States in September. The promotion of this letter has been taken up by Friends of Franz Jagerstatter, a community of peacemakers inspired by the Austrian Catholic farmer who was martyred for his refusal to fight in the German Army during World War II.
Pope Francis’ recent comments regarding war, the environment and economic justice inspire our letter, which cites segments of his new encyclical, Laudato Si. “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples,” Pope Francis writes, “risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.” In the light of this reality, our letter suggests that Pope Francis avail himself of the challenging opportunity to acknowledge that the United States is “the most prolific polluter and, not coincidentally, the greatest war maker on the globe.”
By Dave Lindorff
I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.