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Military Industrial Complex
By William Blum
“U.S. hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s divided rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed political opposition coalition and announced the formation of an alliance dedicated to creating an Islamist state. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group.” 1
Pity the poor American who wants to be a good citizen, wants to understand the world and his country’s role in it, wants to believe in the War on Terrorism, wants to believe that his government seeks to do good … What is he to make of all this?
For about two years, his dear American government has been supporting the same anti-government side as the jihadists in the Syrian civil war; not total, all-out support, but enough military hardware, logistics support, intelligence information, international political, diplomatic and propaganda assistance (including the crucial alleged-chemical-weapons story), to keep the jihadists in the ball game. Washington and its main Mideast allies in the conflict – Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – have not impeded the movement to Syria of jihadists coming to join the rebels, recruited from the ranks of Sunni extremist veterans of the wars in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, while Qatar and the Saudis have supplied the rebels with weapons, most likely bought in large measure from the United States, as well as lots of of what they have lots of – money.
This widespread international support has been provided despite the many atrocities carried out by the jihadists – truck and car suicide bombings (with numerous civilian casualties), planting roadside bombs à la Iraq, gruesome massacres of Christians and Kurds, grotesque beheadings and other dissections of victims’ bodies (most charming of all: a Youtube video of a rebel leader cutting out an organ from the chest of a victim and biting into it as it drips with blood). All this barbarity piled on top of a greater absurdity – these Western-backed, anti-government forces are often engaged in battle with other Western-backed, anti-government forces, non-jihadist. It has become increasingly difficult to sell this war to the American public as one of pro-democracy “moderates” locked in a good-guy-versus-bad-guy struggle with an evil dictator, although in actuality the United States has fought on the same side as al Qaeda on repeated occasions before Syria. Here’s a brief survey:
Afghanistan, 1980-early 1990s: In support of the Islamic Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”), the CIA orchestrated a war against the Afghan government and their Soviet allies, pouring in several billions of dollars of arms and extensive military training; hitting up Middle-Eastern countries for donations, notably Saudi Arabia which gave hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year; pressuring and bribing Pakistan to rent out its country as a military staging area and sanctuary.
It worked. And out of the victorious Moujahedeen came al Qaeda.
Bosnia, 1992-5: In 2001 the Wall Street Journal declared:
It is safe to say that the birth of al-Qaeda as a force on the world stage can be traced directly back to 1992, when the Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic issued a passport in their Vienna embassy to Osama bin Laden. … for the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-trading networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade. 2
A few months later, The Guardian reported on “the full story of the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to assist the Bosnian Muslims – some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now fighting in “the war against terrorism”. 3
In 1994 and 1995 US/NATO forces carried out bombing campaigns over Bosnia aimed at damaging the military capability of the Serbs and enhancing that of the Bosnian Muslims. In the decade-long civil wars in the Balkans, the Serbs, regarded by Washington as the “the last communist government in Europe”, were always the main enemy.
Kosovo, 1998-99: Kosovo, overwhelmingly Muslim, was a province of Serbia, the main republic of the former Yugoslavia. In 1998, Kosovo separatists – The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – began an armed conflict with Belgrade to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against the Serbs. 4
However, when US-NATO forces began military action against the Serbs the KLA was taken off the US terrorist list, it “received official US-NATO arms and training support” 5 , and the 1999 US-NATO bombing campaign eventually focused on driving Serbian forces from Kosovo.
In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, an independence so illegitimate and artificial that the majority of the world’s nations still have not recognized it. But the United States was the first to do so, the very next day, thus affirming the unilateral declaration of independence of a part of another country’s territory.
The KLA have been known for their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.
Nota bene: In 1992 the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs reached agreement in Lisbon for a unified state. The continuation of a peaceful multi-ethnic Bosnia seemed assured. But the United States sabotaged the agreement. 6
Libya, 2011: The US and NATO to the rescue again. For more than six months, almost daily missile attacks against the government and forces of Muammar Gaddafi as assorted Middle East jihadists assembled in Libya and battled the government on the ground. The predictable outcome came to be – the jihadists now in control of parts of the country and fighting for the remaining parts. The wartime allies showed their gratitude to Washington by assassinating the US ambassador and three other Americans, presumably CIA, in the city of Benghazi.
Caucasus (Russia), mid-2000s to present: The National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House have for many years been the leading American “non-government” institutions tasked with destabilizing, if not overthrowing, foreign governments which refuse to be subservient to the desires of US foreign policy. Both NGOs have backed militants in the Russian Caucasus area, one that has seen more than its share of terror stretching back to the Chechnyan actions of the 1990s. 7
“Omission is the most powerful form of lie.” – George Orwell
I am asked occasionally why I am so critical of the mainstream media when I quote from them repeatedly in my writings. The answer is simple. The American media’s gravest shortcoming is much more their errors of omission than their errors of commission. It’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. So I can make good use of the facts they report, which a large, rich organization can easier provide than the alternative media.
A case in point is a New York Times article of October 5 on the Greek financial crisis and the Greeks’ claim for World War Two reparations from Germany.
“Germany may be Greece’s stern banker now, say those who are seeking reparations,” writes the Times, but Germany “should pay off its own debts to Greece. … It is not just aging victims of the Nazi occupation who are demanding a full accounting. Prime Minister Antonis Samarass government has compiled an 80-page report on reparations and a huge, never-repaid loan the nation was forced to make under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1945. … The call for reparations has elicited an emotional outpouring in Greece, where six years of brutal recession and harsh austerity measures have left many Greeks hostile toward Germany. Rarely does a week go by without another report in the news about, as one newspaper put it in a headline, ‘What Germany Owes Us’.”
“The figure most often discussed is $220 billion, an estimate for infrastructure damage alone put forward by Manolis Glezos, a member of Parliament and a former resistance fighter who is pressing for reparations. That amount equals about half the country’s debt. … Some members of the National Council on Reparations, an advocacy group, are calling for more than $677 billion to cover stolen artifacts, damage to the economy and to the infrastructure, as well as the bank loan and individual claims.”
So there we have the morality play: The evil Germans who occupied Greece and in addition to carrying out a lot of violence and repression shamelessly exploited the Greek people economically.
Would it be appropriate for such a story, or an accompanying or follow-up story, to mention the civil war that broke out in Greece shortly after the close of the world war? On one side were the neo-fascists, many of whom had cooperated with the occupying Germans during the war, some even fighting for the Nazis. Indeed, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, acknowledged in August 1946 that there were 228 ex-members of the Nazi Security Battalions – whose main task had been to track down Greek resistance fighters and Jews – on active service in the new Greek army. 8
On the other side was the Greek left who had fought the Nazis courageously, even forcing the German army to flee the country in 1944.
So guess which side of the civil war our favorite military took? … That’s right, the United States supported the neo-fascists. After all, an important component of the Greek left was the Communist Party, although it wouldn’t have mattered at all if the Greek left had not included any Communists. Support of the left (not to be confused with liberals of course) anywhere in the world, during and since the Cold War, has been verboten in US foreign policy.
The neo-fascists won the civil war and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency, named and modeled after itself, the KYP. For the next 15 years, Greece was looked upon much as a piece of real estate to be developed according to Washington’s political and economic needs. One document should suffice to capture the beauty of Washington’s relationship to Athens – a 1947 letter from US Secretary of State George Marshall to Dwight Griswold, the head of the American Mission to Aid Greece, said:
During the course of your work you and the members of your Mission will from time to time find that certain Greek officials are not, because of incompetence, disagreement with your policies, or for some other reason, extending the type of cooperation which is necessary if the objectives of your Mission are to be achieved. You will find it necessary to effect the removal of these officials. 9
Where is the present-day Greek headline: “What The United States Owes Us”? Where is the New York Times obligation to enlighten its readers?
The latest step in the evolution of America’s Police State
“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”
So say many Americans. And many Germans as well.
But one German, Ilija Trojanow, would disagree. He has lent his name to published documents denouncing the National Security Agency (NSA), and was one of several prominent German authors who signed a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her to take a firm stance against the mass online surveillance conducted by the NSA. Trojanow and the other authors had nothing to hide, which is why the letter was published for the public to read. What happened after that, however, was that Trojanow was refused permission to board a flight from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to Miami on Monday, September 30. Without any explanation.
Trojanow, who was on his way to speak at a literary conference in Denver, told the Spiegel magazine online website that the denial of entry might be linked to his criticism of the NSA. Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it has contacted US authorities “to resolve this issue”. 10
In an article published in a German newspaper, Trojanow voiced his frustration with the incident: “It is more than ironic if an author who raises his voice against the dangers of surveillance and the secret state within a state for years, will be denied entry into the ‘land of the brave and the free’.” 11
Further irony can be found in the title of a book by Trojanow: “Attack on freedom. Obsession with security, the surveillance state and the dismantling of civil rights.”
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who oversees the NSA and other intelligence agencies, said recently that the intelligence community “is only interested in communication related to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.” 12
It’s difficult in the extreme to see how this criterion would apply in any way to Ilija Trojanow.
The story is a poignant caveat on how fragile is Americans’ freedom to criticize their Security State. If a foreigner can be barred from boarding a flight merely for peaceful, intellectual criticism of America’s Big Brother (nay, Giant Brother), who amongst us does not need to pay careful attention to anything they say or write.
Very few Americans, however, will even be aware of this story. A thorough search of the Lexis-Nexis media database revealed a single mention in an American daily newspaper (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch), out of 1400 daily papers in the US. No mention on any broadcast media. A single one-time mention in a news agency (Associated Press), and one mention in a foreign English-language newspaper (New Zealand Herald).
- Washington Post, September 26, 2013 ↩
- Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2001 ↩
- The Guardian (London), April 22, 2002 ↩
- RT TV (Moscow), May 4, 2012 ↩
- Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2001 ↩
- New York Times, June 17, 1993, buried at the very end of the article on an inside page ↩
- Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post, “Barbarians at the Gate: Terrorism, the US, and the Subversion of Russia”, August 30, 2012 ↩
- Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, October 16, 1946, column 887 (reference is made here to Bevin’s statement of August 10, 1946) ↩
- Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, Vol. V (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971), pp. 222-3. See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 3 for further details of the US role in postwar Greece. ↩
- Associated Press, October 2, 2013 ↩
- Huffington Post, “Ilija Trojanow, German Writer, Banned From US For Criticizing NSA”, October 1, 2013 ↩
- Washington Post, October 5, 2013 ↩
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.
By Alfredo Lopez
Recently, Richard Stallman published an article in Wired about Free and Open Source Software  and its alternative, "Proprietary Software". As he has for 30 years now, he vigorously called for the use and defense of FOSS and warned about the nefarious nature of Proprietary.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons system the US military has ever pursued. With massive delays, cost blowouts and performance failings, the F-35 has become a symbol of the excess of the military industrial complex. It has also become a flashpoint of popular opposition to runaway military spending, and now the Burlington City Council may vote to take a stand, by prohibiting the basing of the aircraft at the city-owned airport in Northern Vermont.
The following article outlines the problems with the F-35 Project, the situation in Vermont and the opportunity arising for people power at a local level to challenge militarism across the United States.
Update: October 7th Rally and City Council Public Hearing
Important: There is a change of plans for Monday, October 7th.
The City Council has removed the resolution to bar the F-35 basing from the agenda. The Council President Joan Shannon cited the need for the City to have public officials liability insurance before taking up the issue. Given the immense harm the F-35 basing will cause, the City's legal and moral liability is very large. President Shannon promised to take up the F-35 resolution as soon as possible.
The October 7th Rally at City Hall is still on!
New Time: 6:30 - 7:00 - Rally for People Over Planes
City Council Public Hearing: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Burlington City Hall
We need to tell the Burlington City Council that it must Act to Bar the Basing this Month. The Air Force 30-day review period of the preliminary basing decision began Oct. 4.
The Resolution Must Be Put Back on the City Council Agenda this Month!
Many members of the City Council have been seriously considering the many harms the basing presents and have favorably responded to our call to bar the basing. The public's response has been similar. Let's keep things moving in this positive direction!
The resolution to bar the basing is the
best chance for us to stop this disastrous plan.
Bring friends, neighbors, and anyone else you can to stand up for people over planes. Contact Burlington City Councilors
now to ask them to do the right thing and take a stand against sacrificing over 8,000 residents in airport neighborhoods to this plane and to stand against the backwards priorities the F-35 basing supports.
Editor’s note: This op-ed is by James Marc Leas, a patent lawyer from South Burlington.
Forget about 7,719 Vermonters and their 3,410 homes. Those are the Vermonters the Air Force Final Environmental Impact Statement (final EIS) says will be stuck with homes that are “not considered suitable for residential use.” The ones the Air Force says will be in the 65 dB DNL average noise zone of the F-35.
Forget that Sen. Leahy, the most senior and the most powerful senator of all, with heavy influence over the Air Force budget, admitted to making a call to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welch last month demanding a quick decision to base the F-35 in Vermont.
Ignore the fact that the 7,719 Vermonters could not have anticipated that, loud as the F-16 is, their own U.S. senator would be pushing hard to bring a new jet that the Air Force says is more than four times louder than the F-16.
Also forget about the study done by respected Vermont real estate appraiser Rich Larson that found that tiny affordable homes near the airport entrance had each lost an average of $33,000 because of F-16 noise. Fortunately, most of those homeowners were saved that loss of value because, under the terms of the $40 million the FAA provided to Burlington to purchase the 200 homes, Burlington had to set the price it paid for these homes disregarding the adverse impact of F-16 airport noise on home value. So, not a problem.
Ignore the fact that the 3,410 homeowners — who will be put in exactly the same noise zone as the 200 homeowners in South Burlington if the F-35 is based here — will not get any such favorable buyout. And forget about the $100 million the Rich Larson study shows they will lose when F-35 jets put their homes in that intense noise zone.
And forget about the much higher crash risk of a brand new military jet the Pentagon’s own watchdog condemns as failing quality assurance. How safe can the F-35 be if its quality assurance program is so harshly condemned by the Department of Defense Inspector General in its just-issued 136 page report, dated Sept. 30, 2013? In its lead paragraph, the report states:
The F-35 Program did not sufficiently implement or flow down technical and quality management system requirements to prevent the fielding of nonconforming hardware and software. This could adversely affect aircraft performance, reliability, maintainability, and ultimately program cost. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company (Lockheed Martin) and its subcontractors did not follow disciplined AS9100 Quality Management System practices, as evidenced by 363 findings, which contained 719 issues.
Don’t worry, say F-35 supporters, it will all be fixed by the time it comes to Burlington sometime, they say, after 2020.
No one is saying that the F-35′s bugs will all be fixed by 2015. Nevertheless, ignore the fact that we will all be guinea pigs in a boondoggle.
Except the Air Force Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), also just issued, says, “at this time, the Air Force anticipates that F-35s would start arriving at the basing locations in 2015″ (page E1233). That means the F-35s would start arriving in Burlington sometime between 15 and 27 months from now.
No one is saying that the F-35′s bugs will all be fixed by 2015. Nevertheless, ignore the fact that we will all be guinea pigs in a boondoggle.
Also ignore the fact that 42 percent of the F-35 by weight is fabricated of a fiber-plastic composite material that is flammable and that emits highly toxic fumes and fibers when it burns. Ignore the fact that a crash of an F-35 warplane carrying 18,000 pounds of fuel is sure to get that flammable composite burning and produce one hell of a mess inside the lungs of any Vermonters living downwind. But why should our senators, our congressman, our governor, or the mayor of Burlington worry about the crash risk when no one knows for sure whether it will crash in Vermont or precisely where it will crash? Could be anywhere. So don’t worry.
Ignore the fact that the Air Force Final EIS says the crash rate of the F-35 is expected to be like that of the F-22 (page BR4-51), which the Air Force EIS says had a whoppingly high crash rate during its first years of operational basing: 236 times the lifetime average crash rate of the F-16 during its first two years of operational basing. During its first four years, the F-22 had 16 times the crash rate of the F-16. During its first five years, the F-22 had 11 times the crash rate of the F-16. And during its first 10 years it had twice the crash rate of the F-16.
The Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) says it has flown the F-16 three times more safely than the national average, with only one VTANG F-16 crash, whereas nationally there have been 351 F-16 crashes of which 317 F-16s were destroyed (page BR4-49). So why should we worry about the F-35 ever crashing here? Forget about it.
As for where the warplanes are most likely to crash, the Air Force says crashes happen mostly near the ends of the runways. But the Air Force describes two crash zones in its Final EIS (page 3-26 and 3-27), one for Air Force bases and one for mixed use airports like the one in Burlington that is used for both commercial flights and that also bases military jets. The mixed use airport crash zone is only 11 percent of the length and half the width of the crash zone for Air Force bases. That is not because the identical military jets flown at mixed use airports are likely to crash closer to the runway. It’s because of economic and political reasons: if the larger crash zone were used for mixed use airports lots of homes and businesses would be in the crash zone. And that would not be acceptable.
So forget about the fact that some 2,000 Vermont homes are in the larger crash zone if you can buy the bogus argument that what counts for crash zone size is the airport type and not the fact that in both cases it is the identical military plane taking off or landing.
And, of course, forget about the fact that the runway in Burlington barely meets the minimum requirement for F-35 basing. The requirement is 8,000 feet, and Burlington’s runway is 8,300 feet. True, the much longer runway at Eglin Air Force base that is 12,000 feet long is safer. But Burlington’s meets the bare minimum requirement, and that is good enough. So don’t worry.
Of course we can also ignore the 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) report that says that half of the 1,500 children living in the 65 dB DNL zone will suffer cognitive impairment. The WHO report even says that 20 percent of the much larger number of children living in the much larger 55 dB DNL zone will suffer cognitive impairment. We can also ignore the World Health Organization presentation, “Children and Noise,” updated in 2009, that urges consideration that children are vulnerable to “lifelong impairment of learning and education” (page 15) and says that “over 20 studies have reported that noise adversely affects children’s academic performance” (page 33).
The Air Force Final EIS discounts such WHO reports, claiming that the results and conclusions of studies more recent than the decade-old studies relied on by the Air Force “have been somewhat contradictory according to leading noise experts who have evaluated those studies for the Air Force” (page E1229). If the Air Force can discount the World Health Organization, can’t we?
Also ignore the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that provides a chart showing the length of time a worker may safely be exposed to sounds at different levels. The chart shows that for the 94 dB peak noise level produced by the F-16, the allowed time duration for a worker is one hour each day. For the 115 dB produced by the F-35, the allowed time duration is only 28 seconds per day. The Air Force Final EIS says forget that because “the NIOSH document cited was a recommendation, and was never accepted. The current daily occupational noise exposure limit for 115 dBA is 15 minutes, not 28 seconds” (page E1232). Sure. Long enough so we can all stop worrying about how long children can be exposed to the 115 dB the F-35s will produce every day. Don’t we all want to volunteer our children to be exposed to anything approaching 115 dBA on a daily basis, month after month and year after year?
While forgetting about all this, do pay special attention to the words in the Air Force Final EIS that 65 dB DNL is not enough noise for health effects to be “credible.” The Air Force Final EIS says you need to be living within the 75 dB DNL contour for health effects to be credible (page C-12). So why worry?
Oops. The Air Force Final EIS says that 770 Vermonters will be living within the 75 dB DNL noise contour (page BR4-35). That’s the zone that the World Health Organization report says the 70 to 85 percent of the children suffer cognitive impairment. (But ignore the WHO, of course).
Now what do we do? Regardless of what else we ignore, can we ignore 770 Vermonters? The ones whose children who even the Air Force EIS acknowledges will be subject to cognitive impairment (page C-28 to C-30)? The children who even the Air Force says will have learning problems because of the intense aircraft noise? No one is disputing that these 770 Vermonters will be taking a heavy hit. Not even Sen. Leahy. Can we all just forget about the 770?
The Burlington City Council has a chance to consider the 770 – and to consider all the other issues — at its meeting on Oct. 7. All of us can have a say at that meeting as the council chair has extended the time for the public forum to one hour, starting at 6 p.m. Those who want to oppose the basing of the F-35 in Burlington will be rallying outside City Hall on Church Street starting at 5:30 sharp and going in to the meeting just before 6.
A resolution introduced by four Burlington city councilors will be up for a vote. The resolution says that Burlington, as owner of the Burlington International Airport, will use its authority as landowner to prevent the basing of F-35 jets at its airport. Passage of the resolution will stop the basing. Everyone should come to this meeting to help city councilors keep their focus at least on the 770 Vermonters. And pass the resolution to protect our great city and its neighbors.
By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
ThisCantBeHappening! just into its fourth year of publication, has learned that we have won our fourth Project Censored Award, this time for Dave Lindorff's article Incidents raise suspicions on motive: Killing of Journalists by US Forces a Growing Problem, published in TCBH! on Nov. 22, 1012.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.
Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.
By Dave Lindorff
I no longer recognize my country.
Back in 1997, after two years living in China, and five more living in Hong Kong, during which time, as a correspondent for Business Week magazine, I slipped in and out of China regularly as a journalist to report on developments there, I got a good dose of life in a totalitarian society. When I alit from the plane in Philadelphia where my family and I were about to start a new chapter of our lives, I remember feeling like a big weight had been lifted off my chest.
After decades US still has huge poison gas stash: Washington Demands Syria Destroy Chemical Weapons Lickety-Split
By Dave Lindorff
The US is demanding, in negotiations at the UN, that all Syrian chemical weapons, stocks and production facilities be eliminated by June 30 of next year. This has an element of hypocrisy, because the US itself has been incredibly slow about eliminating its own stocks of chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to Syria as having one of the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. But the US and Russia both still have stocks of chemicals many times as large. Syria’s neighbor Israel, which refuses to admit it has the weapons and has yet to ratify the treaty banning them, is suspected of also having a large arsenal.
By Dave Lindorff
Syrian civilians and children should count themselves lucky that mass opposition in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world to the idea of a US bombing blitz aimed at punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using Sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood forced the US to back off and accept a Russian deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.
A trillion dollars. It's a lot of money. In a year it could send 127 million college students to school, provide health insurance for 206 million people, or pay the salaries of seven million schoolteachers and seven million police officers. A trillion dollars could do a lot of good. It could transform or save a lot of lives. Now, imagine doubling the money; no, tripling it. How about quadrupling it, maybe quintupling it, or even sextupling it? Unfortunately, you really will have to imagine that, because the money to do it isn’t there. It was (or will be) spent on Washington’s disastrous post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
War, the military-industrial complex, and the national security state that go with it cost in every sense an arm and a leg. And that, in the twenty-first century, has been where so many American tax dollars have gone.
That’s because the cost of war always turns out to be more than estimated. Who could forget the $60 billion high-end figure the Bush administration offered in early 2003 as its estimate for its coming invasion of Iraq? A decade later, we’ve spent $814 billion in Iraq to date with the full price tag yet to come in. Recently, when the Obama administration was planning to launch Tomahawk missiles against Syria, just about nobody even bothered to talk about what it would have cost. (Before Washington even considered such a strike, the Tomahawk program was already costing U.S. taxpayers $36,000 per hour all year long.)
This reality has slowly sunk into American consciousness, which may be why the public in opinion polls has proven so clearly opposed to jumping into another overseas conflict when tax dollars are desperately needed at home.
And those Tomahawk missiles are just icing on the cake of what this country spends on its military and the national security state that goes with it, estimated at nearly a trillion dollars a year. A fire hose of taxpayer cash -- to the tune of around $600 billion -- gets pumped into the Department of Defense each year (and that doesn’t include the “civilian” intelligence community or the Department of Homeland Security).
The spending on that war machine is so profligate, in fact, that the Pentagon has never successfully completed an audit; its officials can’t even tell you where all that money goes. The U.S. accounts for a staggering 40% of all military expenditures globally. And some members of Congress -- their bread buttered by military contractors -- are ready to use the next war, whether in Syria or elsewhere, as a pretext to sustain or even expand our current wartime military budget.
Early Experiments in Civilianizing the Military Economy
Here’s what no one is talking about: maintaining that staggering level of military funding would mean squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity. That’s because right now is a rare moment when two pieces of bad news Americans are accustomed to hearing could be converted into one piece of very good news.
First, there’s the bad news that threatens to change the course of human civilization. Following a year of record wild fires and droughts, crop failures, record flooding, and the punishing winds and waves of Hurricane Sandy, there’s the urgent crisis of climate change, already well underway. Intertwined with that is the mammoth problem of how to feed humanity’s insatiable appetite for energy, while somehow radically cutting our consumption of fossil fuels.
Then there’s a separate item of bad news: misguided budget cuts in Washington are pulling funding from obviously important investments like natural disaster preparedness, infrastructure improvements, the criminal justice system, and early-childhood education, among many other things. Budget-cutting fever in the capital shows no sign of subsiding, even though arguments for austerity have been debunked and our annual federal budget deficit has fallen sharply.
How, then, can these dismal pieces of news be transformed into the best thing you’ve heard in a while?
Budget cuts at the Pentagon were long considered an impossibility and a formula in Congress for political suicide. Now, the austerity movement’s first major initiative in Washington, known as “sequestration,” those mandated, take-no-prisoners, across-the-board cuts in federal spending instituted by Congress, have in fact accomplished what nothing else could: the first downsizing of our defense spending in this century.
Admittedly, in the scheme of overall U.S. military spending, those cuts remain marginal. Sequestration shaved around $40 billion from the Pentagon’s funding this year -- which is a modest figure relative to that $600 billion budget. Still, it’s a start. With these cuts already underway and slated to continue in 2014, we can at least begin to imagine what sort of resources it might be possible to free from the military economy and how, if we’re smart, these could help fuel our transition to a low-carbon, twenty-first-century economy that would work for us and for the planet.
That’s because it’s possible to “harvest” military-generated technology and repurpose it for this task. As the sequestration cuts begin to bite into the defense sector, some high-tech production facilities and the workforce that goes with them will need to find a new purpose. Taxpayers have invested billions of dollars over decades in developing inventive technology, building infrastructure, and training skilled workers to fulfill military contracts for the war economy. It’s time for the American public to start seeing all this harnessed to new purposes, first among them tackling our climate crisis.
As it happens, some savvy and forward-looking outfits in the military sector have already begun converting their know-how into green-tech manufacturing.
Take, for instance, Bath Iron Works, the largest employer in Maine. For several decades, the company has gotten most of its revenue from building and maintaining destroyers for the Navy. Now, however, it has joined an initiative to develop deep-water, offshore wind power, with the goal of making Maine the leading state in the nation in such technology and the production systems that go with it.
Oregon Iron Works has similarly built its expertise by fulfilling contracts for the U.S. military. Now, it’s diversifying into renewable energy, noting proudly that its “history of innovation in the marine industry gives [it] the ability to produce high-quality, cost effective Wave and Tidal energy devices.”
The Philadelphia Naval Shipyard dates back to 1776. Its workforce peaked at 40,000 during World War II. The end of the Cold War brought an end to most naval activities at the yard, and today that industrial space has been re-imagined as an expansive corporate campus that includes a green technology incubator site and research collaboration between private business and universities.
In the same spirit, Connecticut, which has a sizeable defense industry, passed first-of-its-kind legislation this year to establish an economic development advisory committee aimed at helping defense contractors move into “environmentally sustainable” sectors of the economy. The committee is also charged with better aligning the state’s educational institutions with its manufacturing sector to ensure that its workforce of the future has training in the skills that green industries will need.
Downsizing the Global Military Mission, Building a Civilian Economy
These are promising examples of how to begin the process of converting from a war economy to a civilian one, and they provide reason for optimism, but they are also small potatoes when compared to what might be possible. Consider the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, a vast facility that repairs and rebuilds submarines. It spans 800 acres, contains 30 miles of paved roads and four miles of waterfront, employs 6,750 civilian workers, and has its own police and fire departments. Examining the current job categories at the shipyard reveals a skills base ready to be tapped to develop and produce green-energy technology. From electrical engineers and chemists to machinists, metal workers, and crane operators, there’s plenty of overlap between existing man- and womanpower in military industry and what’s needed for the robust growth of this country’s green energy sector.
For now, though, the shipyard is still doing submarines. And it will keep doing them until Congress makes new and different plans for this country.
A great deal of good can happen if military contractors and militarized communities, one by one, see the writing on the wall and move away from economic dependence on Cold War weapons systems, investing instead in new energy technology. But for such a transition to happen on a national scale, there would have to be a lot more of that writing on far more walls. Even though cuts to the military budget have gone from fantasy to reality, many lawmakers still don’t support substantial reductions in military spending and hope to prevent additional cuts from taking place in 2014.
To really move this country in a new direction, the Pentagon budget would have to be cut substantially. Not by 7% as now, but by at least 20%, and for that to happen, the American global military mission and posture would have to be downsized in significant ways. Recent polling around the Syrian crisis indicates that the public might indeed be ready to consider such changes. Whether Congress and the rest of Washington’s elite would be is obviously another matter.
Right now lawmakers are loath to cut funding if it means erasing military jobs in their districts, and the military-industrial complex has been particularly clever in the way it has spread its projects across every state and so many localities. Converting military contracts into green energy contracts would make redirecting wasteful military spending more politically feasible, and the federal government already operates an array of programs -- including the Pentagon's own Office of Economic Adjustment -- that could be expanded to help businesses and communities make the transition.
Moving public dollars into this country’s renewable energy sector could begin to lay the groundwork for a vibrant economy in the second and third decades of this century, while creating good jobs in a growth sector, working toward energy security, and helping this country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Like the construction of our interstate highway system in the 1950s, it’s an investment that would pay dividends for decades to come.
Or we can skip all that and launch the next war.
Mattea Kramer is Research Director at National Priorities Project and lead author of A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget. Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and during the post-Cold War period, she worked for Seymour Melman at his National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
Copyright 2013 Mattea Kramer and Miriam Pemberton
By John Grant
The media didn’t waste time lining up US leaders to trash Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. There was the expected outrage that such a “dictator” and “tyrant” had the gall to lecture the United States of America. Bill O’Reilly referred to Putin as “a criminal monster.” Charles Krauthammer kept it real and called Putin "a KGB thug.”
For a timely explanation of the crisis of the militarization of America, days after popular opposition, in a historic first, blocked a US war -- in this case against the sovereign nation of Syria -- check out this film by Lanny Cotler and Paul Edwards of Class War Films
To view the film, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net
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Cross-Posted from FireDogLake
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By Dave Lindorff
Right now I’m thinking about William Laws Calley.
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