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Military Industrial Complex
By William Blum
“If nature were a bank, they would have already rescued it.” – Eduardo Galeano
What do you think of this as an argument to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are man-made?
Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:
From Mark Dunlea
Now is the time to pressure Congress for shifting our resources from the military to human needs. We compelled their attention on Syrian missiles; they listened; and they know we were right. The case for talking with, rather than bombing, Iran grows stronger by the day. The drone strikes have been scaled back. And, yet, the White House is pushing for another decade in Afghanistan, and Congress is not resisting because we aren't forcing Congress to act. The lesson of the Syrian Missile Crisis is that we have power when we speak up en masse. Congress members are home now, just as they were when the missiles were being primed. Now is the time to tell them in person. Now is the time to go to the root of the madness of militarism: the budget. If we can make them cut the military budget, and then point out that the sky hasn't fallen, bigger and bigger cuts may become possible. It's our best hope, and momentum is in our favor.
Senator Patty Murray is the lead negotiator for the Senate on the December 13 budget resolution. Call her office to tell her that we need deep cuts in military spending - much deeper than required under sequestration. Phone: (202) 224-2621 Toll Free: (866) 481-9186
We also need groups that are interested in helping to organize events in DC on Dec. 10.
Here are the next three steps, with details below:
Educate and Mobilize your Community
Join the Day of Action December 10
Details on the next three steps:
Educate and Mobilize your Community
2. Ask community, faith and labor organizations to sign on to the letter. Or to write their own letter in their own language, highlight their issues. Many organizations shy away from taking a stance on military spending - but since the military gets 53 cents out of every discretionary dollar in the federal budget, if we don't cut the military, their cause won't get the funds they need. Many group leaders underestimate the public support for cutting the military budget.
The Hill. Feb. 25, 2013, Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would support cutting military spending, while just 23 percent said they would support slashing Social Security and Medicare. The Washington Post/ Bloomberg News Poll, October 6-9, 2011. 51% support reducing military spending in order to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. Americans on average want to reduce military spending by18 percent.
4. Organize local media events. Be creative. On Tues. December 10, International Human Rights Day, the campaign will deliver the letter and petition to Congress. Organize your own local media event. Sat. Dec. 7 is the 72nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor - isn't it time to declare the war over and demilitarize?
5. Work with other peace groups that are working to cut the military budget. Also urge them to pressure Congress to enact deep cuts - many just focus on public education or work on particular issues.
Meet with your local Congress member and ask them to both support deep cuts (25 to 50%) and to take leadership. It is not enough to preserve the cuts under sequestration (about a 5 to 8% cut). You can also hold a rally or media event (e.g., in front of their office) or organize phone ins or letter writing. Find Congressmember.
Check which committeesthey are on, The most important is the budget conference committee created by the deal to end the government shutdown. The committee will present a framework for the budget for adoption on December 13; if final action is not taken by Jan. 15, another shutdown occurs. (Members listed at the end). Defense and various budget committees also have more say. But any Congress member can show leadership and push an issue. (Funny they never argue that they don't really have any power when they run for office).
Steps. individual Congress members can take:
1. Circulate a sign on letter to other members of Congress calling for deep cuts. Cong. Barney Frank and Ron Paul got 50 of their colleagues to sign on to a letter calling for a 25% cut. They're both gone from Congress. Who will replace them? (There was a bipartisan mix of co-signers.)
2. If they are not on the Joint budget conference committee (listed below), ask them to lobby members who are. Ask them to get back to you with the response.
3. Ask them to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act which has passed the House and is now in the Senate. It supports too much funds for the military and many bad military policies.
4. Ask them to publicly speak out locally and nationally in favor of deep military cuts (e.g., write an op ed).
Join the Day of Action December 10
On the 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, we will deliver our message in person. We will deliver thousands of signature, a letter signed by organizations from across America - but we also want to deliver our voices.
Join us in Washington D.C. on the 10th as we tell Congress, the White House, the media, and the world that the War Budget must become a People's Budget.
Members of the Budget Committee
On the Senate side, the conferees will be the full Senate Budget Committee:
· Democrats –Committee Chair Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Bill Nelson (FL), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Mark Warner (VA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Chris Coons (DE), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Tim Kaine (VA) and Angus King (I-ME)
· Republicans – Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (AL), Chuck Grassley (IA), Mike Enzi (WY), Mike Crapo (ID), Lindsey Graham (SC), Pat Toomey (PA), Ron Johnson (WI), Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Roger Wicker (MS).
And on the House side, the conferees will be:
· Republicans –House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (WI), Tom Cole (OK), Tom Price (GA), and Diane Black (TN).
· Democrats –House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (MD), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC), and Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (NY).
For background information on the powers of a budget committee, see here.
By Jo Erickson
... Today’s high-tech weapons manufacturers are enjoying record sales. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year. One of the more controversial is the Defense Department’s plans to sell Saudi Arabia $6.8 billion and the United Arab Emirates $4 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions. The trouble is – has anyone asked where these weapons will ultimately end up?
This historic deal will be the first U.S sales of new Raytheon and Boeing weapons that can be launched at a distance from Saudi F-15 and U.A.E. F-16 fighters. But this is just part of Saudi Arabia’s military shopping list. ...
What Does Latest Dead Afghan 2-Year-Old Have in Common with Paul Robeson, John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Marley, the Kennedys
This is the season of death, when we celebrate the dying of the sun with an orgiastic burst of consumption and environmental destruction. This is the season of rebirth when we spend time with loved ones and reach out to help others we don't know.
Now would be an appropriate time to come to grips with public murder and make a public investment in peace. If I were summoning back ghosts of governments past for a press conference at the National Press Club, my first inclination -- lasting only a split second -- would be to bring the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the Native Americans, the Laotians, the Mexicans, the Cambodians, the Iraqis, the Guatemalans, the Japanese, the Afghans, the Germans, the Yemenis, and all the peoples of the world dead by our indifference or malevolence and by our sacred tax dollars. Pacific Islanders killed by weapons testing would join children killed by drug testing, and prisoners both innocent and guilty killed by electric chairs and injections, standing side-by-side with the resurrected bodies of men tortured to death by the CIA, kids melted with white phosphorous, and presidents -- both foreign and domestic -- cut down by assassins spreading freedom and joy.
My second inclination would be to line up a handful of press-worthy celebrities whose celebrity might motivate a bit of our national press corpse [sic] to hop an elevator for the long commute to the press club despite the fact that these particular celebrities were murdered by our government. First might be Paul Robeson. Here's a wikipedia summary for those unfamiliar with this great man. Here's a taste of Robeson's voice. And here's audio of a discussion with Robeson's son and others of how the CIA drugged him and then electroshocked him, effectively debilitating and silencing a voice that had never before faltered, a voice that had gone so far as to denounce the House Un-American Activities Committee as un-Americans to their faces. This article sums up this crime. This more recent article looks back.
Next to Robeson before the cameras might stand John Wayne. In 1955, movie star John Wayne, who avoided participating in World War II by opting instead to make movies glorifying war, decided that he had to play Genghis Khan. The Conqueror was filmed in Utah, and the conqueror was conquered. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, by the early 1980s 91 of them had contracted cancer and 46 had died of it, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Statistics suggest that 30 of the 220 might ordinarily have gotten cancer, not 91. In 1953 the military had tested 11 atomic bombs nearby in Nevada, and by the 1980s half the residents of St. George, Utah, where the film was shot, had cancer. You can run from war, but you can't hide. Imagine that comment in John Wayne's voice as he stands, newly restored to life, speaking at a podium surrounded by handsome hacks who play journalists on TV.
Beside Robeson and Wayne at the best-attended-ever press conference we might line up Ernest Hemingway. When I was first told that Hemingway had killed himself, it was explained to me that he didn't want to live as an old man incapable of hunting lions. And yet this was the author of The Old Man and the Sea. Make sense of that if you can. Now we learn from Hemingway's friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life that the FBI's surveillance of Hemingway "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide." Hemingway's close friend didn't take Hemingway's complaints about the FBI seriously until his FBI file was finally released, confirming the surveillance. "It's the worst hell," Hemingway had said. "The goddamnedest hell. They've bugged everything. That's why we're using [a friend]'s car. Mine's bugged. Everything's bugged. Can't use the phone. Mail intercepted." I wonder how many high school English classes will mention this.
Next to Hemingway, let's bring out Bob Marley. The CIA's files on him are being kept secret for your protection, but the death and destruction the CIA was bringing to his country is undisputed, the CIA's responsibility for the failed assassination attempt against him is very likely, and it appears that in the end the CIA got him by a manner that sounds insanely bizarre if you haven't heard about giving an entire French town LSD or targeting a single intended victim (Fidel Castro) with a poisoned diving suit, an exploding cigar, a ballpoint-pen syringe, an exploding conch shell, and dozens of other crackpot schemes that sound less comical when they work.
Some surprise guests at the press club might include John and Robert Kennedy. Others might include, after all, the millions of nameless forgotten dead, the victims of the industrial-scale "signature strikes" that have been our biggest public investment. Not that the reporters would all see the point of cramming so many resurrected bodies into their club, but because some of the celebrity victims might more clearly grasp and articulate the purpose of the event. Sooner or later we are going to have to stop killing people and start loving people, or the rebirth of life after winter won't keep repeating.
Killing the First Amendment in Dealey Plaza: JFK Assassination 50th Anniversary and the Eyes of Texas (Pt. II)
By Lori Spencer
“This is content based denial of free speech in a public park and at a designated historic site. Dealey Plaza belongs to history and to the American people, especially on the 50th anniversary.”
-- John Judge, executive director of the Coalition on Political Assassinations
A Pre-Conspiracy Theory: What If Our Premature Nobel Laureate President’s Having a ’63-Style Kennedy Moment?
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to engage here in a thought experiment which may make some readers a little queasy, but bear with me.
It’s been half a century since the wrenching experience of having a charismatic young president cut down by bullets in what most Americans apparently still believe was a dark conspiracy by elements of the US government unhappy with the direction he was taking the country in international affairs.
By Lori Spencer
I once did know a President
A way down South, in Texas.
And, always, everywhere he went,
He saw the Eyes of Texas.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, all the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn
The Eyes of Texas are upon you 'til Gabriel blows his horn.
Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending
By Dave Lindorff
A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.
A diverse array of organizations today launched a campaign to enact major cuts in wasteful military spending, as part of the December 13 federal budget resolution.
The groups include peace, human service, economic and environmental justice organizations, food sovereignty and green energy groups, and grassroots community organizations. They are calling for long overdue reductions in military spending in order to meet dire needs at home and reinvest in our future.
The groups are launching a sign-on letter calling for cuts of 25-50% in the trillion dollar military budget that accounts for 53% of all discretionary federal spending. The groups will deliver the letter to Congress on December 10 - International Human Rights Day.
The groups want Congress to focus on:
- Adequately funding critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college,
- Creating a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal),
- Rebuilding vital infrastructure.
Groups initiating the campaign include the Backbone Campaign; Coalition Against Nukes; Code Pink; Fellowship of Reconciliation, Freepress.org; Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Green Shadow Cabinet; Hip Hop Congress; Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution; No FEAR Coalition; Organic Consumers Association; Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign; PopularResistance.org; RootsAction.org and others. Additional groups can sign on to the letter here.
According to David Swanson, Campaign Coordinator for RootsAction.org, "The United States is the wealthiest nation on earth, and its government is rolling in money. Pretenses otherwise would collapse if the U.S. reduced its military budget to anything remotely resembling other countries'. Redirecting the savings would save far more lives than are taken in our wars, and improve lives at home and abroad beyond our wildest imaginings."
"Do we want to feed hungry people or feed the weapons industry? It's critical to show that we, as a people, choose food, education and green energy over bombs," said Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.
Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet president, noted, "After $5 trillion and a decade spent on bloody military excess, with no real gains for democracy, security or stability - it's time to put these resources where we need them, including an emergency full-employment program to jumpstart the Green economy, halt climate change and make wars for oil obsolete."
"It is time to heed the warning of former President Eisenhower about the Congressional-military-industrial complex. We can either feed the Pentagon, or feed, house, educate and serve the American people," stated Mark Dunlea, Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS. Representing three thousand emergency food programs feeding 3 million New Yorkers annually, the Hunger Action Network is worried about the recent and pending cuts to food stamps (SNAP) and other safety net programs.
Renowned public interest advocate, Ralph Nader, commented, "Since we no longer have major adversaries, why is the overall military budget larger than ever – taking over half the discretionary expenditures of the federal government? Our country needs to rollback the Empire, really cut the so-called defense budget and apply those monies to repairing and rebuilding our public works with good paying green jobs everywhere that cannot be exported."
Reverend Kristin Stoneking, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation added, "Money in itself is morally neutral, but what we do with money has ultimate moral significance. Our runaway military spending impairs and diminishes the very soul of our country as we ignore needs for food, jobs and health care among our citizens, and perpetuate a culture of violence abroad. Redirecting millions away from exporting violence and toward creating a culture of peace at home by responding to the basic needs of Americans is not only wise but right."
The groups want Congress to stop using the massive military budget to police the world. Instead they call for reviving the traditional approach of defending America from invasion or military aggression against our territorial integrity. Likewise they oppose militarization of our borders against nonexistent military threats, in violation of the human right to seek refuge from economic or political oppression. The groups want the US to pull American troops from Europe, Japan, Korea and from 1000 bases in nearly 130 countries which cost over a hundred billion dollars a year to maintain.
The groups also want Congress to stop the massive waste and fraud in Pentagon spending, war profiteering by military contractors, and the revolving door between government and military industries.
While many Congress members understand the need to cut military spending, virtually all Congress members protect defense contracts provided to their own districts. The groups are calling for retraining and guaranteed re-employment of any displaced military-industrial workers, and for impacted communities to have a lead role in planning their green economic transition.
The coalition proposal builds on similar, though less comprehensive, measures from within Congress. Senator Bernie Sanders' recent budget blueprint calls for hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts in the military budget. In the prior Congress, more than 50 representatives signed on to a letter by then-members Barney Franks and Ron Paul calling for a 25% cut.
Stephen Kinzer's latest book, which he discusses, is called The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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The real criminal, our government, jails the real hero: The Hero and the Villains: the Jeremy Hammond Sentence
By Alfredo Lopez
This past Friday, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond stood in a federal courtroom and told Judge Loretta A. Preska why he released a trove of emails and other information uncovering the possibly illegal and certainly immoral collaboration of a major surveillance corporation called Stratfor with our government.
Today my toast looks like Christ,
like planet earth,
like me in a dinosaur-proof suit,
bristling with spikes
that I invented when I was afraid to fall asleep.
But I don’t have time for visions. Christ,
By Dave Lindorff
Helsinki—Mikko Kautto, impeccable in a blue suit and open-collared shirt, was sitting at a table in the cafeteria of the modern Centre for Pensions building on the outskirts of Finland’s capital city, answering questions about the operation of his Nordic country’s retirement system.
By John Grant
Lara Logan is a formidable TV reporter who has covered wars and other stories at significant risk. She’s supremely confident and has a powerful journalistic institution supporting her. But as a would-be ethical journalist, she seems to rely too much on her sexual allure and to be too tight with elite elements of the US military establishment.
The same week in which a Washington Post columnist claimed that interracial marriage makes people gag, a USA Today columnist has proposed using the U.S. military to aid those suffering in the Philippines -- as a backdoor means of getting the U.S. military back into a larger occupation of the Philippines.
While the Philippines' representative at the climate talks in Warsaw is fasting in protest of international inaction on the destruction of the earth's climate, and the U.S. negotiator has effectively told him to go jump in a typhoon, the discussion in the U.S. media is of the supposed military benefits of using Filipinos' suffering as an excuse to militarize their country.
The author of the USA Today column makes no mention of the U.S. military's history in the Philippines. This was, after all, the site of the first major modern U.S. war of foreign occupation, marked by long duration, and high and one-sided casualties. As in Iraq, some 4,000 U.S. troops died in the effort, but most of them from disease. The Philippines lost some 1.5 million men, women, and children out of a population of 6 to 7 million.
The USA Today columnist makes no mention of Filipinos' resistance to the U.S. military up through recent decades, or of President Obama's ongoing efforts to put more troops back into the Philippines, disaster or no disaster.
Instead, our benevolent militarist claims that budgets are tight in Washington -- which is of course always going to be the case for a government spending upwards of $1 trillion a year on militarism.
He claims that the United States "stations troops throughout the world in the hope of shaping the political environment so as to avoid sending them into combat" -- a perspective that ignores the alternative of neither sending them into combat nor stationing them abroad.
The terrorist attacks that the U.S. uses to justify its foreign wars are, according to U.S. officials, provoked by the over a million troops stationed in 177 countries, the drone strikes, and other such "preventive" measures.
"[D]eploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective -- and inexpensive -- investment in the future. One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million. That's roughly the price of three days' operations in Afghanistan last year."
Or of 15,500 teachers in U.S. schools, or of enormous supplies of far more edible food than an aircraft carrier full of troops and weapons.
Much of the world has long-since learned to fear U.S. Trojan horses. As I noted in War Is A Lie:
"By 1961, the cops of the world were in Vietnam, but President Kennedy's representatives there thought a lot more cops were needed and knew the public and the president would be resistant to sending them. For one thing, you couldn't keep up your image as the cops of the world if you sent in a big force to prop up an unpopular regime. What to do? What to do? Ralph Stavins, coauthor of an extensive account of Vietnam War planning, recounts that General Maxwell Taylor and Walt W. Rostow, '. . . wondered how the United States could go to war while appearing to preserve the peace. While they were pondering this question, Vietnam was suddenly struck by a deluge. It was as if God had wrought a miracle. American soldiers, acting on humanitarian impulses, could be dispatched to save Vietnam not from the Viet Cong, but from the floods.'"
What a blessing! And how well it helped to prevent warfare!
Of course, today's enlightened punditry means well. The thought of Southeast Asians marrying their daughters might make some of them gag, but philanthropy is philanthropy after all, even if we'd never stand for some other country stationing its military here on the excuse that it brought some food and medicine along. Here's the USA Today:
"The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of 'Asian rebalancing' The Obama administration recognizes the value of disaster relief. As the Pentagon attempts to shift more of its weight to the Asian Pacific region while balancing a shrinking budget, this could turn out to be one of the best decisions it could make."
But good will is dependent on not dominating people militarily and economically -- yet that seems to be exactly the goal.
What's wrong with that, some might ask. The sneaky abuse of disaster relief might be thought to give aggressive war "prevention" an undeserved bad name were it not for the fact that nobody is threatening war on the United States and nobody is about to do so. Don't take my word for it. Listen to one of our top veteran warmongers, via PopularResistance:
"During a recent speech in Poland, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned fellow elitists that a worldwide 'resistance' movement to 'external control' driven by 'populist activism' is threatening to derail the move towards a new world order. Calling the notion that the 21st century is the American century a 'shared delusion,' Brzezinski stated that American domination was no longer possible because of an accelerating social change driven by 'instant mass communications such as radio, television and the Internet,' which have been cumulatively stimulating 'a universal awakening of mass political consciousness.' The former U.S. National Security Advisor added that this 'rise in worldwide populist activism is proving inimical to external domination of the kind that prevailed in the age of colonialism and imperialism.'"
If this master warmonger recognizes that the age of colonialism and imperialism is gone, how do millions of Americans still manage to bark out the Pavlovian response "What about the next Hitler?" whenever someone proposes ending war?
The fact is that no governments are plotting to take over the United States. Old-fashioned imperialism and colonialism are as gone as 1940s clothing and music, not to mention Jim Crow, respectability for eugenics, established second-class status for women, the absence of environmentalism, children hiding under desks to protect themselves from nuclear bombs, teachers hitting children, cigarettes being good for you. The fact is that 75 years is a long, long time. In many ways we've moved on and never looked back.
When it comes to war, however, just propose to end it, and 4 out of 5 dentists, or doctors, or teachers, or gardeners, or anybody else in the United States will say "What about the next Hitler?" Well, what about the dozens of misidentified next-Hitlers of the past 70 years? What about the possibility that within our own minds we're dressing up war as disaster relief? Isn't it just possible that after generations of clearly aggressive, destructive, and criminal wars we describe militarism as a response to the second-coming of Hitler because the truth wouldn't sound as nice?
What’s more important: Security or freedom?: The Big Question the National Security State isn’t Asking
By Dave Lindorff
So National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander, who, along with his boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., thinks that “if you can collect it, you should collect it,” now is asking whether it might not be such a good idea in the case of spying on the citizens of US allies like Germany, France, Spain et al.
By John Grant
President Obama finds himself under fire on two disparate fronts these days, both for the botched rollout of his signature health care program and for the secret spying on allied heads of state.
- Peter Baker, The New York Times
It’s one of those elegant solutions to a mix of problems where you wonder why no one thought of it before.
By Alfredo Lopez
What a week! Shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that maybe our government had gone "too far" in its surveillance programs, the Washington Post dropped another Edward Snowden bombshell demonstrating that it is going a whole lot farther than we knew.
By Dave Lindorff
A revealing page-one article in today’s New York Times (“Tap on Merkel Provides Peek a Vast Spy Net”) reports on how the NSA’s global spying program, dating back at least to early in the Bush/Cheney administration, was vacuuming up the phone conversations (and no doubt later the internet communications) of not just leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but opposition leader Merkel before her party took power in Germany.
The situation in Egypt has broad implications for U.S. foreign policy and military aid, and should be seen as an opportunity to make a major shift from an aggressive policy footing to a human rights based model.
By John Grant
To: Jofi Joseph, Washington DC
Dear Mr Joseph:
I read of your firing as a national security adviser in the White House thanks to your “snarky” tweeting about various White House officials above you in the pecking order.
The abiding defect of U.S. foreign policy? It’s isolationism, my friend. Purporting to steer clear of war, isolationism fosters it. Isolationism impedes the spread of democracy. It inhibits trade and therefore prosperity. It allows evildoers to get away with murder. Isolationists prevent the United States from accomplishing its providentially assigned global mission. Wean the American people from their persistent inclination to look inward and who knows what wonders our leaders will accomplish.
The United States has been at war for well over a decade now, with U.S. attacks and excursions in distant lands having become as commonplace as floods and forest fires. Yet during the recent debate over Syria, the absence of popular enthusiasm for opening up another active front evoked expressions of concern in Washington that Americans were once more turning their backs on the world.
As he was proclaiming the imperative of punishing the government of Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry also chided skeptical members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “this is not the time for armchair isolationism.” Commentators keen to have a go at the Syrian autocrat wasted little time in expanding on Kerry’s theme.
Reflecting on “where isolationism leads,” Jennifer Rubin, the reliably bellicose Washington Post columnist, was quick to chime in, denouncing those hesitant to initiate another war as “infantile.” American isolationists, she insisted, were giving a green light to aggression. Any nation that counted on the United States for protection had now become a “sitting duck,” with “Eastern Europe [and] neighbors of Venezuela and Israel” among those left exposed and vulnerable. News reports of Venezuelan troop movements threatening Brazil, Colombia, or Guyana were notably absent from the Post or any other media outlet, but no matter -- you get the idea.
Military analyst Frederick Kagan was equally troubled. Also writing in the Post, he worried that “the isolationist narrative is rapidly becoming dominant.” His preferred narrative emphasized the need for ever greater military exertions, with Syria just the place to launch a new campaign. For Bret Stephens, a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, the problem was the Republican Party. Where had the hawks gone? The Syria debate, he lamented, was “exposing the isolationist worm eating its way through the GOP apple.”
The Journal’s op-ed page also gave the redoubtable Norman Podhoretz, not only still alive but vigorously kicking, a chance to vent. Unmasking President Obama as “a left-wing radical” intent on “reduc[ing] the country’s power and influence,” the unrepentant neoconservative accused the president of exploiting the “war-weariness of the American people and the rise of isolationist sentiment... on the left and right” to bring about “a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.”
Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, “got” Osama bin Laden, toppled one Arab dictator in Libya, and bashed and bombed targets in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Even so, it turns out he is actually part of the isolationist conspiracy to destroy America!
Over at the New York Times, similar concerns, even if less hysterically expressed, prevailed. According to Times columnist Roger Cohen, President Obama’s reluctance to pull the trigger showed that he had “deferred to a growing isolationism.” Bill Keller concurred. “America is again in a deep isolationist mood.” In a column entitled, “Our New Isolationism,” he decried “the fears and defeatist slogans of knee-jerk isolationism” that were impeding military action. (For Keller, the proper antidote to isolationism is amnesia. As he put it, “Getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”)
For his part, Times staff writer Sam Tanenhaus contributed a bizarre two-minute exercise in video agitprop -- complete with faked scenes of the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor -- that slapped the isolationist label on anyone opposing entry into any war whatsoever, or tiring of a war gone awry, or proposing that America go it alone.
When the “New Isolationism” Was New
Most of this, of course, qualifies as overheated malarkey. As a characterization of U.S. policy at any time in memory, isolationism is a fiction. Never really a tendency, it qualifies at most as a moment, referring to that period in the 1930s when large numbers of Americans balked at the prospect of entering another European war, the previous one having fallen well short of its “War To End All Wars” advance billing.
In fact, from the day of its founding down to the present, the United States has never turned its back on the world. Isolationism owes its storied history to its value as a rhetorical device, deployed to discredit anyone opposing an action or commitment (usually involving military forces) that others happen to favor. If I, a grandson of Lithuanian immigrants, favor deploying U.S. forces to Lithuania to keep that NATO ally out of Vladimir Putin’s clutches and you oppose that proposition, then you, sir or madam, are an “isolationist.” Presumably, Jennifer Rubin will see things my way and lend her support to shoring up Lithuania’s vulnerable frontiers.
For this very reason, the term isolationism is not likely to disappear from American political discourse anytime soon. It’s too useful. Indeed, employ this verbal cudgel to castigate your opponents and your chances of gaining entrée to the nation’s most prestigious publications improve appreciably. Warn about the revival of isolationism and your prospects of making the grade as a pundit or candidate for high office suddenly brighten. This is the great thing about using isolationists as punching bags: it makes actual thought unnecessary. All that’s required to posture as a font of wisdom is the brainless recycling of clichés, half-truths, and bromides.
No publication is more likely to welcome those clichés, half-truths, and bromides than the New York Times. There, isolationism always looms remarkably large and is just around the corner.
In July 1942, the New York Times Magazine opened its pages to Vice President Henry A. Wallace, who sounded the alarm about the looming threat of what he styled a “new isolationism.” This was in the midst of World War II, mind you.
After the previous world war, the vice president wrote, the United States had turned inward. As summer follows spring, “the choice led up to this present war.” Repeat the error, Wallace warned, and “the price will be more terrible and will be paid much sooner.” The world was changing and it was long past time for Americans to get with the program. “The airplane, the radio, and modern technology have bound the planet so closely together that what happens anywhere on the planet has a direct effect everywhere else.” In a world that had “suddenly become so small,” he continued, “we cannot afford to resume the role of hermit.”
The implications for policy were self-evident:
“This time, then, we have only one real choice. We must play a responsible part in the world -- leading the way in world progress, fostering a healthy world trade, helping to protect the world’s peace.”
One month later, it was Archibald MacLeish’s turn. On August 16, 1942, the Times magazine published a long essay of his under the title of -- wouldn’t you know it -- “The New Isolationism.” For readers in need of coaching, Times editors inserted this seal of approval before the text: “There is great pertinence in the following article.”
A well-known poet, playwright, and literary gadfly, MacLeish was at the time serving as Librarian of Congress. From this bully pulpit, he offered the reassuring news that “isolationism in America is dead.” Unfortunately, like zombies, “old isolationists never really die: they merely dig in their toes in a new position. And the new position, whatever name is given it, is isolation still.”
Fortunately, the American people were having none of it. They had “recaptured the current of history and they propose to move with it; they don’t mean to be denied.” MacLeish’s fellow citizens knew what he knew: “that there is a stirring in our world…, a forward thrusting and overflowing human hope of the human will which must be given a channel or it will dig a channel itself.” In effect, MacLeish was daring the isolationists, in whatever guise, to stand in the way of this forward thrusting and overflowing hopefulness. Presumably, they would either drown or be crushed.
The end of World War II found the United States donning the mantle of global leadership, much as Wallace, MacLeish, and the Times had counseled. World peace did not ensue. Instead, a host of problems continued to afflict the planet, with isolationists time and again fingered as the culprits impeding their solution.
The Gift That Never Stops Giving
In June 1948, with a notable absence of creativity in drafting headlines, the Times once again found evidence of “the new isolationism.” In an unsigned editorial, the paper charged that an American penchant for hermit-like behavior was “asserting itself again in a manner that is both distressing and baffling.” With the Cold War fully joined and U.S. forces occupying Germany, Japan, and other countries, the Times worried that some Republicans in Congress appeared reluctant to fund the Marshall Plan.
From their offices in Manhattan, members of the Times editorial board detected in some quarters “a homesickness for the old days.” It was incumbent upon Americans to understand that “the time is past when we could protect ourselves easily behind our barriers behind the seas.” History was summoning the United States to lead the world: “The very success of our democracy has now imposed duties upon us which we must fulfill if that democracy is to survive.” Those entertaining contrary views, the Times huffed, “do not speak for the American people.”
That very month, Josef Stalin announced that the Soviet Union was blockading Berlin. The U.S. responded not by heading for the exits but by initiating a dramatic airlift. Oh, and Congress fully funded the Marshall Plan.
Barely a year later, in August 1949, with Stalin having just lifted the Berlin Blockade, Times columnist Arthur Krock discerned another urge to disengage. In a piece called “Chickens Usually Come Home,” he cited congressional reservations about the recently promulgated Truman Doctrine as evidence of, yes, a “new isolationism.” As it happened, Congress duly appropriated the money President Truman was requesting to support Greece and Turkey against the threat of communism -- as it would support similar requests to throw arms and money at other trouble spots like French Indochina.
Even so, in November of that year, the Times magazine published yet another warning about “the challenge of a new isolationism.” The author was Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, then positioning himself for a White House run. Like many another would-be candidate before and since, Stevenson took the preliminary step of signaling his opposition to the I-word.
World War II, he wrote, had “not only destroyed fascism abroad, but a lot of isolationist notions here at home.” War and technological advance had “buried the whole ostrich of isolation.” At least it should have. Unfortunately, some Republicans hadn’t gotten the word. They were “internationally minded in principle but not in practice.” Stevenson feared that when the chips were down such head-in-the-sand inclinations might come roaring back. This he was determined to resist. “The eagle, not the ostrich,” he proclaimed, “is our national emblem.”
In August 1957, the Times magazine was at it once again, opening its pages to another Illinois Democrat, Senator Paul Douglas, for an essay familiarly entitled “A New Isolationism -- Ripples or Tide?” Douglas claimed that “a new tide of isolationism is rising in the country.” U.S. forces remained in Germany and Japan, along with Korea, where they had recently fought a major war. Even so, the senator worried that “the internationalists are tiring rapidly now.”
Americans needed to fortify themselves by heeding the message of the Gospels: “Let the spirit of the Galilean enter our worldly and power-obsessed hearts.” In other words, the senator’s prescription for American statecraft was an early version of What Would Jesus Do? Was Jesus Christ an advocate of American global leadership? Senator Douglas apparently thought so.
Then came Vietnam. By May 1970, even Times-men were showing a little of that fatigue. That month, star columnist James Reston pointed (yet again) to the “new isolationism.” Yet in contrast to the paper’s scribblings on the subject over the previous three decades, Reston didn’t decry it as entirely irrational. The war had proven to be a bummer and “the longer it goes on,” he wrote, “the harder it will be to get public support for American intervention.” Washington, in other words, needed to end its misguided war if it had any hopes of repositioning itself to start the next one.
A Concept Growing Long in the Tooth
By 1980, the Times showed signs of recovering from its brief Vietnam funk. In a review of Norman Podhoretz’s The Present Danger, for example, the noted critic Anatole Broyard extolled the author’s argument as “dispassionate,” “temperate,” and “almost commonsensical.”
The actual text was none of those things. What the pugnacious Podhoretz called -- get ready for it -- “the new isolationism” was, in his words, “hard to distinguish from simple anti-Americanism.” Isolationists -- anyone who had opposed the Vietnam War on whatever grounds -- believed that the United States was “a force for evil, a menace, a terror.” Podhoretz detected a “psychological connection” between “anti-Americanism, isolationism, and the tendency to explain away or even apologize for anything the Soviet Union does, no matter how menacing.” It wasn’t bad enough that isolationists hated their country, they were, it seems, commie symps to boot.
Fast forward a decade, and -- less than three months after U.S. troops invaded Panama -- Times columnist Flora Lewis sensed a resurgence of you-know-what. In a February 1990 column, she described “a convergence of right and left” with both sides “arguing with increasing intensity that it’s time for the U.S. to get off the world.” Right-wingers saw that world as too nasty to save; left-wingers, the United States as too nasty to save it. “Both,” she concluded (of course), were “moving toward a new isolationism.”
Five months later, Saddam Hussein sent his troops into Kuwait. Instead of getting off the world, President George H.W. Bush deployed U.S. combat forces to defend Saudi Arabia. For Joshua Muravchik, however, merely defending that oil-rich kingdom wasn’t nearly good enough. Indeed, here was a prime example of the “New Isolationism, Same Old Mistake,” as his Times op-ed was entitled.
The mistake was to flinch from instantly ejecting Saddam’s forces. Although opponents of a war against Iraq did not “see themselves as isolationists, but as realists,” he considered this a distinction without a difference. Muravchik, who made his living churning out foreign policy analysis for various Washington think tanks, favored “the principle of investing America’s power in the effort to fashion an environment congenial to our long-term safety.” War, he firmly believed, offered the means to fashion that congenial environment. Should America fail to act, he warned, “our abdication will encourage such threats to grow.”
Of course, the United States did act and the threats grew anyway. In and around the Middle East, the environment continued to be thoroughly uncongenial. Still, in Times-world, the American penchant for doing too little rather than too much remained the eternal problem, eternally “new.” An op-ed by up-and-coming journalist James Traub appearing in the Times in December 1991, just months after a half-million U.S. troops had liberated Kuwait, was typical. Assessing the contemporary political scene, Traub detected “a new wave of isolationism gathering force.” Traub was undoubtedly establishing his bona fides. (Soon after, he landed a job working for the paper.)
This time, according to Traub, the problem was the Democrats. No longer “the party of Wilson or of John F. Kennedy,” Democrats, he lamented, “aspire[d] to be the party of middle-class frustrations -- and if that entails turning your back on the world, so be it.” The following year Democrats nominated as their presidential candidate Bill Clinton, who insisted that he would never under any circumstances turn his back on the world. Even so, no sooner did Clinton win than Times columnist Leslie Gelb was predicting that the new president would “fall into the trap of isolationism and policy passivity.”
Get Me Rewrite!
Arthur Schlesinger defined the problem in broader terms. The famous historian and Democratic Party insider had weighed in early on the matter with a much-noted essay that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly back in 1952. He called it – you guessed it -- “The New Isolationism.”
In June 1994, more than 40 years later, with the Cold War now finally won, Schlesinger was back for more with a Times op-ed that sounded the usual alarm. “The Cold War produced the illusion that traditional isolationism was dead and buried,” he wrote, but of course -- this is, after all, the Times -- it was actually alive and kicking. The passing of the Cold War had “weakened the incentives to internationalism” and was giving isolationists a new opening, even though in “a world of law requiring enforcement,” it was incumbent upon the United States to be the lead enforcer.
The warning resonated. Although the Times does not normally give commencement addresses much attention, it made an exception for Madeleine Albright’s remarks to graduating seniors at Barnard College in May 1995. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had detected what she called “a trend toward isolationism that is running stronger in America than at any time since the period between the two world wars,” and the American people were giving in to the temptation “to pull the covers up over our heads and pretend we do not notice, do not care, and are unaffected by events overseas.” In other circumstances in another place, it might have seemed an odd claim, given that the United States had just wrapped up armed interventions in Somalia and Haiti and was on the verge of initiating a bombing campaign in the Balkans.
Still, Schlesinger had Albright’s back. The July/August 1995 issue of Foreign Affairs prominently featured an article of his entitled “Back to the Womb? Isolationism’s Renewed Threat,” with Times editors publishing a CliffsNotes version on the op-ed page a month earlier. “The isolationist impulse has risen from the grave,” Schlesinger announced, “and it has taken the new form of unilateralism.”
His complaint was no longer that the United States hesitated to act, but that it did not act in concert with others. This “neo-isolationism,” he warned, introducing a new note into the tradition of isolationism-bashing for the first time in decades, “promises to prevent the most powerful nation on the planet from playing any role in enforcing the peace system.” The isolationists were winning -- this time through pure international belligerence. Yet “as we return to the womb,” Schlesinger warned his fellow citizens, “we are surrendering a magnificent dream.”
Other Times contributors shared Schlesinger’s concern. On January 30, 1996, the columnist Russell Baker chipped in with a piece called “The New Isolationism.” For those slow on the uptake, Jessica Mathews, then a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, affirmed Baker’s concerns by publishing an identically titled column in the Washington Post a mere six days later. Mathews reported “troubling signs that the turning inward that many feared would follow the Cold War’s end is indeed happening.” With both the Times and the Post concurring, “the new isolationism” had seemingly reached pandemic proportions (as a title, if nothing else).
Did the “new” isolationism then pave the way for 9/11? Was al-Qaeda inspired by an unwillingness on Washington’s part to insert itself into the Islamic world?
Unintended and unanticipated consequences stemming from prior U.S. interventions might have seemed to offer a better explanation. But this much is for sure: as far as the Times was concerned, even in the midst of George W. Bush’s Global War in Terror, the threat of isolationism persisted.
In January 2004, David M. Malone, president of the International Peace Academy, worried in a Times op-ed “that the United States is retracting into itself” -- this despite the fact that U.S. forces were engaged in simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among Americans, a concern about terrorism, he insisted, was breeding “a sense of self-obsession and indifference to the plight of others.” “When Terrorists Win: Beware America’s New Isolationism,” blared the headline of Malone’s not-so-new piece.
Actually, Americans should beware those who conjure up phony warnings of a “new isolationism” to advance a particular agenda. The essence of that agenda, whatever the particulars and however packaged, is this: If the United States just tries a little bit harder -- one more intervention, one more shipment of arms to a beleaguered “ally,” one more line drawn in the sand -- we will finally turn the corner and the bright uplands of peace and freedom will come into view.
This is a delusion, of course. But if you write a piece exposing that delusion, don’t bother submitting it to the Times.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book is Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.
Copyright 2013 Andrew Bacevich
US may be committing robotic war crimes: Two Human Rights Groups Blast US for Drone Killing Campaigns
By Dave Lindorff
Last week President Obama was largely successful at blacking out from the American public word that Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani advocate of girls’ education nearly killed by Taliban gunmen a year ago, used a photo-op invitation to the White House to ask the president to halt to his drone killings of Pakistanis. But Obama cannot so easily silence the condemnations today of his remote drone “Murder, Inc.” program by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In terms of pure projectable power, there’s never been anything like it. Its military has divided the world -- the whole planet -- into six “commands.” Its fleet, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, rules the seas and has done so largely unchallenged for almost seven decades. Its Air Force has ruled the global skies, and despite being almost continuously in action for years, hasn’t faced an enemy plane since 1991 or been seriously challenged anywhere since the early 1970s. Its fleet of drone aircraft has proven itself capable of targeting and killing suspected enemies in the backlands of the planet from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia with little regard for national boundaries, and none at all for the possibility of being shot down. It funds and trains proxy armies on several continents and has complex aid and training relationships with militaries across the planet. On hundreds of bases, some tiny and others the size of American towns, its soldiers garrison the globe from Italy to Australia, Honduras to Afghanistan, and on islands from Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Its weapons makers are the most advanced on Earth and dominate the global arms market. Its nuclear weaponry in silos, on bombers, and on its fleet of submarines would be capable of destroying several planets the size of Earth. Its system of spy satellites is unsurpassed and unchallenged. Its intelligence services can listen in on the phone calls or read the emails of almost anyone in the world from top foreign leaders to obscure insurgents. The CIA and its expanding paramilitary forces are capable of kidnapping people of interest just about anywhere from rural Macedonia to the streets of Rome and Tripoli. For its many prisoners, it has set up (and dismantled) secret jails across the planet and on its naval vessels. It spends more on its military than the next most powerful 13 states combined. Add in the spending for its full national security state and it towers over any conceivable group of other nations.
The United States is loosening controls over military exports, in a shift that former U.S. officials and human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world's conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.
What if we had politicians who believed in the abolition of war with as much passion as the Republican right believes in the abolition of taxes?
For me, the question that immediately follows is: What kind of politics draws power from resources other than the deep pockets of billionaires? Just because the world is sick of war, how will that ever translate into serious political action to defund standing armies and ongoing weapons research? How will it ever cohere into a consensus that has political traction? Does Washington, D.C. only have room for one consensus?
For the Democrats to stand moderately tough against GOP right-wing zealots in defense of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Social Security, there’s no way they could also — even if they wanted to — stand tough on, let us say, nuclear disarmament or a movement toward demilitarization. Such concepts aren’t on or anywhere near the fabled “table” of national debate; they’re as marginalized as segregated restrooms. This is a deep problem from the point of view of anyone looking clear-eyed into the future.
“‘They were all dying,’ she said, ‘and there was no medicine, and there was nothing we could do.’”
The speaker is 82-year-old Kono Kyomi, one of the “Hibakusha,” or survivors of the atomic blasts that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, quoted by the Rev. John Dear. She was part of a delegation of survivors who came to the United States last August to commemorate the anniversary of those blasts and speak of their experiences. Their visit included a trip to Los Alamos, N.M., where the Hiroshima bomb was built and still the center of the country’s ongoing nuclear weapons research and production.
Dear, a long-time peace activist who traveled with the Hibakusha delegation during their visit, described the moment Kyomi looked him in the eye during a church dinner in Santa Fe: “Be sure to speak to young people,” she said. “We need to tell them the stories, to tell them about these weapons, and to educate them to work to get rid of them. That’s the most important thing we can do for the future.”
This message can resonate at a church basement potluck, but I no longer have the least bit of faith it has the force to penetrate our national political fortress. Nukes and militarism are done deals at the official level, uncontroversial, off the table, forever funded. The military-industrial complex has no serious opponents. It seems to have won the war for our future, limited as that future might be because of it.
What fascinates me is how recently this was not the case. Consider, for instance, the criticism that so frequently, these days, swirls around the Nobel Peace Prize committee and its choice of winners. This year the prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a watchdog group that had its spirit broken more than a decade ago, critics say. That was when the Bush administration succeeded in ousting its then-director general, Jose Bustani, whose plans to inspect Iraq’s chemical weapons put the U.S. case against Saddam Hussein— and the pending invasion of Iraq — in jeopardy.
“The subsequent OPCW leadership has been far weaker and more averse to challenging great power prerogatives, as indicated by the fact that they are currently in the process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal while the vast stockpiles belonging to U.S. allies Israel and Egypt remain intact,” Middle East scholar Stephen Zunes said after the Peace Prize winner was announced.
And Fredrik Heffermehl, author of The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted, called the 2013 award half-hearted. Alfred Nobel’s vision, he said, was “to abolish not only certain weapons, like the chemical, but all weapons in all countries. Demilitarize international relations — not only civilize war but abolish it.”
Michael Parenti, lamenting the committee’s decision in 2012 to award the Peace Prize to the European Union, quoted from Nobel’s 1895 will specifying the prize be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
I repeat: “Demilitarize international relations — not only civilize war but abolish it.” This was a real goal a century ago, a glowing possibility. And even 50 years ago, it remained so.
John F. Kennedy, announcing that talks on a Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union had begun, declared: “Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament . . . permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. . . .
“While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.”
This was once a goal of nations, a goal of wealth. It had credibility and presence at the highest levels. Now it has vanished. Bitterly cherished as this goal may still be among ordinary humanity, the governing classes have decreed: The next war is coming.
The time has come not to believe them. The time has come to return disarmament to the political agenda. The time has come to refuse to make peace with war.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at email@example.com, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio.
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