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A Holiday Fantasy: If I Were Emperor of the USA

By John Grant


It’s that time of the year again. Ho. Ho. Ho. There’s the urge to celebrate the Winter Solstice (AKA Christmas) with family and friends. It’s also time for end-of-the-year assessments concerning the absurdities of life in a fading empire in denial.

Blank Spots on the map: Almost all the U.S. Army’s secret military bases across the globe revealed on Google and Bing

By Daily Mail

The U.S. military can be a sensitive lot when it comes to the location of their military facilities.

With military bases on every continent, in every corner of the world, for the kinds of tasks they perform, it's no wonder that many of the locations are blacked out and hidden from public view.

The Pentagon says there are around 5,000 bases in total with around 600 overseas.

Josh Begley, a data artist, decided to set himself the task of mapping all known U.S. military bases around the world, and collect satellite pictures of them using Google and Bing Maps.

The project was inspired by Trevor Paglen's book 'Blank Spots on the Map' which goes inside the world of secret military bases that are sometimes censored on maps.

Begley has found the coordinates for 650 bases, and published pictures for 644 of them. The pictures can be viewed at http://empire.is/.

GO HERE.

Two cheers for Pope Francis: About Time American Idiocy and Paranoia over Marxism Got Called Out

By Dave Lindorff


So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people,"  and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".

There Are No Bad Bears

When he was a tiny little bear cub, Nelson would scamper over to be close to his mother when he heard any loud noise.  When he got a little bigger, if something scared him he would growl.  Bigger still, and he would stand up on his hind legs, growl, and wave his paws about.  And when he got even bigger than that -- when he began to look like a full-grown bear -- if Nelson heard something that might be dangerous, he would stand calmly still and listen harder.

Nelson's cubhood was a happy one.  His mother and the other big bears taught him to run and climb, and how to find the berries that were good and wouldn't make you sick.  They taught him how to settle arguments with other bears.  Growling was only for show, Nelson's mother always told him.

A bear must never attack another bear
But only growl and attack the air. 

She told him that little poem many times.

At the end of each day, Nelson's mother would read him stories before he went to bed in the cave. He especially liked "Goldilocks and the Three Humans." When Nelson got a little bigger his mother sometimes let him listen to stories told to a big circle of bears by the best bear storytellers in those mountains.  All of Nelson's friends listened to the stories, so Nelson's mother let him do so too.  Nelson found the stories -- full of fights and adventures -- to be tremendously strange but tremendously exciting.

Nelson knew that the bears around him in his woods and mountains were not the only bears in the world.  He knew other bears lived far way, and others even farther away on the far side of the world.  And yet Nelson was never taught a name for his bears until he was nearly full-grown.  And when he was taught the name, it was a name he had heard before in movies and books.  The name was: the Good Bears.

Nelson was happy to be a Good Bear, but the Bad Bears worried him.  He was told where they lived, and he was horrified at the thought that Bad Bears might come into the Good Bears' area.  He imagined what the Bad Bears looked like.  They must have horns and scales.  Some said the Bad Bears breathed fire.  Nelson began to grow afraid again, just as he had been afraid of everything when he had been a tiny cub.  And at the same time, Nelson was excited by the idea of the Bad Bears.  At any noise, Nelson would jump, his hair would stand up, he would rise and growl and wave his claws through the air fast enough to have ripped through a brick wall had there been a brick wall in the middle of the woods. 

There was nothing human in the woods until the day the truck came.  Nelson knew nothing of trucks.  They hadn't been in any stories.  He also knew nothing of guns.  So, when the forestry department came to help the bears by drugging them to sleep, inspecting them all over, sticking tags on them, and letting them go again, Nelson only knew that a large and noisy thing was nearby and getting closer.  He sprang into action.

While Nelson stood his tallest and roared his loudest at the truck, the truck did not talk back to him or retreat. The truck stopped. A human got out with something in his hands. There was a noise.  And then Nelson felt a sharp pain in his left rear leg.  Nelson felt dizzy.  He was spinning.  Or the forest was spinning.  Or the clouds were spinning.  Nelson heard voices, human voices.  They were saying he might be sick.  He must be tested.  They must help him.

Nelson woke up in a place he'd never seen or imagined.  There were huge hard bars on all sides of him, and above him.  Nelson roared like mad.  Humans came near to his cage but were afraid to come all the way up to it.  Nelson's rage and fury were limitless. Nelson nearly went insane with fear and anger and hatred. He roared and roared and smashed himself against the bars.  Afterward, he had no idea how long this had lasted.  It ended when the cage was loaded onto a truck, taken into the woods, and opened.  Nelson was free!

But something was wrong.  The trees were not the same as before.  The mountains were not the same shape.  It was as if the world had been twisted sideways somehow.  And then Nelson figured out what had happened.  The humans had released him into the wrong woods.  They had put him in the land of the Bad Bears.  Nelson shook with fear.  It was one thing to imagine fighting the Bad Bears with all the Good Bears standing at your side, like in the stories told to bear cubs.  It was another thing to be alone, the only Good Bear in a world of vicious Bad Bears seeking to destroy you.

Nelson heard and smelled something.  He looked quickly around for a place to hide, but it was too late.  A bear was coming close, and the bear had seen him.  But Nelson was in luck: this didn't look like a Bad Bear at all.  This was another Good Bear just like him.  They would be together now, two Good Bears against all of the Bad.  "Greetings, fellow Good Bear," growled Nelson. "How did you come to be in these woods?"

"I was born in them," said the bear. "But I haven't met you before. Where do you come from?"

Nelson was confused but answered, "I come from over that ridge and across the next valley, of course.  Don't all Good Bears come from there?"

The other bear began to back away slowly and the hair to rise on his back.  "You come from the land of the Bad Bears?" he growled.  "Are you a Bad Bear then?"

"What are you talking about?" growled Nelson.  "Do I look like a Bad Bear? Do I breathe fire? Where are my scales? Where are my horns? I'm a Good Bear, just like you."

"That's true," said the other bear, whose name was Steven.  Nelson and Steven relaxed a little and began to trust each other, but both were puzzled and confused.  Each of them thought the other must be a Bad Bear, but both could see it wasn't true.

Nelson stayed with Steven's family that night, planning to begin traveling home the next day.  In the morning Steven, who did not want Nelson to leave, said he would travel with him, at least half way.  And so, the two friends moved quickly through the day and crossed the mountain ridge.  And not long after crossing the ridge and beginning down the other side, they heard the most frightening noise in the world.  They heard the noise of war coming.  They heard it coming from in front of them and behind.

Hundreds of bears were roaring and stomping and screaming and smashing against the trees.  They all seemed to have gone insane, a huge line of them moving up from Nelson's woods.  And another gigantic group of mad crazy bears ready to kill was coming up the mountains from Steven's home.  Nelson and Steven stood perfectly still, listened, smelled, and thought.  And they thought well, without even quite knowing they'd done so, and without having to tell each other what to do.

Together, Nelson and Steven raced back to the top of the ridge.  They could see the armies of bears advancing up both slopes toward them.  Nelson faced the bears from his home.  He saw bears he knew, friends and family.  "Stop!," he roared.  "Who do you think you are attacking?"

"Stop!" roared Steven at his own bear nation.  "Who are you coming to kill?"

"The Bad Bears!" said Nelson's countrybears.

"The Bad Bears!" said Steven's bear kin.

"They don't exist," roared Nelson and Steven. 

"Look," roared Nelson.  "Look at this bear next to me.  He is from the land of what you call Bad Bears, but he is just like you and me.  His bears have been told that YOU are the Bad Bears.  And you know that isn't true."

Steven told his bears the same thing.  But meanwhile the bears had been advancing quickly and were nearing the ridgetop.  "Look at them," pleaded Nelson and Steven.  "Look at them!  They're Good Bears the same as you.  Bad Bears are only in stories.  Things in stories aren't always real.  Bear cubs know that!  And bear cubs know that growling is only for show. You must never attack another bear, but only growl and attack the air." 

The two bear friends were telling whole armies of angry bears what every bear mother had told every one of those bears when they had been young cubs.  Some of the bears were roaring like mad at their enemies.  Some of the bears were beginning to listen.  Some of the bears were stopping and looking carefully at the bears in front of them.

Bears growled, but they didn't attack.  They stopped and looked.  They understood that Steven and Nelson were right.

Nelson and Steven had stopped a war. 

Later, at Nelson's cave, Steven said to his friend, "Do you know why I'm glad you're not really a Bad Bear?"

Nelson nodded.  "I do," he said. "Because then I wouldn't exist.  And you'd be a Bad Bear too and not exist either."

"Exactly," growled Steven. "There'd be no more bears if we weren't all Good Bears, as of course we are!"

"I'm glad," growled Nelson.

Murray-Ryan Budget Dumps 51.4% into Military -- Happy Human Rights Day!

Excerpted from the press release pasted below:

"In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion."

This is an unbelievable outrage for Congress to churn out on International Human Rights Day while numerous members of Congress were off in South Africa claiming to support the use of nonviolence to effect change in the world.

How will the U.S. public react once the media lays bare this incredible proposal? Here's enough money to work wonders in green energy, infrastructure, actual humanitarian aid, education, and many other areas all combined.  This is an amount of money very difficult to comprehend, and it's being dumped into such unpopular projects as the ongoing war on Afghanistan.

One has to wonder how our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "ender" of the war, President Barack Obama might respond should Congress send him such a budget.  I'm sure he'll be hard-pressed not to assume he's dreaming when he reads these numbers.  I'm sure ...

Oh, wait.  What?

Obama wanted 57% to go to militarism?


 

 

I see. I get it. Don't you get it? This is 18-dimensional chess. By proposing an outrageous budget, Obama motivated Congress to scale back to something slightly less outrageous. He never could have talked them into that. This took strategic planning and plotting.  Probably some people actually fell for it, actually thought Obama wanted funding for the wars he continues and launches. Pretty funny.

CONTACT:
Murray Press Office:(202) 224-5398
Ryan Press Office: (202) 226-6100

Murray and Ryan Announce Bipartisan Budget-Conference Agreement

Two-year budget agreement would avoid government shutdown in January, provide certainty to businesses and families, and return budget process to regular order

Bipartisan agreement would provide sequester relief for defense and domestic priorities—fully offset by concrete savings and reforms—and further reduce the deficit

Short-term agreement breaks through partisan gridlock and can serve as foundation for continued bipartisan work

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have reached a two-year budget agreement in advance of the budget conference’s December 13th deadline.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” said Chairman Ryan. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Chairman Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion—about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Bipartisan Budget Act first, followed by the Senate. If this bill is signed into law, the appropriations committees will then be able to work on spending bills at an agreed-upon level in advance of the January 15th deadline.


The Anti-Empire Report #123

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:

How Can I help Cut the Military Budget by 25 to 50%?

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.

Recent news reports indicate that Murray and Ryan are close to a deal to reduce the military spending cut by $20 to $30 billion a year for the next two years.

Here are the next three steps, with details below:

Educate and Mobilize your Community

Pressure Congress

Join the Day of Action December 10

Details on the next three steps:

Educate and Mobilize your Community

1. Widely circulate the links to the petitionand sign on letter(sign here) to your friends, co-workers, neighbors. More than 100 organizations have signed on the letter.

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.

3. Write letters to the Editor. See this sample.Write a longer op ed, Do radio and TV talk shows. Here is a more recent op ed.

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.

Pressure Congress

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.

Would U.S. Be Selling Saudi Arabia Weapons if Everyone Knew It Funded 9-11?

Pentagon Approves Record Sale Of Advanced Arms To Countries At War
Congress will decide if deal first struck by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in April should go through.

By

... 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?

Boeing Co. (BA) and Raytheon Co. (RTN) sent a message of support from the Obama administration for setting up the deal with these two close allies in the Middle East.

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. ...

READ THE REST.

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.

Keeping it unreal in Dallas: JFK 50th Anniversary and 'The Eyes of Texas' (Pt. I)

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.


Groups Call on Congress to Make Massive Cuts in Runaway Military Spending

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.

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen Kinzer on The Dulles Brothers

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talknationradio-20131120

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.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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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.

'Bombs in the Basement' -- a new TCBH! poem by resident poet GARY LINDORFF

Today my toast looks like Christ, 

like planet earth, 

like Venus

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, 

In the US Social Security’s ‘just a floor’: In Finland Saunas are Hot, Retirement is Cool

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.


A ‘60-Minutes’ Scandal: Lara Logan, Hotness and Benghazi Gone Wild

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.

Let's Take Advantage of Suffering Filipinos!

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.


A Modest Proposal: Let's Flip the NSA's Talents From the Dark Side to the Bright Side

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.

Government gangsterism: NSA’s ‘MUSCULAR’ Program Secretly Invaded the Google and Yahoo Servers

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.

What’s done abroad can be done at home too...: Is NSA spying really about blackmail?

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.


From 1961 to Egypt today; Eisenhower’s warnings & advice hold true

 

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.

Twittered Out: Washington Does Not Like Snarky

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.

Always and Everywhere: The New York Times and the Enduring “Threat” of Isolationism

By Andrew J. Bacevich  TomDispatch

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

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