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Military Industrial Complex


Congress should stop blowing smoke: Weed to the Rescue in Budget Crisis?

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.

Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.

‘Freedom’s just another word...’ The Police State of America

By Dave Lindorff


I no longer recognize my country.

Back in 1997, after two years living in China, and five more living in Hong Kong, during which time, as a correspondent for Business Week magazine, I slipped in and out of China regularly as a journalist to report on developments there, I got a good dose of life in a totalitarian society. When I alit from the plane in Philadelphia where my family and I were about to start a new chapter of our lives, I remember feeling like a big weight had been lifted off my chest.

After decades US still has huge poison gas stash: Washington Demands Syria Destroy Chemical Weapons Lickety-Split

By Dave Lindorff

 
The US is demanding, in negotiations at the UN, that all Syrian chemical weapons, stocks and production facilities be eliminated by June 30 of next year. This has an element of hypocrisy, because the US itself has been incredibly slow about eliminating its own stocks of chemical weapons.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to Syria as having one of the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. But the US and Russia both still have stocks of chemicals many times as large. Syria’s neighbor Israel, which refuses to admit it has the weapons and has yet to ratify the treaty banning them, is suspected of also having a large arsenal.

We don’t gas children, we shred them: Obama’s Grotesque Hypocrisy over Cluster Munitions

By Dave Lindorff


Syrian civilians and children should count themselves lucky that mass opposition in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world to the idea of a US bombing blitz aimed at punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using Sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood forced the US to back off and accept a Russian deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.


Beating Swords Into Solar Panels

Re-Purposing America's War Machine

By Mattea Kramer and Miriam Pemberton

Tom Dispatch

A trillion dollars.  It's a lot of money.  In a year it could send 127 million college students to school, provide health insurance for 206 million people, or pay the salaries of seven million schoolteachers and seven million police officers.  A trillion dollars could do a lot of good.  It could transform or save a lot of lives.  Now, imagine doubling the money; no, tripling it.  How about quadrupling it, maybe quintupling it, or even sextupling it?  Unfortunately, you really will have to imagine that, because the money to do it isn’t there.  It was (or will be) spent on Washington’s disastrous post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

War, the military-industrial complex, and the national security state that go with it cost in every sense an arm and a leg.  And that, in the twenty-first century, has been where so many American tax dollars have gone.

That’s because the cost of war always turns out to be more than estimated.  Who could forget the $60 billion high-end figure the Bush administration offered in early 2003 as its estimate for its coming invasion of Iraq? A decade later, we’ve spent $814 billion in Iraq to date with the full price tag yet to come in. Recently, when the Obama administration was planning to launch Tomahawk missiles against Syria, just about nobody even bothered to talk about what it would have cost. (Before Washington even considered such a strike, the Tomahawk program was already costing U.S. taxpayers $36,000 per hour all year long.)

This reality has slowly sunk into American consciousness, which may be why the public in opinion polls has proven so clearly opposed to jumping into another overseas conflict when tax dollars are desperately needed at home.

And those Tomahawk missiles are just icing on the cake of what this country spends on its military and the national security state that goes with it, estimated at nearly a trillion dollars a year. A fire hose of taxpayer cash -- to the tune of around $600 billion -- gets pumped into the Department of Defense each year (and that doesn’t include the “civilian” intelligence community or the Department of Homeland Security). 

The spending on that war machine is so profligate, in fact, that the Pentagon has never successfully completed an audit; its officials can’t even tell you where all that money goes. The U.S. accounts for a staggering 40% of all military expenditures globally. And some members of Congress -- their bread buttered by military contractors -- are ready to use the next war, whether in Syria or elsewhere, as a pretext to sustain or even expand our current wartime military budget.

Early Experiments in Civilianizing the Military Economy

Here’s what no one is talking about: maintaining that staggering level of military funding would mean squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity. That’s because right now is a rare moment when two pieces of bad news Americans are accustomed to hearing could be converted into one piece of very good news.

First, there’s the bad news that threatens to change the course of human civilization. Following a year of record wild fires and droughts, crop failures, record flooding, and the punishing winds and waves of Hurricane Sandy, there’s the urgent crisis of climate change, already well underway. Intertwined with that is the mammoth problem of how to feed humanity’s insatiable appetite for energy, while somehow radically cutting our consumption of fossil fuels.

Then there’s a separate item of bad news: misguided budget cuts in Washington are pulling funding from obviously important investments like natural disaster preparedness, infrastructure improvements, the criminal justice system, and early-childhood education, among many other things. Budget-cutting fever in the capital shows no sign of subsiding, even though arguments for austerity have been debunked and our annual federal budget deficit has fallen sharply.

How, then, can these dismal pieces of news be transformed into the best thing you’ve heard in a while?

Budget cuts at the Pentagon were long considered an impossibility and a formula in Congress for political suicide. Now, the austerity movement’s first major initiative in Washington, known as “sequestration,” those mandated, take-no-prisoners, across-the-board cuts in federal spending instituted by Congress, have in fact accomplished what nothing else could: the first downsizing of our defense spending in this century.

Admittedly, in the scheme of overall U.S. military spending, those cuts remain marginal.  Sequestration shaved around $40 billion from the Pentagon’s funding this year -- which is a modest figure relative to that $600 billion budget.  Still, it’s a start. With these cuts already underway and slated to continue in 2014, we can at least begin to imagine what sort of resources it might be possible to free from the military economy and how, if we’re smart, these could help fuel our transition to a low-carbon, twenty-first-century economy that would work for us and for the planet.

That’s because it’s possible to “harvest” military-generated technology and repurpose it for this task. As the sequestration cuts begin to bite into the defense sector, some high-tech production facilities and the workforce that goes with them will need to find a new purpose. Taxpayers have invested billions of dollars over decades in developing inventive technology, building infrastructure, and training skilled workers to fulfill military contracts for the war economy. It’s time for the American public to start seeing all this harnessed to new purposes, first among them tackling our climate crisis.

As it happens, some savvy and forward-looking outfits in the military sector have already begun converting their know-how into green-tech manufacturing.

Take, for instance, Bath Iron Works, the largest employer in Maine.  For several decades, the company has gotten most of its revenue from building and maintaining destroyers for the Navy. Now, however, it has joined an initiative to develop deep-water, offshore wind power, with the goal of making Maine the leading state in the nation in such technology and the production systems that go with it.

Oregon Iron Works has similarly built its expertise by fulfilling contracts for the U.S. military. Now, it’s diversifying into renewable energy, noting proudly that its “history of innovation in the marine industry gives [it] the ability to produce high-quality, cost effective Wave and Tidal energy devices.”

The Philadelphia Naval Shipyard dates back to 1776.  Its workforce peaked at 40,000 during World War II. The end of the Cold War brought an end to most naval activities at the yard, and today that industrial space has been re-imagined as an expansive corporate campus that includes a green technology incubator site and research collaboration between private business and universities.

In the same spirit, Connecticut, which has a sizeable defense industry, passed first-of-its-kind legislation this year to establish an economic development advisory committee aimed at helping defense contractors move into “environmentally sustainable” sectors of the economy. The committee is also charged with better aligning the state’s educational institutions with its manufacturing sector to ensure that its workforce of the future has training in the skills that green industries will need.

Downsizing the Global Military Mission, Building a Civilian Economy

These are promising examples of how to begin the process of converting from a war economy to a civilian one, and they provide reason for optimism, but they are also small potatoes when compared to what might be possible. Consider the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, a vast facility that repairs and rebuilds submarines. It spans 800 acres, contains 30 miles of paved roads and four miles of waterfront, employs 6,750 civilian workers, and has its own police and fire departments. Examining the current job categories at the shipyard reveals a skills base ready to be tapped to develop and produce green-energy technology. From electrical engineers and chemists to machinists, metal workers, and crane operators, there’s plenty of overlap between existing man- and womanpower in military industry and what’s needed for the robust growth of this country’s green energy sector.

For now, though, the shipyard is still doing submarines. And it will keep doing them until Congress makes new and different plans for this country.

A great deal of good can happen if military contractors and militarized communities, one by one, see the writing on the wall and move away from economic dependence on Cold War weapons systems, investing instead in new energy technology. But for such a transition to happen on a national scale, there would have to be a lot more of that writing on far more walls.  Even though cuts to the military budget have gone from fantasy to reality, many lawmakers still don’t support substantial reductions in military spending and hope to prevent additional cuts from taking place in 2014. 

To really move this country in a new direction, the Pentagon budget would have to be cut substantially. Not by 7% as now, but by at least 20%, and for that to happen, the American global military mission and posture would have to be downsized in significant ways.  Recent polling around the Syrian crisis indicates that the public might indeed be ready to consider such changes.  Whether Congress and the rest of Washington’s elite would be is obviously another matter.

Right now lawmakers are loath to cut funding if it means erasing military jobs in their districts, and the military-industrial complex has been particularly clever in the way it has spread its projects across every state and so many localities. Converting military contracts into green energy contracts would make redirecting wasteful military spending more politically feasible, and the federal government already operates an array of programs -- including the Pentagon's own Office of Economic Adjustment -- that could be expanded to help businesses and communities make the transition.

Moving public dollars into this country’s renewable energy sector could begin to lay the groundwork for a vibrant economy in the second and third decades of this century, while creating good jobs in a growth sector, working toward energy security, and helping this country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Like the construction of our interstate highway system in the 1950s, it’s an investment that would pay dividends for decades to come.

Or we can skip all that and launch the next war.

Mattea Kramer is Research Director at National Priorities Project and lead author of A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget. Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and during the post-Cold War period, she worked for Seymour Melman at his National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Mattea Kramer and Miriam Pemberton

Is Dithering Always Bad?: Trust and Verify and Vomit

By John Grant


The media didn’t waste time lining up US leaders to trash Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. There was the expected outrage that such a “dictator” and “tyrant” had the gall to lecture the United States of America. Bill O’Reilly referred to Putin as “a criminal monster.” Charles Krauthammer kept it real and called Putin "a KGB thug.”

New Video Short about the Cancerous Militarization of the US, produced by Class War Films

For a timely explanation of the crisis of the militarization of America, days after popular opposition, in a historic first, blocked a US war -- in this case against the sovereign nation of Syria -- check out this film by Lanny Cotler and Paul Edwards of Class War Films

To view the film, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net

Nobel Laureate president defends unprovoked war against Syria: Obama Offers No Evidence Assad Ordered Syria Poison Gas Attack

By Dave Lindorff


In what NPR called “perhaps President Obama’s last best chance” to make his case for launching a war against Syria, the president tellingly didn’t make a single effort to present hard, compelling evidence to prove that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged Sarin Aug. 21 attack on residents of a suburb of Damascus.


Not one piece of evidence.

Interview: Students, Faculty Protest Presence of David Petraeus at CUNY Honors College

Cross-Posted from FireDogLake

On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.

A people’s victory over Syrian attack plan: In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.


Military Cancer

White House lies to launch the next illegal war: There is no Justification for Obama’s War on Syria

By Dave Lindorff 


The Obama administration’s campaign for war against Syria is so flagrantly wrong, so ill-advised and so illegal, that it is making a fool of both the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.


Hopeful and disturbing signs in an unscientific neighborhood survey: Anti-War Conservatives and War-Monger Liberals

By Dave Lindorff


I just had two discussions with neighbors in my suburb of Philadelphia that offer both a hope that the Republican-run House may block President Obama’s war on Syria, and a warning that liberal Democrats could hand him the narrow majority he needs to claim Congressional backing for his war.

The Big Dog and Its Tail: Who’s Hiding Behing the ‘Making Assad Accountable’ Mask?

By John Grant


Responses to wrongdoing must not exacerbate problems.
            - Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute
 
 
Watching news coverage of the debate over bombing Syria, one realizes there’s more going on than Barack Obama or John Kerry are telling Congress and the American people. Kerry may have sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- but that doesn’t mean he has to tell the whole story.

Busted for Playing Banjo on Independence Mall: Park Rangers Brutally Arrest Iraq War Vet at Anti-Syria Bombing Demo

By Dave Lindorff


Independence Mall, Philadelphia -- The US has yet to launched President Obama’s latest war crime of massively bombing Syria -- a country that does not threaten this nation -- and already federal police thugs, in this case National Park Service Rangers, have brutally arrested an Iraq War Veteran who was peacefully playing her banjo in the shade on Independence Mall in Philadelphia following an anti-war protest and march.


Hackers do damage but government and corporations are the real problem: Internet Hackers and the Real Threat They Expose

By Alfredo Lopez


While certainly not over-shadowing the Obama Administration's military threats against Syria, the cyber attack that brought the mighty New York Times [1] to its knees last week is a major development and should get us all thinking.

Obama’s and Kerry’s Big Lie: White House Document “Proving” Syria’s Guilt Doesn’t Pass Smell Test

By Dave Lindorff

 

The document released on the White House web site to “prove” to the American people that the Syrian government had used poison gas -- allegedly the neurotoxin Sarin -- to kill hundreds of civilians, is so flawed and lacking in real proof that if it were being used to make a case against a terrorist group it would be too weak to justify an indictment.


Public opposition halts march to war: Obama Backs Down, Seeks Congressional Okay for Syria Attack

By Dave Lindorff


The forces arrayed in Washington propelling the nation into a war against Syria, including the Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the cabal of neo-conservative pundits and “think” tanks, whose ranks include President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, the arms industry, the oil industry and other groups, are very powerful, and it may well be that eventually sheer momentum will lead to a US bombing attack on Syria. But for the moment, a grass-roots anti-war campaign has triumphed. 


Manning get’s slammed; a mass-murderer got sprung Crimes and Punishment (or Not)

By Dave Lindorff


Right now I’m thinking about William Laws Calley. 


700 dead and counting in Egypt: Despite Hand Wringing, Massacres Suit US Policy

By John Grant

 
Watching the White House squirm over the on-going massacres in Egypt one doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or resort to the vaudevillian method and throw rotten vegetables at them.

President Obama's “condemnation” of the Egyptian military’s massacre of civilians sounded like obligatory ass-covering. Then there was the slippery boiler-plate verbiage spouted by the White House’s new spokesman with the wonderfully apropos name of Josh Earnest. I wouldn't josh you, that's his name. And trust me, he’s the personification of earnestness.

Confronting the latest attack on our privacy and freedom: Lavabit's Profile in Corporate Principles and Personal Courage

By Alfredo Lopez


The term "collateral damage" is most frequently applied to the "non-targeted" death and destruction brought by bombs and guns. But it seems that our government, the master of collateral damage, is now doing it in "non-violent" ways. Take the recent situation at Lavabit.

Is America playing its last card?: Pissing Off Friends is a Doomed Strategy

By Dave Lindorff


Like an obnoxious drunk harassing everyone and spilling drinks at a party, the US has continued to make itself both loathed and laughed at in the wake of the revelations about the National Security Agency’s global spying program as revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. 


Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden: Whistleblowers as Modern Tricksters

By John Grant


Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.

                      -Paul Radin

 

Manning, Snowden and Swarz: America’s Police State Marches On, Media in Tow

By Dave Lindorff


The New York Times, in an editorial published the day after a military judge found Pvt. Bradley Manning “not guilty” of “aiding the enemy” -- a charge that would have locked him up for life without possibility of parole and could have carried the death penalty -- but also found him guilty on multiple counts of “espionage,” called the verdict “Mixed.” Not guilty of aiding the enemy, guilty of espionage.


There Should Be No Sighs of Relief: Manning Verdict a Very Pyrrhic Victory

By Alfredo Lopez


The Bradley Manning verdict may seem a victory of sorts for the defense -- it's certainly being treated that way in the mainstream media -- but the decision handed down Tuesday by Court Marshal Judge Colonel Denise Lind is actually a devastating blow not only to Manning, who was convicted of unjustifiably serious charges brought by an aggressive administration seeking to make an example of him, but also to Internet activity in general and information-sharing in particular.

Bradley Manning Case: The Slow Death of Democracy

Op-Ed by David Gespass for MLTF

Today, although he was acquitted of aiding the enemy, Bradley Manning was found guilty of five counts of violating the Espionage Act. It has long been said that military justice is to justice what military music is to music, but Manning’s prosecution has failed to clear that low bar. Since his arrest in 2010 and the long road to his court martial, the government has perverted the values it claims to represent, and made a mockery of its military justice system. The case has been a travesty since it began. Manning was tortured, held for years before trial, and overcharged. While the process of “justice” for Bradley Manning will proceed through the sentencing phase and appeals process—along with continued advocacy for a full pardon and release—it’s a good time to reflect on the most egregious of the government’s sins thus far.

That most charming of couples: Nationalism and hypocrisy

By William Blum

It’s not easy being a flag-waving American nationalist. In addition to having to deal with the usual disillusion, anger, and scorn from around the world incited by Washington’s endless bombings and endless wars, the nationalist is assaulted by whistle blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed a steady stream of human-rights and civil-liberties scandals, atrocities, embarrassing lies, and embarrassing truths. Believers in “American exceptionalism” and “noble intentions” have been hard pressed to keep the rhetorical flag waving by the dawn’s early light and the twilight’s last gleaming.

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