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Vieques Vive La Lucha Continua 10 years after the bombing stopped

By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques

Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot.   On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed.  People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.

There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests.  But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez.  That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world.  A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested.  The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003.  Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.

A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.

Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico.  It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.

But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.

An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions.  This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with. 

Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.

In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities. 

Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island.  Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet.  There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well.  You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.

For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque.  The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees.  In 1493, the conquistadors arrived.  In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident.  Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.

From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar.  English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane.  They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike.  The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917.  The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.

In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners.  Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves.  The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses.  Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.

Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30.  Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.

From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques.  Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN.  Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea.  Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.

The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.

The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer.  According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women.  Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped.  A boy was killed by gang rape.  Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women.  A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing.  And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead.  Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing:  "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years.  It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house.  We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening.  When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me.  In the school, you could hear the bombing.  You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise.  People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years.  It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."

A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order.  We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.

But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today.  The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people.  There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island.  The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.

There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities.  There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind.  Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes.  Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy.  All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island.  Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water.  Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.

With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food.  Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans.  But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.

Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques."  But that promise remains unfulfilled.

Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,

"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates.  The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East.  The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.

"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques.  An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."

". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade.  We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."

People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:

"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:

"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases.  Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health.  Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.

"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy.  Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance.  Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.

"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.

"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques.  Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."

For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.

Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group.  She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities.  Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Reaping the Whirlwind: A Violent Act Again in a Violent Nation

 

By Dave Lindorff


I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race -- about four hours from the starting gun -- that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.

Manning's Co-Defendant is the Internet Itself Bradley Manning Update: How to Commit Espionage Without Trying!

 

By Dave Lindorff


If it wasn't clear up to now, it was made crystal clear last week. The co-defendent in the Bradley Manning trial is the Internet itself.

Money for Militarism, not for People: Obama’s Betrayal of Social Security

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

What’s wrong with the Obama administration’s proposal to change the way Social Security checks are adjusted for inflation from using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to instead using something called a “chained” CPI?

Let’s start with the fundamental problem: Social Security is not a cause of the federal budget deficit, and will not be for years, even if nothing is done to raise more revenue for the program.

NO CUTS! NO TAX INCREASES ON ORDINARY PEOPLE! Chase Down Mega-Rich Tax Cheats and Recover the Offshore Trillion$

 

By Dave Lindorff


Hold everything!


I mean it. Stop talking about cutting school budgets, Social Security benefits, Medicare, Veteran’s pensions. Stop cutting subsidies to transit systems, to foreign aid. Stop cutting unemployment benefits. Stop it all.

Crashing the 2-Party System: The Way Forward is a Single-Issue Social Security Defense Party

 

By Dave Lindorff


The history of third parties in America is pretty dismal. The system is rigged against them, for one thing. But equally problematic is the lack of focus that leads to infighting and splits whenever a third party is created.


The Future's So Much More Fun than the Past: How to Avoid the Bummer Myth

 

By John Grant


“The elite always has a Plan B, while people have no escape.”
            - Ahmad Saadawi


The Real Obama? The Devil...is in The Details

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


The HISTORY channel is catching righteous hell for crafting the character of Satan in its miniseries “The Bible” to bear an uncanny likeness to U.S. President Barak Obama.

Is it just coincidence that the dark-skinned Satan in this HISTORY channel miniseries looks hauntingly similar to the first black man to occupy the Oval Office seat in America’s White House?

A Great American In History Hugo Chavez and the Knuckleheads

 

By John Grant


Sean Hannity grinned and seemed to bounce up and down like he was plugged into an electric socket as he ripped into Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who had just succumbed to cancer. Hannity was joined in his death gloat by Michelle Malkin, one of the more delightfully odious voices on the far right.

Sex Added to Latest Lockheed Martin Corruption

If Maryland is stopped in its efforts to force Montgomery County to give Lockheed Martin millions of dollars, we may never know whether that could have been done without sex.  And that's a shame.  Yet it certainly should be reported that, according to Maryland Juice, "a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin may be dating one of the bill's sponsors in the State Senate. Several Annapolis sources are now indicating to Maryland Juice that State Senator Rob Garagiola is currently romantically involved with lobbyist Hannah Powers of the Alexander & Cleaver firm. But Garagiola is a sponsor of the Lockheed welfare bill, and Powers is a lobbyist for Lockheed. If true, this seems like a massive conflict of interest."

True, He’s the First Black President But Obama’s the Worst President Ever

 

By Ron Ridenour


Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!


We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.


Maryland: A Government of, by, and for Lockheed Martin

What's the world's biggest war profiteer to do if it already owns the federal government but is having trouble kicking around the local government of Montgomery County, Maryland, where it's headquartered?  Why, hire the state of Maryland to step in, of course. 

Lockheed Martin lives by killing, although nobody ever gives it a background check before allowing it another weapon.  Such a background check would reveal Lockheed Martin to be the number one top offender among U.S. government contractors.  When Congress was defunding ACORN for imaginary crimes alleged by a fraudster who is now having to compensate his victims, one Congresswoman proposed a bill to defund government contractors actually guilty of crimes.  Passing such a bill would strip Lockheed Martin of some 80% of its income. 

The list of abuses by Lockheed Martin includes contract fraud, unfair business practices, kickbacks, mischarges, inflated costs, defective pricing, improper pricing, unlicensed exporting to foreign nations (Lockheed Martin sells weapons to governments of all sorts around the world), air and water pollution, fraud, bribery, federal election law violations, overbilling, radiation exposure, age discrimination, illegal transfer of information to China, falsification of testing records, embezzlement, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, bid-rigging, and much more.

Why, one might ask, does the federal government give such a company a dime, much less $40 billion per year?  Why is it intent on dumping over a trillion dollars into Lockheed Martin for the most expensive and least functioning airplane in history, the F-35?  Lockheed not only funds Republicans and Democrats alike with over $3 million per election cycle, lobbies officials for another $30 million, hires former officials, and shapes corporate news, but Lockheed Martin also creates local panics by threatening to notify every one of its employees that they might be fired if U.S. war preparations spending doesn't continue to grow. 

The pseudo-debate of recent years between those who want to cut healthcare and retirement spending and those who oppose all cuts is a debate that any news outlet interested in selling advertising to Lockheed Martin can accept without hesitation.  A debate over what we actually should cut and what we should instead invest in more heavily would be a different matter.

Of course, we can all send emails to Congress.  Lockheed Martin can too.  But Lockheed Martin, unlike the rest of us, also owns the email system through which Congress receives our communications.

Lockheed Martin is based in suburban Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County, Md.  For years, Lockheed Martin and its friends at the Washington Post have been trying to get the local government to excuse the patrons of Lockheed Martin's luxury hotel from paying taxes.  Montgomery County is home to terrific peace activists who can, of course, get virtually nowhere with Congress, but who can make their voices heard locally.  This has frustrated Lockheed Martin no end.  I recommend reading this article by Jean Athey from a year ago, describing the work she and others have done.  An excerpt:

"Let's put this tax exemption proposal in perspective by taking a quick look at Lockheed Martin's finances. In 2010 the company took home $3.9 billion in profits from the portion of its business that is paid directly by taxpayers (84 percent). Lockheed Martin's CEO, Robert Stevens, received $21.9 million in compensation in 2011.  So this company is doing quite well for itself, thanks to the taxpayers, and our largesse will continue into the future. . . . When Lockheed Martin's own employees stay at the CLE, according to the Post, the corporation passes on the costs of the hotel tax to the appropriate federal contract. In other words, Lockheed Martin is already compensated by the federal government for any lodging costs the company incurs, and given federal procurement regulations, the company can charge indirect costs on top of the local taxes it pays. This means that Lockheed Martin gets its money back, with interest, on its employee lodging costs.  Even if Lockheed Martin didn't get that money back, it would still make no sense to exempt this extremely wealthy company from paying a tax on employee lodging costs. The company also invites contractors and vendors to stay at the hotel. Why should these people not be required to pay a tax that they would pay if they instead chose to stay at the Marriott?  In reality, Lockheed Martin rents rooms to more than its employees, contractors and vendors. It uses its world-class conference center for . . . conferences. . . . It is extraordinary that the company would make an issue of this tax. Although the amount of money—$450,000 per year—is significant to Montgomery County, it is essentially a rounding error for Lockheed Martin.  There's more: not only are Lockheed Martin and The Washington Post furious at the county council for questioning the wisdom of a special million-dollar gift to Lockheed Martin to compensate it for having to pay the tax. They are also still irate that in 2011 the council briefly considered a non-binding resolution asking Congress to support the needs of local communities and cut military spending. Lockheed Martin suddenly had a job for a few of its 91 lobbyists: kill the resolution, which they did."

Here's Jean Athey, speaking this Saturday about the latest developments:

"Lockheed Martin lost the battle in 2011 to convince Montgomery County's council to change the definition of 'hotel' so as to exempt guests at the company's luxury hotel from being subject to a 7% hotel tax that everyone else has to pay. Now, Maryland's state government is considering a bill to force the county to do so, and it looks very likely to pass. This is an unbelievable and outrageous example of corporate welfare, designed for one of the wealthiest companies in the nation.  The bill is also an egregious example of state interference in a local issue and so further diminishes democracy."

This latest outrage has passed a state senate committee, and a companion bill is being considered by the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates.  Here's the Washington Post.  This bill (PDF) would force Montgomery County to exempt Lockheed Martin's conference hotel from the county's hotel tax. In addition, it requires the County to reimburse Lockheed Martin $1.4 million for taxes it has paid the County to date for hotel taxes.

The state legislature, in introducing this bill, did not go through the county delegation prior to presenting it, even though the bill will only affect Montgomery County. Senator Jamie Raskin, for example, only found out about the bill Saturday morning.  He opposes it. 

He should oppose it.  We all should.  There is still a glimmer of representative government in some of our localities.  People are able to get involved in local issues, have some influence, and see majority opinion rule the day.  This is, of course, why people concerned about national and international issues take resolutions to local governments.  Unlike Congress, local governments sometimes listen.  But sometimes when they listen too much, state governments or the federal government will step in and overrule them. 

This is an assault on democracy, not just on the budget of Montgomery County and the balance of wealth in a nation that has created a Wall-Street-and-War-Making aristocracy.  When I worked for ACORN we used to pass restrictions on predatory lending or increases in minimum wages at the local level.  Then the banks or the hotels and restaurants would go to the state level and preempt them.  This was an outrage, but what did ACORN members really count for after all?  Some of them were probably on welfare!

Well, what should we call a tax break for one of the most profitable corporations in the nation, a tax break on expenses it's going to bill to the government anyway?  I'd call it welfare for the undeserving rich, except that it's not really about their welfare.  It's about their insatiable greed.

If you live in Maryland or even if you don't, please contact the legislature to oppose Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 815.  Lockheed Martin is using national resources (ours, in fact, courtesy of the Pentagon and NASA) to turn the state of Maryland against the people of Maryland.  Why shouldn't those of us who care speak up, too, and ask everyone we know in Maryland to do the same?

Senate sponsor:  Nancy King:  nancy.king@senate.state.md.us

Senate cosponsors:
James Degrange:
james.degrange@senate.state.md.us
Jennie Forehand: 
jennie.forehand@senate.state.md.us
Rob Garagiola: 
rob.garagiola@senate.state.md.us
Katherine Klausmeier:   katherine.klausmeier@senate.state.md.us
Roger Manno: roger.manno@senate.state.md.us
Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.
Douglas Peters: 
douglas.peters@senate.state.md.us

House sponsor:  Anne Kaiser:  anne.kaiser@house.state.md.us

House cosponsors:
Kumar Barve: 
kumar.barve@house.state.md.us
Jon Cardin:  jon.cardin@house.state.md.us
Brian Feldman: 
brian.feldman@house.state.md.us
C. William Frick: 
bill.frick@house.state.md.us
Guy Guzzone:
guy.guzzone@house.state.md.us
Jolene Ivey: 
jolene.ivey@house.state.md.us
Eric Luedtke: 
eric.luedtke@house.state.md.us
Aruna Miller:  aruna.miller@house.state.md.us
John Olszewski:  john.olszewski@house.state.md.us
Kirill Reznik:    kirill.reznik@house.state.md.us

Journalistic Malpractice at the Post and the Times Rejecting the Offer of Evidence of US War Crimes

 

 By Dave Lindorff


Thanks to the courageous action of Private Bradley Manning, the young soldier who has been held for over two years by the US military on trumped-up charges including espionage and aiding the enemy, we now have solid evidence that the country’s two leading news organizations, the Washington Post and the New York Times, are not interesting in serious reporting critical of the government.

Gun “Background Check” on Pentagon

By Norman Solomon

Stringent “background checks” are central to many proposals for curbing gun violence. The following is a background check on the nation’s largest buyer of firearms:

The applicant, U.S. Pentagon, seeks to purchase a wide variety of firearms in vast quantities. This background check has determined that the applicant has a long history of assisting individuals, organizations and governments prone to gun violence.

Pentagon has often served as an active accomplice or direct perpetrator of killings on a mass scale. During the last 50 years, the applicant has directly inflicted large-scale death and injuries in numerous countries, among them the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan (partial list). Resulting fatalities are estimated to have been more than 5 million people.

Individual Honor versus Unpleasant History The Battle Still Rages Over What Vietnam Means

 

By John Grant


"The experience we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is thus a lie -- the truth lies rather outside, in what we do."

                -- Slavoj Zizek

Droning On: The US and the M Word

 

By Dan DeWalt


‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’

             -- Richard M. Nixon



Watch Your Wallet! Much Ado about Nothing in Budget Debate

 

By Dave Lindorff


By Dave Lindorff


All the sturm and drang in Washington over the March 1 deadline for a budget deal is an act. Two acts really.

Congress: End Endless War and Stop Becoming “the Evil That We Deplore”

By Norman Solomon

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

Prior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor. “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have. That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch. The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine. Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

When Is a Cut Not a Cut? When It's in the Pentagon's Budget

Bloomberg:

Even if the budget cuts happen, U.S. defense spending is projected to grow about 2.4 percent annually through 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The military, the defense industry and their allies in Congress have gone to war over the automatic cuts, called sequestration, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other leaders saying they would devastate the military.

Read both paragraphs together a few times.

Meet 6 Politicians Getting Rich from America's Endless Wars

The "defense" industry is a powerful and influential lobby.

War is a racket, and perpetual war is a money-printing machine. Though the defense industry as a whole contributes relatively little to members of Congress compared to, say, the pharmaceutical lobby, it remains an incredibly powerful and influential lobby. Below are the six members of the House whose primary industry donor in the 2012 election cycle was the "defense" sector. (Numbers are from the Center for Responsive Politics, unless otherwise noted.)

1. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA): $566,100 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

It's impossible to talk about defense industry beneficiaries without mentioning Buck McKeon. He became the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee in 2009, and then the chairperson after the GOP took the House in the 2010 election. Donations from the defense sector to his 2012 campaign dwarfed all other House campaigns, with McKeon bringing in a whopping $566,100.

That big pile of money certainly seems to have made McKeon a friend to the military. As part of the House, McKeon doesn't have the opportunity to vote on Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, but he still publicly opposed the appointment, due to Hagel's presumed willingness to back defense spending cuts. A statement on McKeon's website reads in part, “[Hagel's] refusal to shut the door on further defense cuts put him at stark odds with the current Defense Secretary and military leaders.” McKeon is also, predictably, against a round of planned automatic cuts to domestic spending and the military budget, known as the sequester, which he has said could “start costing lives.”

Regarding the US' longest war, McKeon thinks it hasn't gone on long enough. He has called the planned troop drawdown next year, “needlessly fraught with risk,” and said that “our hard-fought gains are fragile and reversible.” If that language sounds familiar, it's because he said almost the same thing regarding troops leaving Iraq. "I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be,” he said in a statement posted on his website. “These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.”

McKeon is predictably hawkish on Iran,  consistently supports providing military aid to Israel, and is in favor of expanding military powers as contained in the 2012 NDAA act, which critics say allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens by the military.

Labor Unions Must Take on Conversion from War to Peace Economy

By Bill Shortell

Shortell is an official with the International Association of Machinists in Connecticut.
 
Diverse forces are now converging in an attempt to carve up the military budget. These are (1) those who would cut it to reduce the deficit. There is considerable logic on their side. The solvency of the nation, in many people's eyes, is threatened by the size of the debt compared with our GDP. About 30% of our government runs on borrowed cash. The same proportion can be applied to the military budget.

Bruce Cumings on “Operational Control” of the South Korean Military

Bruce pictureMost Americans are unaware of the role the U.S. Military has played in Korea since World War II. But, ever since then, the U.S. Military has had “operational control” of the Korean army that continues to this day.

Bruce Cumings, a historian and leading expert on Korea and East Asian American relations explains how and why the U.S. controls a standing army of 650,000. He will also explain why the recent change in U.S. policy of allowing S. Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to reach all of N. Korea, and the sale of drones to S. Korea is causing a rise in tensions between the two Koreas.

At a time when N. Korea is defying the international community and the U.S. for launching rockets and detonating a third nuclear test, the danger of the U.S. being dragged into another conflict with the North because of “operational control” has increased exponentially.

One interesting insight that Bruce offered was that Obama’s “pivot to Asia” isn’t really a pivot to Asia, as it is a pivot out of Afghanistan and the Middle East because the U.S. presence in the Pacific has not changed since the end of WWII. He says, all Obama has done is “”shift”" more resources to places in the South Pacific and East Asia.

Enjoy this informative 10 minute excerpt from the two hour interview with Bruce Cumings.

The LAPD Got their Man How They Wanted Him: Dead

 

By Dave Lindorff


It was clear from the outset when fired LAPD cop Chris Dorner began his campaign of terror against his former employer that the California law enforcement establishment, led by the LAPD itself, had no interest in Dorner surviving to face trial where he could continue to rat out the racist and corrupt underbelly of the one of the country’s biggest police departments.

Wanted: Dead, Not Alive: The LAPD is Afraid of What Renegade Cop Chris Dorner has to Say

 

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s not be too quick to dismiss the “ranting” of renegade LAPD officer Chris Dorner.


Dorner, a three-year police veteran and former Lieutenant in the US Navy who went rogue after being fired by the LAPD, has accused Los Angeles Police of systematically using excessive force, of corruption, of being racist, and of  firing him for raising those issues through official channels.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Audit the Pentagon

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013” for increased transparency and accountability in the defense budget. This bipartisan bill will cut the budget of any Federal agency by five percent that does not receive an independent audit for the previous year. To protect benefits for the nation’s veterans, military personnel accounts and the Defense Health Program would be exempt from cuts.

“The American people want some basic measure of accountability in the way the Pentagon spends tax dollars,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “The Department of Defense’s refusal to provide an audit is a recipe for financial disaster. As the daughter of a veteran, I grew up believing in the power and patriotism of the U.S. military, but being patriotic does not mean blindly accepting bloated Pentagon spending.” 

The Good Intentions That Pave the Road to War

By DIANA JOHNSTONE (previously published at CounterPunch)

Paris. -- Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States.
Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities.  Five years ago, an unlikely “Genocide Prevention Task Force” was set up headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, both veterans of the Clinton administration.
The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell”.  Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide”.  It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor.
Why has the U.S. Government so eagerly endorsed the crusade against “genocide”?

Okay -- Don't Believe Me!

 

I was having a hard time falling asleep

When I heard a loud noise coming from the kitchen.

Probably the cat after a mouse

Knocked something off the counter.

I made my way downstairs

Glad to have an excuse to get vertical.

U.S. to become a second-rate power

By Mike Ferner

(Cue sound of emergency alarms.  Insert graphics for panic, terror, devastation and collapse  here ______.)

Yes, believe it, friends.  That is exactly what Outgoing Secretary of War Panetta said in a Feb. 1 exit interview with USA Today, when asked what effects looming cuts will have on the War Department if Congress fails to reach a budget deal by March 1.

Red-blooded Senate and House members eager to protect the military from even a rumor of a budget cut will certainly welcome Panetta’s words.  Whether it will result in the U.S. becoming a “second-rate power” is a little less certain, considering we now spend as much for war as the rest of the world put together, with perhaps the exception of Upper Volta and the Cayman Islands. 

To put the Secretary’s America-as-second-rate-power fears in perspective, the dreaded “sequestering” of the budget means the Pentagon will have to cut 8 to 9 percent out of this year’s $535 billion dollar budget. 

In the near term, according to USA Today, the cuts would require the Air Force to throttle back on flight training, the Navy to keep ships in port longer and the Army to reduce utility costs at its posts.  The U.S. would be able to handle its commitments in Afghanistan and the Middle East but little else.  And continued sequestration cuts over the next decade would leave the Army with only 390,000 soldiers to guard the Empire’s reaches.

“We are the world's most powerful military, and we use that to promote peace and stability in the world,” Panetta stated.  Whether the sequestration cuts would reduce world peace and stability by more than eight or nine percent this year was not clear, nor were any estimates given on peace and stability reductions over the next decade.

"When we're called upon to do other crises, whether it is in Syria or Mali or North Africa or elsewhere, we may not be able to respond," Panetta said…as the Syrians, Malians, North Africans and Elsewherians breathed a sigh of relief.

But let’s give the devil his due.  In truth, I think the War Secretary is on to something.  For most of us in this country, coming in second would be highly welcome, a real improvement over the current state of affairs, considering that among the nations of the world we are now in:

  • 35th place in keeping our fellow citizens above the poverty line
  • 48th place in infant mortality – keeping babies alive until their first birthday – generally accepted as the best overall indicator of a nation’s health

But take heart, Mr. Outgoing Secretary, we just missed a blue ribbon at something – the amount of money spent on health care.  A “We’re Number One!” award just slipped through our grasp when those cagey Maltans figured out how to spend even more than we do, so now we’re only…well, a second rate power on health care expenses.  You’ve sounded the alarm not a moment too soon.

Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio.  He served as a Navy corpsman during the Vietnam war and is a former president of Veterans For Peace.  Email him at mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net

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