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Military Industrial Complex
By John Grant
There was a moment during MSNBC's live coverage of Ferguson, Missouri, Monday night through 2AM Tuesday morning when Chris Hayes and one of his guests conceded the police (now augmented by National Guard troops said to be guarding a police command center) begrudgingly deserved a good grade because -- unlike riots in Newark and Los Angeles -- no one had been killed. This was after cops had "barked" at Hayes and threatened him with macing if he and his camera crew dared again venture "in front of" the police.
Why You Should Expect More Bombs to be Dropped Everywhere
By William J. Astore, TomDispatch.com
When you do something again and again, placing great faith in it, investing enormous amounts of money in it, only to see indifferent or even negative results, you wouldn’t be entirely surprised if a neutral observer questioned your sanity or asked you if you were part of some cult. Yet few Americans question the sanity or cult-like behavior of American presidents as they continue to seek solutions to complex issues by bombing Iraq (as well as numerous other countries across the globe).
By John Grant
On Monday, I decided to spend my evenings flipping back-and-forth between Fox News and MSNBC as the two cable channels dealt with the dueling stories of the United States tiptoeing into a third war in Iraq and the sudden appearance of what appeared to be a police state in a little town outside St Louis. From Monday to Friday, the Ferguson, Missouri story has gone from that of a bizarre and dangerous war zone to one of a relief-filled carnival in the streets.
The Discovery Channel has been doing a yeoman’s service in visually capturing day-to-day activities of dangerous animals and rare birds in forests untouched by human footfalls, animals living in depths of oceans and animals facing extinction threat.It has been winning laurels for reconstructing the life of tribals and the tribals living in dwellings built on trees, piercing into the areas unknown to the world and untouched by the sunny rays.
(By the way, we can set aside the criticism made by certain media that the channel is stage-managing such rare scenes in their studios and sets.)
However, the magnificence of such rare depictions of animals and tribals cannot camouflage the channel’s failure to speak about animal rights and analyse the reasons for the miseries of the tribals, political factors behind their woes and about the tribal rights.
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League and wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
In many US communities, cops are the ‘terrorists’: Police Need to Be Demilitarized and Remade as ‘Peace Officers’
By Dave Lindorff
The apparent murder by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black youth who was shot a number of times while he was allegedly on his knees with his hands up in the air, pleading “Don’t shoot, I’m not armed,” is exposing everything that is wrong with policing in the US today.
Mathias Paul Quackenbush is an organizer of http://BadHoneywell.org
What's so bad about Honeywell? Let us count the ways!
Quackenbush lives in San Francisco, where he works as a dual diagnosis Residential Counselor and spends most of his remaining time engaging in activism for peace, human rights, and campaign finance reform.
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By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
By Dave Lindorff
There’s an old adage that goes: “You can judge a man by the company he keeps.”
If that’s the case, then applying it to nations, the world has to judge the US to be a truly wretched and repugnant country, and should be steering clear of it.
By Alfredo Lopez
The recent news that Russian hackers have the usernames and passwords for over a billion users as well as a half billion email accounts wraps up a week of Internet craziness.
Killing Lt. Goldin...and 150 innocents: The IDF’s ‘Hannibal Protocol’ and Two Criminally Insane Governments
By Dave Lindorff
The sickness of present-day Israel, on display over the past horrible month of the one-sided slaughter of over 2000 Palestinians (including over 400 children) in the fenced-in ghetto of Gaza, has finally reached its nadir with the ugly case of the deliberate Israeli Defense Force murder of captured IDF 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin.
Democracy...going, going gone: Leaving Brennan as CIA Director Means the Triumph of Secret Government
By Dave Lindorff
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that John Brennan, the director of the CIA who has finally admitted that he lied when he angrily and repeatedly insisted that the agency did not spy on staff members of the Senate committee charged with oversight US intelligence agencies, “has a lot of work to do,” before she can forgive him for lying to and spying on her committee.
By John Grant
At a birthday dinner with friends last night, the Israeli assault on Gaza came up. One friend said having to helplessly watch the violence infuriated him and made him ill. Another said it made him want to cry.
Barbecuing the Palestinians: Once it was Nazis Leveling the Warsaw Ghetto, Now it’s Israel’s IDF Leveling Gaza
By Dave Lindorff
About six years ago, as part of his Bar Mitzvah, my son Jed did a project on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, producing his own graphic novel about the undergound fighters who used courage, creativity and the city’s sewer system to, in some small way, offer resistance to the murderous program of the Nazis to exterminate Poland’s Jews.
Kerry, Kerry pants on fire!: If You Believed the Secretary of State’s Poison Gas Lie, You’ll Love His Latest One
By Dave Lindorff
If the best the US can do to pin the blame for the Malaysia Flight 17 downing on Russia is to have Secretary of State John Kerry say that “circumstantial evidence” points to Moscow being behind it, we can be pretty certain it was not Russia at all.
Unbroken and out to expose US prison system: Exclusive Interview with Police Abuse Victim and Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan
By Dave Lindorff
In an exclusive intervew on the Progressive Radio Network’s “This Can’t Be Happening!” program, Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan, just released after two months of a three-month sentence to the Women’s Prison on Riker’s Island, talks about her conviction on a trumped-up charge of felony assault of a New York Police Officer.
By John Grant
In Spanish, the word hondura means “depth; profundity.” The related word hondomeans “deep, low; bottom.” Hondon means “dell, glen, deep hole.” An example given in my dictionary is meterse en honduras, “to go beyond one’s depth.”
What’s a little espionage among friends?: Station Chief Ousted as CIA Spies Found in German Parliament and Spy Agency
By Dave Lindorff
Munich -- You have to wonder how much more the German public will take of the country’s ongoing humiliation by the United States and its extensive program of secretly spying on what nominally is one of America’s most reliable allies.
By Gar Smith
Sometime this year -- with turmoil in the Middle East at a fever pitch -- the US Navy plans to deploy a new laser weapon aboard the USS Ponce, a naval vessel that has been assigned to engage in "war exercises" off the coast of Iran.
In videos released by the Pentagon, an invisible, yet powerful, beam of energy sets fire to an unmanned drone aircraft flying overhead at some distance. The flaming aircraft tumbles into the ocean. This is the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) at work. The current weapon is a low-power (15-50 kilowatt) prototype of a planned 100 kW "death ray" that could someday fry guided missiles in mid-trajectory.
According to Pentagon officials, the current low-power LaWS could prove useful against (1) slow-flying drones and (2) small boats. The current design is not effective against any target traveling at advanced speeds because the heat-effect builds up slowly – i.e., "it needs time to work."
The distinction is important: This means the laser has no use as a "defensive" weapon. It is an "offensive" weapon, plain and simple.
The Pentagon frequently stages US military exercises off the shores of distant nations as a way of "showing the flag" and "sending a message." The countries targeted for such unsolicited displays of naval might understandably view these intrusions as provocations. Conducting US "war games" in the Persian Gulf region is a dangerous stunt that is fraught with peril. Especially since it runs the risk of a face-off between the US and Iran.
Iran in known to monitor US warships in the waters near its borders and Tehran uses both pilotless drones and speedboats for this purpose. Were the US to use this new laser weapon against Iran's ships or aerial surveillance craft, it could be seen as an act of aggression — risking injury and death to Iranian sailors. If US "field tests" of the new LaWS system happened to bring down and Iranian drone or sink an Iranian patrol boat, that could trigger retaliation from Tehran, leading to further escalations.
Torching Speedboats and Drones
In a test off the California coast in April 2011, the Navy's experimental Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), a solid-state 15-kilowatt solid-state laser, was able to ignite the engines on a small targeted boat. In a matter of seconds, the vessel was set on fire.
In less than three years after Northrop Grumman won a $98 million Navy contract to design the MLD, the prototype – in its very first at-sea trial -- demonstrated its ability to cause "catastrophic failure" on a moving vessel in the open sea.
In an interview with Spencer Ackerman, then the host of Wired magazine's Danger Room blog, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr beamed, "I never thought we'd see this kind of progress this quickly, where we're approaching a decision of when we can put laser weapons on ships."
Solid-state lasers operating in the tens of kilowatts have shown they can be both accurate and deadly – as long as the targets are slow-moving or stationary. Before laser weapons are able to take down a supersonic jet or an incoming missile, it will be necessary to ramp up the weapon's power significantly – to at least 100 kilowatts.
While buoyed by the success of the MLD, Adm. Carr wasn't satisfied. While the MLD's destruction of a small speedboat was "an important data point," he noted, "I still want the Megawatt Death Ray."
The Megawatt Class Death Ray
In 2011, scientists at a weapons lab in Newport News, Virginia, were able to produce a 500kV blast from an electron gun. This success promised to accelerate the development and deployment of a "megawatt-class" laser capable of taking down a missile or slicing holes in an enemy vessel.
The Navy's goal is to perfect a Free Electron Laser (FEL), an energy-beam weapon with adjustable wavelengths that could bore through dust and sea spray to deliver a knockout blow -- burning through enemy vehicles and vessels at the rate of 2,000-feet-of-steel-per-second. (By comparison, the world's most powerful free-electron laser currently is capable of cutting through 20-feet-of-steel-per-second.)
According to Admiral Carr, the arrival of the FEL and the Navy's Mach-8 electromagnetic rail gun will enable the US to begin "fighting at the speed of light and hypersonics."
But for the moment, the Navy must make do with the solid-state MLD.
Death Rays in the Gulf
The timing of a joint US-South Korea "war game" in the waters near North Korea recently lead that country's leader to threaten to rain nuclear-tipped missiles on US holdings from Guam to Nebraska. Despite the rising tensions in the Gulf Region (where Israel's cross-border airstrikes into Syria raise the risks of a spreading regional war), the Pentagon scheduled a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) ran from May 6-30 and involved vessels and personnel from 30 countries.
Commodore Simon Ancona, the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, described the military show-of-force as a "multidisciplinary defense exercise" designed to protect oil tankers, oil terminals and oil and gas exporters in the region. In addition to placing a first-generation "death ray" on board a ship plowing through the waters near Iran, the Pentagon plans to launch drones to provide surveillance information to US-military forces in the region.
Drones are part of the tension equation in the Persian Gulf. On March 14, 2013, Iran scrambled a jet fighter to chase down a US Predator drone that strayed too close to Iranian airspace. The US had two military aircraft shadowing the drone in international waters and, according to CNN, the Iranian jet retreated after "a verbal warning." In November 2012, Iran shot down a US drone over the Persian Gulf.
In April 2013, the New York Times reflected that bolting a death ray to the deck of a US naval vessel "seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the Gulf." As if to drive the message home, the Navy released a video of a LaWS system being tested in the waters off San Diego. A laser beam was trained on a slow-flying drone. In less than five seconds, the aircraft burst into flame and plummeted into the sea.
The 14-kilovolt solid-state LaWS the Navy has installed on the USS Ponce is capable of burning holes in small boats and propeller-driven aircraft. The Navy notes the LaWS will allow US sailors in the Persian Gulf "to easily defeat small boat threats and aerial targets without using bullets." The term "aerial targets" refers to drones.
The Pentagon is well aware of the fact that Iran's favored response to US military activities in Persian Gulf waters is to dispatch small fleets of "fast boats" and swarms of aerial drones.
In the sanitized language of Washington, the depiction of "defeating small boat threats" intentionally ignores the fact that any boats (and aircraft) targeted for destruction will be manned by human beings who will not simply be "defeated," they will also be burned, scarred and incinerated by a new kind of weapon the likes of which the world has never known.
The Pentagon estimates it would take a laser with a power-punch in the 100-kilovolt range to offer any practical defense against an attack from an incoming artillery shell, fighter jet or missile. This underscores the fact that the LaWS can only be used as an offensive weapon, trained on non-threatening or low-threat "targets of opportunity."
Peter A. Morrison, an ONR program officer with the LaWS program, has praised these new laser weapons that the Pentagon is rushing to the battlefield. "The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords," Morrison observes.
But is it reasonable to characterize each new Pentagon weapon as an "advancement"? Especially since every military innovation – from flame-throwers to nuclear bombs – has eventually been duplicated and adopted by "enemy" nations. Instead of securing the threat of unique capacities of devastation in the hands of a single, unchallengeable Superpower, each new military breakthrough has led to new round of proliferation allowing new, ever-deadlier weapons of war to spread around the planet.
Electronic "death rays" pose such a unique danger that a growing chorus of voices are calling for a moratorium on deployment. Ultimately, critics insist, such weapons should be outlawed and banned from the battlefield – like chemical gases and anti-personal weapons.
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and author of Nuclear Roulette.
On KPFA's 'Project Censored' program: Discussing Homeland Security's Labeling of ThisCantBeHappening! as a 'Threat'
By Dave Lindorff
Dave Lindorff is interviewed by Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips of Project Censored on their June 27 program on San Francisco public radio station KPFA. Lindorff tells Huff and Phillips about how TCBH! learned, from a Department of Homeland Security document obtained recently thanks to a Freedom of Information Act filing by the Partnership for Civil Justice, that ThisCantBeHappening! had been labeled a "threat" by the DHS.
By Alfredo Lopez
How does the news on the Internet make you feel?
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
By Dave Lindorff
The rat, among mammals, is one of the most successful animals on the planet. Cunning, ruthless, competitive and above all adaptable -- it is able to change its habits quickly as needed to accommodate the situation it finds itself in.
When it comes to foreign policy, the US government is filled with rats.
On ThisCantBeHappening! radio: Dave Lindorff and Vietnam Vet and Long-Time Peace Activist John Grant Discuss the Bowe Bergdahl
By Dave Lindorff
Bowe Bergdahl, the POW held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan who was recently traded for the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, has been convicted in the halls of Congress and in most of the media as a deserter -- even a traitor or a Taliban convert -- all without any trial or even any evidence. John Grant, a veteran of the Vietmam War, where desertions were common, says it's an old story: As America's losing wars wind down, those who advocated the in the first place and pushed for their continuation try to create a "stabbed in the back" narrative to explain the humiliating defeat of US military forces.
On the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Brian Williams led off NBC Nightly News this way: “On our broadcast tonight, the salute to the warriors who stormed the beaches here in Normandy...” It’s such a commonplace of our American world, that word “warriors” for those in the U.S. military or, as is said time and again, our “wounded warriors” for those hurt in one of our many wars. This time, however, because it was applied to the vets of World War II, my father’s war, it stopped me in my tracks. For just a moment, I couldn’t help imagining what my father would have said, had anyone called him -- or any of the air commandos in Burma for whom he was “operations officer” -- a warrior. Though he’s been dead now for three decades, I don’t have a moment’s doubt that he would have thought it ridiculous. In World War I, America’s soldiers had been known as “doughboys.” In World War II, they were regularly (and proudly) called “dogfaces” or G.I. (for “government issue”) Joes, and their citizen-soldier likenesses were reflected in the tough but bedraggled figures of Willy and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s much beloved wartime cartoon foot soldiers on the long slog to Berlin.
And that was fitting for a civilian military, a draft military. It was down to earth. It was how you described people who had left civilian life with every intention of returning to it as soon as humanly possible, who thought the military a grim necessity of a terrible moment in history and that war, a terrible but necessary way to go. In those days, warriors would have been an alien term, the sort you associated with, say, Prussians.
My father volunteered just after the attack on Pearl Harbor and wasn’t demobilized until the war ended, but -- I remember it well in the years after -- while he took pride in his service, he maintained a typical and healthy American dislike (to put it politely) for what he called “the regular army” and George Washington would have called a “standing army.” He would have been amazed by the present American way of war and the propaganda universe we now live in when it comes to praising and elevating the U.S. military above the rest of society. He would have found it inconceivable that a president’s wife would go on a popular TV show -- I’m talking about Michelle Obama on "Nashville" -- and mix it up with fictional characters to laud for the umpteenth time America’s warriors and their service to the nation.
In Vietnam, of course, the term still wasn’t warrior, it was “grunt.” The elevation of the American soldier to the heavens of praise and bombast came significantly after the end of the citizen army, particularly with what retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore calls the new Fortress America mindset of the post-9/11 years and the ever more militarized world of constant war that went with it.
If only I could have picked up the phone, called my father, and heard the choice words he would have had for his newly elevated status as an American “warrior,” seven decades after Normandy. But not being able to, on that D-Day anniversary I did the next best thing and called a 90-year-old friend, who was on a ship off one of those blood-soaked beaches as the invasion began. Thinking back those 70 years with a certain pride, he remembered that the thing the foot soldiers of World War II resented most was saluting or saying “sir” to officers. No warriors they -- and no love for an eternal wartime either. Put another way, the farther we’ve come from our last great military victory, symbolized by the events of June 6, 1944, the more elevated the language for describing, or perhaps whitewashing, a new American way of war that, for pure failure, may have few matches. Tom
Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You -- He Already Has You
The Militarized Realities of Fortress America
By William J. Astore
I spent four college years in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and then served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. In the military, especially in basic training, you have no privacy. The government owns you. You’re “government issue,” just another G.I., a number on a dogtag that has your blood type and religion in case you need a transfusion or last rites. You get used to it. That sacrifice of individual privacy and personal autonomy is the price you pay for joining the military. Heck, I got a good career and a pension out of it, so don’t cry for me, America.
But this country has changed a lot since I joined ROTC in 1981, was fingerprinted, typed for blood, and otherwise poked and prodded. (I needed a medical waiver for myopia.) Nowadays, in Fortress America, every one of us is, in some sense, government issue in a surveillance state gone mad.
Unlike the recruiting poster of old, Uncle Sam doesn’t want you anymore -- he already has you. You’ve been drafted into the American national security state. That much is evident from Edward Snowden’s revelations. Your email? It can be read. Your phone calls? Metadata about them is being gathered. Your smartphone? It’s a perfect tracking device if the government needs to find you. Your computer? Hackable and trackable. Your server? It’s at their service, not yours.
Many of the college students I’ve taught recently take such a loss of privacy for granted. They have no idea what’s gone missing from their lives and so don’t value what they’ve lost or, if they fret about it at all, console themselves with magical thinking -- incantations like “I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’ve got nothing to hide.” They have little sense of how capricious governments can be about the definition of “wrong.”
Consider us all recruits, more or less, in the new version of Fortress America, of an ever more militarized, securitized country. Renting a movie? Why not opt for the first Captain America and watch him vanquish the Nazis yet again, a reminder of the last war we truly won? Did you head for a baseball park on Memorial Day? What could be more American or more innocent? So I hope you paid no attention to all those camouflaged caps and uniforms your favorite players were wearing in just another of an endless stream of tributes to our troops and veterans.
Be a Good Trooper
Think of the irony. The Vietnam War generated an unruly citizen’s army that reflected an unruly and increasingly rebellious citizenry. That proved more than the U.S. military and our ruling elites could take. So President Nixon ended the draft in 1973 and made America’s citizen-soldier ideal, an ideal that had persisted for two centuries, a thing of the past. The “all-volunteer military,” the professionals, were recruited or otherwise enticed to do the job for us. No muss, no fuss, and it’s been that way ever since. Plenty of war, but no need to be a “warrior,” unless you sign on the dotted line. It’s the new American way.
But it turned out that there was a fair amount of fine print in the agreement that freed Americans from those involuntary military obligations. Part of the bargain was to “support the pros” (or rather “our troops”) unstintingly and the rest involved being pacified, keeping your peace, being a happy warrior in the new national security state that, particularly in the wake of 9/11, grew to enormous proportions on the taxpayer dollar. Whether you like it or not, you’ve been drafted into that role, so join the line of recruits and take your proper place in the garrison state.
If you’re bold, gaze out across the increasingly fortified and monitored borders we share with Canada and Mexico. (Remember when you could cross those borders with no hassle, not even a passport or ID card? I do.) Watch for those drones, home from the wars and already hovering in or soon to arrive in your local skies -- ostensibly to fight crime. Pay due respect to your increasingly up-armored police forces with their automatic weapons, their special SWAT teams, and their converted MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles). These vintage Iraqi Freedom vehicles are now military surplus given away or sold on the cheap to local police departments. Be careful to observe their draconian orders for prison-like “lockdowns” of your neighborhood or city, essentially temporary declarations of martial law, all for your safety and security.
Be a good trooper and do what you’re told. Stay out of public areas when you’re ordered to do so. Learn to salute smartly. (It’s one of the first lessons I was taught as a military recruit.) No, not that middle-finger salute, you aging hippie. Render a proper one to those in authority. You had best learn how.
Or perhaps you don’t even have to, since so much that we now do automatically is structured to render that salute for us. Repeated singings of “God Bless America” at sporting events. Repeated viewings of movies that glorify the military. (Special Operations forces are a hot topic in American multiplexes these days from Act of Valor to Lone Survivor.) Why not answer the call of duty by playing militarized video games like Call of Duty? Indeed, when you do think of war, be sure to treat it as a sport, a movie, a game.
Surging in America
I’ve been out of the military for nearly a decade, and yet I feel more militarized today than when I wore a uniform. That feeling first came over me in 2007, during what was called the “Iraqi surge” -- the sending of another 30,000 U.S. troops into the quagmire that was our occupation of that country. It prompted my first article for TomDispatch. I was appalled by the way our civilian commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, hid behind the beribboned chest of his appointed surge commander, General David Petraeus, to justify his administration’s devolving war of choice in Iraq. It seemed like the eerie visual equivalent of turning traditional American military-civilian relationships upside down, of a president who had gone over to the military. And it worked. A cowed Congress meekly submitted to “King David” Petraeus and rushed to cheer his testimony in support of further American escalation in Iraq.
Since then, it’s become a sartorial necessity for our presidents to don military flight jackets whenever they address our “warfighters” as a sign both of their “support” and of the militarization of the imperial presidency. (For comparison, try to imagine Matthew Brady taking a photo of “honest Abe” in the Civil War equivalent of a flight jacket!) It is now de rigueur for presidents to praise American troops as “the finest military in world history” or, as President Obama typically said to NBC’s Brian Williams in an interview from Normandy last week, “the greatest military in the world.” Even more hyperbolically, these same troops are celebrated across the country in the most vocal way possible as hardened “warriors” and benevolent freedom-bringers, simultaneously the goodest and the baddest of anyone on the planet -- and all without including any of the ugly, as in the ugliness of war and killing. Perhaps that explains why I’ve seen military recruitment vans (sporting video game consoles) at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Given that military service is so beneficent, why not get the country’s 12-year-old prospects hopped up on the prospect of joining the ranks?
Too few Americans see any problems in any of this, which shouldn’t surprise us. After all, they’re already recruits themselves. And if the prospect of all this does appall you, you can’t even burn your draft card in protest, so better to salute smartly and obey. A good conduct medal will undoubtedly be coming your way soon.
It wasn’t always so. I remember walking the streets of Worcester, Massachusetts, in my freshly pressed ROTC uniform in 1981. It was just six years after the Vietnam War ended in defeat and antiwar movies like Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now were still fresh in people’s minds. (First Blood and the Rambo “stab-in-the-back” myth wouldn’t come along for another year.) I was aware of people looking at me not with hostility, but with a certain indifference mixed occasionally with barely disguised disdain. It bothered me slightly, but even then I knew that a healthy distrust of large standing militaries was in the American grain.
No longer. Today, service members, when appearing in uniform, are universally applauded and repetitiously lauded as heroes.
I’m not saying we should treat our troops with disdain, but as our history has shown us, genuflecting before them is not a healthy sign of respect. Consider it a sign as well that we really are all government issue now.
Shedding a Militarized Mindset
If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider an old military officer’s manual I still have in my possession. It’s vintage 1950, approved by that great American, General George C. Marshall, Jr., the man most responsible for our country’s victory in World War II. It began with this reminder to the newly commissioned officer: “[O]n becoming an officer a man does not renounce any part of his fundamental character as an American citizen. He has simply signed on for the post-graduate course where one learns how to exercise authority in accordance with the spirit of liberty.” That may not be an easy thing to do, but the manual’s aim was to highlight the salutary tension between military authority and personal liberty that was the essence of the old citizen’s army.
It also reminded new officers that they were trustees of America’s liberty, quoting an unnamed admiral’s words on the subject: “The American philosophy places the individual above the state. It distrusts personal power and coercion. It denies the existence of indispensable men. It asserts the supremacy of principle.”
Those words were a sound antidote to government-issue authoritarianism and militarism -- and they still are. Together we all need to do our bit, not as G.I. Joes and Janes, but as Citizen Joes and Janes, to put personal liberty and constitutional principles first. In the spirit of Ronald Reagan, who told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this [Berlin] wall,” isn’t it time to begin to tear down the walls of Fortress America and shed our militarized mindsets? Future generations of citizens will thank us, if we have the courage to do so.
Copyright 2014 William J. Astore
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
DeSmogBlog has obtained emails via North Dakota's Open Records Statute revealing facts that could be interpreted as indicating that North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt broke State Investment Board ethics laws.
Photo Credit: Office of North Dakota State Treasurer; Obtained via ND Open Records Statute
Comedian Lee Camp premiered a never-before-televised video of former CIA Director General David Petraeus — who now serves as Chairman of the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR)'s Global Institute — introduced in front of the North Dakota National Guard by Treasurer Kelly Schmidt at an April 29 event in Bismarck, North Dakota.
A unique conference is planned in Charlottesville, Va., featuring the latest technologies for the practice of large-scale killing. The Daily Progress tells us that,
"to allow participants to speak more freely about potentially sensitive topics, the conference is closed to the media and open only to registered participants."
Well I should think so! Registered participants? How does one get registered for such a thing?
"From a local perspective, this industry is really growing in Charlottesville," says one expert, speaking with great objectivity, as if this growth were a matter of complete moral indifference.
Exactly how many people will be there?
"About 225 people are expected to attend the inaugural event, which is attracting government, business and academic leaders, said conference chairwoman and organizer Joan Bienvenue, who is also the director of the UVa Applied Research Institute."
Wait, what? The University of Virginia has an "applied research institute" for applying research to the practice of mass murder?
Is there no shame left in any institution?
"Sen. Timothy M. Kaine and Rep. Randy Forbes, R-4th, are also scheduled to give key speeches at the conference."
I guess that answers my question.
And where exactly will this blood-soaked confab take place?
"Located in Albemarle County, Rivanna Station is a sub-installation of the Army's Fort Belvoir. The local base employs mostly civilians and houses operations of the National Ground Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency."
The National Ground Intelligence Center, previously downtown in what became the SNL Financial building, is now north of Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia has built a "research park" next door, where this conference will be held. The NGIC famously played an utterly shameless role in marketing the war on Iraq that took at least a half a million lives and destroyed that nation.
When the experts at the Department of Energy refused to say that aluminum tubes in Iraq were for nuclear facilities, because they knew they could not possibly be and were almost certainly for rockets, and when the State Department's people also refused to reach the "correct" conclusion, a couple of guys at the NGIC were happy to oblige. Their names were George Norris and Robert Campus, and they received "performance awards" (cash) for the service.
Then Secretary of State Colin Powell used Norris' and Campus' claims in his U.N. speech despite the warning of his own staff that they weren't true. NGIC also hired a company called MZM to assist with war lies for a good chunk of change. MZM then gave a well-paid job to NGIC's deputy director Bill Rich Jr, and for good measure Bill Rich III too. MZM was far and away the top "contributor" to former Congressman Virgil Goode's campaigns, and he got them a big contract in Martinsville before they went down in the Duke Cunningham scandal. Rich then picked up a job with a company called Sparta, which, like MZM, was conveniently located in the UVA Research Park.
Local want ads in Charlottesville offer jobs "researching biological and chemical weapons" at Battelle Memorial Institute (located in the UVA Research Park). As you may know, researching such weapons is rarely if ever done without producing or at least possessing them. Other jobs are available producing all kinds of weaponry for all kinds of governments at Northrop Grumman. Then there's Teksystems, Pragmatics, Wiser, and many others with fat Pentagon contracts.
From 2000 to 2010, 161 military contractors in Charlottesville pulled in $919,914,918 through 2,737 contracts from the federal government. Over $8 million of that went to Mr. Jefferson's university, and three-quarters of that to the Darden Business School. And the trend is ever upward. The 161 contractors are found in various industries other than higher education, including nautical system and instrument manufacturing; blind and shade manufacturing; printed circuit assembly; real estate appraisers; engineering services; recreational sports centers; research and development in biotechnology; new car dealers; internet publishing; petroleum merchant wholesalers; and a 2006 contract with Pig Daddy's BBQ.
Have we at long last no sense of decency? War has taken 200 million lives in the past 100 years, costs the world $2 trillion a year and the United States half of that. It is the top destroyer of our natural environment and undergirds all the removal of our civil liberties and the creation of mass surveillance. Military spending produces fewer jobs that other government spending or even tax cuts. Numerous top officials say it produces more enemies than it kills.
And who does it kill? Over 90% are civilians of all ages. Over 90% are on one side of conflicts between wealthy and poor countries. These one-sided slaughters leave behind devastated nations: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. A poll of 65 nations found the U.S. most widely viewed as the greatest threat to peace. For 3% of what the United States spends on a program of killing that endangers us, impoverishes us, and erodes our way of life, starvation could be eliminated worldwide. It wouldn't take much to become the most beloved nation rather than the most feared.
And wouldn't it be nice to live in a society where our top public program didn't have to be kept hush-hush to protect "sensitive topics"?