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Chris(Washington state, USA): An Engaging Book
The author points out how Rumsfeld as Secretime mover behind the CIA's infamous Team B. That panel forced acceptance of its "findings' that the Soviet Union was rapidly overtaking the United States in military power. The author notes that the Soviet archives reveal that even the supposedly too low original estimate of the CIA was vastly exaggerated. .Rumsfeld of course, played a key role in the late 90's arms industry funded movement to portray North Korea as able to quickly develop missles to hit the U.S. These frauds avoided addressing the issue of whether North Korea would really build up some missiles, then just haul off and launch them at the United States, knowing full well North Korea would be wiped off the planet in retaliation. Rumsfeld, he observes, played a role in opening the funnel of American arms and WMD materials to Saddam in his visits with Saddam in 1983-84.
He shows how Rumsfeld might have alerted Carlyle Group CEO Frank Carlucci about the planned cancellation of one of it's subsidiary's programs to build the Crusader artillery system. Several months before the cancellation, Carlyle suddenly put the subsidiary on the stock market so that it might draw in shareholders and took out a huge loan based on the inflation of the value of the subsidiary and distributed it to shareholders and execs. Carlyle is of course the group which George Bush Sr. advises and whose executive James Baker and his law firm are representing the Saudi royal family against the families of 9-11 victims.
Rumsfeld was on the board of the Swiss engineering firm ABB for years.. That firm made the contract to oversee the construction of North Korea's two light water nuclear reactors. North Korea of course is one of the reasons we have to spend 400 billion on defense according to people like Rumsfeld who of course advocates that the reactor deal shouldn't have been made. . Rumsfeld claimed ludicrously to know nothing about the deal. Of all the ABB board members, all but one, who insisted on anonymity refused to talk to a Fortune magazine reporter about Rumsfeld and this deal. Rumsfeld is obviously very feared, the author notes.
He discusses the deal that had the Pentagon be leased a hundred Boeing commercial aircraft to be transformed into aerial refueling tankers. And it seems from documents released by John McCain's office that Darleen Dryun, Airforce undersecretary, gave Boeing the details of its rival Airbus's bid for the project. Dryun then quit her Pentagon job to become a top official of Boeing's Missile Defense division. The author discusses the none-too subtle campaign contributions made to Senator Ted Stevens, Senate appropriations chair just before this deal was put through.
The author notes that Richard Perle, while head of the Defense policy board, used that position to try to lobby some rich Saudis into investing in his new security oriented firm, Trieme. Perle claimed that he wanted to talk about Iraq, but his interlocutor in the deal, Adnan Koshoggi of Iran-Contra fame, only mentioned in his message to the Saudis about investing in Trieme. Then Stephen Laboton of the New York Times revealed that Perle offered his services to the bankrupt telecom firm Global Crossing to influence the U.S. government to allow it to sell one of its firms to China, which is not allowed to receive U.S. high tech resources. Perle advertised himself in his affidavit to Global Crossing as someone with great insider connections because of his post. Perle insisted that this affidavit was a clerical error. He tried to use his influence to allow Loral to resume selling high tech satellite stuff to China. According to Hirsch none of Perle's fellow board members knew of the existence of Trieme and were quite upset about it.
Then there's the redoubtable Mr. Cheney and Halliburton. After going through the motions of competitive bidding under public pressure, the army corp of Engineers suddenly accelerated the schedule for work in Iraq's oil infrastructure so that Halliburton would be the best placed firm to do that under the schedule, it already being in Iraq as a result of a no bid contract to put out oil fires. Cheney receives hundreds of thousands in "deferred compensation" from the company. He denied any remaining "ties' with the firm but his spokesperson, accoding to the author, said that the deferred payment technically did not constitute a "tie."
The author notes one of the more blatantly questionable appointments in the present administration, former Lockheed Martin executive Everett Beckner being picked to oversee the Nevada Nuclear test site, which Lockheed partly runs. Many Bush officials sit on the board of groups like the Center for Security Policy run by Frank Gafney Jr. Gafney dosen't seem to think his intellectual integrity is compromised by his group being funded by the arms companies who stand to make huge profits with the policies he advocates. The author cites some statistics about the dramatic rise in CEO pay since 9-11. He points out that Lockheed Martin's annual income from government contracts is more than that for the top Federal program for the poor. The Leave No Child Behind Program is being underfunded by 10 billion.
About 800 million in taxpayer money was used to subsidize the merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta, supposedly to encourage these two firms to consolidate, making them more efficient. This Clinton administration encouraged merging has left a few big firms in control of the arms market and with this oligopoly are in an even better position to easily get expensive contracts from the government. The merging-consolidation has also encouraged defense worker layoffs as this impresses shareholders that the firm is trying to become efficient.
R. D. Waters "rdwaters":
When corruption and election meet, April 9, 2004 By R. D. Waters "rdwaters" (Newton, NC United States) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME) This review is from: How Much Are You Making on the War Daddy? A Quick and Dirty Guide to War Profiteering in the Bush Administration (Paperback) One of the oddest trends of the current "us-versus-them" division between George W. Bush supporters and his detractors is the complete inability to find some common ground on issues that should enrage both sides. Hartung's focus is on the Bush administration because as of the writing of this review that is the group in power. However, make no mistake Bush supporters, Hartung has no problem bringing down Democrats who indulge in unseemly relationships with corporations in the military business. The problem, as Hartung points out, is that both parties get into bed with corporations by accepting huge donations for political races and return the favor via legislation changes, special considerations, and other questionable, if not downright unethical, methods. The intertwining of boardrooms, Washington appointments, lucrative contracts, and political campaign money forces taxpayers to cough up billions each year (and well into the future). Yet many of these global conglomerates pay a fraction of their fair share of taxes by establishing offshore tax shelters.
The coziness of Wall Street and the Pentagon leads to enormous opportunities for abuse such as no-bid contracts, a topic so recently in the news in the current war on Iraq. And guess who pays? Look in the mirror my friends.
While I'm not sure I'd recommend this book as the final word on the topic, I'd say it was a good starting place, particularly if you are interested in the current administrations octopus-like ties to global corporations. If you can put aside the labels "Democrat" and "Republican" for a while, you might get worked up a little about how your tax dollars are being abused on a daily basis and start lobbying your Congressional representatives about PACs and other questionable funding strategies.
J.L. Populist (WI,USA): War Profiteering and Policy Makers
The central question posed by William Hartung is this-Are we as a democracy prepared to deal with the threat implied by the dangerous gathering of corporate,military,and governmental power in a small circle or group? "Why didn't we realize that George W. Bush was a radical,right-wing,neo-conservative 'wolf' dressed up in compassionate conservative 'sheep's' clothing?" is a question on page 4 that I have found myself pondering. I call it voter's remorse.
Some issues that the author addresses quite well in the book are:
- The identity of the "Vulcans", what their task was, areas of experience, how they got their nickname, and who chose and assembled them.
- The farcical process by which Cheney basically selected himself as vice president.
- The delusional exaggerations that have been Rumsfeld's trademarks throughout his career and his ties to various companies as an expensive lobbyist.
- Rumsfeld's connection to Saddam Hussein in the 80's and his "nuclear" connections with North Korea.
- The Carlyle Group and it's infamous crony connections.
- The many fiascoes of John Bolton.
- How think tanks are biased by means of financial support.
- The neoconservative think tanks membership and how they set policies in Dubya's administration.
- The identity of the warhawks that schemed up the policy of "preventive war".
- The abuse of his position as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board by Richard Perle in solicting funds for his company-Trireme. Which coincidentally, was incorporated in November of 2001 in time to benefit from the foreseen military/security spending boom.
Mr. Hartung references a Seymour Hersh report of Perle's unethical pursuit of funding. He quotes Paul Krugman on Bush's policy -- "leave no defense contractor behind".
The author has Chapter notes at the end of each chapter which cite sources. "How Much Are You Making on the War Daddy?" is an excellent expose' on the profiteers of the current wars and the people that actually make the policies of the current president.
K. M. "literary devotee"(California) "my country is launched on a dangerous path that it must abandon or else face the consequences", March 2, 2007
So declares Chalmers Johnson in NEMESIS, the completing volume of a trilogy that includes BLOWBACK and THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE. Nemesis is also the name of a Greek goddess who is "the spirit of retribution, a corrective to the greed and stupidity that sometimes governs relations among people." She stands for the "' righteous anger'" to which Americans must awake if our Republic is to survive rather than be as "doomed as the Roman Republic was after the Ides of March that spring of 44 BC."
In seven relentless chapters -- 1. "Militarism and the Breakdown of Constitutional Government 2. Comparative Imperial Pathologies: Rome, Britain, and American 3. Central Intelligence Agency: The President's Private Army 4. US Military Bases in Other People's Countries 5. How American Imperialism Actually Works: The SOFA in Japan 6. Space: The Ultimate Imperialist Project 7. The Crisis of the American Republic -- Johnson presents fact after fact to support his unswerving thesis that the United States government is empire building in an aggressive, Ugly American way; and that we Americans cannot sustain both a viable republic at home and a world hegemony. The two are incompatible.
Chapter 2's discussion alone is worth the price of NEMESIS. Johnson recounts the Roman slide from republic to tyranny which America is currently following. Then he contends that Britain's divestiture of its empire preserved its domestic democratic institutions, and states that for the USA, "the choice is between the Roman and British precedents."
Then the focus turns to topics that drive home the USA's far-flung web of control and the immense power it wields globally. The incredible hubris of the US as it occupies Iraq, as it establishes secret prison bases internationally, as it reneges on agreements and interferes in other sovereign nations' elections, as it spends hundreds of billions of dollars on defense systems and occupations that don't demonstrably defend the homeland, as it blots out additional rights at home in the name of security, is copiously documented. Generally, the overwhelming criticism of US government actions is persuasive due to the unfailing use of sources: the Notes at the end of NEMESIS cover fifty pages. However, the discerning reader will at times perceive that Johnson has stacked the deck. The author's preoccupation with indicting American actions sometimes glosses the fact that the US isn't the only nation to play fast and loose in the game of international posturing and positioning. Still, any reader who possesses a grounded grasp of history and understands that other countries in the world also act -- sometimes precipitously and with their own thirst for empire-building -- will recognize Johnson's bias and compensate for it.
NEMESIS is an important, well-written, well-substantiated contribution to the growing library of books warning that America's political and military policies are sliding us closer to imperialistic totalitarianism, a very real threat. This third volume of the Blowback Trilogy is highly recommended reading for all Americans who feel "righteous anger" and truly want to prevent such a fate.
Explaining why America is broke is rather simple. All we have to do is look at two separate and distinct problem areas: public unions and defense spending, then generalize the problem. Let's start with a look at defense spending.
Here's an article on Foreign Affairs magazine by William Pfaaf making a solid case How Militarism Endangers America . The article is subscription, but a decent sized synopsis and lead-in follows:America's Misdirected Missile
The United States has built a worldwide system of more than 1,000 military bases, stations, and outposts -- a system designed to enhance U.S. national security. It has actually done the opposite, provoking conflict and creating insecurity.
WILLIAM PFAFF wrote a syndicated column that appeared in the International Herald Tribune from 1978 to 2006 and contributed political "Reflections" to The New Yorker from 1971 to 1992. His latest book, The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy, was published in June.
It is time to ask a fundamental question that few government officials or politicians in the United States seem willing to ask: Has it been a terrible error for the United States to have built an all-but-irreversible worldwide system of more than 1,000 military bases, stations, and outposts? This system was created to enhance U.S. national security, but what if it has actually done the opposite, provoking conflict and creating the very insecurity it was intended to prevent?
The most compelling arguments for opposing this system of global bases are political and practical. U.S. military bases have generated apprehension and hostility and fear of the United States, and they have facilitated futile, unnecessary, unprofitable, and self-defeating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now seem to be inviting enlarged U.S. interventions in Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa. The 9/11 attacks, according to Osama bin Laden himself, were provoked by the "blasphemy" of the existence of U.S. military bases in the sacred territories of Saudi Arabia. The global base system, it seems, tends to produce and intensify the very insecurity that is cited to justify it.
AN ACCIDENTAL EMPIRE
The United States' present global military deployment does not seem to be the product of conscious design, nor was it assembled absent-mindedly. In part, it is the natural result of bureaucracy left unchecked. At the end of World War II, a precipitous dismantling of the U.S. wartime deployment was halted only by the outbreak of the Cold War. The United States' intervention in Vietnam brought some base expansion in Southeast Asia, but after its failure in Vietnam, the U.S. military was determined to have nothing further to do with insurgencies and quickly returned to reorganization and retraining for what it still considered its primary mission: classical warfare in Europe in the event of a Soviet invasion. This eventually led to the brilliant blitzkrieg against Iraq in the first Gulf War, fought under the Powell Doctrine of popular support, overwhelming force, focused objectives, and rapid withdrawal.
I am 100% in agreement with the synopsis and prelude as presented above. Here is a second article on the same subject. This one is courtesy of the Business Spectator.
Please consider America's Misdirected Missile by Alexander Liddington-Cox.For a complete graph and additional commentary, please see the article.
The latest WikiLeaks scoop for The Age is a cable from the United States embassy in Canberra expressing concern to Washington about Australia's ability to meet its purchases of military equipment. Australia's defence budget currently sits at around $22 billion a year and, apparently, US diplomats were left unimpressed by the efforts of Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation chief Stephen Gumley to explain how Australia would meet its aims to increase military spending, as laid out in the White Paper. While the article didn't reveal whether or not the cable's author appreciated the irony of a US official lecturing anyone about measured military spending, this graph should really be passed on to them – just in case.
While this graph puts the US defence budget at $US711 billion in 2009, that doesn't include a number of "off-budget" items that, on some estimates, push US defence spending above $US1.3 trillion. And yet, America continues to drown in debt with only modest efforts to reign in how much it puts towards guns, tanks and missiles. Now, being the world's superpower invariably comes with a large military budget and sure some cash can go missing. But in 2002, then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that on some estimates the Pentagon had lost track of $US2.3 trillion in transactions and there was no way of ascertaining how the money was spent. How long will it be before the US really does something about its own military spending problems?
There is no rational reason for such spending. So how does it happen? The answer is the same way we are stuck with collective bargaining and absurd public union wages and benefits. Let's compare.
In the case of public unions, union members lobby vociferously for untenable wages and benefit packages. Greedy politicians willing to accept bribes to get reelected, go along. On any threat of reduction in benefits, union organizers get out the vote with massive fear-mongering campaigns promising ruin if they do not get what they want. At election time unions donate massively to candidates willing to back union sponsored agenda. Over time, school boards, city halls, and legislative bodies in general get packed with politicians accepting bribes (campaign contributions) from the unions.
Greedy politicians willing to accept bribes to get reelected, support massive defense budgets. Defense contractors as well as those receiving handouts from defense contractors label anyone not in favor of wars and massive military spending as "soft on defense". With massive fearmongering campaigns, including pictures of nuclear bombs going off, those organizations are able to whip up public sentiment to do whatever they want, which essentially is to spend more on defense. Every soldier in another country is another soldier that needs to be equipped. At election time defense contractors donate massively to candidates willing to waste more money on needless wars that do not need to be fought. Over time, legislative bodies in general get packed with politicians accepting bribes (campaign contributions) from warmongers.
Unfortunately, "compromise" is such that taxpayers get stuck with the worst of both. We have baseless wars and untenable defense spending. We also have untenable collective bargaining rules, untenable social handouts, and untenable union wages and benefits.
It's easy to generalize the above example. I received this email from reader "Kevin" after I wrote the above but before I posted it. Kevin had seen the union example above as I had used it previously. Kevin writes ....
Hello MishKevin had written "corporations" but I changed it to "organizations" to be more broad-based. The above describes quite nicely what happened with health care legislation and it sure helps explain earmarks as well.
Here is the corporate lobbyist problem in a nutshell:
Organizations of all types lobby vociferously for untenable subsidies and tax breaks. Greedy politicians willing to accept bribes to get reelected, go along. On any threat of reduction in subsidies or increase in taxes, the organizations get out the vote with massive fear-mongering campaigns promising ruin if they do not get what they want. At election time organizations donate massively to candidates willing to back their agenda. Over time, board of directors, city halls, and legislative bodies in general get packed with politicians accepting bribes (campaign contributions) from the organization.
In case you missed it, please see Interactive Map Showing Where $130 Billion in Earmarks Went, by State, District, and Politician.
The big problems are military spending, public unions, and entitlements. However, problems big and small are everywhere you look, and the process of buying votes and seeking special favors is generally smack in the midst of it all.
Republicans keep campaigning for "small government". It certainly would be nice if they delivered for a change. Unfortunately, Republicans will not give in on military spending (nor will Obama quite sadly), and Democrats won't budge on entitlements.
Compromise in D.C. most often means taxpayers get the worst of what each party has to offer.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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What, pray tell, gives you the impression that the big O was "forced" to accept anything? All of the evidence suggests he has done what he has wanted all along, not withstanding his demonstrably false statements to the contrary.
To wit, the secret negotiations in the WH with health insurers and subsequently allowing them to write the "reform" in the Senate (look up, e.g. Liz Fowler, former and likely future Wellpoint VP) as one major example.
Obama in deeds and often in words has demonstrated he is effectively a trojan horse in the thin shell that has remained of FDRs Democratic Party.
More and more people are starting to realize that Obama is a right winger. You're obviously not one of them. If you start looking beyond your wishful thinking, that might change. When enough people wake up, the electoral changes you speak of may indeed come about. While Hope (heh) springs eternal, I'm not holding my breath.
The US does not tax too much, that is not the problem.
The US spends too much on the wrong things: War is wrong.
War takes resources away from productive uses.
Europe, where the kind of war the US likes to pay for originated like the Maginot Line (Star Wars) and colonies, devotes less than one third of government outlays as the US.
If the spending side were reduced by $400B, the US would still out spend its 12 largest allies, there would be huge tax cuts.
And the resources freed would go to fixing the issues the country needs to address.
This broohaha is diverting attention from the real issue and that is the militarists pillaging the US.
The US does not tax too much, that is not the problem. The US spends too much on the wrong things: War is wrong. War takes resources away from productive uses.
[We really need to think this through carefully, there has been some work on the relative loss of productive work in the wake of war, but not nearly enough. *
The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending
By Dean Baker ]
The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending
By Dean Baker
There has been relatively little attention paid to the Iraq War's impact on the U.S. economy. It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. This is not generally true in most standard economic models. In fact, most models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.
In order to get an approximation of the economic impact of the recent increase in military spending associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight to run a simulation with its macroeconomic model. It produced a simulation of the impact of an increase in annual U.S. military spending equal to 1 percent of GDP, approximately the actual increase in spending compared with the pre-war budget. We selected the Global Insight model for this analysis because it is a commonly used and widely respected model. Global Insight produced a set of projections that compared a scenario with an increase in annual military spending equal to 1.0 percent of GDP (current about $135 billion) relative to its baseline scenario. This is approximately equal to the increase in defense spending that has taken place compared with the pre-September 11th baseline.
The projections show that:
• After an initial demand stimulus, the effect of higher defense spending turns negative around the sixth year. After 10 years of higher defense spending, payroll employment would be 464,000 less than in the baseline scenario. After 20 years the job loss in the scenario with higher military spending rises to 668,100 compared to the baseline scenario.
• Inflation and interest rates would be considerably higher in the scenario with higher military spending. In the first five years, the annual inflation rate would be on average 0.3 percentage points higher in the scenario with higher military spending. Over the full twenty year period, inflation averages approximately 0.5 percentage points more in the high defense spending scenario. After five years, the interest rate on 10-Year Treasury notes is projected to be 0.7 percentage points higher than in the baseline scenario. After ten years, this gap is projected to rise to 0.9 percentage points, and after twenty years to 1.1 percentage points.
• Higher interest rates are projected to lead to reduced demand in the interest sensitive sectors of the economy. After five years, annual car and truck sales are projected to go down by 192,200 in the high military spending scenario. After ten years, the drop is projected to be 323,300 and after twenty years annual sales are projected to be down 731,400.
• Annual housing starts are projected to be 17,900 lower in the high military spending scenario after five years, 46,200 lower after ten years, and 38,500 lower after twenty years. The cumulative projected drop in housing starts over the twenty year period is 530,000. The drop in annual existing home sales is projected to be 128,400 after five years, 247,900 after ten years and 286,500 after twenty years.
• Higher interest rates are projected to raise the value of the dollar relative to foreign currencies. This makes imports cheaper, causing people in the United States to buy more imports and makes U.S. exports more expensive for people living in other countries, leading to a drop in exports. The model projects that in the high military spending scenario, high imports and weak exports causes the current account deficit to increase (become more negative) by $90.2 billion (2000 dollars) after five years, compared to the baseline scenario. The current account deficit is projected to be $72.5 billion higher after ten years and $112.8 billion higher (both in 2000 dollars) after twenty years. The cumulative effect of higher imports and weaker exports over twenty years is projected to add approximately $1.8 trillion (in 2000 dollars) to the country’s foreign debt.
• Construction and manufacturing are the sectors that are projected to experience the largest shares of the job loss. While construction is projected to have a net gain of 8,500 jobs after five years, it is projected to lose 144,200 jobs after ten years and 211,400 jobs after twenty years in the high military spending scenario. Manufacturing is projected to lose 44,200 after five years, 95,200 jobs after ten years, and 91,500 jobs after twenty years in the high military spending scenario. Two-thirds of the projected job loss is in the durable goods sector.
The paper notes that military spending is not generally perceived to cost jobs, however, in standard economic models, its impact can be thought of in the same way as spending on the environment, which is generally believed to cost jobs. While tax and emission restrictions are often used to achieve environmental ends, it is also possible to reach environmental targets by paying people to do things that will reduce pollution. For example, it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by paying people to buy more fuel efficient cars and appliances, or paying them to install insulation and other energy saving devices.
In the case of both increased military spending and paying people to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resources would be pulled away from their market directed uses. In standard economic models, this redirection of resources will cause the economy to operate less efficiently and therefore lead to slower growth and fewer jobs. In the scenario modeled in this exercise, higher interest rates are the mechanism that slows the economy and leads to fewer jobs.
In policy debates, it is important to recognize the potential job loss from military spending. The potential economic costs are often a factor in debates over environmental policy. Economic costs should also be recognized in debates over military policy. It would be useful to have the Congressional Budget Office produce its own projections of the economic impact of a sustained increase in defense spending.
[Currently basic military spending is running $830.8 billion yearly, which 18 months later is $93.5 billion more than was spent under President Bush in 2008.]
Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque
So the cycle goes on and on, and the rot and dysfunction grows deeper, and ever more intractable. The people’s concerns are not only not addressed; they are not even articulated by anyone in the lucrative, sinister game of King of the Hill played by the two factions, both of which are pledged, body and soul, to elite rule, corporate rapine and militarist empire. And certainly, neither the corporate media nor the educational system will do anything to help inculcate a deeper sense of history (“History is bunk,” said that quintessential American, Henry Ford; you can’t make no money from it, so what’s the point?), or provide any wider, deeper context for articulating – and confronting – the causes of the electorate’s dissatisfaction. Instead, these institutions keep replicating and refreshing those same myths of specialness (in either “conservative” or “progressive” form), adding layer after layer of thought-obliterating noise to the Great American Echo Chamber that encloses, and imprisons, the entire society.
Mmm, maybe it’s not so heartening after all. Especially given the fact that both factions are – literally, legally, formally, undeniably – packs of war criminals, pledged to the continuation of a rapacious empire of military domination that is killing innocent people, fomenting hatred and extremism, and destabilizing the world. The myth of specialness prevents most people from seeing the truth of what their bipartisan political establishment is doing to the world – or even to themselves, how it has stripped them of their liberties, corroded their society, destroyed their communities and degraded their quality of life, while diminishing the lives and futures of their own children and grandchildren. Most Americans apparently cannot break out of the narrow cognitive structure that has been imposed on their understanding of reality: i.e., that America is inherently, ineradicably good, that whatever mistakes it might make here or there (usually when one’s own preferred faction is out of office, of course), this essential goodness remains inviolate, forever untainted by any genuine evil.
By Glenn Greenwald
The New York Times' John Burns yesterday responded to (and complained about) criticisms -- voiced by me, Julian Assange and others -- over his gossipy, People Magazine-style "profile" of Assange, which his newspaper centrally featured as part of its coverage of the WikiLeaks document release. In a self-justifying interview with Yahoo! News' Michael Calderone, Burns makes several comments worth examining:
Burns said he doesn't "recall ever having been the subject of such absolutely, relentless vituperation" following a story in his 35 years at the Times. He said his email inbox has been full of denunciations from readers and a number of academics at top-tier schools such as Harvard, Yale, and MIT. Some, he said, used "language that I don't think they would use at their own dinner table."
This is really good to hear: quite encouraging. Apparently, many people become quite angry when the newspaper which did more to enable the attack on Iraq than any other media outlet in the world covered one of the most significant war leaks in American history -- documents detailing the deaths of more than 100,000 human beings in that war and the heinous abuse of thousands of others -- by assigning its most celebrated war correspondent and London Bureau Chief to studiously examine and malign the totally irrelevant personality quirks, alleged mental health, and various personal relationships of Julian Assange. Imagine that. Then we have this from Burns:
Such heated reactions to the profile, Burns said, shows "just how embittered the American discourse on these two wars has become."
Oh my, how upsetting. People are so very "embittered," and over what? Just a couple of decade-long wars that have spilled enormous amounts of innocent blood, devastated two countries for no good reason, and spawned a worldwide American regime of torture, lawless imprisonment, and brutal occupation. It's nothing to get upset over. People really need to lighten up. And stop being so mean to John Burns. That's what really matters.
After all -- as he himself told you just a couple of months ago -- there was just no way that he and his war-supporting media colleagues -- holding themselves out as preeminent, not-to-be-questioned experts on that country -- could possibly have known that an attack on Iraq would have led to such devastating violence and humanitarian catastrophe (except by listening to, rather than systematically ignoring, the huge numbers of people around the world loudly warning that exactly that could happen). The last thing he should have to endure are insulting emails from people who seem to think that such episodes warrant anger and recrimination. And that's to say nothing of the obvious irony of a reporter complaining about our "embittered discourse" after he just wrote one of the sleaziest, most vicious hit pieces seen in The New York Times in quite some time.
Then there's this:
The profile, Burns said, is "an absolutely standard journalistic endeavor that we would use with any story of similar importance in the United States" . . . . Burns added that the Times is "not in the business of hagiography" but in the "business of giving our readers the fullest context for these documents" and the Assange's motivations. "To suggest that doing that is some kind of grotesque journalistic sin, and makes me a sociopath," Burns said, "strikes me as pretty odd."
This is the heart of the matter. What Burns did to Julian Assange is most certainly not a "standard journalistic endeavor" for The New York Times. If anyone doubts that, please show me any article that paper has published which trashed the mental health, psyche and personality of a high-ranking American political or military official -- a Senator or a General or a President or a cabinet secretary or even a prominent lobbyist -- based on quotes from disgruntled associates of theirs. That is not done, and it never would be.
This kind of character smear ("he's not in his right mind," pronounced a 25-year-old who sort of knows him) is reserved for people who don't matter in the world of establishment journalists -- i.e., people without power or standing in Washington and, especially, those whom American Government authorities scorn. In official Washington, Assange is a contemptible loser -- the Pentagon hates him and wants him destroyed, and therefore the "reporters" who rely on, admire and identify with Pentagon officials immediately adopt that perspective -- and that's why he was the target of this type of attack. After I wrote my criticism of this article on Monday, I was contacted by Burns' co-writer, Ravi Somaiya, who defended this article from my criticisms. I agreed to keep the exchange off-the-record at his insistence -- and I will do so -- but that was the question I kept asking: point to any instance where the NYT ever subjected Someone Who Matters in Washington to this kind of personality and mental health trashing based on the gossip and condemnation of associates. It does not exist.
As for Burns' pronouncement that "the Times is 'not in the business of hagiography'," he should probably remind himself of what he himself wrote about the Right Honorable Gen. Stanely McChrystal, after Burns had attacked Michael Hastings for daring to publish the General's own statements that reflected badly on him. Here's what Burns wrote while falling all over himself in reverence of this Great American Warrior:
[A]ll that I know about General McChrystal suggests that he is, just as the Rolling Stone article suggested, a maverick of high self-belief and intensity, uncautioned in his disregard for the conventional, but for all that a soldier with a deep belief in the military's ideals of "duty, honor, country." Though handed what many would regard as a poisoned chalice in the Afghanistan command, he had worked relentlessly to rescue America’s fortunes there. . . . grave misfortune it is, considering what is lost to America in a commander as smart, resolute and as fit for purpose as General McChrystal . . . .
General George S. Patton Jr. . . . a man who was regarded at the time, like General McChrystal in Afghanistan, as the best, and the toughest, of America's war-fighting generals. . . . In Iraq, we barely glimpsed General McChrystal, then running the super-secret special operations missions that were crucial in turning the tide against Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency under General Petraeus’s command; but he, too, continued the pattern of access after he took command in Afghanistan in June 2009. . . .
Reporters, of course, do best when they keep their views to themselves, to retain their impartiality. But it's safe to say that many of the men and women who have covered General McChrystal as commander if Afghanistan, or in his previous role as the top United States special forces commander, admired him, and felt at least some unease about the elements in the Rolling Stone article that ended his career.
It seems Burns wrote that while standing and saluting in front of a large wall photograph of the General, or perhaps kneeling in front of it. The only hint of a criticism was quite backhanded: that McCrystal "blundered catastrophically" by failing to exercise sufficient caution when speaking to an Unestablished, Unaccepted, reckless, low-level loser like Michael Hastings, who simply did not know -- or refused to abide by -- the General-protecting rules that Real Reporters use when
venerating covering forcovering top military officials. And despite writing 2,700 praise-filled words about McChrystal, Burns never once mentioned little things like his central involvement in the Pat Tillman fraud or the widespread detainee abuse in Iraq under his command, until a reader asked about it, and only then, he mentioned it in passing to dismiss it. Burns' view of McChrystal is the very definition of journalistic hagiography.
Or consider this NYT profile of Gen. McChrystal by Elisabeth Bumiller and Mark Mazzetti, after he was named to run the war in Afghanistan, that was more creepily worshipful than any Us Weekly profile of a movie star whose baby pictures they are desperate to publish. It goes on and on with drooling praise, but this is how it begins:
Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the ascetic who is set to become the new top American commander in Afghanistan, usually eats just one meal a day, in the evening, to avoid sluggishness.
He is known for operating on a few hours’ sleep and for running to and from work while listening to audio books on an iPod. In Iraq, where he oversaw secret commando operations for five years, former intelligence officials say that he had an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists, and that he pushed his ranks aggressively to kill as many of them as possible.
But General McChrystal has also moved easily from the dark world to the light. Fellow officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he is director, and former colleagues at the Council on Foreign Relations describe him as a warrior-scholar, comfortable with diplomats, politicians and the military man who would help promote him to his new job.
"He's lanky, smart, tough, a sneaky stealth soldier," said Maj. Gen. William Nash, a retired officer. "He’s got all the Special Ops attributes, plus an intellect."
That article also never mentioned the issue of detainee abuse -- no need to bother NYT readers with such unpleasantries about the Lanky Smart Tough Warrior who will win Afghanistan -- while the Tillman incident was buried in a paragraph near the end and dismissed as the "one blot on his otherwise impressive military record." Remember, though: "the Times is 'not in the business of hagiography'." Upon McChrystal's firing, the Hillman Foundation's Charles Kaiser wrote a comprehensive piece documenting how the "unspoken rules" cited by Burns to attack Hastings were what led to widespread media protection and veneration of McChrystal, as embodied by the highly revealing though pernicious comments from CBS News' Lara Logan ("Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has").
"Hagiography" is exactly what the American establishment media does, when it comes to powerful American political and military leaders. Slimy, personality-based hit pieces are reserved for those who are scorned by the powerful in Washington -- such as Julian Assange. So subservient to the Pentagon's agenda was the media coverage of the WikiLeaked documents that even former high-level journalists are emphatically objecting, and naming names. John Parker, former military reporter and fellow of the University of Maryland Knight Center for Specialized Journalism-Military Reporting, wrote an extraordinarily good letter yesterday:
The sad lack of coverage ("Sunday talk shows largely ignore WikiLeaks' Iraq files") of the leak of unfiltered, publicly owned information from the latest WikiLeak is disturbing, but not historically out of the ordinary for major American media.
The career trend of too many Pentagon journalists typically arrives at the same vanishing point: Over time they are co-opted by a combination of awe -- interacting so closely with the most powerfully romanticized force of violence in the history of humanity -- and the admirable and seductive allure of the sharp, amazingly focused demeanor of highly trained military minds. Top military officers have their s*** together and it's personally humbling for reporters who've never served to witness that kind of impeccable competence. These unspoken factors, not to mention the inner pull of reporters' innate patriotism, have lured otherwise smart journalists to abandon – justifiably in their minds – their professional obligation to treat all sources equally and skeptically.
Too many military reporters in the online/broadcast field have simply given up their watchdog role for the illusion of being a part of power. Example No. 1 of late is Tom Gjelten of NPR. . . Interviewed by his colleague on Oct. 22 about the latest WikiLeaks documents, this exchange happened:
Robert Siegel: And reaction to the release today?
Gjelten: Well, the Pentagon is, understandably, very angry, as they were when the documents from Afghanistan were released. They said this decision to release them was made cavalierly. They do point out - and I can't say I disagree (emphasis Parker's) - that the period in Iraq that these documents covered was already very well chronicled. They say it does not bring new understanding to those events.
There it is in black and white. Gjelten is lending his credibility to the Pentagon as "neutral" national journalist. . . . Gjelten, other Pentagon journalists and informed members of the public would benefit from watching "The Selling of the Pentagon," a 1971 documentary. It details how, in the height of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon sophisticatedly used taxpayer money against taxpayers in an effort to sway their opinions toward the Pentagon’s desires for unlimited war. Forty years later, the techniques of shaping public opinion via media has evolved exponentially. It has reached the point where flipping major journalists is a matter of painting in their personal numbers.
Precisely. The Pentagon has long been devoted to destroying the credibility and reputation of WikiLeaks, and the military-revering John Burns and his war-enabling newspaper, as usual, lent its helping hand to the Government's agenda. This is what NPR's Gjelten routinely does as well. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning David Cay Johnston, formerly of the NYT, wrote his own letter yesterday supporting Parker, citing the media's Pentagon-parroting line (from Gjelten and others) that there is nothing new in the WikiLeaks documents, and wrote: "If you want to ignore the facts or tell only the official version of events get a job as a flack." That is the job they have, only they're employed by our major media outlets. That's the principal problem. They receive most of their benefits -- their access, their scoops, their sense of belonging, their money, their esteem -- from dutifully serving that role.
Of course, another major reason why these media figures are so eager to parrot the Government line -- to try to destroy Assange and insist that there's "nothing new" in these horrifying documents -- is because they cheered for these wars in the first place. The Washington Post's Editorial Page Editor, Fred Hiatt, was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the attack on Iraq, and so predictably, the Post (like NPR's Gjelten) ran an Editorial yesterday echoing the Pentagon and belittling the WikiLeaks documents as Nothing New Here. If that's true, perhaps Hiatt can point to the article where the Post previously reported on the existence of Frago 242, the secret order which instructed American troops not to investigate Iraqi abuse, or perhaps he can explain why the Post's own Baghdad Bureau Chief for much of the war, Ellen Knickmeyer, finds plenty new in the WikiLeaks documents: "Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world, as the Iraq mission exploded."
Media figures like Burns, Gjelten, Hiatt and the NYT want you to think there's nothing new in these documents, and to focus instead on Julian Assange's alleged personality flaws (or the prospects that he -- rather than the criminals he exposed -- should be prosecuted), because that way they hope you won't notice all the blood on their hands. That's one major benefit. The other is that they discharge their prime function of currying favor with and serving the interests of the powerful Washington figures whom they "cover."
* * * * *
There's one specific inaccuracy in Burns' response to me which I want to highlight. The Yahoo! article states: "Burns took issue with Greenwald's suggestion that he's 'a borderline-sociopath' who's now coping with the guilt of having 'enabled and cheered' on the Iraq war." I didn't actually call Burns that. What I wrote was that, in light of what these documents reveal, "even" a borderline-sociopath would be awash with guilt over having supported this war and would be eager to distract attention away from that -- by belittling the importance of the documents and focusing instead on the messenger: Julian Assange. In other words, there's only one category of people who would not feel such guilt -- an absolute sociopath -- and I was generously assuming that Burns was not in that category, which is why I would expect (and hope) that he is driven by guilt over the war he supported. That's the most generous explanation I can think of for why -- in the face of these startling, historic revelations -- his journalistic choice was to pass on personality chatter about Assange.
UPDATE: The New York Times offered a feature today -- "Ask The New York Times" -- where readers can ask questions of the various reporters who worked on the WikiLeaks story. The first two questions were about the criticisms I've voiced about that coverage over the last few days (or at least the first question was: about my critique of the substance of the NYT's coverage); the second question was merely a general one about the reasons why the NYT published the "hit piece" on Julian Assange, and Burns answered and took that opportunity to "address" my criticisms specifically.
I don't have much to add to what either reporter said there, as I think my critiques stand on their own, and I've already addressed most of the excuses offered. I will, however, note two points: (1) one the cheapest, most slothful and most intellectually dishonest methods for refuting an argument is to mockingly slap the label of "conspiracy theory" on it, as though the argument then becomes self-refuting; that's virtually always a non-responsive strawman, and that's exactly what Burns does in purporting to address my criticisms even though, manifestly, nothing I said qualifies as such; and (2) it's a very significant -- and positive -- change even from a couple of years ago that these reporters are not only loudly exposed to criticisms of their work, but feel compelled to expend substantial efforts engaging them and responding.
As for John Burns' overarching mentality, consider what he said on PBS' News Hour in July, after Gen. McChrystal had been fired, about the lesson that should be learned from that episode: "I think we in the press have to really look at cases like this and say, to what extent can we change the way we behave in such a way that this sort of thing doesn't happen again?" If an Important and Great Man like Gen. McChrystal ends up negatively affected as a result of truths uncovered by a real journalist (Michael Hastings), then -- sayeth John Burns -- the media must change its behavior, for that is the opposite of what it ought to be doing.
UPDATE II: I was just on a radio program with the long-time journalist and media critic Norman Solomon, who said: "I was in Baghdad before the invasion and spoke with Burns, and he was seriously eager to have this invasion take place. And throughout the war, he constantly denounced the behavior of Iraqi insurgents without ever applying the same human rights standards to the American forces in Iraq."
Despite all that, Burns (of course) will be the first to insist that he's a "neutral journalist," because to American establishment journalists, "neutrality" means: "serving the interests of American political and military leaders and amplifying their perspective." Think about it, though: if you were John Burns and had this unrepentant pro-war record (or if you were the NYT and were saddled with its war-enabling history), wouldn't you also be eager -- in the face of these WikiLeaks revelations -- to urge everyone to look over there at Julian Assange's personality traits, or what Iran was doing in Iraq, or anything else you could think of to distract from the extraordinary human suffering and mass death you helped unleash?
UPDATE III: The Columbia Journalism Review slams the NYT's WikiLeaks coverage for being "tame to a fault," "afraid," and "a bit of a whitewash."
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes:The true cost of the Iraq war: $3 trillion and beyond, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes, Commentary, Washington Post: Writing in these pages in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration's 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict's most sobering expenses: those in the category of "might have beens," or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only "what if" worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?
The answer to all four of these questions is probably no. ... [...continue reading...]
There are some costs -- the harm that something like torture does to our collective sense of morality for example -- that I have no idea how to evaluate.
September 3, 2010
By GARY J. BASS
America’s Path to Permanent War
By Andrew J. Bacevich
In 1947, Hanson W. Baldwin, the hawkish military correspondent of this newspaper, warned that the demands of preparing America for a possible war would “wrench and distort and twist the body politic and the body economic . . . prior to war.” He wondered whether America could confront the Soviet Union “without becoming a ‘garrison state’ and destroying the very qualities and virtues and principles we originally set about to save.”
It is that same dread of a martial America that drives Andrew J. Bacevich today. Bacevich forcefully denounces the militarization that he says has already become a routine, unremarked-upon part of our daily lives — and will only get worse as America fights on in Afghanistan and beyond. He rips into what he calls a postwar American dogma “so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from view.” “Washington Rules” is a tough-minded, bracing and intelligent polemic against some 60 years of American militarism.
This outrage at a warlike America has special bite coming from Bacevich. No critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have brighter conservative credentials. He is a blunt-talking Midwesterner, a West Point graduate who served for 23 years in the United States Army, a Vietnam veteran who retired as a colonel, and a sometime contributor to National Review. “By temperament and upbringing, I had always taken comfort in orthodoxy,” he writes. But George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, Bacevich says, “pushed me fully into opposition. Claims that once seemed elementary — above all, claims relating to the essentially benign purposes of American power — now appeared preposterous.”
From Harry S. Truman’s presidency to today, Bacevich argues, Americans have trumpeted the credo that they alone must “lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world.” That crusading mission is implemented by what Bacevich caustically calls “the sacred trinity”: “U.S. military power, the Pentagon’s global footprint and an American penchant for intervention.” This threatening posture might have made some sense in 1945, he says, but it is catastrophic today. It relegates America to “a condition of permanent national security crisis.” ...Bruce Wilder:
You need to add to the list of costs the current view of the US by people of virtually all countries outside its borders. Except for the now rare true believer, virtually everyone now assumes by default that the US is *not* on the side of good - but rather that it is little different than past military powers.
It's not a monetary cost as such, but it is real, and it is permanent. A reputation once lost is almost impossible to recover.beezer:
MT: "There are some costs -- the harm that something like torture does to our collective sense of morality for example -- that I have no idea how to evaluate."
I'd put the decision to go to war -- including the political and propaganda process by which democratic and international consent (or acquiescence) was obtained -- falls into that same class. Maybe, as I think about it, torture was just a small part of the whole "political strategy" of war.
We talk a lot about the dismantling of the New Deal, in discussing our economic problems. But, Bush dismantled both the American mythos of war, and the international order, largely created by FDR. Bush liked his bust of Churchill, but he put his Iraq War in motion, with the vocabulary of international diplomacy and international institutions, created by Roosevelt. Where FDR wrote an epic, Bush wrote a farce.
The whole concept of the Iraq War by the Project for a New American Century folks, was a Classics Comics version of the post-WWII order. "Look, we've had bases in Germany and Japan for 60 years, and that's worked out well. We could do the same thing in the Middle East and Central Asia, transforming Iraq with an Occupation and Reconstruction, followed by permanent bases forever. A New American Century!"
America is entertained by the extremism of the Right, but it is sick at the center. Our elite simply has no idea how or why to do great things. It is all bratty, ignorant children playing dress-up, with no sense of serious consequence or cost. They end up doing horrific and destructive things and have no sense of responsibility.
The U.S. attacked and invaded Iraq, without actual provocation of any kind. That was a war crime -- less ambiguous, if possible, in its criminality, than the torture that followed. But, put aside the moral outrage for a moment, and simply consider, as dispassionately as possible, the quality of the decision-making. Certainly, the disregard for the Laws of War mark the quality of the decision-making -- don't disregard that -- but extend the assessment to include the disregard, not just for law or high principle, but also for just the prosaic need to plan or manage a huge undertaking. Consider the worldview, that imagined that this policy could, somehow, make the world "better".
Considering the costs and benefits to the chooser of the material consequences doesn't really cover the case where the chooser has made himself incompetent and unworthy with his choice and method of making it.All true enough. But I'm still skeptical of how we're going to do in Afghanistan. The Soviets wasted a ton of money there, for 10 years, and it materially contributed to the Soviet Union's collapse.
I don't think we can wrench an entire country forward about a millenium. From their fifth century religion to their tribal structure, they are a classic example of a country one wants to avoid ruling.
We need to re-think our basic strategy. And we need to sharpen our tactics to meet the specific challenges. Those four mph cruise missiles can't be effectively dealt with by heavy armor. Unless you're willing to wipe out entire regional populations and settle them yourself.
We shouldn't assume good will. Between them the freak 2000 election and the 9/11 attack gave Bush, Cheney, and Rove an unprecedented one-time opportunity to sabotage American democracy, make the US more authoritarian, put the US more securely on a permanent war footing, and dismantle the welfare state.
Without using the c-word, at every point in the past there have been individuals and groups who wanted to do all of these things (granted that the welfare state only came into the equation after 1932.) That's what Goldwater's backers wanted. That's what (some of) Roosevelt's opponents wanted.* That's what the Straussians and the Chicago School wanted. Presumably that's what many in the intelligence services and the military have wanted. And now they've more or less got it.
This isn't much talked about, but who wins in a depression? Perhaps dollarwise everyone loses, but relatively speaking some big players are destroyed or crippled whereas others come out in a relatively better position than they'd started in. (Perhaps they're multinational and have no particular interest in the American economy as such.)
*In fairness, some of Roosevelt's supporters were authoritarian and militarist when some of his opponents were not. But the welfare state had bitter enemies long before it had even come into being.
What-if's are meaningless. What if, the US finished the job in 1991? What if we didn't abandon our allies to the slaughter? What if UN Sanctions didn't kill 50,000 Iraqis. What's Saddam Sons took power? What if you never existed? You Saddam supporters make me sick.
Who said we supported Saddam?
By the way ... there are other nasty fellows in the world too. What's your schedule for invading those countries? Zimbabwe, Sudan, North Korea all come to mind as good places to go next.
Better hurry up, bad things are happening and you wouldn't want someone to think you support those naughty fellows would you?
And you forgot to mention Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Turkmenistan etc. Oh wait those are our close allies...my bad.
America is a morally bankrupt pariah state. I am enjoying its social and economic implosion tremendously.
Got popcorn?"Earlier today, I ordered Americas armed forces to strikemilitary and security targets in Iraq. They are joined byBritish forces.
Their mission is to attack Iraqs nuclear,chemical and biological weapons programs and its militarycapacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout theMiddle East and around the world.
Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons. "
Bill Clinton, 16 Dec 1998
Jan 31, 2008
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Fed up that Washington hasn’t done more to end the war, a group of Vermont lawmakers said Tuesday that the president no longer has the authority to use Guard troops in Iraq.
State Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, said the authority to call up Guard members for Iraq duty has expired because that country no longer poses a threat to U.S. national security.
“The mission authorized in 2002 does not exist,” said Fisher, who plans to introduce a bill backed by 30 colleagues Wednesday that calls on Gov. Jim Douglas to join the effort. “Unless Congress grants a new authorization, the Vermont Guard should revert back to state control.”
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin said the Senate would take up similar legislation.
“Bottom line is, if the politicians in Washington aren’t going to do the right thing for our troops, let’s do the right thing by bringing our Vermont Guard members home,” he said. “If Vermont can make one small step forward, I believe others will follow.”
A Douglas spokesman said the governor can’t stop the use of Guard troops in the war.
“It’s clear that’s there’s no legal basis for stopping the federalization of the National Guard when Congress has authorized and continues to fund a war,” said Douglas’ spokesman Jason Gibbs. “The bottom line is this is a federal issue.”
He said Douglas would rather see Congress develop an exit strategy to bring the troops home as soon as possible.
Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, head of the Vermont National Guard, refused to comment until he could read the bill.
Fisher said similar proposals were being considered by lawmakers in Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island
“Most of us standing here, maybe all of us, have made objections in the past about the morality or wisdom of this war,” Fisher said. “Today, we are limiting ourselves to one vital principle: the rule of law.”
“Questions about whether the war is going well or the surge is going well, should be left for other days,” he added. “We have a special interest in the welfare of the Vermont National Guard.”
A question that I wish were asked repeatedly is given American military spending just how much of a limit on development is it? *
The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending By Dean Baker
There has been relatively little attention paid to the Iraq War's impact on the U.S. economy. It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. This is not generally true in most standard economic models. In fact, most models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.
In order to get an approximation of the economic impact of the recent increase in military spending associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight to run a simulation with its macroeconomic model. It produced a simulation of the impact of an increase in annual U.S. military spending equal to 1 percent of GDP, approximately the actual increase in spending compared with the pre-war budget. We selected the Global Insight model for this analysis because it is a commonly used and widely respected model. Global Insight produced a set of projections that compared a scenario with an increase in annual military spending equal to 1.0 percent of GDP (current about $135 billion) relative to its baseline scenario. This is approximately equal to the increase in defense spending that has taken place compared with the pre-September 11th baseline.
The projections show that....
Basic military spending, where is the limit and are we already doing considerable harm to our economy in so spending?
January 30, 2010
National Defense Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment, 2000-2010(Quarterly at annual rates, Billions of dollars) *
Qtr1 Qtr2 Qtr3 Qtr4
2000 ( 360.6) ( 376.9) ( 372.7) ( 374.0)
2001 ( 383.7) ( 389.7) ( 395.6) ( 402.8) Bush
2002 ( 420.3) ( 431.9) ( 440.4) ( 458.2)
2003 ( 466.4) ( 507.2) ( 503.1) ( 515.1)
2004 ( 535.9) ( 545.6) ( 565.4) ( 556.2)
2005 ( 578.5) ( 586.1) ( 606.1) ( 585.5)
2006 ( 615.5) ( 624.1) ( 623.3) ( 636.6)
2007 ( 636.7) ( 657.0) ( 674.7) ( 679.9)
2008 ( 702.1) ( 724.9) ( 762.1) ( 760.2)
2009 ( 743.9) ( 769.9) ( 787.3) ( 785.4) Obama
2010 ( 796.3) ( 812.8)
* Seasonally adjusted
by reader Ilsm
Heritage Foundation’s Rant against Reductions to the War Machine:
Talking points aired on 14 Aug 2010 AM session of C-SPAN TV.
US warfare spending will decline to 3% of GDP by 2019. As if that is a problem. GDP is meaningless, especially when you see the tiny threats that the large percent of US GDP is supposed to address, and doing it very badly.
The figure that should be explained is what UK and Germany spend as percent of government outlays, aside from real reasons to have a war machine, a better measure than GDP. That they won’t go there reflects the fear that if the US citizen saw how little the Europeans spend the rational question is “what do they see about security challenges differently than the US”? The UK spends about 7% of outlays on “defence” while the US spends nearly 20% (just a bit less than SS outlays). What is wrong with this picture?
'Rise of Peer Competitors' is invoked, the wish (unsubstantiated) that 'some other country would spend as counterpoint to the US' does not make the reality test: double digit increases in China and Russia are on the order of $5-6B US a year, as if that could equate to the $1.6 T backlog (GAO 09-326SP) in the US in the 95 top investments the DoD is spending, all running late and 19% over original cost estimates, and not tested. However, if the US does not spend the trillions better it is likely a $50B annual defense increase will keep it at bay. (What is the GDP of the Taliban)?
But the push for austerity is now on the 'cat food for oldsters commission' train, and the drive is to attack human resources costs as too high and/or identify the need to cut retiree and dependent health care and pensions so that more money can be added to the overruns described annually by GAO. A department that cannot afford retiree health benefits must pay for huge fraud, and waste in its weapon procurement. Heritage does not think the US needs to worry about military retirees because only 20% of the force will get to retirement? Nice calculation for the personnel who do the fighting.
That most of equipment is from the 1970’s is an obviously false and cheeky comment and used to justify spending. The reason is twofold: first none of it is needed for the US without military peer competitors, and second the replacements are not needed the money is wasted in an inept welfare system that keeps incompetent ideas from and the money chasing after failures and not terminating in an orderly fashion. See such programs as the MV 22, F 22, B2, C 17 Littoral Combat Ships, San Antonio Class…. The list is long and the failure to actually replace hardware is less about stingy appropriation than ineptitude in the military industrial complex, which is paid well for the second or third failed attempt to build replacements for 1970’s (proposed against the Soviets by the way).
The US DOD should get less than 10% of US budget, and then carefully reduced to less than 5%.
(Rdan here...some editing for readability)
We spend nearly a trillion dollars a year on defense related items. All supposedly so that we can sleep nights secure in the notion we're relatively safe from harm. Yet the construction of a mosque in Manhatten is the first domino in the downfall of our republic. Maybe we spend a billion stopping the mosque construction and kick in the remaining 999 billion towards the deficit? Why bust our budget so that the citizens of South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Western Europe, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, etc can divert their defense money to other uses knowing we'll spend ourselves silly defending their soil? Let's see how they cope spending 20% of their receipts on weapons and soldiers.
For the 2010 fiscal year, the president's base budget of the Department of Defense rose to $533.8 billion. Adding spending on "overseas contingency operations" brings the sum to $663.8 billion.
When the budget was signed into law on October 28, 2009, the final size of the Department of Defense's budget was $680 billion, $16 billion more than President Obama had requested. An additional $37 billion supplemental bill to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was expected to pass in the spring of 2010, but has been delayed by the House of Representatives after passing the Senate. Defense-related expenditures outside of the Department of Defense constitute between $216 billion and $361 billion in additional spending, bringing the total for defense spending to between $880 billion and $1.03 trillion in fiscal year 2010.
While I agree that the bloated defense budget is an obvious target for cutting, I doubt that doing so means the rest of the developed world needs to respond by ramping up their own military spending. In the case of western Europe, there's no Soviet tanks waiting to roll, and they're not about to invade each other. South Korea's defense isn't the token armed forces stationed there, it's the credible threat of nuclear retaliation (which is cheap compared to a big troop presence). I don't know who Japan needs to defend itself against, since the only country with significant amphibious assault capability is the U.S. Israel is already an armed camp. Turkey has plenty of defense capability. Egypt's only credible military menace is probably Israel, and we buy them off with aid rather than military protection anyway. Iraq and Afghanistan's main problem is internal division rather than a threat of external invasion.
On a larger point that I think hasn't really sunk in, our recent Iraqi and Afghan adventures have demonstrated the complete futility of armed invasions in the 21st century. The U.S., arguably the greatest military power the world has ever seen, with a military machine unrivaled anywhere in the world, launched in the past decade two invasions, one of an insignificant dust bowl and the other of a smallish near-developed country. Both have turned into quagmires in which the occupier hemorrhaged money to essentially no purpose.
The obvious lesson is that invading countries doesn't bring an advantage in the modern context. Building a large military to guard against invasion is pointless since there's no longer a good reason for anybody to try invading anymore.
steve duncan :
I agree other nations may be just as deluded as us concerning external threats and the consequent (perceived) need to therefore be an armed camp. It's just that now we shoulder some or most of that burden. Whether the threats are real or imagined let them prepare for the threats as they see fit, out of their coffers. The U.S. Congress haggles with the military and executive branch over the necessity of producing 75 fighter jets at 500 million a copy, two or three destroyers at 3 billion each and dozens of other boondoggles and pet projects. Yet suggesting those are cut as opposed to handing the top 1% of wage earners a 1/4 trillion in tax cuts is heresy. If we go bust it's something we richly deserve. Of course should we enter a true cataclysmic depression it'll all be blamed on Islam and Democrats. The former therefore deserving nuclear annihilation and the latter various forms of figurative or actual lynchings.
"the deficit cannot be paid for with taxes. Any kind of taxes."
And yet, according to the GOP, the deficit *can* be paid for with tax cuts.
Yeah, let's target for taxation the sector of the society that barely makes a subsistence income, while ignoring the small elite which hauls in a vastly disproportionate share of national income. Good plan, Shooter.
So half the country lives on subsistence income? Really?
Of course not. Strike One.
Is the small elite earning a large share of the income is ignored?
Of course not. The top 1% pays 30% of all fed personal taxes (yes, including SS) while making 19% of the income pie. Strike two.
Should half the country make absolutely no contribution to income taxes? That's a lot of free riders, Jim Bob. Obviously you're not that worried about the deficit. That's strike three, and you're out of here.
Keep up the good work.
Kevin de Bruxelles:Ina Deaver:
I’m surprised a thoughtful guy like Glenn Greenwald would make such an unsubstantiated link between collapsing public services for American peasants and a collapse of America’s global (indirect) imperial realm. Is there really a historic link between the quality of a nation’s services to its citizens and its global power? If so the Scandinavian countries would have been ruling the world for the past fifty years. If anything there is probably a reverse correlation. None of the great historic imperial powers, such as the British, Roman, Spanish, Russian, Ottoman, Mongolian, Chinese, Islamic, or Persian, were associated with egalitarian living conditions for anyone outside of the elite. So from a historic point of view, the ability to divert resources away from the peasants and towards the national security state is a sign of elite power and should be seen as a sign increased American imperial potential.
Now if America’s global power was still based on economic production then an argument could be made that closing libraries and cancelling the 12th grade would lower America’s power potential. But as we all know that is no longer the case and now America’s power is as the global consumer of excess production. Will a dumber peasantry consume even more? I think there is a good chance that the answer is yes.
Now a limit could be reached to how far the elite can lower their peasant’s standard of living if these changes actually resulted in civil disorder that demanded much energy for American elites to quell. But so far that is far from the case. Even a facile gesture such as voting for any other political party except the ruling Republicrats seems like a bridge too far for 95% of the peasants to attempt. No, the sad truth is that American elites, thanks to their exceptional ability to deliver an ever increasing amount of diverting bread and circuses, have plenty of room to further cut standards of living and are nowhere near reaching any limits.
What the reductions in economic and educational options will result in are higher quality volunteers into America’s security machinery, which again obviously raise America’s global power potential. This, along with an increasingly ruthless elite, should assure that into the medium term America’s powerful position will remain unchallenged. If one colors in blue on a world map all the countries under de facto indirect US control then one will start to realize the extent of US power. The only major countries outside of US control are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. Iraq and Afghanistan are recent converts to the blue column but it far from certain whether they will stay that way. American elites will resist to the bitter end any country falling from the blue category. But this colored world map is the best metric for judging US global power.
In the end it’s just wishful thinking to link the declining of the American peasant’s standard of living with a declining of the American elite’s global power. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this proven in an attack on Iran in the near future.kevin de bruxelles:
But the elite can really only project power to the extent that the peasantry are compliant, right? Surely you don’t dispute that. Fodder are needed for the cannons, and rioting and unrest at home distract from international aspirations. I think that the Soviets proved conclusively that, if you focus exclusively on power at the expense of social stability, even a peasantry used to being brutalized will tolerate you only so far. Indeed, the Russians have proved that a number of times.
If he’s pointing out that the situation for normal people is getting ridiculous, I agree. If he’s pointing out that projecting force into Afghanistan while we shut own libraries and schools is incredibly short-sighted and stupid, I agree. If he’s pointing out that it looked a whole lot like this when Rome started going south, I agree. If he’s pointing out that a strong power an manage to keep its people provisioned while projecting force – again, I have a hard time disagreeing. Just because the Scandanavians don’t (this century) spend a lot of time on empire doesn’t make him wrong.
But the elite can really only project power to the extent that the peasantry are compliant, right?
I addressed that in the third paragraph: “Now a limit could be reached to how far the elite can lower their peasant’s standard of living if these changes actually resulted in civil disorder that demanded much energy for American elites to quell.”
In my opinion one cannot start to talk about imperial decline until at least some instability on the part of the US peasantry is shown. So far there is none.
Fodder are needed for the cannons, and rioting and unrest at home distract from international aspirations
Again I addressed this by stating: “What the reductions in economic and educational options will result in are higher quality volunteers into America’s security machinery, which again obviously raise America’s global power potential.”
My point is that so far the reductions to the standard of living have had no negative impact at all on America’s global situation. And given the realities of American life and the ability of elites to control the conversation, the cuts will need to go much deeper before any impact is felt. So it is way too early for anyone to start declaring mission accomplished on the end of American global power. Things are not going to change until the day change is forced upon the elite from below. And from what I see we are unfortunately decades away from that point.
Kevin… I agree with many of your comments but I think a closer look is needed at why ‘the American peasants’ are unlikely to react violently to government actions; ie, closing libraries, canceling 12th grade, etc.
Political and public relations (advertising) pollsters learned long ago that how people respond to polls is not necessarily how they will vote with their ballot or with their pocketbook. Since 51 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, over 40 million Americans receive food stamps, 2,949,130 are employed directly by the fed gov (as of 2008 and including Homeland Security), state and local governments employ 14,857,827 full time employees and 4,834,978 part time employees (as of Dec 2009). http://www.census.gov/govs/apes/
How many more Americans are employed by the US Military, direct contractors, defense contractors, ad infinum? I don’t know…but it’s a big number.
All these government employed Americans, and Americans on the dole, are not likely to vote to have their rice bowl broken. Many millions more Americans depend on the spending of the direct government employees, and subsidized Americans, for their livelyhood and they are unlikely to vote to have their rice bowls broken.
Would it be outside the realm of possibility to say half of the American population is directly or indirectly dependent on government employment or subsidy?
Who is left to rock the boat? The medical industry? The financial industry…including insurance? The real estate industry (lol about that one)? The auto industry? Big agriculture? Just about any business you can name is in some way influenced by government payrolls either directly or indirectly or by government subsidies.
In US elections 51% of the vote will carry the day for the winner. Are the ‘American peasants’ going to vote for their ‘core beliefs’, for a return to strict Constitutional Government and sound money, or for the continuation of their dole?
One last point. I noticed that you left France off the list of empires past although France was at various times a powerful empire. The lesson taught by the peasants of France was so brutal, and so frightening to the remaining aristocracies of the world, that it is not forgotten to this day…Do not forget to deliver the bread!
Yours is the lament of the elite, a fear of democracy, and a constant refrain we’ve heard from the rich ever since the days of the American Revolution. Here’s how the historian Lance Banning put it:
Much of the American elite shared Madison’s alarm with the “abuses of republican liberty practised in the states.” Many, maybe most, defined the problem as a classic crisis of relationships between the many and the few, creditor and debtors, rich and poor: a crisis generated by what Elbridge Gerry called “an excess of democracy.”
–Lance Banning, “Madison, the Statute, and Republic Convictions”
But the truth is that the alarms sounded by the rich have never materialized, have they? In fact, if anything, wresting power from the plutocrats, even in a democracy, has always been an uphill struggle.
Many have theorized as to why this is so. “The stupidity of the average man will permit the oligarch, whether economic or political, to hide his real purposes from the scrutiny of his fellows and to withdraw his activities from effective control,” Reinhold Niebuhr suggested.
But perhaps it was Madison who best articulated why your fear of the majority, or the “51% of the vote” as you put it, is unfounded. Madison observed that the body of the people do not naturally divide into two polar points, such as the many and the few, but into a plurality of groups whose multiplex variety can pose a stubborn obstacle to the success of any partial interest. The “only defense against the inconveniences of democracy consistent with the democratic form of government,” Madison argued, was to
divide the community into so great a number of interests and parties that, in the first place, a majority will not be likely at the same moment to have a common interest separate from that of the whole or of the minority, and in the second place, that in case they should have such an interest, they may not be apt to unite in the pursuit of it.
–James Madison, speech of June 6, 1787
Have you not noticed how well the oligarchy plays this game? It labors constantly to pit black against white, public union against private union, black and white against brown, union against non-union, Jew against Gentile, middle-class against working-class, and so forth.
And I find it confusing why you put forth the argument you do at a time when the oligarchy is enjoying almost unprecedented power.Bates:
Just over a week ago I wrote something on this dubious (at best) aspect of Madison’s ideology.
This is a recipe for disaster, as they should’ve known even in 1787-8. A clue to the federalist pathology is how they’re constantly saying it’s the peasant majority who threatens the minority of their economic and alleged social betters; how the real threat of tyranny is from the bottom up. But even then it was the fact that throughout history tyranny had almost always come from the top down, the power elites oppressing the majority.
And so it has been though American history. Whatever Madison’s intent, we can read this only one way today. Since at least the latter 19th century, the whole trend of US history, radically accelerating over the last 40 years, has been a double assault according to Madison’s prescription in #51, but inverting his proclaimed intent.
1. The elites have constructed the corporate will outside society, as a predator against it, as the vehicle of class war upon it.
2. At the same time they’ve sought to atomize the people, to dissolve all social, economic, and political bonds so that each individual stands naked, confused, demoralized, and alone before the awesome corporate power.
This puts the “anarchy” passage in perspective. Here Madison drops the misdirection of playing off the terms “majority” and “minority” against one another and substitutes the more ecumenical “stronger” vs. “weaker”. Now when we read this it becomes clear that the predator minority is ”the strong”, while the vast majority of the people are expected to be the weak.Valissa:
DownSouth… I agree with you that ‘divide and conquer (or rule)’ is at work in America and elsewhere. However, you seem to disregard that the number of Americans on the dole is an obstacle for the ‘American peasants’ to take some affirmative action to bring to heel the worst offenders in the criminal conspiracy consisting of Wall St, DC and the central banks of the West (and some in the East). It is obvious that divide and rule is at work but in addition there is the fact that a large portion of Americans are on the dole. There is nothing to stop the elite from using a variety of tactics and that is precisely what they are are about when they use ‘divide and rule’ and ‘co-option by dole’.
BTW, ‘lament’ is not an apt description of my post. It is your word and does not convey the same meaning as ‘observations’, which is exactly what my comments were. To lament is to grieve or protest loudly and bitterly. I notice that you often add words or entire sentences to other’s posts when responding to them. This is a cheap trick and discredits your own comments and posts.
“But perhaps it was Madison who best articulated why your fear of the majority, or the “51% of the vote” as you put it, is unfounded.”
Once again you drift off into fantasy land. I have no ‘fear of the majority’. My observation was that so many Americans are on the dole that it is unlikely that they will vote against their self interests and in favor of restoration of strict constitutional government and sound money. Perhaps Madison had a fear of the majority…Hey, just because he was paranoid did not mean that the majority was not out to get him. Of course people are not rational and people act irrationally often…so, it is not impossible that they will vote (or take action) against their own self interest.
“Have you not noticed how well the oligarchy plays this game? It labors constantly to pit black against white, public union against private union, black and white against brown, union against non-union, Jew against Gentile, middle-class against working-class, and so forth.”
Yes, I have noticed divide and rule. Have you failed to notice that ~ one half of all Americans in some manner feeding at the trough of American governments is also a stumbling block to ‘American peasants’ taking action toward reform?
“And I find it confusing why you put forth the argument you do at a time when the oligarchy is enjoying almost unprecedented power.”
Oh, I don’t think you are confused. I think that you do not want ‘American peasantry’ to realize how much they rely on American governments for their daily bread. Or, as Shakespeare said… ‘Methinks thou dost protest too much”.Kevin de Bruxelles:
Well said… props to you and Kevin dB for your thoughtful contributions to the conversation. That is why I read this blog. I enjoy learning about the world. I do not enjoy political opinionating much, even when I agree with it. As far as I am concerned, most political opinionating (left and right) is just whining that the world is not how you want it to be and blaming the other team for current misfortunes… and cheap digs is a big part of that. To use sports language, most political types, IMO, are “poor sports.”
It’s alot of work to study history, anthropology, sociological trends and related subjects in order to try and understand why the world is the way it is. It’s much easier to parrot the memes of your political belief group and emotionally and self-righteously ride on the shared agreements and disagreements that brings.EmilianoZ:
I think you articulate well the reasons Americans are still loath to turn on the system. And from the elite point of view the strategy will be to turn up the propaganda emphasis in order to leverage the people’s perceived dependency on the system while paradoxically cutting this dependency by hacking away at America’s welfare state and transferring this wealth to among other things the national security state.
Groups seen as potential threats to stability will probably suffer fewer cuts than those groups seen as less of a civil threat, such as the elderly. Of course I’m not cheerleading this process but one cannot fight something that one doesn’t understand.
I’m not sure why I left France off that list. While France’s imperial failures in the 18th century may have played a very minor role in creating the situation that triggered their revolution, less than 15 years later there was a French Emperor ruling over a very impressive European empire. Later after this empire was lost on the retreat from Moscow; the French again built up their colonial empire in Indochine, North Africa, and eventually sub-Saharan Africa as well. What is interesting is that France lost this empire during the “Trente Glorieuses” (1947-1974) during which time the French saw explosive economic growth and a huge increase in their standard of living. While this doesn’t prove anything it is another example of how global power does not necessarily follow the direction of internal economic events.michelisbanned:
I think you have a point. Unfortunately one should never underestimate the stupidity of the populace.
The most depressing of all: we have this belief that education makes us better, but what I’ve noticed is that a college degree even from a reputedly good university doesn’t give you more critical sense. Most, in fact all the college educated people I know still believe there’s a profound difference between republicans and democrats and that voting for a 3rd party is useless. I stopped arguing with them. They only look at me as if I were some conspiracy theory parrot.purple:
Kevin, surely that is not the real problem? The argument is not, or should not be, that to survive and prosper, empires have to provide either equality or services. The argument ought to be that in the end, imperial power is only supportable by economic productivity. When this declines, when economies become uncompetitive, often because of imperial overstretch, then the empire declines.
We saw this in modern times in Spain during the eighty years war. We saw it in the case of the UK in the early 20C. We saw it in Russia in the late 20C. We may be seeing it now in the US. The US may simply not have enough money to spend on the weapons that are required, may not be able to keep up with the growing economies that will be its rivals.
If this is happening, then one of the first signs might be that the living standards and employment levels of working Americans fall. Recall the twenties. This was a period in which the British Empire was still imperial, but in which the standard of living in the UK was falling behind, and in which other economies had passed it in productivity. Flash back to WWI. Then a large part of the success of the UK was its ability to out produce Germany. Go forward to WWII, and that edge had vanished.
It may be that the same thing is happening to the US. If so, critical as you all are of the US Government, its direction and state, this is really disturbing news for the West. The US is the only real power in the West. If the US is in imperial decline, then we are all in trouble. And if we do not like the US, just look at the alternatives. The US is awful, until you look at the alternatives….
A balance of power is pretty much impossible in a capitalist world-system, because of the struggle for markets, etc. The system works ‘best’ when there is a hegemon keeping order. The problem is the US no longer can afford to keep order; it can’t sustain reserve currency status because of collapsing competitiveness in production and failed military occupations are bleeding the country dry.
“The argument is not, or should not be, that to survive and prosper, empires have to provide either equality or services. The argument ought to be that in the end, imperial power is only supportable by economic productivity. When this declines, when economies become uncompetitive, often because of imperial overstretch, then the empire declines.”
Can we please keep in mind that first and foremost an empire is a business model?
In days of yore empires were in your face businesses. IOWs they did not attempt to obscure the fact that they were an empire…in fact, they gloried in being empires. Remember, ‘The sun never sets on the British empire’, was spoken with pride!
Let’s take the British empire for an example. The brits sent out their navy and army to conquer foreign lands and then sent in well trained bureaucrats to set up very efficient systems to milk the conquered lands. A simple example: cotton from India was shipped to GB to be spun into cloth and sometimes made into finished goods…which was then sold back to India and other countries for a value added profit for GB. Little thought was given to the sweat shops and their laborers in the mills of GB and even less to the Indians that grew and picked the cotton in India. The labor in both countries worked in miserable and dangerous conditions and lived in squalid conditions. But, GB was a money making empire for some time. This is one example of an empire that did not care what the laborers thought or offer any safety net for the injured, old or ill.
Rome had a similar model to GB and once the gold and other treasure was taken back to Rome the populace of the conquered were allowed to lead somewhat normal lives as long as they paid a tax (grain, etc) to Rome each year.
Think about the business model of GB’s empire or Rome’s empire compared to the US empire of today… The US spends an enormous amount of dollars maintaining military outposts around the world and fighting wars in several countries. Where is the profit in the US model? Is it in the embedded in the 12 million barrels of oil the US imports each day? Is it embedded in world dollar hegemony? Is it embedded in the US financial sector that has global reach? Or, from other sources that are obscure…like printing large quantities of treasury paper that other countries accept for their products in exchange for protection offered by the US Military? I am curious about what other posters have to say about US profits from empire.
Asia TimesIn the eight years I've reported on Afghanistan, I've "embedded" regularly with Afghan civilians, especially women. Recently, however, with American troops "surging" and journalists getting into the swing of the military's counter-insurgency "strategy" (better known by its acronym, COIN), I decided to get with the program as well. In June, I filed a request to embed with the US Army.
Polite e-mails from army public affairs specialists ask journalists to provide evidence of medical insurance, a requirement I took as an admission that war is not a healthy pursuit. I already knew that, of course - from the civilian side.
Plus I'd read a lot of articles and books by male colleagues who had risked their necks with American Afghanistan. What struck me about their work was this: even when they described screw-ups coming down from the top brass, those reporters still managed to make the soldierly enterprise sound pretty consistently heroic. I wondered what they might be leaving out.
So I sent in a scan of my Medicare card. I worried that this evidence of my senior citizenship, coupled with my membership in the "weaker sex", the one we're supposedly rescuing in Afghanistan, would raise questions about my fitness for missions "outside the wire" of a Forward Operating Base (FOB, pronounced "fob") in eastern Afghanistan only a few miles from the tribal areas of Pakistan. But no, I got my requested embed - proof of neither fitness nor heroism required (something my male colleagues had never revealed). In the end, my age and gender were no handicap. As Agatha Christie's Miss Marple knows, people will say almost anything to an old lady they assume to be stupid.
Boys and their toys
Having been critical of American policies from the get-go, I saw nothing on the various army bases I visited to change my mind. One day at that FOB, preparing to go on a mission, the sergeant in charge wrote the soldiers' names on the board, followed by "Terp" to designate the Afghan-American interpreter who would accompany us, and "In Bed," which meant me.
He made a joke about reporters who are more gung-ho than soldiers. Not me. And I wasn't alone. I had already met a lot of older guys on other bases, mostly reservists who had jobs at home they felt passionately about - teachers, coaches, musicians - and wives and children they loved, who just wanted to go home. One said to me, "Maybe if I were 10 years younger I could get into it, but I'm not a boy anymore."
The army had sent me a list of ground rules for reporters - mostly commonsense stuff like don't print troop strength or battle plans. I also got a checklist of things to bring along. It was the sort of list moms get when sending their kids off to camp: water bottle, flashlight, towel, soap, toilet paper (for those excursions away from base), sleeping bag, etc. But there was other stuff too: ballistic eyewear, fireproof gloves, big knife, body armor and Kevlar helmet. Considering how much of my tax dollar goes to the Pentagon, I thought the army might have a few spare flak jackets to lend to visiting reporters, but no, you have to bring your own.
That was perhaps a sign of things to come, as I was soon swamped by complaints from soldiers and civilian contractors alike: not enough armor, not enough vehicles, not enough helicopters, not enough weapons, not enough troops - and even when there seemed to be plenty of everything, complaints that nothing was of quite the right kind.
This struck me as a peculiarly privileged American problem that seemed to underlie almost everything I was to see on the eastern front of this war. Those complaints, in fact, seemed to spring from the very nature of the American military enterprise - from its toxic mix of paranoia, entitlement and good intentions.
Take the paranoia, which I suppose comes with the territory. You wouldn't be there if you didn't think that there were enemies all around. I turned down a military flight for the short hop from the Afghan capital Kabul to Bagram, the main American base - a rapidly expanding "city" of more than 30,000 people. Instead, I asked an Afghan friend to drive me out in his car.
A public affairs officer warned me that driving was "very dangerous", but the only problem we met was a US military convoy headed in the opposite direction, holding up traffic. For more than an hour we sat by the highway with dozens of Afghan motorists watching a parade of enormous flatbed trucks hauling other big vehicles: bulldozers and armored personnel carriers of various vintages from Humvees to MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles). My friend said, "We don't understand. They have all these big machines. They put them on trucks and haul them up and down the road. Why?"
I couldn't get an answer, but I got a clue when I took an army chopper from Bagram to a smaller base and met a private contractor partly responsible for army vehicle maintenance. He gave me a CD to pass onto his foreman at the FOB I was headed for. Rather than music, it held an instruction manual for repairing the latest model M-ATV, a hulking personnel carrier with a V-shaped hull designed to repel the blast of roadside bombs.
These are currently replacing the older MRAPs and deadly low-slung Humvees. The Humvees are, in turn, being passed off to the Afghan National Army, whose soldiers are more expendable than ours. (You see what I mean about entitlement.) Standing in a lot full of new M-ATVs already in need of fixing, the foreman seemed pleased indeed to get that CD.
It's a measure of our sense of entitlement, I think, that while the Taliban and their allies still walk to war wearing traditional baggy cotton pants and shirts, we Americans incessantly invent things to make ourselves more "secure". Since no one can ever be secure, least of all in war, every new development is bound to prove insufficient and is almost guaranteed to create new problems.
Still, Americans feel entitled to safety. Hence the MRAP was designed to address a double whammy of fear: roadside bombs (improvised explosive devices - IEDs) and ambushes. I was trained to be a passenger in an MRAP for a mission that never materialized, but in the process I learned where the built-in handholds are for those frequent occasions when the top-heavy MRAP rolls down a mountainside.
The trainer talked so assuredly about what to do in case of a rollover that he almost gave me the impression you could swivel your hips and right the vehicle, like a kayak. But no, once it rolls, it's a goner. You have to crawl out and walk. (So much for ambush protection.) Then, one of those big trucks we saw on the highway to Bagram has to come out and haul it back to base, where the foreman with that new instruction-manual CD may have a go at fixing it.
That, in a nutshell, is why the seven-passenger MRAP is being replaced by the five-passenger M-ATV, a huge armored all-terrain vehicle not quite so inclined to tip over. Because it holds fewer soldiers, however, you have to put more of those vehicles on the road, and I'm sure you already see where that leads.
One benefit of our addiction to expensive, state-of-the-art stuff, however faulty it may prove, is that the private manufacture of armaments now helps keep our economy on life support and makes some military-industrial types rich.
One drawback is that - though it's a hard point for American soldiers in the line of fire to grasp - it actually undercuts our heralded COIN strategy. Afghans out there fighting in their cotton pajamas take Western reliance on heavy armor as a measure of our fear - not to mention the inferiority of our gods on whose protection we appear unwilling to rely. (By contrast, the watchman at the small Afghan National Army base adjacent to the FOB I was visiting slept on a cot on the roof, exposed to enemy fire with his tea kettle beside him, either trusting his god, or maybe knowing something we don't about the "enemy".)
All the comforts of war
On the great scale of American bases, think of Bagram as a city, secondary bases as small towns, FOBS as heavily gated communities in rural landscapes, and outlying COPs (Combat Outposts) as camps you wouldn't want your kid to go to. A FOB is, by definition, pretty far out there on the fringe, but I have to say straight out that when the chopper dropped me off in full (and remarkably heavy) body armor and Kevlar helmet at my designated FOB, it didn't look at all like "the front" to me.
I should explain that my enduring image of war comes from the trenches of World War I, from which my father returned with a lot of medals, lifelong disabilities, and horrific picture books I wasn't allowed to see as a child. In that war, men lived for months on end without a change of uniform, in muddy or frozen trenches, infested with rats and lice, often amid their own excrement and their own dead.
The frontline FOB where I landed and its soldiers, by contrast, are spic-and-span. Credit for this goes largely to the remarkably inexpensive labor of crews of Filipinos, Indians, Croatians and others lured from distant lands by American for-profit private contractors responsible for making our troops feel at home away from home. The base's streets are laid out on a grid. Tents in tidy rows are banked with standard sand bags and their super-sized cousins, towering Hescos filled with rocks and rubble.
The tents are cooled by roaring tornados of air conditioning, thanks to equipment fueled by gasoline that costs the army about $400 per gallon to import. It takes fuelers three to four hours every day to refill all the giant generators that keep the cold air coming, so I felt guilty when, to prevent shivering in my sleep, I stuffed my towel into the ducts suspended from the ceiling of my tent.
More permanent buildings are going up and some, already built by Afghans and deemed not good enough for American habitation, are scheduled for reconstruction. Even in distant FOBs like this one, the building boom is prodigious. There's a big gym with the latest body-building equipment, and a morale-boosting center equipped with telephones and banks of computers connected to the Internet that are almost always in use. A 24/7 chow hall serves barbecued ribs, steak and lobster tails, though everything is cooked beyond recognition by those underpaid laborers to whom this cuisine is utterly foreign.
maintaining a single American soldier in Afghanistan, currently estimated at US$1 million.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not making a case for filthy trenches. But why should war be gussied up like home? If war were undisguisedly as nasty and brutish as it truly is, it might also tend to be short. Soldiers freed from illusions might mutiny, as many did in Vietnam, or desert and go home. But this modern, cushier kind of pseudo-war is different.
Many young soldiers told me that they actually live better in the army, even when deployed, than they did in civilian life, where they couldn't make ends meet, especially when they were trying to pay for college or raise a family by working one or two low-wage jobs. They won't mutiny. They're doing better than many of their friends back home. (And they're dutiful, which makes for acts of personal heroism, even in a foolhardy cause.) They are likely to re-enlist, though many told me they'd prefer to quit the army and go to work for much higher pay with the for-profit private contractors that now "service" American war.
But the odd thing is that no one seems to question the relative cushiness of this life at war (nor the inequity of the hardscrabble civilian life left behind) - least of all those best able to observe firsthand the contrast between our garrisons and the humble equipment and living conditions of Afghans, both friend and foe. Rather, the contrast seems to inspire many soldiers with renewed appreciation of "our American way of life" and a determination to "do good things" for the Afghan people, just as many feel they did for the people of Iraq.
I emphasize all this because nothing I'd read about soldiering prepared me for the extent of these comforts - or the tedium that attends them. Plenty of soldiers don't leave the base. They hold down desk jobs, issue supplies, manage logistics, repair vehicles or radios, refuel generators and trucks, plan "development" projects, handle public affairs, or update tactical maps inscribed (at certain locations I am obliged not to name) with admonitions like "Here Be Dragons" or "Here Do Bad Stuff". They face the boredom of ordinary, unheroic, repetitive tasks.
The most common injury they are likely to suffer is a sprained ankle, thanks to eastern Afghanistan's carpet of loose rocks - just the size to trip you up. On the wall in the FOB's clinic is a poster with schematic drawings and instructions for strengthening ankles, an anatomical part not enhanced by any of the fitness machines at the gym. The medics dispense a lot of ibuprofen and keep a supply of crutches handy.
What's going on
As this is an infantry base, however, most squads regularly venture outside the wire and the characteristic, probably long-term disability the soldiers take with them is bad knees - from the great weight of the things they wear and carry.
The base commander reminded me of one of the principles of COIN: security should be established by non-lethal means. So most infantry missions are "presence patrols", described by one officer as "walking around in places where we won't get shot at just to show the Afs [Afghans] that we're keeping them safe."
I went outside the wire myself on one of these presence patrols, a mission to a village, and - I'm sorry to say - it was no friendly stroll. It's a soldier's job to be "focused"; that is, to watch out for enemies. So you can't be "distracted" by greeting people along the way or stopping to chat. Entering a village hall to meet elders, for instance, may sound cordial - winning hearts and minds. But sweeping in with guns at the ready shatters that friendly feeling. Speaking as someone who has visited Afghans in their homes for years, I have to say that this approach does not make a good impression. It probably wouldn't go over well in your hometown either.
Nor does it seem to work. Since the US military adopted COIN to "protect the populace", civilian casualties have gone up 23%; 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed last year (and that's undoubtedly an undercount). No wonder the presence of American troops leaves so many Afghans feeling not safer, but more endangered, and it even inspires some to take up arms against the occupying army. Ever more often, at least in the area where I was embedded, a non-lethal presence patrol turns into a lethal firefight.
One day, near the end of my embed, I watched a public affairs officer frame a photograph of a soldier who had been killed in a firefight and mount it on the wall by the commander's office beside the black-framed photos of seven other soldiers. This American fighting force had been in place at the FOB for only a few weeks, having relieved another contingent, yet it had already lost eight men. (Five Afghan soldiers had been killed as well, but their pictures were notably absent from the gallery of remembrance.) The army takes a photograph of every soldier at the beginning of his or her service, so it's on file when needed; when, that is, a soldier is killed.
Most American bases and combat outposts are named for dead American soldiers. When a soldier is killed - or "falls", as the army likes to put it - the Internet service and the phones on base go dead until an army delegation has knocked on the door of surviving family members. So even if you're one of those soldiers who never leaves the base, you're always reminded of what's going on out there. And then usually toward evening, some unseen enemies on the peaks around the base begin to shoot down at it, and American gunners respond with shells that lift great clouds of rock and dust from the mountains into the darkening sky.
Doing good to Afghans
On the base, I heard incessant talk about COIN, the "new" doctrine resurrected from the disaster of Vietnam in the irrational hope that it will work this time. From my experience at the FOB, however, it's clear enough that the hearts-and-minds part of COIN is already dead in the water, and one widespread practice in the military that's gone unreported by other embedded journalists helps explain why.
So here's a TomDispatch exclusive, courtesy of Afghan-American men serving as interpreters for the soldiers. They were embarrassed to the point of agony when mentioning this habit, but desperate to put a stop to it. COIN calls for the military to meet and make friends with village elders, drink tea, plan "development", and captivate their hearts and minds. Several interpreters told me, however, that every meeting includes some young American soldiers whose locker-room-style male bonding features bouts of hilarious farting.
To Afghan men, nothing is more shameful. A fart is proof that a man cannot control any of his apparatus below the belt. The man who farts is thus not a man at all. He cannot be taken seriously, nor can any of his ideas or promises or plans.
Blissfully unaware of such things, the army goes on planning together with its civilian consultants (representatives of the US State Department, the US Department of Agriculture and various independent contractors who make up what's called a Human Terrain Team charged with interpreting local culture and helping to win the locals over to our side). Some speak of "building infrastructure", others of advancing "good governance" or planning "economic development". All talk of "doing good" and "helping" Afghanistan.
In a typical mess-up on the actual terrain of Afghanistan, army experts previously in charge of this base had already had a million-dollar suspension bridge built over a river some distance away, but hadn't thought to secure land rights, so no road leads to it. Now the local American agriculture specialist wants to introduce alfalfa to these waterless, rocky mountains to feed herds of cattle principally pastured in his mind.
Yet even as I was filling my notebook with details of their delusionary schemes, the base commander told me he had already been forced to "put aside development". He had his hands full facing a Taliban onslaught he hadn't expected. Throughout Afghanistan, insurgent attacks have gone up 51% since the official adoption of COIN as the strategy du jour. On this eastern front, where the commander had served six years earlier, he now faces a "surge" of intimidation, assassination, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and fighters with greater technical capability than he has ever seen in Afghanistan.
A few days after we spoke, the Afghanistan command was handed to General David Petraeus, the sainted refurbisher of the military's counter-insurgency manual. I wonder if the base commander has told Petraeus yet what he told me then: "What we're fighting here now - it's a conventional war."
I'd been "on the front" of this war for less than two weeks, and I already needed a vacation. Being outside the wire had filled me with sorrow as I watched earnest, heavily armed and armored boys try to win over white-bearded Afghans - men of extraordinary dignity - who have seen all this before and know the outcome.
Being on the base was tedious, often tense, and equally sorrowful at times when soldiers fell. Then the base commander, on foot, escorted the armored vehicles returning from a firefight onto the base the way a bygone cavalry officer might enter a frontier fort, leading a riderless horse. The scene would look good in a Hollywood war movie: moving in that sentimental Technicolor way that seems to imbue with heroic significance unnecessary and pointless death.
One night I bedded down outdoors under a profusion of stars and an Islamic crescent moon. Invisible in the dark, I couldn't help overhearing a soldier who'd slipped out to make a cell phone call back home. "I really need to talk to you today," he said, and then stumbling in his search for words, he broke down. "No," he said at last, "I'm fine. I'll call you back later."
The next day, carrying my helmet and my armor on my arm, I boarded a helicopter and flew away.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, has just been published. Listen to the latest TomCast audio interview to hear him discuss the book by clicking here or, to download to an iPod, here.
July 29, 2010 | TomDispatch
If you ever needed convincing that the world of American “national security” is well along the road to profligate lunacy, read the striking three-part “Top Secret America” series by Dana Priest and William Arkin that the Washington Post published last week. When it comes to the expansion of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), which claims 17 major agencies and organizations, the figures are staggering. Here’s just a taste: “Twenty-four [new intelligence] organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips, and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11.”
More striking yet, the articles make clear (admittedly a few years late) that no one has a complete picture of the extent of the American intelligence quagmire -- from its finances (announced at $75 billion but, the authors assure us, significantly higher) to its geography, its output (the 50,000 top-secret reports it churns out yearly that no one has time to read or track), its composition, or even its office space. (“In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001.”) And keep in mind that all of this and more was created not to keep track of or fight a series of covert wars with another major imperial power like the Soviet Union, but to track and hunt down a rag-tag terrorist outfit with a couple of thousand members, including modest-sized groups in countries like Yemen and small numbers of individual wannabe terrorists like the “underwear bomber.” In much of this, as anyone who bothers to scan front-page headlines knows, the IC has been remarkably unsuccessful. Such staggeringly out-of-control expansion should, of course, be a major scandal, but along with our constant wars, it’s already so much a part of the new national security norm that the publication of the Post series is unlikely to have any significant effect.
All this has, in turn, been driven by Fear Inc. To fuel its profitable if cancerous growth, it has vastly exaggerated the relatively minor and largely manageable danger of Islamic terrorism -- since 9/11, above shark attacks but way below drunken-driving accidents -- among the many far more serious dangers this country faces. If the IC actually worked as an effective intelligence delivery system, we would be a Mensa among states. But how could such a proliferation of overlapping agencies and outfits, aided and abetted by a burgeoning privatized, mercenary version of the same, provide “intelligence”? With more than two-thirds of all intelligence programs militarized and overseen by the Pentagon, itself driven to paroxysms of spending and expansion since 2001 (despite the fact that all major military challengers to the U.S. are long gone), labeling this morass “intelligence” should be considered a joke. However absurd, though, don’t expect any of those organizations or agencies to disappear any time soon. They’re ours for the duration.
It’s into such national security institutional madness that Andrew Bacevich, author of the bestselling The Limits of Power, strides in his latest work, to be published this week, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. It is the single best source for understanding how Washington came to garrison the planet, intervene regularly in distant lands, and turn war-making -- and not even successful war-making at that -- into an American norm. It’s simply a must-read. Think of today’s TomDispatch post as a little introduction to just a few of that book’s themes. (And while you’re at it, catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses his new book by clicking here, or to download it to your iPod, here.) Tom
The End of (Military) History?
The United States, Israel, and the Failure of the Western Way of War
By Andrew J. Bacevich
“In watching the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history.” This sentiment, introducing the essay that made Francis Fukuyama a household name, commands renewed attention today, albeit from a different perspective.
Developments during the 1980s, above all the winding down of the Cold War, had convinced Fukuyama that the “end of history” was at hand. “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea,” he wrote in 1989, “is evident… in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.”
Today the West no longer looks quite so triumphant. Yet events during the first decade of the present century have delivered history to another endpoint of sorts. Although Western liberalism may retain considerable appeal, the Western way of war has run its course.
For Fukuyama, history implied ideological competition, a contest pitting democratic capitalism against fascism and communism. When he wrote his famous essay, that contest was reaching an apparently definitive conclusion.
Yet from start to finish, military might had determined that competition’s course as much as ideology. Throughout much of the twentieth century, great powers had vied with one another to create new, or more effective, instruments of coercion. Military innovation assumed many forms. Most obviously, there were the weapons: dreadnoughts and aircraft carriers, rockets and missiles, poison gas, and atomic bombs -- the list is a long one. In their effort to gain an edge, however, nations devoted equal attention to other factors: doctrine and organization, training systems and mobilization schemes, intelligence collection and war plans.
All of this furious activity, whether undertaken by France or Great Britain, Russia or Germany, Japan or the United States, derived from a common belief in the plausibility of victory. Expressed in simplest terms, the Western military tradition could be reduced to this proposition: war remains a viable instrument of statecraft, the accoutrements of modernity serving, if anything, to enhance its utility.
That was theory. Reality, above all the two world wars of the last century, told a decidedly different story. Armed conflict in the industrial age reached new heights of lethality and destructiveness. Once begun, wars devoured everything, inflicting staggering material, psychological, and moral damage. Pain vastly exceeded gain. In that regard, the war of 1914-1918 became emblematic: even the winners ended up losers. When fighting eventually stopped, the victors were left not to celebrate but to mourn. As a consequence, well before Fukuyama penned his essay, faith in war’s problem-solving capacity had begun to erode. As early as 1945, among several great powers -- thanks to war, now great in name only -- that faith disappeared altogether.
Among nations classified as liberal democracies, only two resisted this trend. One was the United States, the sole major belligerent to emerge from the Second World War stronger, richer, and more confident. The second was Israel, created as a direct consequence of the horrors unleashed by that cataclysm. By the 1950s, both countries subscribed to this common conviction: national security (and, arguably, national survival) demanded unambiguous military superiority. In the lexicon of American and Israeli politics, “peace” was a codeword. The essential prerequisite for peace was for any and all adversaries, real or potential, to accept a condition of permanent inferiority. In this regard, the two nations -- not yet intimate allies -- stood apart from the rest of the Western world.
So even as they professed their devotion to peace, civilian and military elites in the United States and Israel prepared obsessively for war. They saw no contradiction between rhetoric and reality.
Yet belief in the efficacy of military power almost inevitably breeds the temptation to put that power to work. “Peace through strength” easily enough becomes “peace through war.” Israel succumbed to this temptation in 1967. For Israelis, the Six Day War proved a turning point. Plucky David defeated, and then became, Goliath. Even as the United States was flailing about in Vietnam, Israel had evidently succeeded in definitively mastering war.
A quarter-century later, U.S. forces seemingly caught up. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush’s war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, showed that American troops like Israeli soldiers knew how to win quickly, cheaply, and humanely. Generals like H. Norman Schwarzkopf persuaded themselves that their brief desert campaign against Iraq had replicated -- even eclipsed -- the battlefield exploits of such famous Israeli warriors as Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Vietnam faded into irrelevance.
For both Israel and the United States, however, appearances proved deceptive. Apart from fostering grand illusions, the splendid wars of 1967 and 1991 decided little. In both cases, victory turned out to be more apparent than real. Worse, triumphalism fostered massive future miscalculation.
On the Golan Heights, in Gaza, and throughout the West Bank, proponents of a Greater Israel -- disregarding Washington’s objections -- set out to assert permanent control over territory that Israel had seized. Yet “facts on the ground” created by successive waves of Jewish settlers did little to enhance Israeli security. They succeeded chiefly in shackling Israel to a rapidly growing and resentful Palestinian population that it could neither pacify nor assimilate.
In the Persian Gulf, the benefits reaped by the United States after 1991 likewise turned out to be ephemeral. Saddam Hussein survived and became in the eyes of successive American administrations an imminent threat to regional stability. This perception prompted (or provided a pretext for) a radical reorientation of strategy in Washington. No longer content to prevent an unfriendly outside power from controlling the oil-rich Persian Gulf, Washington now sought to dominate the entire Greater Middle East. Hegemony became the aim. Yet the United States proved no more successful than Israel in imposing its writ.
During the 1990s, the Pentagon embarked willy-nilly upon what became its own variant of a settlement policy. Yet U.S. bases dotting the Islamic world and U.S. forces operating in the region proved hardly more welcome than the Israeli settlements dotting the occupied territories and the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) assigned to protect them. In both cases, presence provoked (or provided a pretext for) resistance. Just as Palestinians vented their anger at the Zionists in their midst, radical Islamists targeted Americans whom they regarded as neo-colonial infidels.
No one doubted that Israelis (regionally) and Americans (globally) enjoyed unquestioned military dominance. Throughout Israel’s near abroad, its tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships operated at will. So, too, did American tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships wherever they were sent.
So what? Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage. Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications. No matter how badly battered and beaten, the “terrorists” (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren’t intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more.
Israel ran smack into this problem during Operation Peace for Galilee, its 1982 intervention in Lebanon. U.S. forces encountered it a decade later during Operation Restore Hope, the West’s gloriously titled foray into Somalia. Lebanon possessed a puny army; Somalia had none at all. Rather than producing peace or restoring hope, however, both operations ended in frustration, embarrassment, and failure.
And those operations proved but harbingers of worse to come. By the 1980s, the IDF’s glory days were past. Rather than lightning strikes deep into the enemy rear, the narrative of Israeli military history became a cheerless recital of dirty wars -- unconventional conflicts against irregular forces yielding problematic results. The First Intifada (1987-1993), the Second Intifada (2000-2005), a second Lebanon War (2006), and Operation Cast Lead, the notorious 2008-2009 incursion into Gaza, all conformed to this pattern.
Meanwhile, the differential between Palestinian and Jewish Israeli birth rates emerged as a looming threat -- a “demographic bomb,” Benjamin Netanyahu called it. Here were new facts on the ground that military forces, unless employed pursuant to a policy of ethnic cleansing, could do little to redress. Even as the IDF tried repeatedly and futilely to bludgeon Hamas and Hezbollah into submission, demographic trends continued to suggest that within a generation a majority of the population within Israel and the occupied territories would be Arab.
Trailing a decade or so behind Israel, the United States military nonetheless succeeded in duplicating the IDF’s experience. Moments of glory remained, but they would prove fleeting indeed. After 9/11, Washington’s efforts to transform (or “liberate”) the Greater Middle East kicked into high gear. In Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror began impressively enough, as U.S. forces operated with a speed and élan that had once been an Israeli trademark. Thanks to “shock and awe,” Kabul fell, followed less than a year and a half later by Baghdad. As one senior Army general explained to Congress in 2004, the Pentagon had war all figured out:
“We are now able to create decision superiority that is enabled by networked systems, new sensors and command and control capabilities that are producing unprecedented near real time situational awareness, increased information availability, and an ability to deliver precision munitions throughout the breadth and depth of the battlespace… Combined, these capabilities of the future networked force will leverage information dominance, speed and precision, and result in decision superiority.”
The key phrase in this mass of techno-blather was the one that occurred twice: “decision superiority.” At that moment, the officer corps, like the Bush administration, was still convinced that it knew how to win.
Such claims of success, however, proved obscenely premature. Campaigns advertised as being wrapped up in weeks dragged on for years, while American troops struggled with their own intifadas. When it came to achieving decisions that actually stuck, the Pentagon (like the IDF) remained clueless.
If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it’s this: victory is a chimera. Counting on today’s enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky.
Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, Americans contemplated their equivalent of Israel’s “demographic bomb” -- a “fiscal bomb.” Ingrained habits of profligacy, both individual and collective, held out the prospect of long-term stagnation: no growth, no jobs, no fun. Out-of-control spending on endless wars exacerbated that threat.
By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning -- at least as a Rabin or Schwarzkopf would have understood that term. They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.
As a consequence, U.S. troops today sally forth from their base camps not to defeat the enemy, but to “protect the people,” consistent with the latest doctrinal fashion. Meanwhile, tea-sipping U.S. commanders cut deals with warlords and tribal chieftains in hopes of persuading guerrillas to lay down their arms.
A new conventional wisdom has taken hold, endorsed by everyone from new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus, the most celebrated soldier of this American age, to Barack Obama, commander-in-chief and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. For the conflicts in which the United States finds itself enmeshed, “military solutions” do not exist. As Petraeus himself has emphasized, “we can’t kill our way out of" the fix we’re in. In this way, he also pronounced a eulogy on the Western conception of warfare of the last two centuries.
The Unasked Question
What then are the implications of arriving at the end of Western military history?
In his famous essay, Fukuyama cautioned against thinking that the end of ideological history heralded the arrival of global peace and harmony. Peoples and nations, he predicted, would still find plenty to squabble about.
With the end of military history, a similar expectation applies. Politically motivated violence will persist and may in specific instances even retain marginal utility. Yet the prospect of Big Wars solving Big Problems is probably gone for good. Certainly, no one in their right mind, Israeli or American, can believe that a continued resort to force will remedy whatever it is that fuels anti-Israeli or anti-American antagonism throughout much of the Islamic world. To expect persistence to produce something different or better is moonshine.
It remains to be seen whether Israel and the United States can come to terms with the end of military history. Other nations have long since done so, accommodating themselves to the changing rhythms of international politics. That they do so is evidence not of virtue, but of shrewdness. China, for example, shows little eagerness to disarm. Yet as Beijing expands its reach and influence, it emphasizes trade, investment, and development assistance. Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army stays home. China has stolen a page from an old American playbook, having become today the preeminent practitioner of “dollar diplomacy.”
The collapse of the Western military tradition confronts Israel with limited choices, none of them attractive. Given the history of Judaism and the history of Israel itself, a reluctance of Israeli Jews to entrust their safety and security to the good will of their neighbors or the warm regards of the international community is understandable. In a mere six decades, the Zionist project has produced a vibrant, flourishing state. Why put all that at risk? Although the demographic bomb may be ticking, no one really knows how much time remains on the clock. If Israelis are inclined to continue putting their trust in (American-supplied) Israeli arms while hoping for the best, who can blame them?
In theory, the United States, sharing none of Israel’s demographic or geographic constraints and, far more richly endowed, should enjoy far greater freedom of action. Unfortunately, Washington has a vested interest in preserving the status quo, no matter how much it costs or where it leads. For the military-industrial complex, there are contracts to win and buckets of money to be made. For those who dwell in the bowels of the national security state, there are prerogatives to protect. For elected officials, there are campaign contributors to satisfy. For appointed officials, civilian and military, there are ambitions to be pursued.
And always there is a chattering claque of militarists, calling for jihad and insisting on ever greater exertions, while remaining alert to any hint of backsliding. In Washington, members of this militarist camp, by no means coincidentally including many of the voices that most insistently defend Israeli bellicosity, tacitly collaborate in excluding or marginalizing views that they deem heretical. As a consequence, what passes for debate on matters relating to national security is a sham. Thus are we invited to believe, for example, that General Petraeus’s appointment as the umpteenth U.S. commander in Afghanistan constitutes a milestone on the way to ultimate success.
Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: “What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?” Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What’s the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn’t actually work?
Washington’s refusal to pose that question provides a measure of the corruption and dishonesty permeating our politics.
Copyright 2010 Andrew Bacevich
It occurred to me that this story might not get all that much mainstream air time in the US, for reasons that will become obvious.
We’ve been having an inquiry into the background to the Iraq war over here. There was another enquiry back in the Blair era, Hutton, summarised by wikipedia:
On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, was found dead after he had been named as the source of quotes used by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. These quotes had formed the basis of media reports claiming that Tony Blair’s Labour government had knowingly “sexed up” the “September Dossier“, a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The inquiry opened in August 2003 and reported on 28 January 2004. The inquiry report cleared the government of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC’s chairman and director-general.
The reported intelligence in the run-up to the war, and the result of this enquiry, both stank to high heaven at the time, to many.
We’re a safe distance from those events now, Blair has his £5m per annum sinecure with JP Morgan, the political imperatives have changed, and you can’t kick the British establishment around, the way Blair and cronies did, without there being some scores to settle. So the official verdict, on the pre-war intelligence at least, is now somewhat different. From the FT:
So now we know. Iraq posed no real threat prior to the Anglo-American invasion of March 2003. There was no credible intelligence to suggest any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But what the assault on Iraq did do was proliferate jihadism across the Middle East and incubate Islamist extremism in the UK, leading to the London Tube and bus bombings five years ago and 15 other “substantial plots”.
Now we know? Hmm. Noted commie radical pinko Eliza Manningham-Buller, (I jest), weighs in with what has pretty much been the anti-war protesters’ view all along. FT again:
“Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad,” Eliza Manningham-Buller, former director-general of MI5, the British domestic security service, told the UK war inquiry this week.
And the Hutton conclusion may or not have been right about Gilligan’s specific allegations, but it is now a matter of public record that there were attempts to manipulate the intelligence to show a greater threat from Iraq than actually existed. FT again (my emphasis):
…what makes Lady Manningham-Buller’s testimony so devastating is that this was the advice her service gave Tony Blair’s government at the time. Indeed, MI5 refused a request “to put in some low-grade” intelligence to beef up the September 2002 government document making the case for war “because we didn’t think it was reliable”.
A former UK diplomat, a Carne Ross, very angry about the victimization of David Kelly, described the manipulation process; FT again for the key summary:
Mr Ross…says containment of Saddam was working but neither the UK nor the US seemed interested in taking obvious steps to reinforce it. Instead, they gradually exaggerated the threat he posed, suppressing contrary opinion.
“This process of exaggeration was gradual, and proceeded by accretion and editing from document to document, in a way that allowed those participating to convince themselves that they were not engaged in blatant dishonesty. But this process led to highly misleading statements about the UK assessment of the Iraqi threat that were, in their totality, lies,” Mr Ross said.
“Lies”. Well, I did say, former diplomat. In fact he resigned from the Foreign Office in protest at the way the run-up to the war was conducted. He is slightly more indirect about the Hutton enquiry, but you don’t have to read very diligently between the lines to see that as the same sort of manipulation.
So…pending a similarly frank and revelatory enquiry in the States, I would recommend judicious scepticism about reports, let’s say, of alarming Iranian nuclear plans. If I understand the import of this enquiry testimony aright, I can’t imagine that supporting British intelligence will feature much in any such reports – the US will have to make its own evidence up next time. A chap can act as a poodle up to a point, but there’s a limit.
Of course you can transfer that scepticism across to anything else the adminstration of the day really, really wants to do. But I think many of you do that already.Doug Terpstra:
“We’re a safe distance from those events now, Blair has his £5m per annum sinecure with JP Morgan, the political imperatives have changed … the US will have to make its own evidence up next time. A chap can act as a poodle up to a point, but there’s a limit.”
At $10 million (?!), Blair is certainly a well-pampered poodle, as Willie Clinton before him, and soon Obama. It makes one wonder about Greenspan’s undisclosed sin-cure at John Paulson & Company. In the end, I really doubt that imperatives have changed—only the price.
Never “misunderestimate” the stupidity of the Anglo-American public. War on Iran is now even more imminent after Wikileaks revelations that Iran and Pakistan are fueling the Afghani resistance. All we need is the pretext, and the incessantly-repeated past is prologue.
I had the same thoughts about these ‘revelations’ about Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.
In fact it could be another attempt to manipulate public opinion, this time by using a whistleblower-site, seemingly beyond reproach of manipulating information, to plant the manipulated information.
i on the ball patriot :anonymous:
“Of course you can transfer that scepticism across to anything else the adminstration of the day really, really wants to do. But I think many of you do that already.”
You can transfer that skepticism across to the past forty years and look at how the gangster financial war on domestic populations was sexed up with ‘free market’, ‘free trade’, ‘private property’, Ayn Rand, make believe fantasy.
The same bullshit lying GLOBAL media that sexed up and sold the gangster Iraq and Iran INVASIONS is also the same bullshit lying media that sexed up and sold the VERY INTENTIONAL debt trap bubble bombs and counterfeit derivative bunker buster weapons and the dismantling of the regulations that allowed their use in rolling global financial bombing attacks.
The comparisons should be fleshed out and documented side by side on the internet in a public court of opinion (the only real court left to the people) fashion. It should include a fantasy gallows.
Who do you think deserves the fantasy gallows?
Blair, Bush, Colin Powell, Greenspan, Bernanke, Jaime Dimon, Reagan, Clinton, etc.?
Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.Dwight Baker:
Looks like a giant bubble of hope just hit the deck on the ship we
By Dwight Baker
July 27, 2010
Interesting is the concept of Wikileaks, it seems that reading for the benefit of others has been the wrong thing to do. Also often thought today is the idea that say’s say it in 50 words or less and get on with it brother.
So, for anyone that has a common thread with most living today —- reading over 91 thousands pages of documents is a far cry from being tuned in. For civil societies have changed over and over again and at this time speed to process large amounts of information wisely seems to be the best way. However speed reading and comprehension are not the same thing and often times those who retain the greatest amounts of truth filled information have been trained to do so by their masters in education instructions.
Now back to Wikileaks and what is their success really about?
Maybe their success is all about giving their perceived truth in such large multiple doses with proof documents that now no one can deny that their perceived truth does not exist.
Another way to think about it and say it might be, the lawyers who show up in court pulling one little wagon filled with printed pages after another proves or just gives out the persona they have studied long and hard those pieces of evidence to prove out their case.
Therefore if that is the case and I am thinking yes it is, the Few in the Many that must lead out the people held in tyrannical bondage today. Have found solace in that proof filled documents do abound for all to read that do exist to help them tell the people following STOP THE WAR. WAR IS NOT JUST; WAR IS FOR MAKING MONEY, BRING OUR TROOPS HOME. PROSECUTE THOSE WHO LIE ABOUT THE NEED TO MAKE WAR.
Everybody was fooled? Not likely. I’d say very few were fooled. Far many more fooled themselves. I recall one military analyst appearing on Aaron Brown just moments before hostilities actually broke out who objected to the carnival joy of the commentators and and ordinary Americans keen to see the blood of the brown man flow. Cut to commercial break and presto! One less troublesome fly to hear from.
In Britain, the opposite was true. The story has not yet been fully told and I’d be extremely surprised if it’s simple and morally uncomplicated when more of the facts come out. What interests me far more, is our ability to re-configure Bush’s needless war of choice into a ‘humanitarian mission’. Worse is yet to come. Count on it.
Re: Declaration of Independence states
No “piece of paper” can keep the sociopaths from winning. The rules have been changed for 200 years now. Rules are always changed. That’s the only purpose of rules actually; they are a legal form of natural selection. Those that break the rules successfully have an advantage over the dumbasses that follow the rules.
A society the doesn’t enforce its traffic laws has no chance at enforce something as complex as a “Constitution”.
Paraphrasing Harry Caray: The Sociopaths WIN, The Sociopaths WIN!
L. F Sherman
The third in a series that started with "Blowback" is the strongest statement of the lot. The experience, expertise, and brain power demand a careful reading rather than simplistic name calling by those who don't like the conclusions (for them labeling "Liberal" saves bothering to think or develop a logical counter argument). Furthermore, there are numerous Conservatives who would find much of the argument justified.
Every citizen should read the last chapter before investing, making long term plans, or evaluating this `MBA war President'.
Whether one totally `buys into' the argument (well made) that the Republic is about gone because of an irresponsible Congress bypassed by the Military Industrial Complex (a Republican's term you remember) and rotten pervasive dominance of those interests, it should be carefully evaluated not dismissed by name calling as some reviewers have done.
No President as asserted so many excess powers via extreme secrecy, curtailing civil rights, creative legal fatwas, signing statements, making himself "the decider" snubbing Congress. And has any other claimed to talk to God? American arrogance compounded by megalomania - my conclusion not Johnson's.
Johnson is not a Pacifist, but he makes a strong case that realistic American interests could be supported with perhaps 40 bases rather than 740 that pollute relations in countries where they are placed. (His detailed experience with Japan and Okinawa is more than I'd care to know but one example.)
Long ago one President suggested that the US could lead by example or by asserting power and that the later approach would undermine the former as our own Republic and democracy was destroyed.
At times this book was overly critical, and Chalmers Johnson seemed to be reading too deeply into the situation. There were also times when it brought up a few tired old arguments.
Johnson points out the fact that every imperial empire is nearly oblivious to what it is doing: it convinces itself that what it is doing is different from other past empires, and what they are doing is for the better. Johnson draws interesting parallels between this behavior and the current U.S. policies. I would agree with Johnson here.
Johnson is convinced that the U.S. maintains is imperialism through military strength, and having military bases around the world. Overall, I agree with this argument, but I think he overstates the role of the defense lobby in why we have so many bases overseas close to twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The power of the defense lobby might explain why its so difficult to close a base domestically, but it lacks in why the U.S. has bases overseas.
Jim Wilder "WilderCO" :
Nemesis (2006) is the final book in Johnson's trilogy, following Blowback in 2000, and The Sorrows of Empire in 2004. It is a warning call to Americans in our interdependent world that our foreign policy actions have consequences, and that we cannot continue to guide our destiny through aggressive use of military power. Nemesis is well researched with scores of citations. It poses alarming questions, such as: 1) is our political system capable of saving the US in the face of the DOD and unaccountable government spending? and 2) What are the effects of having the US maintain so many bases in foreign lands? and 3) Is "military Keynesianism" a sustainable policy?
Johnson draws some historical lessons from the empires of Rome, which tried to maintain a far flung empire but eventually lost its government, and Britain, which gave up its distributed empire for the benefit of more robustly sustaining England. He devotes a chapter examining the CIA as an agency of foreign policy and the effects of US military bases in foreign countries. He has many surprising facts, such as there are more people of Lebanese descent in Brazil than in Lebanon, and that post WWII Japanese pacifism is a fiction.
Johnson considers space the next battleground and describes the currently deployed ground-based missile defense as a `dual use' system with the potential offensive purpose of shooting down satellites. Johnson's description of the future battleground of space is quite thought provoking and alarming, whatever your attitudes about the efficacy of military preparedness and the use of force. He points out the collateral damage likely during earth orbit warfare will have detrimental consequences for everyone, as the debris clouds will affect all communication satellites. Johnson states that our government operating in shadows of secrecy is not what the Constitutional framers intended, and the public should have access to information about the activities of our government.
This book is depressing in its hard-edged assessments of the future of the US, and is a signal alarm to that it may already be too late influence a more secure and sustainable nation for successive generations.
July 6, 2010 | The Huffington Post
As members of opposing political parties, we disagree on a number of important issues. But we must not allow honest disagreement over some issues to interfere with our ability to work together when we do agree.
By far the single most important of these is our current initiative to include substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts. For decades, the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion -- more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.
It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life.
We are not talking about cutting the money needed to supply American troops in the field. Once we send our men and women into battle, even in cases where we may have opposed going to war, we have an obligation to make sure that our service members have everything they need. And we are not talking about cutting essential funds for combating terrorism; we must do everything possible to prevent any recurrence of the mass murder of Americans that took place on September 11, 2001.KCFreedom :I think Ron and Barney are absolutely right but the banksters, weaponers, and neos will never allow the defense budget to go down.John Hay :
As soon as they start seeing cuts, watch as some sort of "attack" or "threat" occurs to stick it right back up there again.I find it quite astonishing that American politicians are only now beginning to realize that they need to cut military spending. Their financial epiphany has arrived 10 years too late.
I would have thought it was patently obvious that fighting two wars simultaneously with borrowed money isn't very smart. And what for? America needs to end this arrogant military nonsense and start putting its own house in order.
I don't know how you conclude that from reading this. Barney Frank has been anti-pentagon for his entire career... and Ron Paul's libertarian tendencies leave no room for any compromise - if he had his way, every overseas military base would be shut down immediately. He's been telling this to anyone who would listen for 40 years at least.
So there's nothing new in these two guys wanting to reduce pentagon spending. And the existence of this article doesn't mean a single thing about the feelings of the rest of the senate and congress. I'm sure they will be able to get a few names to sign on, but we are still a long, long way from the kind of domestic economic collapse that would force the hawks to go along with deep defense cuts.
90% of the GOP would rather see 30% unemployment than cut military spending. There's two main reasons for this - First, ideologically the GOP and many Democrats are simply devoted to the idea of American military supremacy. Cutting military spending significantly would feel like being castrated to a large part of the voting public.
Second, every single state in the USA has thousands of citizens employed by the Military or their suppliers. One truism of American politics is that a politician will *NEVER* vote for a spending cut that affects jobs in his home state. For military spending that goes double.
Real defense spending cuts are a long way off yet.
Creating jobs? The military creates a ton of jobs, both through the employment of service members and the corporations that support them and build tpars plus face threats from Iran, N Korea, etc).
While you continue to spend money that you don't have on your War efforts your Country men/women will go without. Your infrastructure will suffer, your people will continue to remain unemployed, your poor will only only become poorer, more hopeless, and more disgruntled and then you will face a different problem from within your borders( as if the Gangs in you in the meantime China, India, Russia wi:cut every program for
With Obama's handpicked panel who have pre decided that only the fully funded program, Social Security system, is the place to cut; after Congress with the active collusion of all administrations have systematically looted the "trust" funds paid into Social Security from PAYROLL taxes for the Social Security bubble of baby-boomers (remember Georgie waving the IOUs)!
These stolen monies were used to give the top 1% tax breaks and you sure do not expect their lackeys in Congress to actually tax it back to pay off those IOUs, or to tax those robber barons of wall street with "capital gains" from unearned activities who sure don't expect their purchased Congress to treat them as if they actually worked to "earn" their income!!
Nor should our poor volunteer mercenaries in training have to do such menial jobs as KP, cooking, making their own beds, or managing supplies when our viperous contractors are happy to take 10times their pay to do it for them! Stopping ALL contracting activities for the "volunteer" military would bring a screeching halt to all our foreign adventurism and if we forbid selling any American arms or munitions to ANY foreign county it just might stop completely!!
We need a coalition in Congress that finally puts an end to extreme military spending. Under Clinton, we spent "only" $200 billion/year. 10 years later we end up spending $700 billion plus some additional funding here and there. $500 billion that could be spent in so many other, DOMESTIC issues. Just to list a few: Health Care, Education, Research & Development, Infrastructure, Border Security, Environment, and Cities.
There are a lot of great projects in this country that lack the funding. To name one: California High-Speed Rail. While other foreign governments invest tens of billions of dollars in high-speed rail, Congress decides to invest a ridiculous sum of $1.4 billion in high-speed rail for the Fiscal year 2011.
I agree with you point by point. I would make one change in your comment. We are not frittering away our national treasure on DEFENSE. Our military expenditure is arguably somewhere around 90% wasted on OFFENSE.
In the 21st Century, there can be little or no justification for an offensive military capacity. The maintenance of a small reactive and defensive military, consisting mostly of Special Forces - Seals, Rangers, Marine Recon, etc - is all that is indicated for response to the "asymmetrical" conflicts we face.
When the Soviets forward deploy, we call that "Expansion of the Soviet Empire." When the British forward deploy, we say "The Sun Never Sets over the British Empire." When America forward deploys we call that "Containment." America leads the World in public relations bullshit. America has what, 700 bases outside the United States? The British Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Roman Empire all pale in comparison to the American Empire. Barney Frank is correct. Tell the Pentagon they got 100 bases tops and the rest are shut down. Bring the troops home and at least spend all that money in America. We spend more than the rest of the world combined and then we pump up everyone else's economy with the spending. Bring it home.
The American military has been cast in the mold of the post WWII era of a raging Cold War. Now that the Cold War is no longer a concern, the military needs to reassess its posture and reconstruct according to a new and an updated paradigm.
The problem arises from the vested interests in the military industrial complex that resist the imminent change. Drastic cuts in military spending, if implemented rapidly, may have a negative impact on the economy in general and be of catastrophic consequence for regions of impact.
Our recent experiences in the Middle East have adequately demonstrated how unprepared the military has been to effectively perform in non-conventional and asymmetrical conflicts. Rather than focusing on cutting military spending for the sake of saving the national budget, we would be far better off to direct attention toward performing a major overhaul in the military and let the spending chips fall where they may.
I don't want the military to 'reassess itself". That's the problem. The "civilian " government is supposed to be in charge of the military, but it just ain't so. The military manipulates congress through the weapons lobbyists who spend millions to elect congressmen that will support them. The only way it will stop is when the middle class is so small it can no longer support the military - industrial complex.
Basically, you are right. But I agree with Jaczar that it is not the military that needs to do the assessing. Policy is made by our civilian government -- which receives a lot of campaign contributions from the military industry. Campaign finance reform - including blocking all corporate contributions - is the only thing that will cut that dependency and enable tough decisions. Neither can the military leadership provide independent advice since many officers who retire go on to lucrative jobs in the defense industry. Nobody will bite the hand that feeds them. That is the essence of the problem.
A few months ago the projected TOTAL SHORTFALL for the 48 state budgets predicted to be in the red for 2010/2011 was approx. 120 Billion. We have a real SIMPLE lesson in opportunity costs here.
Afghanistan/Iraq or the US? Which is more important to us?
It's not 42% of 'federal budget' it's of 'discretionary spending'. Most of the budget is made up of Social Security, Welfare, Mediare/Medicaid - which are 'entitlements'. I think only Education and Military are the big discretionary ones, and not even sure about education.
Despite what the U.S. military declares, manpower costs could be reduced with a return to conscription--with no exclusions for class; however, the "elites" you speak of would instantly change from an aggressive, militarily-labiled, foreign policy.....to ANYTHING else. Especially, is this true of MANY Republicans who are long on aggressive fustian but shamefully short on experiencing what they prescribe....
There was, of course, never ANY threat to the U.S. from Hussein's regime in Iraq; moreover, even allowing for a vengeful foray into Afghanistan, U.S. military "planners" made a fatal mistake with a commitment at the present level.
The West has NEVER won a guerilla war--and certainly not one in a theatre wherein the populace is unenthusiastic about prosecution and the racial/cultural/ethnic differences are so apparent.
Author of 'Blowback', 'The Sorrows Of Empire' and 'Nemesis: The Last Days Of The American Empire', Chalmers Johnson has literally written the book on the concept of American Hegemony. A former naval officer and consultant of the C.I.A., he now serves as professor Emeritus at UC San Diego. As co-founder and President of the Japan Policy Research Institute, Mr. Johnson also continues to promote public education about Asia's role in the international community.
In this exclusive interview, you will find out why the practice of empire building is, by no means, a thing of the past. As the United States continues to expand its military forces around the globe, the consequences are being suffered by each and every one of us.
07/09/2010 | zero hedge
As I've previously pointed out, America's military-industrial complex is ruining our economy.
And U.S. military and intelligence leaders say that the economic crisis is the biggest national security threat to the United States. See this, this and this.
As RT points out, it is ironic that America's huge military spending is what made us an empire ... but our huge military is what is bankrupting us ... No wonder people from opposite ends of the political spectrum like Barney Frank and Ron Paul are calling for a reduction in military spending.
And just why might that be?
Hint: read Smedley Butler's War Is A Racket! (http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm)
WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
Since Aristotle, three archetypal political forms were broadly discussed: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. A particular state could be a hybrid of these forms, and each form had an associated "pathological" form: tyranny, oligarchy, and mob rule, respectively. "Liberal democracy" came into widespread use during the twentieth century, signifying a hybrid of the democratic and aristocratic forms: democracy tempered by a constitution which de facto delegated political power to the elites.
By the middle of the twentieth century, it was recognized that two new political forms had appeared. Hannah Arendt – among others – argued that the governments of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, with their ability to control every aspect of society, could not be understood in terms of the old typology; the name of this new form would be totalitarianism. With the emergence of a bipolar world with two powers dominating their own sphere of influence, the term "superpower" came into wide use. Superpowers were something new, because they possessed power that was qualitatively different from that of other states. In addition to their possessing vast nuclear arsenals, their being involved in an ideological struggle with each other led to each being in a state of permanent military mobilization, something that was new for countries in a time of peace (hence the term "Cold War"). Each superpower possessed extraterritorial power to influence countries within its sphere of influence: The Soviet Union mostly through military occupation, and the United States through its domination of multilateral institutions that were set up at the end of World War II. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States became the world's sole superpower (or hyperpower). Wolin capitalizes the word "superpower" to mark the United States' uniqueness as being an actual form of government and not an ideal type.
Inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy
Given the transformations that Superpower has undergone during the military mobilization required to fight the Axis powers, and during the subsequent campaign of containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War, does Superpower continue to resemble a liberal democracy domestically, or is it itself taking on totalitarian tendencies? Wolin suggests that the latter possibility is closer to the truth:
- While the versions of totalitarianism represented by Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, Superpower represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, “inverted totalitarianism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”
There are three main ways in which inverted totalitarianism is the inverted form of classical totalitarianism.
- First, whereas in Nazi Germany the state dominated economic actors, corporations and their lobbying dominate the Superpower, with the government acting as the servant of large corporations. This isn't considered corruption, but "normal".
- Second, while the Nazi regime aimed at the constant political mobilization of the population, with its Nuremberg rallies, Hitler Youth, and so on, inverted totalitarianism aims for the mass of the population to be in a persistent state of political apathy. The only type of political activity expected or desired from the citizenry is voting. Low electoral turnouts are favorably received as an indication that the bulk of the population has given up hope that the government will ever help them.
- Third, while the Nazis openly mocked democracy, Superpower maintains the conceit that it is the model of democracy for the whole world:
Inverted totalitarianism reverses things. It is all politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.
Wolin calls this form of democracy, which is sanitized of the political, managed democracy. Managed democracy is "a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control". Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state through the continuous employment of public relations techniques.
This brings us to one major respect in which Superpower resembles Nazi Germany without an inversion: the essential role that propaganda plays in the system. Whereas the production of propaganda was crudely centralized in Nazi Germany, in Superpower it is left to highly concentrated media corporations, thus maintaining the illusion of a "free press". Dissent is allowed, although the corporate media serves as a filter, allowing most people, with limited time available to keep themselves apprised of current events, only to hear points of view which the corporate media deems to be "serious".
Superpower has two main totalizing dynamics. The first, directed outward, finds its expression in the Global War on Terror and in the Bush Doctrine that Superpower has the right to launch preemptive wars. This amounts to Superpower seeing as illegitimate the attempt by any state to resist its domination. The second dynamic, directed inward, involves the subjection of the mass of the population to economic "rationalization", with continual "downsizing" and "outsourcing" of jobs abroad and dismantling of what remains of the welfare state created by FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. (Thus, neoliberalism is an integral component of inverted totalitarianism.) The state of insecurity in which this places the public serves the useful function of making people feel helpless, thus making it less likely that they will become politically active, and thus helping to maintain the first dynamic.[
Amazon reviewManaged Democracy, Superpower, and alas, even, "Inverted Totalitarianism", June 17, 2008 By John P. Jones III(Albuquerque, NM, USA)
This is a seminal work which "tells it like it is" concerning the current power arrangements in the American political system, as well as the political leadership's aspirations towards global empire. Prof. Wolin sets the tone of his work on page 1, with the juxtaposition of the imagery of Adolph Hitler landing in a small plane at the 1934 rally at Nuremberg, as shown in Leni Reifenstahl's "Triumph of the Will," and George Bush landing on the aircraft carrier "Abraham Lincoln" in 2003. Certainly one of the dominant themes of the book is comparing the operating power structure in the United States with various totalitarian regimes of the past: Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Prof Wolin emphasizes the differences between these totalitarian powers, and the softer concentration of power in the United States, which he dubs "inverted totalitarianism."
The book is rich with insights - the best way to savor Prof. Wolin's erudition is in small chunks. He shows the influence of the ancient Greeks, both Plato, as well as the Athenian political operative, Alcibiades, on the neo-cons "founding father," Leo Strauss. He examines in detail the efforts of some of America's own "founding fathers," particularly Madison and Hamilton, on how democracy should be contained and managed. He quotes at length an amazingly prescient passage from Tocqueville predicting one possible scenario for the future of the American democracy, which ends with "...and finally reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd" (p79-80). He also discusses the profound impact of the "National Security Strategy of the United States" document of 2002 on the traditional vision of the values and rights expressed in the Constitution. He raises awkward questions - asking why there were massive public demonstrations in the Ukraine, in 2004, following an election deeply flawed by fraud, which ultimately lead to a new election; yet there were no popular demonstrations in the United States, a country with much stronger democratic traditions following the irregularities in the 2000 election.
He seasons his learning with nuggets of wry wit: "such a verdict after Florida would be an expression of black (sic) humor. (p102); "... to endorse a candidate or a party for reasons that typically pay only lip service to the basic need of most citizens...It speciousness is the political counterpart to products that promise beauty, health, relief of pain, and an end to erectile dysfunction." (p231); and "No collective memory means no collective guilt; surely My Lai is the name of a rock star." (p275). He also has a knack for using the popular phrases for a given sentiment, for example: "get government off our backs."
As other observers have also noted, there is the sharpest of contrasts between FDR's maxim that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" to the current constant promotion of holding the citizenry in a constant state of fear, admirably summarized on the domestic front by: "Downsizing, reorganization, bubbles bursting, unions busted, quickly outdated skills, and transfer of jobs abroad create not just fear but an economy of fear..." (p67)
For all the above, Prof. Wolin deserves 5 and ½ stars, but I did think his presentation was marred by poor organization, redundancy, and lapses into turgid prose. For example, on p. 190, long after the issue has been thoroughly discussed, he says "The administration seized on 9/11 to declare a `war on terrorism.'" Similarly, on p. 202 he says "Historically, the legislative branch was supposed to be the power closest to the citizenry..." Numerous other examples could be cited. Also, I tried - real hard- to come to terms with the term "inverted totalitarianism" but just never could - the intrinsic meaning simply is not there, like as in "managed democracy." Perhaps something like a "hyper-concentration of power" conveys the meaning better.
Overall though, the book is an essential read for anyone interested in the current state of the world.
February 7, 2010 | Toronto Sun/Canada
U.S. President Barack Obama calls the $3.8-trillion US budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America's economic health.
In fact, it's another potent fix given to a sick patient deeply addicted to the dangerous drug - debt.
More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks.
Washington's deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.
To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.
Obama's total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military "contractors" (mercenaries and workers); and veterans' costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada's total defense budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.
The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama's Afghan "surge" of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion - more than Germany's total defense budget.
No wonder U.S. defense stocks rose after Peace Laureate Obama's "austerity" budget.
Military and intelligence spending relentlessly increase as unemployment heads over 10% and the economy bleeds red ink. America has become the Sick Man of the Western Hemisphere, an economic cripple like the defunct Ottoman Empire.
The Pentagon now accounts for half of total world military spending. Add America's rich NATO allies and Japan, and the figure reaches 75%.
China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10% of what the U.S. spends on defense.
There are 750 U.S. military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 service members stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea.
Military spending gobbles up 19% of federal spending and at least 44% of tax revenues. During the Bush administration, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - funded by borrowing - cost each American family more than $25,000.Like Bush, Obama is paying for America's wars through supplemental authorizations - putting them on the nation's already maxed-out credit card. Future generations will be stuck with the bill.
This presidential and congressional jiggery-pokery is the height of public dishonesty.
America's wars ought to be paid for through taxes, not bookkeeping fraud.
If U.S. taxpayers actually had to pay for the Afghan and Iraq wars, these conflicts would end in short order.
America needs a fair, honest war tax.
The U.S. clearly has reached the point of imperial overreach. Military spending and debt-servicing are cannibalizing the U.S. economy, the real basis of its world power. Besides the late U.S.S.R., the U.S. also increasingly resembles the dying British Empire in 1945, crushed by immense debts incurred to wage the Second World War, unable to continue financing or defending the imperium, yet still imbued with imperial pretensions.
It is increasingly clear the president is not in control of America's runaway military juggernaut. Sixty years ago, the great President Dwight Eisenhower, whose portrait I keep by my desk, warned Americans to beware of the military-industrial complex. Six decades later, partisans of permanent war and world domination have joined Wall Street's money lenders to put America into thrall.
Increasing numbers of Americans are rightly outraged and fearful of runaway deficits. Most do not understand their political leaders are also spending their nation into ruin through unnecessary foreign wars and a vainglorious attempt to control much of the globe - what neocons call "full spectrum dominance."
If Obama really were serious about restoring America's economic health, he would demand military spending be slashed, quickly end the Iraq and Afghan wars and break up the nation's giant Frankenbanks.
A War to End All Wars
Prior to World War I, when America's imperial aspirations were still relatively modest, the U.S. military was correspondingly unsophisticated in the uses of deception. With the coming of World Wars I and II, however, this situation changed drastically, mainly through the assistance of British intelligence which tutored its American counterparts, largely out of a desire for self-preservation.
In the early years of World War I, Britain was locked in a military stalemate with Germany from which it could not extricate itself without help from the United States. There was one problem, however: American citizens were overwhelmingly opposed to involvement in the war. To alter America public opinion and bring the U.S. into the war on its side, Britain retargeted its propaganda machine toward North America. It also urged the U.S. government to create a home-grown censorship and propaganda apparatus, which it soon did with help from U.S. media organizations and journalists. First, though, the U.S. government cracked down on the anti-war press and public dissent using the then newly passed Espionage and Sedition Acts. 3 This nearly did away with free speech.
Once it was certain Americans could get little accurate news about the senseless bloodbath taking place across the Atlantic, President Wilson, largely through the influence of journalist and public-relations expert Walter Lippmann, soon set about creating a vast American propaganda machine similar to Britain's. Wilson, in what could be viewed as a political masterstroke, hired the noted progressive journalist George Creel to build and manage the new U.S. propaganda bureaucracy. This gave the organization instant credibility with the public and helped Creel recruit more top journalists into the program.
The new institution was given the innocent-sounding name, “the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI).” Creel staffed his new propaganda team with experts from all aspects of the U.S. media industry. Virtually all available modes of communication were soon put to work selling the war to the American public including newspapers, posters, cartoons, films, radio broadcasts, academic pamphlets, and even public speeches. 4
Looking back at the CPI's efforts from the perspective of some decades, communications scholar and author Stewart Ewen concluded, “In spite of Creel's consistent denials, the 'House of Truth' was perched not on a foundation of facts, but upon a swamp of emotions.” 5
After Pearl Harbor
With the coming of World War II, America's uses of deception became considerably more extensive and sophisticated, thanks again to help from British intelligence. World War II was total war and the already fuzzy dividing line between journalism and deception virtually disappeared. American journalists were now fighting on the same team as the generals.
Censorship and propaganda were by this time such large operations that they could no longer be managed by a single organization, such as the CPI. Media censorship was handled by the U.S. Office of Censorship, headed by Byron Price, formerly executive news editor of the Associated Press, later given the title Director of Censorship. Propaganda was by now a much more scientific business than it had been during World War I. Foreign propaganda was initially created and distributed by a new super-intelligence agency called the Office of Coordinator of Information (COI), under the direction of Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan. COI drew its staff from newspapers, radio-broadcasting organizations, and Hollywood studios who then happily set to work fighting “the good war” with carefully crafted (and often overtly racist) words and images. 6
Domestic propaganda, designed to keep the American public solidly behind the war effort, was managed by an organization called the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF), later renamed the Office of War Information (OWI). The overall job of promoting the war at home was given to Elmer Davis, an author, CBS radio announcer, news analyst, and former New York Times reporter. OFF / OWI was managed by poet Archibald Macleash, formerly head of the U.S. Library of Congress. 7, 8
Donovan's COI later became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which, after the War, became the Central Intelligence Agency.
The job of censoring the news and creating war propaganda required the services of many thousands of journalists, editors, and media executives on both sides of the Atlantic. This massive effort has been the subject of many books and scholarly articles, and could not possibly be adequately described here. Suffice it to say, however, that the American public never received an accurate account of World War II at the time it was being fought, and there is considerable evidence that they haven't been given the full story, even today. 9
What American journalists produced was essentially a carefully edited and largely fictional account of the war. Charles Lynch of Reuters news service later put it this way: “We were a propaganda arm of our governments. At the start, the censors enforced that, but by the end we were our own censors. We were cheerleaders. I suppose there wasn't an alternative at the time. It was total war. But, for God's sake, let's not glorify our role. It wasn't good journalism. It wasn't journalism at all.” 10
America emerged from World War II a very different country than it had been at the start. The new “military-industrial complex,” as President Eisenhower dubbed it in a famous 1961 speech, had achieved enormous size and frightening political influence. In the view of President Eisenhower, it threatened our traditional values of open, accountable government. The close ties between the news media and the military not only persisted but grew stronger during the Cold War.
In 1947, Congress passed the controversial National Security Act which created a powerful new organization from the bones of the old OSS: The Central Intelligence Agency. Although the Agency's title gives an impression it merely collects information, the CIA was, from the start, assigned the task of creating and disseminating propaganda. In short order, the Agency set about forging secret alliances with hundreds of journalists, writers, media executives, news organizations, book publishers, and other influential organizations, with the stated aim of fighting Communism at all costs (though it dabbled in many other deception activities as well). Among these people and organizations were some of America's best-known media figures and most major news organizations.
Frank G. Wisner was the CIA's man in charge of the new propaganda effort and he once bragged that he could make the world's media play any tune he desired. Hence, the CIA's global propaganda machine came to be called “Wizner's Wurlitzer.” 11 Internally, the CIA's program was known as Operation Mockingbird. 12 The American public, of course, was kept completely in the dark about all this because, had they known, they'd have been less likely to trust those who were lying to them.
In 1975, the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Operations revealed much about the CIA's secret media connections but not everything. Disturbing details continue to emerge. In 2001, for example, the New York Times reported that the CIA had maintained a close working relationship with the leading news-wire services such that it could place propaganda stories directly onto the news wires. This meant that newspaper editors and other media personnel would accept the false stories without question. 13 It should be stressed that, if this was possible, then covert censorship of the wire services was also possible.
Have such covert media relationships ceased as a result of exposure? The truth is, we can never be certain, particularly given the CIA's known history of secretive and often lawless activity. One thing is known, however: the CIA and the U.S. military have not exactly gone away, nor has their need to influence media content and shape American public opinion.
America, once a democratic republic, has gradually morphed into an empire with over 725 foreign military bases spread around the globe to protect its sprawling commercial interests. 14 It has boldly declared its right to invade any nation, at any time. It is now engaged in several major wars simultaneously, with no clear end in sight.
As the old saying goes, during war, the first casualty is always the truth. So, if you still trust the U.S. news media to expose government lies, you're making a serious mistake. For nearly a hundred years, they've actually been the ones assigned by the government to tell them.
There was a time during the George W. Bush years when both National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were administered by former U.S. government propaganda experts. Some of them are still working there. Just a coincidence? Whatever the case, such connections shouldn't inspire confidence in the independence and accuracy of American news.
One final thought: A hallmark of an effective propaganda campaign is consistency of message across all media sources. The name of the game is to create what propaganda theorists call “a pseudo-environment.” That is to say, the public must not be exposed to any credible contradictory information, especially from news sources they've come to trust. It is important, for example, that both the right- and left-leaning media are both carrying the same official message. To make the public believe official lies, all the media must be playing an identical tune, from The Nation to Fox TV.
It is deeply unsettling, then, that the American news media have been so remarkably consistent in endorsing the official 9-11 story, despite widespread dissent from thousands of technical experts, academics, eyewitnesses, government officials, military officers, intelligence analysts, and informed members of the general public.
If all this causes you to wonder what might be going on behind the printed pages, radio speakers, and TV screens of America . . . well, it certainly should.
(Terry Hansen received a master's degree in science journalism from the University of Minnesota in 1984 and has subsequently worked as a media entrepreneur, reporter, editor and author.)
June 21, 2010 | AlterNet
The Soviets made a devastating miscalculation: they mistook military power for power on this planet. Sound familiar?Mark it on your calendar. It seems we’ve finally entered the Soviet era in America.
You remember the Soviet Union, now almost 20 years in its grave. But who gives it a second thought today? Even in its glory years that “evil empire” was sometimes referred to as “the second superpower.” In 1991, after seven decades, it suddenly disintegrated and disappeared, leaving the United States -- the “sole superpower,” even the “hyperpower,” on planet Earth -- surprised but triumphant.
The USSR had been heading for the exits for quite a while, not that official Washington had a clue. At the moment it happened, Soviet “experts” like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (then director of the CIA) still expected the Cold War to go on and on. In Washington, eyes were trained on the might of the Soviet military, which the Soviet leadership had never stopped feeding, even as its sclerotic bureaucracy was rotting, its economy (which had ceased to grow in the late 1970s) was tanking, budget deficits were soaring, indebtedness to other countries was growing, and social welfare payments were eating into what funds remained. Not even a vigorous, reformist leader like Mikhail Gorbachev could staunch the rot, especially when, in the late 1980s, the price of Russian oil fell drastically.
Looking back, the most distinctive feature of the last years of the Soviet Union may have been the way it continued to pour money into its military -- and its military adventure in Afghanistan -- when it was already going bankrupt and the society it had built was beginning to collapse around it. In the end, its aging leaders made a devastating miscalculation. They mistook military power for power on this planet. Armed to the teeth and possessing a nuclear force capable of destroying the Earth many times over, the Soviets nonetheless remained the vastly poorer, weaker, and (except when it came to the arms race) far less technologically innovative of the two superpowers.
In December 1979, perhaps taking the bait of the Carter administration whose national security advisor was eager to see the Soviets bloodied by a “Vietnam” of their own, the Red Army invaded Afghanistan to support a weak communist government in Kabul. When resistance in the countryside, led by Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas and backed by the other superpower, only grew, the Soviets sent in more troops, launched major offensives, called in air power, and fought on brutally and futilely for a decade until, in 1989, long after they had been whipped, they withdrew in defeat.
Gorbachev had dubbed Afghanistan “the bleeding wound,” and when the wounded Red Army finally limped home, it was to a country that would soon cease to exist. For the Soviet Union, Afghanistan had literally proven “the graveyard of empires.” If, at the end, its military remained standing, the empire didn’t. (And if you don’t already find this description just a tad eerie, given the present moment in the U.S., you should.)
In Washington, the Bush administration -- G.H.W.’s, not G.W.’s -- declared victory and then left the much ballyhooed “peace dividend” in the nearest ditch. Caught off guard by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington’s consensus policymakers drew no meaningful lessons from it (just as they had drawn few that mattered from their Vietnam defeat 16 years earlier).
Quite the opposite, successive American administrations would blindly head down the very path that had led the Soviets to ruin. They would serially agree that, in a world without significant enemies, the key to U.S. global power still was the care and feeding of the American military and the military-industrial complex that went with it. As the years passed, that military would be sent ever more regularly into the far reaches of the planet to fight frontier wars, establish military bases, and finally impose a global Pax Americana on the planet.
This urge, delusional in retrospect, seemed to reach its ultimate expression in the second Bush administration, whose infamous “unilateralism” rested on a belief that no country or even bloc of countries should ever again be allowed to come close to matching U.S. military power. (As its National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter -- and it couldn’t have been blunter on the subject -- the U.S. was to “build and maintain” its military power “beyond challenge.”) Bush’s military fundamentalists firmly believed that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force around, hostile states would be “shocked and awed” by a simple demonstration of its power and friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well. After all, as the president said in front of a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the U.S. military was “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.”
In this way, far more than the Soviets, the top officials of the Bush administration mistook military power for power, a gargantuan misreading of the U.S. economic position in the world and of their moment.
Boundless Military Ambitions
The attacks of September 11, 2001, that “Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” clinched the deal. In the space the Soviet Union had deserted, which had been occupied by minor outlaw states like North Korea for years, there was a new shape-shifting enemy, al-Qaeda (aka Islamic extremism, aka the new “totalitarianism”), which could be just as big as you wanted to make it. Suddenly, we were in what the Bush administration instantly dubbed “the Global War on Terror” (GWOT, one of the worst acronyms ever invented) -- and this time there would be nothing “cold” about it.
Bush administration officials promptly suggested that they were prepared to use a newly agile American military to “drain the swamp” of global terrorism. ("While we'll try to find every snake in the swamp, the essence of the strategy is draining the swamp," insisted Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz two weeks after 9/11.) They were prepared, they made clear, to undertake those draining operations against Islamic “terrorist networks” in no less than 60 countries around the planet.
Their military ambitions, in other words, knew no bounds; nor, it seemed, did the money and resources which began to flow into the Pentagon, the weapons industries, the country’s increasingly militarized intelligence services, mercenary companies like Blackwater and KBR that grew fat on a privatizing administration’s war plans and the multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts it was eager to proffer, the new Department of Homeland Security, and a ramped-up, ever more powerful national security state.
As the Pentagon expanded, taking on ever newer roles, the numbers would prove staggering. By the end of the Bush years, Washington was doling out almost twice what the next nine nations combined were spending on their militaries, while total U.S. military expenditures came to just under half the world’s total. Similarly, by 2008, the U.S. controlled almost 70% of the global arms market. It also had 11 aircraft carrier battle groups capable of patrolling the world’s seas and oceans at a time when no power that could faintly be considered a possible future enemy had more than one.
By then, private contractors had built for the Pentagon almost 300 military bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny combat outposts to massive “American towns” holding tens of thousands of troops and private contractors, with multiple bus lines, PX’s, fast-food “boardwalks,” massage parlors, water treatment and power plants, barracks, and airfields. They were in the process of doing the same in Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, in the Persian Gulf region generally. This, too, represented a massive investment in what looked like a permanent occupation of the oil heartlands of the planet. As right-wing pundit Max Boot put it after a recent flying tour of America’s global garrisons, the U.S. possesses military bases that add up to “a virtual American empire of Wal-Mart-style PXs, fast-food restaurants, golf courses, and gyms.”
Depending on just what you counted, there were anywhere from 700 to perhaps 1,200 or more U.S. bases, micro to macro, acknowledged and unacknowledged, around the globe. Meanwhile, the Pentagon was pouring money into the wildest blue-skies thinking at its advanced research arm, DARPA, whose budget grew by 50%. Through DARPA, well-funded scientists experimented with various ways to fight sci-fi-style wars in the near and distant future (at a moment when no one was ready to put significant government money into blue-skies thinking about, for instance, how to improve the education of young Americans). The Pentagon was also pioneering a new form of air power, drone warfare, in which “we” wouldn’t be within thousands of miles of the battlefield, and the battlefield would no longer necessarily be in a country with which we were at war.
It was also embroiled in two disastrous, potentially trillion-dollar wars (and various global skirmishes) -- and all this at top dollar at a time when next to no money was being invested in, among other things, the bridges, tunnels, waterworks, and the like that made up an aging American infrastructure. Except when it came to victory, the military stood ever taller, while its many missions expanded exponentially, even as the domestic economy was spinning out of control, budget deficits were increasing rapidly, the governmental bureaucracy was growing ever more sclerotic, and indebtedness to other nations was rising by leaps and bounds.
In other words, in a far wealthier country, another set of leaders, having watched the Soviet Union implode, decisively embarked on the Soviet path to disaster.
In the fall of 2008, the abyss opened under the U.S. economy, which the Bush administration had been blissfully ignoring, and millions of people fell into it. Giant institutions wobbled or crashed; extended unemployment wouldn’t go away; foreclosures happened on a mind-boggling scale; infrastructure began to buckle; state budgets were caught in a death grip; teachers’ jobs, another kind of infrastructure, went down the tubes in startling numbers; and the federal deficit soared.
Of course, a new president also entered the Oval Office, someone (many voters believed) intent on winding up (or at least down) Bush’s wars and the delusions of military omnipotence and technological omniscience that went with them. If George W. Bush had pushed this country to the edge of disaster, at least his military policies, as many of his critics saw it, were as extreme and anomalous as the cult of executive power his top officials fostered.
But here was the strange thing. In the midst of the Great Recession, under a new president with assumedly far fewer illusions about American omnipotence and power, war policy continued to expand in just about every way. The Pentagon budget rose by Bushian increments in fiscal year 2010; and while the Iraq War reached a kind of dismal stasis, the new president doubled down in Afghanistan on entering office -- and then doubled down again before the end of 2009. There, he “surged” in multiple ways. At best, the U.S. was only drawing down one war, in Iraq, to feed the flames of another.
As in the Soviet Union before its collapse, the exaltation and feeding of the military at the expense of the rest of society and the economy had by now become the new normal; so much so that hardly a serious word could be said -- lest you not “support our troops” -- when it came to ending the American way of war or downsizing the global mission or ponying up the funds demanded of Congress to pursue war preparations and war-making.
Even when, after years of astronomical growth, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates began to talk about cost-cutting at the Pentagon, it was in the service of the reallocation of ever more money to war-fighting. Here was how the New York Times summed up what reduction actually meant for our ultimate super-sized institution in tough times: “Current budget plans project growth of only 1 percent in the Pentagon budget, after inflation, over the next five years.” Only 1% growth -- at a time when state budgets, for instance, are being slashed to the bone. Like the Soviet military, the Pentagon, in other words, is planning to remain obese whatever else goes down.
Meanwhile, the “anti-war” president has been overseeing the expansion of the new normal on many fronts, including the expanding size of the Army itself. In fact, when it comes to the Global War on Terror -- even with the name now in disuse -- the profligacy can still take your breath away.
Consider, for instance, the $2.2 billion Host Nation Trucking contract the Pentagon uses to pay protection money to Afghan security companies which, in turn, slip some part of those payments to the Taliban to let American supplies travel safely on Afghan roads. Or if you don’t want to think about how your tax dollar supports the Taliban, consider the $683,000 the Pentagon spent, according to the Washington Post, to “renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee” at its base/prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Or the $773,000 used there “to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant,” or the $7.3 million spent on baseball and football fields, or the $60,000 batting cage, or a promised $20,000 soccer cage, all part of the approximately two billion dollars that have gone into the American base and prison complex that Barack Obama promised to, but can’t, close.
Or what about the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that 104-acre, almost three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar, 21-building homage to the American-mall-as-fortified-citadel? It costs more than $1.5 billion a year to run, and bears about as much relationship to an “embassy” as McDonald’s does to a neighborhood hamburger joint. According to a recent audit, millions of dollars in “federal property” assigned to what is essentially a vast command center for the region, including 159 of the embassy's 1,168 vehicles, are missing or unaccounted for.
And as long as we’re talking about expansion in distant lands, how about the Pentagon’s most recent construction plans in Central Asia, part of a prospective “mini-building boom” there. They are to include an anti-terrorism training center to be constructed for a bargain basement $5.5 million in... no, not Toledo or Akron or El Paso, but the combustible city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. And that’s just one of several projects there and in neighboring Tajikistan that are reportedly to be funded out of the U.S. Central Command’s “counter-narcotics fund” (and ultimately, of course, your pocket).
Or consider a particularly striking example of military expansion under President Obama, superbly reported by the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe in a piece headlined, “U.S. 'secret war' expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role.” As a story, it sank without a trace in a country evidently unfazed by the idea of having its forces garrisoned and potentially readying to fight everywhere on the planet.
Here’s how the piece began:
“Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials. Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year.”
Now, without opening an atlas, just try to name any 75 countries on this planet -- more than one-third, that is, of the states belonging to the United Nations. And yet U.S. special operatives are now engaging in war, or preparing for war, or training others to do so, or covertly collecting intelligence in that many countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Fifteen more than in the Bush era.
Whatever it is or isn’t called, this remains Bush’s Global War on Terror on an expansionist trajectory. DeYoung and Jaffe quote an unnamed “senior military official” saying that the Obama administration has allowed "things that the previous administration did not," and report that Special Operations commanders are now “a far more regular presence at the White House” than in the Bush years.
Not surprisingly, those Special Operations forces have themselves expanded in the first year and a half of the Obama presidency and, for fiscal year 2011, with 13,000 of them already deployed abroad, the administration has requested a 5.7% hike in their budget to $6.3 billion.
Once upon a time, Special Operations forces got their name because they were small and “special.” Now, they are, in essence, being transformed into a covert military within the military and, as befits their growing size, reports Noah Shachtman of the Wired's Danger Room, the Army Special Forces alone are slated to get a new $100 million “headquarters” in northern Afghanistan. It will cover about 17 acres and will include a “communications building, Tactical Operations Center, training facility, medical aid station, Vehicle Maintenance Facility... dining facility, laundry facility, and a kennel to support working dogs... Supporting facilities include roads, power production system and electrical distribution, water well, non-potable water production, water storage, water distribution, sanitary sewer collection system, communication manhole/duct system, curbs, walkways, drainage and parking.”
This headquarters, adds Shachtman, will take a year to build, “at which point, the U.S. is allegedly supposed to begin drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. Allegedly.” And mind you, the Special Operations troops are but one expanding part of the U.S. military.
The first year and a half of the Obama administration has seen a continuation of what could be considered the monumental socialist-realist era of American war-making (including a decision to construct another huge, Baghdad-style “embassy” in Islamabad, Pakistan). This sort of creeping gigantism, with all its assorted cost overruns and private perks, would undoubtedly have seemed familiar to the Soviets. Certainly no less familiar will be the near decade the U.S. military has spent, increasingly disastrously, in the Afghan graveyard.
Drunk on war as Washington may be, the U.S. is still not the Soviet Union in 1991 -- not yet. But it’s not the triumphant “sole superpower” anymore either. Its global power is visibly waning, its ability to win wars distinctly in question, its economic viability open to doubt. It has been transformed from a can-do into a can’t-do nation, a fact only highlighted by the ongoing BP catastrophe and “rescue” in the Gulf of Mexico. Its airports are less shiny and more Third World-like every year. Unlike France or China, it has not a mile of high-speed rail. And when it comes to the future, especially the creation and support of innovative industries in alternative energy, it’s chasing the pack. It is increasingly a low-end service economy, losing good jobs that will never return.
And if its armies come home in defeat... watch out.
In 1991, the Soviet Union suddenly evaporated. The Cold War was over. Like many wars, it seemed to have an obvious winner and an obvious loser. Nearly 20 years later, as the U.S. heads down the Soviet road to disaster -- even if the world can’t imagine what a bankrupt America might mean -- it’s far clearer that, in the titanic struggle of the two superpowers that we came to call the Cold War, there were actually two losers, and that, when the “second superpower” left the scene, the first was already heading for the exits, just ever so slowly and in a state of self-intoxicated self-congratulation. Nearly every decision in Washington since then, including Barack Obama’s to expand both the Afghan War and the war on terror, has only made what, in 1991, was one possible path seem like fate itself.
Call up the Politburo in Washington. We’re in trouble.
May 11th, 2010
Please, let us not forget the US’s biggest budget category,(thanks to Wikipedia):
Department of Defense.
Including non-DOD expenditures, defense spending was approximately 25–29% of budgeted expenditures and 38–44% of estimated tax revenues. According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense spending grew 9% annually on average from fiscal year 2000–2009.
Budget Breakdown for 2011
2011 Budget request & Mandatory spending
Base budget + “Overseas Contingency Operations”
At least one-third FBI budget.
At minimum, foreign arms sales. At most, entire State budget
Energy Department, defense-related
Between 20% and 50% of NASA’s total budget
Other defense-related mandatory spending
Interest on debt incurred in past wars
Between 23% and 91% of total interest
as Mr Farrell points out: “Military kills 54% of budget.”
approx $1 trillion/year for the military machine, of $2 trillion fed gov revenue (recall $1 trillion = million million)
President Eisenhower on M.I.C. 1961
As should be pointed out in every conversation about military spending, there is a very long tail. The costs of people serving now are (barley) accounted for.
They cost a lot more, for a lot longer when they get back here. If you send them overseas and put them in harms way, you probably should be accounting for the ongoing cost of caring for them over the long term. I believe its even in their contract.
MAY 14, 2009 4:36AM
On Wednesday, Obama said he “would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners.” The release, which was to be the result of a Freedom of Information Act request made by the ACLU, had been reasonable in the final weeks of April, but today, Obama chose to come out against the release.
According to the Associated Press, “out of concern [that] the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan” Obama planned to block them.
Obama intends to block the release of the photos because they may negatively impact American empire and American military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gen. Ray Odierno, a prime architect of “the surge” in Iraq, and Gen. David Petraeus influenced Obama’s decision after informing the administration that they were afraid the photos will “cost American lives.”
Obama suggested that the “photos had already served their purpose in investigations of "a small number of individuals” and "the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken."
Also, Obama made the argument that "these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."
When choosing to make a “mockery” out of his “promise of transparency and accountability” (as one member of the ACLU put it), Obama is fine with contending that if information requested does not show something worse than said previous atrocity or does not show that something more inhumane happened the information should not be released.
Even if the information would give further credence to the argument that the Bush Administration tortured (which many in the corporate news media are still reluctant to outright accept as they continue to cling to the “enhanced interrogation technique” euphemism when discussing “torture”), the fact that it does not top the brutality of a batch of previous photos means that the ACLU’s FOIA request should not be fulfilled.
The ACLU released a response to Obama’s decision, which was written by Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department's failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.
"If the Obama administration continues down this path, it will betray not only its promises to the American people, but its commitment to this nation's most fundamental principles. President Obama has said we should turn the page, but we cannot do that until we fully learn how this nation veered down the path of criminality and immorality, who allowed that to happen and whose lives were mutilated as a result. Releasing these photos – as painful as it might be – is a critical step toward that accounting. The American people deserve no less."
"It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known – whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.
Obama said of the Freedom of Information Act in a January 21 memo, “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”
But, on matters of American empire or “state secrets,” the administration is as bad as Bush if not worse.
Robert Gibbs’ press briefing on the reversal shows just how poor a case the administration has for keeping these photos from being released:QUESTION: Can you go over the sequence of events that led to this thought process? Because, on April 24th, when the Pentagon was explaining its decision to release the photos, it said that -- the spokesman said that there was a feeling that the case had pretty much run its course.
QUESTION: And now you’re saying that the president feels that there’s a strong argument to be made...
GIBBS: Because the argument that the president has asked his legal team to make is not an argument that the previous legal team made in that case. They argued a couple of different things, including, a law enforcement exception. And the judge ruled that, to seek a law enforcement exception, you have to -- you have to disclose the name of the person that would be -- that harm would be derived for in seeking that exception. This is a different argument that the president thinks is compelling.
QUESTION: Well, when did he decide that it was important to make that argument? Did one of the lawyers come to him and say...
GIBBS: No. He came to the lawyers.
QUESTION: And when did all that...
GIBBS: That was a meeting that was held last week in the Oval Office.
QUESTION: Robert, if that was such a compelling case, why was that not weighed in April then? Because it seems like -- was there a failure here at the White House in the first go-round in April to fully weigh the national security implications?
GIBBS: The argument that the president seeks to make is one that hasn’t been made before. The -- I’m not going to get into blame for this or that. Understanding that there was significant legal momentum in these cases prior to the president entering into office, we are now at a point where it is likely that some stay will be asked to prevent the release of these photos. And I believe the date -- I think we have until June 8th to appeal -- to seek review of those decisions by the Second Circuit.
QUESTION: But on April 24th, you also said, quote, “The Department of Justice decided, based on the ruling, the court ruling, is that it was, quote, hopeless to appeal.”
GIBBS: Right. QUESTION: Now you’re saying it’s not hopeless. GIBBS: Well, based on the argument that -- yes, I said that it was hopeless based on the argument that was made during the course of the original FOIA lawsuit, the appeal, the three-judge ruling, and the decision to decline the full circuit to make that -- to make those determinations. The president isn’t -- what I’m saying to you, Ed, is the president isn’t going back to remake the argument that has been made. The president is going -- has asked his legal team to go back and make a new argument based on national security.
QUESTION: This new argument -- if you’re saying, basically, that this could put troops in further harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, Former Vice President Cheney, General Hayden, others have made the same argument about releasing the so-called torture memos. Do you have any regrets about putting those memos out? They’ve made the same argument about them?
GIBBS: No. Well, I’ll use the example I’ve used on this before, Ed. You didn’t begin to report on enhanced interrogation techniques at the release of the OLC memos, did you?
GIBBS: OK. The -- I’m saying...
GIBBS: Hold on. I’m also sensing that the graphic that CNN uses to denote what happens when somebody gets waterboarded wasn’t likely developed based on reading memos that were released three weeks ago. The existence of enhanced interrogation techniques were noted by the former administration in speeches that they gave. You read about the enhanced interrogation techniques in autobiographies written by members of that former administration. The notion...
QUESTION: The graphics would not also be based on any prisoner photos you might release because we already know that people were abused in prisons. So why not put them out there?
GIBBS: I’m not sure that you’d do a graphic of a photo.
QUESTION: No. A graphic of someone being abused. We’ve all seen Abu Ghraib photos, and you were saying about the photos back in April, lack, it’s already exhausted and, essentially, these photos are going to come out anyway.
GIBBS: Based on the previous legal argument, yes. The previous legal argument denoted that the case had been lost. There’s a new legal argument that’s being made. My sense is, Ed, why do you do a graphic on CNN?
QUESTION: We’re trying to show people -- explain to people...
GIBBS: OK. The president believes that the existence of the photos themselves does not actually add to the understanding that detainee abuse happened, was investigated, that actions were taken by those that did, indeed, or might have undertaken potential abuse of detainees. And those cases were all dating back to finishing in 2004.
GIBBS: The president doesn’t believe the release of a photo surrounding that investigation does the anything to illuminate the existence of that investigation, only to provide some portion of sensationality.
QUESTION: Robert, is that really his role to decide whether or not it illuminates? That’s not the president of the United States’ role to decide, well, this is information will illuminate for the people, and this information isn’t.
GIBBS: No, the -- the -- the role of the president in this situation is as commander-in-chief. And if he determines that, through the release of these photos, that they pose a threat to those that serve to protect our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan through the illumination of whatever, he can make a determination to ask his legal team to go back to court and make a legal argument that he doesn’t believe was made and provides the most salient case and most important points for not releasing these photos.
Those determinations are, indeed, made by this president and -- and -- and are being made.
QUESTION: The Bush administration has obviously made the argument that releasing these specific photographs will endanger troops, and they did so in the way that you described, with -- with seeking the FOIA exemption for law enforcement personnel.
QUESTION: The specific avenue that your -- that your legal team’s going to go, you’re not sure if it’s going to be going back to the district court or...
GIBBS: I don’t know the -- I’ll check with -- put that -- we’ll check with -- with those guys specifically. I think, in some ways, they’re looking at whether it is to go to a lower court or to go to the Supreme Court.
QUESTION: And then just to follow up on the new argument, so are there specific -- is there specific case law arguments that the president knows that exist that were not used? Because it’s -- I find it hard to believe that the Bush administration didn’t turn under every rock to try to find an argument to do this.
GIBBS: Well, the president doesn’t believe that was the case. And the president, after reviewing the case, believes that -- that we have a compelling argument. [emphasis added]
Already reluctant to have the Justice Department enforce the rule of law and hold investigations and prosecutions for torture and crimes against humanity, how do arguments that the president can decide what illuminates a situation and what doesn’t, that the president didn’t misjudge the national security implications of the photos, and that the press doesn’t need these photos to report on treatment of detainees help the administration at all?
Of course, the press needs these photos to be released so they can cover the issue of torture and war crimes, which were part of Bush Administration policy. What else is going to motivate them to cover the issue? Ethics and morals?
This reversal is just one event in a series of events that have occurred in relation to state secrets, accountability, and transparency since Obama was inaugurated.
Obama’s vow “to open government more than ever” was sharply contradicted by his Justice Department which chose to “defend Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists.”
In March, the Obama administration continued a tradition of the Bush Administration and, citing state-secrets privileges, they, like the Bush Administration, continued to stall a suit brought by the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, which claimed that the government illegally wiretapped and violated the charity’s right to due process and freedom of speech because the government thought the charity was funding terrorism.
The Justice Department defended torture memo author John Yoo and Attorney General Eric Holder defended the decision claiming that it was in “the best interest of the United State.”
To mark Obama’s 100days in office, Sen. Russ Feingold released a “report card” on “actions to restore the rule of law.” Obama’s actions on state secrets earned him the worst grades.
Feingold cited the fact that Obama had “invoked the state secrets privilege in three cases in the first 100 days -- Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama, Mohammed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, and Jewel v. NSA” and had not taken a position on the State Secrets Protection Act.
Obama “issued an immediate halt to the military commission proceedings for prosecuting detainees and filed a request in Federal District Court in Washington to stay habeas corpus proceedings there.” But, most recently, the administration is seriously considering reviving military commissions for prosecuting Guantanamo detainees.
Even worse, Obama is considering “indefinite detention” for Guantanamo prisoners.
Now, Larisa Alexandrovna has compiled an article that suggests the “Obama Justice Department is continuing to cover up Bush-Era crimes.”
The decision to hold back the photos is another blow to freedom and democracy that follows a plethora of blows which have occurred in this decade.
The logic that these photos will create terrorism is patently false. It’s not the photos of torture that kill our soldiers, but the fact that the U.S. military and CIA tortures or tortured that creates or created terrorism.
We as a people must seriously consider how this decision to hide photos reflects our society’s values and how it shows our unwillingness to demand accountability and the enforcement of the rule of law.
What does the Obama Administration really want? The American people and its military forces to be safe from “terrorism” or the American people to stop demanding that the Obama Administration investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials for torture and crimes against humanity?
September 26, 2009 | Brad DeLong
CAMPOS: America, after all, is a meritocracy, not an aristocracy. We have no princes of the royal blood, and whatever position a person enjoys in life must be earned. This, indeed, is the basis for one of the most common criticisms of affirmative action.... On the other hand, you have the career of William Kristol. Kristol, the son of neo-conservative doyen Irving Kristol, was just fired by The New York Times.... Nothing illustrated Kristol's influence and importance better than the Times' decision to add him to their Op-Ed page. As his previous stint at Time magazine had already demonstrated, Kristol was a horrible columnist. His writing was boring, he made a lot of factual errors and his point of view was invariably about as surprising as that of a member of Stalin's Politburo. His work was, in the cruel but fair judgment of Salon's Glenn Greenwald, "sloppy, error-plagued and incomparably hackish."
So how did he end up with such a sweet gig? (Especially given that the Times already employed an incomparably more talented conservative columnist in the person of David Brooks.) The answer goes back to Farley's observation about the extreme nepotism of the contemporary right-wing media machine. Kristol may be an utter mediocrity, but he's an extraordinarily well-connected utter mediocrity.... Which brings me to this charming vignette, courtesy of blog commenter Harry Hopkins:
I remember back in the late 1990s, when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture. Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol during the first Bush administration.
The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle's chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon's domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at the White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC [Republican National Committee] and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at Penn and the Kennedy School of Government.
With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. 'I oppose it,' Irving replied. 'It subverts meritocracy.'
Many Republicans today have a different take on the desirability of meritocracy.
A good friend noted recently how little we hear of Iraq and Afghanistan in the news anymore, and further noted the deafening silence regarding those ongoing wars from what he described as "dishwater left-leaning political activists" whose disengagement from the issue, according to him, makes them full of something I can't repeat in print. That bogus disengagement, he asserts, stems from the fact that Obama is in office now, so everything must be OK. It isn't, of course, but it is hard to miss the fact that we haven't heard much about the wars, or the protesters, since a couple of Januarys ago.Ron Paul's Opposition
Wed, 04/28/2010 - 08:16 — Bill O'Rights (not verified)
Ron Paul's Opposition Continues - he was right from the beginning, yet Pitt give zero credit, while making reference to 'crazies in the street' stereotype of a monolithic tea party movement - which it is not. How about doing something constructive and pointing out the common ground between peace lovers on the Left and peace lovers on the Right? How about taking the opportunity to examine this failure to end the war as evidence of the Lie of the Left/Right paradigm itself? Don't be a dinosaur Mr. Pitt - there is a large population in the streets protesting this war and you dismiss them as 'teabaggers' while failing to distinguish the Paul group from the Palin group.
March 06, 2010
All who draw the sword will die by the sword. -- Yeshua Ha-Notsri, Palestinian dissident, c. 33 CE.
As we all know – or rather, as everyone but those who climb and claw their way to the top of power's greasy pole knows – the effects of war are vast, unforeseeable, long-lasting -- and uncontrollable. The far-reaching ripples of the turbulence will churn against distant shores and hidden corners, then roil back upon you in ways you could never imagine, for generations, even centuries.
Nor is "victory" in war proof against these deleterious effects. For the brutalization, moral coarsening, corruption and concentration of elite power that attend every war do not simply disappear from a society when the fighting stops. They persist, like microbes, in myriad forms, working with slow, corrosive force to degrade and deform the victors. Indeed, victory in battle often leads a society to enshrine war's most pernicious attributes: violence is ennobled, and becomes entrenched as an ever-ready instrument of national policy. Militarism is exalted, the way of peace dishonored: cries of "Appeasers! Cowards! Traitors!" greet every approach that fails to brandish the threat of extreme violence, that fails to "keep all options on the table."
The apparent "lesson" of victory – that there can be no right without armed might to win and safeguard it – quickly degenerates into the belief that armed might is right. (William Astore has an excellent article here on how the collision with Nazi Germany infected America's military with a continuing admiration for the German war machine.) Military power becomes equated with moral worth, and the ability to wreak savage, unimaginable destruction through armed violence -- via thoughtless obedience to the orders of "superiors" – becomes a cherished attribute of society.
War is no longer seen as a vast, horrific failure of the human spirit, a scandalous betrayal of our common humanity, a sickening tragedy of irrevocable loss and inconsolable suffering – although this is its inescapable reality, even in a "good" war, for a "just" cause. (And of course no nation or faction has ever gone to war without declaring that its cause is just.) Instead of lamenting war, and girding for it, if at all, only in the most dire circumstances, with the most extreme reluctance, the infected society celebrates it at every turn. No national occasion – even a sporting event! – is complete without bristling displays of military firepower, and pious tributes to those wreaking violence around the world in blind obedience to their superiors.
Oddly enough, when a modern nation consciously adopts a "warrior ethos," it casts aside -- openly, even gleefully -- whatever virtue that ethos has historically claimed for itself, such as courage in battle and honor toward adversaries. In its place come the adulation of overwhelming technological firepower and the rabid demonization of the enemy (or the perceived enemy, or even the "suspected" enemy), who is stripped of all rights, all human dignity, and subject to "whatever it takes" to break him down or destroy him.
Thus our American militarists exult in the advanced hardware that allows "soldiers" to slaughter people from thousands of miles away, with missiles, bombs and bullets fired from lurking, unreachable drones high in the sky. (A recent study shows that even by the most conservative reckoning of who is or isn't a "militant," at least one third of the hundreds killed in the Bush-Obama drone campaigns in Pakistan are clearly civilians.) The drone "warriors" -- often living in complete safety and comfort -- see nothing but a bloodless image on a screen; they face no physical threat at all. This is assassination, not combat; it reeks of cowardice, and dehumanizes everyone it touches, the victims and the button-pushers alike. Yet our militarists -- most of whom, of course, have somehow never found the time to fight the wars they cheer for -- wax orgasmic about this craven weaponry. In the transvaluation of values that militarism produces, cowardice becomes a martial virtue.
Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureate, pushes forward with plans for the "Prompt Global Strike" system of "conventional" super-missiles that can rain down massive death -- unstoppable, undeterrable, without warning -- anywhere on the planet within an hour. All this, while expanding shorter-range missile "defense" systems that bristle with blatantly offensive potential, and intent, all over the world. Plus spending billions to "modernize" the nuclear arsenal, ensuring that it stays effective enough to murder the entire earth, while weeding out some "redundant" warheads as a PR gesture.
Meanwhile, the drone programs -- emblazoned with names that proudly proclaim their savage nature: "Predators" and "Reapers," launching "Hellfire" missiles into sleeping villages -- keep expanding relentlessly. As noted by Nick Turse -- who is doing invaluable work detailing the deadly nuts and bolts of the militarist empire and its profiteers -- the Pentagon is drooling over visions of vast robotic forces filling the heavens and roaming the earth, even down to the smallest crevice. He rightly notes the main purpose of this massively funded R&D: to make war "easier," less deadly to "our side," and thus more palatable to the public:
This means bigger, badder, faster drones – armed to the teeth – with sensor systems to monitor wide swathes of territory and the ability to loiter overhead for days on end waiting for human targets to appear and, in due course, be vaporized by high-powered munitions. It’s a future built upon advanced technologies designed to make targeted killings – remote-controlled assassinations – ever more effortless.
... For the Air Force, such a prospect is the stuff of dreams, a bright future for unmanned, hypersonic lethality; for the rest of the planet, it’s a potential nightmare from which there may be no waking.
But while Turse outlines this potential nightmare in grim detail (the whole piece should be read in full), we are of course beset by present nightmares in horrific plenty. And few are more chilling than the ruling establishment's astonishingly swift acceptance of outright torture as an open tool of national policy. This acceptance not only includes the increasingly frenzied praise and championing of torture by the circle of war criminals and accomplices led by Dick Cheney; in slightly more restrained tones, it goes right across the board among the political and media elite. Torture is now nothing more than a topic for "debate" -- debates which center largely on the relative "effectiveness" of various torture techniques, or else on mindless (not to mention heartless) hairsplitting over the meaning of the word "torture."
There is of course a myth that Barack Obama has "ended" the practice of torture. This is not even remotely true. For one thing, as we have often noted here, the Army Field Manual that Obama has adopted as his interrogation standard permits many practices that any rational person would consider torture. For another, we have no way of verifying what techniques are actually being used by the government's innumerable "security" and intelligence agencies, by the covert units of the military -- and by other entities whose very existence is still unknown. These agencies are almost entirely self-policed; they investigate themselves, they report on themselves to the toothless Congressional "oversight" committees; we simply have to take these organizations -- whose entire raison d'etre is deceit, deception, lawlessness and subterfuge -- at their word. And of course, we have no way of knowing what is being done in the torture chambers of foreign lands where the United States often "outsources" its captives.
Finally, even if the comforting bedtime story of Obama's ban of torture techniques in interrogation were true, there remains his ardent championing of the right to seize anyone on earth -- without a warrant, without producing any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing -- and hold them indefinitely, often for years on end, in a legal limbo, with no inherent rights whatsoever, beyond whatever narrowly constricted, ever-changing, legally baseless and often farcical "hearings" and tribunals the captors deign to allow them. Incarceration under these conditions is itself an horrendous act of torture, no matter what else might happen to the captive. Yet Obama has actively, avidly applied this torture, and has gone to court numerous times to defend this torture, and to expand the use of this torture.
Many thousands of innocent people have already been forced through the meat grinder of this torture -- at one point early in the Iraq War, the Red Cross estimated that 70-90 percent of the more than 20,000 Iraqis being held by the Americans as "suspected terrorists" were not guilty of any crime whatsoever, much less 'terrorism'. And that is just a single snapshot, at a single point in time, of the vast gulag that America has wrapped around the earth -- a gulag where many have been murdered outright, not just tortured or unjustly imprisoned. And it is still going on, with scarcely a demur across the bipartisan establishment. The heinous and dishonorable practice of torture, physical and psychological, is now an intrinsic, openly established element of American society.
Murder, cowardice, torture, dishonor: these are fruits -- and the distinguishing characteristics -- of the militarized society. What Americans once would not do even to Nazis with the blood of millions on their hands, they now do routinely to weak and wretched captives seized on little or no evidence of wrongdoing at all. We are deep in the darkness, and hurtling deeper, headlong, all the time.
Let's not kid ourselves, however. The militarism that has now gained such a strangulating ascendancy over American life did not drop down suddenly from the sky (or arrive on the hijacked bus that Bush and Cheney drove to the White House). Although this militarism has now reached unprecedented levels of institutional and political dominance, there has always been a strong warlike strain running through American history -- indeed, through its pre-history as well, as Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton demonstrate in their book, Dominion of War, detailing the decisive influence of war and imperialism on America's development over the past 500 years.
Nor is it a peculiarly American problem. As Caroline Alexander notes in her remarkable new work, The War That Killed Achilles:
If we took any period of a hundred years in the last five thousand, it has been calculated, we could expect, on average, 94 of those years to be occupied with large-scale conflicts in one or more parts of the world. This enduring, seemingly ineradicable fact of war is ... as intrinsic and tragic a component of the human condition as our very mortality.
We human beings have been shaped by millions of years of genetic breakage and mutation, all of which is still on-going. We are compounds of chaos, ignorance and error. Our psyches are frail and variegated things, isolated, with each individual consciousness formed from a unique and ever-shifting coalescence of billions of brain cells firing (and misfiring) in infinite, unrepeatable combinations. Beneath this electrical superstructure lie mechanical rhythms and erratic surges of instinct and impulse, dark, hormonal tides and drives that never reach the plane of awareness.
In the infancy of our species we began to cling -- fiercely, in fear and desire -- to patterns of behavior, emotion and thought that seemed to bring some sort of order, some containment of the whirlwind within us, and some protection from the dangers, known and unknown, that lurked outside. We began to do "whatever it takes" to preserve these patterns from the ever-present threat of their dissolution in the whirlwind, to impose them, by violence if necessary, on the recalcitrant material of reality -- including the always-unknowable, impenetrable reality of the Other, those mysterious combinations outside our isolated consciousness.
The patterns become ingrained, they sink into the substrate where they operate unquestioned and unseen, they become "natural," the way that things must be. Domination and obedience are among the strongest, and most enduring, of these patterns, taking multitudinous forms -- a "local habitation and a name" -- in the ever-changing circumstances of existence. War is their expression writ large. It is in us, it comes from us.
But to acknowledge war's intrinsic, universal character does not absolve us of the need to resist it. To say, "Oh, that's just human nature; it's always been this way and always will be this way," is not only a lazy, timorous acquiescence to base instinct, it also posits a settled, even eternal quality to human nature and human consciousness that simply does not and cannot exist. To go against war, to step outside the ingrained behavioral patterns of domination and obedience is indeed an "unnatural" act -- and it feels unnatural, it feels strange, and raw, and frightening. But the deeper fear -- of psychic and physical dissolution -- that lies at the foundation of these ever-more destructive patterns can only be faced down, changed, and wrenched into some more benevolent pattern by embracing the risk and discomfort of stepping forth, of stepping beyond -- literally, "transgressing" -- the boundaries of a wholly imaginary (or even hallucinatory) "human nature."
The whirlwind that characterizes the imperfect, breaking, misfiring, evolving reality of human consciousness is not only a producer of (very understandable) deep-seated fears; it is also a force for liberation. Because our nature is not ultimately fixed, we can, literally and figuratively, burn new connections in our brains, we can enlarge our consciousness and extend our empathetic understanding of those strange Others. And we have been doing this, in fits and starts, in lurches and staggers, with much backsliding and many wrong turns -- indeed, in ignorance and error -- for as long as we have been creatures cursed and gifted with self-awareness. We do have the capacity, the space, to resist the patterns of domination and obedience, to seek out new ways of seeing the world, of being in the world, of communing with others.
This seems, to me, a worthwhile thing to be getting on with during our painfully brief time on the earth, during our infinitesimal window of opportunity to make some small contribution toward pushing the project of being human -- or rather, becoming human -- down the road, at least a few more steps, in the direction of a better understanding, a broader consciousness, a greater enlightenment.
Here in Ammoland
USA Gun Owners Buy 14 Million Plus Guns In 2009 – More Than 21 of the Worlds Standing Armies Combined.
This is an evaluation of overall firearms and ammunition purchases based on low end numbers per Federal NIC instacheck data base Statistics. The numbers presented are only PART of the overall numbers of arms and ammunition that have been sold.
The actual numbers are much higher.
Well shouldn't the above be reason enough to eliminate the officially sanctioned War Department on The Potomac. Ain't no fuckin' way any country in the world is gonna take over Arkansas or Idaho so no need to keep up the Pentagon pretense eh? Of course we know it's real purpose is as a protection racket for The American Capital Syndicate.
We' Merikans seem to like to blow things up. Warm fuzzies all around here in The Homeland.
February 15, 2010 | infowars.com
The Obama administration is seeking to increase the obscenely bloated U.S. Defense Department budget to a whopping $708 billion for fiscal year 2011, 3.4% above 2010’s record level, The Wall Street Journal reported.
While the overall budget deficit will balloon to a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2011, the result of massive tax cuts for the rich, declining revenues, a by-product of capitalism’s economic meltdown, imperial adventures abroad and general corporate malfeasance (the old tax-dodge grift), the administration plans to cut $250 billion over three years from non-military “discretionary spending” on domestic social programs.
However, as the World Socialist Web Site points out: “President Barack Obama has done nothing to reverse decades of wage stagnation, mounting poverty, and attacks on the social welfare system. On the contrary, following George W. Bush, he has seized on the crisis to redistribute wealth to a tiny financial elite through the ongoing bailout of the finance industry.”
It is no small irony that despite stark budget figures and an even bleaker future for the American working class, Washington Technology reported January 28 that the “29 largest publicly traded defense contractors increased their use of offshore subsidiaries by 26 percent from 2003 to 2008.”
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