The Trillion Dollar Budget For War

Christopher Glenn and Kevin Zeese holding No War banner at White House and Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 27,  2017. Photo by Anne Meador, DC Media Group.

By William D. Hartung for Tom Dispatch – You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians, and the president, but these are the best of times for the Pentagon. Spending on the Department of Defense alone is already well in excess of half a trillion dollars a year and counting. Adjusted for inflation, that means it’s higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak. And yet that’s barely half the story. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in “defense” spending that aren’t even counted in the Pentagon budget. Under the circumstances, laying all this out in grisly detail — and believe me, when you dive into the figures, they couldn’t be grislier — is the only way to offer a better sense of the true costs of our wars past, present, and future, and of the funding that is the lifeblood of the national security state. When you do that, you end up with no less than 10 categories of national security spending (only one of which is the Pentagon budget). So steel yourself for a tour of our nation’s trillion-dollar-plus “national security” budget. Given the Pentagon’s penchant for wasting money and our government’s record of engaging in dangerously misguided wars without end…

A Global Movement To Confront Drone Warfare

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By Medea Benjamin for Code Pink – The $600 billion annual cost of the US military budget eats up 54% of all federal discretionary funds. It’s no wonder we don’t have money to address the crisis of global warming, build effective public transportation systems, institute a Medicare-for-All health system, or provide the free college education that all our youth deserve. You would think it would be easy to form a united front with activists from different movements who want to redirect our tax dollars. Students fighting for free education should understand that stopping just one weapons system, the expensive and unnecessary Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, would fund the education of all college students for the next two decades. Nurses fighting for universal health care should understand that if we cut the bloated military budget, we’d have plenty of money for a national healthcare system like the Europeans have. Environmentalists paddling their kayaks to block oil-digging ships should understand that if we dramatically cut our military spending, we’d have hundreds of billions of dollars to propel us into the era of green, sustainable energy. Unions should recognize that the military is one of the worst creators of jobs in relation to money spent.

The Propaganda Campaign To Drive US War Against Iran

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By Ben Norton for FAIR – A new Vox video (7/17/17) is the latest addition to a media onslaught that propagates numerous misleading talking points to demonize Iran—just as the US government, under Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-Iran administration, is ratcheting up aggression against that country. The 10-minute film, titled “The Middle East’s Cold War, Explained,” is a textbook example of how US government propaganda pervades corporate media. With the help of a former senior government official and CIA analyst, the Vox video articulates a commonplace pro-US, anti-Iran narrative that portrays the violent conflicts in the Middle East as sectarian proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In order to do so, the film grossly downplays US involvement in the region, treating Saudi Arabia as though it acts independently of the US. It also fails to ever mention Israel, totally removing one of the most important players in the Middle East from its “Cold War” narrative. Vox multimedia producer Sam Ellis likewise constructs a false equivalence for Iran, depicting it as a kind of Shia Saudi Arabia that is just as guilty of spreading sectarianism. The video correspondingly exaggerates Iran’s international influence, which is assumed to be dastardly and malign.

Building A Mass Movement To Stop Mass Killing

Dennis K. at Code Pink/Shutterstock

By Medea Benjamin for AlterNet – The $600 billion annual cost of the US military budget eats up 54% of all federal discretionary funds. It’s no wonder we don’t have money to address the crisis of global warming, build effective public transportation systems, institute a Medicare-for-All health system, or provide the free college education that all our youth deserve. You would think it would be easy to form a united front with activists from different movements who want to redirect our tax dollars. Students fighting for free education should understand that stopping just one weapons system, the expensive and unnecessary Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, would fund the education of all college students for the next two decades. Nurses fighting for universal health care should understand that if we cut the bloated military budget, we’d have plenty of money for a national health- care system like the Europeans have. Environmentalists paddling their kayaks to block oil-digging ships should understand that if we dramatically cut our military spending, we’d have hun- dreds of billions of dollars to propel us into the era of green, sustainable energy. Unions should recognize that the military is one of the worst creators of jobs in relation to money spent. It was easier to connect with other movements when the peace movement was strong while trying to stop George W. Bush’s Iraq war.

Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing’

Report demands massive expansion of military-industrial complex to maintain global ‘access to resources’

By Nafeez Ahmed for Medium – An extraordinary new Pentagon study has concluded that the U.S.-backed international order established after World War 2 is “fraying” and may even be “collapsing”, leading the United States to lose its position of “primacy” in world affairs. The solution proposed to protect U.S. power in this new “post-primacy” environment is, however, more of the same: more surveillance, more propaganda (“strategic manipulation of perceptions”) and more military expansionism. The document concludes that the world has entered a fundamentally new phase of transformation in which U.S. power is in decline, international order is unravelling, and the authority of governments everywhere is crumbling. Having lost its past status of “pre-eminence”, the U.S. now inhabits a dangerous, unpredictable “post-primacy” world, whose defining feature is “resistance to authority”. Danger comes not just from great power rivals like Russia and China, both portrayed as rapidly growing threats to American interests, but also from the increasing risk of “Arab Spring”-style events. These will erupt not just in the Middle East, but all over the world, potentially undermining trust in incumbent governments for the foreseeable future.

Yemen: The War That Isn’t Happening Even As It’s Happening

by Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

By Luciana Bohne for Counter Punch – Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and Britain, began bombing Yemen, the poorest country in the region, on 23 March 2015—without a Security Council resolution, as has been the tradition for launching western wars since Bill Clinton’s 1999 Kosovo War (the bombing of Serbia). The stated objective of the Anglo-American backing of the Saudi attack was the restoration of Yemen’s US-supported government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s, which fled to Saudi Arabia under the mounting pressure of the Houthi Shia rebels, accused by the United States of being pawns of Iran, or, dismissively, plain Iran-supported. Boggles the mind to think of the blithe moral logic that justifies the support of the United States for a (largely faked) uprising in Syria when Iran is not allowed to assist Houthis in Yemen, fighting an authentic civil war, unlike the so-called Free Syrian Army and their hordes of 80% foreign al-Qaeda and Isis allied invaders of Syria’s sovereign state in 2011. The hypocrisy of empire, one supposes: supporting rebels in one case and the legitimate government in another. For this reason—Iran’s backing—the Saudis blockade the air and the ports of Yemen to check the flow of Iranian arms shipments to the rebels, adding to the infamy of the war the infamy of an economic siege—infamy because the largest number of victims in this tactic to encircle Iran are civilians, which is another tradition respected by the sorry, deceptive War on Terror.

“Ain’t No Such Thing As A Just War” – Ben Salmon, WWI Resister

Christopher Glenn and Kevin Zeese holding No War banner at White House and Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 27,  2017. Photo by Anne Meador, DC Media Group.

By Kathy Kelly for Information Clearing House – July 10, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Several days a week, Laurie Hasbrook arrives at the Voicesoffice here in Chicago. She often takes off her bicycle helmet, unpins her pant leg, settles into an office chair and then leans back to give us an update on family and neighborhood news. Laurie’s two youngest sons are teenagers, and because they are black teenagers in Chicago they are at risk of being assaulted and killed simply for being young black men. Laurie has deep empathy for families trapped in war zones. She also firmly believes in silencing all guns. Lately, we’ve been learning about the extraordinary determination shown by Ben Salmon, a conscientious objector during World War I who went to prison rather than enlist in the U.S. military. Salmon is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Carmel Cemetery, on the outskirts of Chicago. In June, 2017, a small group organized by “Friends of Franz and Ben” gathered at Salmon’s gravesite to commemorate his life. Mark Scibilla Carver and Jack Gilroy had driven to Chicago from Upstate NY, carrying with them a life size icon bearing an image of Salmon, standing alone in what appeared to be desert sands, wearing a prison-issue uniform that bore his official prison number.

Black America Is “Pro-Peace,” But Its Politicians Work For The War Party

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By Glen Ford for Black Agenda Report – The United States is at war with the very concept of the rule of law among nations, and constitutes the most imminent threat to the survival of the human species. Washington’s outlaw doctrine of “humanitarian” military intervention, championed by Bill Clinton and elevated to a defining national principle under Barack Obama, marks the U.S. as “a rogue state, a state that is completely rejecting international norms,” says Ajamu Baraka, of the Black Alliance for Peace. “There is no legal right for the United States to be in Syria, but yet they are in Syria with no domestic opposition.” Instead, much of what should constitute the “domestic opposition” to Washington’s flagrant crimes against peace is consumed with an obsession to punish Russia for imaginary offenses against a fictitious American “democracy.” Ajamu Baraka calls for “a restoration of the commitment to the rule of law on the part of the US authorities” — a minimal demand that should resonate with all civilized peoples, most especially Black Americans, for whom U.S. law has always been riddled with “exceptionalisms.” However, the Black political (Misleadership) class now takes its cues from the CIA, NSA, FBI and other spook agencies currently allied with the Democratic Party — the most abject capitulation to evil imaginable.

What Does War Generate?

10-year-old Afghan Street Kid Mubasir smiles despite his difficulties.

By Kathy Kelly for Counter Punch – At an April, 2017 Symposium on Peace in Nashville, TN, Martha Hennessy spoke about central tenets of Maryhouse, a home of hospitality in New York City, where Martha often lives and works. Every day, the community there tries to abide by the counsels of Dorothy Day, Martha’s grandmother, who co-founded houses of hospitality and a vibrant movement in the 1930s. During her talk, she held up a postcard-sized copy of one of the movement’s defining images, Rita Corbin’s celebrated woodcut listing “The Works of Mercy” and “The Works of War.” She read to us. “The Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Visit the imprisoned; Care for the sick; Bury the dead.” And then she read: “The Works of War: Destroy crops and land; Seize food supplies; Destroy homes; Scatter families; Contaminate water; Imprison dissenters; Inflict wounds, burns; Kill the living.” The following week, General James Mattis was asked to estimate the death toll from the U.S. first use in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of the MOAB, or Massive Ordinance Air Burst bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in U.S. arsenals.

The Nazis Used It, We Use It: The Return Of Famine As A Weapon Of War

Flickr/Surian Soosay. The Pakistan Floods / Wet Famine

By Alex de Waal for Transcend Media Service – 15 Jun 2017 – In its primary use, the verb ‘to starve’ is transitive: it’s something people do to one another, like torture or murder. Mass starvation as a consequence of the weather has very nearly disappeared: today’s famines are all caused by political decisions, yet journalists still use the phrase ‘man-made famine’ as if such events were unusual. Over the last half-century, famines have become rarer and less lethal. Last year I came close to thinking that they might have come to an end. But this year, it’s possible that four or five famines will occur simultaneously. ‘We stand at a critical point in history,’ the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the former Tory MP Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council in March, in one of his last statements before stepping down: ‘Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.’ It’s a ‘critical’ point, I’d argue, not because it is the worst crisis in our lifetime, but because a long decline – lasting seven decades – in mass death from starvation has come to an end; in fact it has been reversed.

Activists Arrested At Volk Field As They Attempt To Identify Base As A Crime Scene

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By Joy First for War Is A Crime – Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars has held monthly vigils against drones at the gates of Volk Field for over five years. This Wisconsin Air National Guard Base is a critical component of the whole drone warfare program being conducted by the US government in a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa. At Volk Field personnel are trained to operate the RQ-7 Shadow Drone, which has been used for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition. However, now there is the likelihood that the RQ-7 is also weaponized. See http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/7914/was-a-new-type-of-drone-launched-weapon-used-to-kill-al-qaedas-2-man. There is a savagery in drone warfare as whole communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and other places in the Middle East and Africa suffer from PTSD from drones constantly flying overhead, as wedding parties and funerals are hit, as rescuers are hit by a second attack, as grandmothers working in the field are killed, as children sleeping in their beds are murdered. A number of credible sources tell us that only 1 out of 10 people killed by drones are the intended target.

Resist This: The United States Is At War With Syria

by Debra Sweet | CC BY 2.0

By Jim Kavanagh for Counter Punch – The United States is at war with Syria. Though few Americans wanted to face it, this has been the case implicitly since the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops, really-not-there, American troops, and it has been the case explicitly since August 3, 2015, when the Obama administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” With the U.S. Air Force—under Trump, following Obama’s declared policy—shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, this is now undeniable. The United States is overtly engaged in another aggression against a sovereign country that poses no conceivable, let alone actual or imminent, threat to the nation. This is an act of war. As an act of war, this is unconstitutional, and would demand a congressional declaration. Will Trump ask for this? Will any Democratic or Republican congresscritter demand it? Is the Pope a Hindu? Would it make any difference? Why should Trump bother? Obama set the stage when he completely ignored the War Powers Act, the Constitution, Congress, and his own Attorney General and legal advisers, and went right ahead with a war on Libya

No Nukes, No Wars, No Walls, No Warning

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By Mike Bass for Peace and Planet – A conference making the links between nuclear abolition, social and economic justice and moving the global economy to a path in balance with the planet’s ecosystems. The process that initiated negotiations for a ban on nuclear weapons has raised awareness of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons. But despite growing mobilizations for social and economic justice and moving the global economy to a path in balance with the planet’s ecosystems, in the nuclear-armed states there still are no significant movements for the elimination of nuclear weapons. To build a global movement to abolish nuclear weapons, we must also better understand and raise public awareness of the renewed danger that nuclear weapons could be used in warfare. And if this movement is to garner enough power to be successful, it must make common cause with those working for a world that is more fair, more democratic, and more ecologically sustainable.

What We Can Learn From War Memorials

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By Kevin Basl for Other Words – Americans repay our veterans poorly if we don’t use our freedoms to question our wars. In Dryden, New York, a proposed solar farm recently caused a stir. Thousands of solar panels — enough to power 7,500 homes — are scheduled to be installed near a rural cemetery in the town. Some opponents complain that it’s disrespectful to the veterans buried there. Energy and environmental considerations aside, what does it mean to respect our deceased service members and veterans? We visit their graves, to ensure their small flags stand upright. We grieve during “Taps.” These activities are healthy. But true respect — the kind someone who gave their life in service deserves — begins with learning from our country’s mistakes, not ensuring a scenic resting place. It’s easy to forget that memorials — gravestones, ceremonies, monuments — aren’t deceased persons themselves. Rather, they’re sacred markers for the living. They provide a space for public mourning, and they teach history. Memorials can be spontaneous and unique, or they can become so commonplace that we no longer experience them meaningfully.

The Losing Warfare State

Tough not to call it a war crime when the U.S. dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than it had on Germany during World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – The USA is still bogged down in Afghanistan (the 16 year-old occupation is the longest in American history) and in Iraq (since the unconstitutional, illegal invasion of the country 14 years ago). With about 30,000 poorly equipped fighters, the Taliban has held down a US equipped and trained Afghan army eight times larger in soldiers, plus the US forces – fluctuating from 100,000 at its peak to 8,500 now, plus contractors – with advanced air, sea and land weaponry that is second to none. Moreover, the Taliban has been advancing, controlling 30 to 40 percent of the country and a third of the population, according to the Wall Street Journal. In Iraq, the US had hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors during the Bush years. Yet today the country is still in the throes of a civil war, where a previously nonexistent threat – ISIS – with less than 15,000 fighters, has been successfully resisting a huge Iraqi army backed by US trainers and air force. How can this be? “We are vulnerable,” writes military author William Greider, “because our presumption of unconquerable superiority leads us deeper and deeper into unwinnable military conflicts.”