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The Quality of Mercy by Kathy Kelly

4 hours 34 min ago

During the spring of 1999, as part of Voices in the Wilderness’s campaign to end indiscriminately lethal U.S./U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, the Fellowship of Reconciliation arranged for two Nobel Peace laureates, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire, to visit the country. Before their travel, Voices activists helped organize meetings for them with a range of ordinary Iraqis affected by an economic warfare targeting the most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, and most tragically of all, the children. Perez Esquivel studied the itinerary. His voice and face showed clear disappointment. "Yes," he said, shaking his head, "but when do we meet with the teenagers?" He advised to always learn from a region’s young people, and seek clear, inquisitive views not yet hardened by propaganda. We quickly arranged for Maguire and Perez Esquivel to meet with young women at Baghdad’s Dijla Secondary School for Girls.

It was the spring of 1999. After eight years of deadly economic sanctions, the 2003 US invasion was still the haziest of looming future threats. I was there with them at the school, and I remember Layla standing up and raising her voice. "You come and you say, you will do, you will do. But nothing changes. Me, I am sixteen. Can you tell me, what is the difference between me, I am sixteen, and someone who is sixteen in your country? I’ll tell you. Our emotions are frozen. We cannot feel." But then she sat down and cried.

Other Iraqi students wondered what their country had done to deserve this treatment. What would happen to them if the UN said Iraq’s foreign policy directly contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, in another country, under age five? "Who are the criminals?" they asked.

In 1999, young Layla’s voice was both pleading and accusing when she said, "Nothing changes." A change did occur in 2003. The 13-year economic war turned into a fierce bombing and invasion called "Shock and Awe." U.S.-led foreign troops battered the nation. With its cities and reservoirs wrecked, its power lines downed, and its police and economy abolished, chaos broke out. Occupying troops watched the country convulse into escalating violence, replicable anywhere. The long smother of the sanctions was lifted from the crushed windpipe of a nation struggling even harder to breathe, its desperate flailing summoning ever more violent responses. The young people’s question, then, should persist: "Who are the criminals?"

As they do each month, my young friends in Kabul, Afghanistan, hosted a three-hour international internet call on November 21st, 2017, focused on ways to survive the psychological traumas inflicted on people living in a war zone. They spoke about how war causes mistrust, fear and a constant anxiety because there is no safe space. They said what they most need are relationships. Trauma destroys connections, makes people feel alone and isolated. Healing involves connection.

Through self-education, they’ve learned to connect and care deeply about people in Yemen where seven million people, according to CBS’s Sixty Minutes, face famine. Meanwhile, a Saudi-led coalition, backed and joined by the US, continues blockading and bombing civilians. Despite their own destitution, the Afghan Peace Volunteers collected what they could for relief efforts in Yemen, raising about $48.00.

"The quality of mercy is strained in the Middle East," reads a New York Times editorial from mid-November, 2017, turning to literature to point out the unspeakably brutal throttling of Yemen where, according to the NYT op-ed, "Saudi Arabia closed off the highways, sea routes and airports in war-torn Yemen, forbidding humanitarian groups from even shipping chlorine tablets for the Yemenis suffering from a cholera epidemic…The International Red Cross expects about a million people to be infected by cholera in Yemen by December." The editorial clearly links the epidemic to US policy and emphasizes the Saudi-led campaign’s dependence on military assistance from the US

Mark Weisbrot, an analyst with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, urges ordinary US people to speak up about Yemen, "because this is the world’s best chance of ending what UN aid chief Mark Lowcock called "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims." Last week, 120,000 people watched a brief video of Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin risking arrest to protest US participation in Saudi war crimes. Now, as local groups in the US and other countries plan vigils, legislative action, civil disobedience and education campaigns, we have a chance to end the nightmare fears of Yemenis facing starvation, disease, and war.

As I watched in 1999, Layla stood before her class to ask two renowned peacemakers what difference there was between her and a sixteen-year-old living in a more secure part of the world. The answer, in terms of her basic human rights and her irreplaceable human value, should be manifestly clear: there is no difference whatsoever. And yet, while US warlords and military contractors collude with their counterparts in other lands, they earn former president Dwight Eisenhower’s blistering evaluation. This world in arms "is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists and the hopes of its children." Among the most vulnerable children sacrificed are those forced into poverty by military blockade and military occupation, who steel themselves as the bombs tear through their towns and their neighborhoods and their neighbors, through their traumatized memories, and through their prospective futures when they dare to hope for one.

The comfortable nations often authorize the worst atrocities overseas through fear for their own safety, imagining themselves the victims to be protected from crime at all costs. Such attitudes entitle people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen to look in our direction when they ask, "Who are the criminals?" They will be looking at us when they ask that, until we at last exert our historically unprecedented economic and political ability to turn our imperial nations away from ruinous war, and earn our talk of mercy.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. (www.vcnv.org). In Kabul, she is the guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.com).

Saudi Purges Explained: Ron Paul Interviews Marwa Osman Live From Lebanon

6 hours 17 min ago

To understand what’s really going on in the Middle East, the worst place to turn is the US mainstream media. Geopolitical analyst and Ph.D. candidate Marwa Osman joins today’s Liberty Report live from Beirut, Lebanon to tell us why the MSM refuses to explain what’s really behind the tragedy in Yemen. What’s behind the recent purges in Saudi Arabia? Is a new war between Israel and Lebanon about to break out? You might be surprised at some of her answers. Tune in to today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

OMG! Trump Aide Met With NATO Partner Hungary During Campaign!

7 hours 55 min ago

The media frenzy over “Russiagate” seems to get progressively more stupid as desperation takes hold. To sustain the sense of frenzy – which Russiagate cultists call “drip drip drip” – they need new sensational bombshells every day. Except there aren’t any. So the media makes them up.

Case-in-point this breathless piece from the Capitol Hill rag, The Hill, screeching paranoia over the fact that an advisor to candidate Trump’s presidential campaign MET WITH AN ADVISOR TO HUNGARY’S PRIME MINISTER!!!! OMG!!! Drip Drip Drip!!! GET ME MUELLER, STAT!!!

What makes the latest earth-shattering revelation all the more ridiculous is that reading the article it becomes painfully obvious that the author has no clue that Hungary is actually a strategic ally of the United States as a fellow member of the NATO alliance. Thus a meeting between a representative of the prospective President of the United States and a representative of the Prime Minister of one of the United States’ closest allies, Hungary, is portrayed as some kind of smoking gun while in fact it should be considered the most normal thing on earth.

A smooth transition for an incoming occupant of the White House naturally requires that the new president have established contacts among as many friends and allies overseas as possible and is critical to maintaining normal diplomatic relations. This is nothing new.

And Hungary was not only an early NATO ally of the United States after the Berlin Wall fell: it was a partner trusted enough before its NATO membership to host a major US military base in central Europe.

But The Hill’s modern-day Bob Woodward is having none of it! He’s cracked the code! Hence his headline: “Carter Page held high-level meetings with pro-Putin Hungarian government.”

What the article presents as a smoking gun of the Trump campaign’s collusion with foreign powers is obvious to anyone with more than five minutes experience in international relations to be a positive and encouraging development: then-Hungarian Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi was doing her job – and assisting her US partner – by organizing a meeting between Trump campaign representatives and Hungarian government representatives.

But in the twisted minds of the Russiagate cultists, this normal process is manipulated into some sort of secret Putin infiltration of the Trump campaign.

Writing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban off as simply “pro-Putin” exposes a level of ignorance that is genuinely breathtaking. Even for a journalist. Orban is head of a three-times democratically-elected government in Hungary that has been a consistent and steadfast partner of the US. Before he was attacked by neocons like Anne Applebaum for objecting to the Brussels-mandated invasion of Hungary by Middle East “refugees,” he was considered a solid Atlanticist. Orban has always looked West for his alliances even as he realizes that there is no harm in looking east for business relationships as well.

On a day when we learn that Google will “de-rank” (hide) RT articles presumably because they are to be considered “fake news,” we are treated to a real piece of fake news by an organization that Google happily promotes in its search engine. How well this Orwell thing is working out…

Daniel McAdams is director of the The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity. Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Antiwar.com Launches Matching Funds Bitcoin Drive

Mon, 2017-11-20 14:01

Five years ago, Antiwar.com made a bold move and embraced bitcoin and the crypto community. Early Bitcoin provided donors a way to make quick, low cost, anonymous donations (even very small amounts) that couldn’t be achieved through traditional online avenues. It has been a win/win situation.

Today, we are proud to announce that we are expanding our acceptance of digital currencies to include Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and ZCash. We selected these 3 additional crypto currencies because of their speed, cost, security and privacy features and we are excited to add them to our donation capabilities.

Support peace and double your impact!

As part of this launch, we are also announcing a Matching Funds Crypto Drive. From now, through December 31, crypto donations will be matched, up to $20,000, thanks to the generosity of Roger Ver, CEO of Bitcoin.com, whose support has been instrumental in helping us achieve this.

Thank you for the love and support you have shown us in the past and please consider supporting us now at our new crypto currency page.

DOD Conference Bill Passed… Yet We’re Less Safe and More Poor

Mon, 2017-11-20 13:36

Ron Paul breaks down the massive DoD spending bill Conference Report that has just passed Congress. More money for Ukraine? Israel’s missile defense? Lots of welfare for the military industrial complex? More money for the failed F-35? Lots of money for other countries to buy our weapons, to keep the military industrial complex rich while working Americans see their real income decline. How our militarism is strangling us…in today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

US Air Strikes and Civilian Deaths in the War on Terror

Mon, 2017-11-20 09:36

U.S. and Coalition forces have seriously undercounted the number of civilians killed in air attacks against ISIS. That is the key finding of an 18-month-long investigation led by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal and published this week in the New York Times Magazine. Khan/Gopal surveyed 103 sites of air strikes in northern Iraq, extrapolating from these attacks into other regions in which the Coalition launched air attacks against ISIS since 2014. They conclude that between 8000 and 10,000 civilians have been killed in these attacks, far higher than the US government’s estimate of roughly 500 civilians killed (or the 3000 civilian deaths estimated by Airwars.org over this same period).

Does it matter to Americans if the true count of civilian deaths is closer to 10,000 than 500? To most Americans, sadly, I’m not sure it matters. Not if these air strikes are described and defended as saving American and Coalition lives as well as killing terrorists.

Airwars.org keeps a running tally of US and Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Their website today (11/19/17) records 28,380 strikes over an almost four-year period, using 102,082 bombs and missiles. It would be remarkable if only a few hundred innocents were killed by such an astonishing number of bombs and missiles, and indeed they estimate that nearly 6000 civilians have been killed in these attacks.

Why are US/Coalition figures so much lower than those estimated by Khan/Gopal and Airwars.org?

In March 2013, I wrote an article for TomDispatch in which I explained that airpower and bombing missions are neither cheap nor surgical nor decisive. More recently, I lamented the horrific euphemism of “collateral damage,” a term often used to elide the realities of death by bombing. There are good reasons why officialdom in Washington is content to undercount the number of civilians killed in bombing and drone attacks overseas. Some are obvious; others perhaps less so:

  1. It’s not in the best interests of the US military to give a full and honest accounting of civilian casualties, so they don’t.
  2. A full and honest accounting requires direct investigations (boots on the ground) like the ones conducted by Khan/Gopal. These are not generally done, partly because they would expose US troops to considerable risk.
  3. A full and honest accounting might suggest that air attacks are too costly, murderously so. The Coalition and the US military prefer to advertise airpower as a “precise” and “decisive” weapon, and of course the Coalition relies on airpower to keep their casualties limited.
  4. Related to (3), as airpower is sold as “surgical” and decisive, there are billions and billions of dollars riding on this image. Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in warplanes, drones, and munitions. Is the US willing to suggest that this approach is often not that effective in the “war on terror”? Even worse, that it results in the death and grievous wounding of thousands of innocent men, women, and children? That it may, in fact, exacerbate terrorism and intensify the war?
  5. Another possible angle: Do you want to tell pilots and other crew members that their bombs and missiles often kill innocents rather than the enemy? What would that do to morale?

When civilian deaths are mentioned in the US media, they are often explained, or explained away, as the byproduct of ISIS/ISIL using innocents as human shields, or of the messiness and unpredictability of urban warfare in densely packed cities like Mosul. But the Khan/Gopal study notes that civilian deaths from the air war are often due to poor intelligence – a failure of process, the result of insufficient resources and inadequate understanding of events on the ground. In a word, negligence.

Again, do Americans care about civilian casualties in Iraq or Syria or other faraway places? We seem to have a blasé attitude toward foreign peoples being killed at a distance in air strikes. I suppose this is so because those killings are termed “accidental” by military spokesmen even as they’re attributed to a nefarious enemy or to technological errors. It’s also so because these deaths have been both undercounted and underreported in America.

In showing that the US government seriously undercounts civilian casualties and by highlighting systemic flaws in intelligence-gathering and targeting, the Khan/Gopal study makes a major contribution to our understanding of the true costs of America’s endless war on terror.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Peter Van Buren: Soldier Boy, for Veteran’s Day

Fri, 2017-11-17 00:42

Perhaps only ancient Sparta claimed to support its military more than the United States. From the “soldiers in uniform board first” rituals that happen only in American airports, to politics where a decision not to serve is forever held against a candidate, there are reminders that America’s troops are a presence in our society like few others.

The desire to claim a piece of that leads to elaborate lies, known as “stolen valor.” People buy regulation uniforms and walk through society showing off medals, telling fake war stories, and accepting unearned thanks, all without ever having served a day. They want the juice without having endured the squeeze. They are out there this Veteran’s Day, and they are to be loathed.

At the same time we curse the fakes, we might also spare a thought this Veteran’s Day to those who really did serve, and how society in return shows its real support. Because while some fake service, in too many ways society fakes support:

  • We pass by 40,000 veterans homeless on any given night. More than half suffer from mental illness.
  • We watch the troops die because of long waits for care at U.S. veterans hospitals.
  • We know some 460,000 vets from the Iraq and Afghan wars suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; another 260,000 have Traumatic Brain Injuries. Statistics are hard to come by from America’s other wars, but since the working figure for PTSD out of Iraq and Afghanistan is about 20 percent, that would leave millions of Vietnam and Korean vets suffering.
  • We read in Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide that military suicides increase among those who deploy overseas, among those who suffer brain injuries, and particularly among those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
  • We are silent as 20 veterans a day commit suicide.

What does it all add up to on Veteran’s Day? This.

As a State Department foreign service officer I spent a year embedded with the Army in Iraq at several smaller forward operating bases (FOBs). I wrote this about one very bad day.

I heard about Private First Class Brian Edward Hutson’s (name changed) death at breakfast and walked over to his trailer. He’d put the barrel of his rifle into his mouth, with the weapon set for a three-round burst, and blew out the back of his skull. I saw the fan spray on the wall, already being washed off by the Bangladeshi cleaning crew. The bleach solution they used was smearing more than cleaning, and the Bangladeshis had little stomach to wring out the mop heads all that often. The blood smelled coppery and though I never smelled that before or since I can summon the smell into my mind at any time I wish, and at some times I don’t wish.

The death of any soldier reverberated through the FOB. This was, after all, a small town, and nobody was left untouched. The ritual prescribed by regulation was the same, whether the death was by suicide or in combat. The chapel had rows of chairs set up, much as it would in Ohio or Georgia for a wedding, only at the front of the room was a wooden box with holes for the US and the unit flag and a slot to stand the deceased’s rifle. The remains of the deceased were likely already on their way home and not with us. The box was made of plywood, stained and varnished like paneling, and reminded everyone of a high school wood shop project. The dead man’s boots stood on either side of the rifle, with his helmet on top. It was fitting no one had cleaned the boots, because the presence of the dust and dirt wiped away a lot of the cheapness of the event.

There was a program with the official Army photo of the deceased, posed in front of an American flag — you could see a few red pockmarks on the side of his face, a chicken pox scar on his forehead. All these photos showed a vacant stare, same as every high school graduation photo. The chaplain read the 23rd Psalm.

The required speeches were strained because the senior officers who had to speak at these events rarely knew, or could know among the many troops under them, the deceased. The dead man’s job had something to do with radios and most present didn’t say much beyond that. The eulogy thus rang a bit hollow, but you reminded yourself the words were not necessarily intended for you and that the Colonel may not have been the best man for the job. He was a responsible man, trying hard to do something impossible, and he probably felt bad for his lack of conviction, and that he was not a Pericles or Lincoln.

The last speaker was by tradition someone acquainted with the deceased. In this ceremony, things were especially awkward. The dead man had taken his life after only a few months in the Army and even less time at this FOB. Nobody had befriended him, and this being the third suicide on the FOB made the whole thing especially grim. The ceremony felt rushed, like an over-rehearsed school play where the best performance had taken place the night before.

But sometimes things surprised you, maybe because of low expectations, maybe because every once in a while somebody stood up and said just what needed to be said. A young Captain rose without notes. “I was his team leader but I never really knew him. Brian was new here. He didn’t have no nickname and he didn’t spend much time with us. He played Xbox a lot. We don’t know why he committed suicide. We miss him anyway because he was one of us. That’s all I have to say.”

The ceremony ended with the senior enlisted person calling the roll for the dead man’s unit. Each member answered, “Here, Sergeant Major” after his name was called. That was until the name called was the dead man’s. “Brian Hutson?” Silence. “Brian E. Hutson?” Silence. “Private First Class Brian Edward Hutson?” Silence. Brian was not there and almost none of us had known him but yes, that day, at that place, we all missed him anyway.

We will hear a lot this Veterans Day about supporting the troops and thanking them for their service. Please do those things; they deserve it.

But don’t traffic in bullshit this Veterans Day. For all the talk about how much we owe, no one ever demands we pay up. If our nation insists on being so quick to send men and women into harm’s way, then it damn well better face up to its obligation to take care of them beyond yellow ribbons, firm handshakes, and discounts on wings ‘n beer. Food, shelter, health care, counseling– that’s how you support the troops on Veterans Day and every other day. We remember Private First Class Brian Edward Hutson by taking care of the brothers and sisters of his we created.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

The Real Cost Of War: Three Times More Than The Government Admits

Thu, 2017-11-16 12:46

According to a new study by Brown University’s Watson Institute, the real cost of the US wars since 9/11 is three times the Pentagon’s estimate. Some $5.6 trillion have been spent on the endless global war. The total costs of 16 years of war are even higher, and they extend beyond just finance. Today on the Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Dennis Kucinich Discusses the ‘Permanent Government’ Behind US Foreign Intervention

Thu, 2017-11-16 11:46

In a recent interview with host Wilmer Leon at the Inside the Issues show, former presidential candidate and United States House of Representatives Member Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) discussed how what Kucinich terms the “permanent government” has worked to ensure the United States continues pursuing destructive foreign interventions and to keep America “at the precipice of a much wider war” irrespective of who is president.

“There’s an unbroken line going back over the last 30 years where American presidents have continued to proceed with an interventionism that has been counterproductive,” states Kucinich. This “continued commitment to a failed foreign policy of interventionism, of unilateralism, of first strike,” Kucinich continues, “imperils America,” “does not make us safer,” “separates us from the world community,” “has people looking to extract vengeance on Americans,” and “has made the world a more dangerous place.”

Saying we need to look beyond the personalities of the succession of US presidents from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, Kucinich recommends we “look at the foreign policy establishment of the United States of America” that, he explains, includes people in the State Department who have a neoconservative ideology, in the Pentagon who are dedicated to the military-industrial complex, and in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who can “conjure conflicts” and “try to justify the further involvement of the military and the State Department.” This, Kucinich says, “is the permanent government, which we see reflected through Democrat and Republican administrations, no matter whether they are so-called conservative or liberal or populist; it’s all the same.”

While this “permanent government” push for US intervention overseas has produced many harmful consequences, some of which Kucinich discusses in the interview, it also, he argues, produces the additional danger that it “keeps us at the precipice of a much wider war.”

Listen to Kucinich’s complete interview here.

Kucinich is an Advisory Board member for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

National Defense versus Global (In)Security

Thu, 2017-11-16 11:28

Our government likes to talk about global security, which in their minds is basically synonymous with homeland security. They argue that the best defense is a good offense, that “leaning forward in the foxhole,” or always being ready to attack, is the best way to keep Americans safe. Hence the 800 U.S. military bases in foreign countries, the deployment of special operations units to 130+ countries, and the never-ending “war on terror.”

Consider this snippet from today’s FP: Foreign Policy report:

If Congress votes through the massive tax cuts currently on the House floor, it would likely mean future cuts to Pentagon budgets “for training, maintenance, force structure, flight missions, procurement and other key programs.”

That’s according to former defense secretaries Leon E. Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter, who sent a letter to congressional leadership Wednesday opposing the plan. “The result is the growing danger of a ‘hollowed out’ military force that lacks the ability to sustain the intensive deployment requirements of our global defense mission,” the secretaries wrote.

“Our global defense mission”: this vision that the US, in order to be secure, must dominate the world ensures profligate “defense” spending, to the tune of nearly $700 billion for 2018. Indeed, the Congress and the President are currently competing to see which branch of government can throw more money at the Pentagon, all in the name of “security,” naturally.

Here’s a quick summary of the new “defense” bill and what it authorizes (from the Washington Post):

The bill as it stands increases financial support for missile defense, larger troop salaries and modernizing, expanding and improving the military’s fleet of ships and warplanes. The legislation dedicates billions more than Trump’s request for key pieces of military equipment, such as Joint Strike Fighters – there are 20 more in the bill than in the president’s request – and increasing the size of the armed forces. The bill also outlines an increase of almost 20,000 service members – nearly twice Trump’s request.

In the House of Representatives, the bill passed by a vote of 356-70. At least Congress can agree on something – more and more money for the Pentagon. (The $700 billion price tag includes $65.7 billion “for combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, various places in Africa, and elsewhere,” notes FP: Foreign Policy.)

Besides all this wasteful spending (the Pentagon has yet to pass an audit!), the vision itself is deeply flawed. If you want to defend America, defend it. Strengthen the National Guard. Increase security at the border (including cyber security). Spend money on the Coast Guard. And, more than anything, start closing military bases overseas. End US participation in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the greater Middle East and Africa. Bring ground troops home. And end air and drone attacks (this would also end the Air Force’s “crisis” of being short nearly 2000 pilots).

This is not a plea for isolationism. It’s a quest for sanity. America is not made safer by spreading military forces around the globe while bombing every “terrorist” in sight. Quite the reverse.

Until we change our vision of what national defense really means – and what it requires – America will be less safe, less secure, and less democratic.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Rep. John Duncan: There Is Nothing Patriotic or Conservative About Our Bloated Defense Budget

Thu, 2017-11-16 10:49

Several times over my 29 years in Congress I have wondered whether there are any fiscal conservatives at the Pentagon.

It seems that the Defense Department is just like every other gigantic bureaucracy. When it comes to money, the refrain is always "more, more, more."

On November 14, the House passed what one Capitol Hill paper described as a "$700 billion compromise defense bill." It was $80 billion over the budget caps and many billions more than even President Trump had requested.

I opposed almost all the major initiatives of the Obama administration. But it was false to say that the Defense Department was "depleted" or "eviscerated" during those years, or that now we must "rebuild the military."

In fact, public relations experts in future years should conduct studies about how the Defense Department has been able to convince the public it has been cut when it is getting more money than ever.

Defense Department appropriations have more than doubled since 2000. In addition, the Department has gotten extra billions in several supplemental or emergency appropriation bills.

The military construction bill is a separate bill that has added another $109.5 billion over the last 10 years. It would be hard to find any U.S. military base any place in the world that has not had several new buildings constructed over the last few years.

In fiscal year 2016, we spent over $177 billion on new equipment, guns, tanks, etc. We have spent similar amounts for many years. Most of this equipment does not wear out or have to be replaced after just one year.

It is ironic that the only President in the last 60 or 70 years who has tried to rein in defense spending is the only President in that period who spent most of his career in the military.

In Evan Thomas’ book, Ike’s Bluff, when told by his top staffer that he could not reduce defense spending, President Eisenhower said if he gave another star to every general who cut his budget, there would be "such a rush to cut costs you’ll have to get out of the way."

The book also quotes Eisenhower as saying "Heaven help us if we ever have a President who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do."

Therein lies an explanation for a big part of what has caused much excessive and/or wasteful defense spending and, the willingness, even at times eagerness, to go to war and support permanent, never-ending wars.

Only 18% of the current Congress has ever served in any branch of our military. Members are afraid if they do not vote for an increase in defense spending, or if they question waste by the military, some demagogue will accuse them of "not supporting the troops."

It would be a huge understatement to say that I usually do not agree with New York Times editorials.

But the Times Editorial Board on Oct. 22 published an editorial entitled "America’s Forever Wars," pointing out that the US"has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11" and now has troops in "at least 172 countries."

The Board wrote that so far the American people have "seemed to accept" all this militarism, but "it’s a very real question whether, in addition to endorsing these commitments, which have cost trillions of dollars and many lives over 16 years, they will embrace new entanglements…"

The Times added that the Congress "has spent little time considering such issues in a comprehensive way or debating why all these deployments are needed."

Backing these words up was a cartoon in the Oct. 25 issue of Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper. The cartoon showed six senators sitting at a hearing.

The first senator, reading a newspaper, says "Who knew we had troops in Niger?!" The second says: "Heck, we don’t even know how the military budget gets spent."

Finally, the cartoon shows a senator who looks like Sen. Ted Cruz, saying "War is hell. I say we just give the Pentagon an extra $80 billion and call it a day."

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, himself a veteran, wrote on Oct. 23: "But there is something else at work here: the slavish veneration now accorded the military. You can see it every time someone in uniform testifies before Congress."

Since now less than one percent of the people serve in the military, it may be that many people who never served feel, perhaps even subconsciously, that they must bend over backwards to show their patriotism.

However, it is not unpatriotic to oppose wasteful defense spending or very unnecessary permanent, forever wars.

President Reagan once said "our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available."

We have far too many leaders today who seem to want to be new Winston Churchills and who are far too eager to send people to war.

No true fiscal conservative could ever justify spending many billions more than even President Trump requested.

Our national debt recently went over the $20 trillion level. A few days ago, it was reported that the deficit for fiscal 2017 was $666 billion. This fiscal year, it may be even higher.

Conservatives used to be against huge deficit spending. They also used to be against massive foreign aid. Much of what we have been doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, training police and farmers, repairing electrical and water systems, even making small business loans, etc., is pure foreign aid.

Many of our foreign interventions have been done under the auspices or authority of the United Nations. Conservatives used to be the biggest critics of the U.N. and world government. Most of our so-called "coalitions" have been funded almost entirely by American taxpayers.

Most interventionists at some point resort to a slur referring to their opponents as isolationists. This is so false. Traditional conservatives support trade and tourism and cultural and educational exchanges with other countries and they agree with helping during humanitarian crises.

They just don’t believe in dragging war out forever, primarily so defense contractors, think tanks, and military bureaucrats can get more money.

One last point: We have far too many officers. In Scott Berg’s biography on Woodrow Wilson, it says during World War I, we had one officer for every 30 enlisted men. Eisenhower once said we had too many officers when there were nine enlisted for every officer. Now we have one officer for only four and a half to five and a half enlisted (varies by branch).

This is very expensive, both for active duty and retirement, but it also makes it much more likely that we will get involved in every little conflict around the world and/or continue basing troops in almost every country.

We simply do not have enough money to pay for defense of so many countries other than our own nor the authority under our Constitution to try to run the whole world.

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) represents Tennessee’s 2nd District. Congressman Duncan served honorably in both the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, starting as an enlisted man and rising to the rank of captain.

War on ISIS – Whose Side Are We Really On?

Wed, 2017-11-15 15:41

On Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a press conference that the US military would remain in Syria for the long haul, “as long as there are ISIS who want to fight” he said. He falsely claimed that the US operates in Syria with UN permission. According to a blockbuster BBC report, however, the US government was part of a secret deal to allow thousands of ISIS fighters and their families safe passage from Raqqa — with their weapons! What’s going on here? Join us for today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Thank You, Ed Herman

Tue, 2017-11-14 14:49

Edward S. Herman died on November 11, 2017, at the age of 92. Fortunately, it was a peaceful death for a supremely peaceful man. In all he did, Ed Herman was a tireless champion of peace.

Ed Herman could be considered the godfather of antiwar media critique, both because of his own contributions and because of the many writers he encouraged to pursue that work. Thanks to his logical mind and sense of justice, he sharply grasped the crucial role and diverse techniques of media propaganda in promoting war. He immediately saw through lies, including those so insidious that few dare challenge them, such as the arrogant presumption by the U.S. War Party of the “right to protect” and the “need to prevent genocide”, to justify the oxymoronic “humanitarian war”.

He saw that these pro-war lies flourish on the basis of what he called the distinction between “worthy and unworthy victims” persistently drawn by apologists for United States militarism. The million of victims of United States bombings, sanctions, regime changes and undercover assassinations are not considered calls to arms. Washington think tanks do not draw moral conclusions concerning the victims of Dresden, Hiroshima and Vietnam. But the public is endlessly exhorted to indignation concerning victims whose misfortune can serve as casus belli for the latest US aggression.

Imperialist Party Line hypocrites predictably pretended not to understand this distinction, and deliberately misinterpreted Herman’s exposure of this propaganda device to falsely accuse him of “denial” – when all he was denying was the pretext for more war.

The date of Ed Herman’s death carries an irony that he might have appreciated. It was the 99th anniversary of the armistice that brought an end to the wholesale slaughter of World War, a date that should above all be a reminder that war is senseless mass murder. Europe sacrificed its future and a generation of its youth to a pointless struggle, because masses of people accepted the propaganda that portrayed the other side as an evil threat. Yet today, the United States, by proclaiming that day to be Veterans Day, subtly turns it into a glorification of war, by requiring public honor for soldiers who died – worthy victims. The unworthy cause always hides behind the worthy victims.

Ed Herman was not only a courageous political commentator, of rigorous honesty, who constantly dared challenge official lies with careful and factual analysis. He was also an extraordinarily good man, outraged against injustice but always kind and gentle, generous and considerate.

He personified human qualities that currently appear to have gone out of style. Prominent among these qualities was modesty. He generously encouraged other writers, and greatly enjoyed working with others, notably Noam Chomsky, as co-author. He had no vanity. His most famous work, Manufacturing Consent, a more or less permanent worldwide bestseller, is widely attributed to Noam Chomsky – although Chomsky himself, in recognition of Herman’s leading role in developing the book’s ideas, insisted in putting Herman’s name ahead of his own in non-alphabetical order. It never seemed to occur to Ed Herman that he never had the recognition he deserved.

He had no children, and after she suffered a disabling accident, he cared for his wife Mary for the last years of her life before she died in August 2013, after 67 years of marriage. His pleasures were simple: he enjoyed a good meal and he loved cats, especially the strays who were lucky enough to find him. He never expected gratitude, but there are so many of us, human and feline, who have reason to say, thank you, Ed Herman, for all you gave us.

Kochs Spend Big On Foreign Policy Realism… Should Neocons Be Worried?

Tue, 2017-11-14 14:36

The neocon interventionists run Washington foreign policy. Even a Donald Trump, whose foreign policy positions during the campaign infuriated the neocons, has had his administration infiltrated with neocons. According to recent press reports, the Koch Foundation plans to spend a few million dollars promoting the “realist” school of foreign policy at major US universities. While such a move is to be welcomed there is also danger, as “realism” and neocon interventionsm do not disagree fundamentally on principles but only on the application of those principles. Cautious optimism in today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Ron Paul asks: Is Trump Getting a Bad Rap On His Asia Trip?

Mon, 2017-11-13 19:39

The US media (and some neocon politicians) are furious that President Trump didn’t lecture Philippine President Duterte on human rights and that he dared speak with Russian President Putin. How dare he listen to Putin on meddling our elections and raise doubts about the US intelligence community’s conclusions! They would never lie to us…would they? All in all, however, there are more positives than negatives, as we discuss in today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Saudi Escalation: Lebanon and Yemen in the Crosshairs

Thu, 2017-11-09 13:57

The Saudi crown prince is rumored to soon take over as king. He has moved against possible rivals within his own family and seized billions of dollars. Meanwhile he’s threatened Lebanon and his government has ordered Saudi citizens to leave Lebanon. This while blaming Iran for a Yemeni missile that hit near an airport in Riyadh. The US is backing Saudi moves against Yemen and Lebanon to the hilt. Is something big about to happen? We suspect it is. More today in the Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

The Greatest Threat to Both Koreas? Donald Trump’s Mouth.

Wed, 2017-11-08 23:57

In policy terms, the Trump administration has approached North Korea largely the same way the Obama administration has – with a heavy reliance on sanctions, appeals to China, and occasional threats.

As John Feffer explains in this short video, the primary difference is that Trump’s threats have been far more alarming, raising concerns in South Korea and beyond that war is a real possibility, despite the fact that experts universally regard it as the worst possible option. These threats are especially dangerous on a peninsula where U.S. wartime actions left an indelible impression on both sides of the DMZ.

There remains, however, a diplomatic alternative, which the Obama administration never seriously pursued. Can Trump change course?

Video by Victoria Borneman and Peter Certo.

John Feffer is director of Foreign Policy In Focusand the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands..Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus. Originally published in Inside Sources.

Ron Paul interviews Joe Lauria on Deconstructing ‘Russia-Gate’

Wed, 2017-11-08 15:15

Both firms used to push the story that the Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails were in the pay of the DNC. The FBI was blocked from examining the DNC servers that the Democrats claimed were hacked. The Russia-Gate story hinges on some very sketchy and highly compromised objective facts that a little mainstream media scrutiny would likely demolish in short order. But the MSM has no interest in looking for truth. Fortunately international correspondent Joe Lauria is not afraid of where his inquiries into Russia-Gate take him. He shares some astonishing information with us in today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report…

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

So Picketing the White House Doesn’t Work?

Tue, 2017-11-07 18:29

The reckless threats of nuclear war flung back and forth between the North Korean and U.S. governments remind me of an event in which I participated back in the fall of 1961, when I was a senior at Columbia College.

At the end of August 1961, the Soviet government had announced that it was withdrawing from the U.S.-Soviet-British moratorium on nuclear weapons testing that had halted such tests for the previous three years while the three governments tried to agree on a test ban treaty. The resumption of the Soviet government’s nuclear weapons testing that followed was topped off that October by its explosion in the atmosphere of a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. Meanwhile, the Kennedy administration, determined not to be outdone in a display of national “strength,” quickly resumed US nuclear testing underground and began to discuss the US resumption of nuclear testing in the atmosphere.

From the standpoint of many people in the two countries?indeed, in the world?this renewed plunge into the nuclear arms race was quite alarming. At Columbia my college roommate Mike Weinberg and I considered the whole business quite crazy. Nuclear testing in the atmosphere sent huge clouds of radioactive nuclear debris (“fallout”) into the air, bringing with them cancer and birth defects for vast numbers of people around the world. In addition, these tests of hydrogen bombs?weapons that could be produced with a thousand times the destructive power of the atomic bomb that had annihilated Hiroshima?were in preparation for their use in nuclear war. This nuclear arms race seemed to be a race to disaster.

As a result, some time that fall, Mike and I?spotting a leaflet announcing a student bus trip to Washington, DC to oppose the resumption of US atmospheric nuclear tests?decided that the time had come for us to get out in the streets and protest. People had already been taking part in antinuclear demonstrations. But we had not been among them. In fact, neither of us had ever taken part in any sort of political protest campaign.

On the morning of the student trip to Washington, we turned up wearing our suits (to impress any government officials who might see us) at a chartered bus, parked next to the Columbia campus, only to find ourselves in the midst of a rather bohemian assemblage. The young men sported sandals and beards, the women fishnet stockings and long braids. Despite the differences in style, though, we formed a friendly, congenial group as we hurtled down the highways from New York City to the nation’s capital for our confrontation with government power.

Arriving at the White House, I picked up what I considered a very clever sign (“Kennedy, Don’t Mimic the Russians!”) from the pile that someone had brought along and, together with other demonstrators (supplemented by a second busload of students, from a Quaker college in the Midwest), formed a small picket line that circled around a couple of trees outside the White House. Mike and I, as zealous new recruits, circled all day without taking a break for lunch or dinner.

For decades, I looked back on this venture as little more than the subject for an amusing anecdote. After all, we and other small bands of protesters couldn’t have had any impact on US policy, could we? Then, in the mid-1990s, while doing research at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston about the history of the world nuclear disarmament movement, I stumbled on an oral history interview with Adrian Fisher, deputy director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was explaining why Kennedy delayed resuming atmospheric nuclear tests until the end of April 1962, despite continued Soviet nuclear testing during the previous eight months. Kennedy personally wanted to resume these US nuclear tests, Fisher recalled, “but he also recognized that there were a lot of people that were going to be deeply offended by the United States resuming atmospheric testing. We had people picketing the White House, and there was a lot of excitement about it?just because the Russians do it, why do we have to do it?” Fisher concluded: “And that’s the reason we didn’t resume atmospheric testing.” A little more than a year later, in August 1963, after intense public pressure, the US, Soviet, and British governments signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere.

In the midst of today’s nuclear crisis, would America’s Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un be as sensitive to public protest? Perhaps so; perhaps not. But governments?even those headed by arrogant, mentally unstable individuals?are not impervious to public opinion. And who knows what will happen if enough people insist, loud and clear, that nuclear war is simply unacceptable?

Lawrence S. Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article originally appeared on the History News Network.

Ducks Lining Up: Saudi, Israeli, US Moves On Iran, Lebanon

Tue, 2017-11-07 13:55

Why has President Trump’s son-in-law/top advisor Jared Kushner been spending so much time with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman? Last month was his third trip this year? The visit occurred right before Bin Salman purged his political rivals, claimed that Lebanon had declared war on his country, and cited a Yemeni missile strike as a pretext to ramp up tensions with Iran. Are the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel preparing for a major war with Iran, Lebanon, and Hezbollah? We look at the troubling trends in today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.