Thursday, February 2, 2017

Steve Bannon: 'We're Going to War in the South China Sea ... No Doubt'

China builds airstrip on small island it claims.
By Benjamin Haas
The Guardian  
Feb 2, 2017 - Only months ago Donald Trump’s chief strategist predicted military involvement in east Asia and the Middle East in Breitbart radio shows. 

The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East. 

Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump’s administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House. 

In the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, Bannon has emerged as a central figure. He was appointed to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council in a highly unusual move and was influential in the recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, overruling Department of Homeland Security officials who felt the order did not apply to green card holders.

While many in Trump’s team are outspoken critics of China, in radio shows Bannon hosted for Breitbart he makes plain the two largest threats to America: China and Islam.
“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years,” he said in March 2016.

 “There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.” 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Terrorism and Trump: New Challenges for Social Justice Organizations

The progressive movement must grapple with Trump and terrorism simultaneously.

By Bob Wing and Max Elbaum

Foreign Policy in Focus
Originally published in Znet.
Dec 23, 2016 - The wake-up call is right there in the front page headline of the Dec. 11 New York Times: “Poll Has Trump Gaining Ground on Terror Fear.”

Prior to the tragic burst of terrorist murders in Egypt, Beirut, Paris and then San Bernardino, California, significant aspects of U.S. politics were beginning to move in a positive direction. Pressure from #BlackLivesMatter and Raise the Wage campaigns was forcing issues of racism and economic inequality to the forefront of public debate. Climate change denialism was increasingly on the defensive. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign was giving voice to a broad anti-corporate agenda. And the Republicans seemed to be lurching so far to the right that they might self-isolate or split.

But in the wake of newly revived public fears about terrorism, and the right’s orgy of war mongering, Islamophobia and racist demagogy, “A plurality of the public views the threat of terrorism as the top issue facing the country,” according to a Dec. 10, 2015 NY Times/CBS poll. “Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.”

Given the misery and strife of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and the powerful influence of ISIS (Daesh in Arabic), repeated Daesh-inspired or Daesh-organized terrorist attacks in the U.S. seem likely. Though limited in scale compared to terrorism in other parts of the world, such attacks do what they are intended to do: attract outsized attention and alarm the public. And, in light of its timing, the San Bernardino attack was not only deadly, but also exposed a potential path to the presidency and control of all three branches of the federal government by the nakedly xenophobic, racist and militarist tendency now utterly dominating the Republican Party. Even a victory by one of the so-called mainstream Republican conservatives would be a calamity with Congress, especially the House, in the hands of far right.

The attacks are also increasing the militarist and law-and-order tendencies of Hillary Clinton and other mainstream Democrats, tendencies that once led them to endorse George W. Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq.

This essays calls attention to two crucial developments.

First, over the past six months or so the far right has taken dangerous steps even further to the right. They have legitimized the public expression of blatant racism and authoritarian policies toward Muslims and immigrants. The climate they have created has contributed to the recent shootings targeting Planned Parenthood and BlackLivesMatter protesters and led their supporters to brag about beating up opponents at campaign rallies. Their extremist policies and rhetoric have alarmed even many mainstream commentators, with some pundits even using the term “fascism.” Yet they are dominating the Republican Party to a greater degree than before and, in significant part due to playing the foreign terrorism card, are also garnering broader public support, threatening to shift the entire political spectrum another notch to the right.

And second, that first development urgently underscores, not for the first time, how crucial it is for social justice organizations to develop a strategy that integrates a sophisticated understanding of the intimate interconnections of war, terrorism, racism and inequality, and between peace and justice at home and abroad, if we are to mature as a major political force.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

W PA Iraq Vet: Why I Answered the Call for Veterans to Go to Standing Rock

By Kevin Basl
Dec 30, 2016 - I lay among friends, huddled and cold in our sleeping bags. We listened to the lashing wind and the drums and prayer chants coming from the sacred fire, and we reflected on why we, four Iraq War veterans, were here. 

Police floodlights shone from the drill site of the Dakota Access Pipeline, scheduled to cross under the Missouri River, the water source for millions of people. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux, concerned not only about polluted water but also the desecration of sacred sites, began resisting the pipeline in 2014. In mid-2016, finally, these water protectors gained major support. Over 200 tribal nations pledged solidarity. Thousands of non-natives traveled to North Dakota to stand on the front lines. 

Then, as images of police violence against protectors got increasingly disturbing, some 4,000 veterans — including me — joined the resistance in early December.
Why had so many veterans taken up the cause of the Native Americans and environmentalists at Standing Rock? 

My own reasons are rooted in western Pennsylvania’s coal country, where I grew up. There, I rode my bicycle on trails crossing abandoned strip mines. Bulldozers had left precarious shale formations and streams ran orange with iron runoff. When a sanitation corporation threatened to open a landfill at a reclaimed mine near homes in our community, residents finally resisted. At age 15, I joined the fight to stop the dump, gaining a deeper appreciation for the wildlife — and water — of my region. 

Good jobs are scarce in my hometown, so military service is something nearly every boy — and now girl — considers. My grandfathers both served, along with several uncles. Back home, the military is sacrosanct. But I wasn’t especially proud of my five years in the Army, two of which were spent in Iraq. My job as a radar operator, like so many military specializations, got privatized, so I found myself tasked out for other duties. I guarded poor Iraqis while they filled thousands of sandbags for the contractor Kellogg, Brown, and Root, only to see those sandbags rot in the sun as they sat unused. 

I also loaded caskets onto cargo planes — an image often hidden from the American public. And I escorted high-ranking officers on unnecessary trouble-provoking missions (how else could one earn the Combat Infantry Badge?). Like many post-9/11 veterans, I left the military seeking redemption. Perhaps that’s why, after I saw those images of police violence against water protectors, I went to Standing Rock. 

There, instead of helping military contractors make money, I felt like I was finally serving the people. While we were there, on December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers finally denied the pipeline company its permit to drill under the river. Police pulled back, and the water protectors celebrated. 

The indigenous community had worked months for this ruling. They sacrificed the most. But I like to think the result was also influenced by the prospect of police tear-gassing and firing rubber bullets at unarmed veterans.

A ceremony followed where Wesley Clark Jr., key organizer of the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock campaign, offered an apology to Native Americans on behalf of the military, citing decades of broken treaties and violence. 

Five hundred of us went to our knees. I hope to participate in a forgiveness ceremony one day in Iraq, in the spirit of Standing Rock. 

Kevin Basl is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He’s also an instructor for Combat Paper NJ and Warrior Writers, two veteran-focused arts organizations.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Coming War on China














The greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way.

By John Pilger

Dec 6, 2016 - When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, “disappeared”, a political embarrassment.

I have spent two years making a documentary film, The Coming War on China, in which the evidence and witnesses warn that nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency. The greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way. They are in the northern hemisphere, on the western borders of Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, confronting China.

The great danger this beckons is not news, or it is buried and distorted: a drumbeat of mainstream fake news that echoes the psychopathic fear embedded in public consciousness during much of the 20th century.

Like the renewal of post-Soviet Russia, the rise of China as an economic power is declared an “existential threat” to the divine right of the United States to rule and dominate human affairs.

To counter this, in 2011 President Obama announced a “pivot to Asia”, which meant that almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific by 2020. Today, more than 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and, above all, nuclear weapons. From Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India, the bases form, says one US strategist, “the perfect noose.”

A study by the RAND Corporation – which, since Vietnam, has planned America’s wars – is entitled, War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable. Commissioned by the US Army, the authors evoke the cold war when RAND made notorious the catch cry of its chief strategist, Herman Kahn -- “thinking the unthinkable”. Kahn’s book, On Thermonuclear War, elaborated a plan for a “winnable” nuclear war against the Soviet Union.

Today, his apocalyptic view is shared by those holding real power in the United States: the militarists and neo-conservatives in the executive, the Pentagon, the intelligence and “national security” establishment and Congress.

The current Secretary of Defense, Ashley Carter, a verbose provocateur, says U.S. policy is to confront those “who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us.”

Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump Picks 'Mad Dog' Mattis for Defense Secretary

Donald Trump and James Mattis

President-elect Donald Trump and retired Gen. James Mattis after the two men met in New Jersey late last month. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling," said Gen. James Mattis about American invasion of Afghanistan

By Nika Knight
Common Dreams

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who once bragged about how much he enjoyed killing people, for Secretary of Defense.

"It's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them," Mattis said about Afghan men, when asked in 2005 about the people of Afghanistan. (Mattis led the Marines in the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan.)
"Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know," Mattis continued. "It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

Mattis, who retired in 2013, today believes that "political Islam" is one of the greatest threats to the nation's security, reports the Washington Post.

Trump announced his pick at a rally in Ohio on Thursday evening.

Friday, November 4, 2016

An Open Letter to Undecided Voters: A Nuclear-Armed Trump is the #1 Threat to National Security


By Peace Action on November 1, 2016
There is nothing safe about nuclear weapons, but these weapons become immediately more dangerous when placed in the hands of an unpredictable bully like Trump. No one person should be able to unilaterally launch nuclear weapons, as any president is currently able to do, and while we must work to change that policy, the immediate question before us is whether or not to give Donald Trump the ability to start a nuclear war and end life as we know it. The answer is quite clearly Not. That’s why we’ve joined others in writing this letter to undecided voters urging them to take into account the risk of Donald Trump having his finger on the nuclear button.

The full text of the letter is below:

We, the undersigned organizations, represent millions of Americans. Our issues are many and our approaches are diverse. We seek to advance international security, environmental and racial justice, immigration reform, sensible gun control laws, and rights for our veterans.

You, as an undecided voter, are one of millions of Americans sitting on the fence. You’re not sure who you should vote for come November 8th. Maybe you’re wondering if you should vote at all. And with this race tighter than ever, your decision will determine the next President.

The list of reasons not to vote for Donald Trump is long. There’s also a good chance many items on that list (like the issues we work on) aren’t the ones that compel you to get up and vote. But we are coming together now to talk to you about the one that should: Donald Trump and nuclear weapons.

There is no more urgent threat to Americans — and the world — than Donald Trump with absolute power over our nuclear arsenal. As President, he will have total authority over more than 4,500 of these devastating weapons of mass destruction. If a President Trump ordered a nuclear strike, no one could stop him. He could kill hundreds of millions of people at the push of a button — and provoke a response that could utterly destroy the United States.

A nuclear-armed Trump is the greatest threat to national security in recent memory.

This view is backed by leading security experts, diplomats, and the American public. Leaders from both parties, including 50 GOP national security officials, warn that Trump isn’t fit to command our nuclear arsenal and would put the nation at risk. 75 former ambassadors say that he is ignorant of the complex challenges of nuclear proliferation. Americans agree: only 27% trust him with nuclear weapons.

Donald Trump himself has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not have the temperament, the discipline, or the expertise to be our Commander-in-Chief. Time and again, he has shown himself easily baited and quick to lash out, dismissive of expert consultation, ill-informed of even basic international and military affairs. He alienates our allies and emboldens our enemies. His racist and xenophobic rhetoric endangers vulnerable populations and incites violence at home and abroad.

There is a long public record documenting the inflammatory statements Trump has made about nuclear weapons. 

Here are just a few:

In August, Donald Trump reportedly asked “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?” three times in a 1-hour policy briefing.

When told that no one wants to hear an American president asserting he would use nuclear weapons, Trump asked “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?”
Contradicting decades of U.S. foreign policy, he has said more countries — like South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia — should develop their own nuclear weapons.

He has refused to rule out dropping nuclear weapons on Europe because “Europe is a big place.”

Donald Trump’s reckless nuclear posturing is made all the more terrifying by the fact that our nuclear system would let him do exactly what he’s threatened, and more. It is built for first-strike and quick-launch at the president’s sole discretion. There are no checks or balances. There is nothing between President Trump’s itchy trigger finger and civilization-ending weapons. No requirement even for him to explain his decision to use them.

There’s a lot riding on this election, but one thing is clear: Donald Trump is a nuclear catastrophe waiting to happen, and that’s a risk we just can’t take.

That’s why we’re calling on undecided American voters to vote for security, and do not vote for Donald Trump.

Talk to your friends and family about why you’re terrified at the prospect of Trump’s fingers on the button. Polls have shown Americans are most concerned about the nuclear issue when it comes to a potential President Trump, so we know it will resonate. Organize and mobilize your community to turn out the vote and stop Donald Trump from becoming president.

Our country needs you. Vote against a nuclear armed Trump. Our future is in your hands.

Daily Kos
Global Zero Action
Not Who We Are
Peace Action
Women’s Action for New Direction