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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trump’s General Just Announced a New Cold War. Who Will Stop It?







By Richard Escrow
Campaign for America' Future
Jan 26, 2018 - Defense Secretary James Mattis announced a dramatic shift in military policy last week, and it threatens to plunge the world into new forms of conflict.
The secretary, known as “Mad Dog” Mattis when he was a four-star Marine general, now commands the most powerful military force in human history. Mattis insists the nickname came from the press. That may be true, although generals are notoriously canny about their own publicity.
Whatever the nickname’s provenance, Mattis is not “mad.” He is, in fact, a rational and articulate spokesperson for the national security ideology that has dominated American political life since the end of World War II. That’s disturbing in a very different way.
Mattis, a clear-eyed cold warrior, has just announced the start of a new cold war.

Team Player

Mattis made his announcement in a speech to the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mattis began the speech by paying tribute to what his prepared remarks called the “character” of Paul Nitze, a noted Cold War hawk. Together with fellow cold warriors Richard Pipes and Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze created “Team B,” a private Cold War think tank whose sole purpose was to overrule the CIA’s more modest estimates of the Soviet military threat.
Nitze’s “background,” according to Mattis’ text, made the SAIS “a fitting place” to unveil the administration’s new national defense strategy.  That’s true, although perhaps not for the reasons Mattis may think.
Team B’s estimates were “grossly inaccurate,” as former Reagan defense official Lawrence Korb noted in a 2004 Los Angeles Times op-ed; even the CIA’s more modest estimates of Soviet power turned out to be overstated. Nevertheless, its findings were “widely leaked to the press” shortly before Jimmy Carter became president.
Team B’s backers got the military spending they wanted, with a buildup that began under Carter and accelerated under Ronald Reagan. Wolfowitz and his fellow neoconservatives eventually used equally spurious data to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq, with catastrophic consequences.
As president-elect, Donald Trump promised an end to “intervention and chaos” and insisted that “our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS.” With this speech, Trump’s administration has fallen even more in line with the bipartisan consensus of the last eighty years.

Axis of Adults

Not long ago, the generals on Donald Trump’s team were being lauded by pundits and politicians as the “adults in the room,” or the “axis of adults,” who would prevent him from doing anything reckless. The commentary on Trump’s three former generals – Mattis, John Kelly, and H.R. McMaster – bordered on the hagiographic at times.
“They are everything our commander-in-chief is not,” Daniel Kurtz-Phelan gushed in New York Magazine of Mattis and the other ex-generals on Trump’s team: “steady-handed, competent and decent professionals, truthful and generally cogent communicators.”
Kelly’s true colors became more apparent while he was Homeland Secretary, when he acted with surprising brutality against immigrants and their families and made wild and unfounded claims about a “nation under attack” from Islamic terrorism. (The 94 people killed in the US by terrorists since 9/11 is essentially equal to the daily death toll from gun violence.) Later, as White House Chief of Staff, Kelly distorted American history in order to make sympathetic comments about pro-slavery forces in the Civil War. One historian said his comments reflected “profound ignorance.”
The other designated “adult,” McMaster, is the National Security Advisor who once wrote a highly influential work on military ethics entitled “Dereliction of Duty.” But McMaster, who is notoriously hawkish on North Korea, has reportedly been relegated by Trump to the children’s table and is currently denying rumors of an imminent departure.

The Warrior Monk

That leaves Mattis. According to Kurtz-Phelan, Mattis was “known as both tough and cerebral, a ‘warrior monk’ who goes home to bachelor’s quarters to read history, he retired in 2013 after overseeing military operations in the Middle East as head of Central Command.”
To repeat: generals are notoriously canny about their own publicity
Mattis’ appointment as Defense Secretary was largely welcomed by Democrats in Washington. His nomination received 81 Senate votes, after Democrats expressed the hope that he would act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses, or serve as the “anti-Trump,” in the words of a Politico headline.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

US to Loosen Nuclear Weapons Constraints and Develop More 'Usable' Warheads



 















Depiction of 'tactical' nuclear weapons in use.



New proposal is significantly more hawkish than Obama-era policy

 

Critics call development of new weapons ‘dangerous, Cold War thinking’


By Julian Borger
The Guardian in Washington DC

Jan 9, 2018 - The Trump administration plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for US Trident missiles, according to a former official who has seen the most recent draft of a policy review.

Jon Wolfsthal, who was special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and nonproliferation, said the new nuclear posture review prepared by the Pentagon, envisages a modified version of the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles with only part of its normal warhead, with the intention of deterring Russia from using tactical warheads in a conflict in Eastern Europe.

The new nuclear policy is significantly more hawkish that the posture adopted by the Obama administration, which sought to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US defence.

Trump is the real nuclear threat, and we can’t just fantasise him away

Arms control advocates have voiced alarm at the new proposal to make smaller, more “usable” nuclear weapons, arguing it makes a nuclear war more likely, especially in view of what they see as Donald Trump’s volatility and readiness to brandish the US arsenal in showdowns with the nation’s adversaries.

The NPR also expands the circumstances in which the US might use its nuclear arsenal, to include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties, or was aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites.

The nuclear posture review (NPR), the first in eight years, is expected to be published after Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech at the end of January.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

35 Peace Groups Demand Congress Protect Public From Nuclear 'Bomb Threat' Trump



President's 'bellicose rhetoric and reckless actions pose a clear and present danger to national security,' groups tell lawmakers.


By Andrea Germanos
Common Dreams

Jan 5, 2018 - Nearly three dozen grassroots organizations on Friday demanded that members of Congress do their jobs and put a leash on nuclear "bomb threat" President Donald Trump.

In an open letter to lawmakers, they write that the president's "bellicose rhetoric and reckless actions pose a clear and present danger to national security."

"Time and time again, Trump has proven just how dangerous it is for him to have thousands of nuclear weapons at his fingertips. He doesn't believe in science and doesn't consult experts," the progressive groups,  including Greenpeace USA, Indivisible, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Ultraviolet, and Veterans for Peace, write.

"There's no better example of the unique danger Trump poses than the unfolding crisis with North Korea, where his cavalier attitude towards nuclear war puts the whole world at risk."

That attitude was put on display late Tuesday when Trump boastfully tweeted about the size and power of his "nuclear button"—a tweet the groups characterized as a "schoolyard taunt" directed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump has threatened the nation numerous times since taking office, including saying he would hit North Korea "with fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before."

In their letter, the groups point to two specific pieces of legislation the lawmakers should back to put a check on Trump's power to launch a nuclear war—the "No First Use" bill introduced by Rep.  Adam Smith (D-Wash. ) and the bicameral "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act" introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

"Congress has the ability to rein in this world-ending power, but has mostly chosen to sit on the sidelines," the letter states. "This abdication of responsibility cannot continue."

It concludes: "The majority of Americans agree: Trump is a bomb threat. It's time you do something to stop him."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Can We Break Our Addiction to the Military Budget?




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






How many dollars and working hours are rusting here in the desert?

 

Seymour Melman and the New American Revolution


By Jonathan Feldman
Counterpunch
 

Dec 29, 2017

Seymour Melman believed that both political and economic decline could be reversed by vastly scaling back the U.S. military budget which represented a gigantic opportunity cost to the national economy. He believed in a a revolution in thinking and acting centered on the reorganization of economic life and the nation’s security system.  The core alternative to economic decline was the democratic organization of workplaces.

American Capitalism in Decline

On December 30, 1917 Seymour Melman was born in New York City.  The 100th anniversary of his birth helps bring his intellectual legacy into focus.  Melman was the most significant reconstructionist thinker of the 20th Century, championing alternatives to militarism, capitalism, and social decay by advancing a systematic counter-planning program for disarmament and economic democracy.  His legacy remains of critical importance because today the United States is currently a society in which the economic, political and cultural systems are spiraling into an abyss.  Economic and social reconstruction is the idea that planned alternatives to the incumbent mechanisms for organizing economic, political and cultural power exist in alternative institutional designs and matching systems to extend these designs.

The economic realities are well-known, defined by an economic system in which the richest 1% of the population controlled 38.6% of the nation’s wealth in 2016 according to the Federal Reserve.  The bottom 90% controlled only 22.8% of the wealth.  This wealth concentration is well-known and is linked to financialization of the U.S. economy which is matched by deindustrialization and the decline of the “real economy.” Melman analyzed this problem tied to Wall Street hegemony and managerial attacks on worker’s power in his classic 1983 study Profits without Production.  Here Melman illustrated how profits –and thus power—could be accumulated despite the decline of industrial work and manufacturing.  In fact, the rise in administrative overheads associated with the over-extension of managerial power has actually helped reduce both the competiveness and competence of U.S. firms. 

In politics, the Republican Party has emerged as a Trojan Horse society, helping to defund the welfare state and advancing the aims of the predatory warfare state.  The 2018 defense bill signed by President Trump allotted about $634 billion for core Pentagon operations and allotted an addition $66 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.  


More money was available for troops, jet fighters, ships and other weapons, even though there are millions of U.S. citizens living in poverty (40.6 million in 2016).  Melman addressed the problem of the enduring post-war militarism of the U.S. in perhaps his most famous book, The Permanent War Economy, first published in 1974.  The subheading of that book was “American Capitalism in Decline.”  This economy emerged as way to consolidate the military largess bestowed on aerospace, communications, electronics and other war-serving industries, not to mention universities, military bases and associated institutions serving the military economy.  This corporatist system, linking the state, corporations, trade unions and other actors was described by Melman in Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War, a 1971 book which showed how the state was the top manager who used its procurement and managerial power to direct these various “sub-managements.”

Monday, December 25, 2017

Let Yemenis Live














By Kathy Kelly
Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Dec 22, 2017 - On May 2, 2017, before becoming Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as Minister of Defense, spoke about the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, a war he orchestrated since March of 2015. “A long war is in our interest,” he said, explaining that the Houthi rebels would eventually run out of cash, lack external supplies and break apart.  Conversely, the Saudis could count on a steady flow of cash and weapons. “Time is on our side,” he concluded.

Powerful people in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Senegal and Jordan have colluded with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to prolong the war against Yemen. The Saudis have employed Sudanese fighters from the terrifying Janjaweed militias to fight in small cities along Yemen’s coast line. The seeming objective is to gain ground control leading to the vital Port of Hodeidah. UAE military are reported to operate a network of secret prisons where Yemenis disappear and are tortured, deterring people from speaking up about human rights violations lest they land in one of these dreaded prisons.

Among the most powerful warlords participating in the war are the U.S. and the UK.

Despite the recent publicity for stern words from Donald Trump and Theresa May, urging Saudi Arabia to lift its blockade of Yemen, both countries continue to pocket billions of dollars selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. President Trump swiftly condemned the Houthi fighters for firing several rockets at Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But the Houthis could claim to be using these weapons in self-defense after Saudi and UAE jets have dropped tons of bombs, purchased from the U.S. and the UK, on Yemeni cities and civilians. 

Observers say if the U.S. stopped its midair refueling of Saudi bomber planes, the war would end shortly thereafter. Yet, the U.S continues these military operations. The UK still supplies the Saudis with surveillance, and both countries work to maintain a comfortable relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Just over 1,000 days of Saudi-led coalition war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has been deadly and devastating for Yemeni civilians. 

Mark Lowcock, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, says that 7 - 8 million Yemenis are one step away from starvation. The BBC reports that more than 80% of Yemenis lack food, fuel, water and access to health care.

The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached one million, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross.

1.8 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 under the age of five who suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Malnourished children are also at increased risk of dying from infectious diseases.

Like the children of Iraq who perished by the hundreds of thousands during U.S. led economic war against Iraq, these little ones in Yemen mean harm to no one. They’ve done nothing to deserve punishment. Yet, they will pay the price for abysmally failed policies. The food and clean water they hunger and thirst for could reach them, but not if powerful elites decide it’s acceptable to blockade Yemen’s ports, bomb roadways, destroy sewage and sanitation systems, attack fishermen and farmers, and even kill participants at a wedding celebration.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Trump Administration Is Putting the US on a Path to War With Iran
















A recent speech by Nikki Haley eerily recalls Colin Powell’s 2003 UN speech in which he falsely accused Iraq of having a WMD program.  


By James Carden 
The Nation  

DEC 21, 2017 - US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley gestures as she speaks in front of what she claimed were recovered segments of an Iranian rocket during a press briefing at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, DC, December 14, 2017. (AP / Cliff Owen)  

Last Thursday at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, DC, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stood before what were claimed to be recovered parts and fragments of Iranian missiles that had been fired on Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. 

Haley claimed this was proof that Iran had violated UN Security Council resolution 2231 (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially known as the P5+1 Iranian nuclear deal), which states, in part, that the parties to the deal “are to take the necessary measures to prevent, except as decided otherwise by the Security Council in advance on a case-by-case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer of arms or related materiel from Iran.” Resolution 2231 also prohibits Iran from supplying or selling weapons capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.  

Haley claimed, without providing any proof of where the missiles came from or when they were supplied or by whom they were sold, that a number of the recovered missile parts had been fired by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels at an airport in Riyadh. 

Haley said that “this is terrifying, this is absolutely terrifying. Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin.”  Haley’s presentation eerily recalls Colin Powell’s 2003 UN speech in which he, relying on falsified and politicized information provided to him by US intelligence agencies, falsely accused Iraq of having a WMD program.  

Haley also resembles her immediate predecessor at the UN, Samantha Power, who had a habit of making serial misrepresentations about the Ukrainian, Syrian, and Yemeni crises. 

Haley has become, as Power was, the embodiment of America’s bipartisan foreign-policy orthodoxy at its most hypocritical.  For all of Haley’s hand-wringing about the war in Yemen, she neglected to mention that it is American “ally” Saudi Arabia (with US tactical support) who is waging a total blockade on Yemeni ports of entry that is resulting in a crisis of mass starvation as well as a cholera epidemic in that country.  

The reaction to Haley’s presentation was swift and damning. Dr. Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council observed that Haley exhibited “a degree of inaccuracy and deliberate deceit that I think only Nikki Haley, with the exception of Donald Trump, has managed to achieve in the Trump administration.” 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Necessity of Imagining an Unimaginable War



By Lisa Fuller 
Waging Nonviolence

Dec 9, 2017 - The prospect of nuclear war with North Korea has repeatedly been described as "unimaginable" -- and in fact, most of us have literally failed to imagine it. As the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof points out, "We're complacent -- neither the public nor the financial markets appreciate how high the risk is of a war, and how devastating one could be."

Admittedly, with biological, conventional and nuclear weapons expected to kill millions, the scenario is genuinely difficult to comprehend. We struggle to translate such high numbers into pictures of individual men, women and children suffering.

Nevertheless, we can no longer afford to be in denial. Top military and political experts warn that the risk of war is at an all-time high, the threat is imminent and the impact would be catastrophic. Even before North Korea's latest missile test, former US Army General Barry McCraffrey, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and the International Institute for Strategic Studies Executive Director Mark Fitzpatrick all estimated that the risk of war was 50 percent. General McCaffrey expects that war will breakout by summer 2018.

There is a significant risk that a war would escalate beyond a regional conflict. China has warned that it would intervene on behalf of North Korea in the case of a US preemptive strike, and international security experts Nora Bensahel and David Barno argue that China may launch attacks on "US bases in the region or possibly even the US homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory." China has been carrying out military drills near the Korean peninsula since July, and tested an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States on November 6. Russia also recently publicly warned that it is preparing for war as well.

Even if the war was confined to the Korean peninsula, however, it has the "potential to cause mass starvation worldwide," as a result of nuclear winter, according to nuclear experts Alan Robock and Owen Toon.

In other words, World War III is no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies -- it may be right around the corner.

With such high stakes, it is critical that we voluntarily imagine the "unimaginable," as uncomfortable as it may be. Those who do imagine war are much more likely to take action to prevent it. Journalist and author Jonathan Schell advocated for this position in his 1982 book The Fate of the Earth, writing that "Only by descending into this hell in imagination now can we hope to escape descending into it in reality … the knowledge we thus gain cannot in itself protect us from nuclear annihilation, but without it we cannot begin to take measures that can actually protect us."

It is no coincidence that members of Congress who are war veterans have been some of the most outspoken and active in raising the alarm over the crisis in North Korea.