Thursday, October 25, 2018

Peacemakers, Warmongers and Fence Sitters: Who Represents You

Yet as early voting gets under way across the country, Congressional campaigns have focused mainly on domestic issues and personality politics, with almost nothing to say about the war in Yemen or other critical questions of war, peace and record military spending. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

By Nicolas J. S. Davies 
Common Dreams 

Oct 23, 2018 - As a foreign policy crisis explodes over the apparent Saudi assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the failure of the U.S. Congress to assert its constitutional war powers over three years of illegal U.S. military action in the war on Yemen and booming U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners is finally coming home to roost.

The UN already reported two years ago that a child was dying every 10 minutes in Yemen, wracked by the war and its consequences, including malnutrition, diphtheria, cholera and other preventable diseases.  Data already showed that more than a third of Saudi-led airstrikes were hitting schools, hospitals, markets, mosques and other civilian sites. But none of the dire warnings by UN agencies and NGOs could trigger the constitutionally required debate and decisive action by the U.S. Congress.  Even now the Trump administration is trying desperately to salvage its blood-soaked arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The elephant in the room that none of them want to discuss is that Congress keeps handing more than 60% of discretionary federal funds over to a military industrial complex whose recent wars have only succeeded in plunging half a dozen countries into intractable violence and chaos, leaving vital domestic priorities permanently underfunded.

Yet as early voting gets under way across the country, Congressional campaigns have focused mainly on domestic issues and personality politics, with almost nothing to say about the war in Yemen or other critical questions of war, peace and record military spending. The elephant in the room that none of them want to discuss is that Congress keeps handing more than 60% of discretionary federal funds over to a military industrial complex whose recent wars have only succeeded in plunging half a dozen countries into intractable violence and chaos, leaving vital domestic priorities permanently underfunded.

To fill this dangerous vacuum and help voters make critical decisions at the voting booth, the CODEPINK 2018 Peace Voter's Guide and Divestment Record has gathered data on arms industry campaign contributions from Open Secrets and the peace voting records of every Member of Congress from Peace Action, and published them all in one place for easy reference. 

We invite voters to check out the Peace Voter's Guide to see where your Senators and Representatives stand on critical issues of war and peace.  How much money have your representatives collected from the arms industry in this election cycle? How have they voted on critical bills and amendments for war, peace, weapons and military spending during their time in Congress?

You can use the Guide to compare your representatives with their colleagues. You can check out the differences between Democrats and Republicans, and see who are the real hawks and doves in each party.

Figures show that arms companies, including their PACS, have contributed about equally to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate in this election cycle, giving an average of over $180,000 to each Senator. In the House, however, they have given more to Republicans (an average of $46,000 each) than to Democrats ($31,000 each).

The Senators who are most indebted to the arms industry tend to be high-ranking members of committees key to Pentagon funding. In 2017-18, the senator receiving the most weapons industry contributions, $969,550, was Richard Shelby (R-AL). Shelby chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee, the committee that allocates funding for all federal agencies.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Americans Against War

Hero Image: Americans Against War

by Heath W. Carter
Education and Culture

I recently watched the second installment of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. If you saw the first, you won’t be surprised to hear that this latest edition is mostly fun and games, the kind of confection that one expects in a summer blockbuster.

But at least a few scenes struck me as deadly serious. The film features a number of pitched battles between the heroic Guardians and a fleet of spaceships belonging to the Sovereign, a highly advanced race of beings who, as it turns out, are scrupulous to a fault (and then some). Their skirmishes look and feel very Star Wars-esque until one realizes that only the Guardians have skin in the game. While the Sovereign are shooting to kill, they’re doing so remotely, from the comfortable confines of their planet. When one of their craft is gunned down, it’s merely “game over” for that particular pilot, who is then freed up to watch over the shoulder of another as he or she attempts to shoot the Guardians out of the sky. This would be just another playful twist if it were not so resonant with the real world.

In the first seven years of the Obama Administration, the US military initiated some 500 drone strikes outside areas of active hostilities.
In the first seven years of the Obama Administration, the US military initiated some 500 drone strikes outside areas of active hostilities—meaning this total does not even include strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria—that killed as many as 4,189 persons, several hundred of whom were non-combatants and at least seven of whom were American citizens (all of these numbers are disputed, with significant variance between official and non-governmental sources).

The technology bears names that admit no reticence about its death-dealing power. Predator drones, controlled in one moment by a “pilot” on the ground in Kandahar and in the next by one in Las Vegas, launch Hellfire missiles at unsuspecting enemies. A generation-old partnership between the American military and the commercial gaming industry has yielded one long-sought outcome: the ability to conduct war on a virtual basis.

Of course, we do still drop bombs the old-fashioned way sometimes. The world got a vivid reminder of this when in April the Pentagon authorized the first-ever use of the 10-ton GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) in Afghanistan. The $170,000 bomb is so large that it cannot fit onto a drone or even a fighter jet. It has to be dropped out of the back end of a cargo plane. The sheer size of the MOAB was enough to evoke some consternation on social media and its nickname, the “mother of all bombs,” caught even the attention of the Holy See. “I was ashamed when I heard the name,” Pope Francis remarked. “A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is going on?”
War is . . . so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore.

War is going on. It is so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore. Sixteen years after 9/11, the United States remains embroiled in the longest war in its history in Afghanistan. This spring there are rumblings that the Trump administration is considering a new surge of American troops there. They would join the 200,000 U.S. soldiers already deployed abroad in some 170 countries. While the two major parties quibble on the finer points of military spending, the notion that the American war machine must remain the world’s mightiest is bipartisan orthodoxy. In 2015, the United States spent $596 billion dollars on its military, while the next seven biggest players—China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain, France, India, and Japan—spent a collective total of $567 billion. But even that is not enough for some. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength lamented “defense spending far below requested levels,” deeming the army “weak” and the rest of the branches “marginal.”

“I am a Socialist, a labor unionist and a believer in the Prince of Peace first, and an American second.”

It hasn’t always been this way. Michael Kazin’s brilliant new book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914–1918, lends credence to the old saying, “the past is a foreign country.” It tells the remarkable story of how, one hundred years ago, a diverse coalition of Americans struggled to keep the nation out of the Great War.

Socialists and suffragists, white mainliners and black Pentecostals, northern Republicans and southern Democrats did not all agree about much, but together they powered a historic campaign for peace. Kazin uses the stories of four particularly influential characters—the socialist Morris Hillquit, the suffragist Crystal Eastman, House Majority Leader Claude Kitchin, and Republican Senator Robert La Follette—to open a window onto the life of this larger movement. Along the way, we encounter a variety of other activists too, including eminent personalities such as Jane Addams, William Jennings Bryan, and Henry Ford as well as lesser-known lights like Kate Richards O’Hare, who, at an emergency convention of the Socialist Party of America in March 1917, thundered, “I am a Socialist, a labor unionist and a believer in the Prince of Peace first, and an American second.”

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

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.”