Archive for category Military Industrial Complex

Are we (finally) seeing the end of US Imperialism?

No.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy approach (Don’t do stupid stuff) has been unbelievably better than the Bush administration’s approach (do as much stupid stuff as possible).
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Mrs. Heimann’s Mother (reprint)

This post is a reprint from December 2007.

It feels relevant today.

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Some 20 years ago, I was taking an evening German course from a woman named Phila Heimann. Mrs. Heimann recounted her experiences in the US. For instance, as recent immigrants, during World War Two, her school-aged children faced discrimination from their American born peers. When asked “Are you Germans?” her kids responded proudly, “No, we are Austrians and we speak Austrian, not German!”

Mrs. Heimann introduced me to a powerful book – a photojournalists book of photos of buildings in an around Vienna. There were two photos of each site – a pre-war and post-war photo, the post war photo showing the ruins. The book was called The Pearl of Vienna in Hitler’s Setting (I think the German was Die Perle Wien Im Hitlers Fassung).

Anyway, I’m thinking about Mrs. Heimann’s mother today.

When she was 5, little Phila went with her mother to watch the troops march off to fight what we know today as World War One. Surrounded by cheering crowds, her mother was weeping. Phila asked, “Why are you crying? Everyone else is happy?” And her mother replied,

“All these men are going to die. They won’t be coming home.”

War is never good, never a grand and glorious thing. It is always and forever a tragedy. No matter what our leaders say or believe or want us to believe, war is always and forever a failure.

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June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in the streets of Sarajevo by a man named Gavrilo Princip. The Archduke’s assassination sparked World War One. That was one hundred years ago.

I wonder if we learned anything in the intervening, bloody century.

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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The Mind Your Own Business Act

I love the fact that Alan Grayson was able to get back into congress along with Elizabeth Warren. NOW when I get the old, “they’re all the same” refrain, I can say, “well not exactly”.

Alan names his amendment to H.R. 1960 the, “The Mind Your Own Business Act”. When was the last time you heard somebody in congress come up with a plan that didn’t have an Orwellian name? Republicans are always so proud of people on their side who just come right out and say what they think. It’s usually crazy as hell, but they say it anyway. Alan shoots from the hip too, but it sparks something in your brain that says: this really makes sense. Also, for years, Republicans were prohibited from disagreeing with anything a Republican in the hierarchy said. Grayson can say he disagrees with Obama’s stance, because he’s a Democrat. That’s my hope.

MSNBC is supposed to be “the liberal channel”, so why is the host of this segment trying to “get something” on Grayson for insinuating the Nazi’s would have loved to have a “Total Information Awareness” type of system that is going in to full gear, very soon. Grayson answers a question with a question, but it’s a good one, which the host, basically, answers by saying, ‘I’m the one asking the questions here’.

The question Grayson asks is,

How do you feel about the fact that the Government is keeping a record of every single phone call that you make?

I’m totally perplexed at the media coverage Edward Snowden is getting at this late date. He’s not the only whistle-blower on this matter. We have known for many years the government had planned to collect, and has been collecting as much information about every one of us as they could. Now that they are close to having the ability to get EVERYTHING, we get polls that tell us Americans WANT to have all their private information collected to…

AND I’M REALLY GETTING TIRED OF HEARING THIS…

Keep us safe.

If the government is serious about keeping me safe, they’d stop spending so much money on secret surveillance, prisons and war. What I really need to keep me “safe” is single payer healthcare and “food security”.

I think Grayson’s best quote in the video is this:

Martin, you are completely missing the point. The point is that we’re taking measures that are not correlated in any sense with our safety, and even if they were it would be beneath our dignity as human beings. That’s what this is all about. All right, listen. You could always make people safer by taking extreme measures. If, for instance, we lowered the speed limit to 10 miles per hour, people would be safer. If we outlawed knives and forks, people would be safer. If we made everybody fly on the airlines naked, people would be safer. None of those things corresponds to my sense of human dignity, and I think I’m not the only one who feels that way….

If you’d like to support congressman Grayson’s amendment, you can sign up here.

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NBC ‘Reality’ Show: War For Fun and Profit

I’ve seen the promos, and wondered out loud if this is an actual show or just a clever satire of corporate-sponsored “reality” TV. Turns out that NBC is truly going to air “Stars Earn Stripes,” an incredibly stupid faux-war celebrity contest co-hosted by retired U.S. general Wesley Clark. Bear in mind that NBC is owned by defense contractor GE, which profits from the normalization of permanent war.

Dean Cain, Dolvett Quince, Eve Torres, Laila Ali, Nick Lachey, Picabo Street, Terry Crews, and Todd Palin will compete in allegedly dangerous warlike activities — in which no one gets hurt. None of them have ever served in the real military.

RootsAction.org and Just Foreign Policy have set up a petition at StarsEarnStripes.org challenging NBC to tell the truth about war.

Dear NBC,
Your entertainment show “Stars Earn Stripes” treats war as sport. This does us all a disservice. We ask that you air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars, on any program, any time in the coming months. (StarsEarnStripes.org has provided a few resources to help you with your research.)

It’s not a revelation that American corporate media don’t tell the truth about war. However, this is ridiculous. “Reality” TV has never departed this much from actual reality. General Clark ought to be ashamed of himself — being a tool of the military-industrial complex is bad enough, but he’s gone too far now.

More info: NBC Invents War-o-tainment

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald weighs in:

It’s actually necessary that America have a network reality show that pairs big, muscular soldiers with adoring D-list celebrities — hosted by a former Army General along with someone who used to be on Dancing with the Stars – as they play sanitized war games for the amusement of viewers, all in between commercials from the nation’s largest corporations. That’s way too perfect of a symbol of American culture and politics for us not to have.

UPDATE: ‘Stars Earn Stripes,’ NBC Reality Show, Criticized By Veterans And Military Reporter

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The Consequences of the Invasion of Iraq – Exactly the Opposite of What the Bushies Proposed

In a devastating article, Dan Froomkin observes:

Ten bloody and grueling years later, Iraq is finally emerging from its ruins and establishing itself as a geopolitical player in the Middle East — but not the way the neocons envisioned.

Though technically a democracy, Iraq’s floundering government has degenerated into a tottering quasi-dictatorship. The costs of the war (more than $800 billion) and reconstruction (more than $50 billion) have been staggeringly high. And while Iraq is finally producing oil at pre-war levels, it is trying its best to drive oil prices as high as possible.

Most disturbing to many American foreign policy experts, however, is Iraq’s extremely close relationship with Iran. Today, the country that was formerly Iran’s deadliest rival is its strongest ally.

In other words, the Neo Cons were not just wrong but absolutely 100% wrong, their predictions turned out exactly 180 degrees from what actually happened.

Predicting what’s next in Iraq is next to impossible. In virtually no scenario, however, do things turn out how the neocons intended.

“Whatever [the war] was about, which was never entirely explained, it hasn’t worked out terribly well,” said Freeman, “and in fact Iraq continues to evolve in ways that are, if not fatal to American interests, certainly negative.”

At this point, I’m even more certain the Iraq war was not worth what it cost.  It was a colossal waste of time, resources, lives – an exercise in imperial vanity and posturing that was so destructive in every imaginable way, more costly, more ruinous than anyone  predicted.

We need a national truth and reconciliation commission.  We need it now.

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Silent Film Star Speaks

Charlie Chaplin was WAY before my time, but when he got the chance to do “speakies”, he used his time wisely.

The reason I never knew about this film is obvious:

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Free Bradley Manning!

I really hate associating myself with Michael Moore or Bradley Manning with an insignificant post, because I’m not anywhere near worthy, but:

From Michael Moore:

A Man in Tunisia, a Movement on Wall Street, and the Soldier Who Ignited the Fuse

Protesters chant slogans against the political party of former President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on January 21, 2011. The city was where Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit seller, had a confrontation with a municipal inspector that eventually led to his self-immolation in front of the governor’s office in protest. The act fatally burned Bouazizi and is said to have sparked the protests that toppled President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali’s government.

It’s Saturday night and I didn’t want the day to end before I sent out this note to you.

One year ago on December 17th, Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who had a simple produce stand in Tunisia, set himself on fire to protest his government’s repression. His singular sacrifice ignited a revolution that toppled Tunisia’s dictator and launched revolts in regimes across the Middle East.

Three months ago on December 17th, Occupy Wall Street began with a takeover of New York’s Zuccotti Park. This movement against the greed of corporate America and its banks — and the money that now controls most of our democratic institutions — has quickly spread to hundreds of towns and cities across America. The majority of Americans now agree that a nation where 400 billionaires have more wealth than 160 million Americans combined is not the country they want America to be. The 99% are rising up against the 1% — and now there is no turning back.

Twenty-four years ago on December 17th, U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning was born. He has now spent 570 days in a military prison without a trial — simply because he allegedly blew the whistle on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He exposed what the Pentagon and the Bush administration did in creating this evil and he did so by allegedly leaking documents and footage to Wikileaks. Many of these documents dealt not only with Iraq but with how we prop up dictators around the world and how our corporations exploit the poor on this planet. (There were even cables with crazy stuff on them, like one detailing Bush’s State Department trying to stop a government minister in another country from holding a screening of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’)

The Wikileaks trove was a fascinating look into how the United States conducts its business — and clearly those who don’t want the world to know how we do things in places like, say, Tunisia, were not happy with Bradley Manning.

Mohamed Bouazizi was being treated poorly by government officials because all he wanted to do was set up a cart and sell fruit and vegetables on the street. But local police kept harassing him and trying to stop him. He, like most Tunisians, knew how corrupt their government was. But when Wikileaks published cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunis confirming the corruption — cables that were published just a week or so before Mohamed set himself on fire — well, that was it for the Tunisian people, and all hell broke loose.

People across the world devoured the information Bradley Manning revealed, and it was used by movements in Egypt, Spain, and eventually Occupy Wall Street to bolster what we already thought was true. Except here were the goods — the evidence that was needed to prove it all true. And then a democracy movement spread around the globe so fast and so deep — and in just a year’s time! When anyone asks me, “Who started Occupy Wall Street?” sometimes I say “Goldman Sachs” or “Chase” but mostly I just say, “Bradley Manning.” It was his courageous action that was the tipping point — and it was not surprising when the dictator of Tunisia censored all news of the Wikileaks documents Manning had allegedly supplied. But the internet took Manning’s gift and spread it throughout Tunisia, a young man set himself on fire and the Arab Spring that led eventually to Zuccotti Park has a young, gay soldier in the United States Army to thank.

And that is why I want to honor Bradley Manning on this, his 24th birthday, and ask the millions of you reading this to join with me in demanding his immediate release. He does not deserve the un-American treatment, including cruel solitary confinement, he’s received in over eighteen months of imprisonment. If anything, this young man deserves a friggin’ medal. He did what great Americans have always done — he took a bold stand against injustice and he did it without stopping for a minute to consider the consequences for himself.

The Pentagon and the national security apparatus are hell-bent on setting an example with Bradley Manning. But we as Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. If the government tries to cover up its malfeasance, then it is the duty of each and every one of us, should the situation arise, to drag the truth, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the light of day.

The American flag was lowered in Iraq this past Thursday as our war on them officially came to an end. If anyone should be on trial or in the brig right now, it should be those men who lied to the nation in order to start this war — and in doing so sent nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths.

But it is not Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheney or Wolfowitz who sit in prison tonight. It is the hero who exposed them. It is Bradley Manning who has lost his freedom and that, in turn, becomes just one more crime being committed in our name.

I know, I know, c’mon Mike — it’s the holiday season, there’s presents to buy and parties to go to! And yes, this really is one of my favorite weeks of the year. But in the spirit of the man whose birth will be celebrated next Sunday, please do something, anything, to help this young man who spends his birthday tonight behind bars. I say, enough. Let him go home and spend Christmas with his family. We’ve done enough violence to the world this decade while claiming to be a country that admires the Prince of Peace. The war is over. And a whole new movement has a lot to thank Bradley Manning for.

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Posted Sans Comment

The never ending story of a quack, thats gone to the dogs. (Because everything feels better after a muppets reference)

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You Must Watch This Special Comment

Keith Olbermann has said that his first “special Comment” resulted from the horror of what happened in New Orleans, but the subject of that first comment was something Donald Rumsfeld said while he and Bush came to Salt Lake City in August of 2006. I can’t help but think that Keith was inspired by the huge demonstration that resulted here as a result of Bush’s visit.

This latest comment is special indeed, because now Keith has more freedom to speak then he has ever had before on “Current TV”.

Update: Just happened to visit Michael Moore’s website and he is top-posting this video too with this excerpt:

“Where is the outrage to come from? From you! … The betrayal of what this
nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely
will not end with this deal. We must find again the energy and the
purpose of the 1960s and early 1970s and we must protest this
deal and all the goddamn deals to come.” – Keith Olbermann

That’s right folks! Find out why you don’t know anything about the Freedom Riders.

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Solitary Man Ambushes “Gang of Six” and All Three Branches of Government

Well, OK! Ambushes usually involve hiding behind opaque objects with deadly weapons. Reasonable people don’t always need to go to that extreme.

Sometimes words can get a point across perfectly well:

Congratulations Sen. Coburn.

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A Must Read at the HuffPo: Why Military Spending Won’t Be Cut

Andrew Bacevich has a compelling piece at HuffPo, with the provocative title “Cow Most Sacred.”

He offers 4 points that explain why military spending won’t be cut.

  1. Institutional Self-Interest
  2. Strategic Inertia
  3. Cultural Dissonance
  4. Misremembered History

Items 3 and 4 are interdependent.

For instnace, the cultural dissonance is a debate about patriotism and whether or not patriots can oppose war:

[The Vietnam] War’s end left these matters disconcertingly unresolved.  President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to kill the draft in favor of an All-Volunteer Force, predicated on the notion that the country might be better served with a military that was no longer “us,” only complicated things further.  So, too, did the trends in American politics where bona fide war heroes (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain) routinely lost to opponents whose military credentials were non-existent or exceedingly slight (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), yet who demonstrated once in office a remarkable propensity for expending American blood (none belonging to members of their own families) in places like Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  It was all more than a little unseemly.

The misremembered history erases the ambiguity and nuance from WWII:

he passage of time has transformed World War II from a massive tragedy into a morality tale, one that casts opponents of intervention as blackguards.  Whether explicitly or implicitly, the debate over how the United States should respond to some ostensible threat — Iraq in 2003, Iran today — replays the debate finally ended by the events of December 7, 1941.  To express skepticism about the necessity and prudence of using military power is to invite the charge of being an appeaser or an isolationist.  Few politicians or individuals aspiring to power will risk the consequences of being tagged with that label. 

In this sense, American politics remains stuck in the 1930s — always discovering a new Hitler, always privileging Churchillian rhetoric — even though the circumstances in which we live today bear scant resemblance to that earlier time.  There was only one Hitler and he’s long dead.  As for Churchill, his achievements and legacy are far more mixed than his battalions of defenders are willing to acknowledge.  And if any one figure deserves particular credit for demolishing Hitler’s Reich and winning World War II, it’s Josef Stalin, a dictator as vile and murderous as Hitler himself. 

Read the whole thing.

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