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The African American Army

8:26 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Tuskegee Airmen c1942

Escaped slaves fought on the British side, which promised to free them, during the American war for independence for white men.  But nobody liked to talk about that much after the French won the war, although — come to think of it — nobody much likes to talk about the French winning the war, or for that matter about the big losers being, not the British but the Native Americans.

White folks weren’t eager to arm slaves, although an NRA-type genius just said on U.S. televisions this week that if slaves had only been armed they wouldn’t have been slaves.  The militias famously protected by the Second Amendment included, perhaps primarily, white militias aimed at crushing slave rebellions.  Escaped slaves fought for the Union in the Civil War, which may not have been an insignificant factor in Lincoln’s decision to announce their freedom.

The massacring of Native Americans conditioned black troops as well as white for the brutalities they would inflict in the name of freedom and democracy on the Philippines and Cuba.  Imperial wars abroad brought with them huge surges of violence at home.  During the days in which the United States liberated Filipinos and Cubans from their lives, thousands of lynchings and hundreds of riots brought freedom and liberty to African Americans at home.  While Haitians were occupied, blacks were attacked in Harlem and Alabama.

African Americans were included in the U.S. military during World War II, in segregated units, and often in non-combat units.  The pretense was that they couldn’t fight, never had, never would.  And yet, just as they had before, many did — with less training, less equipment, and in riskier positions.  And many came to grasp what it all meant.  A jim crow nation that locked up Japanese Americans and rioted against blacks and Mexicans, slaughtered innocent civilians for imperial gain in the name of opposing imperialism.  “Just carve on my tombstone,” said an African American soldier in 1942, “here lies a black man who died fighting a yellow man for the protection of the white man.”

The draft was segregated.  The military was segregated.  Blacks were largely confined to the support labor that is now hired out to contractors.  When FDR was finally pushed to support blacks’ participation in the army, he insisted that they make up no more than 10 percent and be kept in segregated units.  And yet, when African American soldiers in World War II weren’t facing the Germans or the Japanese, they were still at great risk of violent assault by white U.S. soldiers, not to mention the abuses they would face back home after their “service.”  In Guam, U.S. commanders allowed white troops to prepare for assaults on Japanese troops by abusing African American sailors, including by tossing live grenades at them.

African Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign, whose symbol was two V for victory signs, desiring as they did a victory over fascism abroad and at home.  Some saw through the military madness, understood the connection between violence abroad and at home, and refused to enlist — or got themselves declared mentally unfit, as Malcolm X did.  Black soldiers resisted, struck, and mutinied.  In April 1945, sixty black officers defied a ban on their use of an officers’ club and were arrested.  Another group defied the ban, and they were arrested.  And then another.

Before he integrated baseball, Jackie Robinson refused to move to the back of a bus on Fort Hood.

A budding movement could be recognized that was also forming within U.S. prisons where black and white conscientious objectors were confronting domestic injustice in new ways.

As black and white troops prepared to return from France, black soldiers had their guns confiscated, while white soldiers guarding German prisoners kept theirs and turned them on the African American troops as well.  Lest you imagine this the hypocrisy of a few bad apples who failed to grasp the great moral purpose of the war, let’s not forget that as the victors put the Nazis on trial for crimes including human experimentation, the United States was giving syphilis to Guatemalans to see what would happen, just as it had long been and would long continue studying (and not treating) African Americans with syphilis in Alabama.  In fact, German and Italian troops being held prisoners of war helped white U.S. troops enforce segregation.  And Nazi war criminals found an eager employer in the Pentagon.  Black veterans of World War II were shot and lynched in such numbers in 1946 that a Chicago Defender columnist wrote that “the Negro press still reads like war.”
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Best Southern Corporate Editorial Ever

6:44 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

One cannot always count on words of wisdom from the editorials published by corporate newspaper chains in the Southern United States, or anywhere else.  This one is far from perfect, but remarkably great.  This was published by the Charlottesville Daily Progress on Tuesday and adapted by them from their corporate sister the Richmond Times Dispatch.  Possibly numerous other Media General (Warren Buffet) newspapers printed the same or similar:

“Would cuts in defense spending be a bad thing?

“By: the Richmond Times-Dispatch | The Daily Progress
“Published: August 07, 2012

“Gov. Bob McDonnell suggested President Obama hold Congress in session until it hammers out a deal to avert what is known as sequestration — whose effects on Virginia could be profound.”

Note that this editorial is about to challenge the claims of the state’s Transvaginal Governor who is also trying to get himself nominated for U.S. Veep on the Romney ticket.  Not only that, but a gang of U.S. Senators including the previous Republican presidential nominee John McCain recently stopped in Virginia on a tour of swing states hyping the danger to the U.S. economy of any cuts to the military budget.  This editorial does not name those senators but does handily reject their bogus claims.

“Sequestration is the term applied to automatic budget cuts that will take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts now to prevent them. They are the result of last year’s Budget Control Act. That law tasked a special committee with finding $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade. If it failed, automatic cuts — half of them in defense spending, half in domestic discretionary spending — would kick in. The committee failed.”

Of course “defense” is code for military, even while few would pretend that attacking Libya or Syria or continuing in Afghanistan or drone bombing Pakistan or Yemen, etc., is defensive.  The code is well understood and virtually unavoidable in a corporate newspaper.  You’ll recall that there was huge public pushback against the Super Congress, that the public told pollsters we favored taxing the rich and cutting the military.  The Super Congress failed to push through a deal to enlarge the military and continue tax cuts on the wealthy.  And rightly so.  But Congress is intent on accomplishing post-2012-election what the Super Congress couldn’t do.

“Without action soon, the first of $600 billion in defense spending cuts will start to bite. That could mean the loss of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of jobs here in the commonwealth — which is the No. 2 recipient of federal defense outlays. That is a frightening prospect indeed.”

Note, however, that dollars don’t translate simply and predictably into jobs.  When the military had less money several years ago, it also produced more jobs. Also, the $600 billion is “over 10 years,” and might as well be called $1200 billion “over 20 years” for all such monkeying with the numbers enlightens us.  It’s $60 billion “over one year,” but reduced from that in order to put more of the cutting later in the 10-year period. $50 billion or less, cut from $1.2 trillion or so in total military spending can only frighten people who are truly intent on being frightened.  Of course, fear is what allows military spending on this kind of scale to begin with.

“But it is not in itself a sufficient reason to oppose the cuts. National defense is not a jobs program. Many of the very arguments conservative Republicans have made with regard to government spending over the years — about inefficiency, about the displacement of private investment, about gargantuan bureaucracies doling out contracts to the politically connected — might apply just as well to the Pentagon as to any other government agency.”

This is a stunning bit of honest sanity.  Reflect on the earthshattering, “debate” crashing, impoliteness of introducing this bit of truth to the public.  Of course it’s also the understatement of the year.  Spending on the military produces fewer jobs than spending on education, energy, infrastructure, or even tax cuts for working people, because it is so incredibly wasteful.  How wasteful?  We don’t know, since it’s the only department that is never audited.  But we know that it routinely misplaces billions — with a b — of dollars, something no other department is allowed to do.  We also know that in much of the world spending money on killing in order to generate jobs would be viewed as sociopathic.

“What’s more, the alarms being rung about the hollowing out of the military sound considerably less grim when put in context. For example, ask yourself this: Was the U.S. military on the brink of collapse in 2007? Few people would answer yes. Yet if sequestration occurs, then military spending would revert to — you guessed it — 2007 levels. That doesn’t sound quite so horrible.”

Again, this is simple and obvious but staggeringly new.  It renders ludicrous countless “news” reports that have been published by these papers.

“Even after adjusting for inflation, Pentagon spending is now almost double what it was in 2000. And that leaves out the billions lavished on Homeland Security. And the further billions spent on ongoing military operations abroad, which add more than another hundred billion to the tab.”

This too is new and different, pointing out that the “Homeland Security” budget is added on top of the Pentagon’s.  But let’s not forget State, Energy, CIA, and all the other departments that include military spending, plus the expense of caring for the veterans our wars keep producing.  The total cost of the military is about $1.2 trillion per year, many times what any other nation spends, more than all other nations combined, and more than half of federal discretionary spending.

“True, federal defense outlays are smaller as a share of the federal budget than they have been in many years,”

Oops.  That’s not true, not when all military (“defense”) expenses are counted.

“and they are smaller as a percentage of gross domestic product than at any time since World War II. But this is not a very useful comparison. It implies that whenever Washington creates a hugely expensive new entitlement program, or whenever the economy booms, Pentagon spending should be jacked up just to keep the proportions steady.”

Wow.  This is amazingly decent and dismissive of an entire genre of public “discourse.”  The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly stressed to Congress that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  Even though it’s high and has been rising each of the past 15 years as a dollar amount adjusted for inflation, as a percentage of the federal discretionary budget, and as a percentage of global military spending, the theory indeed seems to be that if we have more money we should buy more weapons because we can.  This requires a psychiatrist, not an economist.

“The real question is how much the U.S. needs to spend to maintain military dominance. To help answer it, consider a more useful comparison: For every dollar the world spends on military outlays, America accounts for 46 cents. China, a distant second, comes in at about 7 cents.”

Hmm.  Is that the real question?  Isn’t the real question how the United States can best keep its nation safe?  Isn’t it at the very least an open question whether striving to dominate the globe is making us safer or putting us at risk? The answer above to the wrong question is dramatically understated, and yet hugely important and worldview shattering for many potential readers.  I hope they read it.

“Gov. McDonnell is right to worry about the effect of defense spending cuts here in Virginia. Congress should pass legislation to stave off the sequestration meat ax. However, it needs to make judicious cuts to the defense budget. Overseas bases, redundant weapons systems, even force structures should all be on the table. The nation currently borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends. And there is simply no way to fix that problem without including military cuts as part of the solution.”

Wouldn’t you know they’d reach the wrong conclusion after so much good rhetoric.  The sequestration meat ax would cut that $1.2 trillion budget by about $50 billion.  It should be cut by much more.  Cutting back to merely three times the size of China would allow us not only to pay off debt but to make college free, eliminate student loans, develop a massive green energy program, and update our infrastructure.  Those are the tradeoffs that should have been mentioned.  The mass murder of non-Americans that is generated by the war momentum that Eisenhower warned us war spending would create might also merit consideration.  Nonetheless, I doubt I shall ever see this good an editorial in my local paper again.


Should Military Use Our $$ to Sponsor NASCAR Drivers?

11:04 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Is the ideal military recruit an independent thinker who refuses illegal orders, an obedient automaton who does anything he’s told, or a vicious sadist eager to rape and kill?  Is courage more important or strength? Does it make the slightest difference if a soldier is gay?

We can agree to disagree.  But most people are going to agree that the ideal recruit is not a drooling idiot who announces, “I want to join up because the military sponsors NASCAR drivers.“  Yet, the U.S. Army says that’s how it gets a third of its recruits — from motorsports sponsorships.  Recruitment stations at racetracks help.

The U.S. military spends billions of dollars every year on recruitment and advertising, producing video games and movies, flying jets over football games, taking gas guzzling vehicles and inflatable soldiers to picnics, etc.  I’m not even talking about military bands, which have a massive budget all their own.  I’m talking about the campaign to make killing look like a cool and painless sport, a campaign funded in the way that a campaign to save our climate would be properly funded if we had one.  We spend enough money attracting and recruiting each new recruit, that we could have hired him or her, and some of their friends, to do something useful.  I say “we” because it’s our money.

We spend $80 million a year on military sponsorships of sporting events, primarily NASCAR and primarily through the innocent-sounding National Guard.  New recruits into the Guard are often falsely told they won’t have to go to war.

Here’s military spending on professional sports sponsorships in the past two years, in millions of dollars:

FY11       FY12
Army               $18.7       $16.1
Nat’l Guard     $67.1       $53.9
Navy                 $3.7         $4.2
Marines            $2.5         $2.3
Air Force          $2.5         $2.6
Air Guard         $1.6         $1.2
Total               $96.1       $80.3

A bipartisan measure in Congress has passed through the House Armed Services committee that would stop this.  The effort has been led by Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D, Minn.) and Congressman Jackson Kingston (R, Ga.).  This is a case of the more progressive Democrats lining up with the Republicans who actually mean some of that talk about cutting spending, and against the Congress members of both parties who give funding the war machine top priority.  That latter group includes House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) who is fighting to restore the funding.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., whom the National Guard has paid $136 million over the past five years to put a National Guard sticker on his race car and wear the logo on his uniform, predictably agrees with McKeon.  Yet McKeon has not agreed to wear the logo of any of his war profiteering campaign funders. (Attention: graphic artist needed to produce that image!)

Congress members funded by weapons corporations are intent on avoiding the minor cuts imposed by last year’s Budget Control Act, much less the serious cuts needed to benefit our economy, the environment, our civil liberties, or the nations at risk of facing our bombs.

The Army on Tuesday appeared to see the writing on the wall, announcing that it won’t sponsor NASCAR next year.  But we need Congress to ban all military sports sponsorships by law.  The National Guard is a far bigger funder than the Army.

If we can’t cut this, then what can we cut?  And if we can cut it, we will have estabished that military spending is not sacred.  At that point, perhaps we’ll be able to address the much larger problem.  We are dumping over half of federal discretionary spending into war and war preparation, while funding is cut for education, infrastructure, fire departments, food stamps, and everything else.  Pro-war progressives like to claim that cuts are bad, period.  Yet, if we were to cut a few hundred billion out of war spending and put it to good use, we could lead the world in all those desirable categories where we’re trailing, like education, security, happiness, … and I’d say health too except that we’re spending twice what we need to on that already — the trick there is to get rid of the for-profit insurance companies that are swallowing our dollars.

Sports without militarism would open up enjoyment of sports to people who dislike killing, and it would take away a powerful marketing strategy for those trying to convince us that killing is just another sport.

No Military NASCAR could be the start of a cultural demilitarization, if we follow through.


7:09 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Which came first, the oil business or the war machine that protects it? Who started this madness, the military that consumes so much of the oil or the corporations that distribute and profit from the filthy stuff?

Cover of Carbon Democracy, depicting the Crude Awakening sculpture at Burning Man

Crude Awakening by Timothy Mitchell

An answer of sorts can be found in Timothy Mitchell’s book, “Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil.”

Western oil corporations were never strong enough, Mitchell finds, to monopolize the flow or stoppage of Middle Eastern oil without major military and financial assistance. So, they began talking about their control of Middle Eastern oil as being an imperial interest. When “imperial” went out of fashion, the phrase shifted to “strategic interest.”

Early in the 20th century, the Anglo Persian Oil Company discovered that its oil stank. It contained high levels of sulfur, and people wouldn’t burn it for illumination. So, the oil company enlisted the British Navy, as a customer. In fact, it pretended the Navy was a major customer for a few years until it actually became one. The British empire thus developed an interest in protecting the company’s control of the oil of what is now Iran, in order to fuel the new ships of the Navy — a navy designed to protect Britain’s imperial interests.

The Royal Navy had another reason for shifting to oil-burning ships, according to Mitchell. Coal miners were developing the annoying habit of going on strike, effectively flicking off the light switch on the empire and all its toys. Coal mining involved more workers than oil drilling, and the movement of the coal, once mined, was more easily blocked en route. Coal, and the ease with which it could be sabotaged, was a driver of democracy, whereas oil would be its enemy.

Mitchell also describes British support for the Zionist settlement of Palestine in the 1920s as motivated by a desire to create a population in need of protection, protection that would involve controlling the flow of oil from Iran to the Mediterranean. Well, … that and a population to serve as protectors of the pipeline. In 1936-1939 the British created a force of armed Jewish settlers to guard the Haifa-Lydda railway line — a force that would form the nucleus of the army that seized control of Palestine in 1948.

Also in 1920 Winston Churchill proposed winning hearts and minds in what is now Iraq by bombing the place, to which the British secretary of state for war objected thus: “If the Arab population realize that the peaceful control of Mesopotamia ultimately depends on our intention of bombing women and children, I am very doubtful if we shall gain the acquiescence of the fathers and husbands.” Such logic would no more stop Winston Churchill than it would Barack Obama.

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A Crazy Republican Attack That Obama Himself Agrees With

7:13 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States.  And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them.  I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has.

First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?).  The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there’s no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue.  This is NOT insignificant.

Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.

If you’re guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they’ve won, Leon!)  You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as “cuts.”

When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in — half to things we need and half to the bloated military.  The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending.  We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.

The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are “cuts” to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases — and that’s not even counting increased war spending through other departments.

House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill. Read the rest of this entry →

US Army Assaults Its Biggest Fan

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

One of the most valuable benefits of putting political action into the form of nonviolent encampments is that we learn each other’s stories as we occupy our public parks and squares. Here’s a story from the October2011 occupation in Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C. There are many more, and we’d like to hear yours when you join us.

Aristine Maharry is 29 years old and now lives in Freedom Plaza. She grew up in a very military family, with members of her family having participated in every major U.S. war going back to the war for independence, and with members of every generation having joined the military.

Maharry’s family did not encourage her to aspire to a military career, but — as in many such stories I’ve heard — actions spoke more loudly than words. Maharry was proud of her father’s military experience. She hoped from a very young age to join the U.S. Army. She grew up playing at army with her half-brothers. They would flip the couch on its side and toss pretend grenades. She loved the board game Risk. The biggest holiday in Aristine’s family was the Fourth of July. She doesn’t say she bled red white and blue. She says she bled green, Army green. She wanted to serve her country and other people. She was willing to die for her country. She was proud of her country.

Aristine was a good student and a good athlete. At age 7 she tested with an IQ of 185. She was placed in gifted and talented classes in all of the many public schools she attended. She got good grades, ran track, and was president of the Future Business Leaders of America at West Potomac High School in Northern Virginia, where at 16 she dual enrolled at George Mason University. She graduated from high school at 18 in the year 2000, was married the next January and pregnant in February.

Aristine knew that the military would be reluctant to enlist a mother of a child under 1 year of age. She hoped to take part in the Green to Gold program, enlisting and eventually becoming an officer. Her own father had dropped out of college to enlist and fight in Vietnam. She admired that history. However, when her first son was nine months old, Aristine became pregnant again. She headed to the recruiter’s office when her second son turned one in May 2004. She had a family and a good job in management training new personnel in the pharmacy department of Liberty Medical Supply in Florida. But recruiters’ job is to recruit, and Maharry didn’t require any persuading. Read the rest of this entry →

Can Coffee Prevent Military Suicides?

9:35 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson


Ashley Joppa-Hagemann

It is difficult to watch this video without both crying and being inspired.  Ashley Joppa-Hagemann recounts her husband’s struggles before he killed himself to avoid an eighth or ninth tour in the Iraq-Afghanistan Wars. Ashley confronted Donald Rumsfeld last week over the lies that led her husband to enlist.  This led to her appearing on Democracy Now on Tuesday and being featured in Amy Goodman’s column:

“One person convinced by Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was Jared August Hagemann.

“Hagemann enlisted in the Army to serve his country, to confront the threats repeated by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. When the U.S. Army Ranger received the call for his most recent deployment (his wife can’t recall if it was his seventh or eighth), the pressure became too much. On June 28, 2011, 25-year-old Hagemann shot himself on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle. The Pentagon notes that Hagemann died of a ‘self-inflicted’ gunshot wound, but has not yet called it a suicide.

“Hagemann had threatened suicide several times before. He was not alone. Five soldiers reportedly committed suicide at Fort Lewis in July. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 returning troops suffer from PTSD or depression.

“Hagemann’s widow, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, found out that Rumsfeld was doing a book signing on the base. On Friday, Aug. 26, she handed Rumsfeld a copy of the program from her late husband’s memorial service. She recounted, ‘I told him that I wanted him to see my husband, and so he would know—he could put a face with at least one of the soldiers that had lost their lives because of his lies from 9/11.’”

Joppa-Hagemann will be speaking at and participating in a conference on September 16-18 in Virginia.  She has begun speaking out because she heard someone else doing the same, and because a group of veterans in Washington State has helped her to do so.  Other bereaved military family members are already beginning to get involved as a result of hearing Hagemann.

These connections, and the Rumsfeld encounter, are the work of an anti-war GI coffee house called Coffee Strong located within 300 meters of the gates of Fort Lewis in Lakewood, WA.  I spoke on Wednesday with Joseph Carter, Co-Executive Director of Coffee Strong and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.  I recommend listening to the audio. Read the rest of this entry →

Our New Iraq-Afghanistan War National Holiday

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Memorial Day is nice, I suppose. Veterans Day is all right. Patriots Day can be fun. Yellow Ribbon Day’s not bad. But you will be pleased to hear that on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted, in pure bipartisan harmony, to add the following gem to the big war-funding, war-expanding, bill that now goes to the Senate:

“The President shall designate a day entitled a National Day of Honor to celebrate members of the Armed Forces who are returning from deployment in support of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat areas.”

Catchy, ain’t it? I can’t wait to find out what day the President will so designate. I do hope it’s my birthday, but I’m not trying to be greedy — I know you all just had the same thought. While, oddly, not a single newspaper took notice, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (Dem., Texas) proposed this historic bit of legislation on the floor of the House on Thursday thusly:

“Today I rise with an amendment supported by my colleague and a member of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. [Hank] Johnson, to ask support for an amendment that can bring all of us together, the designation of a national day of honor to celebrate the members of the Armed Services who will be returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan and other combat areas. This national day of honor would recognize the enormous sacrifice and invaluable service that those phenomenal men and women have undertaken to protect our freedom and share the gift of democracy in other parts of the world.

“How many of us have stopped to say ‘thank you’ to a soldier walking alone in an airport, maybe having made a travel of millions of miles, thousands upon thousands of miles, to find himself or herself in their rural hamlet or urban center coming home. They have come home over the years, and they have come home not seeking glory or appreciation. That’s our men and women. The men and women of the United States military and intelligence community who helped bring Osama bin Laden didn’t ask for applause and appreciation.

“My amendment will give all Americans, no matter what your political views, religion, ethnicity, gender or background, the chance to be able to say ‘thank you.’ It is reminiscent of times that some of us did not live through. I am reminded of the pictures that I saw of those celebrating in the streets during World War II.”

Now, technically, the members of the armed “services” (and the roughly equal number of mercenaries and contractors who apparently will not be honored or celebrated), while enduring outrageous hardship and exhibiting courage and determination, have not actually protected anyone’s freedom or actually shared with anyone the gift of democracy. The point, however, is to be reminiscent of a time when those claims were less ludicrous. And while no one actually helped “bring” Osama bin Laden anywhere, as the armed “services” were assigned to put bullets in his head and did so, the point is to celebrate his murder without focusing on what it was. And while the armed “services” and the president and the television spokesgenerals went out of their way, and all the way to lower Manhattan, to ask for applause and appreciation, the idea is to give them a bit more, darn it.

“My uncle served in World War II. My grandmother sent her sons to war. She watched them one by one, and proudly so. As an immigrant American, she was glad to be able to send them to fight our battles. Now, as we make our decisions to bring our troops home, to be able to provide them the opportunity of economic enhancement such as jobs and education, let’s have a day where all of us will be able to be in the streets, if you will, to simply say ‘thank you;’ and job well done!”

While World War II killed more human beings than any other event in history, it has done far more damage in the 65 years since then, by serving as a justification for more killing. Got an unpopular war that a strong majority has come to see as misguided and declares never should have happened? Not a problem! Just pretend it’s World War II and celebrate accordingly. That this is unlikely to work terribly well is demonstrated by the total lack of interest in the passage of this amendment on Thursday. Of course, there were more important stories to cover in the news, and the most important ones were nearly ignored as well. While Congresswoman Jackson Lee speaks as if the troops are coming home, the House actually passed, with her vote, a mammoth bill to fund the continuation of the wars, and rejected numerous amendments that would have made it more likely some troops might come home. In addition, the House voted down an amendment that would have stripped from the bill language empowering current and future presidents to make war almost anywhere at any time, regardless of Congress or the Constitution.

“We are in the midst of ongoing conflict and warfare. We must show continued support of our troops and increase their moral. What better way to demonstrate our support than by celebrating their return from deployment with a National Day of Honor. Though we may be divided by our positions on the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat areas, we stand together to support our veterans. Currently, there are close to 100,000 troops serving in Afghanistan. And even in the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, troops remain in Afghanistan to protect against retaliatory attacks and to help rebuild the country.

Do they, now? No bases, no weapons positioning, no gas pipeline, no profiteering, no protecting of corrupt war lords, no destruction of the country? On the contrary, this is a humanitarian mission to “rebuild” and “protect.” But protect whom? Is al Qaeda expected to retaliate against the people of Afghanistan or against the foreign occupying army? We leave the members of our military there tempting retaliation in order to protect against retaliation, as we celebrate the childish murder against which retaliation was entirely predictable — retaliation that has already caused the deaths of some of those we’re honoring and celebrating. The language says we are to celebrate those returning; it doesn’t say they have to be alive at the time.

“As of April 2011, close to 46,000 American troops are serving in Iraq. At the height of the Iraqi dispute, close to 170,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Iraq. These courageous men and women are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, yet they have risked their lives and left their families to fight for what they believe in which is freedom, equality, and all the like principles that America stands on. The courage and sacrifice of the men and women are certainly well deserving of celebration. Their service is an extraordinary act of patriotism for which we should all be thankful.”

This is demonstrably false. Polls of U.S. military members in Iraq over the years have shown them to be persuaded they are there to exact revenge for a crime Iraq had no part in, or bewildered as to what they are doing there, resentful of having been sent there, and in favor of ending that war. Many have gone AWOL or refused the illegal order to participate in an illegal war. How about a holiday for that bravery? How about a holiday for peacemakers — as distinct from peace prize laureates — who help avoid wars? Members of the U.S. military do not need holidays that most of this country will laugh at. They need to be kept out of imperial adventures. They need to be brought home. They need job training, education, healthcare, childcare, pensions, a sustainable environment, and a democracy in Washington, D.C., none of which we can have while pretending that it is our patriotic duty to pretend the military is in Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission.

Word to the wise: you can care about the people put through the horrors of our wars, including the 95% who are not Americans (how about a holiday for them?), and including the members of the U.S. military, and the mercenaries, and the contractors, and the warmongering presidents and senators and congress members, and the weapons profiteers, all without ceasing to denounce what they are doing. The best way to honor veterans is to stop creating more of them. And the only way to do that is to call a halt to this celebratory scam. I’m not going to “say thank you” to a participant in an illegal war. I’m going to say “I’m sorry we gave you no education or job options and allowed our government to put you through that hell. What can I do to help?”

“In the words of President John F. Kennedy, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’ It is not simply enough to sing the praises of our nation’s great veterans; I firmly believe that we must demonstrate by our actions how proud we are of our American heroes.”

Kennedy wrote but didn’t dare speak aloud, this: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” Why do we keep trying to make that distant day more distant?

“We promise to leave no soldier or veteran behind.”

Oh? Will you provide them with jobs, housing, healthcare, apologies, explanations, truth about what you’ve done to them? I didn’t think so. Jackson Lee showed big photos of military members in action in our wars, none of veterans living on our streets. Her holiday is about celebrating war, not about caring for the people we imposed war on. A separate amendment introduced by Jackson Lee toothlessly expressed the sense of Congress that access to treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder should be expanded. I’d prefer Congress actually expand that treatment and, more importantly, reduce the incidence of the trauma.

The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon (Rep., Calif.), author of the language granting presidents war-making power, was quick to agree with Jackson-Lee:

“I thank the gentlelady for doing this. I think she is exactly right on. I think everything that we can do to honor these warriors who are out there fighting for our freedoms and freedoms of those around the world we should do.”

Congressman Adam Smith (Dem., Wash.) agreed:

“I am just in awe of how great our military is . . . and what a tremendous job they have done for us.”

Chairman McKeon emphasized that not only was celebrating troops a way to celebrate war, but passing this amendment was grounds for passing the underlying bill to fund more warmaking:

“We have a good bill, this National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. It is a very good bill. We have a lot of good things in it; but this amendment, this amendment alone is reason to vote for the bill.”

The amendment passed on a voice vote, but Jackson Lee insisted on a roll call, upon which it passed unanimously.

The same bill proposes April 9th be made Yellow Ribbon Day, honors in various ways the veterans of a wide variety of past wars, defunds the U.S. Institute of Peace (thus saving the cost of 5 hours in Afghanistan), and requires that all suspected foreign terrorists who are not killed be tried, if they are tried, by the military and not in courts. This is, I repeat, the same bill that formally gives presidents virtually unlimited power to make war. This may be the worst bill ever deemed likely to pass into law. A holiday for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars somehow just doesn’t make up for that in my mind. I’d rather party like it was 1999, before the current madness really kicked in. I hope we all still have jobs from which to get time off for Jackson Lee’s holiday.

Support Killing People Or Lose Your Job

9:13 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

“Ban the bombers are afraid of a fight
“Peace hurts business and that ain’t right
“How do I know? I read it in the Daily News”
–Tom Paxton

PBS (the P stands for “Pure” I think) is concerned that if the U.S. government stops funding the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. economy will crash:

“An executive at a small defense contractor recently joked to me, ‘Afghanistan is our business plan.’ I asked him what he would do if the war ended. He stared at me for a moment and said, ‘Well, then I hope we invade Libya.’”

I’ve passed this story around on Facebook and Twitter to a general response of complete bewilderment. It seems that not many people are aware that the U.S. economy depends heavily on massive government investment. The investment is through the military, and through the militaries of foreign governments running the full gamut from quasi-democracy to total dictatorship. Making the materials of war is what we do; it is our major industry, and it is funded with about half of our income taxes every year. This helps explain why President Obama was willing to de-escalate in Iraq only as he escalated in Afghanistan, and why he escalated in Afghanistan prior to forming any plan for Afghanistan. War is business. The trick for this business is how to de-escalate in both Iraq and Afghanistan without a major escalation somewhere else.

Now, our government could take the same money that it invests in wars, and the much larger pile of money that it invests in the base military budget, and instead invest it elsewhere. We could cut the military by 85% and still have the world’s largest. We could take some or all of that saved money and put it into infrastructure or green energy or education, each of which would produce more jobs and better paying jobs than the military. But there’s a problem. Investing public money in a massive jobs program that doesn’t slaughter lots of innocent human beings is Socialism. Slaughtering innocent human beings is something our politicians can stomach, but Socialism is simply beyond the pale. So it’s kill people or crash the economy; pick your poison. You can hurt others or yourselves. Or . . .

Or . . .

Or we can go with what Americans tell pollsters they want to do: end the wars, tax the rich, tax and disempower the corporations, create single-payer healthcare, and invest in education, green energy, and non-violent jobs.

I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Relax.

Like my FaceBook friends, I too am properly concerned that even if we run out of enemies on earth, we ought to be properly prepared to annihilate space aliens when and if they show their faces (assuming they have faces). But in the back of my head I have to wonder if killing people is necessarily part of space aliens’ “human nature” (or “alien nature”). It seems to me that aliens who survived their cultural adolescence and made it here would have learned to stop killing. They would also have learned to steer clear of suicidal killing machines like homo sapiens, meaning we won’t actually be seeing any aliens any time soon.

If we develop a nonkilling society, we may or may not be visited by aliens, but at least we’ll survive. However, this may be difficult given our murderous “human nature.” Between 1 million BCE and 2000 CE, an estimated 91 billion people have lived, of whom an estimated 3 billion have ever killed another person, in war or anywhere else. If we ignore the other 88 billion people as extreme and unusual cases, then it is simply a demonstrated fact that “human nature” involves killing. There’s just nothing to be done about it.

Unless, of course, we decided to think for ourselves rather than through pro-killing propaganda, for about five seconds. As Glenn D. Paige points out in an excellent book called “Nonkilling Global Political Science,” (PDF) (where you’ll find an explanation of those estimates above) most people do not kill. You’ve probably read Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, “The Lottery”. It’s a jarring story, because the twist at the end transforms human beings, normal and believable human beings, into killers. Change the ending, and the story would become a more typical depiction of what most people are like.

For virtually all of the existence of modern homo sapiens our ancestors evolved in bands of hunters and gatherers, living as prey far more than as predators, never knowing war. We now live outside of the world we evolved in. We have unlimited access to things like sugar, salt, petroleum, and weapons of mass destruction. We aren’t easily inclined to handle such access with restraint. We get fat. We change the earth’s climate. We kill. But most of us don’t want to do these things. We just haven’t learned to place sufficient restraints on those who gain great immediate satisfaction by endangering us all.

Learning is the solution. Douglas Fry studied two Mexican villages of similar socioeconomic characteristics but different beliefs about how humans are or should be. One viewed people as peaceful and was peaceful. The other viewed people as killers and saw a lot of killing. The difference was in outlook, not systemic forces. People behaved as they thought people should behave.

Political science, Paige laments, although this is changing, views killing as inevitable. It therefore does not seek to understand it. A political science that views a nonkilling society as possible must carefully study the causes and remedies of killing. Paige hopes to see universities take up the task of eliminating wars and killing. One problem with that proposal is the extent to which U.S. universities profit from killing. Here in Charlottesville, Va., the University of Virginia lives off the military jobs program. We learn very little about this from the local newspaper, the Daily Progress, which ran full-page color ads all this week promoting a military jobs fair. So, it was interesting to watch how Russian TV covered our local military-industrial-academic complex.

I guess it’s comforting to know that someone is paying attention to our self-destruction, even if it isn’t us.

How Many Progressive Budget Analysts Does It Take to Notice the Military?

7:40 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Whether or not one recklessly and misleadingly includes Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in discussions of the federal discretionary budget, the fact remains that over half of the discretionary budget (of everything other than Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid) is military. The primary talking point coming out of the White House is the need to freeze all non-military discretionary spending. And yet it is difficult to find a progressive analysis of the budget President Obama proposed on Monday that even mentions the existence of the military.

Here’s Robert Reich arguing for taxing and spending. I agree with everything he says. I would tax the rich if all it accomplished was taxing the rich. I would spend on the poor if the money had to be borrowed. But there has to be some reason why Reich does not mention the option of funding everything he dreams of and more by cutting the military back to merely three times the size of anyone else’s. He must believe the United States benefits from and can survive an ever-larger military budget. Or he must be afraid to say otherwise.

You can find similar, military-free analysis at the Campaign for America’s Future, although CAF does squeeze mention of the military in here, and at the Nation. At Huffington Post the main story doesn’t mention the military, and it’s followed by a blurb misleadingly suggesting that the “defense” budget is being cut, while in reality it is going up. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities includes one half sentence misleadingly suggesting “defense” is being cut.

Ezra Klein, not your most progressive blogger, was, to his credit, among those bucking the trend. He called the United States government An insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army and pointed out that The Defense Department won the future, or at least the budget.

You can listen to the audio recording of a phone call the White House held on Monday with progressive bloggers here. Congressional Budget Office spokesman Ken Baer briefly mentions the White House’s misleading claim to be cutting $78 billion from “defense” without stressing that those are theoretical cuts in future years and cuts from a dream list but actually increases above this year’s budget. White House adviser David Plouffe did not mention the military at all in his initial comments when he joined the call late.

Progressive bloggers asked why the budget was so hard on poor people and so easy on the rich, why funding for poor people’s heat was being slashed, how cuts could possibly be good for the economy, et cetera. They wanted spending, not cuts. They dragged in Social Security. But the call was almost over before a single one of them brought up the existence of the U.S. military, despite the fact that over half of discretionary spending goes there, and despite the consensus among economists that the same spending elsewhere would produce many more jobs and jobs with better pay.

Christina O’Connell with FireDogLake, always the best blog that manages to maintain access to these calls, asked about the pretended cuts in military spending and about the ongoing war spending and whether there would be additional off-the-books supplemental bills. Plouffe replied by bashing Bush’s practice of using supplementals despite Obama having broken a promise and used them for the past two years, but did not promise not to go on using them for a third year. At the same time Plouffe meaninglessly bragged about a decrease in war spending in the 2012 budget. He did not reply at all to the first half of O’Connell’s question, regarding the pretense that overall military spending is being cut while in reality it is going up. He did not explain that the theoretical future cuts are only proposed as cuts to wish lists while still allowing the budget to increase year by year.

Why the lack of interest among the other bloggers in the majority of the budget they are reporting on?

Do progressive bloggers consider it their duty to talk (albeit in a better way) about the topics those in power want to talk about? Would it be rude to raise a new topic no matter how relevant?

Or do progressives who are loyal to the Democratic Party and therefore invited on White House phone calls share Barack Obama’s desire to increase the military every year and use it against a growing number of countries each year?

These are serious questions, even deadly serious questions.