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Paging Santa’s Puppet Repair: Pentagon on Line 1

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds: Good Afternoon, this is the Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds, how may I bring you joy?

Santa Claus

Even Santa has to answer to the US Government.

Anonymous Pentagon Official: Cut the crap, Nils, you know why I’m calling.

VDUEHM: You’ve got me confused with the big man, Chuck. I can’t see you even when you’re awake.

APO: We’re providing your sled with fighter jet escort in a $3 billion promotional video, Nils, and this is the 218th — count ‘em, Nils — the 218th defective puppet you’ve given us, under warranty, and your people — if I may call the little goblins “people” — are not helping.

VDUEHM: What is the name and serial number of the puppet?

APO: The hell you think his name is? Hamid Frickin Karzai, you third-rate bureaucratic … you can’t even see over a bureau, can you? You know what, Nils, if your big man had given us a reasonably small sack of coal instead of each and every puppet we’ve ever picked up on Christmas morning, we’d … we’d … well, we’d have had to think up an entirely different reason for our wars, that’s what!

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: I don’t have all damn day here, Nils. You want the full list?  Let me put it to you this way. Remember that last puppet, Maliki, who you claimed was not under warranty …

VDUEHM: When you intentionally, maliciously, or negligently destroy the puppet’s primary or temporary nation or society, the warranty is voided in its entirety, as found in rule number …

APO: You can imagine where I might suggest you stick that rule book, Nils. Tell me this: who is your best customer in the entire world?

VDUEHM: The innocent child who wishes good only for others and experiences a depth of gratitude …

APO: Who’s your second best customer?

VDUEHM: We give presents, Chuck. Did you think you’d dialed Saudi Arabia? I can have someone connect you. Please hold …

APO: Hold on! Hold on! My god! Whose chestnuts do you have to roast to get some service around here?

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: He’s refusing to sign on for 10 more years and beyond.

VDUEHM: Beyond what?

APO: Beyond the next 10 years.

VDUEHM: So, why don’t you just call it “indefinitely”? Why mention 10 years if you’re going to add “and beyond”?

APO: You wouldn’t understand marketing, Nils. You give stuff away, remember?

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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.

Rumsfeld Overheard: “War Lies Are Cool Now”

8:56 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Donald Rumsfeld began his new book tour with some frank comments, including these:

“War lies? Does anybody really give a rat’s ass now? You know what? You know what? They do. They do because war lies are actually cool now. We began the invasion of Iraq in October 2001, but the invasion of Iraq paid off.”

Rumsfeld revealed the strategy behind the revelations made in his book about the illegal secret operations he helped set in motion shortly after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001:

“Former President Bush has not admitted to torture or fraud or aggression or the rest of it, and do you know why? You do know why, but it is an unknown known, if you know what I mean. Yes, it is funny. He hasn’t admitted to any such things because he has chosen to claim them proudly instead.

“Did I say I knew where the WMDs were? Did I say I had bullet proof evidence of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda? Of course, I did. I can’t deny it. I mean, I used to deny it, but what the hell? Spain didn’t blow up the Maine. Wise up, people. The Lusitania was full of troops and guns and that was announced before it sailed. If you think FDR didn’t see Pearl Harbor coming I’ve got some yellow cake to sell you! We don’t go to war with the drooling obedient zombies we might want or wish to have at some future time. There was no Gulf of Tonkin incident. Are you stupid? You thought the Iraqis took babies out of incubators in 1991, didn’t you? Admit it. Didn’t you?

“We say what has to be said to accomplish that which in retrospect will be understood as irreparable. I won’t deny it. I cannot deny it. What I can do is reveal that when I claimed to know where the WMDs were I had within the previous 20 minutes consumed over half a bottle of gin. I’m not defending it. I’m laughing in your sad pathetic faces, and yet I cannot even bring myself to grow annoyed at your inability to grasp that fundamental fact.

“Once we’d expended hundreds of billions of dollars killing hundreds of thousands of people and completely devastated the nation of Iraq, with the only tangible result being a dramatic rise in anti-American sentiment and violence around the world, I proposed a different strategy, and do you know what that jack-ass post-turtle two-bit moron from Crawford did? He told you all that he would keep me on after the election. After the election he gave me the old snake-skin boot in the posterior and told you that he’d had to lie to you so that you wouldn’t know the truth. And you said ‘Oh OK, well that’s all right then. Thanks for explaining it to us. Thank you, sir, may we have another? Thank you, sir, may we have another?’ You dumbasses.

“You want to learn something about the way the world works? Buy my book. Do you know why Ronald Reagan was a great president? Do you want me to tell you? Because he believed his own bull. That’s what it takes. You think we lie to you for the good of the nation. That’s not how it works. We lie to ourselves for the good of our careers, and the marketplace of ideas makes that good for the nation. Or not. That’s a known unknown.

“Let me just leave you with this, you embarrassing facsimiles of sentient animals. Let me provide you, outside of your comprehension, a little demonstration of your inability to be awakened by a five alarm fire in your jock straps. Are you ready? Here it goes. We’re making progress in Afghanistan.

“You’ve been a great audience. Jesus, what a world.”

This has been a complete fabrication which you might as well attribute to Curveball.

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie.” See http://warisalie.org



Why Pentagon Says MLK Would Love War Today

7:26 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

According to the Pentagon’s lawyer, Martin Luther King Jr., if alive today, would view the US war on Afghanistan as both the act of a Good Samaritan and as necessary self-defense.

Jeh C. Johnson, the “Defense” Department’s general counsel, said, on the one hand:

“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

On the other hand, he also said this:

“I draw the [Good Samaritan] parallel to our own servicemen and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, away from the comfort of conventional jobs, their families and their homes. [They] have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in defense of the American people. Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness — the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968.”

Now, when President Barack Obama in 2009 gave a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he had the decency to admit that he was disagreeing fundamentally with King’s position:

“There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: ‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.’…But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by [King's and Gandhi's] examples alone.”

There has long been a segment of the U.S. population susceptible to the fear-mongering of “defensive” wars of aggression. When told that we have to go attack an impoverished nation halfway around the world and continue doing so for many years, certain people eagerly climb on board. But others need a war to be a humanitarian act of racist kindness before they’ll support it. So, by a happy coincidence, every nation in which our military wants bases and weapons or our oil companies want wells or pipelines happens to both threaten our very existence and desperately need the humanitarian aid of our military.

The humanitarian war sales pitch is made to those motivated by kindness. I call it racist kindness because we impose our “aid” on foreign nations fully aware that they don’t want it. Of course, two-thirds of Americans oppose the war on Afghanistan, so majority opinion may never matter. But Afghans overwhelmingly oppose the occupation of their country.

Now, the man aided by the Good Samaritan was half-dead, perhaps unconscious. It may be that Jeh Johnson thinks of the Afghans in the same way. They can’t possibly make the right decisions in their state, so we’ll decide for them. Dr. King rejected such logic in the case of Vietnam:

“As I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. . . . They must see Americans as strange liberators. . . . They languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese — the real enemy.”

A poll last spring found that 85% of Kandaharis consider the Taliban “our Afghan brothers.” The poll was commissioned by the Pentagon. The same poll found that 94% favored peace negotiations, not war. So, out of the goodness of our racist hearts, we brought them more war.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has been lost on the Pentagon’s lawyer. A Samaritan, to Jesus’ audience, was a foreigner of a disreputable sort. But this Samaritan was made a model of humanity for others to follow. The point was not only to help people you find half-dead on the side of the road. The revolutionary point was to see others as fully human despite superficial differences.

“I am convinced,” King said, “that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society into a person-oriented society. . . . On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. . . . The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military ‘defense’ than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

David Swanson is the author of the new book “War Is A Lie” http://warisalie.org

The Book the Pentagon Burned

9:51 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The Pentagon spent $50,000 of our money to buy up the first edition of "Operation Dark Heart" by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and destroy every copy. The second printing has lots of words blacked out. Wikileaks claims to have a first edition, but hasn’t shared it. However, reading the bleeped-through version reveals plenty.

Shaffer and others in the military-spying complex knew about U.S. al Qaeda cells and leaders before 9-11 and were prevented from pursuing the matter. Shaffer believes they could have prevented 9-11. He so informed the 9-11 Commission, which ignored him. The Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer for having spoken up. We knew this, but the book adds context and details, and names names.

The bulk of the book is an account of Shaffer’s time in Afghanistan in 2003, and the title comes from the name of another aborted mission that Shaffer believes could have and should have captured or killed al Qaeda leaders at that time in Pakistan. Shaffer blames the CIA for screwing up any number of missions, for working with Pakistan which worked with the Taliban and al Qaeda, for counter-productive drone attacks, and for torturing prisoners. He also describes the insanity of General Stanley McChrystal’s scheme of sending armed soldiers door-to-door to win hearts and minds and flush out "bad guys."

Shaffer doesn’t say whether people he helped capture were tortured, but proudly recounts helping murder people and interrogating people without using torture. He does, however, detail the interrogation he did of a man whom he repeatedly threatened with shipment to Guantanamo. Bleeped out throughout the interrogation are repeated references to what is almost certainly the man’s identity as an American.

Shaffer’s book describes a web of incompetent rival bureaucracies within the military as well as the overlapping "intelligence community." What’s remarkable about this gang of gung-ho heroes and obedient cogs is not that they do so much damage but that any of them remain proud of having been a part of it.

Shaffer sure as hell does. He wants the drones to stop and the war scaled back, but he wants the kind of operations he favors to be pursued under an all-powerful commander in both Afghanistan and Pakistan — legal niceties be damned — until military "victory" can compel the negotiation of "peace." The twelve pages of advice on "How to Win in Afghanistan" that Shaffer tacked onto the end of the book, and on the basis which the book has been marketed, is a hodgepodge of contradictory recognition of hopelessness and insistence on prevailing.

This book has it all. And to think that all this nearly perished in the flames [Blacked-out passages are represented below as BLEEEEEEP]:

Models of heroism instilling confidence in our leaders:
"On Friday afternoons, three of my friends and I would hop in a car and drive the 100 miles to Tucson, drinking a fifth — or two — of vodka along the way. Soon, I was working counterterrorism missions in the United States and Europe while still in the army reserves and having the time of my life. . . . I started having blackouts: I would start drinking in one place, wake up in another place, and not know how I got there. . . . [S]ome of my bosses drank as much as I did."

Deep insights into human motivation:
"We’d come halfway around the world to deal with an enemy that cared about nothing but their narrow interpretation of God. They wanted to kill us simply because we did not think like they did."

Dramatic tension and vegetable references:
"My team was gonna take to it like an eight-year-old to asparagus. We’d BLEEEEEEEP recruited a scout to help smooth our way with the villagers, but the CIA had maneuvered him out of the picture. Now we were going to be on our own without a native guide. Freakin’ CIA."

Exemplary and tragic stands taken on principle:
"The CIA, it turned out, was running its own game, a game they didn’t bother to coordinate with anyone on the Defense side of the house. At one point, I was to learn later, we had an ugly experience with a warlord who was on their payroll. It was not that they played against both sides. It was the fact that they did it so obviously and poorly that pissed us off."

The worst cliff-hanging ending to a chapter ever:
"Shortly after that meeting with Dave, our informants told us of a chilling development. Bearded men, riding on Honda motorcycles, carrying Kalashnikov rifles and satellite telephones, were driving along the trails of the deep, treeless valleys in Zabul province about 100 miles southwest of Bagram. They were on their way."

The worst beginning to the next chapter that could have been conceived of, with or without depicting people as insects or rodents:
"The Taliban were reinfesting southeast Afghanistan."

Measured use of violence:
"’What is your consideration of collateral damage?’ he asked. ‘None,’ I replied. ‘According to our information, there appears to be only true believers present with the target.’"

A keen eye for detail:
"For a moment, it was interesting to contemplate the Taliban as a bunch of Fred Flintstones. Nah. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a fat Taliban."

Subtle foreshadowing:
"The same circumstances would reoccur: coalition and Afghan forces fighting to take ground in hundreds of villages like Deh Chopan throughout the region, holding it long enough to push out the Taliban, and then leaving, only to see the Taliban reemerge in the district unopposed."

Passionate romance:
"I had been told by several friends about finding troops ‘doing it’ in cramped spaces like the small bomb shelters around our tent living area and Porta-Johns. Yeah, Porta-Johns."

Clever imperialist banter:
"’Wow,’ I said. ‘But that’s Indian territory.’ I gave them the street location. ‘It’s the heart of where the bad guys are hanging out these days.’"

Realistic unflinching looks at the front lines of the battlefield:
"We had to get back to Bagram before dark. Besides, the mess hall served Alaskan king crab on Friday nights, and you had to get there early before it got too rubbery."

Even subtler foreshadowing:
"The graveyard sat on a high plain that overlooked Kabul against a backdrop of brown and gray rock mountains. Faded green Soviet vehicles — T-64 and T-72 tanks, BMP armored personnel carriers, BRDM armored cars, and more — were stretched out on a tan flat plain as far as the eye could see. Row after row of them."

Inverted literary allusions based on movies:
"I thought about Willard’s journey up the river and into the ‘heart of darkness.’ Maybe we were going to have to do something to get at these guys where they lived; the remote area where Kurtz called his home was as remote as Wana to us."

Insights into local customs:
"Dave and I put on our ‘Hajji hats’ — flat-topped Afghan hats worn by the local men."

Massage cream sources that threaten national security:
"I’d never given a massage in a combat zone before, but I dug out some hand cream with lotus flowers that I’d picked up at the BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP and figured it would do in place of massage oil."

Hints of a sequel:
"We have to become involved in helping to shape and improve the message of the true Muslim faith."