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Gun “Background Check” on Pentagon

2:17 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Stringent “background checks” are central to many proposals for curbing gun violence. The following is a background check on the nation’s largest buyer of firearms:

The applicant, U.S. Pentagon, seeks to purchase a wide variety of firearms in vast quantities. This background check has determined that the applicant has a long history of assisting individuals, organizations and governments prone to gun violence.

Pentagon has often served as an active accomplice or direct perpetrator of killings on a mass scale. During the last five decades, the applicant has directly inflicted large-scale death and injuries in numerous countries, among them the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan (partial list). Resulting fatalities are estimated to have been more than 5 million people.

For purposes of this background check, special attention has been necessarily focused on the scope of firearms currently sought by Pentagon. They include numerous types of semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles as well as many other assault weapons. Continuing purchases by the applicant include drones and cruise missiles along with the latest models of compatible projectiles and matching explosives.

Notable on Pentagon’s shopping list is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. This “bunker buster” weapon — with a weight of 30,000 pounds, set for delivery by a B-2 stealth bomber — is for prospective use in Iran.

While considering the likely outcomes of authorizing Pentagon to purchase such large-scale assault weapons, past lethal recklessness should be viewed in context of present-day mindset. A meaningful background check must include a current psychological profile.

Despite the abundant evidence of massive carnage made possible by past Pentagon acquisitions of firearms and other weapons, the applicant is unrepentant. This indicates that the applicant is sociopathic — unwilling to acknowledge, let alone express any semblance of remorse for, pain and suffering inflicted on human beings.

The unrepentant character of Pentagon is reflected in continued use of the alias “Department of Defense.” This background check strongly indicates the prevalence of a highly functional yet psychically numbed institutional personality disorder, with reflexive denial and perennial insistence on claiming victim status even while victimizing others.

In addition, Pentagon has used guns of all types to fire on countless numbers of civilians including young people. The ongoing threat to children posed by weapons in the hands of the applicant, therefore, is grave.

Grim evidence emerged with the unauthorized release of the “Collateral Murder” video three years ago by WikiLeaks. That video, filmed in 2007 in the district of New Baghdad, showed a callous disregard for human life as 30 mm cannon fire from Apache helicopters caused the deaths of nearly a dozen Iraqi adults while wounding two children.

In a deeply sociopathic mode, Pentagon — rather than expressing remorse or taking action to prevent such tragedies in the future — has sought retribution against those shedding light on many of such terrible actions. Pentagon has subjected whistleblower Bradley Manning to protracted inhumane treatment and relentless prosecution. By sharp contrast, in the last few days alone, tens of thousands of people have expressed their admiration, love and support by signing an online letter to Thank Bradley Manning.

Meanwhile, Pentagon is seeking approvals for items ranging from new firearms to F-35 jet fighters, recently dubbed by Time magazine “the costliest weapons program in human history.”

Even a cursory background check on the applicant must conclude that augmenting Pentagon’s vast stockpile of guns and other weapons would be unconscionable.

If background checks are to be a meaningful tool for curbing gun violence, they must apply to individuals and institutions alike, without fear or favor. Read the rest of this entry →

Stopping Endless War and “the Evil That We Deplore”

11:29 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

barbara lee

Rep. Barbara Lee

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution — the Authorization for Use of Military Force — that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

Prior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor. “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have. That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch. The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine. Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

Now, Rep. Lee has introduced H.R. 198, a measure to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force. (This week, several thousand people have already used a RootsAction.org special webpage to email their Senators and House members about repealing that “authorization” for endless war.) Opposed to repeal, the Obama administration is pleased to keep claiming that the 137-month-old resolution justifies everything from on-the-ground troops in combat to drone strikes and kill lists to flagrant abrogation of civil liberties.

A steep uphill incline faces efforts to repeal the resolution that issued a blank political check for war in the early fall of 2001. Struggling to revoke it is a valuable undertaking. Yet even repeal would be unlikely to end the “war on terror.”

At the start of 1971, President Nixon felt compelled to sign a bill that included repeal of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. By then, he had shifted his ostensible authority for continuing the war on Vietnam — asserting his prerogative as commander in chief. Leaders of the warfare state never lack for rationales when they want to keep making war.

In retrospect, the U.S. “war on terror” has turned out to be even more tenacious than the U.S. war that took several million lives in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Some key similarities resonate with current circumstances. Year after year, in Congress, support for the Vietnam War was bipartisan. Presidents Johnson and Nixon preached against unauthorized violence in America’s cities while inflicting massive violence in Southeast Asia. Both presidents were fond of proclaiming fervent wishes for peace.

But unlike the horrific war in Southeast Asia, the ongoing and open-ended “war on terror” is not confined by geography or, apparently, by calendar. The search for enemies to smite (and create) is availing itself of a bottomless pit, while bottom-feeding military contractors keep making a killing.

Beyond the worthy goal of repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force is a need for Congress to cut off appropriations for the “war on terror.” A prerequisite: repudiating the lethal mythology of righteous war unbounded by national borders or conceivable duration.

What may be even more difficult to rescind is the chronic disconnect between lofty oratory and policies digging the country deeper into endless war.

“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” President Obama said in his 2013 inaugural address, after four years of doing more than any other president in U.S. history to normalize perpetual war as a bipartisan enterprise.

Repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force will be very hard. Revoking the power to combine lovely rhetoric with pernicious militarism will be even more difficult.

Photo by Youth Radio under Creative Commons license

A Speech for Endless War

8:37 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

On the last night of August, the president used an Oval Office speech to boost a policy of perpetual war.

Hours later, the New York Times front page offered a credulous gloss for the end of “the seven-year American combat mission in Iraq.” The first sentence of the coverage described the speech as saying “that it is now time to turn to pressing problems at home.” The story went on to assert that Obama “used the moment to emphasize that he sees his primary job as addressing the weak economy and other domestic issues — and to make clear that he intends to begin disengaging from the war in Afghanistan next summer.”

But the speech gave no real indication of a shift in priorities from making war to creating jobs. And the oratory “made clear” only the repetition of vague vows to “begin” disengaging from the Afghanistan war next summer. In fact, top administration officials have been signaling that only token military withdrawals are apt to occur in mid-2011, and Obama said nothing to the contrary.

While now trumpeting the nobility of an Iraq war effort that he’d initially disparaged as “dumb,” Barack Obama is polishing a halo over the Afghanistan war, which he touts as very smart. In the process, the Oval Office speech declared that every U.S. war — no matter how mendacious or horrific — is worthy of veneration.

Obama closed the speech with a tribute to “an unbroken line of heroes” stretching “from Khe Sanh to Kandahar — Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own.” His reference to the famous U.S. military outpost in South Vietnam was a chilling expression of affinity for another march of folly.

With his commitment to war in Afghanistan, President Obama is not only on the wrong side of history. He is also now propagating an exculpatory view of any and all U.S. war efforts — as if the immoral can become the magnificent by virtue of patriotic alchemy.

A century ago, William Dean Howells wrote: “What a thing it is to have a country that can’t be wrong, but if it is, is right, anyway!”

During the presidency of George W. Bush, “the war on terror” served as a rationale for establishing warfare as a perennial necessity. The Obama administration may have shelved the phrase, but the basic underlying rationales are firmly in place. With American troop levels in Afghanistan near 100,000, top U.S. officials are ramping up rhetoric about “taking the fight to” the evildoers.

The day before the Oval Office speech, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs talked to reporters about “what this drawdown means to our national security efforts in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia and around the world as we take the fight to Al Qaeda.”

The next morning, Obama declared at Fort Bliss: “A lot of families are now being touched in Afghanistan. We’ve seen casualties go up because we’re taking the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban and their allies.” And, for good measure, Obama added that “now, under the command of Gen. Petraeus, we have the troops who are there in a position to start taking the fight to the terrorists.”

If, nine years after 9/11, we are supposed to believe that U.S. forces can now “start” taking the fight to “the terrorists,” this is truly war without end. And that’s the idea.

Nearly eight years ago, in November 2002, retired U.S. Army Gen. William Odom appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program and told viewers: “Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It’s a tactic. It’s about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we’re going to win that war. We’re not going to win the war on terrorism."

With his Aug. 31 speech, Obama became explicit about the relationship between reduced troop levels in Iraq and escalation in Afghanistan. “We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists,” he said. “And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.” This is the approach of endless war.

While Obama was declaring that “our most urgent task is to restore our economy and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work,” I went to a National Priorities Project webpage and looked at cost-of-war counters spinning like odometers in manic overdrive. The figures for the “Cost of War in Afghanistan” — already above $329 billion — are now spinning much faster than the ones for war in Iraq.

One day in March 1969, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Our government has become preoccupied with death,” George Wald said, “with the business of killing and being killed.” More than four decades later, how much has really changed?