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This Is It: America Needs to Hear Obama, Romney Talk About Drone Strikes in Last Debate

2:24 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by John Amick

If the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee – and a member of Congress – claims unfamiliarity with possibly the major plank of U.S. drone policy, as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz did last week when asked about President Obama’s “kill list” of those open for assassination based on U.S. intelligence, then what makes anyone believe the average American voter has a grasp on the killing done in their name in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen?

This is the question Bob Schieffer, longtime journalist and host of CBS’s Face the Nation, must ask himself ahead of the foreign policy (and final) presidential debate he will moderate Monday evening. He has an opportunity – and, arguably, a duty – to pose serious questions about a secretive, life-and-death U.S. government policy in front of tens of millions watching the two presidential candidates weeks before they go to the polls. The first two presidential debates had 67.2 million and 65.6 million viewers, respectively, meaning Monday’s debate would likely be the largest American audience to all at once pay attention to the subject of U.S. drones strikes that are done in their name. That is, if Schieffer dares press the candidates on what may very well be the most ominous power a president has: choosing who to kill.

The numerous legal, ethical and tactical questions about America’s use of drone strikes overseas – which the Obama administration justifies by pointing to the 2001 authorization of military force against perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks – are enough to warrant the candidates’ full views on how they would use drones in the next four years and how they view said litany of concerns over the policy. (Just Foreign Policy’s Robert Naiman has summarized the issues well.) The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has counted as many as 884 civilian deaths – including 176 children – in Pakistan alone as a result of U.S. drone use, which counters the government’s claims that drones are a precise tool that allows for minimum “collateral damage.” And a recent report by researchers at Stanford and NYU found strong evidence of “double tapping,” or drones firing on civilian rescuers following an initial strike on certain targets, in Pakistan.

That President Obama has a “kill list,” revealed by the New York Times earlier this year, is one of the most shocking, revealing parts of the drone policy. The “kill list,” sans due process or any real judicial or congressional oversight, is comprised of individuals the Obama administration has deemed terrorists worthy of assassination, usually by way of a CIA drone strike. Needless to say, this “kill list” has been the subject of much debate, though the U.S. government does not officially acknowledge the CIA’s drone program, much less share results of its strikes with the public.

So what about a top government official like Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee? One would assume she’s heard of the “kill list” at the very least. She may not speak ill of her party’s leader and president that uses such power, but she has to have heard of this controversial policy, right? Independent journalist Luke Rudkowski recently asked the chairwoman about the prospect of Mitt Romney, if elected president, using this authority Obama has claimed. Wasserman-Schultz, who is presumably an expert at deflecting reporters’ questions given she’s the DNC chair, treats the question as if it were a far-flung conspiracy theory, claiming she’s never heard of any “kill list.”

Others have commented on how remarkable this admission – or arrogance — was coming from a top official. Whether she truly does not know what the “kill list” is or she believes she can get away with lying about not knowing, either way it signals an overall lack of broad, nationwide familiarity with America’s drones strikes and the deep questions and implications that linger.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) reports the topics for Monday’s debate include “America’s Role in the World,” “The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism,” and “Our Longest War—Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Drone use falls into all three categories. CPD claims part of its mission is to offer “the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

For his part, surely Schieffer, as a reporter like Rudkowski, aims to inform the public on what they need to know to make such an important decision. Schieffer told TV Guide in one of his few comments about the debate he will moderate that being picked for such important role is “one of those things that makes me say, ‘Boy, I’m glad I’m a reporter.’”

Mr. Schieffer, what better way to live up to a high journalistic standard than to press Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on how they will or will not wield the power of judge, jury and executioner the next four years?

For more on drones, watch War Costs’ video accompaniment of the Stanford/NYU report, “Living Under Drones,” below. Visit War Costs on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s Long Past Time to Admit: The Military Solution in Afghanistan Has Failed

9:36 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by John Amick

Sunday, October 7, marks the 11th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, now the longest war in U.S. history. This date provides an opportunity to take stock of what a tragic calamity this war is over a decade after its start, and to examine, once again, why military solutions are not effective in solving deep, systemic complexities of a country like Afghanistan.

Most immediately, the conditions look more dire than ever. The failed troop surge that started in 2009 is over. America officials are giving up hope for reconciliation with the Taliban. More Americans and NATO soldiers are dying from rising insider attacks at the hands of Afghan soldiers, leading to talk of a possible early NATO withdrawal. The arbitrary exit date from Afghanistan is still set for the end of 2014, though no one in Washington can explain the plan for a gradual drawdown or really any strategy for ending the war at this point. 

Long term, the numbers of dead, wounded and dollars allocated as a result of this war are staggering:

- An estimated 20,000-plus dead Afghan civilians

- 2,000 dead American troops, and over 1,000 more coalition troop fatalities

- 18,000 wounded NATO troops

- 1,600 American amputees (from Afghanistan and Iraq wars)

- Hundreds of thousands of vets dealing post-traumatic stress disorder

- $1.2 trillion — $2 billion per week – spent

- At least $55 billion in estimated veteran health care costs ahead, as thousands of vets continue to wait for benefits to materialize

President Obama, members of Congress and Pentagon officials can posture about the sacrifices of troops in this war and how we all must support them now more than ever. Such declarations are an insult to anyone who was sent to this quagmire and now must deal with what is too often the shattered wreckage that is post-war life. What do veterans get when they come back from war? The backend of a 800,000-plus backlog of other veterans waiting for disability benefits; the average wait for a response to a disability claim is about 260 days. In addition, the rates of military suicides, homelessness and unemployment are all at or near record highs. It’s tragic what many veterans face upon return. If government officials put as much effort into caring for troops’ well-being after returning from wars as they do for exploiting them before and during combat, these problems may not be so monumental. 

As Americans, now is the time to drive home the point with our elected and military officials that throwing troops and cash at historically complicated, troubled areas of the world, like Afghanistan, is not the answer. It has failed time and again.

This goes without mentioning the trillions spent in the last decade on this war and another failed military adventure, the Iraq war. As America’s economy, infrastructure and general welfare of its citizens rapidly declines, how can we not point to flippant war making and profligate Pentagon spending as primary culprits? What about needs at home? Instead of more overseas exploits, officials need to realize our own country is in desperate need of the attention and resources they have squandered this past decade. 

Poll after poll signals a complete loss of appetite among the American public for much more of this war. Long ago, American officials decided they need not heed the will of the electorate when it comes to sustained, reckless use of military force.

So what now as we wait for 2014? Those in the halls of power who desperately seek a camera and microphone to offer more empty platitudes will get their way. Afghan civilians will go about their lives, as they’ve seen invading empires come and go, unable to control the region, for centuries. Troops will continue to follow aimless orders. More anger and frustration in Afghanistan will build, meaning more civilians and troops will die.

We as the American public have a choice beyond voicing our disapproval to pollsters. We can elect candidates who have learned lessons from the last decade and are not so quick to try and solve complex international problems with invasions, occupations and drone strikes. We can realize that if we want to bring this thing to an end, we have speak up and mobilize. This is unacceptable, for the Afghan people, for all troops asked to die so a few can control the world, to the families of those who won’t come home, to all Americans that feel the effects of a country more dedicated to war than its people.

You Can Be A Patriot or a Profiteer…But You Can’t Be Both.

1:51 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by Derrick Crowe

This week, the three military contractors that do the most business with the Pentagon announced their quarterly profits for 2012. Their profits continue to grow while they push Washington, D.C. to protect their budgets at the expense of the rest of us.

Here’s the breakdown so far for this year:

This week’s announcement raises a fundamental question: Should people and companies be allowed to make huge profits from war? Even raising this question in today’s environment may seem trite, but we used to have different answers than those that prevail in modern-day Washington, D.C.

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How to Honor Rush Limbaugh on International Women’s Day (VIDEO)

5:42 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-Authored by Jesse Lava

As of this writing, 49 sponsors have pulled out of the Rush Limbaugh show after his repeated demeaning remarks about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. But of course, this isn’t the first time Rush has slandered women. Or the second. Or the fifth. Or the tenth. He makes a career out of enflaming misogynistic (not to mention xenophobic, racist, and classist) passions.

So with today being International Women’s Day, we at Brave New Foundation are celebrating Rush Limbaugh with a mash-up of some of his greatest hits on women:

Anyone who wants to contact Rush’s dwindling number of sponsors to demand that they withdraw their support can find a good list here. Can each of us put another nail in the coffin of Rush’s career?

Are the Koch Brothers Funding Rush Limbaugh?

2:07 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Jesse Lava

Just in time for the release of Brave New Foundation’s new film, Koch Brothers Exposed, Rush Limbaugh has thrown in with Charles and David Koch in their letter war with Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. No surprise there; Rush has made his fortune defending the rich and powerful against the 99%. But does Rush actually have a vested interest in the Koch brothers’ success?

The letter war started when Messina sent a fundraising letter saying the billionaire brothers bankroll “Tea Party extremism” and manipulate oil prices to buttress their energy business. The Kochs responded that Obama was treading on their “right to free speech.” (To them, I guess, being criticized by the president is tantamount to being arrested for sedition.) Team Obama shot back again, and here we are.

Rush has taken to the airwaves and lauded the Kochs. “This is how you do it,” he says. And on the surface, the reason for Rush’s apologetics is straightforward enough: he’s a man of the Right, and so are the Koch brothers. But below the surface of this defense lies a much more complex and insidious truth. The fact is that Rush needs the Kochs,and the Kochs need Rush.

Limbaugh is, fundamentally, a mouthpiece for conservative propaganda. He’s not a researcher. He’s not a grassroots organizer. He’s a mouthpiece. And where would he be without propaganda to spout? He has to get his ideas from somewhere. He can’t feed the right-wing echo chamber that’s hijacking our democracy if someone isn’t feeding him first. That’s where the Kochs come in.

The video we made with Sen. Bernie Sanders reveals the Kochs’ general method, whether Limbaugh is involved or not: fund an army of right-wing organizations so that politicians and pundits know exactly what to say:

Read the rest of this entry →

How Does the 1% Exploit America? Find Out in 1 Minute (VIDEO)

3:52 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Even in an Occupy world, most Americans don’t know exactly how the 1% does what it does. The mainstream media hasn’t explained it, and the 1% likes things that way.

That’s why we’ve created a new video series unmasking those in the 1% who are exploiting the 99%—name by name, fact by fact. Each short video—one minute apiece—lays out the truth about a different tycoon. These aren’t opinions; these are facts, condensed into bite-sized chunks. Occupy has already revealed the country’s widespread outrage at the 1%; now it’s time for the plutocracy’s dirty deeds to be common knowledge.

The best part? Brave New Foundation’s audience chose the people we’re highlighting. We solicited suggestions on nominees, narrowed them down to 30, and let our audience vote on which ones they thought deserved to be exposed. The new videos represent five of the top vote-getters, with more videos on the way for the rest. Here’s one:

Of course, the 1% would like to keep its activities shrouded in secrecy. Hiding behind complicated phraseology like “collateralized debt obligation” makes it hard for the public to bust you. But you don’t have to be a financier to understand how these guys operate. Our first set of videos gives it straight on Rob Walton of Walmart, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Pete Peterson of the Blackstone Group, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp.

Little by little, the 99% is chipping away at the 1%’s power. Watch the video series to get the basics on how that power is being wielded.

VIDEO: Lobbyist Poses as Mechanic in Anti-Union Super Bowl Ad

5:18 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

America just got rickrolled.

There we were last week, innocently partaking in the annual testosterone-fest that is the Super Bowl, when we were treated to an ad featuring a group of supposed auto mechanics lamenting that they never voted for the union they’re in. But look closely. One of these “mechanics” is sporting a gold watch, manicured hands, and a brand new shirt. That’s because he’s not a mechanic, or even an actor.

He’s Washington lobbyist Rick Berman.

Berman is a gun-for-hire—nicknamed Dr. Evil—who specializes in creating nonprofit front groups to push corporate interests. His clients have included the likes of Phillip Morris, Coca Cola, and Tyson’s Foods. But you wouldn’t know it hearing the names of the organizations he starts. The Employment Policies Institute? They fight minimum wage increases. The American Beverage Institute? They go after Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And the gem of an organization linked to the Super Bowl ad is the Center for Union Facts.

Like other Berman fronts, the Center for Union Facts lists no staff on its website. But it does offer up a lot of false information about labor unions, using distorted statistics to paint their staffers as a bunch of corrupt thugs out to steal workers’ hard-earned money. Read the rest of this entry →

What the Koch brothers say online but won’t say under oath

5:26 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Why will Charles and David Koch produce a video about their position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and not testify before Congress about it? The Koch brothers have refused to answer questions about how they stand to profit from the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile long boondoggle that would cut through six states and damage American homes and farmland.

The Koch brothers have an attack-dog website of their own, KochFacts.com, which they have used defensively and reflexively to attack me and others who’ve questioned or investigated the Koch brothers’ vast $100 billion business. The Koch brothers refuse to testify in Congress about their interest in the pipeline, but they’ll make a web video asserting their innocence.

We took the Kochs’ video retreat and added a few facts from the historical record.

Maybe the Koch brothers prefer to let their allies in Congress speak for them? House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Ed Whitfield got $15,000 in donations from Koch Industries. Is he doing the Koch brothers bidding? Read the rest of this entry →

Hauling the Koch brothers into Congress

3:59 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Imagine Charles and David Koch testifying, under oath, in Congress.

Even though the billionaire oil industry brothers continue trying to dodge accountability, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) invited the Koch brothers to testify and answer a few simple questions about how the Kochs are positioned to gain financially by the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a 1,700-mile long boondoggle that would make the Koch brothers even richer.

There’s ample evidence linking the Kochs’ business to the Canadian tar sands, which is the dirtiest energy in North America. Indeed, the Koch brothers’ stand to be among the pipeline’s biggest beneficiaries. Even the Koch brothers’ website confesses to being a party to tar sands oil.

The Koch brothers are doing whatever they can to avoid testifying in Congress, despite the fact that the Kochs informed the Canadian government of their “direct and substantial” interest in the pipeline. Waxman has been trying to get answers from the Koch brothers since last spring, but the Kochs have not cooperated.

At the same time, the Kochs’ allies in Congress are doing their best to stonewall oversight. This outcome doesn’t surprise me one bit given the Koch brothers’ near-monopoly on the influential and powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to the Los Angeles Times, Koch Industries and its employees are the single largest oil and gas donors to the committee. They’ve contributed $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats. Talk about the best democracy money can buy! Read the rest of this entry →

Are the Koch brothers teaching you?

12:56 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

What’s happening to academia in Florida demands national attention. Billionaires Charles and David Koch are infringing on intellectual freedom and independence in colleges and universities. It’s an old fashioned quid pro quo where the Koch brothers get allied professors who’ll preach Ayn Rand, supply side economic policies and the values of the 19th century Guilded Age to students and the college gets some funding.

Every year, thousands of individuals move through the Koch-supported classes, lectures and fields of study, which in their totality amount to an ideological assembly line bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. There are Koch-funded agreements at more than 150 American colleges and universities.

“The Koch brothers have paid tens of millions of dollars to get their point of view instilled in classrooms, amongst faculty members and in students,” said Cary Nelson, President of the American Association of University Professors. “Programs they start tend to be one point of view only.”

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