Category: Military

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson teaches many lessons about our empire

| December 27, 2015 | Reply
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson teaches many lessons about our empire

This interview sums it up for me. The last couple of minutes are as sobering as they are true. It might take a revolution . . .

The former national security advisor to the Reagan administration, who spent years as an assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell during both Bush administrations reflects on the sad but honest reflection on what America has become as he exposes the unfixable corruption inside the establishment and the corporate interests driving foreign policy.


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More on endless and increasing American warmongering

| March 27, 2015 | 1 Reply

Alternet gives us real numbers on the cost of endless warmongering:

President Obama and Senator John McCain, who have clashed on almost every conceivable issue, do agree on one thing: the Pentagon needs more money. Obama wants to raise the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2016 by $35 billion more than the caps that exist under current law allow. McCain wants to see Obama his $35 billion and raise him $17 billion more. Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees attempted to meet Obama’s demands by pressing to pour tens of billions of additional dollars into the uncapped supplemental war budget.

What will this new avalanche of cash be used for? A major ground war in Iraq? Bombing the Assad regime in Syria? A permanent troop presence in Afghanistan? More likely, the bulk of the funds will be wielded simply to take pressure off the Pentagon’s base budget so it can continue to pay for staggeringly expensive projects like the F-35 combat aircraft and a new generation of ballistic missile submarines. Whether the enthusiastic budgeteers in the end succeed in this particular maneuver to create a massive Pentagon slush fund, the effort represents a troubling development for anyone who thinks that Pentagon spending is already out of hand.


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War on Terror: The medicine is worse than the disease

| March 27, 2015 | Reply

Common Dreams reports:

In their joint report— Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror—Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concluded that this number is staggering, with at least 1.3 million lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone since the onset of the war following September 11, 2001.

According to Gould’s forward, co-authored with Dr. Tim Takaro, the public is purposefully kept in the dark about this toll.

“A politically useful option for U.S. political elites has been to attribute the on-going violence to internecine conflicts of various types, including historical religious animosities, as if the resurgence and brutality of such conflicts is unrelated to the destabilization cause by decades of outside military intervention,” they write. “As such, under-reporting of the human toll attributed to ongoing Western interventions, whether deliberate of through self-censorship, has been key to removing the ‘fingerprints’ of responsibility.”


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Blank check war

| February 26, 2015 | Reply

From a mass emailing I received this morning from Rep. Alan Grayson:

So we had a hearing a week ago on ISIS (“we” being the House Foreign Affairs Committee), and the witnesses were three experts on U.S. policy in the Middle East, all dues-paying members of the Military-Industrial Complex. They were James Jeffrey, who was Deputy Chief of Mission at our embassy in Iraq; Rick Brennan, a political scientist at the Rand Corp.; and Dafna Rand, who was on the National Security Council staff. The White House had just released the President’s draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS, and I felt that I needed a good translator, so I asked them what the ISIS war authorization meant. Their answers were chilling: the ISIS war authorization means whatever the President wants it to mean. If you don’t believe me, just listen to them:
GRAYSON: Section 2(c) of the President’s draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force reads as follows: “The authority granted in subsection A [to make war on ISIS and forces ‘alongside’ ISIS] does not authorize the use of US armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.” Ambassador Jeffrey, what does ‘enduring’ mean?
JEFFREY: My answer would be a somewhat sarcastic one: “Whatever the Executive at the time defines ‘enduring’ as.” And I have a real problem with that.
GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan?
BRENNAN: I have real problems with that also. I don’t know what it means. I can just see the lawyers fighting over the meaning of this. But more importantly, if you’re looking at committing forces for something that you are saying is either [a] vital or important interest of the United States, and you get in the middle of a battle, and all of a sudden, are you on offense, or are you on defense? What happens if neighbors cause problems? Wars never end the way that they were envisioned. And so I think that that’s maybe a terrible mistake to put in the AUMF.
GRAYSON: Dr. Rand?
RAND: Enduring, in my mind, specifies an open-endedness, it specifies lack of clarity on the particular objective at hand.
GRAYSON: Dr. Rand, is two weeks ‘enduring’?
RAND: I would leave that to the lawyers to determine exactly.
GRAYSON: So your answer is [that] you don’t know, right? How about two months?
RAND: I don’t know. Again, I think it would depend on the particular objective, ‘enduring’ in my mind is not having a particular military objective in mind.

[More . . . ]


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Lee Camp: The corporate media manufactures public consent for war.

| October 12, 2014 | Reply

Lee Camp nails this issue:The corporate media is manufacturing public consent for war.


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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse sets the record straight on climate change

| July 30, 2014 | Reply

I couldn’t agree more with what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had to say on climate change. Here’s an excerpt:

Let me tell you some of the government agencies who are so-called colluding together. How about NASA? We trust them to send our astronauts into space. We trust them to deliver a rover the size of an S.U.V. to the surface of Mars safely and drive it around, sending data and pictures back from Mars to us. You think these people know what they’re talking about? … How about the United States Navy? The commander in chief of our Pacific Command? Is he colluding when he says that? …

If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it. So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.

Now the extraordinary part. Here is the proposed resolution:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that global climate change is occurring and will continue to pose ongoing risks and challenges to the people and the Government of the United States.

Here is the full resolution. 

Despite Whitehouse’s argument, however, the resolution — which required unanimous consent — failed with Inhofe’s objection. So as demonstrated by that non-action, the Senate has no official position on whether climate change is real or not, much less whether it poses a threat to American citizens.

Here is the entire proposed resolution, which failed:

[More . . . ]


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Chris Hedges v. Sam Harris on Israel

| July 30, 2014 | 1 Reply

Everyone agrees on one thing. The situation in Israel is horrific. Something should be done. We disagree on the proper frame for understanding the situation and what needs to be done. The debate is an endless shifting of frames, much like the debate on abortion. The logic of the debates comes after it is too late for logic, because it is the underlying assumptions that determine one’s position. I offer two contrasting positions.

Chris Hedges has recently written of the need to implode the myth of Israel:

Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.

In contrast, Sam Harris has recently discussed the need and right of Israel to defend itself:

Needless to say, in defending its territory as a Jewish state, the Israeli government and Israelis themselves have had to do terrible things. They have, as they are now, fought wars against the Palestinians that have caused massive losses of innocent life. More civilians have been killed in Gaza in the last few weeks than militants. That’s not a surprise because Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Occupying it, fighting wars in it, is guaranteed to get woman and children and other noncombatants killed. And there’s probably little question over the course of fighting multiple wars that the Israelis have done things that amount to war crimes. They have been brutalized by this process—that is, made brutal by it. But that is largely the due to the character of their enemies. [Note: I was not giving Israel a pass to commit war crimes. I was making a point about the realities of living under the continuous threat of terrorism and of fighting multiple wars in a confined space.]

Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done. [Note: I was not saying that because they are more careful than we have been at our most careless, the Israelis are above criticism. War crimes are war crimes.]


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Veterans weigh in on whether Afghanistan and Iraq invasions were worthwhile

| March 30, 2014 | Reply

In a poll conducted by the Washington Post, veterans weighed in on their attitudes regarding the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These poll results are an embarrassment for those politicians who urged Americans to go to war.

Here’s the bottom line:

Despite their overwhelming pride and negligible regret, the veterans look back on the necessity of the conflicts with decidedly mixed feelings. Only 53 percent of them believe the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, and just 44 percent say the same for Iraq. Slightly more than a third — almost 900,000 vets — “strongly” believe the Iraq war was not worth it.

Those figures are moderately higher than the population as a whole, but they nonetheless reveal a fundamental nuance in attitudes among the all-volunteer military: Many among this generation of vets regard their service as a profession — almost half signed up intending to serve for at least 20 years — and they have divorced their individual missions from the worthiness of the overall wars.

“Right, wrong or indifferent, it was something we signed up to do,” said Kenneth Harmon, a retired Marine master sergeant who served for 23 years and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. “It was our job. We got orders. We followed them.”

In other words, about half of the soldiers thought that each of these wars was not worth while. That is a stunning percentage for wars that took such a physical, emotional and financial toll on the United States. For instance:

More than 600,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have become partially or totally disabled from physical or psychological wounds are receiving lifelong financial support from the government, a figure that could grow substantially as new ailments are diagnosed and the VA processes a large claims backlog.

Further, anyone who knows anything about cognitive dissonance sees other huge problems with these results. Those who volunteer for even worthless endeavors will be inclined to say that those endeavors are worthwhile. Service in a fake war for “freedom” for which one has volunteered to sign up, leavse one’s family and is personally endangered falls into the “Effort justification paradigm”:

Dissonance is aroused whenever individuals voluntarily engage in an unpleasant activity to achieve some desired goal. Dissonance can be reduced by exaggerating the desirability of the goal. Aronson & Mills had individuals undergo a severe or mild “initiation” in order to become a member of a group. In the severe-initiation condition, the individuals engaged in an embarrassing activity. The group they joined turned out to be very dull and boring. The individuals in the severe-initiation condition evaluated the group as more interesting than the individuals in the mild-initiation condition.

Those veterans taking the survey would also be subject to the confirmation bias, which is a form of cognitive dissonance:

Reaffirm already held beliefs: Congeniality bias (also referred to as Confirmation Bias) refers to how people read or access information that affirms their already established opinions, rather than referencing material that contradicts them.[21] For example, a person who is politically conservative might only read newspapers and watch news commentary that is from conservative news sources. This bias appears to be particularly apparent when faced with deeply held beliefs, i.e., when a person has ‘high commitment’ to their attitudes.

In short, when asked whether the war was worthwhile, many soldiers will seek to find reasons it was worthwhile.  Who wants to admit that they spent a huge part of their lives in a war that was a mistake? In light of all these reasons why veterans would be inclined to find that these wars were worthwhile even while they weren’t, almost half of them maintained that they were not worthwhile.

There is an even bigger problem with this survey. It is a form of sleight of hand. What the soldiers think about their service has no relation to whether their service furthered any stated national goal. Politicians were told that the soldiers were going to war to “protect America,” and to “protect our freedom.” Numerous other objectives were stated by American politicians. That was after we were told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which it didn’t. For the war in Afghanistan, we were told that we needed to destroy the base of Al Qaeda. Where is any evidence that any of these many objectives have been achieved? In the case of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda merely shifted to other countries, to the extent that Al Qaeda is a meaningful entity at all.

I would challenge the news media to develop a meaningful metric regarding the reasons that were stated for these wars at the beginning of each of these wars. Once we gather this evidence, we should provide it to our veterans and only then let them weigh in. My suspicion is that we didn’t accomplish any of the stated goals for either of these wars. Tell this information to the veterans first, and then ask them whether the wars were worthwhile. Warn them that this question is a MUCH different question than any of the following:

1. Did it make you feel good to wear a soldier’s uniform?
2. Did you want to believe that the war you fought in was worthwhile?
3. Did you develop a sense of camaraderie with your fellow soldiers during the war?
4. Did you have some dangerous/exciting experiences during the war?
5. Would you prefer to believe, aside from any evidence that these wars were worthwhile?


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True war heroes

| March 29, 2014 | Reply

Many of us “Support the U.S. Troops” in the Middle East even though we have no idea what they are doing on a day to day basis. There is no significant news reporting from the areas where the soldiers do whatever they do, so many Americans fills this vacuum with hopeful imagination. I don’t. I assume the worst. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and there is no sunshine where the U.S. military is operating in the Middle East. At any time over the past ten years, you could read 100 consecutive days of most any local newspaper, and you wouldn’t know anything about the day to day conduct of members of the U.S. military. You would barely know that we were at war. There have been no meaningful photos and no stories to advise us of what is really going on, where our heavily armed military encounters civilians.

Nonetheless, in our ignorance, we declare ALL troops to be heroes, clapping for them at baseball games and other social events, having no idea what they are actually doing. Imagine honoring any other profession, not having any self-critical information with regard to that person’s activities. “Ladies and Gentlemen, let me hear a round of applause for Joe, who is a great musician,”imagine everyone in the room clapping, even though none of them had ever heard of Joe, and none of them have heard him play even one note.

Sometimes we do learn what a soldier has actually done, and sometimes it is a actually the story of a hero. Take the case of Hugh Thompson, who stepped up to do what was right, at his own risk:

Returning to the My Lai area at around 0900 after refueling, he noticed that the people he had marked were now dead. Out in a paddy field beside a dike 200 metres (660 ft) south of the village, he marked the location of a wounded young Vietnamese woman. Thompson and his crew watched from a low hover as Captain Ernest Medina (commanding officer of C Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment) came up to the woman, prodded her with his foot, and then shot and killed her.

[More . . . ]


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