davidswanson's blog

2017
Mar
21

Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump

Tag: Impeachment

The last time a U.S. president faced a strong movement for impeachment for actual impeachable offenses, one of the major road blocks was fear that an unpopular vice president would take his place, and this road block was removed when Spiro Agnew resigned in the face of criminal charges of cheating on his taxes.

As every American is aware, including even those who have never heard of impeachment, the primary problem with impeaching Trump is the horror of a president Pence. For a long time I tried to explain to people that this was stupid. Pence is already running the show. Impeachment is about placing the executive branch under the rule of law, not about the trivial matter of what individual holds what office for a few years. A President Pence with a Congress that impeaches people would be better than King Donald with Congress acting as court jesters. Impeachment and removal from office are two different things. Et cetera. It doesn't matter how many reasons you provide, the U.S. public may never support impeachment of Trump as long as Pence is vice president.

I recommend reading a book by Jimmy Breslin about the impeachment of Richard Nixon called How the Good Guys Finally Won. The book is a hagiographic account of then Majority Leader Tip O'Neill's role in pushing the impeachment of Nixon through the Congress. O'Neill does deserve great praise, in fact. It's impossible to imagine any member of Congress fulfilling their oath of office to the same extent today. While we all know that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was rammed through Congress against the will of the people by the House Republican leadership, it's perhaps less known how the House Democratic leadership pushed for the impeachment of Nixon. Members of Congress who moved to impeach Nixon, including the leadership, moved in response to public pressure.

2017
Mar
21

Talk Nation Radio: William Geimer on Why Canada Should Stay Out of Other People's Wars

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/william-geimer-on-why-canada-should-stay-out-of-other-peoples-wars

William Geimer, author, peace activist, is a veteran of the U.S. 82d Airborne Division and Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington and Lee University. After resigning his commission in opposition to the war on Vietnam, he represented conscientious objectors and advised peace groups near Ft. Bragg NC, once representing Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory and Donald Sutherland in negotiations with police. A Canadian citizen, he lives with his wife near Victoria, British Columbia where he is a member of the Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network. He is the author of Canada: The Case for Staying Out of Other People’s Wars and serves as advisor on policy issues of peace and war to Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament and Leader of the Green Party of Canada.   Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

2017
Mar
21

Russia Conspiracists Claim to Possess Reality

Tag: Media

An Associated Press story on Tuesday came with this headline: "Analysis: Reality catching up with Trump on Russia," and began:

"WASHINGTON (AP) — Reality is catching up with President Donald Trump. Hours after Trump dismissed reports that his campaign associates were being scrutinized for colluding with Russia as 'fake news,' FBI Director James Comey confirmed the investigation is real."

Note the slick sophistry here. Trump never denied that there was an investigation. He denied that he colluded with the Russian government to steal the election. But according to the Associated Press, Trump's denial of those charges is disproven by the fact that someone is investigating them.

If you watched the hearing on Monday, you saw Comey asked how the "intelligence" "community" knew that Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to win the election. Comey's answer was nothing but information publicly available for many months, restated as an "assessment." Asked whether the Russian government gave WikiLeaks the Democratic Party emails that showed the DNC sabotaging the Bernie Sanders campaign and denying itself a better shot at winning the general election, Comey said that he "assessed" -- which seemed clearly to mean: speculated based on the absence of any evidence -- that Russia did not do so directly but used a "cutout."

None of this makes it into the AP, which continues:

"The FBI chief also repeatedly insisted there was no evidence to back up Trump's explosive claim that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper. And Adm. Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, knocked down a report about Britain helping President Barack Obama with the alleged surveillance, although the White House had pointed to the report to try to boost Trump's case. Taken together, the disclosures in Monday's lengthy House intelligence committee hearing amounted to an extraordinary undercutting of a president, whose headline-grabbing accusations and Twitter-friendly attacks crumbled quickly under the weight of sworn congressional testimony from some of the nation's top security officials."

Yet, the possibility that the baseless assertions Trump was blurting out were false does nothing whatsoever to prove that the baseless assertions coming from his accusers are true. Nor does this address the comments from NSA whistleblower Bill Binney that the NSA very likely did have material from snooping on Trump for the simple reason that it is systematically snooping on everyone, while the perjurers who deny that to Congress continue to be treated as respectable authorities. Nor is the AP or any other corporate news company addressing the problem of Trump apparently not having access to the U.S. government's information despite being president. Nor is anyone questioning Comey's refusal to mention any details about anyone under investigation now, while he was willing to make public an investigation of Hillary Clinton pre-election at a time when he now claims there was also an investigation of Donald Trump that he chose to keep silent about.

The AP does, however, take the time to inform us that if we disagree with it, we (even those of us pushing for a Trump impeachment on fact-based grounds) are irrational Trump supporters (even as the AP gets around to admitting that no evidence of wrongdoing with Russia has been produced):

"Many of Trump's most ardent supporters are unlikely to be swayed by Monday's spectacle. Still, Trump's credibility and his standing as a reliable ally for his fellow Republicans in Congress are less assured. Even if his advisers are ultimately cleared in the Russia probe, as the White House insists they will be, the investigation could loom over Trump's presidency for months or even years, distracting from the ambitious domestic agenda he's vowed to enact."

AP then cites the media's love for the Russia conspirascandal as evidence of its importance:

"That reality was abundantly clear Monday. Most cable news channels carried Comey and Rogers' five hours of testimony live instead of the first congressional hearing for Neil Gorsuch, Trump's widely praised nominee for the Supreme Court. The Russia hearings came as Trump tried to give a hard sell to Republicans wary of his health care package, a legislative gamble with long-lasting implications for Trump's relationship with his own party."

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” --Karl Rove

2017
Mar
21

Mike Signer: Profile in Cowardice

Tag: Political Ideas

A footnote to the City of Charlottesville's courageous passing of a resolution this week asking Congress to move money from the military to human and environmental needs, rather than the reverse, was the cowardly abstention of Mayor Mike Signer from the vote.

I don't always agree with the other four city council members on everything, or even know enough to have an opinion on much of what they do, but they have all repeatedly been willing to stick their necks out for things they apparently care about for moral reasons. Even Council Member Kathy Galvin, who in my view marred Monday's resolution by adding to it some nonsense about U.S. troops fighting to protect you and your rights (even as we're poorer and have fewer rights with every new war started and never ended) believed things had gotten so bad she would vote aye.

(The Council would have passed the resolution 3-0 without the rah-rah-troops bit that garnered Galvin's vote. I asked Council Member Kristin Szakos whether she herself believed that bit, and she said she imagined most of the troops did. By that logic, the City Council should also declare climate change to be a myth and angels to be real.)

Bob Fenwick and Kristin Szakos had the courage and decency to speak against war and military spending, and Wes Bellamy -- who has never been afraid to speak on anything -- publicly challenged the Mayor on his abstention and the apparent hypocrisy in it. Signer had previously declared Charlottesville a "capital of the resistance" to Trump. But when an opportunity arose to ask Congress to resist Trump's agenda, Signer weaseled out of it.

What were Signer's reasons? They were not what he told us. Szakos had explained publicly at Monday's meeting and at the meeting two weeks earlier what the City Council's policy was on passing resolutions on issues larger than Charlottesville. Signer claimed on Monday not to know about that policy. Clearly he hadn't wanted to know about it, or he would have looked into it during the past two weeks. He declared on Monday that passing a resolution on a national issue would open the door to an endless string of them. So he abstained. And then, within five minutes of the 4-0 vote without him, he joined in a 5-0 vote for a different resolution urging Congress to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- a resolution that did not mention the military but opened the very same door that Signer pretended to be in horror of opening.

Signer also said that he objected to a footnote to a clause that had been in a previous version of the resolution. The fact that the clause was no longer in there ought to have eliminated this objection. In addition, the objection was nothing more than Signer's utter failure to comprehend the report in the footnote. This was the already-deleted clause:

"Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program."

This was the footnote: "'The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,' Political Economy Research Institute,https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update "

Signer's objection was that military spending does produce some jobs, as if the assertion had been that military jobs are not real. Had Signer bothered to ask for guidance he would have learned that the point, rather, was that military spending produces fewer jobs than tax cuts (as well as many fewer jobs than other types of spending). It's literally worse than nothing economically (as well as morally, pragmatically, etc.).

But if Signer's stated reasons for abstaining were transparent nonsense, what were his real reasons? Why would he blissfully ignore Martin Niemöller's famous quote, read to the Council by Adele Roof?

At first glance, one might say that he was courageously defying public opinion, as if anti-democratic stances are noble. Most of the people in the meeting on Monday stood when I asked for a show of support. National polls show support for the position taken in the resolution.

But Signer, I suspect, has a different constituency from the other City Council Members. And I don't just mean his deference to those who funded his high-end campaign, and whose taxes he is so eager to lower (and those in need be damned). I mean that Signer clearly has ambitions for higher office, and he has them within the terminally corrupted Democratic Party.

The elite in this party milk rhetorical opposition to Trump for all it's worth but would clearly prefer 8 years of Trump to replacing him with anyone resembling Bernie Sanders. The elite in this party and their funders are steadfastly speaking against budget cuts to social programs while refusing to mention even the existence of the U.S. military. This inept "resistance" is what led a Trump fan to stumble into Monday's meeting and declare his opposition to big gummint, despite the fact that Trump's budget proposal proposes the same size government as last year. How would anyone know any different, with the people Signer aspires to join denouncing cuts rather than opposing the moving of money from everything decent and good to the military?

When the Titanic was going down, the band continued to play music, and a handful of political ancestors of our mayor maneuvered to get themselves front-row seats for the concert, contented grins on their faces.

2017
Mar
21

City of Charlottesville Passes Resolution Asking Congress to Fund Human and Environmental Needs, Not Military Expansion

Tag: Peace and War, Public Budgets

Charlottesville, Va., City Council Monday evening, March 20, 2017, passed a resolution opposing President Donald Trump's budget proposal, which shifts funding to the military from many other programs. The draft resolution brought up for consideration reads as follows. It was passed with a few alterations. The final version should soon be posted online by the City, as should video of the meeting in which it was read aloud and discussed.

Fund Human and Environmental Needs, Not Military Expansion 

Whereas President  Donald J. Trump has proposed to  divert $54 billion  from human and environmental spending at home and abroad in order to increase the military budget, bringing military spending to well over 60% of federal discretionary spending; and

Whereas the citizens of Charlottesville already pay  $112.62 million in federal taxes  for military expenditures, an amount that each year could fund locally: 210 elementary school teacher salaries;  127 new clean energy jobs; 169 infrastructure jobs;  94 supported employment opportunities for returning citizens; 1,073 preschool seats for children in Head Start; medical care for 953 military veterans; 231 college scholarships for CHS graduates; 409 Pell Grants for Charlottesville students; healthcare for 3,468 low-income children;  enough wind power to power 8,312 households; healthcare for 1,998 low-income adults;  AND solar panels to provide electricity for 5,134 households.

Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program;[1] and

Whereas our community’s human and environmental needs are critical, and our ability to respond to those needs depends on federal funding for education, welfare, public safety, and infrastructure maintenance, transit and environmental protection; and

Whereas the President’s proposal would reduce foreign aid and diplomacy, which help to prevent wars and the victimization of people who become refugees in our  community, and 121 retired U.S. generals have written a letter opposing these cuts;

Be it therefore resolved that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, urges the United States Congress, and our representative in particular, to reject the proposal to cut funding for human and environmental needs in favor of military budget increases, and in fact to begin moving in the opposite direction, to increase funding  for human and environmental needs and reduce the military budget.  

1. "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,"  Political Economy Research Institute,https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update

*****

Passage of the resolution followed the proposal of a different version by a large coalition of local groups.

At Monday's meeting, the resolution passed by a vote of 4-0, with one abstention.

City Council Member Bob Fenwick, a veteran of the U.S. war in Vietnam with two sons veterans of that in Afghanistan, said that cutting back on military adventurism makes people better off. "We have had enough of war," he declared.

City Council Member Kristin Szakos drafted the resolution version above.

Also voting in favor were Council Members Wes Bellamy and Kathy Galvin.

In my view, this is an important statement to Congress, the country, and the world from our city council which has chosen to represent us. Charlottesville did not make a familiar and misleading statement exclusively against spending cuts, which would have fueled predictable and irrelevant demands for smaller government. Charlottesville addressed the reality of money being moved from everywhere else to the military, and urged the deeply moral action of moving money in the opposite direction.

It's worth noting that the assertion that military spending is an economic drain is a reflection of the fact that tax cuts produce more jobs than military spending. Military spending produces fewer jobs than does never taxing money in the first place. The study cited above does not, of course, assert that military jobs do not exist.

2017
Mar
19

Help "The End of War" Win

Tag: Peace and War

This wonderful song is nominated to win an important award.

Go here to vote for it.

2017
Mar
17

Trump’s Budget Counts on Us to Be Dumber Than He

Tag: Peace and War

Donald Trump does not always in every way appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed. Yet there is great wisdom to be found in some of his assumptions of stupidity on the part of the rest of us. If I act like a real jackass, he thinks, the media will give me tons of free airtime, and I'll be nominated. If I pretend to oppose corrupt power, the Democrats will nominate the living embodiment of corrupt power, and I'll be president. If I cut everything that everybody values out of the budget but move the money to the military, my spineless war-adoring opponents will tie one hand behind their backs before they even try to put up a fight.

Is he right about us? Here's Richard Trumka, top labor leader in the United States, opposing Trump's budget at length, without ever mentioning the existence of the U.S. military. Here's the Sierra Club, top environmental group, doing the same. Here are 100 Christian "faith leaders" doing the same thing.

For all anyone hearing from these and countless other liberal organizations and interest groups outraged by particular budget cuts would know, the money being taken away from various agencies and departments is being put into mythical tax cuts. Despite the fact that Trump proposed the same sized budget as last year's, with a huge amount of money moved from almost everywhere else into the military, his one-handed opponents are regurgitating their familiar old shouts of "no cuts!" which translate into many ears as "big gummint!"

A madman, who has just been handed the most expensive military ever to exist, is proposing to make it much larger, is drone-murdering at a pace to shame his predecessor, is proposing to launch a war on North Korea, has openly trumpeted practices of stealing oil and killing families, and unless he starts a nuclear war will kill far more people with his budget than with any weapons. But try finding opposition to war in the March for Science or the Women's March. Only after a major public effort did we compel the People's Climate March to mention a preference for peace over war.

Most of the Democrats in Congress, and even more so the media coverage of them, are following the same line as the liberal organizations. Schumer gives no indication that the military exists at all. Pelosi gives a brief nod to her desire that it remain somewhere around its current gargantuan size, pushing the idea that it's good for us but that we wouldn't want to have too much of that good. Sanders has a reasonable statement on his website, but news reports depict him as droning on about tax cuts for billionaires and cuts in services, as if that were what was happening here. Someone should ask Sanders to compare the wealth of U.S. billionaires to the size of U.S. military spending in a single year, and then in 10 years.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus, even if it does nothing other than good statements, cannot always be counted on even for that, but did come through this time and should be thanked and credited for it, as should Barbara Lee.

This disastrous budget may need 60 senators' support. It may be doomed. It may offer a golden opportunity to educate the public on the tradeoffs between militarism and useful spending. But if the general run of the so-called opposition has its way, we will emerge from this process with much of the public imagining that a struggle exists between libertarians and socialists, that non-military programs are expensive, and that the military is free. Also that bipartisanship is extinct:

If we're going to stop this disastrous trend, it's going to take building up local pressure. Some cities are stepping in to lead.

2017
Mar
16

City to Vote on Resolution Opposing Trump's Budget

Tag: Peace and War, Public Budgets

Charlottesville, Va., City Council has on its agenda for Monday, March 20th, a vote on a resolution opposing President Donald Trump's proposal to shift $54 billion from human and environmental needs to military spending. The resolution calls on Congress to shift funds in the opposite direction.

The resolution is endorsed by Charlottesville Veterans For Peace, Charlottesville Amnesty International, World Beyond War, Just World Books, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, Candidate for Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Fogel, Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America, Indivisible Charlottesville, heARTful Action, Together Cville, Clergy and Laity United for Peace and Justice.

Trump's budget proposal would cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 31%, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 13%, the State Department by 28%, the Department of Agriculture by 21%, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by 100%, the Institute of Museum and Library Services by 100%, and the National Endowment for the Arts by 100%.

Military spending would rise by $54 billion to something over 60% of discretionary spending, a percentage not seen since the Cold War. Then, according to reports, Trump will ask for $33 billion more off-the-books as a supplemental budget for the current (not the next) fiscal year for the military to spend on programs that candidate Trump denounced such as the F-35, and including $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to spend building a wall and detaining and deporting immigrants. Assuming a similar future supplement to the fiscal year 2018 budget, actual discretionary spending could see over 65% go to militarism.

Trump's budget proposal does not fund any of the infrastructure he promised during his election campaign.

"The Sierra Club supports full funding of the Environmental Protection Agency so that it can adequately protect communities through enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Toxic Substances Control Act and other important laws," said John Cruickshank, Chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club.

"We cannot look away any longer. Last week ground troops entered Syria and the press barely mentioned it. The week before, Pathfinders returned from combat in Africa. Who knew we are fighting in Africa? We have military deployed to over 150 countries. How many countries are there?" asked Daniel Saint of the Charlottesville chapter of Veterans For Peace. "President Obama, in his last State of the Union Address, proudly claimed that the United States spends more than the next eight countries combined--China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom, India, Germany, and Japan. Combined! Now Trump wants to dramatically expand adding another $54 billion. It costs $12 thousand to drill a well bringing fresh water to a village with no clean source of drinking water. For just the budget increase proposed by Trump, we could provide 4.5 million new wells across Africa, India and Latin America. Imagine if children from around the world grew up with a vision of the United States as bringing clean drinking water rather than bomb fragments stamped 'made in the USA.' Would our children and grandchildren be safer with new fresh wells or more nuclear weapons?"

"Indivisible Charlottesville, along with thousands of Indivisible organizations across America, is committed to resisting the Trump administration's efforts to reverse the progress of the last century, and to building a diverse country that can face the challenges of the next one," said David Singerman. "Trump plans to destroy the programs that let Virginians drink clean water, breathe clean air, live in affordable housing, attend some of the world's best universities, and sleep without fear of chemical and industrial accidents. He would do this in order to pile money into what's already the strongest military in history, and in order to cruelly build walls across our borders and end aid programs that give succor to the most vulnerable people in the world."

"Not only is the military the wrong place to put more money," said David Swanson, director of World Beyond War, "but nobody can even say where all that money goes. The Department of so-called Defense, which President Trump says has created a hornet's nest of the Middle East, is the one department never audited."

"We have known for many years that the Department's business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty," Chairs John McCain (R-AZ) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees said recently in a joint statement. "The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability."

"If we can stop a Muslim ban," added Swanson, "we can stop an immoral budget too!"

A CNN poll on March 1-4 asked for opinions on this proposal: "Increase military spending by cutting funding for the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense agencies." Nationally, 58% disapproved, and 41% approved.

Charlottesville provides an example of how federal budget priorities are out of line with popular opinion. Using the calculations of the National Priorities Project at CostofWar.com, "Every hour, taxpayers in Charlottesville, Virginia are paying $12,258 for Department of Defense in 2016." That's $107.4 million in a year. Much of military spending is in other departments. The National Priorities Project provides the numbers for a few of them: $4.1 million from Charlottesville for nuclear weapons, $2.6 million for weapons for foreign governments, $12.6 million for "homeland security," and $6.9 million for the 2016 off-the-books extra slush fund. That's $133.6 million, not counting various other expenses, and not counting the extra $54 billion or an additional $30 billion, which would bring the cost to Charlottesville up by another $16 million to $149.6 million.

According to National Priorities Project, that is enough money to provide 1,850 Elementary School Teachers for 1 Year, or 2,019 Clean Energy Jobs Created for 1 Year, or 2,692 Infrastructure Jobs Created for 1 Year, or 1,496 Jobs with Supports Created in High Poverty Communities for 1 Year, or 16,788 Head Start Slots for Children for 1 Year, or 14,479 Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for 1 Year, or 4,504 Scholarships for University Students for 4 Years, or 6,431 Students Receiving Pell Grants of $5,815 for 4 Years, or 63,103 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or 168,519 Households with Wind Power for 1 Year, or 42,024 Adults Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or 104,093 Households with Solar Electricity for 1 Year. Each of these items is more than Charlottesville, which does not have 104,093 households, could possibly use.

The resolution drafted for Charlottesville's City Council follows:

PROPOSED RESOLUTION

Whereas Mayor Mike Signer has declared Charlottesville a capital of resistance to the administration of President Donald Trump.[i]

Whereas President Trump has proposed to move $54 billion from human and environmental spending at home and abroad to military spending[ii], bringing military spending to well over 60% of federal discretionary spending[iii],

Whereas part of helping alleviate the refugee crisis should be ending, not escalating, wars that create refugees[iv],

Whereas President Trump himself admits that the enormous military spending of the past 16 years has been disastrous and made us less safe, not safer[v],

Whereas fractions of the proposed military budget could provide free, top-quality education from pre-school through college[vi], end hunger and starvation on earth[vii], convert the U.S. to clean energy[viii], provide clean drinking water everywhere it's needed on the planet[ix], build fast trains between all major U.S. cities[x], and double non-military U.S. foreign aid rather than cutting it[xi],

Whereas even 121 retired U.S. generals have written a letter opposing cutting foreign aid[xii],

Whereas a December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found that the United States was far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world[xiii],

Whereas a United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world,

Whereas our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent,

Whereas the military is itself the greatest consumer of petroleum we have[xiv],

Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program[xv],

Be it therefore resolved that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, urges the United States Congress to move our tax dollars in exactly the opposite direction proposed by the President, from militarism to human and environmental needs.

 

[i] "Signer Declares City a 'Capital of Resistance' Against Trump, Daily Progress, January 31, 2017, http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/politics/signer-declares-city-a-capital-of-resistance-against-trump/article_12108161-fccd-53bb-89e4-b7d5dc8494e0.html

[ii] "Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending," The New York Times, February 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/us/politics/trump-budget-military.html?_r=0

[iii] This does not include another 6% for the discretionary portion of veterans' care. For a breakdown of discretionary spending in the 2015 budget from the National Priorities Project, see https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states

[iv] "43 Million People Kicked Out of Their Homes," World Beyond War, http://worldbeyondwar.org/43-million-people-kicked-homes / "Europe's Refugee Crisis Was Made in America," The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/europes-refugee-crisis-was-made-in-america

[v] On February 27, 2017, Trump said, "Almost 17 years of fighting in the Middle East . . . $6 trillion we've spent in the Middle East . . . and we're nowhere, actually if you think about it we're less than nowhere, the Middle East is far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago, there's not even a contest . . .  we have a hornet's nest . . . ." http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/02/27/trump_we_spent_6_trillion_in_middle_east_and_we_are_less_than_nowhere_far_worse_than_16_years_ago.html

[vi] "Free College: We Can Afford It," The Washington Post, May 1, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/free-college-we-can-afford-it/2012/05/01/gIQAeFeltT_story.html?utm_term=.9cc6fea3d693

[vii] "The World Only Needs 30 Billion Dollars a Year to Eradicate the Scourge of Hunger," Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000853/index.html

[viii] "Clean Energy Transition Is A $25 Trillion Free Lunch," Clean Technica, https://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/03/clean-energy-transition-is-a-25-trillion-free-lunch / See also: http://www.solutionaryrail.org

[ix] "Clean Water for a Healthy World," UN Environment Program, http://www.unwater.org/wwd10/downloads/WWD2010_LOWRES_BROCHURE_EN.pdf

[x] "Cost of High Speed Rail in China One Third Lower than in Other Countries," The World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/07/10/cost-of-high-speed-rail-in-china-one-third-lower-than-in-other-countries

[xi] Non-military U.S. foreign aid is approximately $25 billion, meaning that President Trump would need to cut it by over 200% to find the $54 billion he proposes to add to military spending

[xii] Letter to Congressional leaders, February 27, 2017, http://www.usglc.org/downloads/2017/02/FY18_International_Affairs_Budget_House_Senate.pdf

[xiii] See http://www.wingia.com/en/services/about_the_end_of_year_survey/global_results/7/33

[xiv] "Fight Climate Change, Not Wars," Naomi Klein, http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2009/12/fight-climate-change-not-wars

[xv] "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update," Political Economy Research Institute, https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update

 

 

UPDATE:

"We have published so many books detailing the terrible consequences of war! We're firmly committed to redirecting as much spending as possible from the military-industrial complex to the urgent needs of people here at home-- and there would still be plenty left over to help communities around the world devastated by our military's actions." 

~ Helena Cobban, CEO, Just World Books"Agencies like the NEA, NEH, and the CPB are about a positive vision for a society where the government makes things better by marshaling our common wealth for public goods. Where we do fund the arts because the arts make our lives better. Where we do fund public broadcasting because it's a critical source for information and music that's not being blatantly sold to us for profit. Where we do fund cultural institutions that improve our communities and help people lead richer, more flourishing lives. Don't believe for one second the line that cutting these programs is about saving money. In the overall federal discretionary budget, the NEA, NEH, and CPB combined represent the equivalent of someone who makes $40,000/year buying one soda per year. The damnedest part of it all is that Trump doesn't seem to have any particular enmity toward public broadcasting or the arts or the Appalachian Regional Commission or the others on the list to be slashed. But he's surrounded by schemers like Steve Bannon who want to blow the whole thing up just so they can see how pretty the shrapnel might be. And by groups like the Heritage Foundation that are more than happy to fill the void and provide a budget blueprint to carry out their demented vision of America."--Nathan Moore, co-organizer with Together Cville

2017
Mar
15

The Problem With the CIA and Drones

Tag: Peace and War

Thanks to a recent Wall Street Journal article, I've been hearing from Democratic partisans that President Trump has done something brand new, and that it amounts to tearing up the War Powers Resolution by giving the CIA the power to make war.

Now, I am seeking to build support for abolishing the CIA, and for impeaching Donald Trump, and for banning weaponized drones. So I'm not exactly a fan of murder by robot or a partisan Republican. And I'm all in favor of any new reasons (fact-based or otherwise) people might find to try to put an end to government killings. But I think there's some confusion we'd be better off without.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to make war, a power it has relinquished since 1941. President George W. Bush went through certain vestigial formalities of lying to Congress and obtaining vague authorizations. President Barack Obama, in launching a war on Libya, intentionally avoided any appearance of Congress having any role whatsoever. He also radically expanded drone wars in several countries (and "special" operations in numerous countries) -- in the case of Yemen predictably escalating it into a wider air and ground war, again without Congress. In Syria and Iraq he used foreign troops, then U.S. "advisors" combined with bombings to inch his way into new wars.

Obama oversaw the creation of the CIA's drone war operations. And while he advertised in the New York Times his role in picking whom to murder, he did not actually give the order each time. He delegated that power to subordinates. The Wall Street Journal's article suggests that Obama never gave the CIA the role of deciding whom to murder. This is contradicted by numerous reports over the years suggesting otherwise, including those claiming that, late in his presidency, Obama took that power away. But even those reports admit that very little is known and nothing officially stated about the CIA's role, and that the CIA has remained closely involved. We also know from a former drone pilot turned whistleblower that the CIA's drone pilots have always actually been Air Force pilots anyway:

"The CIA might be the customer but the air force has always flown it. A CIA label is just an excuse to not have to give up any information. That is all it has ever been."

The one partial transcript we have of a drone murder, out of all the hundreds of transcripts and videos that likely exist, depicts blood thirsty sadists eager to kill. The many thousands of reports we have on specific drone murders have not identified a single one in which any of the criteria that President Obama established for them was met. We know of no victims who could not have been arrested instead, or who were "an imminent and continuing threat to the United States of America," or whose killing involved zero risk of killing civilians.

Supposedly, the greater the role of the military, and the lesser the role of the CIA, the greater the capacity of Congress for oversight. That's a great argument for abolishing the CIA. But, in reality, we have yet to see the vaguest hint of Congressional oversight. Congress has not informed the public of the nature of the drone wars. We've seen no additional transcripts and no videos. Congress has not made use of the Constitution or even the War Powers Resolution to halt or even limit the drone murders in any way. Congress has not objected to the failure of Presidents Obama or Trump to meet Obama's self-imposed criteria. Nor has it created its own criteria.

Trump and his subordinates are using drone missiles at a faster pace even than Obama did. Trump has moved weaponized drones to the border of North Korea. And the story that Trump is giving the CIA freer rein to murder people with drones could possibly be true and is as likely as not a story Trump intentionally promoted. But this is at most a return to a policy that Obama created and then claimed to have ended. And it is at most a fine distinction of roles in operations that involved and still involve both the CIA and the military, as well as the NSA. The question of which of those entities is making a key decision should end the pretense that the president is making all of the decisions. And not a single bit of it is in any way in compliance with the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Charter, the War Powers Resolution, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Hague Convention of 1899, or the laws against murder that are on the books in each nation where the U.S. government is murdering people.

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