Blogs

Feb
29

Talk Nation Radio: Holly Sterling on the unjust imprisonment of her CIA whistleblower husband

Tag: Civil Rights, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-holly-sterling-on-the-unjust-imprisonment-of-her-cia-whistleblower-husband

Holly Sterling is the wife of unjustly imprisoned CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. She discusses his case, his imprisonment, and efforts to request a pardon.

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!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

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

Feb
29

One-Hour Special: Mary Anne Grady Flores from Jail on Why She Protested Killer Drones

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/one-hour-special-mary-anne-grady-flores-from-jail-on-why-she-protested-killer-drones

Mary Anne Grady Flores speaks in this 1-hour special from inside the jail near Syracuse, N.Y., where she has been imprisoned for 6 months for protesting drone murders at Hancock Air Base.

Total run time: 56:00

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!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

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

Feb
28

A Nation Too Stupid to Benefit From its Immigrants?

Tag: Immigration

The millions of people in the United States who are denied equal rights because they are immigrants have vast stockpiles of wisdom and rich culture to share; they engage in more strategic and courageous activism than do non-immigrants; and without any doubt they would vote better than do the "legal" people of South Carolina if only they were permitted to vote. The mistreatment of these people shortchanges every U.S. enterprise and reduces civil rights, paychecks, public safety, sense of community, and basic levels of morality for everyone.

Read Lives in Limbo by Roberto G. Gonzales. Kids brought to the United States by their parents (driven by NAFTA or U.S.-backed coups or drug wars or just the general injustice of rich nations toward poor) often live in a segregated and impoverished world. But they attend U.S. schools, speak English, and have largely the same Dreamy expectations for their American futures as anyone else. In adolescence, they transition not just into adulthood but also into illegality. Most of these young people find out that doors are closed, that college will not include them, that employers will not hire them, and that at any moment they may be yanked right out of their lives and deported alone to a world they do not know.

The United States is famous for failing its teenagers. But imagine adding to the problems that a typical teenager faces the imposition of a second-class status and the prospect of being locked up at any moment. Teens in poor, African-American neighborhoods face serious discrimination and police harassment, and may be able to relate. But those of us who had many advantages and still had a hard time coming through to adulthood ought to be able to understand, as well, the tragic stories Gonzales tells of U.S. teens discarded by the United States.

In the exceptional cases, where the doors to college are opened, lives can be transformed. Free college for all would not just help create an intelligent and caring world, and not just crush the prospects of military recruiters. It would also radically re-shape the worldviews of immigrant teenagers.

Susan Eaton's new book, Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees, and America at Its Best shows what's possible in towns, cities, and states where people come to their senses, reject apartheid, and start behaving decently toward each other. As states have enacted cruel new laws, cities have appealed to immigrants to come and share in urban revitalization. Smarter states have begun allowing all immigrants to pay in-state tuition, as well as to obtain driver's licenses. And numerous localities have begun finding ways to benefit from what immigrants have to offer.

Schools in Utah have taken the lead in two-way immersion. Spanish and English speaking students spend half the school day immersed in Spanish and half in English. Both groups of students are valued for their expertise and provide assistance to the other. Both groups excel academically. And they tend to become, socially, much more of a single group of friends -- a process of integration that extends to their parents as well. Bilingualism is good for your brain and good for your understanding of the world. If your monolingual English-speaking children are attending school with lots of Spanish-speaking children, why would you deny them the advantage of learning that language? Sadly, most places do. Eaton suggests that one of several reasons for Utah's relative enlightenment may be that its Mormon missionaries have spent considerable time living outside the United States. It's hard to imagine anything that could better benefit the United States than for more people to have done that.

Eaton writes that Prince William County, Va., Farmer's Branch, Texas, Hazleton, Penn., and other localities that have sought to keep out immigrants have suffered economically, whereas cities, including Philadelphia, that have welcomed them have benefitted. Eaton's book looks at projects around the United States that have given immigrants a chance to contribute, including the training of multiple-language speakers in Boston as medical interpreters for patients. Participants in that program say they appreciate not so much the dramatically increased income their new job as an interpreter provides, but primarily the sense that people value something they have to give.

Little as I'm able to value Duke University's basketball team, and few as will be the tears I'll shed when Virginia beats it again, Eaton reports on a remarkably good initiative that came from Duke's Center for International Studies. Because immigrants were effectively allowed to live and work and earn income and pay taxes in Durham, but not permitted to do all kinds of other things, including to create bank accounts or drive cars, easy targets for robberies were Latinos walking with their pockets full of cash. That changed, crime dropped, property values climbed, and all sorts of other benefits resulted when the Latino Community Credit Union was created. Not only were people allowed to deposit and withdraw their money, but they became able to access small non-predatory loans -- not quite the economic boost of being born with Donald Trump's father, but transformative nonetheless.

In Mississippi, Eaton recounts, the pushback against the latest wave of anti-immigrant laws has come from African-American leaders, and from organizers who have identified the civil rights struggle of the 20th century with that of the 21st.

In Hazleton, Penn., the Hazleton Integration Project has pushed back impressively against the bigotry that swept through the town a decade back. Its success has come through bringing people together, including in a new community center, and offering them all opportunities for better things together as one community.

Perhaps it's too much to dream, but if such community building efforts ultimately succeed in persuading large numbers of people to stop blaming immigrants for the shortcomings of their society, the next step could be accurately placing the blame on the oligarchs who actually are responsible. If that day ever comes, the natives are going to want to ask the immigrants how one starts a real movement for change.

Feb
26

A Cease-Fire to Re-Load or to Build Peace?

Tag: Peace and War

A cease-fire, even a partial one by only some of the parties to the war in Syria, is the perfect first step -- but only if it's widely understood as a first step.

Almost none of the news coverage I've seen speaks to what purpose the cease-fire serves. And most of it focuses on the cease-fire's limitations and who predicts someone else will violate it, and who openly promises to violate it. The big outside parties, or at least Russia, plus the Syrian government, will go right on bombing selected targets, which will go right on shooting back, while Turkey has announced that ceasing to kill Kurds would just be taking the whole thing a bit too far (Kurds the United States is arming against other people the United States is arming, by the way).

The United States distrusts Russia on this, while Russia distrusts the United States, various Syrian opposition groups distrust each other and the Syrian government, everybody distrusts Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- the Turks and Saudis most of all, and U.S. neocons remain obsessed with Iranian evil. The predictions of failure could be self-fulfilling, as they seem to have been before.

Vague talk of a "political solution," which parties take to mean completely incompatible things, is not a second step designed to make a cease-fire succeed. It's a fifth or sixth or seventh step. The second step that is missing, after ceasing to directly kill people, is to cease facilitating the killing of people by others.

This was what was needed when Russia proposed peace in 2012 and the United States brushed it aside. This is what was needed after the chemical weapons agreement in 2013. Instead the United States held off on bombing, under public and international pressure, but escalated its arming and training of others to kill, and its winking at Saudi Arabia's and Turkey's and others' fueling of the violence.

Truth be told, this was what was needed when President Barack Obama was allowing Hillary Clinton to convince him to overthrow the government of Libya in 2011. Outside parties need an agreement to cease supplying weapons and fighters, and an agreement to supply unprecedented levels of humanitarian aid. The goal should be disarming those who would kill, supporting those who would join the violence out of economic need, and countering the highly successful propaganda of groups that live off the assaults on them by outside nations.

ISIS is thriving in Libya now and going after the oil there. Italy, which has a shameful history in Libya, is showing some reluctance to worsening the situation there by continuing to attack. The point is not that local forces can defeat ISIS but that nonviolence would do less harm than violence in the short, middle, and long term. Hillary Clinton, for her part, is bordering on the criminally insane, or at least the criminal, as she just spoke about Libya in her most recent debate on the model of a permanent occupation of Germany, Japan, or Korea. So much for hope and change.

The second step, the public commitment to which could make the first step work, would involve the United States withdrawing from the region and insisting on Turkey and Saudi Arabia and others ceasing to fuel the violence. It would involve Russia and Iran pulling out all forces and canceling backwards ideas like Russia's new proposal to arm Armenia. Russia should ship nothing but food and medicine to Syria. The United States should do the same and commit to no longer seeking the overthrow of the Syrian government -- not because it's a good government, but because it has to be overthrown nonviolently by forces that actually mean well, not by a distant imperial power.

Secretary of State John Kerry's already announced plan B is to partition Syria, meaning to continue to fuel the mass murder and suffering, while hoping to diminish the size of the state allied to Iran and Russia, in favor of empowering the terrorists that the United States empowered in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Iraq in the 2000s and right now in Yemen. The U.S. delusion that yet another overthrow, yet again empowering small groups of killers, will fix things is a root cause of the conflict at this point. But so is the Russian delusion that bombing just the right people will bring peace and stability. Both nations have stumbled into a cease-fire, but seem to think of it as an opportunity to appease a bit of global outrage while reloading. If you want to know how the cease-fire is going, watch the weapons companies' stocks.

Feb
26

South Carolina Democratic Party Means Well

Tag: Elections

The chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party called to complain that I was being unfair to him, and maybe he was right. But I'd simply urged the need to avoid any appearance of bias, and if the chairman doesn't understand that, he's in for a heck of a lot more criticism than he's ever imagined. This is his bio on the party website at 11:15 a.m. ET on Friday, February 26, just after he called me:

The Washington Times had prompted Harrison's call with this article:

. . . What his bio on the party’s Web page doesn’t mention, though, is that Mr. Harrison is also a principal at the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by brothers Tony and John Podesta — the same John Podesta who is chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Harrison’s day job is likely to get more scrutiny as the presidential campaign turns to South Carolina and questions continue to swirl about whether the Democratic Party apparatus is fairly treating Mrs. Clinton’s challenger, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. . . .

“If you want to avoid appearances of conflict of interest, you need to be completely open and reveal that,” said David Swanson, a spokesman at Rootsaction.org, a progressive online group that also has organized a petition asking for the ouster of the head of the Democratic National Committee. “Someone can be in favor of one candidate and still conduct a fair primary election, but if they’re hiding that they have close ties — beyond just electoral interest, but with actual monetary interests — that starts to look bad.”

Harrison called me up and recounted his long connections with staffers for Bernie Sanders, and said that he had been the first to invite Sanders to come speak even before he was officially a candidate. Harrison said he'd also had Sanders as the first ever guest in his video series called "Chair Chats." Here's that video:

And here's one with Hillary Clinton, which has about half as many views.

Harrison said he'd offered Sanders the party's resources and conference room, that his own Deputy Executive Director had gone to work for the Sanders campaign, that anything he and the party had done for Clinton they'd done for Sanders, and that I could ask the Sanders campaign and they'd say as much.

I said I was certain they would indeed, whether true or not, but that I had merely answered a reporter's question on one point, that of Harrison's bio on the party site leaving out what he did for a living, namely that he worked for a Clinton-affiliated organization. Amazingly, Harrison claimed not to know whether his bio included that info or not. He blamed me for not investigating it myself, while he himself claimed not to have looked into it either. And he assured me that if I "googled" him I'd see that he worked for the Podesta Group.

But isn't that the point, I asked? If I google Santorum I'll find something else entirely, but that's what Google shows, not what Santorum chooses to display. If everyone can find out that your paycheck comes from a Clinton-associated group, but that's left out of your bio, how does that look? Harrison promised to look into it and to make sure that it said from now on right at the top: "Jamie Harrison, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and Principle at the Podesta Group...."

I said I thought that would be a good idea.

The Podesta Group was founded by John and Tony Podesta, the former serving also as Hillary Clinton's campaign chair.

I explained to Harrison that my concern was not over any actual unfair treatment I knew him to have engaged in, but over the appearance of it in a context that had everyone understandably on the lookout for bias. I pointed out to him that the DNC Chair was quite openly on Hillary Clinton's side, had sought to minimize debates and hide them on Saturday nights and other times of low viewership, had sought to deny Sanders access to his own voter files, had just opened up the Democratic Party to money from corporate lobbyists to benefit one candidate, had refused to release the results in Iowa, etc., and that the Party had its superdelegates lined up for Hillary in open defiance of popular will.

Harrison said he agreed with me that the superdelegate system and the electoral college for that matter should be scrapped. And he agreed with my blaming the DNC, which he pointed out was not the South Carolina Democratic Party.

The funny thing is, after I hung up, I looked at Harrison's bio on the Podesta Group website. That bio is very open about his Democratic Party identifications. And they include this: "Member of the DNC Executive Committee."

Feb
26

The 2016 Election's Obama Problem

Tag: Elections

I was looking for love in all the wrong placesLooking for love in too many facesSearching your eyes, looking for tracesOf what I'm dreaming of  --Waylon Jennings

Why do the Republican presidential debates resemble world wrestling matches without all the formality and politeness?

Why do the Democratic presidential debates always end up with the two candidates deeply respecting the other's admirable efforts to destroy everything decent in the world?

Because the Republicans are going after voters who are thoroughly disgusted with the U.S. government, including the man running it, Barack Obama, while the Democrats are going after voters who are thoroughly disgusted with the U.S. government but in love with the man running it.

Senator Bernie Sanders explains that we need the opposite of what Obama's been doing, then claims to agree with Obama. Why? Because he wants to win over voters who think exactly that, who believe that Obama has done everything wrong but who love Obama despite, or even because, of his disastrous conduct. Sanders knows that many of the same voters feel (that's the key word) the same way about Hillary Clinton.

Pick up a book called I [Heart] Obama by Erin Aubry Kaplan. In it, she explains that she and others she's asked love Obama for his looks, his voice, his poise, his attitude, his facial expressions, and his skin color. She and others she quotes fell in love with him before they'd learned anything about his political performance. And whatever they later learned entirely confirmed their sentiments. If he did something terrible, they imagined he'd tried to do something good. If he failed, they loved his failure and blamed it on his racist opponents. Because racists hate him, one must love him, they feel.

Kaplan hoped for change, but when Obama didn't meet her expectations she condemned anyone so misguided as to complain. Then she blamed the public for not rising up and complaining, without which Obama couldn't very well be expected to do anything, could he? But even when Obama didn't do the right thing, you could be sure he knew what the right thing to do would have been. And that was good enough. Hell, that was better. And if he lied about it, that was better than truth. Even his bullshit smelled sweet. Kaplan writes:

"Does the fact that  his 'Hope/Change' campaign was more a matter of brilliant branding than anything else diminish the fact that hope and change are exactly what black folks need?"

Perish the thought!

Racists would even object to Obama murdering people. Not the Obamaphiles Kaplan quotes: "'I know it's hard for people to look at the drones, to look at why he doesn't do this thing or that thing,' says Ward. 'But the tightrope is one that he has to walk. I have a friend in the South who says she's seen bars with calendars on the walls that count down the days to when Obama gets assassinated.'"

Get it? Racists want to murder Obama, so he should go on murdering all those dark-skinned foreigners, and you should shut up about it and love him even if you hate what he's doing.

Do the old people and black people backing Hillary Clinton in primaries associate her with Obama and his lovable odiousness? Or do they associate her with the Democratic Party and identify with that party as they might with a racial group? Or do they want to feel the warm tingles of watching a woman, instead of a man, pilot the empire over the cliff? Are good people going to double down on tokenism while the fascists prepare to play their trump card?

The answer is, of course, not to elect all white guys. The answer is to end the election obsession, and build a movement. And when we must have an election, elect the best person. Democrats need to stop loving the people who have created everything Sanders wants to fix. Obama and Hillary do not love you back, my friends. They're using you. They have nothing but contempt for you. And if the morning ever comes, you'll hate yourself in it.

Republicans, of course, need to stop bowing down before a fascist clown who openly tells them that he only loves himself and they should love him too. For him, you are beneath contempt, unworthy even of notice. You'd better hope the Democrats don't run the woman you hate against him, because then he'll be president, you'll be the woman scorned, you'll hate yourselves more than the Democrats hate you, and most people will give up hope for the electoral system -- which will of course turn out to be even worse than falling for false hope with a nice smile.

Feb
24

More U.S. troops killed by Halliburton than by Iraqis

Tag: Peace and War

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

The U.S. government, from Dick Cheney to Hillary Clinton, told blatant lies about the Iraqi government creating chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in 2002, despite having been informed of the fact that Iraq was doing no such thing. U.S. leaders lied about ties between Iraq and terrorists that they also knew did not exist.

Then the U.S. military attacked and invaded Iraq, in the process heavily bombing old sites of Iraqi chemical weapons from the 1980s, many of those weapons having been provided by the United States. In large part because of the U.S. origin of the old Iraqi chemical weapons, the U.S. kept quiet about them during the new war. Another reason for the official silence was that, during the 2003 U.S. destruction of Iraq, many of those old weapons were seized by fledgling terrorist groups. The war had done exactly what it had been justified as being needed to prevent; it had given WMDs to terrorists.

The geniuses running the U.S. military set up U.S. bases at the sites of old chemical weapons piles, dug giant burn pits into the ground, and began burning the military's trash -- monumental quantities of trash, something like The Story of Stuff on steroids. They burned hundreds of tons of trash every day, including everything you can think of: oil, rubber, tires, treated wood, medicines, pesticides, asbestos, plastic, explosives, paint, human body parts, and . . . (wait for it) . . . nuclear, biological, and chemical decontamination materials.

The burn pits poisoned Iraq, together with depleted uranium weapons, napalm, white phosphorous, and various other horrors, creating unprecedented epidemics of birth defects, and killing untold masses of Iraqis. The burn pits also poisoned tens of thousands of U.S. troops, many of whom have died as a result, including very likely the son of the current U.S. vice president. The burn pits profited Halliburton, the company of the previous U.S. vice president.

The burn pits were no secret, although bases sometimes stopped the burning during VIP tours. Typically, huge clouds of smoke filled the air and created immediate breathing difficulties and sicknesses. Soldiers knew which colors of smoke were most dangerous and discussed it as they discussed an enemy. Numerous burn pits turned hundreds of previously healthy U.S. troops into invalids. But the burn pits at six particular bases caused the most severe illnesses and the most deaths. They caused, among other things, numerous cases of constrictive bronchiolitis, which could only have resulted from exposure to mustard gas -- a chemical weapon left over from a program the United States had supported when it existed and used as an excuse for war when it didn't.

I'm reminded of a ship that sits at the bottom of the Mediterranean. In 1943, German bombs sank a U.S. ship at Bari, Italy, that was secretly carrying a million pounds of mustard gas. Many of the U.S. sailors died from the poison, which the United States dishonestly claimed to have been using as a "deterrent," despite keeping it secret. The ship is expected to continue leaking the gas into the sea for centuries. The earth and water of Iraq have been similarly poisoned, as have U.S. soldiers.

The Pentagon made crystal clear in Iraq, as most everywhere else, that it cares not a damn for the people or the natural environment of the places it attacks, and that it cares even less for the troops it uses to do so. But if you imagine that the Pentagon has reserved its concern for the civilian inhabitants of the Fatherland, don't look too closely into the open-air burns still happening in the United States. The U.S. military is the third-largest polluter of U.S. waterways, top producer of superfund disaster sites, and top consumer of petroleum. At least 33,480 U.S. nuclear weapons workers who have received compensation for health damage are now dead. Where it is blocked by legal regulations effectively enforced, the military shows restraint; where it isn't, it doesn't. In Virginia, the military very responsibly throws dead soldiers into a landfill rather then burning them. Either method communicates equally well just how much the military cares.

Halliburton, for its part, is as happy to deal death at home as abroad. Residents of Duncan, Oklahoma, have sued Cheney's cash machine for poisoning the ground water with  ammonium perchlorate. Government investigators also concluded that Halliburton was, in part, to blame for the BP oil spill that flooded into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Joseph Hickman's new book, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America's Soldiers, collects the evidence, including from similar incidents during the first Gulf War that were known before the first 2003 burn pit was dug and lit. Hickman gives us stories of young healthy men who headed off to Iraq believing the lies, believing that the U.S. government that is now begging Russia to stop attacking terrorists because the U.S. wants to overthrow yet another government -- believing that this U.S. government had good intentions in attacking Iraq. These poor souls went to Iraq hoping to protect people from horrible suffering, and ended up inflicting horrible suffering on people including themselves. They come home, develop cancer, get stonewalled by the VA, and die dreaming of what it might have been to have health and the wealth needed to attend college. Their American Dream was cut short by the militarized American Fantasy.

Joe Biden supported a war that very likely killed his son by means of burn pits. He then chose not to run for president because of his grief. His decision not to run received more media coverage than several months of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders who had voted against the war. But did Biden lift a finger to hold Halliburton or the military or the Congress accountable? Not that I've heard.

Hickman describes the burn pits, and analogous poisons from past wars like Agent Orange in Vietnam, as "recklessly endangering the health of our fighting men and women." The only trouble with this is the fact that all war, all "fighting," consists of recklessly endangering the lives of the vast bulk of the victims (the Vietnamese, Iraqis, etc.) and of the U.S. troops. There's nothing non-reckless about any war. Perhaps distant drone pilots are not endangered in the typical way, but then look at how they're mocked within the Air Force. If troops weren't endangered, people wouldn't treat them with reverence and describe them -- as Hickman does -- as somehow "serving" their country, even while the facts he includes in his book speak otherwise.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held since 1950 that members and former members of the military cannot sue over injuries received on the job. It may, however, still prove possible to win compensation from Halliburton. If so, you can probably chalk up another assist to Chelsea Manning who leaked evidence that the military had knowledge of the dangers when it created the burn pits, knowledge that General David Petraeus blatantly lied about in response to a Congressional inquiry.

It now appears that the 2003- war on Iraq not only created ISIS, but armed it with mustard gas, thereby proving, I guess, that Saddam Hussein could indeed had given WMDs to terrorists had he just been as evil as the U.S. military.

David Swanson

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie.

Feb
23

Talk Nation Radio: Harvey Wasserman on the Stripping and Flipping of Elections

Tag: Elections, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-harvey-wasserman-on-the-stripping-and-flipping-of-elections

Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, drug war, election protection and grassroots politics. He teaches (since 2004) history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio colleges, and is married with five daughters and five grandchildren. Harvey works primarily for the permanent shutdown of the nuclear power industry and the birth of Solartopia, a democratic and socially just green-powered Earth free of all fossil and nuclear fuels. He writes regularly for a wide internet readership through Ecowatchsolartopia.orgfreepress.org and nukefree.org, which he edits. His articles also appear at Commondreams, CounterPunch, HuffingtonPost, Buzzflash and others. He hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show at www.prn.fm. In this show, Harvey discusses the stripping and flipping of U.S. elections.

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!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

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

CbRp7q5VIAA2u7s
Feb
21

Why the Deafening Silence on Cutting the Military Budget?

Tag: Peace and War

By Harvey Wasserman, David Swanson, Bob Fitrakis

Bernie Sanders’ common sense proposals for dealing with universal health care, college tuition, restoring the infrastructure, confronting poverty and more have encountered predictable scorn from “fiscally responsible” corporatists.

They all scream about the “deficit spending” and tax hikes that might be required to pay for these vital programs. From predictable right-wing corporatists to Hillary Clinton (“free stuff! free stuff!” she mocks) to fictional “left-leaning economists” invented by the New York Times, numerous voices scorn Bernie’s agenda because his proposals “cost too much.”

But nowhere do we find anyone willing to take on the biggest imperial welfare program of them all, the most obvious source of revenue for the programs needed to heal our nation: the military budget. If Sanders were willing to cut the military budget he’d encounter no criticism for raising taxes, because he’d have no need to raise taxes.  We hope that he’ll no longer pass up this opportunity to tell us how he would cut into a military budget that exceeds nearly all the rest of the world’s combined, and that largely has nothing to do with fighting terrorism (and so often makes it worse).

It’s not that Bernie doesn’t have a good answer for how he would pay for everything. He does, and it’s plenty clear and simple for an intelligent fourth grader, and possibly even Donald Trump, to grasp. But just try squeezing the following into a sound byte television response to “You want to raise my taxes!”

Even this lengthy list does not seem to straightforwardly explain that Medicare for All could raise your taxes, but would give you net savings as you dropped your health insurance payments.

For those who can get past sound bytes, Sanders’ proposals are good, and the taxes all needed for the sake of equitable sharing of wealth and power. But cutting the oceans of cash going to the armed forces is also needed for the purpose of slowing down the military industrial complex and its penchant for creating wars.

And there are projects that the United States and the world desperately need that aren’t listed above. Rather than more wars and occupations, the United States has a moral responsibility to begin a massive investment in actual humanitarian aid to the world, a world beginning to suffer from climate change driven more by the United States than any other nation, with the possible exception of the much, much larger nation of China.

The United States is currently extremely stingy in foreign aid by global standards, and a Marshall-Plan scale investment could work wonders in transforming world opinion about the U.S. government. A similar investment, much more than $100 billion per year, is needed in the United States for green energy. The possibility of creating a Solartopia is slipping away from us, while the cost of the Iraq war alone would have been enough to halt climate change.

Here are some simple, obvious ways to pay for all those programs Bernie advocates, and much much more:

There are various plans afoot to “upgrade” the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, with price tags in the range of $1,000,000,000,000 and more. Why don’t we just get rid of all of them and use the money to pay for much of the above? There is talk of a replacement fleet of a dozen “Ohio Class” nuclear submarines at a (currently estimated) cost of up to $8,000,000,000 each (which is bound to soar), with construction to begin in 2021. These are perfectly designed to protect us from the Soviet Union, which no longer exists, and will do nothing except bankrupt us, making us more vulnerable to the likes of ISIS, which was created by our intervention in Iraq. The United States currently maintains at least 900 bases outside its borders, with troops stationed in 175 foreign nations and waging or threating war in some of the handful of nations that do not have U.S. troops (Syria, Iran). The financial cost is over $100 billion a year. The bases, in many cases, generate an enormous amount of popular resentment and hatred, serving as motivations for attacks on the bases themselves or elsewhere — famously including the attacks of September 11, 2001. Why continue to pay for this? The military spends millions every year advertising itself as a career opportunity, with fly-overs at football games, saturation TV spots, marching bands (the military is the nation’s leading employer of musicians) and more. In fact, it has an entrenched interest in keeping college tuitions high, as a key incentive for young people to enlist is to be able to afford tuition. Yet while the armed forces are heavily over-staffed, and recruitment ads for the National Guard depict the bringing of aid to natural disasters, the reality is that a major effort to aid those at home and abroad impacted by climate change or disasters like the methane gas leak at Port Ranch, California, doesn’t exist and would be a prime step toward guaranteeing a true global peace.

If the military were scaled back even a little, in the direction of a purely defensive operation, we could create such a modern civilian conservation corps and, among other things, put solar panels on the rooftops of every building on earth.

There is, of course, much more that could be done to cut the military budget and pay for what we really need.  The vast bulk of military expenditures today have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. In many cases, the clumsy bludgeonings of our over-stuffed military actually promote it.

Yet this kind of discussion has not yet made it into the mainstream. We look forward to either journalists or brave nonviolent event disruptors inserting this topic into the endless election coverage.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of the upcoming THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016  FIVE JIM CROWS & ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT.

World Beyond War

RootsAction.org

War Is A Crime

Talk Nation Radio

There Is No Way To Peace

Peace is the way.

This site is maintained by a union shop at MayFirst.org