Saturday, March 18, 2017

Budget For War Up, Food Down In U.S. Imperial End Times

View a detailed analysis of the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017 at

Now that we know the current regime's budget plans to accelerate robbing the poor to further enrich Pentagon contractors, maybe the U.S. public will begin to pay more attention to the cost of our endless wars of conquest. 

But, probably not.

Lately I've been examining the issue of young organizers' disinclination to focus on opposing militarism, and how their anti-imperialist approach might carry us into a better future. A skillfull young organizer in DC told me recently she had found plenty of young people willing to oppose wars and occupations. They just did not want to do so under the banner of the organization she had formerly worked for -- mostly old, mostly white, and very top down in operations.

I've also noted how women's march organizers and many others fronting for the Democratic Party have carefully avoided any mention of opposition to the empire's wars. 

An interesting analysis by Daniel May in The Nation this week nevertheless also avoided any mention of the role of the Democratic Party in silencing war dissent. May reached some of the same conclusions as young organizers I spoke with: the war machine is both everywhere on the planet and yet nowhere specific enough to be effectively confronted. 

It's corporate government that's the real disease, and endless wars are a symptom rather than a cause. 

The invisibility of war has been with us for a while now. I watched a music video  recommended by an 8th grader yesterday. "Hey Brother" depicted vintage televised war and had images alluding to PTSD and a military funeral. Some students thought it was about WWII because they are too young to know that that war, like the ones their country has been waging their entire lives, wasn't televised either.

Remember when Barack Obama said he wasn't against all wars, just dumb ones? That was before he won the Nobel Peace [sic] Prize, occupied Afghanistan and Iraq for eight more years, bombed Libya, and ordered thousands of drone strikes that killed thousands of innocent people. 

Now the demagogue with bad hair finds himself in the same bind: calling the war in Afghanistan a mess while campaigning, and then finding Pentagon brass pushing for escalation

Except the unpopularity of war makes Vietnam-era terms like "escalation" verboten; instead, government spokesmen prefer euphemisms like "surge" and "humantiarian intervention."

Why would Pentagon brass push for wasting more tax dollars on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan? Here's a quote from May's article that helps put their advocacy in perspective:

Raytheon, the fourth-largest military contractor in the United States and the world’s leading producer of guided missiles, received 90 percent of its revenues in 2015 from the federal government. In that year, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy took home $20.4 million in total compensation. Among the large military contractors, this is the norm. In 2014, the CEO of Lockheed Martin—which received 78 percent of its revenues from the government that year—was paid a total of $33.7 million. In 2015, the CEO of Boeing, the second-largest government contractor, earned $29 million—and paid no federal income tax in 2013 [emphasis mine].
And, to bring this narrative right up to date, yesterday the demogague with bad hair nominated Boeing senior vice president Patrick Shanahan for Deputy "Defense" [ironic quotation marks mine] Secretary.

As the rich get richer and the poor sink into bankruptcy, war-fueled opioid addiction, and early death, who will effectively object? Of course the people in the countries being bombed and occupied will continue to raise their voices. An excellent example are the Youth Peace Volunteers of Afghanistan, whose Global Days of Listening project has for years been bringing truth to those with ears to hear it.

Survivors of the recent U.S. bombing of a mosque in Syria cry out, but who hears them? 
From Common Dreams: "Civil defense team members and people try to rescue people who were trapped under the debris of a Mosque after an aerial attack on a mosque during prayer in the Cina village of Etarib district of Aleppo, Syria on March 16, 2017.'  (Photo: ─░brahim Ebu Leys/ Anadolu Agency )

Families digging through the rubble in Mosul as they try but fail to free trapped relatives weep on camera, but who sees this? Those of who who try to do the work that corporate media will not do, e.g. sharing the images of war victims via social media, are scorned by comfortable liberals who don't want to face burned children over their morning coffee. One click blocks such truth from bleeding through into the reality they prefer. Which is marching around demanding environmental protection while ignoring the leading cause of carbon pollution worldwide.
From The Intercept: "Pentagon Denies Bombing Syrian Mosque, But Its Own Photo May Prove That It Did"  Boy walking through ruins after U.S. airstrikes hit a crowded mosque during night prayer in Al-Jiney village, Aleppo on March 17, 2017. Photo: Ibrahim Ebe Leys / Anadolus Agency / Getty Images 

There's nothing new about any of this. Until the war arrives on your shores it's easier to pretend that your elderly next door neighbor is literally starving because...capitalism is great! the Arab world hates us for our freedoms!..than to admit the war machine robbed her of sustenance.

Once people are hungry enough they may finally notice the real causes and effects at work here. Or, they may continue to be fooled by propaganda into voting against their own prosperity as they did in the 2016 election in the U.S. and the Brexit vote in the U.K. Ordinary people can't see the uber wealthy CEOs draining the nation's coffers to build still more weapons of mass destruction. Those yachts sail far offshore, and those private jets land at secluded private air fields.

All empires fall after reaching the stage of wretched excess we're seeing today: cut Meals on Wheels for the elderly while funding still more weapon systems. 

And also funding lavish perqs for the president's family that are characteristic of kleptocracies.

Can we claw our way back from this stage of history? Probably not. But we can band together to hasten the demise of empire, building relationships to sustain one another through the dark days ahead.

Consider the opportunity to come together with others  paying attention to the cancerous growth of militarism by attending "Pivot Toward War: U.S. Missile Defense and the Weaponization of Space," the 25th Annual Space Organizing Conference & Protest from April 7-9 in Huntsville, Alabama. Col. Ann Wright (U.S. Army retired, diplomat) will be the keynote speaker at this important international conference. More details here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mind Control Via False Binaries

Mind control of the U.S. public proceeds apace. The current false binary dominating the airwaves is that you are either for Trump or against the Russian government. 

At least that was the false binary prevailing until the historic Vault 7 leak of CIA documents published by Wikileaks this week cast some doubt on the alleged role of Russian operatives in the recent election.

What has continued to mystify me is the stampede of liberals and progressives eager to vilify the nation with the longest thawing Arctic coastline full of fossil fuel reserves.

Every "resistance" or "indivisible" movement that has come down the pike lately has assiduously ignored the problem of endless imperial wars for control of fossil fuels, a clear sign of the Democratic Party at work.

I wrote to one of my state's leading peace and justice organizations after they promoted the Russian bad guys theory of political influence in a mass email this week: 

I am really surprised that the ______ is joining in the chorus about Russia. Why would jumping on this Democratic Party bandwagon be in the best interests of the peace and justice movement?

Perhaps some further reading on the subject would be useful. I recommend these as a good place to start:

Leading Putin critic warns of xenophobic conspiracy theories drowing U.S. discourse and helping Trump (The Intercept, March 7)

Trump and the Russian Conspiracy Trap (New York Review of Books, March 6)

Alert from Odessa, Ukraine (Organizing Notes, March 6)

The author of the blog containing the third link, antiwar organizer Bruce Gagnon, gave an interview to RT this week. His take:

I think there is a war between the ruling oligarchies in America going on right now in Washington. I call it the mob versus the mafia. Neither of them are good guys. Many peace activists and progressive people across our country are very confused and think they have to pick sides and support the Democrats who have lately been demonizing Russia in a kind of recycled version of red baiting. But what we really have to do is be critical of this growing military madness that this country is hell-bent on, no matter who is in office.

I continue to wonder how people got the idea that there are are only two sides and if you haven't chosen #1 then you must have, by default, chosen #2. The gender binary has been subject to critical thinking for decades now even as the forces of ignorance cling to their labeled bathrooms and tiny icons of females in skirts. There are a multitude of races, religions, even political parties (in other countries, that is). 

Here in the U.S., the use of mass media to elevate symbolic persons to celebrity status fuels the false dichotomy engine. 

The Green Party's 2016 ticket: Jill Stein for president and Ajamu Baraka for VP

To say that you supported neither of the two corporate party candidate but were instead supporting the Green Party candidates guaranteed that you would be torn to shreds on social media, branded a traitor or worse.

People I barely knew threated to "blame" me if the demagogue won the election. I think they were sincere in their delusion that he personified evil, and maybe they were right about that. But their corollary, that only one alternative could be possible, and therefore it is the antidote to evil, is ridiculously simplistic.

Time after time bouts of circular reasoning any spreadsheet would flag churned out the official line: There are only two possible winners of any presidential election. So if you support a third alternative, you are refusing to face reality: if you're not against the demogogue with bad hair, you're against us. Thus, you third party voters are the enemy.

Being a history major, I am reminded of bygone eras when any deviance from the official orthodoxy of whatever flavor of Christianity (or Islam or Buddhism) was prevalent resulted in ostracism at best, death by torture at worst. 

Now that one faction of the corporate deep state has temporarily prevailed over another faction, the false dichotomy machine has shifted to channeling our outrage into safe channels such as "Indivisble" and #daywithoutawoman. There's big money behind this effort and the corporate media play right along. 

After all, who else elevated the demagogue with bad hair to candidate status while the rest of the world looked on in horrified disbelief? The Democratic Party-aligned major media outlets gambled on the fact that our distaste for the demagogue would be strong enough to get us to hold our noses and vote for warmonger Clinton after she stole the nomination from faux populist Sanders. And a lot of people did hold their noses and vote for her, maybe even enough to win the election. Were the voting machines hacked? Was voter suppression sufficient to pull off the coup? Or did the Republican Party just play the electoral college like a boss? We may never know the truth.

Now we're facing a government full of ugly (as opposed to handsome) evildoers, an upsurge in white supremacists in positions of power, and isolationism that is taking an ax to human rights, the freedom to travel, and the freedom to live free of fear. The Environmental Protection Agency and public education for all are on the chopping block, along with the coporate giveaway package known as the Affordable Care Act.

Movement building is the order of the day, and the astroturf movements that front for the (temporarily out of power) other corporate party will vacuum up as much of this energy as possible. Depending on how many times they've been fooled in the past, real organizers may or may not fall for this.

Jason Rawn, an international peaceworker and youngish member of the #Zumwalt12 civil disobedience team targeting war profiteer General Dynamics, wrote in an email about his recent experiences with this phenomenon:

Anecdote from Maine People's Alliance event last Sunday: People immediately and enthusiastically ready to discuss fighting for Obamacare. But what about universal healthcare, something people were talking about that resulted in the Obamacare product? That was the original prize. But suddenly Trump is here, and so people are reacting to that, and the health care narrative battle cry becomes "Save Obamacare from Trump!" 
Bullshit message. Obamacare was a compromise, not the original prize anyone's eyes were on. Nobody was thinking, "Gee, I wish the government would require me to buy an insurance product." Much better message: "America can afford universal, single-payer healthcare! We want it!"

Some of us in the communications branch will gladly use the mass audiences assembled to deliver our subversive message:

There are more than two sides to a question. 

Job #1 for a citizen these days: find sources of real information, and act accordingly.