Tag Archives: Military

Democrats and Republicans: United on Glorifying Authoritarian Systems 

With President Donald Trump fighting against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his Republican minions have managed to navigate a somewhat tortuous road. They have to somehow criticize one of the many authoritarian organizations that they generally revere. Ultimately, this has proved not too difficult for them; they simply attack the leadership, while praising the rank-and-file.

Democrats, on the other hand, are able to avoid this conundrum altogether, by maintaining their obvious adoration for the corrupt, invasive bureau.

As the Russia-Trump Campaign probe drags on, providing headlines that few people are genuinely interested in, the worship of authority continues unabated. The U.S. military, the largest and most powerful terrorist organization in the world, one that is responsible for the murders of at least 20,000,000 people over the last fifty years, continues to receive increasing amounts of U.S. taxpayers’ money, to the determent not only of the millions of people victimized by the U.S. military, but also of those very taxpayers. Money that goes to weaponry has to come from somewhere, and in the eyes of those who run the U.S. government, both Republican and Democrat, such frivolities as food for the poor, roads, public education and higher education are expendable, as long as the war machine gets all that its lobbyists want.

And then, of course, we have the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Talk about a rogue organization! This is the arm of the U.S. government that is responsible for overthrowing democratically-elected governments, funding and training foreign terrorists, and torturing U.S. citizens and others at various sites around the world.

Let us not forget the ‘boys in blue’, the U.S.’s domestic terrorist organization, the police force. One might think that ‘officers of the law’ might be expected to adhere to the laws they are purportedly hired to enforce. But this is not the case; after all, they are the police! Let them shoot innocent, unarmed people, usually but not always people of color, with nearly complete impunity. But when five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas in July of 2016, one newscaster said the crime had cast a pall over the entire nation. Was not a pall cast over the entire nation when Michael Brown, unarmed, was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, who then left his body to lie in the street for hours? Was not a second pall thrown over the U.S. when, in November, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson?

And what about when Eric Garner was killed for selling cigarettes? Or when Philando Castile was executed on the spot for the dastardly crime of driving with a burned-out tail light? Or the murders of Alton Sterling, Oscar Grant (unarmed, handcuffed and lying face-down when he was shot by police officer Johannes Mehserle, who spent nearly seven whole months in prison for that murder), and the hundreds of others who have been killed by members of that unholy brotherhood, the U.S. police force? Why did not each of these brutal, senseless murders cast a pall over the entire nation?

In the U.S., murder is a horrendous crime unless committed by someone wearing a uniform of the U.S. government. Whether the murder is perpetrated by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq, or by soldiers in the U.S. controlling the drones that cause such unspeakable carnage in Yemen and other countries, the victims are unimportant. Unarmed men, pregnant women, children, including infants – the murders of all of them are excused when done by a man or woman wearing a uniform.

Domestically it is the same; a murder perpetrated by someone in the uniform of the U.S. police force is not a murder at all; it is an example of ‘justified use of force’. Yet if a person not a part of the repressive, out-of-control U.S. police force shoots and kills an unarmed man or woman, he or she is arrested and charged with murder. The loved ones of his or her victim are allowed to make impact statements before sentencing, and, as long as the perpetrator is not wealthy, he or she can expect to spend a significant amount of their remaining life in one of the U.S.’s for-profit prisons.

Has either party condemned any of these killings, whether done domestically or internationally? Have any of the U.S.’s so-called ‘representatives’ in the House or the Senate demanded that police procedures be analyzed or that military expenditures be more carefully scrutinized? Has any Republican or Democrat forcefully denounced U.S. military adventurism around the planet? Hardly!

Yet when five members of the police force were murdered in Dallas, then President Barack Obama, and candidates Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton all weighed on the event. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued a statement. But whenever confronted with the horror and tragedy of innocent people being killed in the U.S.’s multiple war zones, these luminaries mumble something about ‘collateral damage’, and may add, as an afterthought, that it is ‘unfortunate’.

That U.S. citizens live under a heavily-militarized police state cannot be disputed. That people of color are far more likely to be casualties of this police state is also true. Internationally, although no one is safe from the long and brutal arm of the terrorist U.S. military, today it is Arabs who suffer most from it.  U.S. soldiers kill innocent people both on the battlefield, and from the comfort of offices thousands of miles away from their victims. The CIA arms and trains terrorist groups that cause unspeakable suffering in Syria and other nations. FBI surveillance of U.S. citizens has been ongoing for decades.

For eight years, Obama made some attempts to close the Cuban-based U.S. torture center at Guantanamo Bay; he was unsuccessful, mainly because Congress saw no reason for the U.S. not to continue torturing people. He made no effort, however, to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its seventeenth year. He increased the use of murder by drone, and did nothing to reign in the U.S. police.

And now a man who doesn’t even pay lip service to wanting to stop the U.S.’s crimes, and who blatantly seeks to increase them, is president of the U.S. His possible pre-election crimes are being investigated, yet his racism, sexism and Islamaphobia not only go unchecked, but also seem to have become fashionable. That, combined with the reverence for brutal authoritarian forces, domestic and foreign, is a recipe for more death and suffering around the world. Yet if people look for a change in governance from the Republicans to the Democrats to alleviate this suffering at all, they look in vain.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

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US Pads Defense Industry Profits By Arming Both Sides In Conflict

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) The United States has long billed itself as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This fairytale receives credence within the country’s own borders, as its lemming-like citizens place hand on heart, look at the waving flag, and wipe tears from their eyes.

Yet a good story doesn’t often play quite as well when cultures and traditions are different, and for countries that have a free press or that have been victimized by the U.S. — and their name is legion — the lofty statements about liberty and equality that U.S. spokespeople are forever mouthing don’t hold much water.

From the Philippines, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Nicaragua, right through Korea, Vietnam and Grenada, to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine today, the United States’ blatant hypocrisy is on full display, as the citizens of those nations paid or continue to pay a high price for daring to be independent when the U.S. wanted their natural resources, or who had the temerity to democratically elect leadership that was too far to the left to accommodate U.S. corporate interests. And in the case of Palestine, being on the opposite end of a powerful political lobby causes their suffering at the hands of the U.S.

And even within the U.S., the fantasy of freedom and equality proclaimed by the corporate-owned media falls far short of the experience of many citizens:

Unarmed young black men serve as target practice for white police officers, with the nearly complete compliance of the judiciary and political establishment.

Women are paid, on average, 80 percent of what men earn in comparable positions.

Students graduate from colleges and universities burdened by tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, of debt, payable to the U.S. government; meanwhile, corporations borrow at a fraction of the student rate.

Children live in poverty at shocking levels for an industrial nation.

 There are 1.49 million homeless people in this country, including scores of veterans who naively thought they were fighting for liberty. On any given night, more than 578,000 homeless people are without shelter — that’s more than half a million Americans sleeping on streets, in cars, under tents and in other exposed places every night.

But what is any of that when the bottom line is and always has been the almighty dollar? While exporting death by bombing nations around the world, the U.S. also does a brisk business in the international weapons market, making it the world’s top arms exporter. It buys these weapons from domestic manufacturers and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin — companies with deep pockets that contribute generously to the campaign coffers of elected officials who do their bidding, and thus keep their profits high.

It only makes sense that the need for such armaments will grow as wars are waged. And the U.S. wages more wars than all other nations combined.

 

Maximizing profits for a deep-pocketed defense industry

But someone in the hallowed halls of Congress figured out that it isn’t really necessary to take sides in international conflicts or internal uprisings around the world. Doing so risks being on the losing side. Losing, of course, isn’t all that important as long as there is money to be made, but it does limit profit margins. So why not provide weapons to both sides? This would keep the arms manufacturers happy and maintain the flow of contributions to political campaigns.

Now, this strategy is not without risk; one must consider what U.S. citizens would think if they knew that their beloved government was siding with both sides of a conflict. But, as with any good business model, risk mitigation strategies are developed. With the corporate-owned media in the pocket of the government (fascism, anyone?), the people will only know what the government wants them to know. Any conflict can be spun as a contest of good versus evil, freedom versus oppression, or whatever buzzwords U.S. public relations specialists — certainly experts in their field — toss out.

Let us look at the complex situation in Syria. The government of President Bashar Assad is far from democratic, but it did offer stability in the nation. However, demands for democratic reforms were repulsed, and conflicts between the reformers and the government escalated. Reform groups, once united, began to split apart due to ideological differences, spawning the rise of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL). As the government attempted to repress growing demonstrations, violence continued to escalate.

Enter the United States, always ready to drop bombs on any nation. In August of 2013, the U.S. claimed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own citizens, killing 1,400 people. This in itself is an example of U.S. hypocrisy, since Israel uses chemical weapons against the Palestinians, with nary a word of protest from the U.S.

Those who rely on the corporate media for their news have never heard of this. But they did hear of Syria’s alleged use of such weapons, because that’s what the U.S. wanted them to hear. So a year after this alleged incident, the U.S. started bombing.

The U.S.has been funding Syrian rebels since at least 2011. But as mentioned above, there are several rebel groups, and the U.S. isn’t particularly discriminating where it lends its support. Additionally, various U.S. agencies don’t appear to consult with each other on the topic. In March of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make?

 

A history of arming both sides

Of course, this is nothing new, as a look back at World War II shows.

In 1917, the U.S. passed the “Trading with the Enemy Act,” which granted the president the power to restrict all trade between the U.S. and its enemies in times of war. On Dec. 13, 1941, less than a week after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an amendment to the act. The crux of the amendment is:

“A general license is hereby granted, licensing any transaction or act proscribed by section 3(a) of The Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, provided, however, that such transaction or act is authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury by means of regulations, rulings, instructions, licenses or otherwise, pursuant to the Executive order No. 8389, as amended.”

In his 1983 book, “Trading with the Enemy,” Charles Hingham describes the activities of the major U.S. automobile companies during World War II:

”The substantial contribution of these firms to the American war effort in terms of tanks, aircraft components, and other military equipment is widely acknowledged. Less well known are the simultaneous contributions of their foreign subsidiaries to the Axis Powers. In sum, they maximized profits by supplying both sides with the materiel needed to conduct the war.”

Further:

“In Germany, for example, General Motors and Ford became an integral part of the Nazi war efforts. GM’s plants in Germany built thousands of bomber and jet fighter propulsion systems for the Luftwaffe at the same time that its American plants produced aircraft engines for the U.S. Army Air Corps … ”

And lastly:

“The outbreak of war in September 1939 resulted inevitably in the full conversion by GM and Ford of their Axis plants to the production of military aircraft and trucks. … On the ground, GM and Ford subsidiaries built nearly 90 percent of the armored ‘mule’ 3-ton half-trucks and more than 70 percent of the Reich’s medium and heavy-duty trucks. These vehicles, according to American intelligence reports, served as ‘the backbone of the German Army transportation system’.”

The U.S. was willing then, as now, to support both sides in its worship of the almighty dollar. In 1963, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein, a leader of a rebel group opposing the government of Iraq that had previously been supported by the U.S. In 1979, when Russia invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. armed radical extremists who eventually became Al-Qaida, with whom the U.S. has now been at war for years.

 

No reason for change and hope

Despite the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” and that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the U.S. deprives countless millions of people around the world of these basic rights in its quest to enrich the already super-wealthy.

Will this change? Will the upcoming presidential election bring fruition of the unrealized “hope and change” promise of eight years ago?

Hardly.

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two likely contenders for president from the major parties, only promise more of the same, or worse, there can be no optimism about 2017. The U.S. will continue to arm rebel groups against legitimate governments, resulting in the suffering of innocent people around the world and sky-high profits for U.S. arms manufacturers.

No one is talking about hope or change this year. There is, sadly, no reason to.

Originally published by MintPressNews.

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Whitewashing Militarism, Vietnam-War Edition

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Vietnamese victory over the United States, in the war that ravaged Vietnam, and caused untold suffering and division in the U.S. It was said, after the people of Vietnam were able to resist the most powerful military machine in the world, that the U.S. needed to rethink its war-mongering and military aggression, and, perhaps, turn to diplomacy before resorting to bombs. The lessons of Vietnam, it was proclaimed, must be remembered.

It doesn’t take a historian to see that any lessons from that disastrous war were all quickly forgotten. Not only has this been manifested by the U.S.’s almost constant war-making since its defeat in Vietnam, but now the government is also ‘commemorating’ that deadly, imperial disaster. To this end, it has launched a 13-year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. This farce began in 2012, and the country will be subjected to it, in one form or another, until 2025.

Looking at the commemoration’s website, there are five (5) stated objectives. Each is more puzzling than the last. We will look at each one in some detail.

“To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.”

The U.S. has an odd way of thanking veterans, if it believes that an occasional parade will do the trick. Veterans, including large numbers of those who ‘served’ (more on that ridiculous term later) in Vietnam, have an above-average rate of depression, suicide, homelessness, drug-addiction and domestic violence. Victims of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant used widely in Vietnam, which cause untold physical problems for veterans and their children, fought for years to have their illnesses recognized by the government as having been caused by those chemicals. Veterans’ hospitals have been shown to have long waiting lists, and deplorable conditions.

“To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces.”

One wonders why anyone wants to highlight the activities of organizations that made the killing of innocent men, women and children easier and more effective.

“To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.”

It would seem to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of life in the U.S. during the Vietnam-War era that the nation should pay tribute to the contributions made by those who opposed the war. Tens of thousands of young men fled the country, rather than be victimized by the U.S. slave trade known as conscription. Countless others who went to Vietnam returned home and actively opposed the war. Numerous others were jailed when their conscientious-objector applications were denied, or when they publically burned their draft cards. Eventually, even the corporate-owned media, and many politicians, saw the validity and honor of their actions. But during this endless commemoration, all this will be ignored.

“To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.”

Now, perhaps, we are getting to the heart of the matter. Such ‘advances’ mainly serve to advance the bottom line of the fat-cats who profit from war. And any golden calf is always worth worshipping in the United States. And if so many advances in technology, science and medicine resulted from the Vietnam War, well then, why not have another war, and see what additional advances can be made?

“To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.”

It would not be unreasonable to think that these allies would just as soon forget the whole thing. All any reminders of their involvement in the U.S.’s Vietnam folly can do is bring to mind any repeat of those mistakes when the U.S., with equal justification (read: none) invaded Iraq. So this commemorative frolic may not be something the allies will embrace.

And now let us take a moment to consider the term ‘military service’, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Militarism, as has been amply demonstrated by the U.S. for over two centuries, brings death, poverty, oppression, denial of human rights, and the untold and unspeakable suffering of innocent men, women and children. This has been true from the War of 1812 right up through today, as the U.S. and its allies bomb Syria, and spread suffering there, while causing increased hatred towards the United States. The killing of the innocent might be called ‘collateral damage’, but more of the innocent suffer and die than any of the U.S.’s self-identified ‘enemies’.

What does any of this have to do with service? That word, except when perverted by being affixed to the word ‘military’, implies selfless assistance, the acts of helping people who are suffering, or are somehow less fortunate than those performing the service. Volunteers in homeless shelters, at food banks, school programs and other facilities where people are assisted can be said to serve. Educators who devote their lives to teaching, despite low salaries, serve. But soldiers who invade independent countries and kill their citizens are not serving; there is a word for killing people, and it is not ‘service’.

But today, and for the next several years, apparently, the president and various other politicians will proclaim the greatness of the cause that led to the Vietnam War, looking at it through the 40-year-old tint of rose-colored glasses, and praise it as an example of U.S. greatness. There will be no mention of the anger on university campuses that often resulted in extreme police violence against students. The young men who left the country in order to avoid forced participation in the immorality of war will be ignored. And the citizen-lemmings will forget the scenes of U.S. personnel desperately fleeing Saigon as the Vietcong entered victoriously, and will place hand on heart, pledge allegiance to the flag, and sit back as the U.S. continues to operate the most effective killing machine on the planet.

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