Silencing America as it prepares for war

By John Pilger

27 May 2016


Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.” So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for Continue reading

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Defense contractor lobbyists start 2016 strong

From the April 21, 2016 Politico Morning Defense email:

<<LOBBYING TALE OF THE TAPE – NORTHROP TOPS DEFENSE FIRMS: Northrop Grumman topped defense contractors in lobbying spending for the first three months of this year, jumping ahead of Boeing for the top defense slot, according to the latest round of lobbying disclosure filings. Northrop, which won the Long-Range Strike Bomber contract last year, spent $4.7 million on lobbying in the first quarter, more than $1 million above the same time period in 2015.

Boeing was second among defense firms with $4.5 million in lobbying expenditures the first quarter, followed by Lockheed Martin at $3.7 million. General Dynamics jumped up to fourth at $2.5 million. And United Technologies was fifth at $2.3 million – a drop of $1.9 million compared to the first quarter last year, before the company sold Sikorsky to Lockheed.

In all, 20 of the biggest defense firms spent $28.3 million on lobbying last quarter, nearly identical to the total a year ago, according to a POLITICO analysis.>> 

 
According to a 2014 analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, corporate lobbying is a really good investment–“for every dollar spent on influencing politics, the nation’s most politically active corporations received $760 from the government”…a 76,000 percent return on the lobbying investment. Not too bad.

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Breaking the Chains of Command: Anarchist Veterans of the US Military, by Brad Thomson

This piece appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, N. 28, on Justice available from AK Press here. Brad received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to assist…

Source: Breaking the Chains of Command: Anarchist Veterans of the US Military, by Brad Thomson

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Proliferation begins at home…The $1 Trillion Train Wreck

From the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, April 2016

Proliferation begins at home. That has never been clearer than now, as the United States embarks on what many scientists at its nuclear weapons laboratories are calling “the second nuclear age.” The United States plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to “modernize” all aspects of its nuclear arsenal: the bombs and warheads, the production facilities, the delivery systems, and command and control systems.
This plan directly benefits the private corporations that are invested in the maintenance and production of nuclear weapons and raises major questions of accountability. The directors of the Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia weapons labs also serve as CEOs of the for-profit corporations that are contracted to manage the labs. When they propose a never-ending cycle of Life Extension Programs, they are literally lining their own pockets!
Trillion Dollar Trainwreck focuses primarily on the FY 2017 budget for nuclear weapons and wastes. It highlights Life Extension Programs (LEPs), proposed new production facilities, and other projects at Department of Energy sites. Most of them are completely unnecessary for national security. All of them are mismanaged, behind schedule, and wildly over budget.
View and download the full report here

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The Trillion Dollar Question the Media Have Neglected to Ask Presidential Candidates

The American people will be footing the bill — but, by and large, they haven’t heard much about our country’s planned trillion-dollar nuclear weapons upgrade.

BY LAWRENCE WITTNER | MARCH 21, 2016

[Source: http://billmoyers.com/story/the-trillion-dollar-question-the-media-have-neglected-to-ask-presidential-candidates/]

originally appeared at History News Network.

 
Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?
The expenditure is for a 30-year program to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died. It has been replaced by an administration plan to build a new generation of US nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the nation well into the second half of the 21st century. This plan, which has received almost no attention by the mass media, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs and production plants. The estimated cost? $1,000,000,000,000.00 — or, for those readers unfamiliar with such lofty figures, $1 trillion.

Critics charge that the expenditure of this staggering sum will either bankrupt the country or, at the least, require massive cutbacks in funding for other federal government programs. “We’re… wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” admitted Brian McKeon, an undersecretary of defense. And we’re “probably thanking our stars we won’t be here to have to have to answer the question,” he added with a chuckle.

This nuclear “modernization” plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the US government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world. Although climate change might end up accomplishing much the same thing, a nuclear war does have the advantage of terminating life on earth more rapidly.

This trillion-dollar nuclear weapons buildup has yet to inspire any questions about it by the moderators during the numerous presidential debates. Even so, in the course of the campaign, the presidential candidates have begun to reveal their attitudes toward it.

On the Republican side, the candidates — despite their professed distaste for federal expenditures and “big government” — have been enthusiastic supporters of this great leap forward in the nuclear arms race. Donald Trump, the frontrunner, contended in his presidential announcement speech that “our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work,” insisting that it is out of date. Although he didn’t mention the $1 trillion price tag for “modernization,” the program is clearly something he favors, especially given his campaign’s focus on building a US military machine “so big, powerful and strong that no one will mess with us.”

His Republican rivals have adopted a similar approach. Marco Rubio, asked while campaigning in Iowa about whether he supported the trillion dollar investment in new nuclear weapons, replied that “we have to have them. No country in the world faces the threats America faces.” When a peace activist questioned Ted Cruz on the campaign trail about whether he agreed with Ronald Reagan on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the Texas senator replied: “I think we’re a long way from that and, in the meantime, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. The best way to avoid war is to be strong enough that no one wants to mess with the United States.” Apparently, Republican candidates are particularly worried about being “messed with.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been more ambiguous about her stance toward a dramatic expansion of the US nuclear arsenal. Asked by a peace activist about the trillion dollar nuclear plan, she replied that she would “look into that,” adding: “It doesn’t make sense to me.” Even so, like other issues that the former secretary of state has promised to “look into,” this one remains unresolved. Moreover, the “National Security” section of her campaign website promises that she will maintain the “strongest military the world has ever known” — not a propitious sign for critics of nuclear weapons.

Only Bernie Sanders has adopted a position of outright rejection. In May 2015, shortly after declaring his candidacy, Sanders was asked at a public meeting about the trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. He replied: “What all of this is about is our national priorities. Who are we as a people? Does Congress listen to the military-industrial complex” that “has never seen a war that they didn’t like? Or do we listen to the people of this country who are hurting?” In fact, Sanders is one of only three US Senators who support the SANE Act, legislation that would significantly reduce US government spending on nuclear weapons. In addition, on the campaign trail, Sanders has not only called for cuts in spending on nuclear weapons, but has affirmed his support for their total abolition.

Nevertheless, given the failure of the presidential debate moderators to raise the issue of nuclear weapons “modernization,” the American people have been left largely uninformed about the candidates’ opinions on this subject. So, if Americans would like more light shed on their future president’s response to this enormously expensive surge in the nuclear arms race, it looks like they are the ones who are going to have to ask the candidates the trillion dollar question.

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No Nukes or New Nukes?

From the excellent Peace Action blog:

Peace Action national board member (and pre-eminent historian on the global nuclear disarmament movement) Larry Wittner on History News Network. The Trillion Dollar Question the Media Have Neglecte…

Source: No Nukes or New Nukes?

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Seventeen minutes . . .

Then a quarter century of reflection and bitterness.

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Conrad. Photo: Bart Bolger

March 15, 2016. Panama City, Panama.
by Bart Bolger

This is Conrad.

Conrad is an 81-year old tour guide—he says he is a “walking taxi”—in Panama City and he is a victim of the 1989 USAmerican invasion of Panama.

He says the invasion lasted just 17 minutes. Conrad lost his wife and house, both destroyed within 17 minutes of the first shots fired.

Conrad is a proud Panamanian. His grandfather came to Panama with thousands of other Jamaicans to build the Panama Canal. He is proud of the canal.

After the attack, Conrad lived in a refugee camp for many months, living off USAmerican MREs (meals, ready-to-eat). He blames them for the intestinal problems he has today.

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Map: Wikipedia

The US military admits to killing about 250 innocent civilians. Conrad scoffs at that number and with good reason: The Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America (CODEHUCA), an NGO, puts the figure at between 2,500 and 3,000.

According to Wikipedia, “About 20,000 people lost their homes and became refugees as a result of urban warfare. About 2,700 families…were each given $6,500 by the U.S. to build a new house or apartment in selected areas in or near the city.”

Conrad does not say if he got any money to rebuild.

He thinks the invasion was a form of genocide. “US invasions always hurt the poor the most,” he tells me. Conrad knows about other US invasions and cites Iraq and Grenada.

The rich always come out of these things just fine. “War is good for business,” Conrad tells me. Panama is booming now. The Panamanian poor call the oligarchs “rabi-blancos,” literally “white-tailed.” The wealthy profited from the invasion and they profit from the canal fees today. Little trickles down to the poor.

There is utter squalor in Manuel Noriega’s old neighborhood of El Chorrillo, where the Panamanian Defense Forces Headquarters, La Comandancia, was obliterated—and to the east in the barrios surrounding the gentrified Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage site full of luxury accommodations and eateries for visitors.

Beyond Mercado Mariscos, the Panama City commercial district. Photo: Bart Bolger

Beyond Mercado Mariscos, the Panama City commercial district. Photo: Bart Bolger

Many public works projects have the veneer of good intentions but are sink holes for enormous sums of money. The Panama Canal fees–it costs about $10,000 to transit one freighter and annual fees total $10 million–lack any public accountability, according to one local resident, a sure sign of corruption.

On a brighter note, Conrad is proud of the Panamanian national health care system which allows him to consult with a physician for one dollar and provides pensioners with discounted medications.

He is also proud of his five grandchildren given him by his daughter who was only 20 when her mother was killed by the Americans.

Conrad is still bitter. After I express my shame and contrition over the savagery committed by the US government, he tells me he still blames George Bush Sr. The poor here hate “Poppy” with far more vehemence than “W.”

And why not?

Conrad asks me, “Why would you blow up an entire country just to get one guy?”

We both know the answer, but it remains unspoken.

Conrad gives me his permission to share his story and is keen to offer his thoughts to the American people, most of whom he feels are good and caring. He stresses the importance of Americans visiting other countries and talking with their people.

I tell him that I work with Veterans For Peace and that we hope to prevent future invasions like “Operation Just Cause,” an Orwellian code name, if ever there was one.

Conrad gives me his tour today while sitting on a bench in Casco’s Cathedral Plaza.

He takes my card and promises to keep in touch. I hope so. I still have a lot to learn about life in Panama.

Bart Bolger is the chairperson of Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter 132, Corvallis, Oregon. He may be contacted at bart[at]vfpcorvallis.org, twitter: @bartbolger

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