Nel's New Day

July 19, 2016

Only GOP Gets Pass for Making Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s what Republicans said this week when Leslie Stahl asked GOP vice-president candidate Mike Pence about staunchly supporting the Iraq War and Donald Trump excused him. That’s what a GOP delegate said about Melania Trump’s speech on the first night of the GOP convention that copied segments about values from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention, the wife of the man who Trump denigrated for his lack of values.

Plagiarism seems to be a family pattern for the Trumps:  much of the materials from Trump Institute’s “get-rich-quick” ideas came from “an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier,” according to NYT’s Jonathan Martin. Plagiarism ended Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988, but Trump has been called the Teflon Man because nothing sticks to him. The GOP position that mistakes are no problem seem to not be extended to Democrats.

Last night at the convention was a night of fear and doom highlighted by Patricia Smith, mother of a man who died in the attack on the diplomatic post at Benghazi (Libya), when she emphatically said that she holds Hillary Clinton personally responsible for the death of her son. (Fox watchers missed her speech, however, because it broadcast a live interview with Donald Trump at the same time as her speech.) Smith claims that Clinton lied to her; family members of other losses at Benghazi do not agree with Smith. Steve Benen described the manipulation of a woman’s grief for political purposes as “the lowest point a party has reached in my lifetime.” Throughout the evening, the incessant cry of “lock her up” about Hillary made the delegates sound like crowds rioting during the French Revolution.

While the media’s obsession with Clinton and Benghazi, it largely ignored George W. Bush’s part in the Middle East conflicts, a disaster that has killed hundreds of times more people—both in the 9/11 attack and the ensuing wars—than the four tragic deaths at Benghazi. As Maureen Dodd reported in a recent column, “Bush’s Call to Invade Iraq Looking Even Worse,” Trump agrees with a report in Jean Edward Smith’s biography, Bush, “that W. ignored warnings before 9/11, and overreacted afterward.” He behaved like a teenager who didn’t pay attention while driving and then over corrected into the ditch—but millions of times worse.

Recent reports show that Bush’s actions, responsible for the current dangers from radical terrorists, ignored the results of the 9/11 congressional inquiry released in 2002. After 14 years, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) forced the release of 28 pages from this report showing that the United States blamed the wrong country for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Despite heavy redactions, the pages reveal that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack on the United states were paid by Saudi Arabia and identifies serious communication failures between the CIA and the FBI that provided intelligence failure before the attacks.

In addition, the view of Saudi Arabia as an “ally” led to the FBI’s refusal to investigate the Saudi hijackers. Within the 28 pages is that statement that connections “suggest … incontrovertible evidence [exists] that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi government.” Another part of the newly-released findings is that “Saudi Government officials in the United States may have ties to Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network.”

After the 9/11 attack, the FBI failed to interview key Saudi Arabian witnesses while relying on false second-hand information. Despite the FAA’s closure of the U.S. air space, they allowed key Saudi Arabians to almost immediately flee the United States because of their friendship with the Bush family. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were identified as Saudi citizens, but W. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Months before the attack on 9/11, however, W. and his administration had already begun planning to attack Iraq. He started immediately after his first inauguration when he also cut taxes by $1 trillion and created a deficit, beginning with $400 billion after the former president, Bill Clinton, had brought the country to a surplus. Dick Cheney said that “Saddam’s own son-in-law” told them that “Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” Yet in 2003, reporters found that the son-in-law had said the opposite, that “all weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear—were destroyed.”

Despite claims to the contrary from Cheney, and Condoleeza Rice, the aluminum tubes were the wrong size for centrifuges but appropriate for conventional, non-WMD rockets and “innocuous.” There were no links at that time between Iraq and a Qaeda although Colin Powell said the opposite.  W. claimed an IAEA report said that Iraq was “six months away from developing a nuclear weapon.” No such report existed, and the IAEA reported that it had “found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.” And on and on with the lies.

Over one million Iraqi men, women, and children have been killed in the conflict, and another two million are refugees in other countries. Another 1.7 million are displaced within the country. One million U.S. veterans were injured in the war, and 4,491 died.

W. always claimed that releasing this information would “make it harder for us to win the war on terror.” What he really means is that the release of the information would be harder for him to start the war that developed the terror in today’s Middle East.

To accomplish his goal, he enlisted the support of Tony Blair, then British prime minister, “to start a war on dodgy intelligence with inadequate planning to control the killing fields of a post-Saddam landscape, a landscape that eventually spawned the Islamic state.” That’s the conclusion of the 2.6 million-word report from the British government’s Chilcot inquiry. They ignored the report of U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix who said that he found no weapons of mass destruction. Blair expressed concerns about the French, and W. answered:

“Yeah, but what did the French ever do for anyone? What wars did they win since the French Revolution?”

Key findings from the British inquiry into the Iraq War:

  • There was “no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein” in March 2003 and military action was “not a last resort.”
  • The UK “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.”
  • Tony Blair’s note to George W. Bush on July 28, 2002, saying UK would be with the US “whatever,” was the moment Britain was set on a path to war
  • Judgments about the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD “were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
  • Tony Blair told attorney general Lord Goldsmith Iraq had committed breaches of UN Security Council resolution 1441 without giving evidence to back up his claim
  • Planning for post-war Iraq was “wholly inadequate.”
  • Iran, North Korea and Libya were considered greater threats in terms of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons proliferation.
  • The joint intelligence committee believed it would take Iraq five years, after the lifting of sanctions, to produce enough fissile material for a weapon.
  • There was no evidence that Iraq had tried to acquire fissile material and other components or – were it able to do so – that it had the technical capabilities to turn these materials into a usable weapon.
  • Saddam’s regime was “not judged likely” to share its weapons or knowhow with terrorist groups.

After the report came out, W. admitted “mistakes” in Iraq but said that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. The U.S. created Hussein, employing him starting in 1959 and sending him millions of dollars, intelligence and tactical advice after making him the dictator in the 1980s. W. simply destroyed any Iraqi institutions remaining with no plan on how to rebuild these. Thirteen years later, poverty and violence in Iraq are rampant, and many people are without reliable electricity, running water, and healthcare.

As always, conservatives blame everyone except themselves—in this case the Iraqis. James Kirchick wrote in the National Review:

“If supporters of the Iraq War can be blamed for anything, it is being guilty of, at worst, a naïveté whereby they expected too much from Iraqis—not, as the latter-day inquisitors of George W. Bush and Tony Blair would have it, of a malignant desire to rape and pillage. Iraq’s tragic predicament is the result not of Western imperialism but of the particular pathologies of a Muslim-Arab world whose depredations are now on full view across the region, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen and beyond.”

The GOP push at this time is to complete wipe out terrorists in the Middle East. That means eliminating whatever infrastructure exists in these countries, putting in more dictators, and then leaving the countries worse off that they were before they did their regime-building. The result will be more hundreds of thousands of people dead and more hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and wandering a planet where they are unwanted.

This is the party that wants to put Hillary Clinton in prison after she was exonerated of involvement with the deaths of four people in Benghazi. The GOP must keep bombing countries—14 of them in the Islamic world since 1980—because politicians make money from contractors creating the war machines. In addition, the U.S. accounts for 79 percent of weapons sales to the Middle East, and the majority of all foreign weapons sales around the world.   That’s one way that GOP candidates get elected; they beat the war drums and then use funding from manufacturers of war weapons.

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 – More Soldiers May Die

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , ,

Today is a federal holiday called Memorial Day. When I was a child, it was called Decoration Day, the term first used for it after the U.S. Civil War. I remember trailing after my mother in Nebraska cemeteries as she put home-grown flowers, saved for weeks in the refrigerator, over graves of relatives. It was always a very somber day. Since that time, the date of Memorial Day has been moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May to create a “convenient” three-day weekend. Newspapers burgeon with colorful flyers for sales, and people invite friends to picnics. Almost gone, however, is any memory of the purpose for this commemoration.

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor military personnel who died in the service of their country, especially in battle or from wounds sustained in battle. It differs from Veterans Day, November 11, dedicated to all veterans in the military.

At least 1.2 million people from the United States have died fighting in wars during the past 241 years.* The total below list only U.S. military members and do not include the terrible toll of military members from other countries and the “collateral damage,” the term used for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended (probably innocent) target.

  • American Revolution (1775-1783): Battle Deaths – 4,435
  • War of 1812 (1812-1815): Battle Deaths – 2,260
  • Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898): Battle Deaths Estimate – 1,000
  • Mexican War (1846-1848): Battle Deaths – 1,733; Other Deaths in Theater – 11,550
  • Civil War (1861-1865): Union Battle Deaths – 140,414; Other Deaths in Theater – 224,097 and Confederate Battle Deaths – 74,524; Other Deaths in Theater – 59,297
  • Spanish-American War (1898-1902): Battle Deaths – 385; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 2,061
  • Philippine-American War (1899 to 1902): Total Death – Over 4,200
  • World War I (1917-1918): Battle Deaths – 53,402; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 63,114
  • World War II (1941 –1945): Battle Deaths – 291,557; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 113,842
  • Korean War (1950-1953): Battle Deaths – 33,739; Other Deaths in Theater – 2,835; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 17,672
  • Vietnam War (1964-1975): Battle Deaths – 47,434; Other Deaths in Theater – 10,786; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 32,000
  • Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991): Battle Deaths – 148; Other Deaths in Theater – 235; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 1,565
  • Middle East Wars including Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-present): Total U.S. soldiers – 6,888

[A complete list of U.S. involvement and cause of wars/conflicts, including the Banana Wars of the early 20th century.]

On this Memorial Day, the GOP presidential candidate shows himself ready to declare more wars that will kill more people from the U.S. As the nation continues to suffer from George W. Bush’s preemptive wars at the turn of the 21st century, Donald Trump, Bush on steroids, plans more disasters for the U.S. The president has almost total control of U.S. foreign policy, and Trump has these plans if he becomes president:

  • Send U.S. oil companies to rebuild the Middle East infrastructure and take Syrian and Iraqi oil for the U.S. (“They’ll rebuild that sucker, brand new, and then I’ll take the oil.”)
  • Target and kill families of suspected ISIS fighters.
  • Expand the law to permit torture.
  • Send more military forces to the South China sea to show China “that we mean business.”
  • Make North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “disappear” (assassination?).
  • Abandon U.S. treaty commitments.
  • Withdraw all troops from foreign bases if the allies won’t pay 100 percent of the cost for the bases, at the risk of South Korea and Japan acquiring their own nuclear weapons. (The U.S. “may very well be better off.”)
  • Encourage more countries to have nuclear weapons by stopping nuclear proliferation.
  • Use nuclear weapons against ISIS.
  • Become more “unpredictable” in U.S. national security policy, perhaps causing an arms race with China and North Korea, nuclear proliferation by other states in East Asia, and regional instability.

Another Trump promise is to wage all-out war against any action to prevent climate change. Last Friday, he told an audience that there is no drought in California. His “energy and climate” position is to kill the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, all domestic climate-related regulations, and the Paris climate agreement. His actions would cause temperatures to soar, increasing poverty and hunger from food and water shortages. The instability would result in pandemic disease and exacerbate violent conflicts around the world. Human-caused climate change already triggered Syria’s civil war, “the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” according to a report from the European Commission.

If Donald Trump were elected president, he would be the “person with the finger on the button.”

finger on the button

In 2011, 19 men, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, brought down two World Trade Centers in New York; George W. Bush’s ensuing wars caused physical and mental injuries to hundreds of thousands of military members. Deaths in the Middle East from these wars could be as high as four million.  A conservative estimate reports that the war cost $2 trillion by 2013, not counting expenses for veterans. At the same time, global terror spread from Afghanistan throughout the Middle East, Africa, and the Far East.

Now the GOP presidential presumptive candidate wants to back out of any diplomacy throughout the world while he intends to “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” As much of a problem that Donald Trump presents, even more frightening is the number of people who agree with Trump that the U.S. needs to allow the vast increase of nuclear weapons around the world. If Trump is elected president by these people, millions more people will die.

On May 29, 2017, the United States will again commemorate the people who died at war with shopping and retail sales—if the United States still exists in a year.

*The 1.2 million people who died in 241 years is fewer than those who have died from guns in the United States since 1968, but the federal government does not commemorate these deaths.

November 16, 2015

How the World Got ISIS

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
Tags: , ,

The U.S. war hawks are picking the bones of the nation’s involvement in the Middle East after the tragedy in Paris, hoping that the fear that they engender can get them elected. For those who blame the current administration for the mess in the Middle East, here’s a little background.

Although Middle East problems go back a century because of our drive to take oil out of the region, it was largely contained until the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. In 2012, Kurt Eichenwald wrote about the August 6, 2001, daily brief with the headline, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S,” given to Bush, 36 days before 19 terrorists attacked the United States. The Bush White House claimed that it wasn’t a warning, but other documents prove them wrong.

Warnings began earlier, on May 1, and another daily brief on June 22 reported that the strikes could be “imminent.” The CIA analysis pleaded with the White House to accept the danger that they reported, and more warnings were issued during that summer. On July 1, the brief to Bush stated that the operation “will occur soon.” Bush officials tried to justify not paying attention because the warnings didn’t give them the exact place and date. During this time two co-conspirators were stopped coming into the U.S. or arrested.

Recently, former CIA Director George Tenet and counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black confirmed that the Bush administration ignored warnings in May 2001 about an imminent terrorist attack. Tenet said that the CIA presented a plan, the “Blue Sky” paper, to deal with these threats and was told to shelve the plans and hide the paper trail proving the warnings to the Bush administration. Cofer said that the information about the terrorist attack in the U.S. from the CIA’s Al Qaeda unit was “absolutely compelling [and] multiple sourced”—and was ignored.  Nineteen volunteers and a budget of $500,000 destroyed the World Trade Centers, killed thousands of people in the U.S., and cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars in two wars that have led to increased terrorism in the Middle East.

Bush’s advisors had long wanted to take over leadership of countries in the Middle East, as far back as 1992, and their fixation on this approach led them to ignore the warnings. Even after 9/11, they could not believe that terrorists could operate without government sanction, leading them to start a war in Afghanistan and then Iraq although the latter country had no relationship to 9/11. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on that date were Saudi Arabia citizens, yet Bush allowed Saudis in the United States to leave the country while all other flights were grounded. Osama bin Laden, blamed for perpetrating the attacks in the U.S., wasn’t killed until May 2011, during President Obama’s first term.

Emails released because of the Benghazi investigation show that Bush plotted with then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to invade Iraq in April 2002, almost a year before the actual invasion. Blair also colluded with the Bush administration to fabricate and sell “evidence” of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction and false plans to strike the United States. Bush also used spies in the British Labor Party to manipulate public opinion in favor of the war.

Bush’s decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 and kill Saddam Hussein led to a power vacuum in the Middle East that was filled by terrorists. The U.S. installation of Ahmed Chalabi, considered a “Western stooge” by his constituents, was a failure, and U.S. appointed head of Iraq, Paul Bremer, passed the de-Baathification law, barring 400,000 Iraqi members from government employment and driving them into becoming insurgents and terrorists. The training that they received and the guns that they were allowed to keep made them deadly. Almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, and they also bring the smuggling networks from avoiding sanctions in the 1990s to now facilitating the group’s illicit oil trading.

As far back as 2006, the media reported that Bush’s wars were recruitment vehicles for terrorists with numbers increasing faster than the rest of the world could reduce the threat. A National Intelligence Estimate cites the Iraqi invasion as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks united by an anti-Western agenda. The situation in Iraq worsened the U.S. position. NIE issued the report at the same time that Bush bragged about how he “removed terrorist sanctuaries … and stopped new attacks.” The terrorist networks spread and decentralized because U.S. invasion and torture alienated possible allies and led to radicalizing Muslims.

In this clip from the last June’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart shows why the growth of ISIS is not the fault of President Obama. He also shows how the president’s failure to arm Syrian rebels kept U.S. arms from the terrorists.

In their effort to place blame for the rise of ISIS during and after the Iraq War on the Democrats, Republicans are intent on accusing President Obama of withdrawing the troops too soon. The current president took office on January 20, 2009, 37 days after George W. Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement requiring that “all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” In her 2011 book, No Higher Honor, Condoleezza Rice wrote that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted on “the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011.” Bush agreed. Negotiations to change the agreement broke down in October 2011 over whether U.S. troops would be shielded from criminal prosecution by Iraqi authorities.

Republicans ignore the U.S. Constitution that makes Congress, not the president, responsible for authorizing war. GOP congressional members continually dodge their responsibility. Their last vote in this issue was last June when a House committee passed a measure stating that “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force” against ISIS. Twenty-two  Republicans voted against the nonbinding amendment. There has been no debate. President Obama’s airstrikes are done under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. After lawmakers disputed the point, the president sent them a proposal last February—nine months ago—and asked for a vote on it. Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) ignored the proposal.

While the GOP avoids their responsibilities, they protest any Syrian refugees being allowed in the U.S. Ghaled, a 22-year-old dentistry student forced to flee to Germany, gave a perspective from the refugees about the tragedy in Paris. “We are with them right now, just to help them with this crisis. What’s happening to them is happening every day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years, so we know what that means.” The Syrian refugee, who walked for 17 days to escape his country, was talking about the 210,060 people, an average of 144 people each day, who died in Syria since the beginning of its civil war four years ago, at least half of them civilians.

In a poll taken last weekend after attacks in Paris, 65 percent of people in the United States oppose sending troops to the Middle East.

GOP presidential candidates are following Jeb Bush’s declaration on Meet the Press when he said, “You destroy ISIS.” They just don’t say how. They pretend that ISIS is a country and not a terrorist group found around the world. Keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S., they cry because the terrorists left a Syrian passport, perhaps on purpose, near one of the bomb strikes. Three of the seven perpetrators were French nationals, and others came from Belgium. Ben Carson called for a coalition to fight ISIS, but he couldn’t name even one ally when Chris Wallace pressed him for specifics during the interview on Fox network. Carson admitted that Hillary Clinton had the experience to keep the people in the U.S. safe.

Those who believe that ISIS attacked Paris think that the reason was France’s interference in the Middle East. Marco Rubio says that ISIS hates us because women can drive cars and because we are “tolerant.” (That last part is subject to disagreement.) Peter Beinart wrote, “Women drive in Costa Rica too, but the Islamic State is unlikely to attack it, because Costa Rica is not contesting ISIS’s control of the Middle East.” ISIS isn’t jealous of the U.S.; it just wants us out of the Middle East. Congress might want to stop trying to stop Planned Parenthood and start trying to stop ISIS.

As neocons continue to call for expulsion of Muslims to the Middle East and refuse to accept refugees who are running from ISIS, they create hundreds and thousands of more ISIS members. The past 15 years give a history to why ISIS has bloomed. If we ignore this history, we are doomed to face even greater devastation to the world.

September 1, 2015

Don’t Follow Netanyahu into War

Thirty-three senators now support the President of the United States in agreeing to the Iran deal to keep the country from putting together nuclear weapons. To avoid an override of the proposed “resolution of disapproval” to stop the P5+1 agreement among seven countries of the world, President Obama needs one more senator to support the deal. Despite the tens of millions of dollars from anti-Iran deal groups advertising its dangers, a survey shows a majority of people in the U.S.—52 percent—want approval for the agreement. Nearly 7 in 10 Democrats support the deal that lifts some international sanctions against Iran in exchange for the country restricting its nuclear program for at least a decade. Six of 10 independents support the deal while almost 7 in 10 Republicans oppose the agreement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called a “jackass” in a public meeting last weekend, has invited another GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to join him in opposing the Iran deal at a rally on Capitol Hill. Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, considered too conservative by the ultra-conservative Fox network, will be at the September 9 event. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is continuing his possibly treasonous behavior by meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday and stating, “I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel.” He tweeted a photo of himself and the Israeli prime minister, writing: “Great meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem to discuss our opposition to the #IranDeal.”

cotton

Last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) worked against U.S. foreign policy during the migrant-children crisis. Other GOP lawmakers have also promised their allegiance to Israel. Five years ago, then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) promised Netanyahu that the new GOP majority in the house would “serve as a check” on the Obama administration. In 2006, Cantor is the same member of Congress who accused then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of violating the Logan Act, “which makes it a felony for any American ‘without authority of the United States’ to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States.” Cantor’s accusation came after Pelosi’s meeting with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad which she coordinated with Bush administration officials and where she included State Department personnel. Dick Cheney, the past vice-president who plans to attack President Obama at the September 9 rally, said of Pelosi, “The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”

Nine years ago, Al Gore criticized George W. Bush’s government “abuses” against Arabs after the 9/11 attacks when he spoke at a conference in Saudi Arabia. The conservative media attacked him, one claiming that Gore had committed “supreme disloyalty to his country.” Even worse to these writers was that his speech was “in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections” and “subversive … because of its location and its intended audience.” In 2007, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, insisted, “I would simply hope that people would understand that, under the Constitution, the president conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”

Now Republicans not only meet with foreign leaders to undermine the U.S. policy but also brag about doing it. Instead of being criminal, Cotton’s seditious behavior seems to be almost routine.

Netanyahu, the man who leads U.S. GOP congressional members, began his rise in 1996 after his opponent’s assassination. Fired up by the Oslo Accords, a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli settlers elected Netanyahu to avoid diplomacy and stop a Palestinian state. War mongering Richard Perle, advisor to Netanyahu’s campaign, headed the committee to write the strategy calling for a stop to diplomacy with Palestine and control the neighborhood by undermining, subdividing, or destroying Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Thanks to George W. Bush, only one of these three countries can still block Israel’s destruction of Palestinians. Since Barack Obama’s first election as president, Netanyahu has fought him with political assaults, international incidents, speeches to the U.S. Congress and the UN, and stories about the president’s lack of support for Israel.

The prime minister, who depicts Iran as a military aggressor, was close to attacking Iran three separate occasions between 2010 and 2012, the last of the three in an attempt to defeat President Obama for a second term. Fortunately, even far-right cabinet ministers or the military chief of staff blocked him.

Iran has not attacked another country in a conventional war in modern history. In contrast, Israel has a history of aggression in just a half century including preemptive wars in 1956, 1967, 1982, 2009 and 2014. The 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon led to an 18-year occupation of ten percent of Lebanon. Lebanese Shiites formed Hezbollah to resist Israeli oppression, but Iran’s support is considered by the U.S. and Israel as “support for terrorism.” U.S. and Israeli support for the Israeli illegal invasion and occupation is considered standard operating procedure.

Israel has several hundred nuclear warheads, whereas Iran has none, but Iran has been sanctioned for its civilian nuclear enrichment program for generating electricity. No one knows how many nuclear weapons are located in Israel because it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Netanyahu has consistently refused to broker peace with the Palestinians and forced out officials, such as Meir Dagan, head of the Israeli spying agency Mossad; the chief of staff; and the head of domestic intelligence. Netanyahu spread fear throughout the world by grossly exaggerating Iran’s threat, according to Dagan.

Netanyahu badly needs a GOP president because a Democratic one might not veto UN sanctions against Israel for failing to follow international law. Israel has violated many UN Security Council resolutions through its treatment of the stateless Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem, etc. Iran’s economy has been badly damaged by UNSC sanctions while Israel has not received any punishment thus far because the U.S. has vetoed sanctions against Israel, regardless of the cases’ merits. If the U.S. administration no longer exercises its veto, Israel could be forced into making peace.

Israel is also afraid of the UN recognizing Palestine, which has already been granted non-member observer state status by the General Assembly. Palestine has signed the treaties and instruments necessary to joining the International Criminal Court and gaining standing to sue Israel over its creeping annexation of Palestinian territory beyond the generally recognized 1949 armistice lines. The Rome Statute of 2002 under which the International Criminal Court operates, forbids colonization of other people’s territory. Israel could lose if Palestine sues.

The vast majority of Israel’s defense and security establishment support the Iran agreement, but Netanyahu has put them under a gag order. In a recent article for The Daily Jewish Forward, J.J. Goldberg wrote, “As unanimous as the politicians are in backing the prime minister, the generals and spymasters are nearly as unanimous in questioning him. Generals publicly backing Netanyahu can be counted on—well–one finger.” The U.S. media has avoided providing information that is well-known in the Israeli press and in a U.S. Jewish paper.

Republicans are so eager to spread propaganda against the Iran deal that Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) is terrifying second and third graders in Gilbert (AZ). He was supposed to talk to them about how bills became laws, but he moved into his opposition to the Iran agreement. According to parent Scott Campbell, Salmon explained the situation in Iran and then asked the children such questions as “Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?” Campbell’s daughter told her father that she didn’t know what suicide is and that she is very afraid. Salmon’s office said the congressman’s remarks weren’t any more shocking than the local news.

Israel wants the United States to attack Iran, the Republicans want to destroy the Democrats, and the people of the U.S. are the ones left to suffer the economic and human losses that result from Israel’s determination to dominate the world. People who oppose Israeli positions are accused of being anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is NOT criticizing Israelis for what they do, such as defying more UN resolutions than Iraq, spying on P5+1 negotiations and then leaking the information, committing war crimes, rejecting politicians for their loyalty to a foreign power, and trying to get the United States to go to war just to benefit Israel.

August 31, 2015

Vote on Iran Deal Nears

Conservative media, including Fox, is still distributing the falsehood started by the Associated Press that Iran could use its own inspectors in investigating a military site (which it called a nuclear site). Republicans initially tried to use this announcement to scuttle the Iranian deal, but two hours later AP deleted the information. The original report stated that Iranian scientists would inspect air and soil samples at Parchin and that the number of these samples would be limited to seven. Media ran a scary headline: “AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site.” The report that inspections in the past were carried out by Iranians with no one else allowed on the site came from a leaked draft agreement and is not included in the final one. The edited version eliminated the incendiary details and kept quotes from outraged GOP lawmakers .

According to arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, the leak was to make the agreement sound bad and to hope that the information would make congressional lawmakers start making demands. The AP allowed itself to be duped.

In raising serious—and false—doubts about the Iran agreement, the AP joined Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who evidently leads GOP foreign policy. During the August recess, a Jewish lobbying group paid for members of Congress to visit Israel and hear Netanyahu’s arguments to opposed the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran, signed on July 14 by the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The 58 members of Congress who visited Netanyahu in August were told that they should visit him instead of their constituents if they want contributions from wealthy Jewish donors.

TV ads focused on making people believe that the Iran agreement to control the country’s nuclear weapons is evil should come to an end this fall. Congress has only 18 more days for the first vote to follow the prime minister of Israel rather than the President of the United States.

The process in Congress:

  • Return from recess on September 8, nine days from now.
  • Begin debate on a GOP-sponsored “resolution of disapproval” against the deal.
  • Gather at least 60 votes to move the resolution forward in the Senate.
  • Vote on the resolution by September 17 with a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.
  • Pass the resolution because the GOP has the 51 votes.

If (or when) both congressional chambers approve the resolution against the Iran agreement, the president has 12 days to veto the resolution. Congress has another 10 days to vote on an override. The president needs 34 votes to avoid an override; thus far, 31 senators have committed to supporting the agreement and voting against the override. The House would need at least 44 Democratic votes to override a veto. Passing a resolution of disapproval and overriding a veto would bar President Obama from waiving most of the U.S. sanctions on Iran, necessary to complete the agreement with Iran.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) received much publicity when he came out in opposition to the agreement. He thinks that the country would be better off with the nuclear aspects but objects to the role Iran may take as a trading partner. His goal in opposing the Iran deal is to keep Israel’s domination in the area for another half century. He claims that he doesn’t want a war with Iran, but GOP presidential candidates do. Scott Walker would bomb Iran on the first day of his presidency. Most of the other candidates weren’t as clear in their intentions except they would rescind the agreement. Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate who supports it.

Mike Huckabee, far down in the polls, visited Israel to get financial support although he cannot legally accept donations from foreign nationals. His earnings from selling survivalist gear to Doomsday believers on his radio show seems to be insufficient to run his campaign. Ignoring Israel’s liberal abortion policy and its universal healthcare, Huckabee opposed U.S. foreign policy that the West Bank is illegally occupied territory. He said it sounded like “someone is illegally taking land” (which it is) and refers to the Palestinian seat of government as Judea and Samaria.

Walker has promised Israeli officials an increase in military aid should the U.S. have the misfortune of Walker as president. To Walker—and Israel—the one-third of the U.S. foreign aid budget that Israel gets every year isn’t enough for its 0.001 percent of the world’s population.

Within the seven countries that signed the deal, only U.S. hawks are in opposition. Camille Grand, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation, said that no constituency in Europe is against the agreement. He said, “The hawks are satisfied [with the deal].” In the world, the only strong opposition comes from Iranian hardliners, U.S. Republicans, and some Israel officials. Like the GOP opposition to the new START nuclear treaty, U.S. officials are eager to derail an agreement to advance the nation’s interests because of their hatred for President Obama.

Worried that the Senate may not muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), leader in undermining U.S. foreign policy, has made a statement, asking the Congress and the president to “speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” That would be Cotton’s voice after he persuaded 46 other senators to sign his letter to Iranian officials telling them not to trust U.S. officials. Cotton also wants to do away with the filibuster, ignoring the fact that the Republicans originally created the mandate for 60 votes to advance. The senators who express such amazement that Democrats might want to filibuster the Iran agreement ignore the GOP cause of almost total gridlock in that chamber during President Obama’s two terms. They also don’t recognize what might happen if they insisted on only up-and-down votes and then lost the simple majority in the senate.

Just looking at the names of people against the Iran agreement should be proof that the opposition is wrong. These are the same people who supported the Iraq War. George W. Bush learned nothing from that disaster and called the president “naive,” and David Frum, Bush’s speechwriter who coined “Axis of Evil” for Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, accused President Obama of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), called war against Iraq the “only reasonable option” and “the right war for the right reasons.” Mastermind of the Iraq War, Dick Cheney, plans to give an address against the agreement on September 8 although he’s no longer in office. Reporter Eli Lake, who argued about Iraq’s non-existent WMD, accuses the president of practicing the “politics of fear” to achieve peace. Columnist Bill Kristol, board member of an Israeli committee, was the first to write in March 2003 that “we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators” in Iraq. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who turned against his own party to support the Iraq War, has become the new leader of United against Nuclear Iran after its former leader decided that the Iran agreement was a good deal. Not in office in 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, testified at that time that Iraq had WMD. He is taking the same position with Iran.

Today’s problems with Iran come from Bush’s preemptive war on Iraq which expanded Iranian influence and a nuclear program exacerbated by the U.S. wars in the Middle East. Without the Iraq War, ISIS may never have existed. The agreement is a way to clean up the mess left by Bush and his hawks.

The Los Angeles Times has come out in support of the Iran agreement and has a very simple reason: “Although it certainly represents a gamble, the deal makes it highly unlikely that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon during the next 10 or 15 years. Without it, there is no such assurance…. It is far from a perfect deal … but at the end of the day, it must be supported because the alternatives are worse.”

With a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, Israel is a far more dangerous country than Iran because Netanyahu is willing to bomb anyone who gets in his way. The United States should take a good look at the far-right leadership in Israel and reconsider sending Israel one-third of our foreign aid budget to help wage war.

On the pro side of the agreement are dozens of former Israeli military officials, dozens of retired American generals and admirals, and a wide array of experts on nuclear non-proliferation. On the anti side is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is leading ignorant Republicans around by the nose. I’ll side with the experts.

August 14, 2015

Iran Deal: Irrationale Fear Comes from Ignorance

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:40 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Almost 100 years ago, two psychologists wrote about how people can be trained to be afraid, making a calm and even-tempered nine-month-old baby terrified of his previously beloved fuzzy stuffed animals. After researchers constantly matched the objects with loud clanging sounds, “Albert B,” the subject,” would consistently “burst into tears” when he saw these objects. Fired for having an affair with his research partner, the lead in the study moved on to be the vice-president of J. Walter Thompson, a huge advertising firm, where he used more behaviorism to sell products. The study does show that people can be desensitized to irrational fears with the refusal to reward panic based on childish ignorance. Science historian Rob Boddice wrote, “Objects of fear fill the spaces where knowledge and certainty are absent.”

Such is the case of Iran and Republicans. Iran may be scary, but to be ruled by that fear is to stay at the level of animals. Republicans and U.S. Jewish lobbying groups are determined to keep people in the United States at the level of animals in order to control them. Organizations and pro-Israel conservatives like Sheldon Adelson are pouring tens of millions of dollars into television advertising with the goal of making people afraid of Iran. The polls opposing the Iran deal show that this advertising is succeeding.

One reason from conservatives for keeping conflicts alive in the Middle East is the money coming into large companies for the sale of missiles, helicopters, fighter jets, and other war needs:

Boeing: Earlier this year, the United Arab Emirates paid $618 million for just two C-17s, and two years ago, Saudi Arabia and UAE gave Boeing part of a $10 million contract for high-tech missiles. Two years before that, a $29.4 billion contract with Boeing provided Saudi Arabia with 84 F-15 fighter jets and upgrades on older aircrafts. Qatar paid $23 billion for 24 Apache helicopters. The list goes on.

Raytheon. Saudi Arabia paid $1 billion for 15,000 anti-tank missiles, and the company made billions for supplying Patriot missiles to Qatar and UAE. Oman got a ground-based defense system from Raytheon for over $2 billion.

Lockheed Martin. This major player provided the UAE with another defense system for $3.9 billion as well as $600 million from Oman for 12 fighter planes. More equipment went to Saudi Arabia for $112 million.

Sikorsky Aircraft. Saudi Arabia got 12 Black Hawk helicopters for $30 million with another $270 million to upgrade UAE Black Hawks. The company plans to sell 400 helicopters to Middle East countries over the next five to 10 years.

Even before they read the Iran agreement, political war hawks spread fear by claiming that “harsher sanctions” would make a “better deal.” They made this claim even before the deal was finalized. When the opposition was asked if they had read the agreement, the frequent response was that they didn’t need to read it because Iran is “evil.” They ignore the reality that the U.S. cannot stop Iran at this time from exporting a million barrels a day to countries such as China. Other countries are also increasingly refusing to support U.S. sanctions, and technological innovation such as deep gas pipelines would make sanctions much more difficult. Refusal of the agreement in place of a hope for “harsher sanctions” would lose the United States whatever standing it has left in the world.

War hawks also ignore the opinion of scholars and military leaders who claim that the U.S. should take the Iran deal. Three dozen retired generals and admirals released an open letter this week urging Congress to support the agreement. The called it “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” and stated that the U.S. could gain international support for military action against Iran, if necessary, only “if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.” This letter follows one from 29 of the nation’s top scientists–Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms, and former White House science advisers—endorsing the Iran deal. And that letter follows another one from over 100 former U.S. ambassadors, supporting the Iran deal. Retired GOP Colonel Lawrence put it very succinctly when he said, “My political party wants war.”

Even the recent chair of United against Nuclear Iran has decided that U.S. should take the Iran deal. Dr. Gay Samore, scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, stepped down after he declared support for the agreement, and UANI hired Joe Lieberman, Middle East hawk who had said he wouldn’t be a lobbyist before he became a lobbyist. UANI pays for some of the TV ads intended to create irrational fear about the agreement.

During the debate, Israel’s far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been suppressing opposition from his country’s Intelligence Corps, including those in the research division dealing with Iran. Support for the Iran agreement goes as high as former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy and Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. A Jewish group in the United States also paid for 40 Democrats to visit Israel last week so that Netanyahu can lobby them.

democrats in Israel

With less than a month for conservatives to destroy the agreement, politicians on both sides are carefully counting the votes. The one Democrat senator who has joined the Republicans in opposing the agreement is New York’s Chuck Schumer, yet he appears to have no followers in the senate. Conservatives think that they will have enough votes to pass the opposition to the agreement—two-thirds for an override of President Obama’s veto—and progressives think that the conservatives will fail.

It is tradition during for the past few decades since Ronald Reagan sold weapons to Iran that people in the U.S. love Israel and hate Iran. We have tremendous financial support of Israeli weaponry, and the Judeo-Christian culture has stronger roots in Israel. An examination of the two countries, however, brings up strong differences between Iran and Israel:

Nuclear bombs: Iran lacks these weapons, gives no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program, and has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The theocratic Supreme Leader has forbidden making, stockpiling, and using nuclear weapons. Israel refuses to sign the NPT and has several hundred nuclear warheads, which it constructed stealthily, sometimes through acts of espionage and smuggling in the United States and against the wishes of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Their leaders have openly stated that they are ready to use nuclear weapons.

War: Iran has not launched an aggressive war since 1775, when Karim Khan Zand sent an army against Omar Pasha in Basra in neighboring Iraq. This might have actually been a response to provocation rather than an act of aggression. Israel started wars in 1956, 1967 and 1982 as well as committed acts of aggression in 2006, 2009, and 2014.

Occupation: Modern Iran has not occupied neighbors’ territory and didn’t try to take and hold Iraqi territory after Iraq’s attack of Iran in 1980. The UN Charter of 1945 forbids countries to annex the land of their neighbors through warfare, but Israel occupies Palestinian territory with 4 million stateless Palestinians who are treated as subjected, colonized population. Israel has promised to never give Palestine back its land.

Voting: All the people ruled over by Iran can vote in national elections, and even Iranian Jews have a representative in parliament. Four million of the 12 million people ruled by Israel have no vote in Israeli politics but are ruled by Israel.

Opposition: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is not trying to undermine the Obama administration’s negotiations with his country which states that Iran can have nuclear electricity plants but not nulear weapons. Israel has consistently tried to control U.S. foreign policy through bribery of politicians.

Iranian leadership is dictatorial and puritanical, and Israel is better than Iran in many ways. Détente, however, could make life better for people in Israel, Iran, and the United States. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who may be the most reasonable person in Congress at this time, has written a rationale for supporting the agreement. Reading this information may help people get over the irrational fear the Republicans and Israel are pushing onto the people of the United States.

July 16, 2015

Congress to Decide between Iranian War, Peace

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) has declared that his first priority is to represent Jesus. He could start by supporting the Iran deal to bring peace and persuade his Christian GOP colleagues to do the same. But that’s not going to happen. The instant that a deal was announced, Republican presidential candidates led the charge against peace in a deal among six countries that would curb Iran’s nuclear program and significantly limit the country’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon for over ten years. (Details here.)

walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (above), who declared his presidential candidacy on the day that the deal was announced, said, “President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) doesn’t expect Congress to approve the deal. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the agreement appeasement. Rick Santorum called the deal a “catastrophic capitulation.”

Kerry and Zarif, photo Thomas Imo

The deal took 19 days and four missed deadlines before Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, appeared at Secretary of State John Kerry’s working quarters at midnight Monday. Kerry flew 400,000 miles to prevent the tenth country from getting the bomb in the first successful dealings with Iran since its 1979 revolution. In addition to containing the country’s ability to produce a bomb for at least a decade, it provides for permanent, broader U.N. inspections to monitor Iran’s declared and suspected nuclear facilities, even after the deal expires. The combination of restrictions and time frames from ten to twenty-five years gives the international community more insight into Iran’s program and capabilities.

War hawks in the U.S. will complain that Iran can still enrich uranium, yet it’s at a minimum level, with the number of centrifuges cut by two-thirds. Some Congressional members, accompanied by Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms, insist on zero facilities instead of one. The Iran deal will not diffuse deep sectarian and political rivalries in the Middle East with Sunni concern about Iran become a player instead of a pariah, but that was not the goal. Under the deal, Iran can reclaim between $100 billion to $150 billion of its oil revenues from foreign banks. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denounced the deal before the details were released.

Yet U.S. involvement in the Middle East is already overwhelming—air wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya as well as selling arms to Saudi Arabia to wage its war in Yemen. The deal creates no renewal of U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran. Lifting sanctions on Iran will open international markets to Iran’s population that has more than doubled since 1979, but U.S. businesses will be limited in trading with Iran because of sanctions tied to human-rights practices and support for terrorism. If Iran breaks the deal, the U.S. still has a military option.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal with Iran. It can vote for a resolution of disapproval that President Obama has promised to veto. An override of his veto requires two-thirds vote in each chamber. GOP legislators have reasons to vote against the deal, oil prices being one of them. Prices in the United States began to fall in June as the deal came closer to fruition, shrinking to $54 a barrel this past week, and more oil availability from the Middle East forcing down the oil market may bring the price of gas down to below $2 a gallon by the end of the year. The International Energy Agency estimates that Iran could add 800,000 barrels a day to the global market within months of the lifting of sanctions, but immediate relief could come from the 30 million barrels of Iranian crude in storage and ready for sale. A general rule is the two-thirds of the cost of gas comes from the crude oil cost and the remaining one-third comes from taxes, refining, distribution, and marketing. Republicans like to claim, however, that the president is completely responsible for higher costs of gas. They won’t want to see the price go down in the Obama administration.

Any deal from the president is described as a “bad deal” to Republicans. Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the deal is “a possible death sentence for Israel,” but he hasn’t read it. He added that reading it didn’t’ matter because visits to the Mideast made him know that he didn’t like the details. The GOP belief that any international interaction is a “bad deal” goes back to the opposition to the Hot Line Agreement, in which Moscow and Washington could communicate directly during emergencies such as the Cuban missile crisis. The right opposed then-President Nixon going to China and called it “appeasement,” just as they are describing the deal with Iran.

The biggest influence on conservative members of Congress is Netanyahu. Some congressional leaders put Israel’s prime minister above the President of the United States in their loyalties. Last year, presidential candidate Graham told Netanyahu that Congress would “follow his lead” in reinforcing sanctions on Iran despite President Obama’s refusal to do so. Last March, Netanyahu spoke to both chambers of Congress after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited him without notifying the president, a breach of protocol. His speech was intended to persuade congressional members and the people of the United States against Iranian negotiations. At this time, President Obama is offering additional military aid to Israel beyond billions of dollars to help build Israel’s Iron Dome and provide ammunition that killed the people in Gaza last summer. Netanyahu may be willing to sell out his principles for more billions of dollars from the United States.

Soon after Netanyahu’s speech, 47 U.S. senators, led by Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter to Iran, explaining that they might as well not make the deal because any future president could negate it. The letter also claimed—erroneously—that there could be no agreement unless Congress passed it by a two-thirds vote. To this next breach of protocol—and possibly a treasonous act—Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif wrote that Cotton’s letter was a “propaganda ploy” meant to undermine Obama. Yesterday the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Wednesday told Congress to reject the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Republicans have a history of sabotaging U.S. welfare to elect their candidates. When President Jimmy Carter thought he had a deal with the new Iranian president to release 52 hostages in 1979, the Reagan campaign went behind Carter’s back arranging with the Iranian radical faction to keep the hostages in captivity until after the Reagan v. Carter presidential election in 1980. Iranian extremists released the hostages on January 20, 1981, the moment that Reagan was inaugurated, and pointed out that Reagan must keep his agreement to ship weapons to the radical forces. The result was deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, especially in Central America where Reagan took money from the Iranians to destabilize Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. Those areas have still not gained stability after Reagan’s actions. Carter’s loss in the election led to the appointment of Justice Antonin Scalia and the elevation of William Rehnquist to Chief Justice. One reason for the GOP to keep Iran closed to the U.S. is to cover Reagan’s actions.

Although Netanyahu has expressed strong opposition to the Iran deal, not everyone in Israel supports his position. Israel is also a dangerous country with undeclared chemical warfare capabilities and between 75 and 400 nuclear weapons. It is also one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the others being India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Because Israel never signed the NPT, the country does not have to submit to inspections. Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer and its takeover of the Palestinian West Bank shows that the country will use any means to defeat other countries, whether warranted or not.

The GOP refuses to admit that, like almost every problem in the U.S. during the 21st century, Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program can be traced back to the Bush/Cheney administration. With 164 centrifuges in 2003, Iran wanted to negotiate with the U.S. to remove the sanctions blocking the growth of the country’s middle class. Cheney said, “We don’t talk to evil,” and Iran built 5,000 centrifuges in the next two years. The country had 8,000 by the time that Bush/Cheney left. Now Cheney is lobbying to add another war to the ones they started during their administration instead of letting this generation try to achieve peace through diplomacy.

Polls, even one from the conservative Fox network, consistently show approval of the deal, but Republicans spreading lies that may reverse the surveys. Yet conservatives ignore their constituents and oppose the deal because they are convinced that the U.S. should rule the world and dictate the behavior of all countries. That’s what led us into the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq that almost wiped out the U.S. economy.

A comparison between Iran and the United States:

iran v. u.s. nuclear weapons

The only purpose of the Iran deal is to reduce the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. In opposing the Iran deal, Congress has three alternatives: kill the deal and do nothing else, leaving few restraints on the growth of Iran’s nuclear program; declare war and ignite a catastrophic regional conflict; and increase sanctions, which looks like the first option. Without a deal, Iran has a much better chance of building bombs. Increased sanctions are useless because U.S. business dealings with Iran are already limited and the rest of the world will leave the U.S. standing alone.

As conservatives continue to posture without reading the deal, Congress is in charge of deciding whether the United States will go to war with Iran. And the media focus on Iran will cause Scott Walker, the 15th presidential candidate, to stay in the shadows—at least for a while.

May 25, 2015

Memorial Day: Focus on Peace, Not War

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 9:42 PM
Tags: , , ,

The Memorial Day weekend is almost over as people take down the flags and television broadcasts old war movies. War mongers are happy after Congress budgeted at least $400 billion to ensure that there will be more dead veterans to commemorate. No longer a republic or a cultural democracy, the United States is a militarized economy with 55 percent of its discretionary spending allocated to the military spending and another 6 percent for veterans benefits. That sum doesn’t include the Department of Energy money spent on its nuclear arsenal, the Department of Homeland Security budget, or the costs of recent wars, calculated at $3 trillion for Iraq and $1 trillion for Afghanistan.

Conservatives rule the United States by invoking the vision of Muslim monsters hiding in every corner, and GOP presidential candidates concentrate on re-fighting the war that accelerated the downfall of the United States during the entire 21st century. [Photo by Jennie Haskamp]

memorial day

Although most people think that the sole purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the fallen in war, the National Moment of Remembrance Act, passed in 2000, declares that people are to pray for peace at 3:00 on that day, an addition to the commemoration largely unknown in the United States. In another commemoration,  Bill Quigley has written a description of the United States’ pursuit of permanent war instead of permanent peace.

Conservatives want to think of the United States as “exceptional,” and this country is truly #1 in wars, military presence, military spending, and weapons sales throughout the world–exceptional in avoiding peace.

Permanent War: Since 1980 the U.S. has engaged in aggressive military action in 14 countries in the Islamic world alone:  Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.  In this hemisphere, U.S. military forces invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) as well as landed 20,000 military forces in Haiti (1994).

U.S. Global War Machine: The U.S. has 1.3 million people in the military and 1 million in the military reserves. The U.S. has more than 700 military bases housing over 255,000 U.S. military personnel in 63 countries across the world. The Department of Defense officially manages over 555,000 buildings on 4,400 properties inside the U.S. The U.S. owns than 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads, over 13,000 military aircraft,  dozens of submarines–many of which carry nuclear weapons–and 88 huge destroyer warships.

Global Harm: The U.S. has waged wars killing almost 7,000 U.S. military people since 9/11. Since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, over 216,000 combatants, mostly civilians, and an untold number of civilians in Afghanistan were killed. U.S. drone attacks have murdered hundreds of children and civilian adults in Pakistan and dozens more in Yemen.

World Leader in War Spending: U.S. military spending is the equivalent of the combined spending of the next eight largest countries: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India, and Germany. The U.S. have officially paid $1.6 trillion for direct combat and reconstruction costs for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and additional trillions of dollars have gone into growing the Pentagon budget and for present and future increased health and disability benefits for veterans. Since 9/11, the U.S. has increased military spending by 50 percent while it has increased other discretionary domestic spending by only 13 percent—less than one percent a year.

Corporate War Profiteers: The top war profiteer is Lockheed Martin with annual arms sales of $36 billion. Of the $57.8 million that the military industry spent in 2013, Lockheed Martin spent $15 million to lobby people who decide how much money is spent on weapons and which weapons will be purchased. Lockheed Martin’s CEO is paid over $15 million. Part time workers are James Ellis, a former Admiral and Commander in Chief of US Strategic Air Command who gets paid over $277,000, and James Loy, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security who gets over $260,000. Each taxpaying household in the U.S. pays Lockheed $260 for its government contracts amounting. A 2014 investigation found that Lockheed uses taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.

Number two war profiteer is Boeing with annual arms sales of $31 billion. Boeing spends over $16 million a year lobbying. The remainder of the top ten war profiteer corporations include BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, Finmeccanica, L-3 Communications, and United Technologies. You can track their corporate contributions to members of Congress, especially the politicians on the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate on Open Secrets.

U.S. war profiteers are also top in the world with their $26 billion weapon sales each year to foreign nations.

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said the U.S. government was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world and called for a revolution of values in questioning past and present war policies and the disparity of wealth in the U.S. When he left office, former U.S. President and General Dwight Eisenhower warned citizens of the growing military industrial complex. He called on people to force “the huge industrial and military machinery of defense” to respond to democracy and the peoples’ desires for peace. The steps for this revolution:

  1. Know that the U.S. is the biggest war maker in the world.
  2. Organize for a true revolution of values and confront corporations and politicians who push the U.S. into war and inflate the military budget through permanent fear mongering.
  3. Admit that the U.S. is wrong and must make amends for the violence the U.S. has waged on countries all over the world.
  4. Dramatically downsize the U.S. military by withdrawing U.S. military from all other countries, disarming nuclear weapons, and focusing on defending just the U.S.
  5. Work for peaceful, just solutions for conflict here in the U.S. and around the world.
  6. Pray for peace on Memorial Day and all other times.

The people of the U.S. are engaged in a war among themselves within this nation. Ten percent of the U.S. population take antidepressants, 45 million adults are functionally illiterate, and the top one percent has 50 percent of the country’s wealth as they buy politicians. The GOP is trying to take away health care and other benefits from the poor and deny LGBT people the right to have legal marriages. Members of law enforcement kill black people, seemingly with impunity, and legislators only loosen gun laws after disasters involving firearms.

While the media tell people to focus on the departed members of the military, the NFL makes over $10 million to “honor America’s heroes” before football games and at halftime shows, $5.4 million from the Department of Defense and another $5.3 million from the National Guard. The Pentagon refuses to deal with the sexual assault epidemic in the military where one-third of women in the service are raped. Most of them cannot report the crimes because of the retaliation of and revenge from commanders and fellow service members. Combat veterans inflict 21 percent of domestic violence, and not one senator will sponsor a bill to help military spouses to escape the perpetrators.

The United States needs to decide that permanent peace both within and without the nation is more important than funding war profiteers and bankrolling legislators who use fear to wage preemptive war in the U.S. and around the world.

May 15, 2015

House Gives DOD $612 with No Audit

When sequestration spending caps were passed in 2011 to avoid the debt ceiling crisis, over 200 congressional Republicans voted in favor of the law. Since then, the GOP has not changed the law, but today the House defied it by passing a $612 billion defense bill with all except eight Republicans  in favor of the budget. Ceilings on everything else–infrastructure, safety net, etc.–are just fine, according to these Republicans, but the war industry needs more money.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) moaned about Democrats ignoring all “the sacrifices [the troops] make,” calling the Dems opposition “indefensible.”  The word “indefensible” is appropriate for the GOP’s refusal to protect military personnel and their families from predatory lending. After Defense Department officials created new safeguards last fall to implement new protections in this area, House GOP members tried to add a provision to the defense bill that would delay the new rules for at least a year. When that failed, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced legislation to again block the DOD from putting its rules into effect. Payday loan companies gave almost $70,000 to Stivers’ campaign.

On the first day of the 114th Congress, Republicans made a rules change to cut 20 percent in Social Security disability benefits, hurting disabled veterans. The proposed GOP change in food stamps will deny 60,000 veterans this life-saving benefit. This year’s GOP funding bill is $1 billion short on providing care and services to veterans.

Last year the GOP failed to support bills that would help veterans have job security, retraining, counseling, and scholarships. Another failed bill because of the GOP would increase VA funding for home structural improvements for those veterans more than 50 percent disabled—for example, those who need a wheelchair ramp in order to live at home.

One of the 135 amendments that passed was a provision by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) to stop the re-listing of the lesser prairie chicken on the endangered species list until 2021, unless the Interior Department determines that a conservation plan is not working. It passed 229-190. Someone might want to ask him how the lesser prairie chicken is related to defense.

A proposed amendment to consider undocumented immigrants with work permits through the DREAMERS program to serve in the military was voted down. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said the rejection was a jobs issue because the military is downsizing.

Also voted down was an amendment “in the form of a limited and narrow authorization against ISIS” because “the defense bill was not the place to debate the war,” according  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).  As he added, “If not here, where?” President Obama’s airstrikes against ISIL began nine months ago, and he sent a proposal about this authorization three months ago. The GOP has avoided any discussion of this issue in Congress that has cost $2.1 billion with 3,700 airstrikes and about 3,000 military personal sent to Iraq. While the House GOP members are suing the president for his other actions, they oppose reining in his war authority. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) claims that the GOP can’t find 218 votes for any action.

As the GOP pushes the defense funding increase through the House, the Republicans ignore the history of DOD waste. The $400 billion Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter can’t pass even the most basic requirements necessary for flying in combat. At this time, it’s $170 billion over budget, and the only thing soaring about it is the cost. Auditors question whether it can serve its purpose as the Pentagon continues to throw more money at it. The jet is vulnerable to engine fires because of its design and the “precision-guided Small Diameter Bomb II doesn’t even fit on the Marine’s version of the jet,” according to Military.com. Software necessary to operate the bomb won’t be operational for another seven years–2022.

Recently appointed Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, oversaw the development of the F-35 fighter jet, which will cost the United States an unprecedented $1.5 trillion. He also oversaw production of $50 billion worth of MRAP armored vehicles with thousands of them scrapped almost immediately at a loss of over $2 billion. The 27,000 MRAPs sent to Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in an over-supply and were then decommissioned to militarize U.S. police departments in places as small as Dundee (MI), population 3,900. To Carter, “nuclear weapons don’t actually cost that much.” This is the program that will cost up to $1 trillion in the next three decades.

Federal auditors found a loss of $43 billion in Afghanistan reconstruction. The Pentagon has no answer for the missing funds other than it may have gone to more direct war needs. John F. Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said, “It’s like you gave your credit card to your teenage daughter or son and then you just never looked at the bills.” Tracking the $100 billion allocated for relief and reconstruction has been almost impossible. “We don’t even have a list from (the Defense Department) of where they spent the money. We have no centralized list of where the taxpayer money went in Afghanistan,” Sopko said.

A never-used $600 million C-27 aircraft sits on runways in Kabul and Germany, and a massive $34 million command center in Helmand has never been used and will probably be leveled. The empty 64,000-square-foot command center with an expensive air-conditioning system can hold over 1,000 people. Its incinerators cost $11.5 million, but no one was hired to run the machines. The military burned its trash in an open-air pit.

The Pentagon spent $7.6 billion fighting a war on opium in Afghanistan where the poppy crop is bigger than ever. The U.S. Air Force bought half a billion dollars worth of transport planes and scrapped them for six cents a pound. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built thousands of buildings for the Afghan military where contractors used low-quality insulation that’s so flammable that international codes prohibit its use. When contractors promised to stop its use and replace the faulty insulation, Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre stopped them. He wrote in a 2014 memo:

 “The typical occupant populations for these facilities are young, fit Afghan soldiers and recruits who have the physical ability to make a hasty retreat during a developing situation.”

The DOD wastes billions of dollars in just spare parts. For example, Boeing overcharges up to 177,000 percent; Hamilton Sundstrand is more reasonable at only 900 percent. A redacted version of a July 2014 report showed that the Pentagon overpaid Bell Helicopter 395 percent-$9 million–just on 33 of 35 sole-source commercial parts.

GOP legislators and presidential candidates are being lobbied by arms dealers to raise the defense budget and go to war. Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), ex-chair of the House Intelligence Committee, heads up the group called Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security to front for the military-industrial complex. Known for claiming that Edward Snowden was a Russian double agent, Rogers pushed for unlimited surveillance through the CISPA bill and support of NSA.

Rogers’ wife, Kristi Rogers, serves as President and CEO of Aegis LLC, a defense contractor with a $10 billion contract to provide security and intelligence-gathering services to the State Department. The board of his lobbying group is a virtual who’s who of the defense industry and a prominent partner of the New Hampshire GOP.  The situation is reminiscent of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s $34 million pay-off oilfield services provider Halliburton before he instigated the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Pentagon doesn’t even want some of the things that Congress is pushing on them. For example, this $8.76 billion:

  • $4.7 billion: refueling the USS George Washington.
  • $1.46 billion:  15 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes.
  • $1 billion: starting on an additional San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship.
  • $479 million: four F-35 fighter jets raising the total to 38).
  • $341 million: modernizing 12 Apache helicopters and nine Black Hawk helicopters.
  • $200 million:  another Joint High Speed Vessel ship.
  • $155 million: 12 more MQ-9 Reaper drones.
  • $154 million: another P-8A Poseidon Navy surveillance aircraft.
  • $120 million: M1 Abrams tank upgrades.
  • $150 million: medium and heavy tactical vehicles.

In the past 46 years, food stamps have cost taxpayers $1.035 trillion. That’s less than three times the annual defense budget that the House passed today. Wisconsin is trying to keep people on food stamps from buying shredded cheese while the $43 billion lost in Afghanistan is negligible. At the same time that Congress adds to the defense budget, it cuts security for embassies.

The following chart shows how the U.S. defense budget compares to those in the countries nearest the U.S. in expenditures:

military 2015

The House plans to throw at least $612 billion at the Pentagon without knowing where the taxpayer monies go. In 1990, Congress passed a law requiring all government agencies to achieve audit-readiness. Only the Pentagon has not achieved this within the ensuing two and a half decades. Since the first audit was due in 1997, Congress has extended the deadline several times, most recently until 2017. Boehner and the other House members who voted for the bloated defense budget must instinctively know that the Pentagon needs $612 billion. If Amtrak can survive on an 18-percent reduction, so can the Department of Defense.

April 3, 2015

‘Give Peace a Chance’

Two huge stories have overwhelmed the news during this past week: the attempts in the United States to permit discrimination against anyone in the United States because of expressed religious belief, and the framework agreement between world powers and Iran to curb Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds and redesigning a power plant to keep it from producing weapons-grade plutonium as well as eliminating much of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. In the agreement, Iran consents to regular international nuclear inspections. President Obama said that “this framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the deal would contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the agreement is a “threat to Israel’s existence.” His government released a statement that Iran has made no concessions despite its agreement that it will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile and sharply reduce the number of centrifuges.

Israel’s media disagrees with Netanyahu. In Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, journalist Barak Ravid wrote that the agreement “is not a bad deal” and concluded, “Israel will have a hard time fighting this agreement, or portraying it as bad.” The article states that the agreement preserves Israel’s security interests.

Without the agreement, Iran could possibly produce a nuclear bomb in three to four months. With the agreement, Iran will be required to scale down three production facilities for at least a decade and turn these into scientific and medical research. The country is blocked from building any new facilities for 15 years. The 25-year international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, supply chain for nuclear materials, and uranium mines will be the most intensive in the history of the world. Any violation will immediately bring back the sanctions against the country.

Iranian citizens have celebrated their country’s agreement with the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—while hardliners are furious. Moderate Iranian politicians have lost their power for not being sufficiently anti-American. Any easing of hostilities between Iran and the United States is, according to hardliners, a matter of treason. Basically, the Iranian conservatives in Iran take the same position as the conservatives in the United States.

Most Republicans in Congress have worked hard to destroy any possibility of an agreement with Iran. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited Netanyahu to address Congress to sway not only legislators but also the people of the United States. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) convinced 46 other senators to sign an open letter to Iran in the hopes of scuttling any diplomatic efforts. Following the announcement of the agreement, right-wingers have made egregious statements about the framework:

  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): The deal is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s talk with Hitler before World War II.
  • Israeli columnist for Politico Ari Shavit: The Iran agreement is just like the Iraq War—which is the country’s bloodiest conflicts of the twenty-first century.
  • American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s video: The visual shows the Statue of Liberty’s arm falling off in response to the agreement.
  • Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “The Iranian-Swedish con man is gloating,” in reference to one of the agreement’s proponents, Trita Parsia who moved from Iran to Sweden as a child and lived most of his life in the United States.
  • Laura Ingraham:If only the secular Left put as much trust & faith in the people of Indiana as they do in the rulers in Iran.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Upset about the lack of support for the United States, he would “absolutely” defy American allies by scrapping an Iran deal.
  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI): The presidential candidate would cancel any Iranian deal, sight unseen, that comes from the Obama administration. (He doesn’t need to read anything to reject it!)

As Jonathan Chait wrote, the conservatives hate this agreement because they hate all agreements since World War II.

The Yalta agreement stopping the war against the Soviets after the Allies defeated Germany in World War II formed the basis for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) paranoid ravings. Conservatives who tried to amend the constitution with the “Bricker Amendment,” limiting the president’s ability to agree to foreign treaties, were blocked by President Eisenhower.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states that had not yet obtained them, was denounced by the National Review as “immoral, foolish, and probably most impractical, a policy that makes nonsense of our defensive alliance in Europe, that favors our enemies and slights our allies.” The NPT is now used to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes.

President Richard Nixon’s opening to China was compared by conservatives to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Nixon’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union was described by conservatives as “one of the greater triumphs of the Soviet propaganda machine.”

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) was “profoundly unwise,” according to conservatives. Ronald Reagan opposed it in his campaign and then abided by it before signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to massive dismay from the right-wingers who compared Reagan to Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler.

In his speech announcing the agreement with Iran, President Obama said:

“When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented backed by the world’s powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

The United States started the Iraq War with conservatives spreading fear about nuclear weapons. Netanyahu was a major instigator of this war when he told Congress in 2002 that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”

John Bolton, booster and co-architect of the war in Iraq, represents most conservatives in Congress with his recent NYT op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Thirteen years ago, he was “confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq” and “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime.” He was 100 percent wrong, and he knew it at the time.

Robert Gates, defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama after CIA director under George H.W. Bush, said bombing Iran could prove a “catastrophe.” Meir Dagan, leader of Israel’s external spy service from 2002 to 2011, warned that an attack on Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.” He added, “The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”

Since 9/11, jihadists have killed 26 Americans on U.S. soil, 13 of them killed by another soldier at Fort Hood, while right-wing extremists have killed 39. During the same time, an average of over 30,000 people died from guns each year—an approximate total of 450,000 people. Many of the same people who fight to keep unfettered ownership of guns spread fear about Iran with hopes to bomb the country.

About 1 million people died in Iraq during the ten years after the U.S. declared war on the country; 220,000 died in Afghanistan, and 80,000 died in Pakistan. During just the Bush years, 4.5 million Iraqis—one in six—were displaced, and only five percent went back to their homes by 2009. The 1-2 million widows and 5 million orphans leave half the people in Iraq tragically impacted by deaths.

Two years ago, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was estimated to go as high as $6 trillion dollars–$75,000 for every household in America. At that time, more than half the 1,560,000 discharged military service members had gotten medical treatment and been granted benefits for the rest of their lives. All the financing for the wars was done by borrowing, which has run up interest that taxpayers must fund. At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts cost the country about $2.1 trillion in lost revenue during the first nine years.

People in the United States don’t feel any safer when conservatives win elections by spreading fear. The conservatives claimed that war in Iraq would cost taxpayers about $200 billion. Between tax cuts that didn’t improve the economy and war costs, the tab is closing in on $10 trillion and sure to rise even without bombing Iran. That’s $10 trillion that could have dropped the deficit. A war in Iran will cost even more. In the words of John Lennon, quoted in another context by presidential contender in his coming-out speech, “Give peace a chance.”

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