Very Scary – the U.S. Military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot – Let’s Build Up China (Our Banker) as the new Enemy and thus Justify the Permanent War Machine (Funded by our Tax Dollars!)

October 31, 2012

Lots to be scared of this Halloween – Frankenstorm and its aftermath, a possible Romey-Ryan Administration, running out of candy at 7:30 while trick or treaters still roam your neighborhood – but here’s a long-term concern, the U.S. military’s “Asia-Pacific Pivot.”

Has anyone asked the American people whether getting into a long-term economic, political, geostrategic and especially military confrontation is a good idea? Especially as the lion’s share of our tax dollars would continue to go to the Pentagon to fund this, instead of urgent domestic priorities? The arrogance of the military and governmental elites is staggering, I’m sure they don’t pause for a second to consider the will of the people, only their interests in perpetuating the endless war machine. In their eyes China is the only plausible enemy that can justify their reason for being, and for continuing to suck our blood and tax dollars dry (the war profiteers and banksters are the real vampires, yes?).

A short International Herald Tribune article and 22 minute video on the Pivot can give you the gist of what is planned, though this is far too sanguine and accepting of elite and U.S. government positions.

Please read below much more uplifting initiative that Peace Action is helping lead:

We are writing to announce the creation of the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific.

With the movement focusing on the election, preventing war against Iran, and the struggle over military spending – not to mention media silence– you may have missed that China and Japan recently came to the brink of war over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, and the U.S. reaffirmed that if it came to war, the U.S. would join the battle on Japan’s side. You may have missed that this conflict caused anti-Japanese violence to break out in cities around China, resulting in the destruction of millions of dollars in property, and attacks against Japanese living in China.

You likely missed the massive Japanese protest over yet another G.I. rape of an Okinawan woman and the basing of crash-prone Osprey aircraft at the Futenma airbase which neighbors an elementary school. You may yet to have acted in solidarity with the extraordinary nonviolent resistance of Jeju islanders to the construction of a major offensive naval base which is also destroying World Heritage site. And, you may have yet to have learned that the struggle for control over the oil and mineral rich and strategically vital South China/East/West Philippine Sea could be the most dangerous 21st century tinderbox.

The Obama Administration has repeated announced the U.S. military “pivot” from Iraq and Afghanistan to Asia and the Pacific. And, the military buildup to reinforce U.S. Asia-Pacific hegemony as China rises is the driving force behind increased Pentagon spending.

The Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific has been created to provide vision, resources and initiatives to the building of a U.S. peace movement capable of challenging U.S./Asia-Pacific militarization in their comprehensive contexts, and encouraging more constructive U.S. engagement in this region. Its members include leading U.S. peace and Asian-American activists, engaged scholars and national religious leaders. We are privileged to work in partnership with many movements in Asia and the Pacific.

                We have just launched the Working Group’s information-rich website, http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org, which we hope will be well used by colleagues and friends as an important resource for analysis, information about events and actions, links and daily news updates.

                With partners across Asia and the Pacific, we will be marking 2013, the 60th anniversary of the Korean War’s armistice – not peace – agreement, with the framework of 2013 as The Year of Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific. We hope you will join us in this and other initiatives, that you’ll  draw on our action alerts and make contributions to allied struggles. As we develop our speakers bureau, we will be happy to provide or suggest speakers and resources for related events.

To join our e-list, please write to swolman@afsc.org.

                This past week’s statement of outrage, remorse and solidarity with the people of Okinawa follows below.  Please consider the possibility of your organization developing a similar statement. We’ll be glad to help you get it to Okinawan partners.

                Join us in working for peace and demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific,

                For the Working Group,

                Joseph Gerson

                American Friends Service Committee

Statement of Outrage, Remorse and Solidarity

Dear Okinawan friends,

                It is not enough to say that we are outraged by the most recent G.I. rape of an Okinawan woman or by the deployment of crash-prone Osprey aircraft to Futenma Air Base. It is not enough to write that we apologize for what the government that speaks in our name has inflicted on your communities. And, it is anything but sufficient for the U.S. military to set a curfew for U.S. forces based in Japan in response to G.I. sexual crimes or for the U.S. and Japanese governments to certify that the Ospreys are safe.

                The only way to bring an end to sixty-seven years of G.I. sexual abuse, rape and crimes or the deadly accidents, property destruction and environmental degradation that have plagued the people of Okinawa is the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from your communities and prefecture, and from Japan as a whole.

                We stand in solidarity with your protests and calls for withdrawal of U.S. military forces. As we work for peace and demilitarization of Asia and the Pacific, focusing primarily on U.S. policies and actions, please keep us informed of ways that we can support your nonviolent resistance and campaigns to with the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan.

                With outrage, remorse and solidarity,

                Working Group for Asia-Pacific Peace and Demilitarization.

 

(For more information about the Working Group see: http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org)

 


Ignoring Climate Chaos, Sowing Disaster Relief Chaos are InSane!

October 29, 2012

A pox on both presidential tickets for their shameful ignoring of climate chaos in the debates and the campaign overall. Hurricane Sandy seems timed to remind us all this issue is real, denial by candidates focused on other concerns notwithstanding. Here’s hoping folks on the East Coast can ride out the storm safely, and a hearty early thanks to all first responders, emergency crews and utility workers who will have huge jobs ahead of them.

My guess is at some point the shape shifting Mitt Romney will say something about these brave folks, and like most things that escape his lips it will be drenched in hypocrisy. Romney and Ryan want to privatize emergency relief services, or at least they have said so plainly in the recent past. Is this another position Romney will, at least rhetorically, change in his desperate attempt to appear reasonable? Whatever, his advocacy of privatization of disaster recovery services was and is InSane. (Especially considering his plan to increase Pentagon spending would require across the board cuts of 34% in all domestic discretionary spending. Is he going to tell the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea to churn up 34% fewer hurricanes?)


Cuban Missile Crisis + 50 Years – please share your memories or lessons learned

October 25, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

For me, the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis has a very personal angle. On this day fifty years ago, I was still in my mother’s womb, and she, like many people at the time, thought a nuclear war might well be imminent. She was afraid she’d never get to see her first child be born. Luckily, the crisis passed (and many government officials do in fact attribute luck, as much or more than any smart decisions by Kruschev or Kennedy, with averting catastrophe).

I was born several weeks later (a month premature, but stress about possible nuclear war didn’t cause that, according to my mom, Linn Martin), and, perhaps fittingly or ironically, I grew up to be a peace and disarmament activist. (Maybe my Mennonite and Quaker heritage, and outrage at Ronald Reagan’s sabre-rattling foreign policy, had as much to do with my career choice as did my being born after the missile crisis.)

While the Cold War never should have justified the insane nuclear weapons buildup between the U.S. and Soviet Union, people at the time (and now, looking back) would have said there was a substantive reason for it, namely the global competition of idealogies and geo-strategic interests between the two superpowers. Yet it was, in large measure, the mere existence of the weapons themselves (and their placement, by both the U.S. and Soviet Union, dangerously and provocatively close to the other’s territory) that caused the crisis.

Today, that fact is even worse. While we have far fewer nuclear weapons in the world, the U.S. and Russia still have thousands of warheads poised to be launched against the other, or some other country, on a moment’s notice. Why? There is no good reason to continue to hold humanity hostage with these grotesque weapons, other than the other side has them. So there is no “strategy” behind our nuclear arsenals, they have become, through inertia and apathy, self-justifying. Why do we have ‘em? Because they do. Why do they have ‘em? Because we do.

Peace Action, of course, does not accept this situation, and will initiate some exciting new campaigns early in the new year to press the case for the global abolition of nuclear weapons. For now, I’d love to hear your reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis, both remembrances and lessons learned, or not, and their applicability for today. (So one need not to have been born at the time to share your comments.)


Mitt Romney sounded like Gandhi last night, and Au Revoir to a true man of peace

October 23, 2012

Mitt Romney sure mentioned the word “peace” an awful lot in the last presidential debate Monday night. While my take is that he did so in a pretty cynical way, trying to make folks think he is less of a dangerous guy than he really is, it was interesting, and I think good sign, perhaps counterintutively.

Now I don’t for a moment want Mitt Romney to be president. His proposals to amp up Pentagon spending, his hawkish views regarding Iran, his desire to build up U.S. nuclear forces instead of reducing them, his kowtowing to Bibi Netanyahu and conservative Jews in the U.S., to name just a few policies that are out of whack with the interests of the American people, speak much more loudly than his kumbaya-ing last night.

However, it’s clear that Romney and his campaign handlers want to at least appear to be breaking with some of the policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (and with some of his own previous bellicose positions), to appear kinder and gentler, more acceptable as a possible commander in chief. And even if it was cynical, the fact that he thought he had to appear to be more of a peacenik is a good sign. “Peace” shouldn’t be a dirty word in presidential campaigns, especially in a country nearly always at war (and where the current Nobel Peace Prize-winning president presides over drone strikes to get folks on a “kill list,” yet who is also talking like he wants his second term to be more peaceful, many contradictions with his current policies notwithstanding).

I guess for me it comes down to being somewhat surprised, but glad, that the two main presidential candidates are talking about peace, even when we know their policies don’t live up to their words. Peace is one of the values that human beings hold dearest, but it shouldn’t be used cynically. And of course our job is to hold them accountable to actually carrying out more peaceful policies after the election.

How did you react to Romney’s peace prose last night? Please share your thoughts and feelings.

Remember the last true peace candidate for president (of the “major” parties that is)? Senator George McGovern passed away at the age of 90 over the weekend. I couldn’t add anything to this moving tribute by William Greider at The Nation, so I won’t try, except to say he was the first candidate I can remember. My mom volunteered for him, and in the straw poll in my 5th grade class (I think it was 5th grade), I may have been the only McGovern “supporter.” Rest in peace, good man, and thanks for all your peace-and-justice-mongering and truth-telling. Would that we had some leaders like you today.


Excellent Op-Ed by Jon Rainwater of Peace Action West – Two Questions for Obama and Romney on Afghanistan

October 18, 2012

Published by The Hill, an influential Capitol Hill publication

By Jon Rainwater, executive director, Peace Action West and the Peace Education Fund – 10/18/12 02:30 PM ET

When voters mark their ballots on November 6th, there will be 68,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. In spite of a long campaign, it’s still unclear what each candidate believes should happen with those soldiers after Election Day.

Nothing captures the ambiguity better than Tuesday’s news from the State Department about the formal opening of negotiations to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. This follows on the heels of Vice President Biden’s much-noted statements in the vice presidential debate that, “We are leaving in 2014, period.” President Obama has also been trumpeting the coming end of the war, with a partial withdrawal completed this summer. But the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement he signed this year, along with statements from the Pentagon, leave the door wide open to a large troop presence as far out as 2024.

In his recent foreign policy address, Gov. Romney tried to distinguish himself from the president on the war, but offered little proof of a real difference between them. Both candidates are keeping their options open, essentially only committing to figuring it out as they go.

 

 

After 11 years, that’s not good enough. Next week’s foreign policy debate could be voters’ last opportunity for answers before November 6. Here are two questions about the war that voters should be asking.

First, what are we waiting for? Neither candidate has publicly considered withdrawing before the end 2014. But they have also failed to offer a compelling case that another two years will strengthen US and Afghan security.

There are fewer than 150 al Qaeda operatives left in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden has been dead for more than a year. The original rationales for military action are no longer relevant.

The main thrust of current U.S. strategy is the operation aimed at training Afghan security forces. But there has been widespread evidence of problems with that program. Nothing exemplifies this better than the huge spike in insider attacks by Afghan security forces. Just this year, more than 50 US and NATO troops have died in attacks orchestrated by insurgents infiltrating the training program. Those attacks have sent shockwaves throughout the entire operation. As U.S. General John Allen, Commander of U.S. and NATO forces, put it, “You know, we’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we’re not willing to be murdered for it.”

We are losing lives and spending billions to at best spin our wheels, and at worst, arm and train insurgents. The candidates need to clarify how long they plan to keep troops on the ground, and if they want more time, offer evidence that it will make a difference.

The second question we should be asking is, if there are gains to be made, are they worth the cost? In Romney’s terms, is this war worth borrowing even more from China to pay for? And the far more serious question: is this war worth dying for?

The federal government is facing looming spending cuts due to a financial crisis partially driven by more than eleven years of off-books war spending. Neither candidate has detailed how much the taxpayers will shell out for an extended military presence in Afghanistan, but we’re already looking at $88 billion for 2013. Can either candidate argue that this spending is worth it, when the $1 million it takes to keep just one soldier in Afghanistan for a year could create 14 jobs in health care or 15 in public education here at home?

In addition to the financial cost, our armed forces have been overworked and stretched thin, and we have not adequately cared for our veterans. More than 2,000 soldiers have died in Afghanistan; 1,000 were killed in the last 27 months of an eleven-year war. More than 17,000 have been wounded. The presidential candidates have flown under the radar on this issue, but the stakes continue to be great for Americans, and for Afghans. In recent surveys, 66 percent of Americans say they oppose the war, and 49 percent want it to end immediately. The presidential candidates owe us an answer as to why neither of them has made a clear commitment to making that happen.

Rainwater is executive director of Peace Action West and the Peace Education Fund.


Fighting (Nonviolently of course!) for Peace at the Local Level

October 17, 2012

By Lawrence S. Wittner, October 17, 2012

(Larry Wittner is a member of the national Peace Action national board of directors. This article was first published by our friends at Foreign Policy in Focus.)

On October 9, 2012, the legislature of Albany County, New York approved a proclamation calling upon Congress to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, cut the U.S. military budget, and use the savings to fund vital public programs at home.

This official demand for new national priorities—by a county of 304,000 people—was not entirely novel. Within the past year or so, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar resolution, as did the governments of numerous cities, including Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Hartford, and Portland. Even so, the idea of “moving the money” from war to peace had largely fallen off the political radar screen. The Albany County Peace Dividend Proclamation, as it was soon dubbed, has helped bring it back to public attention.

The Albany campaign began this past July, when—in my capacity as a national board member of Peace Action, America’s largest peace organization—I learned that the city of Philadelphia had just passed a “move the money” resolution. As Doug Bullock, a long-time friend of mine in Albany’s peace and social justice community, was a member of the Albany county legislature, I passed along this news to him, suggesting rather casually that he might want to promote a similar resolution on the Albany county level. He replied that he’d be happy to try it, but needed a public campaign to back him up. Could we put one together?

Actually, we could. I was well connected within the Albany region’s peace community, serving on the steering committee of Upper Hudson Peace Action and dealing frequently with the leaders of other local peace groups. In addition, I had strong credentials in the local labor movement, serving as executive secretary of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), as a member of the executive committee of the Albany chapter of United University Professions, and as a long-time activist in the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District (an independent organization rooted in the local labor movement).

Moreover, in recent decades, Albany’s peace and social justice community had grown ever more intertwined, amassing a good deal of overlap in membership and a strong “movement culture” among the region’s various progressive organizations. And with national polls showing the general public fed up with the Afghanistan War and preferring military cuts to cuts in social spending, the peace movement was more in tune with popular sentiment than ever.

Yet significant factors weighed against the possibility of success. Although Albany County is heavily Democratic, much of the local Democratic Party is controlled by machine politicians who might just as well have been Republicans. Doug’s strong antiwar stance has not been the norm. Indeed, in 2008, when he tried to get the legislature to pass a resolution opposing the Iraq War, the legislators not only strongly rejected it, but banned all future resolutions!

Corralling Allies

Despite the obstacles, we decided to move forward with a Peace Dividend Proclamation campaign—one that would involve getting a majority of Albany County’s 39 legislators to sign an official statement on behalf of the county. After securing volunteers from Upper Hudson Peace Action and the Solidarity Committee, we conferred with staff members from Peace Action of New York State and national Peace Action, who helped us pull together the relevant statistics and wording for the proclamation. Once the proclamation was in final form, Doug circulated it to potentially sympathetic legislators and—to our delight—secured six additional co-sponsors.

The next step was to recruit friendly organizations to join the campaign. We divided up a list of peace, labor, religious, environmental, political, student, tenants’ rights, and other organizations among ourselves. We approached them about not only endorsing the proclamation, but also sending a speaker and turning out supporters for the September 10 meeting of the county legislature.

In Albany County, immediately preceding the official meeting of the legislature, there is a public forum during which citizens are free to speak to the assembled legislators on any issue. We used this opportunity to good effect, presenting 10 speakers from well-known labor organizations, peace groups, and constituencies. To offset possible charges that the proclamation “disrespected the troops,” we drew upon two veterans as speakers—one of whom identified himself as coming from “Vietnam – Class of 1968.” We also distributed the proclamation and a list of 19 local organizations that had endorsed it.

Even if we hadn’t secured any signatures that evening, it would have been a useful exercise, for the assembled legislators were forced to sit through 50 minutes’ worth of lectures on the costs of war—both economic and human—and the need to fund social programs.

But in fact we came away that evening with 18 signatures out of the 20 that we needed for a majority. That gave us until October 9, the next meeting of the legislature and our self-imposed deadline, to gather just two more signatures. And that wouldn’t be difficult, would it?

Unfortunately, it proved very difficult. In the following weeks, Doug brought the proclamation to legislative committee meetings for additional signatures, but no one else was willing to sign it. Among the Democratic holdouts, some said that they did not believe that issues of war and peace should be addressed by a county legislature. One Democrat angrily denounced the proclamation as “unpatriotic,” claiming that she had been told that by the county executive. Another said that it would undermine President Obama’s reelection. A few said they were thinking about it.

Among the 10 Republican legislators—none of whom had signed the proclamation—there was even stiffer resistance. Some simply dismissed the proclamation as the Democratic presidential campaign platform. Others said that they would be willing to sign it if the savings on military programs were not rechanneled to domestic social programs.

Eventually we picked up an additional Democratic signature, bringing us to 19 out of the 20 we needed, but we began to feel a bit desperate as the October 9 deadline neared. Would we ultimately fail, just one signature short of our goal?

Closing the Gap

In the final days, we mobilized some of our most powerful organizational endorsers—the AFL-CIO, the Interfaith Alliance of New York State, the Working Families Party (which, under New York law, can and does make cross-party endorsements, often of Democrats), Veterans for Peace, and United University Professions—to send letters to holdout legislators. We pored over the mailing lists of key groups, identified the constituents of targeted legislators, and called upon them to phone these legislators and urge them to sign the proclamation. We asked other groups (such as the Albany Friends Meeting and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace) to mobilize their members for the same purpose. We drew upon other legislators and people with political connections to pressure key holdouts to sign. Finally, we scheduled a press conference and rally outside the doors of the legislature in the half hour just before the legislature was to meet.

Then, on the evening of October 8, Doug phoned to tell me that he had just spoken with a legislator who said he was going to sign on October 9. And on the afternoon of that final day, he did.

Our rally turned into a victory celebration. At the legislature’s Public Forum, we distributed a list of 29 endorsing organizations (ranging from the RFK Democratic Club to Women Against War and the Peace and Justice Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany) and brought in another battery of speakers lauding the proclamation. By the end of the night, the proclamation had 22 signers (all of them Democrats), a solid majority. On October 10, in accordance with the terms of the proclamation, the Albany County Clerk mailed off copies to President Obama, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York congressional delegation, the New York State Legislature, and all government departments in Albany County.


Before the debate, tell Romney and Obama you want to end the war in Afghanistan now!

October 15, 2012

Tomorrow night’s second presidential debate may, or may not, surface big differences between the two candidates on various foreign and domestic policy issues.

One crucial issue on which we know there is not a lot of space between the candidates is ending our country’s longest war, now beginning its 12th year. President Obama has stated the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan will end in 2014 (though there is not clarity on whether this means the end of 2014, or earlier in the year). Mitt Romney has largely agreed with this.

However, the Administration is said to be negotiating with the Afghan government for up to 25,000 U.S. troops to remain for over a decade. Unlike other countries where U.S. forces are often paid for by the host government, this is likely to all be on the U.S. taxpayers’ tab.

There’s no reason in the world we should pay for that, nor for up to two more years of a miserably failed war. Sunday’s New York Times editorial comprehensively lays out why we should get out as soon as safely possible, not sometime in 2014.

Let the candidates hear, loud and clear, before the debate, that the war needs to end and the sooner the better. Take this quick action – copy and post the link to the Times editorial (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/opinion/sunday/time-to-pack-up.html) with a quick comment of your own (“I AGREE – END THE WAR NOW!” would work just fine) to the Obama and Romney campaign websites: Romney http://www.mittromney.com/forms/suggestions  Obama http://barackobama.force.com/questions.

Thanks for taking this simple action, and encourage your friends to do so as well.


Afghanistan – the Who Cares War?

October 9, 2012

Not Exactly, But it Fails the Real Definition of a Just War

–Kevin Martin 

Amid all the grim news in Afghanistan as the war enters its 12th year, a new initiative by the youth-led Afghan civil society organization Afghan Peace Volunteers called 2 Million Friends for Peace in Afghanistan (http://www.2millionfriends.org) looks like a ray of hope. The two million refers to the approximate number of Afghans killed in forty years of war. The campaign aims to find two million friends or supporters worldwide, and to deliver its call for a cease fire and negotiated end to the war to the United Nations on December 10, International Human Rights Day. 

 

Here in the U.S., the war in Afghanistan is hardly mentioned by the presidential or congressional candidates (Mitt Romney completely omitted it from his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention). With only about one percent of the population directly involved in the war, with a family member in the service, the war is so low on the public radar screen that Council on Foreign Relations analyst Max Boot dubbed it the “Who Cares?” war, and many in the military fret about the seeming indifference to the sacrifice and hardships of our troops and returning veterans. This angle was prominent in 9/11 anniversary news coverage.

 

Such a narrative is too shallow, as there are many ironies and contradictions regarding public support, or lack thereof, for the Afghanistan war, and as to how the public feels about the troops and veterans.  

 

As a peace activist, invariably opposed to this country’s many, many wars, I do care about the troops and returning vets (my brother is a psychologist at the Veterans Administration hospital in the Bronx, meaning unfortunately he has a job for life dealing with the trauma our endless war making inflicts on those who fight them), as do all the peace activists I know.

 

I knew a wonderful young man, a Marine reservist who died in Iraq. He was opposed to the war, but felt he had to go, that he couldn’t have claimed conscientious objector status (as I and others counseled him to do, and I believe he had a pretty good case). He felt he couldn’t let the others in his unit down, though he vehemently opposed the war. The military counts on that type of coercion or guilt to keep troops in line and returning to combat time and again.

 

In terms of nobody “caring about the war,” there are many dynamics at play. Polls consistently show a solid majority of the US populace is now against the war, but there are neither widespread protests nor large-scale organized war tax resistance (although I was proud to march in Chicago last May at the NATO protest with veterans returning their medals to protest the wars). Certainly there is some partisan politics at play here, with anti-war liberals not wanting to criticize President Obama, or feeling “okay” with his promise to end the war by the end of 2014 (though a Foreign Policy article recently speculated up to 25,000 U.S. troops may remain for a decade as part of an agreement with the Afghan govt.).

 

The Pentagon can’t have it both ways. Military brass and civilian leaders don’t want a draft, understandably, as they don’t want to deal with hassles from soldiers who don’t want to be in the service (that is a lesson the Pentagon learned from the Vietnam War and the rampant resistance and anti-war organizing by conscripts). The poverty draft, whereby urban and rural youth with poor job and educational prospects in their communities see the military as an attractive career option, especially in a week economy, suits the Pentagon just fine.

 

Moreover, the Department of War gets an endless supply of our tax dollars to fight its wars and maintain the largest military in human history. They want us to “care” more? Even with multiple “support the troops” programs and manifestations all over society (Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are constantly stressing this, as do many others)? Which is not to disparage such efforts, we do need to support the troops, and the best way to do that is to get them home to their families as soon as possible. Even longtime hawk U.S. Rep. Bill Young, Republican from Florida who chairs the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and is Congress’s longest serving member, now advocates this.

 

If there were a draft, the war would be over in a month if not sooner. The public wouldn’t stand for it, because this war fails miserably in meeting the real definition of a just war (the horse sense definition, not the Catholic Church’s official Just War theory regarding using force as a last resort, with proportionality and protection for noncombatants and other criteria).

 

The real definition of a just war is one you’d send your kid to.

 

So mark me down as caring about the troops, and about getting them the best possible medical, psychological, financial and career services we can provide when they get home. I don’t see how Pentagon brass can ask for more than that, unless their real goal is to continue the war indefinitely.

Kevin Martin is the Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with approximately 90,000 members and 70,000 online supporters nationwide. www.peace-action.org


Romney’s China Zinger Offers an Opening for a Serious Debate on U.S. Asia Policy (not his intention I’m sure!)

October 4, 2012

So I have to admit that when I heard it last night during the presidential debate, I thought this was a clever zinger by Mitt Romney (or his speech writers more likely):

“What things will I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it.”

This needs a bit of unpacking (and my few points about this quote are far from comprehensive, I’m sure others have very different takes in it).

First, Romney’s “test” is somewhat appealing, purposely so I’m sure, to folks who are concerned about the U.S. debt, much of which is owned by China. However, one could have made the point in a generic way, leaving out the fact that China is our largest banker (“Is the program worth continuing to borrow money to pay for it?”). That would still be a good test, yes? In addition to judging government programs by that standard, people make that judgement in their personal lives all the time, determining whether to borrow money to buy a car or a house or to go to college is a smart move.

So was Romney’s mention of China just an off-hand remark? I don’t think so. “China” to many Americans can mean very different things, but many of them are, in my observation, unfortunately pejorative. So my guess is this was intentional, meant to raise unhelpful and maybe even racist stereotypes about China, and concerns about the U.S.-China economic relationship.

However, Romney gave us an opening, unwittingly I presume, for deeper analysis and conversation about the U.S.-China relationship, especially in the “security” realm (others could certainly go much deeper than I into the economic interdependency, not always healthy, between the world’s two largest economies).

Josh Rogin, blogging for Foreign Policy, captured this very nicely: “Is Romney saying it’s worth borrowing from China to build more ships to contain China?” This is so brilliant and succinct because this is exactly what the U.S. is doing now, and planning to increase in the future, under the military’s much-ballyhood but little understood “Asia-Pacific pivot.” (For example, and speaking directly to Rogin’s point, the U.S. Navy has announced it plans to station 60% of the overall fleet in the Pacific.)

While Romney won’t publicly say this (and neither will Obama), the U.S. war machine needs an enemy to continue to justify its raison d’etre and its stranglehold on the lion’s share of our federal tax dollars. “International terrorism” just doesn’t cut the mustard. China is the only plausible “enemy” that might fit the bill.

Except China, which certainly has many economic, environmental, energy, human rights and democracy challenges, has no real interest in an arms race or global competition for military hegemony with the U.S. China certainly has regional interests that are of serious concerns to its neighbors, but it is simply not an expansionist power to anything like the degree the U.S. is. A few factoids on this are instructive:

-The U.S. has somewhere between 800 and 1000 foreign military bases (there is no agreement on the number or even the definition of a “base,” which is why the number is so imprecise). China has one, a relatively new one at that, in Seychelles (which is telling, representing as it does a key Chinese concern, keeping open shipping lanes).

- At $711 billion per year, the U.S. spends about as much on the military as the rest of the world combined (and the full “national security” budget is over $1 trillion per year). China, with the number two military budget, spends about one-fifth of what the U.S. does, at $143 billion (figures from SIPRI, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

-The U.S. has a dozen aircraft carrier battle groups, able to project fearsome military might worldwide (to say nothing of our nuclear arsenal). China just recently inaugurated its first aircraft carrier, which experts say is at least several years away from minimal combat readiness, according to a recent Wall St. Journal article. At present it is fit only for training purposes, and China doesn’t have any jets that can land on it. So by U.S. standards, the number of Chinese aircraft carriers would be “none.”

-The U.S. military divides the entire planet into regional “commands,” with forces and power projection plans covering basically the whole planet. Neither China nor any other country has any such structure or capability.

So the wisdom and advisability of “pivoting” in order to economically, militarily and politically isolate your main banker is a head scratcher. Why would China want to underwrite that? Especially when its biggest economic interest will soon probably be to stimulate domestic consumer demand.

And why would this pivot, offering only a pointless, counter-productive military competition with China, be in the interests of the people of this country? It would certainly fail this test – should we spend our tax dollars on an idiotic, open-ended military buildup to “contain” China (when the best policy would be to rely on non-coercive diplomacy to balance the interests of all the peoples of the region), instead of on schools, sustainable energy and jobs, affordable housing, infrastructure and addressing climate change?


An hour into the debate…

October 3, 2012

Very little new ground has been broken. A few observations:

Moderator Jim Lehrer – voting is already underway in 34 states already

Obama – winding down two wars – not exactly! Wants to keep up to 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan for a decade after supposed end of war at the end of 2012

Economic patriotism – new phrase by Obama? no follow up on that

Obama – nod to bipartisanship re ideas for education reform

Obama  – wind/solar/biofuels energy investment

Obama  – Romney proposes 2 trillion in additional military spending Pentagon hasn’t asked for – Obama mentioned three times

Romney – middle income families being crushed – effective blows by Romney

Romney – not trying to reduce federal revenue? Really?

Middle class love a thon

Every program — test — is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for — good one! Romney

Romney – can’t have banks in garages – why not?

Romney – the cost of health care is too high – why we need single payer national health insurance like every other industrialized country!

Romney scoring points on obama’s focus on health care instead of jobs.

Hard to say how any of this is changing any likely voters’ minds.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,250 other followers

%d bloggers like this: