Category Archives: War

We Don’t Need No Edumacation

How a government prioritizes spending of the tax money it collects from its citizenry says a lot about the values of the people controlling that government.

Beginning next week in Germany, for instance, all universities will be free of charge, as the last German state charging tuition abandoned those fees.

“Tuition fees are socially unjust,” Hamburg Senator Dorothee Stapelfeldt told a reporter for The Australian. “They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

Meanwhile, here in Texas, which has seen an oil and gas boom of epic proportions of late and a corresponding state tax windfall, receiving an education at a state university costs an average of $21,978 a year – or about $88,000 per bachelor’s degree if your son or daughter can make it in four years.

That’s a handy trick for a family in Texas where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the per capita income is less than $26,000 and more than 17% of the population lives in poverty. ‘Course, Texas is in 49th place among all states in spending per secondary education student, which in itself gives you a pretty clear idea about education and comparative values and all, right pardner?

Let The Good Times Roll

Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go!
There’s plenty good money to be made,
By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade.
But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it on the Viet Cong!
Country Joe & The Fish, “Vietnam Song”

Who says war, what is it good for? Not Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman or General Dynamics! When the President announces a war with all weapon systems and no boots on the ground (those 1,600 “advisers” in Iraq and Syria only wear sandals), that means good times for America’s military-industrial complex.

Huh, how ’bout this? President Obama announces a jet-and-missile slamfest against angry jihadist oil refineries, and presto! All the giant publicly traded U.S. defense contractors miraculously hit their all-time high stock prices on pretty much the same day. Yeah, you could’ve hugged tight onto your S&P 500 Index mutual fund, enjoying a return so far this year of a whopping 2.2%. Or you could have bought into the above four weapons makers and be ahead of the game by 19% so far this year.

And if raining death down upon angry enemies is good for the military-industrial complex, it’s great for members of Congress of both parties, too! Because an industry so dependant upon government contracts is a grateful industry willing to share its largess with those who authorize government spending.

Out-of-control federal budget deficits? Pentagon spending cuts? Nyah – that was yesterday’s sound byte.

Evolution

→ “As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.” – President Barak Obama, Sept. 10, 2014

→ “I say that today, we had a hearing, and there was testimony from the counterterrorism people and the Department of Homeland Security. There is Twitter traffic right now and Facebook traffic, where they are urging attacks on the United States of America. And there is a great concern that our southern border and our northern border is porous and that they will be coming across.” – Sen. John McCain, Sept. 11, 2014

→ “I actually think we’re going to end up with small American special operations forces active in this broad theater, both Iraq and Syria. I don’t think you get American maneuver units on the ground, though… I do think we get to about 5,000 by the end of the year.” – former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, Sept. 14, 2014

→ “We’re fighting a terrorist army, not an organization. It’s going to take an army to beat an army. And this idea we’ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham, five minutes later, Sept. 14, 2014

→ “The reality is they’re not going to be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces or the Sunni tribes acting on their own. So there will be boots on the ground, if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy.” – former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, early morning, Sept. 16, 2014

→ “In the case of our contributions in Iraq right now the airmen are very much in a combat role. The folks on the ground are very much in a combat advisory role. They are not participating in direct combat. There is no intention for them to do so. I’ve mentioned, though, that if I found that circumstance evolving that I would, of course, change my recommendation.” – Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, late morning, Sept. 16, 2014

→ “We’re faced with people who are going to keep changing, keep evolving, keep learning. My guess is this will be a 50-year campaign. And as they become more horrible and the threat becomes more real, it will ramp up in intensity. It will ramp up in toughness. And ultimately, it will be a worldwide campaign because that’s where they are. You will have no choice. There are over 10,000 terrorists from over 50 countries currently in the ISIS arena, the Islamic State’s arena. That’s how big the movement is.” – former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, early afternoon, Sept. 16, 2014

→ “Our numbers have increased in Vietnam because the aggression of others has increased in Vietnam. There is not, and there will not be, a mindless escalation.” – former President Lyndon B. Johnson, Feb. 23, 1966

→ “No amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war, nor settle the grievances in the hearts of the combatants. It is my firm belief that the responsible course of action – for the United States, for Iraq, and for our troops – is to oppose this reckless escalation and to pursue a new policy… When it comes to the war in Iraq, the time for promises and assurances, for waiting and patience, is over.” – not-yet President Barak Obama, Jan. 30, 2007

The War On Anger

Congratulations to both the Obama Administration and the Cheney-McCain war hawks, I guess. They have been successful, according to the latest polls, in whipping up enough fear in the brains of average Americans that now the public mostly supports doing something military to stamp out the newest version of terror, now a.k.a. ISIS.

The president last night of course declared he has legal authority to use fighter jets and drones to chase a concept called terror pretty much wherever he chooses. Run-of-the-mill legal scholars disagree, but since the Republican neocons are, as always, foaming at the mouth for more manly military intervention everywhere, it’s a cinch, as always, that there will be no congressional challenge to yet another Executive Branch military overreach.

So the circle is completed and Obama becomes the same man he replaced as president a few years ago by running on a platform of ending endless war. President Obama assures this latest foray will involve no “combat boots on the ground,” although some 1,400 soldier types already have been sent over and you can bet this number will escalate and escalate, if my memory serves (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq I).

As for the air strikes President Obama now has authorized himself to order up in Iraq and Syria and wherever, it turns out many of them already are being undertaken with the purpose of destroying major weapons we left behind in the hands of the Iraqi army, who abandoned them, pooped their collective pants and ran away in the face of ISIS militia. If you count the original cost of the tanks, armoured vehicles, Howitzer cannons and the like that we (you know, the taxpayers) paid for in the first place, which we now must pay to have destroyed, these air strikes carry a taxpayer price tag of from about $1.5 million up to more than $12 million apiece.

That is certainly a fine thing if you happen to be sitting on top of a pile of Lockheed Martin or Boeing or Northrop Grumann stock, but it sucks for the rest of America, which has yet to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, and now faces the prospect of economic fall-out from yet another unfunded war without any defined endgame.

I guess this aspect is what gets me the most: These guys (the last two presidents and the Neocon Pack) work the citizenry up into a froth of fear (often without any basis whatsoever, I might add), then propel us into what amounts to full-on war, regardless of which weasel words they use to describe it. And they never seem to have a plan for ending the thing. It’s almost as if they don’t want to ever end the thing, almost as if they all were sitting on piles of Lockheed Martin or Boeing or Northrop Grumann stock, or campaign contributions.

What if we referred to what the U.S. is doing in more accurate terms? We have not declared war on “terror.” We have declared war on an emotion. We have declared war on anger. These jihadist groups have one thing in common, at least: They are so angry at American policy that they seem willing to go to any lengths to hurt us.

It turns out that a lot of this anger has been built up inside people whose family members may have, for instance, been blown up as corollary damage in drone strikes or military actions that the Bush Jr. or Obama administrations authorized themselves to conduct over the past few years.

So how do American Neocons respond to this newer anger? Why, by ramping up air strikes around cities and towns full of innocent civilians who through no fault of their own found their territory controlled by ISIS.

In other words, we are taking action pretty much guaranteed to create more angry militants than now exist, apparently guaranteeing the need for us to blow up more angry militants, with sufficient corollary damage to create even more angry militants. This is what happens when you declare war on an emotion such as anger, or on a concept such as terror.

In truth, the drug cartels of Mexico and South America have and continue to pose something closer to a terrorist threat to U.S. citizens than does ISIS, the beheading of two American journalists notwithstanding.

And meanwhile, while we tie up our military assets battling anger in the Mideast, who is left to stop Putin as he methodically steals back all the countries that broke away from the totalitarian old Soviet Union? NATO and the Europeans? Not bloody likely, sports fans.

“Well,” as Oliver Hardy once said to Stan Laurel, “here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Freedom’s Just Another Word, Part II

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers does the same for the House. Their committees supposedly provide oversight of the U.S. intelligence community, although it appears for all the world that these two are a pair of suck-up sock-puppets for the spook industry.

Thanks to some guy named Edward Snowden, we now know that the NSA – one of the agencies over whom Feinstein & Rogers supposedly exercise supervision – taps, daily, into the mobile phone call records, email, text messages and Internet browsing habits of millions of American citizens who are going about their lives and neither accused nor committing any sort of crime, let alone an act of “terrorism,” whatever that is precisely. We also know that the NSA and its counterpart in Great Britain routinely spy on pretty much all the top dogs in all the governments of the world, especially our supposed allies, such as Germany, France and Italy. We also know that the NSA has coerced mobile phone and technology companies into helping with the mass spying on American citizens.

All of this has pissed me off for months, and I suspect I’m not the only one. Really, the NSA and apologists such as Feinstein/Rogers, and hopefully the Obama Administration, must be feeling some really super-well-deserved heat. Because on Sunday, Feinstein & Rogers put their heads together, drove on over to CNN and proclaimed that any U.S. citizen concerned over the total shredding of their 4th Amendment constitutional rights simply isn’t properly scared.

Here is an actual Feinstein quote from the CNN propaganda enablers:

“There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb-maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there.”

Got that? Bombety-bomb-bombs! In the hands of the malevolent!

Feinstein & Rogers used their air time to proclaim that America is less safe from “terrorism” than ever, leaving unsaid but of course strongly implied that we should be damn proud as Americans that our spooks have the ability and stamina to go through all of our daughters’ text messages hour after hour. To fight terror.

What a crock of shit.

First off, Feinstein & Rogers’ claims are false. Patent lies, to be more precise. Even CNN’s own national security analyst came out after the Sunday haunted house show and used real data to pick apart their phony claims.

But lets say F&R’s fantasy was real. What if the NSA had been rifling through the electronic communications of the entire citizenry plus every world leader while special forces bumped off Osama Bin Laden and the CIA picked off hundreds of suspected “terrorist” group leaders via drones month after month over the past few years, all of which only resulted in Americans being less safe in their homes? If that were really true, then can someone please explain to me why the congressional heads of the intelligence oversight committees are not screaming in unison that the chiefs of the NSA and CIA (or at least their top strategists) should be fired? Because that sounds a whole lot like gross incompetence to moi.

But of course the Feinstein & Rogers fantasy is false.

What really gets me is the rationale behind this whole “national security” charade. The real dollar figures are (of course!) top secret, but is there anyone who honestly doesn’t believe that hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent over the past 10 years on “national security” efforts by “our” spy agencies?

During the last 10 years, as best I can tell through research, a grand total of 18 people have died on American soil as the result of what have been labeled as terrorist attacks. That includes 13 in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, two military recruiters shot and killed, also in 2009, in Little Rock, Ark., and the three people who died in the Boston Marathon bombings (which have yet to be proven as “terrorist” acts as opposed to acts by the mentally delusional).

That averages out to 1.8 deaths per year on American soil due to what I shall roughly label as terrorism.

By comparison, an average of about 35,000 people die on American soil per year due to traffic accidents. Are you sufficiently afraid to drive your car?

Also by comparison, about 50,000 people die each year due to violence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In the most recent year in which the CDC had completed its counting (2009), a sampling of about 16,000 of those deaths showed that about 61% were single-person suicides, and about 21% were single homicides. Of that 21%, which would constitute about 10,000 deaths per year, about 8.6% were, according to the CDC, considered “justifiable homicide” and committed by the police.

All of which leads me to ask: When we speak of national security, what exactly is the goal here? If the goal is “safety,” does that mean safety from death? (Really, that would be postponement of death, right? Because you can’t prevent it forever.)

But seriously, if the ultimate goal here is to prevent the untimely death of Americans, why exactly are we spending at least tens of billions of dollars per year (and probably much more) to prevent 1.8 deaths? If the goal really is to prevent untimely American deaths, should not our tax money be allocated away from the CIA and the NSA and reallocated into medical research to find cures for heart disease and cancers? Or into mental health care? Or safer vehicles and roadways?

Far be it for a mere peasant farmer such as myself to presume to impose my imperfect views upon leaders of the stature and magnitude of the likes of Feinstein & Rogers. However, if my job were to help set national security goals for what has been regarded in the past as a “free society,” I think one of those goals would be to maintain our free lifestyle in the face of constant threat and danger.

I notice it isn’t al-Qaeda snooping in my email and violating my constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Who, then, is the real terrorist?

So Much For An Economic Recovery…

Another Fine Mess The big media outlets are reporting as if it’s a given that the U.S. is about to play Shock and Awe with Syria, which I suppose means the defense industry political bribery machine wins again. Even though this is yet another civil war hunt in which we have no dog. Even though there is no good guy amongst the rebels. Even though we have nothing to gain by this impending action and much, much to lose. Even though sticking our hands into fire ant nests in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya and Sudan and all the way back to Vietnam only led to us getting badly bitten, our “leaders” will allow the military-industrial complex to herd us right on into another tar pit. Even though we have no moral authority to crown ourselves as Policeman of the World, and no available tax money from the American peasantry with which to fund yet another donnybrook.

For sure, no one will listen to this guy:

“The one thing we should learn is you can’t get a little bit pregnant,” said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was at the helm of U.S. Central Command when the Pentagon launched cruise missiles at suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and weapons facilities in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. “If you do a one-and-done and say you’re going to repeat it if unacceptable things happen, you might find these people keep doing unacceptable things. It will suck you in.”

Zinni is right, and who should know better? But for sure no one will listen.

Watch now as all the phony angst over the debt ceiling and deficit spending melts away before the need to put another stinkin’ war effort on the national credit card.

And oh, by the way, by aligning himself and the U.S. with the Syrian rebels, President Obama will essentially be aligning himself with al Qaeda:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, one of two al Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria, announced that it would coordinate with other Syrian rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, to take revenge for a chemical weapons attack last week in the capital that is said to have killed more than 300 people.

Ironic, ain’t it?

Freedom’s Just Another Word…

How much fear would you say is the appropriate amount to take with you in your head as you go about your day-to-day activities?

I ask this question as I read news today that one angry al-Qaeda man in Pakistan sent a message to another angry al-Qaeda man in Yemen saying that the Yemen man should gather his friends together and attack something.

As a result, and the usual “abundance of caution” of the sort that apparently went missing in Benghazi a while back, the O. Administration has ordered 19 embassies closed and advised Americans to get out of Yemen.

I am not suggesting that angry al-Qaeda men are not really plotting some violent act. However, I would suggest that such men often if not always are plotting something similar. And I must wonder at how quickly this new official American fear alert arrived on the heels of revelations that American government spies essentially are probing all of us peasants and our every communication on a daily basis.

Surely we should not mind the dismembering of just a few of our constitutional rights if the results keep us safer from angry men in beards, am I right? The cost of living in a free society inevitably must be your freedoms, one supposes.

Here’s just one of many things that gets me about this Be Afraid of Terrorists soup that the government so readily doles out:

In the 10 years from 2001 through 2010, the number of Americans killed by what are classified as acts of terror totaled 3,059, according to this compilation at infoplease.com. That averages out to 306 deaths by terror per year, and it’s worth noting that other than the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, many of the deaths were to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Mideast.

During the same period of time, 402,589 Americans were killed on American soil by vehicles, or during vehicle crashes, according to this report. That averages out to 40,259 American deaths each year.

Compared to 40,259, 306 is a pretty insignificant number.

We now have a Department of Homeland Security, are regularly roughed up and probed at the airports, have our phone and Internet communications monitored by spooks, operate a secret court that issues secret orders that secretly make it “legal” for the spooks to apparently do what they please Constitution notwithstanding, and recently we learned that the spooks feed the federal Drug Enforcement Agency secret tips on Americans who allegedly are committing criminal acts, and then the DEA secretly feeds bits of that information to police agencies around the country, and then the investigations are “sanitized” so that whatever peasant happens to be arrested is not made aware of how he or she came to be arrested.

All of this emanates, directly or indirectly, from a government policy of keeping the American peasantry afraid of “terrorists,” whatever that word really means, and of the possibility of becoming one of 306 (out of several hundred million) Americans to be killed worldwide by “terrorist acts.” Someone pointed out one time that you have a greater risk of being killed by your own furniture.

Meanwhile, the government is apparently quite content to allow us all to feel safe as we careen around the roadways spewing fossil fuel in vehicles that will kill or cause more than 40,000 of us to die this year. Not so much as a suggestion to lower the speed limits.

Or is it just me?