(This essay was originally written for Memorial Day, 2010. Unfortunately, the Pentagon’s policy remains unchained. While paying lip service to “the fallen,” the Pentagon still refuses to provide a list of the thousands of soldiers who have fought and died at its orders. An updated report on the latest Casualty Count and a report on the official “news” for Memorial Day 2011 are included at the end of this posing.)
In public speeches, editorials and the Pentagon’s own Website, the rhetoric of sacrifice is rife with euphemism. The uniformed victims of war are always “heroes” (even though many of them died screaming in pain and begging God to let them live).
They are “fallen soldiers” (which suggests mere misstep followed by a clean, almost balletic death — even though they may have been blown to bits or burned beyond recognition).
They always “gave their lives” (when the fact is, their lives were taken from them. It would be more honest — and ironic — to note that it is suicide bombers who truly “give their lives.” In contrast, most American soldiers hope to return alive and intact to a welcome from their families back home.)
But the worst offense — and one that gives the lie to the military’s empty prose — is the fact that, even on Memorial Day, the Pentagon’s Web site carries no comprehensive list of the names of the 5,400-plus men and women killed during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
How did the Defense (another euphemism) Department choose to celebrate May 31? The Pentagon’s Memorial Day edition featured a message from Secretary Gates and two stories on the ritual placing of flags — one ceremony at Arlington and another at a cemetery in Syracuse.
Although there were links to “Memorial Day History” and “Arlington National Cemetery,” there were no links to any list acknowledging the names of the soldiers that the Pentagon and the White House were urging us all to “remember.” The names were not to be seen. The reality of these sacrifices remained invisible, safely sealed behind comforting platitudes. As far as the Pentagon is concerned, these “Fallen Heroes” appear to be better off forgotten.
True, the Pentagon provides a Daily Casualty Report, but the information is sketchy, at best, and often fails to offer an exact cause of death, explaining that the incident is “under investigation.” Each day, a new short-list appears, but there is no aggregation of the mounting human loss.
Instead of actually “honoring the dead,” the Pentagon’s Memorial Day Web page featured a story about the nation preparing to “pay tribute to fallen service members” by planting flags. Visitors were invited to “Observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m.” and to “find ways to volunteer in your area to help the military and veterans.” Of the three “Memorial Day Events” that comprised the totality of the day’s featured news, one story reported how “Girl Scouts Learn Price of Freedom” by planting 2,000 American flags at a military cemetery under the tutelage of the American Legion. The accompanying photo showed three typically overweight American teen girls teaming up to push a single flag into the sod. (More details were available by clicking on a link to the “Family Matters Blog.”)
The second story reported Defense Secretary Robert M. Gatesâ€™ visit to a flag-planting ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The very act of planting flags, of course, serves as a distraction — calling attention away from the chilling message of the gravestones to the fluttering of tiny flags placed strategically in front of the markers bearing the names of the dead. If the dead were truly being honored for “protecting the flag,” it would make more sense to place the flags behind the tombstones. Apparently, the convenient political practice of “hiding behind the flag” continues, yea, unto death.
The final story proudly touted how “America’s senior military officer,” US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, interrupted his busy schedule and “took time outâ€¦ to stress the importance of [the soldiersâ€™] sacrifice.” Speaking to hundreds of families of dead soldiers at the “15th Annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors National Military Survivor Seminar” in Crystal City, Virginia, Mullen claimed our country was “blessed” by being the “best country that’s ever been, because of the service of those who raised their right hand and went off to do their nationâ€™s bidding.”
Mullen assured the suffering survivors that the Pentagon would “never forget the sacrifice that your loved ones have made” and promised “to have your needs met: to be supported for the rest of your lives.” As evidence of the Pentagon’s concern with the unmet needs of the survivors, Mullen’s appearance was designed to coincide with the grand opening of a nearby therapy camp for the children of slain soldiers.
Perhaps in homage to the comic strip “Peanuts” and Charlie Brown, the Pentagon has dubbed the children’s therapy center “Good Grief Camp.”
The Pentagon’s Memorial Day page made no mention of wars other survivors — the 38,000 veterans who returned home disfigured and incapacitated by grievous wounds. [Note: Anti-war.com estimates the number of US wounded may approach 100,000.] Nor did the Pentagon memorialize the estimated 320,000 combat soldiers who suffer from traumatic brain injuries.
Nor was there any mention of the fact that our veterans are killing themselves at a rate of 18 suicides a day. These deaths are clearly war-related but the names of these “fallen” are not entered in the roll call of official “war heroes.” The “ultimate sacrifice” these soldiers and their families experience earns them no special mention on the walls of the Pentagon or on the stones of Arlington. These “fallen service members” will not be officially honored or remembered on this Memorial Day.
For Americans interested in truly “remembering the fallen” there are many alternatives to the Pentagon’s Daily Casualty Releases. AntiWar.com offers a list of “Casualties in Iraq” and “Casualties in Afghanistan” presented under the rubric of “The Human Cost of Occupation.”
AntiWar.com also offers estimates on the number of military contractors, academics, journalists, and civilians that have been killed in these two wars. These human losses (as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani civilians killed) also need to be remembered on Memorial Day. Other resources include the venerable Iraq Body Count, Icausalties.org, Cost of War and the BBC.
The major TV networks have occasionally featured photos of soldiers who have recently “made the ultimate sacrifice,” but it is the Washington Post that comes closest to matching Memorial Day’s challenge to “never forget” the many men and women who have died “in their country’s service.” The Post‘s sobering “Faces of the Fallen,” provides an online list of the all the wars’ dead with names and photos.
The Post‘s example is one that the Pentagon would be well served to match. Meanwhile, enquiries asking why the Pentagon has so far failed to post a detailed and comprehensive list of all of our “fallen,” has gone unanswered.
Gar Smith is a prizewinning investigative journalist, magazine editor and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War.
2011 Memorial Day News from the Pentagon Today in the Department of Defense Monday, May 30, 2011
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will deliver remarks at 11 a.m. EDT at the National Memorial Day Observance after conducting a wreath-laying ceremony with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.] Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.
Adm. Mullen delivers remarks at 9 a.m. EDT at the Memorial Day Ceremony at the World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. The National Memorial Day Parade will take place at 2 p.m. EDT along Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. The parade will be streamed live at http://www.pentagonchannel.mil.
From a Separate Link to a Different Page
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) U.S. CASUALTY STATUS *
FATALITIES AS OF: May 27, 2011, 10 a.m. EDT
Total Deaths 4,421
Wounded in Action 31,931
OPERATION NEW DAWN (OND) US CASUALTY STATUS **
FATALITIES AS OF: May 27, 2011, 10 a.m. EDT
Total Deaths 36
Wounded in Action 171
OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) U.S. CASUALTY STATUS
FATALITIES AS OF: May 27, 2011, 10 a.m. EDT
Worldwide Total 1,576
Wounded in Action 11,541
* OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
includes casualties that occurred between March 19, 2003, and August 31, 2010, in the Arabian Sea, Bahrain, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Persian Gulf, Qatar, Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Prior to March 19, 2003, casualties in these countries were considered OEF. Personnel injured in OIF who die after 1 September 2010 will be included in OIF statistics.
** OPERATION NEW DAWN
includes casualties that occurred on or after September 1, 2010 in the Arabian Sea, Bahrain, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Persian Gulf, Qatar, Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
*** OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM
(Afghanistan only), includes casualties that occurred in Afghanistan only.
**** OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM
(Other Locations), includes casualties that occurred in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
CHICAGO (May 30, 2011) — It’s a dramatic, shocking and violent film. Some 200 uniformed policemen armed with billy clubs, revolvers and tear gas angrily charge an unarmed crowd of several hundred striking steelworkers and their wives and children, who are desperately running away. The police club those they can reach, shoving them to the ground and ignoring their pleas as they batter them with further blows. They stand above the fallen to fire at the backs of those who’ve outraced them.
Police drag the injured along the ground and into patrol wagons, where they are jammed in with dozens of others who were also arrested. Four are already dead from police bullets, six others are to die shortly. Eighty are wounded, two dozen others so badly beaten that they, too, must be hospitalized.
The close-ups are particularly brutal. As one newspaper reviewer noted, “In several instances from two to four policemen are seen beating one man. One strikes him horizontally across the face, using his club as he would a baseball bat. Another crashes it down on top of his head and still another is whipping him across the back.”
The film ends with a sweaty, fatigued policeman looking into the camera, grinning and motioning as if dusting off his hands.
The film was made in 1937. It was not, however, one of those popular cops and robbers features of the thirties. It was not fictional. It was an on-the-scene report of what historians call “The Memorial Day Massacre,” a newsreel segment filmed by Paramount Pictures as it was happening on the south side of Chicago on May 30, 1937.
We’re accustomed these days to the use of videotaped evidence to show wrongdoing by abusive law enforcement officers. Video technology was unknown in 1937, of course, and though film was available, it had rarely — if ever — been used for that purpose. The 1937 film, in fact, was initially kept from the general public by Paramount’s executives. Fearful of “inciting riots,” they refused to include it in any of their newsreels that were shown regularly in movie theaters nationwide.
But the film was shown to a closed session of a Senate investigating committee chaired by Robert LaFollette Jr. of Wisconsin. The committee, concerned primarily with civil liberties, was outraged — particularly since the Chicago police had acted in violation of the two-year-old federal law that guaranteed workers the right to strike and engage in other peaceful union activities.
The committee found that strikers and their families, while noisily demanding collective bargaining rights as they massed in front of the South Chicago plant operated by Republic Steel, had indeed been generally peaceful.
But that was beside the point to the police in Chicago and other cities with plants operated by Republic and two other members of the “Little Steel” alliance that also were struck. For, as the committee concluded, the police had been “loosed to shoot down citizens on the streets and highways” at the companies’ behest. The companies even supplied them with weapons and ammunition from their own stockpiles.
The committee said the companies had spent more than $40,000 on machine guns, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, tear gas canisters and launchers and 10,000 rounds of ammunition to use against strikers. Republic alone had more supplies than any law enforcement agency in the entire country.
The companies were prepared to go to any extreme to remain nonunion. Two closed their plants temporarily, anticipating that most of the 85,000 strikers would soon be forced to return to work because they had little — if any — savings. But though Republic Steel closed most of its plants, it continued to operate the Chicago plant and a few others.
Republic fired union members at the plants that remained open and, with police help, cleared out union sympathizers and brought in strikebreakers to replace them. The strikebreakers, guarded by police day and night, ate and slept in the plants to avoid confronting the pickets outside.
Municipal police, company police and National Guardsmen harassed and often arrested pickets for doing little more than lawfully picketing. Six strikers were killed outside Republic’s Ohio plants in Cleveland, Youngstown, Canton and Massillon.
The killings and other violence, the steadily increasing financial pressures on strikers, unceasing anti-union propaganda — all that and more combined to end the strike in mid-July, two months after it had begun.
But the steelworkers didn’t give up. Determined to not have made such great sacrifices in vain, they turned to the labor-friendly administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt for help.
They got it in 1941, when heavy pressures from the administration finally forced the steel companies to recognize their employees’ legal right to unionization and the many benefits, financial and otherwise, that it brought them and the many other industrial union members who followed their lead.
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
WASHINGTON, DC (May 30, 2011) — It is unfortunate but true that this Memorial Day — when we pause to honor those Americans who have fought the good fights against British colonialism, the sin of slavery and the menace of fascism — is marred by the painful reality that US troops are currently bogged down in a lingering mess of George Bush’s creation in Iraq and a quagmire of George Bush’s creation in Afghanistan.
Appallingly, Barack Obama has maintained these undeclared wars of occupation. And he has now steered the United States into another fight with Libya.
The soldiers involved in these fights are good men and women. But these are not good fights. Nor are they necessary fights for the US military.
There are arguments to be made, some of them sound, some of them not, that people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have reasons to be fighting. But the fights are their own — not America’s.
The cynicism of the previous administration, which was led by a president whose family pulled strings to keep him out of the Vietnam War and a vice president who dodged the draft five times during that conflict, was beyond contempt. But so too is the cynicism of many Democrats, who, despite their disdain for the failed foreign policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney, continue to echo the empty rhetoric of the administration when it comes to the debate about how best to end the war.
The best way to “support the troops” who have been placed in harmâ€™s way in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is to bring them home.
Congress considered the prospect last week and more than 200 members of the House voted for a proposal to begin taking steps to exit Afghanistan. Unfortunately, a few more members opposed that necessary step.
The growing opposition to the misguided mission in Afghanistan, as well as the clear opposition to any expansion of the Libya mission, is encouraging.
America is growing weary of endless war.
Wars of whim, fought without congressional authorization and without exit strategies, are not fights for democracy.
Fights for democracy can only be considered successful when American democracy is open and vibrant enough to allow for a realistic discussion of the nation’s circumstance. Those “my-country-right-or-wrong” politicians and pundits who would shut down dissent on Memorial Day, or any other day, make a mockery of the oath to defend the US Constitution, which protects the right to speak truth to power and to assemble for the purpose of petitioning for the redress of grievances.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Vietnam War-era counsel to Americans holds true this Memorial Day. Americans who love their country and its promise must move beyond “the prophesying of smooth patriotism” toward “a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history.”
No honest reading of the history of America’s founding, or of recent events, can lead to a conclusion that the current wars of whim are justified.
Americans have fought and died in pursuit of noble and necessary causes. It is right to celebrate their memory. But is right, as well, to recognize that not all wars are noble and necessary. And when a war is not justified, it is time to honor the troops by bringing them home.
Copyright 2011 madison.com. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
WASHINGTON (May 28, 2011) — Riders on Boston subways and trolleys are accustomed to seeing placards that advertise research being conducted at the city’s many teaching hospitals. One that recently caught my eye, announcing an experimental “behavioral treatment,” posed this question to potential subjects: “Are you in the US military or a veteran disturbed by terrible things you have experienced?”
Just below the question, someone had scrawled this riposte in blue ink: “Thank God for these Men and Women. USA all the way.”
Here on a 30 x 36 inch piece of cardboard was the distilled essence of the present-day relationship between the American people and their military. In the eyes of citizens, the American soldier has a dual identity: as hero but also as victim.
As victims — Wounded Warriors — soldiers deserve the best care money can buy; hence, the emphasis being paid to issues like PTSD. As heroes, those who serve and sacrifice embody the virtues that underwrite American greatness. They therefore merit unstinting admiration.
Whatever practical meaning the slogan “support the troops” may possess, it lays here: in praise expressed for those choosing to wear the uniform, and in assistance made available to those who suffer as a consequence of that choice.
From the perspective of the American people, the principal attribute of this relationship is that it entails no real obligations or responsibilities. Face it: It costs us nothing yet enables us to feel good about ourselves. In an unmerited act of self-forgiveness, we thereby expunge the sin of the Vietnam era when opposition to an unpopular war found at least some Americans venting their unhappiness on the soldiers sent to fight it.
The homeward-bound G.I. spat upon by spoiled and impudent student activists may be an urban legend, but the fiction persists and has long since trumped reality.
Today such egregious misbehavior has become unimaginable. Even if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not especially popular or successful, no one blames the troops. Instead we cheer them, pray for them, and let them go to the front of the line when passing through airport security. And we take considerable satisfaction in doing so.
From the perspective of those who engineer America’s wars, the principal attribute of this relationship is that it obviates any need for accountability. For nearly a decade now, popular willingness to “support the troops” has provided unlimited drawing rights on the United States Treasury.
Since 9/11, in waging its various campaigns, overt and covert, the United States military has expended hundreds of billions of (mostly borrowed) dollars. By the time the last invoice gets paid, the total will be in the trillions. Is the money being well spent? Are we getting good value? Is it possible that some of the largesse showered on US forces trying to pacify Kandahar could be better put to use in helping to rebuild Cleveland?
Given the existing terms of the civil-military relationship, even to pose such questions is unseemly. For politicians sending soldiers into battle, generals presiding over long, drawn-out, inconclusive campaigns, and contractors reaping large profits as a consequence, this war-comes-first mentality is exceedingly agreeable.
One wonders how many of those serving in the ranks are taken in by this fraud. The relationship between American people and their military — we love you; do whatever you want — seems to work for everyone. Everyone, that is, except soldiers themselves. They face the prospect of war without foreseeable end.
Americans once believed war to be a great evil. Whenever possible, war was to be avoided. When circumstances made war unavoidable, Americans wanted peace swiftly restored.
Present-day Americans, few of them directly affected by events in Iraq or Afghanistan, find war tolerable. They accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about. Rest assured that no such reports will interfere with plans for the long weekend that Memorial Day makes possible.
Members of the civil-military-corporate elite find war more than tolerable. Within its ranks, as Chris Hedges has noted, war imparts meaning and excitement to life. It serves as a medium through which ambitions are fulfilled and power is accrued and exercised. In Washington, the benefits offered by warâ€™s continuation easily outweigh any benefits to be gained by ending war. So why bother to try?
As the 10th anniversary of what Americans once called their Global War on Terror approaches, a plausible, realistic blueprint for bringing that enterprise to a conclusion does not exist. Those who might once have felt some responsibility for articulating such a plan — the president, his chief lieutenants, senior military leaders — no longer feel any obligation to do so. As a practical matter, they devote themselves to war’s perpetuation, closing one front while opening another. More strikingly still, we the people allow our leaders to evade this basic responsibility to articulate a plan for peace. By implication, we endorse the unspoken assumption that peace has become implausible.
Here at last we come to the dirty little secret that underlines all the chatter about “supporting the troops.” The people in charge donâ€™t really believe that the burdens borne by our soldiers will ever end and they are not really looking for ways to do so. As for the rest of us, well, we’re OK with that.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at email@example.com.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
“CLEAN ENERGY” BANK WOULD ENABLE UNLIMITED TAXPAYER FUNDING OF NEW NUCLEAR REACTOR CONSTRUCTION â€¨â€¨
ACT NOW TO BLOCK “CEDA”! Nuclear Information and Resource Service
â€¨WASHINGTON (May 25, 2011â€¨â€¨) â€“ On May 26, the Senate Energy Committee was scheduled to consider a bill establishing a new “clean energy” bank called the Clean Energy Development Administration (CEDA). â€¨â€¨Unfortunately, this “clean energy” bank is anything but a source for funding genuinely clean energy. In fact, both new nuclear reactors and certain coal projects would be eligible for unlimited taxpayer backed loans if this bank were to be realized. Fortunately the debate has been postposed, so there is still time to make your voices heard.
A press release from our friends at Union of Concerned Scientists with more background on CEDA is reprinted below. is here.â€¨â€¨
Please act quickly and tell your Senators — especially if they are on the Energy Committee (members listed below) — to reject CEDA as currently written. There is nothing “clean” about nuclear power, as a glance at any photo of Fukushima should make clear.
Unless nuclear power and dirty coal are taken out of the CEDA program, it should be defeated.â€¨â€¨
If one of your Senators is on the Energy Committee (members listed below), please also call him/her today and urge him/her to reject CEDA unless nuclear and coal are removed from the program. Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121.â€¨â€¨In other news, today NIRS hand-delivered to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees a letter signed by more than 180 organizations and small businesses urging an end to the existing nuclear loan program.
Thanks to everyone who signed this letter! The letter and accompanying press release are available on the front page of NIRS website, www.nirs.org.â€¨â€¨
Senate Energy Committee
â€¨â€¨Democrats: Chairman Jeff Bingaman (NM)â€¨, Ron Wyden (OR)â€¨Tim Johnson (SD)â€¨, Mary L. Landrieu (LA)â€¨, Maria Cantwell (WA)â€¨Bernard Sanders (I) (VT)â€¨, Debbie Stabenow (MI)â€¨, Mark Udall (CO), â€¨Jeanne Shaheen (NH), â€¨Al Franken (MN), â€¨Joe Manchin (WV)â€¨, Christopher A. Coons (DE)â€¨
Republicans:â€¨ Lisa Murkowski (AK), â€¨John Barrasso (WY), â€¨James E. Risch (ID), â€¨Mike Lee (UT), â€¨Rand Paul (KY), â€¨Daniel Coats (IN)â€¨, Rob Portman (OH), â€¨John Hoeven (ND)â€¨, Dean Heller (NV)â€¨, Bob Corker (TN)
WASHINGTON (May 24, 2011) — A proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) for a federal clean energy financing bank would expose US taxpayers to excessive risk, eliminate proper congressional oversight, and fail to guard against undue industry and Wall Street influence, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The proposal, called the “Clean Energy Financing Act of 2011,” is one of several bills slated to be marked up on Thursday, May 26, by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Bingaman’s legislation is similar to language included in a bill passed in 2009 by the same committee as part of the American Clean Energy Leadership Act.
The proposed bank, the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), would offer a range of federally backed financing options — including direct loans, letters of credit, and loan guarantees — for energy production, transmission and storage projects, and other technologies that would reduce global warming emissions and energy consumption. Renewable energy technologies, nuclear reactors, and coal carbon capture and storage projects all would qualify for assistance.
“A properly designed federal clean energy bank could help reduce financial risks associated with deploying innovative clean energy technologies, but a new loan guarantee program should not be used to provide unlimited financial support for mature, high-risk technologies with multibillion dollar price tags,” said Ellen Vancko, manager of UCS’s nuclear energy and climate change project.
UCS urges the Senate to modify Sen. Bingaman’s CEDA proposal to protect taxpayers and ensure that funding targets truly innovative clean energy technologies that have the potential to reduce the most global warming emissions at the lowest possible cost.
Specifically, the Senate should:
â€¢ Cap the amount of credit support that the bank can issue to limit taxpayer exposure;
â€¢ Subject CEDA to the Federal Credit Reform Act to ensure ongoing congressional oversight and budget authority;
â€¢ Remove provisions that would give loan guarantee applicants the ability to challenge the government’s estimated value of recovery in the event of default; and
â€¢ Ensure that any outside professional advisors retained by the bank are subject to strong conflict of interest requirements.
These modifications would reduce the overall risk of default to taxpayers and promote more cost-effective and environmentally acceptable alternatives.
The rationale behind CEDA is to support the commercialization of new innovative technologies, but the nuclear industry sees it as a vehicle to encourage construction of conventional reactors by lowering the cost of debt. The Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear power industry, has called CEDA “a permanent financing platform for new nuclear reactors.”
“Given the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima,” said Vancko, â€œCongress should focus on what we need to do to address serious shortcomings in nuclear plant safety and security rather than find new and creative ways to provide the industry with even more subsidies than it already enjoys.
A recent UCS report, “Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies,” found that the industry has been benefitting from a vast array of subsidies since its inception more than 50 years ago.
The Senate’s CEDA proposal is flawed because it favors larger capital-intensive projects over many cost-effective, low-carbon options, according to UCS. This is because the cost of debt is the biggest hurdle for large, costly projects, and CEDA would reduce the cost of debt by shifting the financial risk of these projects onto the taxpayer. There would be no restrictions on the size of the projects, or a limit on the amount of credit support that CEDA could provide.
In 2009, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that CEDA could provide $130 billion in loan guarantees to large nuclear and fossil fuel energy projects based on current applications alone. This would create an incentive for companies to use the program to finance large, risky projects with a higher return on investment instead of new, innovative technologies, or low-cost, low-risk energy efficiency projects.
The Senate’s new version of CEDA contains even fewer taxpayer protections than earlier proposals, while granting loan guarantee applicants the right to challenge the government’s assessment of a project’s value of recovery in the event of a default. That would give large project developers even greater leverage over the process.
“The Senate should adopt responsible, common-sense provisions to protect taxpayers and underwrite the development of a broad range of clean, cost-effective energy technologies,” Vancko said. “Without these protections, the financial risk to taxpayers could be astronomical.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading US science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Tell President Obama to Reverse His Position on Nuclear Power No CEDA Vote Yet in Senate Energy Committee; Still Time to Act Nuclear Information and Resource Service
â€¨(May 27, 2011â€¨â€¨) — Our friends at Mothers for Peace in California have put together a new petition to President Obama urging him to reverse his support for nuclear power in light of Fukushima.â€¨â€¨ They are collecting signatures online and on paper, and will hand-deliver the signatures to the White House in mid-July.
But that’s only step one! Step two: download the petition here, then print out some copies. Ask your friends to sign, take them to your local food co-op, coffee shop, etc. Take them to meetings, festivals, concerts and the like and collect more signatures!
Thank you! 7,500 letters to the Senate have gone in opposing the “Clean Energy Development Administration” since our alert Wednesday afternoon! Great job!â€¨â€¨
The Senate Energy Committee met as scheduled yesterday and discussed CEDA, but did not vote on the measure. One reason is that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was not present and wants to offer amendments to the bill (which are likely to be positive amendments, although we haven’t seen them yet). In addition, some Republicans were reportedly concerned about how to pay for this new bank–so don’t assume, just because you may live in a Red state — that your Senators will automatically support CEDA: they might not and your actions will help (for that matter, don’t assume, just because you live in a Blue state, that your Senators will oppose CEDA!). The committee will resume its work some time after next week’s Memorial Day recess.â€¨â€¨
That means there is still time for you to send in your letters and alert your friends and colleagues that this greenwash-named CEDA is really–in the words of the Nuclear Energy Institute — “a permanent financing platform for new nuclear reactors.”
â€¨â€¨You can send your letters opposing CEDA as currently proposed here.â€¨â€¨
And you can forward both the petition page and the CEDA action page to your friends on Facebook, Twitter and the like — just look for the handy icons on the top right of each page.
â€¨â€¨International friends: the CEDA action requires a U.S. address; the petition can be signed by anyone.â€¨â€¨
and Resource Serviceâ€¨firstname.lastname@example.orgâ€¨www.nirs.orgâ€¨â€¨Stay Informed!â€¨â€¨NIRS on Facebook:â€¨â€¨http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nuclear-Information-and-Resource-Service/26490791479?sk=wall&filter=12
Another Amazon Activist Killed Gabriel Elizondo / Al Jazeera
SAO PAOLO (May 29, 2011) — Brazilian police have confirmed the killing of yet another Amazon environmental campaigner. Adelino Ramos was known for openly denouncing those who illegally fell trees in the rainforest. His is just the latest in a long line of murders of such activists. Adelino Ramos’s murder comes days after the slaying of Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva.
SAO PAULO (May 28, 2011) — They watched as the Amazon rain forest fell around them. Instead of staying quiet, as so many people in the lawless region do, environmentalist leader Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria, fought back.
They reported illegal loggers to police and federal prosecutors. They confronted powerful interests that destroy the forest for the quick economic gains to be made from selling timber, or from clearing land to raise cattle or soybeans.
This week, like so many Amazon activists before them, the Silvas were gunned down.
On Saturday, police confirmed that yet another rural activist was killed: Adelino Ramos, a land reform leader in the Amazon state of Rondonia, which borders Bolivia. Like the Silvas, he also denounced those who illegally cut the rain forest.
He was shot by a gunman or gunmen Friday morning. Fifteen years ago, he survived one of the deadliest land conflicts in Brazil, when police killed 10 of the so-called landless activists in an encampment on land they had occupied.
The Silvas were killed Tuesday near the sustainable reserve on government-ceded land were they led about 300 families working the forest in the Amazon state of Para, one of Brazil’s most violent and lawless. Federal police said Friday that they were investigating, but had not made any arrests.
Authorities say there is little doubt the couple were assassinated for their work. They faced numerous death threats, nothing was stolen off their bodies and Silva’s ear was cut off, likely as proof that he was dead.
Three more names were tacked onto an ever-growing list of more than 1,150 rural activists who have been slain in land conflicts across Brazil in the past 20 years, murders mostly carried out by gunmen hired by loggers, ranchers and farmers to silence those who protest illegal cutting in the forest.
So many die because so few face punishment.
Of all those killings, fewer than 100 cases have gone to court. About 80 hired gunmen have been convicted. Only 15 or so of the people who have ordered killings faced charges. And just one of them one is known to be in prison.
Impunity rules among the 23 million people spread across the vast Amazon because Brazil’s judicial system is weak and corruption among local officials is endemic, activists and federal prosecutors say.
It’s a big hurdle for the Brazilian government’s efforts to preserve a rain forest the size of the U.S. west of the Mississippi River. More than 20 percent of the forest already has been cut down. On the same day that Silva and his wife were slain, Brazil’s lower house of Congress passed a bill that would weaken the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws, changes that environmentalists fear will lead to more destruction if the measure passes the Senate.
Those on the ground in the Amazon say that until the violence stops, the forest will keep falling, because most people in a position to denounce illegal clearing keep quiet out of fear.
Threats against anyone who stands in the way of those who want to clear the Amazon are so routine, the Catholic Land Pastoral watchdog group known as CPT keeps a running list of activists whose lives have been threatened.
Silva, who publicly predicted his own death just six months ago, was on the list, along with 124 other environmentalists. His wife and Ramos were not.
“The impunity for killing us is getting worse by the day,” said Leonora Brunetto, a 65-year-old Roman Catholic nun and activist in the Amazon who is on the death-threat list. “We can cry out, denounce what is happening to the forest, but it continues. I see no end to it.”
Activists like Brunetto can be guarded by police, if they request it and if the threats against them are deemed real. She briefly took advantage of the protection years ago, but realized she was safer among the poor, small-scale farmers she counsels.
“You have no way of knowing if the policeman who is guarding you today will be bought off tomorrow by the same forces that hire the gunmen who kill Amazon defenders,” she said.
Brunetto, like many activists, leads a cloak and dagger life, rarely sleeping in the same place on consecutive nights. She travels furtively, frequently changing from car to truck to car, handed off like a sacred baton from one poor farmer to the next, visiting jungle settlements across Mato Grosso and Para states.
During her decades of work, at least 15 of her close friends have been murdered in the Amazon, Brunetto said.
And, she said, there will be no security until the underlying problem of land titles in the Amazon is settled. The lack of clear ownership in the region drives its violent conflicts â€“ and much of the deforestation.
A report last year from the environmental watchdog group Imazon said that on average, proper titles are held for only 4 percent of the land in the states that comprise Brazil’s Amazon, excluding federally protected zones. Nearly 45 percent of the Amazon lies within protected zones, but even those are encroached upon illegally.
The result is that loggers, for instance, can simply claim huge chunks of land with the power of a gun and authorities have little way of knowing who is responsible for the destruction left behind by clear-cutting of trees.
Two years ago the government started an aggressive campaign to register landowners in the Amazon. In its first year officials registered more than 74,000 plots totaling 20.7 million acres (8.4 million hectares), an area the size of Panama. But that still leaves more than 50 percent of the land unregistered.
While much of the Amazon remains up for grabs, those backed by guns will continue to kill activists who stand in their way, said Edson Souza, a federal prosecutor in Para state.
Souza last year put in prison rancher Vitalmiro Moura, one of the men found guilty of ordering the 2005 slaying of 73-year-old U.S. nun Dorothy Stang. Moura is the only person known to be in jail for ordering an activist killed.
Another rancher convicted of ordering the killing of Stang, who also was shot down in Para state, is free pending an appeal.
“The killing of Silva and his wife was what we call an ‘announced death,'” Souza said. “You could see it coming. A couple fighting against illegal logging in this part of the Amazon are targets, sadly. There is too much money involved.”
Silva and his wife pioneered the creation of the 54,300-acre (22,000-hectare) sustainable reserve where they were slain. The reserve specializes in the sustainable harvesting of Brazil nuts, which come from huge jungle trees.
Silva filed numerous complaints with local police and prosecutors about loggers illegally entering the reserve and chopping down trees for lucrative lumber.
He and his wife received many death threats, but they pushed on with the project.
Silva’s sister Claudelice dos Santos said she has handed over to police a list of names of people she suspects killed the couple.
“We will march in protest against the killings and for the environmental cause,” she told a local newspaper. “We are certain they were killed because of their environmental work.”
Ramos, the other activist slain this week, spent years fighting against illegal loggers, reporting them to officials. According to the CPT, he was a survivor of a bloody 1995 dispute in Rondonia, when about 300 police stormed a landless workers encampment near the Amazon town of Corumbiara, firing wildly and killing 10 activists. Two police also died in the conflict.
While the killings are meant to spread fear among the activists who work in the Amazon, the nun Brunetto said each death, while unwelcome, strengthens her convictions.
“I’ll keep fighting. It won’t do to give up,” she said. “These events wake more people up, they make people more conscious of what is at stake here.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
NATO Air Strike ‘Kills 14 Afghan Women and Children’ Ben Farmer / The Telegraph
VIDEO: A bungled air strike by NATO helicopters killed 14 women and children in Helmand province, local officials have said
KABUL (May 29, 2011) — The allegation that helicopters killed five girls, seven boys and two women when they mistakenly fired on two houses full of civilians prompted Hamid Karzai to issue “a final warning” to NATO forces over their tactics.
The coalition immediately sent a fact-finding team of senior officers and Afghan officials to the site of the incident in Naw Zad district to investigate the claim. A spokesman for the Helmand governor said the helicopter attack on Saturday was called in by United States Marines when their base came under small arms fire.
A local elder called Aslam told reporters shots were fired at NATO helicopters, which are believed to have been American, when they flew into the area. They returned after 10 to 20 minutes and fired rockets, killing 12 of his relatives, he said.
A group of villagers reportedly travelled to Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah, where they paraded the dead bodies of eight children, some as young as two-years-old, in front of local journalists outside the governor’s residence.
The fact-finding team is led by a NATO general and will interview local residents, marines and pilots and will review cockpit footage if necessary, according to a military source. Hamid Karzai has repeatedly demanded NATO change tactics to end air strikes and night raids, which have caused anger against coalition forces in southern Afghanistan.
The issue causes intense friction between Mr Karzai and NATO commanders who accuse him of stirring up resentment as a populist ploy. Mr Karzai said: “We have told the Americans and NATO forces several times that uncoordinated operations will result in the killing of innocent civilians and that such operations are inhumane, but still no one has listened.”
A separate investigation team was sent to Do Ab district of Nuristan, where the governor accused the coalition of killing 18 civilians and 20 police during air strikes during heavy clashes last week.
Up to several hundred militants threatened to overrun the mountainous district last week until Afghan and NATO forces repelled them with an aerial bombardment and air assault by commandos. Police officers had just retaken a location during the fighting when it was hit by “friendly fire”, the governor said.
“Civilians were killed because the Taliban … (who) ran out of ammunition fled into the civilians’ houses and then the civilians were mistaken with the Taliban and fired upon,” he added.
NATO Air Strike Kills Civilians,
Afghans Say Most Children
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (May 29, 2011) — An air strike by NATO-led troops in southern Afghanistan killed at least nine civilians, NATO and Afghan officials said on Sunday, and many of the victims were children. It was one of the deadliest foreign assaults on civilians in Afghanistan in months.
The mistaken killing of civilians by foreign forces, usually during air strikes or night-time raids, is a major source of friction between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers. It has complicated efforts to win support from ordinary Afghans for an increasingly unpopular war.
The commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in southwestern Afghanistan apologized for the deaths of nine civilians, saying troops had unwittingly targeted a home because insurgents were using it as a base.
“Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians,” Major General John Toolan said in a statement. “While I know there is no price on human life we will ensure that we make amends with the families in accordance with Afghan culture,” he added.
The governor of Helmand province, where the air strike was called in, said the bomb killed 14 civilians, two of them women and the remainder children. Bereaved relatives brought the bodies of young children to the provincial capital to protest. ISAF did not give the ages of the civilians it said died.
Karzai condemned the latest case of civilian casualties from NATO air strikes, saying he had warned US and NATO troops their “arbitrary and unnecessary operations” were killing innocent people “every day.” He said in a statement the incident in violent Helmand province in the south was “a big mistake.” “It shows that attention is not being paid,” he said.
The White House shares Karzai’s concerns over civilian casualties, and takes them very seriously, US President Barack Obama’s spokesman said after the air strike.
“WHY WAS MY HOUSE BOMBED?”
Both the Helmand governor and Toolan said coalition troops had come under fire — and Toolan said one US Marine was killed — before they ordered the bombing of a compound where the insurgents had taken shelter. The Helmand governor said in a statement that seven boys and five girls were among the dead and three other children wounded.
Bereaved male relatives cradled the bodies of several young children wrapped in bloody sheets and placed side to side, and brought them in the back of a truck to the provincial capital, television pictures showed.
“My house was bombarded in the middle of the night and my children were killed … the Taliban were far away from my home, why was my house bombed?” relative Noor Agha told Reuters.
The NATO air strike comes at a time of high anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan and days after deadly protests by thousands of people against a night raid by NATO troops in which four people, including two women, were killed. Twelve people were killed during those violent protests and clashes with police in Takhar and more than 80 wounded.
On Saturday, Karzai ordered the Defense Ministry to take control of night raids, saying Afghan troops should be carrying out the sensitive operations themselves. Critics of the raids, carried out on houses suspected of harboring insurgents, say they often lead to civilian casualties as ordinary people rush to defend their homes.
Under a plan agreed by NATO leaders, foreign troops will begin handing over security responsibilities to Afghan troops from July, with a plan to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Despite the presence of some 150,000 foreign troops, violence in Afghanistan last year reached its deadliest phase since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.
The Taliban this month announced the start of their “spring offensive,” vowing to attack foreign and Afghan troops and government officials.
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Joshua Holland / AlterNet & The National Priorities Project – 2011-05-29 22:00:28
Five Eye-Opening Facts About Our Bloated Post-9/11 ‘Defense’ Spending Joshua Holland / AlterNet
WASHINGTON (May 29, 2011) — This week, the National Priorities Project (NPP) released a snapshot of US “defense” spending since September 11, 2001. The eye-popping figures lend credence to the theory that al Qaeda’s attacks were a form of economic warfare — that they hoped for a massive overreaction that would entangle us in costly foreign wars that would ultimately drain away our national wealth.
They didn’t bankrupt us the same way the Mujahadeen helped bring down the Soviet Union decades before, because our economy was much stronger. But they did succeed in putting us deep into the red — with an assist, of course, from Bush’s ideologically driven tax cuts for the wealthy.
The topline number is this: we have spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland security since 9/11. The Pentagon’s base budget — which doesn’t include the costs of fighting our wars — has increased by 81 percent during that time (43 percent when adjusted for inflation). The costs of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have now reached $1.26 trillion. But that only scratches the surface; it doesn’t include the long-term costs of caring for badly wounded soldiers, for example.
One line-item suggests that 9/11 has been used to justify greater military spending across the board; the nuclear weapons budget has shot up by more than a fifth after adjusting for inflation. How intercontinental ballistic missiles that can vaporize whole cities are useful in a “war on terror” is anybody’s guess.
The Pentagon itself acknowledges these dollars haven’t all been spent effectively — there is certainly plenty of waste. According to the Washington Post, the DoD has blown $32 billion (enough to offer free, universal college tuition for a year) on canceled weapons programs since 1997. According to the Post story, which is based on an unreleased Pentagon report, “For almost a decade, the Defense Department saw its budgets boom — but didn’t make the kind of technological strides that seemed possible.”
“Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an address last week.
He called that outcome both “vexing and disturbing.” Some might find the relentless focus on cutting benefits for vulnerable Americans “vexing and disturbing” in light of this profligate spending. Budgets, after all, are a reflection of our priorities.
Toward that end, let’s put these numbers in perspective by looking at some of the other things we might be doing with those dollars. Because a buck spent on guns is one less for butter.
1. Post-9/11 Defense Hikes Equal Five Times the â€œMedicare Gapâ€
Economist Dean Baker notes that “the projections in the Medicare Trustees report, as well as the CBO baseline budget, show that the program faces a relatively modest long-term shortfall.” The amount of money needed to balance the program’s finances over its 75-year horizon, he adds, “is less than 0.3 percent of GDP, approximately one-fifth of the increase in the rate annual defense spending between 2000 and 2011.”
2. Afghanistan Costs Alone Could Pay for 15.6 Years of Head Start
Head Start provides education, health, nutrition, and parenting services to low-income children and their families. It’s an incredibly successful, effective and popular program, but there are only 900,000 places in the program for more than 2.5 million eligible kids. According to the National Priorities Project, what we’ve spent on the Afghanistan war so far could fund Head Start for all eligible children for the next 15.6 years.
3. Covering the Uninsured
A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University estimated that 45,000 people die every year in the United States from problems associated with lack of coverage. The study found that “uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts,” even “after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health.”
According to NPP’s analysis, the costs of the Afghanistan conflict alone could cover every uninsured American for 1.7 years.
4. Closing State Budget Gaps
Forty-six states face budget shortfalls in this fiscal year, totaling $130 billion nationwide. The supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year add up to $170 billion — that doesn’t include the Pentagon’s base budget, nukes or Homeland Security.
5. Iraq, Just in 2011
Iraq is still a bloody mess, with an insurgency still underway. But our politicians have declared victory and the media have largely moved on. That doesn’t mean we won’t spend almost $50 billion on those “non-combat troops” which remain, however. What else could we do with that kind of scratch if we just brought them home? NPP tells us it would buy:
* 24.3 million children receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
* 726,044 elementary school teachers for one year, OR
* 829,946 firefighters for one year, OR
* 6.2 million Head Start slots for children for one year, OR
* 10.7 million households with renewable electricity — solar photovoltaic for one year, OR
* 28.6 million households with renewable electricity-wind power for one year, OR
* 6.1 million military veterans receiving VA medical care for one year, OR
* 9.8 million people receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
* 718,208 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for one year, OR
* 6.0 million scholarships for university students for one year, OR
* 8.5 million students receiving Pell grants of $5,550
The Big Picture
It’s a tragic irony that so much of the discussion surrounding the public debt centers on â€œentitlementsâ€ like Social Security (which hasn’t added a penny to the national debt) when we’re still paying for Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Panama and the first Gulf War and Somalia and the Balkans and on and on.
Estimates of just how much of our national debt payments are from past military spending vary wildly. In 2007, economist Robert Higgs calculated it like this:
I added up all past deficits (minus surpluses) since 1916 (when the debt was nearly zero), prorated according to each year’s ratio of narrowly defined national security spending — military, veterans, and international affairs — to total federal spending, expressing everything in dollars of constant purchasing power.
This sum is equal to 91.2 percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006. Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government’s net interest outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.
When Higgs did that analysis four years ago, he came up with a figure of $206.7 billion just in interest payments on our past military adventures.
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America.
(c) 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
Key Findings: * The United States has spent more than $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
*Total homeland security spending since September 11, 2001 is $635.9 billion.
(May 26, 2011) — The killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces prompted a great many questions about the continued US war in Afghanistan, and how much the United States has spent on “security” since the attacks on September 11, 2001. National Priorities Project has the numbers. In all, the US government has spent more than $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security since the 9/11 attacks.
The table below summarizes the spending. It is followed by a more detailed narrative.
Total Spending 2001 2011 % Increase DoD Base Budget
$6.2 trillion $290.5 bil. $526.1 bil. 43 %
Total Defense Spending — Between 2001 and 2011 the United States spent $7.2 trillion dollars (in constant FY2012 dollars) on defense, including the Pentagonâ€™s annual base budget, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nuclear weapons-related activities of the Department of Energy (Function 050). See below for a breakout of the base budget, nuclear weapons, and war costs.
*The Pentagon’s “Base” Budget — The Pentagon’s annual budget (Function 051) — not including war costs or DoE’s nuclear weapons activities — grew from $290.5 billion in FY2000, to $526.1 billion in FY2011. Thatâ€™s a nominal increase of $235.6 billion (or 81 percent) and a “real” (inflation-adjusted) increase of $160.3 billion, or 43 percent.
*Department of Energy — Annual funding for the nuclear weapons activities rose more slowly between FY2000 and FY2011, from $12.4 billion to $19.0 billion. That’s a nominal increase of $6.6 billion (or 53 percent) and a “real” increase of $3.3 billion, or 21 percent.
*War Costs — The total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Department of Defense and all other federal agencies (Department of State, USAID, etc.) will reach $1.26 trillion by the end of the current fiscal year (FY 2011) on September 30, 2011.
Of this, $797.3 billion is for Iraq, and $459.8 billion is for Afghanistan. In constant FY2012 dollars, the totals through FY2011 are $1.36 trillion, $869 billion for Iraq and $487.6 billion for Afghanistan.
These figures, or ones like them, are well known and fairly simple to track. Both the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provide data on Pentagon and other military-related spending as part of the annual federal budget request released in February each year. The Congressional Research Service does an excellent job of analyzing the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. NPP also does its own war cost analysis on its Cost of War website.
Homeland Security — One security spending figure that isnâ€™t well known is the amount the US government has spent to date on “homeland security.” This is because homeland security funding flows through literally dozens of federal agencies and not just through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
For example, of the $71.6 billion requested for “homeland security” in FY2012, only $37 billion is funded through DHS. A substantial part is funded through the Department of Defense — $18.1 billion in FY2012 — and others, including Health and Human Services ($4.6 billion) and the Department of Justice ($4.1 billion).
Because tracking homeland security funding is so difficult, starting back in FY2003 OMB began looking across the entire budget and providing summary tables of the annual request by agency. This analysis does not, however, provide historical data nor any cumulative funding figures. By going back and reviewing each annual request, however, NPP has been able to determine total government homeland security funding since the September 11 attacks.
Funding for homeland security has risen from $16 billion in FY2001 to $71.6 billion requested for FY2012. Adjusted for inflation, the United States has spent $635.9 billion on homeland security since FY2001. Of this $163.8 billion has been funded within the Pentagonâ€™s annual budget. The remaining $472.1 billion has been funded through other federal agencies.
ACTION ALERT: 11 Votes Away from Ending the War! Drew Hudson / USAction / TrueMajority
“I’ve gone there year after year, never imagining that we would be engaged in the longest war in American history.”
— House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsing a timeline for withdrawal today.
“We have been supporting this conflict for almost a decade now. But [bin Laden]’s death is a moment for reflection on this struggle and how we best can fight it.”
— House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer explaining his support for ending the war today.
WASHINGTON (May 29, 2011) — May 30 is Memorial Day and Americans everywhere will gather at parades and barbecues and family functions to remember our veterans and those we lost to war. And on the minds of many will be the longest war in American history, a conflict that has claimed over 1,500 American lives — the war in Afghanistan.
But this Memorial Day, we’ve got a real reason to hope for a more peaceful future.
A few days ago, we came within 11 votes of ending the war in Afghanistan. That’s more support than ever before for ending the war in Afghanistan, and includes endorsements from some of the most powerful people in Congress – including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
With new supporters and more powerful allies than ever before, we need to press our advantage and keep the pressure on Congress and the White House to set a timetable to end the war and bring home our troops.
Here’s what’s next: Rep. McGovern, whose amendment nearly passed this week, has already turned his plan to end the war into a stand-alone bill with several Republican cosponsors. This gives us a great chance to pick up the 11 votes we need, and pass a law that ends the war in Afghanistan. At the same time, we’ll be working with key Senators to include a timeline for withdrawal in their version of the bill the House passed today — setting up a showdown in Congress later this summer.
But waging a major campaign in both Houses of Congress is a big job. We need support to print materials, send delegations to meet with key members of Congress in D.C. and in their home districts, organize press events to highlight public support for an end to the war and build more effective online actions that put you in contact with legislators fast, before the next vote to end the war.
Help us see this through and make 2011 the year that we began to end the war in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (May 26, 2011) — Update 3:17 PM: The roll call vote for the McGovern amendment has been released , and there are a few interesting things about the Republicans who voted for it.
Three Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee supported it, including the second-highest-ranking Republican. Any substantive drawdown bills from that committee will need Republican support.
Freshmen Republicans formed the largest block within their party in support of McGovernâ€™s amendment: Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Joe Walsh (R-IL), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC),Rich Nugent (R-FL) and Scott Rigell (R-VA) all voted in favor.
Longtime Republican opponents of the war also supported the amendment as well, including Representative Tim Johnson (R-IL), a West Point graduate and critic  of the war, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and â€œunlikely Afghanistan dove .â€
The NDAA has now passed the House by a 322-96 vote and heads to the Senate. As noted below, thereâ€™s also movement in that chamber against the war in Afghanistan, and it will be interesting to see if further amendments to slow the war are offered.
* * *
Update 2:05 PM: In a surprisingly close contest, the House rejected an amendment sponsored by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) which called for a withdrawal plan from Afghanistan, preferably one that outlines an â€œaggressive” drawdown of troops. It lost by only eleven votes, 215-204.
Twenty-six Republicans supported the measure, as did all but eight Democrats.Twelve representatives copped out from voting — six on each side of the aisle.
The close margin will no doubt put additional pressure on the White House to enact a substantial drawdown in July. Still, having more Republicans vote for it would have turned up the heat even further. Eighteen Republicans voted for an earlier amendment that directly called for withdrawal, so one might have thought more than an extra eight would have favored simply seeing a plan. It will be interesting to see what Republicans crossed over when the roll call is released.
* * *
Update 1:31 PM: The House just crushed a bipartisan amendment by Tea Party Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) that would have required the withdrawal of all U.S. ground troops from Afghanistan except those directly involved in counterterrorism operations. The vote was 294-123.
Eighteen Republicans favored the measure. A majority of Democrats favored it as well, although seventy-seven voted against it.
* * *
Update 1:20 PM: On a near-party line vote of 234-187, the House has voted down an amendment by Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would have stripped the so-called â€œendless warâ€ provision from the defense authorization bill.
As noted below, Section 1034 seems to authorize the use of military force against any forces deemed to be threatening the United States. The White House has already threatened to veto the entire defense bill over that language.
Twenty-one Republicans broke with their party to support the Amash-Lee amendment; unfortunately, twenty Democrats also crossed over and opposed it.
There is one amendment left addressing Section 1034, by Representative Garamendi (D-CA). That would sunset the relevant language in three years.
* * *
Update 11:57 AM: The amendment sponsored by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), along with several members of both parties, appears to have failed on a voice vote. A recorded vote will occur later today.
The amendment calls for President Obama to release a detailed plan for withdrawal. Technically one already exists, culminating in a withdrawal by 2014, but the McGovern amendment supports an â€œacceleratedâ€ withdrawal and could gain significant bipartisan support even in failure. As Tom Hayden pointed out  today, the seemingly benign nature of the amendment might actually allow many members from both sides of the aisle political cover to support it, thus sending the White House a clear message about Congressional desire for withdrawal.
Representative McGovern referenced news reports that the planned July 2011 drawdown may only be a â€œtokenâ€ withdrawal, and argued that â€œthis amendment could send the president a clear signal of support for a substantial drawdown.â€ He added that â€œtoo many people have died in Afghanistanâ€¦. we need to rethink what weâ€™re doing.â€
Citing ominous comments  from Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this year that substantial withdrawal may not begin until 2015, Representative Jones also urged the House to ask for a withdrawal plan. Jones noted the deaths this month of two Marines  that were based in his district, and asked â€œwhat do we say to the mother and father and wife of the last Marine killed to support a corrupt government and a corrupt leader?â€
Both Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also urged passage of the amendment, throwing the weight of the Democratic leadership behind McGovernâ€™s effort.
Many Republicans who spoke were combative, and spoke with characteristic bluster. Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX) noted Jonesâ€™s anguish over the deaths of troops from his district, but said â€œdecisions canâ€™t be made simply on those emotions.â€
Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) blasted â€œvoices from the sideline screaming for (us) to quit,â€ and essentially accused Democrats of supporting terrorists. â€œWhen I listen to what I hear todayâ€¦I think, who would love this amendment?â€ Forbes asked. â€œI tell you who would have. The Taliban and al Qaeda would love any indication that weâ€™re going to get out of there before we get the job done.â€
A roll call vote is scheduled for later in the day; stay tuned for the vote totals.
* * *
Today marks one of the most momentous days on Capitol Hill for the almost decade-long war in Afghanistan, as the House of Representatives debates a massive defense bill that will continue to fund combat operations there — but which will also have more bipartisan amendments attempting to end the conflict than ever before.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, also known as H.R. 1540 , provides $690 billion for the Department of Defense and for nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy, and includes $119 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill is as controversial as it is massive — Republicans have included language that delays the implementation of â€œdonâ€™t ask, donâ€™t tellâ€ repeal and as well as implentation of the new START treaty. H.R. 1540 would also prohibit detainee transfers from GuantÃ¡namo Bay and provide continued funding for the second engine of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — the defense appropriation that wonâ€™t die. The White House has threatened  to veto the entire bill because of the fighter engine, START treaty, and detainee language.
And far from limiting the war in Afghanistan, H.R. 1540 contains crucial language that would extend Americaâ€™s authority to fight even beyond that country.
The crucial Section 1034  â€œaffirmsâ€ that the United States is â€œengaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad.â€ Proponents of that section say it simply puts a Congressional stamp on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the legal underpinning of the war in Afghanistan.
But itâ€™s the words â€œassociated forcesâ€¦ that continue to pose a threat to the United Statesâ€ that are problematic to many legislators of both parties. The 2001 AUMF explicitly authorized action against only those involved in the September 11 attacks, and the new language would seem to extend the authorization to anyone, anywhere, that â€œthreatenedâ€ the United States. In other words: endless war.
The White House is also threatening to veto the bill over Section 1034, which it believes will â€œeffectively recharacterize [the conflictâ€™s] scope and would risk creating confusion regarding applicable standards.â€ Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), Ron Paul (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) are offering a bipartisan amendment to strip Section 1034 entirely, and Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) has an amendment to sunset it after three years.
Beyond these efforts to keep the war on terror from further metastasizing, there are several measures that will attempt to end or greatly decrease the war in Afghanistan.
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a major Tea Party player and possible contender for Orrin Hatchâ€™s seat in the Senate, is offering  an amendment with Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) that would require the withdrawal of all US ground troops in Afghanistan except those directly involved in counterterrorism operations. If passed, the Secretary of Defense would have to offer a withdrawal plan within sixty days.
â€œIt is long past time to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end. After ten costly years, it is crystal clear that the US strategy of nation building in a corrupt country with a minimal Al Qaeda presence is not working. Terrorism is a decentralized threat to Americaâ€™s national security and our counter-terrorism strategies should reflect that reality,â€ Chaffetz and Welch said .
Another amendment by a remarkable bipartisan coalition — Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Amash, David Cicilline (D-RI), Jones, John Lewis (D-GA), and Paul — would not require withdrawal, but would demand that President Obama report to Congress with a plan and a timeframe for â€œaccelerated transition of US military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.â€
Another amendment by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) would require a report from the Defense Department on Afghanistan strategy within 60 days, taking into account the death of Osama bin Laden, and another amendment by Representative Lee would bar construction of any permanent bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.
None of these amendments are likely to pass today. But the volume and bipartisan nature of these measures — drawing together the usual liberal voices along with Tea Party representatives and longtime conservative members — signal that the Congressional tide is turning against the war, and could push President Obama to seriously consider a substantial drawdown of troops in July.
This House action comes alongside increased talk of ending the conflict in the Senate, as well. In a floor speech yesterday, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) called  for a â€œchange of courseâ€ in Afghanistan, with a withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2012. And in a major speech  at the Center for American Progress earlier this week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) asked for an â€œaggressiveâ€ drawdown of troops, along with a plan for withdrawal from President Obama and a signed redeployment agreement with political factions in Afghanistan.
The White House has no doubt taken note of this Congressional momentum, and the vote tallies on the Afghanistan-related amendments are crucially important, even if they are defeated. The margin and level of bipartisan support could go a long way towards changing the thinking in Washington about continuing to fight the historically long conflict.
WASHINGTON (May 27, 2011) — Right now giant defense contractors like Lockheed-Martin, Halliburton, and Blackwater are allowed to funnel taxpayer money from government contracts into lobbying and secret political contributions for their friends in Congress.
President Obama is taking on this perverse cycle by considering an executive order that would require corporations doing business with the government to disclose their political spending.1 That would be a good start but we need to do more.
In a new video, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls on President Obama to go further and ban all political spending by corporations that get most of their business from government contracts.
Secretary Reich goes over how the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex” uses our tax money to lobby and fund politicians who, in turn, award those same companies ever more lucrative contracts for high-tech weapons and private security forces.
It’s a perverse cycle. Corporations that get most of their money from taxpayers shouldn’t be allowed to spend that money backing candidates for office and lobbying in Congress.
The President doesn’t have to wait for Congress to act. He can issue the order immediately and stop the flow of tax dollars into political and lobbying campaigns by giant government contractors.
WASHINGTON (May 8, 2011) — A lobbying battle is raging largely behind the scenes over a seemingly obscure executive order that could â€” if signed by President Obama â€” make public the political spending that many corporations can now keep secret.
Under the proposed order, all companies bidding for federal contracts would be required to disclose money spent on political campaign efforts, including dollars forwarded through associations like the US Chamber of Commerce and other private groups.
Election spending by such organizations soared to new heights in 2010, thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations and unions to make direct political expenditures. The majority opinion endorsed disclosure of the new political spending, but many groups have formed as nonprofits, which do not have to reveal their funding sources.
Since then, campaign finance reform advocates and their Democratic allies have sought to unmask the secret contributions fueling the groups, arguing that such spending allows wealthy individuals, corporations and other special interests to have an outsized influence on elections without voters knowing who is behind the effort.
At stake are tens of millions of dollars in donations provided by corporations to trade associations and other not-for-profit groups that use the money for independent campaign expenditures. In the last election cycle, most of the money spent by the groups benefited GOP candidates. Democrats, worried about that advantage, sought to restrict this kind of undisclosed independent spending. When that effort failed, some prominent party members began forming their own not-for-profit organizations to compete with the GOP.
If Obama issued the draft executive order, he would effectively discourage previously undisclosed donations to groups like the US Chamber of Commerce, which â€” with some exceptions â€” have been generally helping Republican candidates. It would also give the president a chance to quiet critics who want him to be more outspoken in demanding disclosure of large contributors.
But business interests are trying to quash the measure.
The chamber is pressing top White House officials, including Chief of Staff William Daley, who worked closely with the group when he was an executive at JPMorgan Chase, to push Obama to drop the executive order.
The chamber also has corralled its allies on Capitol Hill. More than two dozen Republican senators, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and chairmen of 19 House committees signed letters to the president arguing that the order would inject political favoritism into the contracting process. Two House committees will hold a joint hearing Thursday to push administration officials on the matter.
“The way the order is drafted, it hijacks the very powerful engine of the federal procurement system and it takes it and tries to achieve political and electoral ends,” said Lily Fu Claffee, the chamber’s general counsel, who charged that the measure would “chill the free-speech rights of corporations.”
Backers of the disclosure measure say that it is intended not to reward political donors with federal contracts but to shed light on corporate influence over elections. They argue the business opposition is driven by self-interest.
“Many of the government contractors that would be captured under the executive order probably are the big contributors to the Chamber of Commerce, so as a result, the chamber is pursuing their battle against this with extreme vigilance,” said Craig Holman, lobbyist for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, one of 30 organizations that sent Obama a letter last week urging him to sign the order.
Nonprofit 501(c) groups, as the third-party groups are legally known, plowed at least $134 million from secret donors into the last election — $119 million of which was spent by GOP allies, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The executive order would require any company seeking a federal contract to disclose all of its federal political spending over $5,000 for the previous two years — including contributions to third-party groups.
Some of this information is already available: Government contractors, like all companies, have to disclose contributions to their political action committees, as well as their independent political expenditures. But the proposed order would create one central database — on the website data.gov — listing the political activities of government contractors and their affiliates and officers.
More than 138,000 companies are prime federal contractors and could fall under the measure, according to government data. That includes Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Southwest Airlines, Coca-Cola and FedEx. It would also affect some unions that have federal contracts to provide services, such as worker training.
As of now, the 2012 campaign is poised to see an even greater influx of undisclosed political spending than the last election, in part because of the Democratic rush to set up the same nonprofit political vehicles that Republicans exploited in 2010. But if Obama signs the executive order, some corporations — wary of being dragged into partisan politics — could shy away from funding efforts on behalf of either side.
There is recent precedent for that: After Target Corp. suffered a consumer backlash last year for supporting an organization that backed a candidate opposed to gay rights, it adopted a new policy restricting how the company’s funds are used for political purposes.
The chamber’s Claffee said the message sent by the executive order will be: “If you want to get a fair shake in the contracting sphere, you should avoid political spending that raises eyebrows” and instead donate to the party in power.
Other critics, such as Steven Law, president of conservative nonprofit groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, maintain that the proposed order could usher in a new era of dirty politics.
“When I was in the executive branch, mixing politics with procurement was called corruption,” Law, who served as deputy secretary of Labor for President George W. Bush, wrote in an email.
The battle puts the chamber at sharp odds once again with the Obama administration, with which it tangled during the 2010 election.
The fate of the executive order, which remains under review at the Office of Management and Budget, is unclear. Daley, the chief of staff hired in part to smooth administration relations with business, called it “just a proposed rule” that the White House was considering.
“We’re going to do things they like, do things they don’t like,” Daley said of the chamber. “We’re not going to do things because they do or don’t like them. That’s just the way it is.”
Advocates are cautiously optimistic.
“I expect President Obama to sign an executive order sometime in the near future,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. “This is their idea — there’s no reason for them to back away from it.”
But lack of a signature so far, Holman said, “means we have to keep applying the pressure and reassuring the White House that despite the screaming of the Chamber of Commerce, the rest of America wants to have this kind of transparency.”
Melanie Mason and Christi Parsons in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.