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Letter to Congress: Support Diplomacy, Not War/Economic Sanctions on Venezuela

March 31st, 2019 - by Hassan El-Tayyab / Coalition Letter to Congress from Just Foreign Policy et al.

March 16, 2019 National March on Washington: Hands Off Venezuela!

(March 28, 2019) — This new coalition letter is addressed to Congress in support of dialogue in Venezuela and in opposition of military intervention and economic sanctions.  It will be sent to members of Congress on Monday April 1st. 

Dear [Member of Congress],

We, the undersigned groups, wish to express our grave concern regarding the Trump administration’s dangerous and destructive regime change strategy targeting Venezuela. Broad economic sanctions unilaterally imposed by the administration since August of 2017 have caused great hardship and loss of life for many Venezuelans.

The latest round of sanctions announced in January are expected to worsen the current crisis and provoke even greater human suffering throughout the country.  

Though many observers have noted that civil war is an increasingly likely prospect, administration officials are vigorously opposing peaceful dialogue between the country’s political actors and have made open threats of military intervention.

We call on you to take a strong, public stand against these immoral, reckless and illegal policies and to support efforts to advance peaceful dialogue, before it is too late.

We urge you to:

• Oppose economic sanctions:  

Although government mismanagement and the fall in global oil prices are to blame for much of Venezuela’s deep crisis, the Trump administration’s economic sanctions — both the August 2017 financial sanctions and the January 2019 sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry — are resulting in billions of dollars of additional lost foreign exchange necessary for essential imports, according to experts and even administration officials like NSC Advisor John Bolton. 

In the current context, these sanctions will inevitably generate greater human suffering, including many deaths from lack of medicine and other essential imports.  Unilateral economic sanctions are illegal under the UN Charter and the OAS charter; and research shows that they are generally ineffective in achieving desired political results.

• Oppose threats of military intervention: 

President Trump has reportedly argued for military intervention in Venezuela since early 2017, while he and various other administration officials have repeatedly stated that “all options are on the table” for Venezuela.

These threats are absolutely unacceptable, particularly regarding a country that poses no threat to the U.S., and are only increasing the immense political polarization in Venezuela.  Members of Congress should firmly denounce these threats and make the adoption of the “Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act” a top priority.

They should also commit to invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution in the event that President Trump and his Administration involve the military in any action directed at Venezuela, thereby triggering a debate and vote in Congress to terminate any unauthorized use of force.  

• Support dialogue: 

U.S. administration officials have rejected the possibility of dialogue and, instead, have pushed for immediate regime change in Venezuela, calling for Venezuela’s armed forces to rebel against the Maduro government.  Experts have warned that this strategy could result in a split within the country’s military, with a potentially catastrophic violent outcome.  Members of Congress should oppose the administration’s dangerous zero-sum strategy and advocate for peaceful dialogue. The Vatican, the UN Secretary General, Mexico and Uruguay have all offered to help mediate dialogue and political negotiations to resolve the current crisis peacefully.  Congress should support these efforts.

With the recent appointment of convicted Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams as Special Envoy to Venezuela and the increasingly hawkish rhetoric coming from the White House, your support could not come at a more crucial time.

There is no moral, legal, or political justification for the collective punishment of the economic sanctions, which target the Venezuelan population. There is no military solution; Venezuela’s crisis must be solved through dialogue and negotiations. Congress should therefore insist on lifting destructive economic sanctions, and taking unauthorized war off the table.

Sincerely,

Just Foreign Policy

Demand Progress

Peace Action

American Friends Service Committee

Environmentalists Against War

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Alianza Americas

CASA de Maryland

Chicago Religious Leadership Network

Center for International Policy – Americas Program

CODEPINK

Just Associates (JASS)

Vermont Workers’ Center

Vote Vets

Chicago Religious Leadership Network

Center for International Policy

Americas Program

Hassan El-Tayyab is the Co-Director of JustForeignPolicy.org

If You Want to Be President, Show Us Your Budget

March 31st, 2019 - by David Swanson / David Swanson.org & World BEYOND War

(March 28, 2019) — Trump wants to leave 31% of discretionary spending for all things non-military, while Bernie wants to move some unspecified amount of money from militarism to human needs, and Elizabeth Warren believes a budget is a statement of values.

Yet, to the best of my knowledge, no presidential candidate has now or within living memory ever produced a proposed federal budget, or ever been asked in any debate or interview, to even approximate — give or take $100 billion — what they’d like spent where, or even just whether militarism would be better at 70%, 60%, 50%, 40%, or 30% of federal discretionary spending.

summary of what we know about current U.S. presidential candidates regarding peace and war is all pretty vague stuff. None of them have been asked or voluntarily answered any of what I consider the 20 most basic questions. The one exception is that some of them have suggested that certain wars should be ended, either immediately or in some vague future. But none of them has produced a full list of which wars should be ended and which should not.

If a candidate wanted to stand out from the crowd, if he or she wanted to take the lead and compel similar behavior from all the others, one easy step would be to produce an answer to the very most basic question that nobody asks. A pie chart in pen on napkin would be sufficient. Or four or eight of them if one wants to show a progression over future years. A 10-page report would be way more than sufficient to make major news. Including a report on revenue as well as on spending would be fine, particularly if a candidate is contemplating taxing oligarchs. But if you want to be president, show us your budget!

This can’t be a “people’s budget” from a think tank that skirts around the battle-ready elephant in the room. A candidate who tried to produce a budget without answering whether the single biggest expense was too much, too little, or just right would stand out only for the degree of dishonesty. I’m not saying that isn’t an impressive title to covet; I’m just saying I wouldn’t vote for such a person.

This is a test to separate the wheat from the chaff. Donald Trump and Captain Coffee would not, in this test, be distinguished as fascist and centrist. They’d have virtually the same damn pie chart. It would look indistinguishable from Biden’s and Beto’s. The question is whose would look different?

“A budget is a moral document.” What politician hasn’t said that? What person doesn’t understand that?

A global reverse arms race, facilitating the survival of humanity, is a moral goal unmentioned in any U.S. presidential campaign.

College and healthcare and school and pre-school and environmental sustainability are moral projects that produce only the following from cable TV: “But how would you pay for it?”

“See my budget,” is a better answer than “We’d find a way because of our Greatness.”

“That’s two percent of military spending” is a better answer than anything involving the word “taxes.”

It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water.

Doing those things would do more to make the United States safe than any number of tank factories one might tour on a campaign trip. Not doing them would be understood as crazier than providing a basic income guarantee, if and only if a candidate were to lay out a basic budget that could be compared with the current one.

Here’s Trump’s budget. He’s got $718 billion in the Pentagon (which has never earned the name “Defense”), plus $52 billion in the mis-named Homeland Security Department, plus $93 billion in Veterans Affairs. It’s not entirely clear where the nuclear weapons budget is on that chart, or the military spending in numerous other departments, or the debt payments for past wars, but we know that they push the total far over $1 trillion.

What should it be? What would each candidate try to make it be if elected? Who knows!

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Swanson was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation.

The Cold War Ides of March

March 31st, 2019 - by Stephen F. Cohen / The Nation

US Cold Warriors escalate toward actual war with Russia

 (March 20, 2019) — Heedless of the consequences, or perhaps welcoming them, America’s Cold Warriors and their media platforms have recently escalated their rhetoric against Russia, especially in March. Anyone who has lived through or studied the preceding 40-year Cold War will recognize the ominous echoes of its most dangerous periods, when actual war was on the horizon or a policy option. Here are only a few random but representative examples:

§ In a March 8 Washington Post opinion article, two American professors, neither with any apparent substantive knowledge of Russia or Cold War history, warned that the Kremlin is trying “to undermine our trust in the institutions that sustain a strong nation and a strong democracy. The media, science, academia and the electoral process are all regular targets.” Decades ago, J. Edgar Hoover, the policeman of that Cold War, said the same, indeed made it an operational doctrine.

§ Nor is the purported threat to America only. According to (retired) Gen. David Petraeus and sitting Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, also in the Post on the following day, the “world is once again polarized between two competing visions for how to organize society.” For Putin’s Kremlin, “the existence of the United States’ rule-of-law world is intrinsically threatening.” This is an “intensifying worldwide struggle.” So much for those who dismissed post–Soviet Russia as merely a “regional” power, including former President Barack Obama, and for the myopic notion that a new Cold War was not possible.

§ But the preceding Cold War was driven by an intense ideological conflict between Soviet Communism and Western capitalism. Where is the ideological threat today, considering that post–Soviet Russia is also a capitalist country? In a perhaps unprecedented nearly 10,000-word manifesto from March 14 in the front news pages of (again) the PostRobert Kagan provided the answer: “Today, authoritarianism has emerged as the great challenge facing the liberal democratic world—a profound ideological, as well as strategic, challenge.” That is, “authoritarianism” has replaced Soviet Communism in our times, with Russia again in the forefront.

The substance of Kagan’s “authoritarianism” as “an ideological force” is thin, barely enough for a short opinion article, often inconsistent and rarely empirical. It amounts to a batch of “strongman” leaders (prominently Putin, of course), despite their very different kinds of societies, political cultures, states, and histories, and despite their different nationalisms and ruling styles. Still, credit Kagan’s ambition to be the undisputed ideologist of the new American Cold War, though less the Post for taking the voluminous result so seriously.

The 40-year Cold War often flirted with hot war, and that, too, seems to be on the agenda. Words, as Russians say, are also deeds. They have consequences, especially when uttered by people of standing in influential outlets. Again, consider a few examples that might reasonably be considered warmongering:

§ The journal Foreign Policy found space for disgraced former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili to declare: “It is not a question of whether [Putin] will attack, but where.” (Saakashvili may be the most discredited “democratic” leader of recent times, having brought the West close to war with Russia in 2008 and since having had to flee his own country and then decamp even from US-backed Ukraine.)

§ NBC News, a reliable source of Cold War frenzy, reported, based on Estonian “intelligence,” an equally persistent source of the same mania, that “Russia is most likely to attack the Baltic States first, but a conflict between Russia and NATO would involve attacks on Western Europe.”

§ Also in March, in The Economist, another retired general, Ben Hodges, onetime commander of the US army in Europe, echoes that apocalyptic perspective: “This is not just about NATO’s eastern front.” (Readers may wish to note that “eastern front” is the designation given by Nazi Germany to its 1941 invasion of Soviet Russia. Russians certainly remember.)

§ Plenty of influential American Cold War zealots seem eager to respond to the bugle charge, among them John E. Herbst, a stalwart at the Atlantic Council (NATO’s agitprop “think tank” in Washington), and the Post’s deputy editorial-page editor, Jackson Diehl. Both want amply armed US and NATO warships sent to what Russians sometimes call their bordering “lakes,” the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. To do so would likely mean the “war” NBC envisages.

Lest readers think all this is merely the “chattering” of opinion-makers, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once termed it, consider a summary of legislation being prepared by a bipartisan US Senate committee, pointedly titled and with a fearsome acronym, DASKA (the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2019). Again, Russia is ritualistically accused of “malign influence” and “aggression” around the world, the quality of the committee’s thinking succinctly expressed by one of the Republican senators: “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.”

There is no evidence for these allegations—Russian policy-makers are constantly citing international law, and the US “liberal global order,” if it ever existed, has done a fine job of undoing itself—but with “an outlaw regime,” there can be no diplomacy, nor do the senators propose any, only war.

A recurring theme of my recently published book War with Russia? is that the new Cold War is more dangerous, more fraught with hot war, than the one we survived. All of the above amply confirms that thesis, but there is more. Histories of the 40-year US-Soviet Cold War tell us that both sides came to understand their mutual responsibility for the conflict, a recognition that created political space for the constant peace-keeping negotiations, including nuclear arms control agreements, often known as détente.

But as I also chronicle in the book, today’s American Cold Warriors blame only Russia, specifically “Putin’s Russia,” leaving no room or incentive for rethinking any US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since 1991. (See, for example, Nataliya Bugayova’s recent piece for the Institute for the Study of War.)

Still more, as I have also long pointed out, Moscow closely follows what is said and written in the United States about US-Russian relations. Here too words have consequences. On March 14, Russia’s National Security Council, headed by President Putin, officially raised its perception of American intentions toward Russia from “military dangers” (opasnosti) to direct “military threats” (ugrozy). In short, the Kremlin is preparing for war, however defensive its intention.

Finally, there continues to be no effective, organized American opposition to the new Cold War. This too is a major theme of my book and another reason why this Cold War is more dangerous than was its predecessor. In the 1970s and 1980s, advocates of détente were well-organized, well-funded, and well-represented, from grassroots politics and universities to think tanks, mainstream media, Congress, the State Department, and even the White House. Today there is no such opposition anywhere.

A major factor is, of course, “Russiagate.” As evidenced in the sources I cite above, much of the extreme American Cold War advocacy we witness today is a mindless response to President Trump’s pledge to find ways to “cooperate with Russia” and to the still-unproven allegations generated by it.

Certainly, the Democratic Party is not an opposition party in regard to the new Cold War. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of its old guard, needlessly initiated an address to Congress by NATO’s secretary general, in April, which will be viewed in Moscow as a provocation. She also decried as “appalling” Trump’s diplomacy with Russian President Putin, whom she dismissed as a “thug.” Such is the state of statesmanship today in the Democratic Party.

Its shining new pennies seem little different. Beto O’Rourke, now a declared candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, promises to lead our “indispensable country,” an elite conceit that has inspired many US wars and cold wars. Another fledgling would-be Democratic leader, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, seems to have bought into Russiagate’s iconic promotion of US intelligence agencies, tweeting on January 12, “The FBI had to open inquiry on whether the most powerful person in the United States is actually working for Russia.” Evidently, neither she nor O’Rourke understand that growing Cold War is incompatible with progressive policies at home, in America or in Russia.

Among Democrats, there is one exception, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who is also a declared candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Not surprisingly, for lamenting Russiagate’s contribution to the worsening new Cold War and calling for new approaches to Russia itself, Gabbard was shrilly and misleadingly slurred by NBC News. (For a defense of Gabbard, see Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept.) Herself a veteran of the US military forces, Representative Gabbard soldiers on, the only would-be Democratic president calling for an end to this most dangerous new Cold War.

This commentary is based on Stephen F. Cohen’s most recent weekly discussion with the host of  The John Batchelor Show. Now in their fifth year, previous installments are at TheNation.com.

Stephen F. Cohen Stephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, his new book War With Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate is available in paperback and in an ebook edition.

The Republican Party is the Political Arm of the Fossil Fuel Industry

March 31st, 2019 - by Kate Aronoff / The Guardian

Republicans are doing everything in their power to kneecap the country’s ability to respond to climate change

(March 27, 2019) — For Republicans, the climate crisis is a joke. On Tuesday in the Senate, Mike Lee, a Republican senator for Utah, spent several minutes on the floor showing pictures of Luke Skywalker on Hoth, giant seahorses and Ronald Reagan shooting off a machine gun whilst mounted atop a dinosaur. This was his bid to “treat the Green New Deal”, which came up for a vote in that body on Tuesday, “with the seriousness it deserves”.

For a growing stretch of the country, climate change isn’t a joke but a deadly, imminent threat. Biblical flooding in the midwest this past month has left farmlands devastated and at least 20 people dead, all while the country lacks a comprehensive plan to handle such disasters. The Pine Ridge Reservation is experiencing a devastating state of emergency thanks in part to decades of federal neglect of and divestment from indigenous communities.

And there are still people struggling to recover in Puerto Rico from 2017’s devastating hurricane season – efforts being actively undermined by a sociopathic indifference to the fate of that island’s residents. Rising temperatures are already a clear and present danger to millions of Americans, and disastrous Republican policy is already making it worse.

By contrast, scientists are unflinching in their recommendations for dealing with the problem: “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in “all aspects of society”, per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

From the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s sham vote on Tuesday on a Green New Deal to attempts dismantle the remaining benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Rick Perry’s push to bail out flailing coal plants, Republicans are instead doing everything in their power both to make sure temperatures keep rising and to kneecap the country’s ability to respond adequately to the results.

The Republican party, of course, voted unanimously against the Green New Deal in Tuesday’s vote; 43 Democrats voted present to show unity. But like many of their Republican colleagues – and a few Democrats who joined Republicans in their no vote – neither Lee nor McConnell speak or vote for themselves.

With mountains of campaign donations, they are deputised to act on behalf of the coal, oil and gas companies who fund their re-election campaigns; combined, the two senators have accepted more than $6 million from fossil fuel interests over the course of their careers. In the 2017-2018 election cycle, more than four-fifths of the energy sector’s $8.5 million in donations went to Republican candidates. An analysis released on Tuesday from Oil Change International found that – in total – the senators who voted against the resolution yesterday have accepted a total of $55m in donations from fossil fuel interests

With the Green New Deal enjoying 81% support among the American voting public, Senate Republicans’ “no” vote on Tuesday mostly proved how out of touch they are with their nominal constituents. For Democrats, it should also be clarifying. If they ever were, today’s Republican party simply isn’t negotiating in good faith – least of all when it comes to climate change. It’s negotiating on behalf of the world’s most toxic companies, and it’s time for Democrats to start treating Republicans like what they are: the political arm of the fossil fuel industry.

That’s important because not all of the jabs thrown at the Green New Deal will be as cartoonish as Mike Lee’s or even Mitch McConnell’s. Republicans like Lamar Alexander have already begun to turn their backs on years of old-school Republican climate denial, trading in junk science and conspiracy theories for more seemingly respectable solutions.

On Tuesday, Alexander announced his own plan to tackle “Ten Grand Challenges” to curb emissions under the banner of a New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy. Alexander hasn’t magically seen the light on climate, and still takes plenty of cash from the fossil fuel industry fueling this problem. He’s just taking a different page out of their playbook.

As the Influence Map found recently, multinational fossil fuel companies have spent $1 billion since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015 trying to greenwash their image through elaborate PR campaigns that paint them as allies in the climate fight. It’s nonsense, of course; the same report found that while these companies plan to spend $115bn on new fossil fuel development in the coming years, they’ll spend just a tiny fraction of that – $3.6bn – on low-carbon investments.

Climate change is no joke, as Mike Lee suggests. But the idea that a Republican party stacked to the gills with fossil fuel cash will ever take it seriously certainly is.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Says It Won’t Rule Out Nuclear First Strike, Because Allies Wouldn’t Trust It Otherwise

March 30th, 2019 - by RT News

(March 29, 2019) — A Pentagon official has said that the US will retain the right to carry out a nuclear strike in response to a conventional attack. A ‘no-first-use’ policy would erode US allies’ belief that they are protected, he said.

Washington has no plans to reverse its policy of “no first use” of nukes, which means it can bomb its adversaries with nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances,” Deputy Undersecretary of Defense David Trachtenberg said in his prepared remarks to the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on Thursday.

Trachtenberg claimed that if the US changes its take on the issue, which he described as “constructive ambiguity,” it “would undermine US extended deterrence and damage the health of our alliances because it would call into question the assurance that the United States would come to the defense of allies in extreme circumstances.” This uncertainty might prompt these countries to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, he said.

The hawkish Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) commissioned by President Donald Trump in 2018 lists a range of circumstances under which the US might consider striking first, such as significant strategic attacks on the US, allied or partner civilian infrastructure, forces, their command and control, as well as warning and assessment capabilities with conventional weapons.

That clause represents a major shift from the previous US nuclear doctrine, and has drawn strong criticism from Moscow, which accused Washington of lowering the nuclear threshold and exacerbating the nuclear arms race. In addition to threatening nuclear annihilation, the review sets the stage for upgrading and expanding the already vast US nuclear arsenal. The nuclear build-up envisions developing new types of low-yield warheads that could be placed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and on sea-launched cruise missiles.

The “mini-nuke” produced by the Pantex plant in Texas has the relatively small explosive power of around five kilotons of TNT, in an attempt to make the US deterrent more “flexible.” According to some experts, it can be launched from the B-21 Raider heavy bomber, which is being developed, making a preemptive nuclear raid more of a probability.

Russia and its weapons modernization program has been singled out in the review as one of the reasons for a major build-up of the US nuclear triad. But unlike the American one, the Russian military doctrine allows the use of nukes only if under attack by weapons of mass destruction or when Russia’s sovereignty is at stake.

While reinforcing its own nuclear deterrent, the US plans to spend billions of dollars upgrading its 150 B61 nuclear bombs scattered across its four European allies: Germany, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands – as well as Turkey.

Russia has repeatedly warned Washington that the deployment of the new bombs would violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Related News:

Less fallout, more danger: US ‘low-yield’ warhead pushes Doomsday Clock closer to midnight

Senators propose change of doctrine so Russia could respond with nukes to any ‘strategic strike’

US Grounds B-1B Bombers for 2nd Time after Problems with Pilot-saving System

RT News

(March 30, 2019) — The Pentagon has grounded its entire fleet of B-1B Lancer strategic bombers for the second time in less than a year after new dangerous flaws were found in its ejection system.

The bombers were suspended from flight as a “precautionary measure” after a routine inspection discovered “potentially fleet-wide issues” with the system, the Air Force Global Strike Command reported on Thursday.

The problem was found in the rigging of the “drogue chute,” a parachute connected with the pilot’s ejection seat. Flight technicians will now check each of the 62 active B-1Bs. The command’s spokesperson declined to comment on how long the whole check-up may take.

This is the second time in less than a year when the military was forced to ground all of its B-1Bs. The planes were previously put on stand-down for around three weeks after a jet from the Dyess Air Force Base in Texas suffered an engine malfunction mid-air.

The pilot tried to eject but had to conduct a risky emergency landing instead because his seat failed to deploy. The Air Force has since said that the problem was fixed and the current grounding is unrelated to the last year’s incident.

The B-1B Lancer is one of Pentagon’s three active long-distance strategic bombers. Developed in the Cold War era, it was conceived as an aircraft that would carry out nuclear airstrikes against the Soviet Union in the event of a global conflict, and has remained a vital part in US contingency plans.

According to some reports, the aircraft will be phased out by the mid-2030s in favor of the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

FBI Covered Up Role of Bandar and Saudis in 9/11 Attacks

March 30th, 2019 - by Paul Jay / Real News Network

Senator Bob Graham, former Co-Chair of the Joint Congressional Committee investigating 9/11, says there is evidence in the “28 redacted pages” that the FBI knew of Saudi Ambassador Bandar’s links to Al Qaida terrorists before the attacks. Interview originally broadcast in 2016.

 (January 10, 2019) —Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

September 11th is the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade towers in New York. Of course, there are many unanswered questions about those attacks. There are few questions that are perhaps more pointed now.

A few years ago I interviewed Senator Bob Graham, who was the chair of the congressional joint committee looking into the 9/11 attacks, and we discussed much of the issues of the role of the Saudi government. At the time, I asked him, if the Saudi government is involved, wouldn’t that mean that Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, would have to have been involved? At the time, Senator Graham said that he was not allowed to speak about that because the 28 pages–he didn’t say all of this–but we knew this was the case, that Bandar was mentioned in those 28 pages, and if he were to talk about Bandar’s role he’d be revealing what was in the 28 pages, and they had been kept secret.

Well, now the 28 pages have been released. So now we’re going to pick up where the last interview left off and pursue the issue of what was the role of the Saudi government, and particularly what was the role of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States–and, should I say, extremely close friend of President Bush and the Bush family.

So now joining us is Senator Bob Graham. Bob Graham was the Governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987, a United States senator from Florida from 1987 to 2005, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cochair of the bipartisan joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures surrounding the 9/11 attacks. He’s the author of the book Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia, and the Failure of America’s War on Terror, and also the author of the book Keys to the Kingdom.

Thanks very much for joining us, Bob.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM: Paul. Thank you very much.

JAY: So let’s pick up where we left off. At the time, I said what I just said: Bandar had to have known, he had to have been involved. And, in fact, when the 28 pages were released just a few weeks ago, he is very much at the center of those what had been hidden, redacted pages from your report. So in this interview I want to go through the report in some detail. But just first of all, overall what do you come away with as the role of Bandar in either financing or facilitating the 9/11 attacks?

GRAHAM: Paul, let me first say thank you for this opportunity to continue our previous conversation. Also, to put this in context, the 28 pages were written in the fall of 2002. A lot of things have happened since 2002, and we have better perspective and insights.

Second is that the 28 pages were largely written based on information gathered about three of the hijackers who lived in Los Angeles and San Diego. There was not much information available in the fall of 2002 relative to the other 16 hijackers, who lived primarily east of the Mississippi in states like Florida, Virginia, New Jersey. We now know more about those other hijackers.

Now coming back to the question of Bandar, the 28 pages discussed the fact that one of Osama bin Laden’s closest associates, a man named Abu Zubaydah, was captured in Pakistan shortly after 9/11. Among his effects was a notebook of telephone numbers. Two of those numbers related to Prince Bandar. One of them was to his mansion/second home in Aspen, Colorado. The other was to his bodyguard in Washington, D.C. That’s all we know about those numbers. The second is that Bandar was alleged to have provided funding for an intermediary who was close to one of the persons in San Diego who was providing assistance and support to the three hijackers who lived there.

Now, the fact that we didn’t come to closure on Bandar is not unusual. There were a number of trails in the 28 pages where the clock ran out. We had to get our report submitted by the end of December 2002, because that was the end of the session of congress which had given authorization for the joint inquiry in the first instance.

What we did is we communicated with the FBI, with the CIA, and with the citizens 9/11 commission, which had just been formed and would start its work early in 2003, that here are a set of suspicious circumstances, here’s what we’ve developed about them, we urge you to pursue those. So one of the things that we, those of us who continue to be interested in this matter, are doing is asking the CIA, the FBI, and the National Archives, which currently has possession of all the documentation from the citizens 9/11 commission, to go over these trails, including the Bandar trail, to find out what else has been found out in the 13 years that the 28 pages were being held in seclusion: where is the state of the investigation of that today?

We don’t know the answer to that question because we haven’t received a response from the FBI, the CIA, or the–.

JAY: In the actual 28 pages, you have the information of the link between Zubaydah’s phone book and numbers in the United States. In the 28 pages, it states on page 419: “The FBI noted that ASPCOL has an unlisted phone number.” Now, this is a company that helped manage the Bandar residence, if I understand it correctly. But then it says, “A November 18, 2002 FBI response to the Joint Inquiry”, which is the inquiry you chaired, “states that ‘CIA traces have revealed no direct links between numbers found in Zubaydah’s phone book and numbers in the United States.’” Well, that’s clearly not the case.

GRAHAM: I’m sad I have to say this about a venerated US institution like the FBI, but that was just one of instances in which FBI said that they had not found anything in their investigation and assumed that that was the end of it.

Another example which is one of those things that we learned about after the 28 pages were written is that there were three of the hijackers (including Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 19) who did their flight training in Venice, Florida, a community near Sarasota, and that while they were taking their flight lessons, they had connections with a prominent Saudi family, a three-generational family: a grandfather who had been close to the royal family, his daughter and son-in-law, and then their grandchildren. The FBI stated, after having recognized that there was such a relationship, that they found that there were no connections between the three hijackers and this Saudi family.

Subsequently, in the files of the FBI, a report written by the FBI agent in charge of the investigation in Sarasota, he stated there were many connections between the hijackers and the family. Again, we’re now through a Freedom of Information Act request attempting to find out what were those many connections and how far did the FBI investigation go in trying to establish the significance of those connections.

JAY: Bob, I’m going to read another section from the 28 pages. Let me ask you, when I see something redacted, does that mean you can’t say what was redacted?

GRAHAM: Yes, and there were about 11 percent of the words in the 28 pages which were redacted.

JAY: And what is it that stops you from being able to say? What are you bound by?

GRAHAM: Well, I’m bound by an oath of confidentiality, which I took when I became a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And having it redacted is the same as having it suppressed. The reason that it was redacted is somebody thought that there was a reason–which could have been national security, it could have been protecting sources and methods. There were other categories of reasons that can be the basis of withholding information.

JAY: Okay. I’ll read this paragraph to you. This is again on page 419 of the 28 pages.

According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeein of being [redacted]

I don’t know. Does that mean a Saudi intelligence officer? Does it mean something else? The logic of the sentence suggests it might be that.

Al-Qudhaeein was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a “dry run” to test airline security. During the flight, al-Qudhaeein and his associate asked the flight attendants a variety of suspicious questions; al-Qudhaeein then attempted to enter the cockpit on two occasions. Al-Qudhaeein and his associate were flying to Washington, D.C. to attend a party at the Saudi Embassy, and both claimed that their tickets were paid for by the Saudi Embassy. During the course of its investigations, the FBI has discovered that both al-Qudhaeein and the other individual involved in this incident had connections to terrorism.

What happened to that line of inquiry?

GRAHAM: You’ve carried it up to the end point of what the joint inquiry was able to find. And, again, this trail was turned over to the 9/11 Commission, FBI, and the CIA, probably primarily the FBI, to take to ground, to get all of the questions that those stated facts that you just read indicate that need to be answered. And we are pursuing those followups to the trails that started in the 28 pages, of which this is one of a dozen or more.

JAY: When you say “we” are following up, who’s the “we”?

GRAHAM: The we, is the same group that’s been pushing this so hard, and it includes the families of the victims of 9/11, the families who for over a decade have been suing Saudi Arabia and various entities of the Kingdom, alleging that they were essentially co-conspirators in 9/11 and should be held to account. They also are investigative journalists, First Amendment lawyers, who have had a longtime interest in this case.

JAY: Okay. I’m going to read another section from the 28 pages. This is on page 420.

Prior to September 11th, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative [redacted] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia’s status as an American “ally”. [redacted]. A representative of the FBI’s [redacted] testified in closed hearings that, prior to September 11th, the FBI received “no reporting from any member of the Intelligence Community” that there is a [redacted] presence in the United States.

What is that?

GRAHAM: Well, that sounds like it is one of the fundamental themes of 9/11, which was the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to share information–in this case probably information between the CIA and the FBI. We know that happened at the very–what I call chapter one of 9/11, which is a meeting that was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000, at which the attendees were close operatives of bin Laden, including the first two to enter the United States, a man named al-Mihdhar and another, al-Hazmi.

And the CIA had been clumsy in not getting a listening device in the room where that meeting was going to take place. And they knew where that room was because they had been monitoring the telephone and other communications between and among the hijackers that would be in attendance. But they did manage to get a large number of pictures of the attendees at that meeting, including Hazmi and Mihdhar. But they didn’t share any of that information with, for instance, the FBI or with the immigration service. So two weeks after the “summit of terrorists” (as it’s been called) concluded, Mihdhar and Hazmi walked through the Los Angeles airport undetected because the people who were handling the passport control had no reason to suspect that they were people of interest.

JAY: OK. On page 422 there’s a whole section on two men. One’s name is Omar al-Bayoumi and the other is Osama Bassnan. What was their connection to the terrorist plot? And what was their connection to the Saudi government? I’m not going to read it all. There’s paragraph after paragraph in the 28 pages linking, certainly, al-Bayoumi to the Saudi government. In fact, one paragraph on page 423 says,

Al-Bayoumi also had frequent contact with Saudi establishments in the United States. In a review of telephone toll records, the FBI learned that al-Bayoumi called Saudi Government establishments in the United States almost 100 times between January and May of 2000. According to the FBI, al-Bayoumi was in contact with at least three individuals at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC; two individuals at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Washington, DC; and three individuals at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

I mean, it goes on and on, the number of contacts with the Saudi government. Tell us a little bit who these two men were. And to what extent is Bandar implicated in this?

GRAHAM: Well, this requires some background. At the end of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, the Kingdom was dissembling. They realized how close they came to be invaded by Saddam Hussein’s troops, who were in Kuwait. They recognized how weak their military was. And they also became very concerned that they were going to face an internal issue similar to what happened in Iran in 1979, where largely a group of college-aged Iranians overthrew the Shah and installed the government that is there today.

In order to try to protect themselves against such a youth-led revolution, the Saudi government set up a series of monitors around the world whose job it was to watch over young–college-aged, particularly–Saudis wherever they were, to determine whether they were plotting against the Kingdom. One of those monitors was named Bayoumi. And he had been a bookkeeper for the civil aviation agency in Saudi Arabia, was selected to be trained to be a monitor, and then was assigned in the late 1990s to the southern California area.

I’m now going to move to speculation. My speculation is that bin Laden was aware of this series of monitors. He also became aware, as he developed his plot of attacking the United States by expropriating commercial airliners, how difficult that was going to be and recognized that the people that he was selecting to lead this attack inside the United States who didn’t, in the main, speak English, they’d never been to the United States before, they weren’t highly educated, were not going to be able to carry out the plot without some assistance. And so he put the two together and said, I am going to create a situation where the Saudi Kingdom will make this system of monitors that they have available to me, so that wherever the hijackers end up being placed in the United States, they will have someone who can be their overseer while they’re there. And since the first two hijackers to enter the United States came to Los Angeles and that was part of Bayoumi’s territory, he became the first mentor of these hijackers.

JAY: I want to get back to why the Saudis may have done this. And I also want to get to what the U.S. government’s role in all this was. But just one more thing from the 28 pages, ’cause I know you have to leave (and I hope we can get back to this in another session). But on page 428, Bassnan, who is described in this way: “The FBI has also developed additional information clearly indicating that Bassnan is an extremist and supporter of Usama Bin Ladin.” Now, Bassnan is connected with the people where?

GRAHAM: Well, Bassnan was essentially Bayoumi’s second-in-command and was in the course of being trained to become Bayoumi’s successor. Bassnan had been in the United States for a longer period than Bayoumi. In fact, there is a lot of smoke around his role with the so-called “Blind Sheikh” who had tried to blow up the World Trade Center back, I think, in 1993. Bassnan had a number of suspicious connections to that incident.

Bassnan also had a wife who–and I think had legitimately had some serious medical issues. The Embassy of the Saudi Kingdom in Washington has a fund that’s under the direction of the wife of the ambassador, which is available for indigent Saudis living in the United States who have some urgent situation. And in this case, Bassnan went to the Embassy pleading on behalf of his wife for funds to pay for her medical attention. And she was given such assistance.

JAY: Now, according to the 28 pages, the FBI, at least it is–certainly, one would think–known to Prince Bandar and the Saudis that Bassnan is a supporter of bin Laden: “According to an FBI asset, Bassnan spoke of Bin Ladin ‘as if he were a God’” and so on. And then on page 427–.

GRAHAM: Can I just finish–

JAY: Yeah.

GRAHAM: –the train that I was on?

So now we have Bassnan, who by this time has moved to San Diego, and he’s assisting Bayoumi. And he’s also getting a regular–or his wife has gotten a check for, first, her surgeries, and then, second, for the rehabilitation. And I think the checks were about $2,000 a month.

In the early part of 2000, coincident with the time that the two hijackers came to San Diego, Mrs. Bassnan’s check, instead of going to her, started to go to Mrs. Bayoumi, the wife of the person who’s mentoring the two hijackers, and raising the suspicion that that was a money laundering operation, where the money went from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, a fund under the control of the wife of the ambassador, to Bayoumi’s wife, bypassing Bassnan’s wife, and then from Bayoumi’s wife to the hijackers, to be part of the flow of money that was supporting them, including their flight lessons while they were [crosstalk]

JAY: And on page 427 it says, “On at least one occasion, Bassnan received a check directly from Prince Bandar’s account.”

GRAHAM: Yes.

JAY: So a direct connection between Bandar and Bassnan.

GRAHAM: Yeah. And that’s–again, I hope that when we get a response from the FBI, CIA, or the Archives, we’ll find that there were investigations done by one or more of those three groups which answered the questions of was Bassnan wife a conduit of money from the Saudi Embassy in Washington to the two hijackers, and why did the ambassador himself make a fairly sizable fund available to Mr. Bassnan.

JAY: I want to jump to something else, which we discussed in the previous interview. And that has to do with the role of the American government in this, particularly the Bush-Cheney administration. I’m going to play for you a little exchange we had in the previous interview.

~~~

JAY: If you are right that Bandar knew this was going on, then he’s sitting, meeting with his friend President Bush regularly in the days leading up to 9/11, and either not saying anything or somehow does. I mean, I know you know there’s a lot of theory–and, I think, a lot of evidence that would at least require an inquiry–that there’s a deliberate attempt not to know. I mean, to believe that it’s just incompetency, then you have to think it’s like the Keystone Cops of intelligence agencies: they’re just tripping all over each other. But that seems hard to believe.

GRAHAM: Well, and also the fact that it was so pervasive, that virtually all of the agencies of the federal government were moving in the same direction, from a customs agent at an airport in Orlando who was chastised when he denied entry into the United States to a Saudi, to the president of the United States authorizing large numbers of Saudis to leave the country, possibly denying us–forever–important insights and information on what happened. You don’t have everybody moving in the same direction without there being a head coach somewhere who was giving them instructions as to where he wants them to move.

JAY: So that includes before and after the events.

GRAHAM: Primarily before the event. After the event, it shifts from being an action that supports the activities of the Saudis to actions that cover up the results of that permission given to the Saudis to act.

~~~

JAY: So could you explain particularly this last couple of sentences, “Primarily before the event. After the event, it shifts from being an action that supports the activities to Saudis to actions that cover up the results of that permission given to the Saudis to act”? So can you elaborate on that?

GRAHAM: Well, and I’ll get to the why question: why would the U.S. government have done this? And let me say, I no longer use the words cover up to describe what’s going on. I find more accurate the words aggressive deception. The federal government has attempted to rewrite the narrative of 9/11 in order to exclude the role of the Saudis from that horrific story.

Why did they do it? I think there are a number of reasons. Some of them relate to the longtime, special, personal relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi Kingdom–goes back three generations to Herbert Walker Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, a senator from Connecticut.

I think it also involves the long relationship that started in World War II when the United States essentially committed to provide security to the Saudis. The Saudis committed to provide a reliable source of petroleum to the United States and its allies.

And I think there’s another issue here. And that is, if you’ll recall, at the World Trade Center after 9/11, the president, with a bullhorn, said words to the effect that we are going to follow anyone who was found to have been in any way connected to this murder and that we will follow them to the ends of the earth–pretty strong words. And certainly, shortly thereafter, much of the information that you have outlined became available to the president.

Problem: the president wanted to go to war with Iraq, and he has painted at the site of the crime a path that looks like it’s going directly to the Saudis, but that’s not the destination he wants. So what do you do? You have to suppress all the information that would cause people to think that the Saudis were the people that he was talking about with the bullhorn at the World Trade Center and get the country prepared and willing to go to war against a country which was subsequently found out to have virtually, if not totally, nothing to do with 9/11.

JAY: Right. Bob, I know you have to leave, so I just want to focus on this line: “You don’t have everybody moving in the same direction without there being a head coach somewhere who was giving them instructions as to where he wants them to move.” And that’s in reference to me talking about the various examples of American intelligence agencies that in fact did generate intelligence that could have prevented 9/11 if it had been followed up. And I had asked you if there was a deliberate culture created to the American intelligence agencies of not wanting to know, which in itself could prohibit the sharing of information that people talk about. You mentioned to me in this interview that in the famous memo, bin Laden plans to attack the United States, that in the subsequent memo that usually goes out to heads of agencies, that that was omitted, which one would think would have gone to head of agencies in order to take precautions. You mentioned the immigration, the border official who’s chastised. This was because there’d been a guideline handed down from the White House, if I understand it correctly, not to stop Saudis from coming into the country, even if under normal protocol you would have stopped them. So who’s the coach?

GRAHAM: Well, I think the coach is the president of the United States. He’s the only one who could have commanded agencies, from the Department of State to the Treasury Department, to the intelligence community, to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, to all act in the same manner, because they are all ultimately responsible to the president.

JAY: So, I mean, that does suggest that given the president’s relationship with Bandar and lots of evidence that Bandar is in the thick of the 9/11 conspiracy, that it’s very likely that this–I don’t know how else to say this–President Bush and, I assume, Dick Cheney, who was up to his eyeballs in this as well, create a culture of not wanting to know amongst the intelligence agencies. And it starts with the demotion of Richard Clarke, who was the antiterrorism czar, and apparently even after George Tenet briefs President Bush: in his first briefing, according to Tenet, he tells Bush the number-one national security threat to the United States is al-Qaeda and bin Laden; and then he demotes the guy who’s supposed to be in charge of the fight against al-Qaeda and bin Laden, Richard Clarke. And is there not at the very least a very strong suggestion that the back door was open for this type of attack? Don’t know that there’s any evidence the White House knew what was coming, but Bandar certainly had a pretty good idea what was coming.

GRAHAM: Again, these are exactly the questions to which I hope that the information that was gathered subsequent to the writing of the 28 pages, in response, in many cases, to the trails that were first outlined–of course, we’ve lost 13 years. We should have been doing this not in 2016 but in 2002, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, etc. But we are where we are.

And many people are asking, you know, does it make any difference now, 15 years later? Why don’t we move on? A prominent official in the FBI told me in 2011 to get a life and stop pestering them about this. I think it makes a lot of difference–justice to the families that have suffered so grievously, our national security. The Saudis, thinking that they have a status of immunity from the United States, have continued to fund terrorist organizations and continued to train the next generation of terrorists in Wahhabist mosques and schools, feeling that there’s going to be no negative reaction from the United States.

And I think this has had an enormously detrimental impact on the American people. The presidential election is now well underway, and we’re every day seeing the depth of public cynicism and a sense of disconnection between the government and the people. And I believe that acts of secrecy such as we’ve been talking about are a significant part of that public attitude.

JAY: Can I suggest an alternative theory? If all this is true, what might have motivated it is a real convergence of interests between the Saudi regime and President Bush and Dick Cheney and the neocons around them. We know there’s a document that comes out called Project for the New American Century, which essentially calls for regime change, first of all in Iraq, then in Syria, and the ultimate prize being Iran. And we know the Saudis are extremely motivated to try to overthrow the regime in Iran. They hate the Iranians, and it frames itself as hating Shia. And it’s certainly a convergence of interests between the Saudi government and al-Qaeda that hate Shia probably more than they hate America. And, of course, Bush-Cheney’s stated objective was regime change in Iran. In fact, there was a time when they hoped to go to war with Iran, and perhaps only generals from the Pentagon stopped it from happening, that there was a real convergence of interests to create the conditions of what was called, in that Project for the New American Century, the need for a “new Pearl Harbor”, that they’re conniving in this. There’s no other way to say it.

GRAHAM: A lot of intriguing questions. I hope that we will have some answers. I only hope we don’t have to wait another decade and a half to get at the business of providing those answers.

JAY: That’s very much for joining us, Senator.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much. I appreciate this opportunity and the very incisive questions that you’ve asked. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to do it again as we learn more about this tragedy.

JAY: Great. Thank you very much.

And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Does NATO Confront Threats, or Create Them?

March 30th, 2019 - by Aaron Mate / The Real News Network Radio Interview

(May 27, 2017) — AARON MATE: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Mate.

At the NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump urged alliance members to pay what he called their fair share. He cited three main threats, terrorism, immigration, and Russia.

DONALD TRUMP: The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders. These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenburg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.

AARON MATE: Trump has come under criticism for declining to openly endorse Article 5, NATO’s mutual aid clause. It stipulates that NATO allies come to the others’ defense in the event of an attack. While that’s been the main focus there are some critics who say NATO’s existence causes the very problems it now faces. David Gibbs is a Professor of History at the University of Arizona.

Professor Gibbs, welcome.

DAVID GIBBS: Thank you for having me.

AARON MATE: Thanks for joining us. So President Trump’s comments at NATO are receiving a lot of attention because he declined to openly endorse that mutual aid clause I mentioned, Article 5. That’s been the main focus. What do you think we should be talking about when we talk about NATO’s role today?

DAVID GIBBS: Well, there’s a larger issue which is that NATO’s main function since the end of the Cold War has been to in very obvious ways create new security threats that didn’t exist before. I’d say that’s been its main contribution to international relations, increasing security threats. One can be very specific about that. Number one, NATO expansion into Eastern Europe clearly antagonized Russia and also violated a 1990 agreement the US had not to expand NATO and I’d say is the main factor that triggered the new Cold War the US is now having with Russia which is extremely dangerous since Russia has 1,000 nuclear warheads. It’s also very expensive, by the way, since the new Cold War with Russia is going to be the main factor contributing to US continuing military buildup.

AARON MATE: Professor Gibbs, Professor Gibbs, let me cut in there actually just to address this one point and then we’ll go to your others. You know, the counterpoint to that, what you’ll hear often, is that the new Cold War was provoked by Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

DAVID GIBBS: Well, this is a very longstanding issue. There basically was no security threat from Russia at all in the 90s. They were doing nothing threatening to the US in the 90s and then the United States expanded NATO. Many longstanding Russia specialists including George F Kennan pointed out that there was no purpose to expanding NATO. Russia was doing nothing threatening and all this would do is antagonize Russia and trigger a new cold war and that’s exactly what happened. Virtually all the aspects of US Russian conflict have been triggered as I would see it by NATO. It was NATO that expanded into the former Communist states of Eastern Europe. It was NATO that violated a 1990 agreement as I mentioned. It was NATO that then expanded into the Baltic States which had been part of the Soviet Union.

We must ask a counterfactual here, which is this. How would the United States feel if Russia were to include a military alliance with Mexico let us say? The US would not appreciate it. They would see it as a security threat and Russia sees Western and NATO expansion into Eastern Europe exactly the same way and it was predicted that they would see it in the same way. So what NATO has done really is triggered a conflict with Russia that was totally unnecessary and, yes, this is something very definitely triggered by the West. Russia’s responding to a Western confrontation that was triggered by the West.

AARON MATE: Let me quote you from the scholar Richard Sakwa who specializes in the Ukraine. He says, “There’s a fateful geographical paradox. NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence.” Your take on that?

DAVID GIBBS: Exactly. That’s exactly right, basically. NATO first creates security threats and then it uses the security threats to justify its existence. One can look at this as kind of a make-work program really for the uniformed militaries and the military industries in both Western Europe and in the United States. If you’re a part of the military producing sector in Western Europe or the United States, these constant security threats that are being generated are really a very positive thing. Because after all they generate new interest in what you’re doing and also new contracts. For most people however I think the main effect is a) it’s very expensive and b) the main result of this expense is to increase insecurity and danger of nuclear war. It would seem to me this is a very foolish game the United States and NATO is playing here, one that has already gone very badly and is likely to continue to go very badly.

AARON MATE: Let’s talk about what’s currently happening right now between Russia and its neighbors in Europe. There are now 100s of warplanes participating in military exercises near Russia’s border. In Trump’s speech that we played that clip of him speaking to the NATO summit. He cited Russia as one of three main threats aside from immigration which, you know, he’s ran this long-time xenophobic campaign against refugees, as well as terrorism. Can you talk about the current state right now tensions between Russia and NATO in Europe and your concerns about what threats might escalate in that realm?

DAVID GIBBS: Well, the main flash point here, of course, has been the Ukraine, the Ukrainian civil war. The reason you’ve had this civil war, well, there are a number of reasons obviously. One of the principal ones is that there has been a continuing effort by the United States and some Western European states to try and bring the Ukraine into NATO. It’s very divisive within the Ukraine because approximately half the population of the Ukraine tends to lean toward Russia not the West but it’s particularly destabilizing from the standpoint of Russia which would view any effort to bring the Ukraine into NATO as a very immediate security threat given the very long border that they share. Again the comparison would be Russia concluding an alliance with Mexico. I think that more than anything else triggered the breakdown of stability within the Ukraine.

There are other factors as well, it’s very complicated but I think the effort to bring the Ukraine into NATO which was totally unnecessary has in fact triggered insecurity and triggered security threats that didn’t really exist before. I think that that’s very dangerous.

Another factor about any aspect of bringing Ukraine into NATO is that indeed it would by the nature of the NATO structure trigger a requirement that the United States and Western Europe would be required to use armed force to defend the Ukraine in any war with Russia or it could be interpreted that way at the very least. Again that’s extremely dangerous because obviously it could bring the US into direct confrontation with a nuclear armed Russia. I don’t see any gains for anybody from anything like that happening but that’s a real possibility if the Ukraine were to join NATO. Again, that has been on the table formally since 2008.

AARON MATE: Okay, now let’s talk about other context in which NATO plays a role in or potentially plays a role in internal security threats. There was just this horrible suicide bombing in Manchester. Now the bomber was born in Britain but his father trained with Libyan rebels who sort of were heavily involved in the fight against Muammar Qaddafi and whose power increased in the wake of the NATO-led bombing that overthrew Qaddafi and the bomber actually trained not only in Libya but also in Syria. Is there a connection possibly between this Manchester bombing and NATO?

DAVID GIBBS: Well there have been a number of reports in the British press indicating multiple Libyan connections to this terrorist attack in Manchester so, yes, it does look like that the Libyan intervention of 2011 when NATO was instrumental in overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi has not only destabilized Libya and North Africa but indeed it has fueled a new source of terrorism in the world. So again you have the perverse situation that NATO supposedly exists to protect the security of its members has indeed increased the insecurity of its members by destabilizing Libya and generating terrorism. That at least is how this terrorist attack in Manchester is starting to look.

I should add there are many cases where this has happened. You know, the United States and its allies overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan which is now in its second decade of war. Saddam Hussein was overthrown in Iraq, also an extended war basically that has resulted from that. Both of these overthrows just like the one in Libya have fueled increased terrorism. ISIS was born of course amidst the instability created by the war on terror. So really you have an extended series of iterations whereby the United States and in Libya NATO more directly has destabilized countries that were previously stable and then they become generators of terrorism and insecurity. The existence of NATO makes more likely future situations like this. If you have something like NATO sitting around you want to use it. There’s always a pressure to use it to do things like regime change. Almost invariably the regime change makes the situation worse in terms of breeding new instability and new insecurity. That I think is the main legacy of NATO is increased insecurity.

AARON MATE: So given that what do you think movement should be calling for? Do you think NATO should be abolished?

DAVID GIBBS: Yes, I think it should be abolished. I think it has no positive function. It really should have been abolished right after the end of the Cold War. Its main function during the Cold War was of course to repel a prospective Soviet invasion of Western Europe. With the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 NATO literally had no function whatsoever. It should have gone out of business. You know, the way things work in the real world is that when you get a large bureaucratic institution like NATO you get a vast series of interest groups built up around it both in Western Europe and in the United States. Quite naturally these interest groups lobbied successfully it would seem in favor of finding some new function for NATO. So NATO really has been something again of a jobs program for a series of vested interest groups but the cost is being borne by the entire world in terms of the increased insecurity, also very high expense. Maintaining NATO is extremely expensive with no positive results whatsoever so abolishing NATO I think is long overdue. It should have happened in the early 90s.

AARON MATE: Well, Professor David Gibbs, want to thank you for joining us. David Gibbs is a Professor of History at the University of Arizona. Professor Gibbs, thank you.

DAVID GIBBS: Thank you.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.

Pentagon Releases List of Military Bases Most at Risk to Climate Change

March 30th, 2019 - by Ellen Mitchell / The Hill

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2019) — The Pentagon has sent to Congress a letter containing a list of bases most at risk from climate change threats within the next 20 years.

The bases include Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Naval Air Station Key West, Fla.; and the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas.


Aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base and the surrounding areas affected by floodwaters in Nebraska on March 17. One-third of the base was covered by flooding. (USAF photo.)

The locations top a list of Air Force, Navy and Army installations most at risk from climate change, sent to Congress on March 22 after a group of lawmakers demanded more information from a Pentagon report in January.

The list “includes scoring and weighting of the five climate-related hazards (recurrent flooding, wildfire, drought, desertification, and permafrost thaw) based on the immediacy of the threat,” writes undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord.

“The Department has been and will continue to be proactive in developing comprehensive policy, guidance, and tools to mitigate potential climate impacts, with a focus on robust infrastructure, sound land management policies, and increased energy resilience,” she wrote.

Around Washington, D.C., several sites make the Army, Air Force and Navy lists, including Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Meade, Md., both at risk for recurrent flooding; Joint Base Andrews, Md., at risk for flooding, drought and wildfires; and Washington Navy Yard and Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, at risk for flooding and drought.

The lists are add-ons to a Defense Department study from January — “Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense” — that found that of 79 operationally critical military installations, 74 are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years.

Democratic lawmakers, however, were not pleased with the congressionally mandated report when it was released.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), along with fellow committee members Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), and John Garamendi (D-Calif.), sent a letter to the Pentagon demanding the information that Congress had ordered it to include, such as the lists, specific mitigation measures to alleviate climate risks at installations, and cost estimates for such efforts.

Lawmakers now appear equally unhappy with the Pentagon’s latest version of the report, which Langevin likened to “a student rushing to finish a term paper.”

“The Department’s methodology remains opaque. The revised report continues to leave off overseas bases, and it fails to include massive military installations like Camp Lejeune. Most importantly, it continues to lack any assessment of the funds Congress will need to appropriate to mitigate the ever increasing risks to our service members,” Langevin said in a statement sent to The Hill on Wednesday.

“I have repeatedly made myself available to the Department to clarify the intent behind the specific language of the statute providing for the climate report. No one from the Department has ever taken me up on my offer. Given this record, the assurances from the Secretary that he cares about resiliency ring hollow,” he said.

The list is released as Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on Wednesday urged Congress to provide $4.9 billion in supplemental funding over the next several years to repair Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., damaged last year by Hurricane Michael, and Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., which was flooded last week.

Tyndall and Offutt did not make it on the Pentagon’s top risk list for the Air Force. Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes

Air Force Needs Almost $5 Billion To Recover From Hurricane, Flood Damage

James Doubeck / National Public Radio

(March 28, 2019) — The U.S. Air Force says it needs $4.9 billion in new funding over the next two and a half years to cover the costs of rebuilding two air bases hit by natural disasters.

About one-third of Offutt Air Force Base, in eastern Nebraska, was underwater earlier this month as flooding hit large swaths of the Midwest. And Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle was hit hard by Hurricane Michael in October.

The Air Force is asking for $1.2 billion in supplemental funding for fiscal year 2019 and $3.7 billion for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. Congress would need to approve the funding.

“This storm, if we don’t get a supplemental, is going to affect the rest of the Air Force and our ability to operate,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. “We desperately need the supplemental to recover from the natural disaster that hammered Tyndall and Offutt.”

She added that 61 projects — consisting largely of operations and maintenance — at air bases in 18 states would not happen if the supplemental disaster funding does not come through.

She estimated the cost of the hurricane at Tyndall was about $750 million in this year’s operation and maintenance funds, with 95 percent of buildings damaged, while “we haven’t even begun to estimate fully what the impact at Offutt is going to be.”

She said recovery efforts so far at Tyndall have relied on “robbing” funding from other accounts, “just to try to cope and get through.”

The request for additional money comes as President Trump has called for repurposing $3.6 billion in military construction funding to help build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Wilson denied the supplemental funding request was related to the wall. “No no, it’s a completely different issue. This is about recovering from the natural disaster, the Hurricane Michael that hit Tyndall and now the flooding in Nebraska,” she said.

The Air Force fiscal year 2020 budget proposal is for $165 billion, Wilson said.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes

War and Peace and the 2020 Presidential Candidates

March 29th, 2019 - by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J S Davies / Common Dreams

While we can’t guarantee that candidates will stick to their campaign promises, we still must ask this vital question: What prospects for peace might each of them bring to the White House?

 (March 27, 2019) — Forty-five years after Congress passed the War Powers Act in the wake of the Vietnam War, it has finally used it for the first time, to try to end the U.S.-Saudi war on the people of Yemen and to recover its constitutional authority over questions of war and peace.  This hasn’t stopped the war yet, and President Trump has threatened to veto the bill. But its passage in Congress, and the debate it has spawned, could be an important first step on a tortuous path to a less militarized U.S. foreign policy in Yemen and beyond.

While the United States has been involved in wars throughout much of its history, since the 9/11 attacks the U.S. military has been engaged in a series of wars that have dragged on for almost two decades. Many refer to them as “endless wars.”  One of the basic lessons we have all learned from this is that it is easier to start wars than to stop them. So, even as we have come to see this state of war as a kind of “new normal,”  the American public is wiser, calling for less military intervention and more congressional oversight.

The rest of the world is wiser about our wars, too. Take the case of Venezuela, where the Trump administration insists that the military option is “on the table.” While some of Venezuela’s neighbors are collaborating with U.S. efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government, none are offering their own armed forces.

The same applies in other regional crises. Iraq is refusing to serve as a staging area for a U.S.-Israeli-Saudi war on Iran. Traditional Western allies of the U.S. oppose Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement and want peaceful engagement, not war, with Iran. South Korea is committed to a peace process with North Korea, despite the erratic nature of Trump’s negotiations with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jung Un.

So what hope is there that one of the parade of Democrats seeking the presidency in 2020 could be a real “peace candidate”?  Could one of them bring an end to these wars and prevent new ones? Walk back the brewing Cold War and arms race with Russia and China? Downsize the U.S. military and its all-consuming budget?  Promote diplomacy and a commitment to international law?

Ever since the Bush/Cheney administration launched the present-day “Long Wars,” new presidents from both parties have dangled superficial appeals to peace during their election campaigns. But neither Obama nor Trump has seriously tried to end our “endless” wars or rein in our runaway military spending.

Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war and vague promises for a new direction were enough to win him the presidency and the Nobel Peace Prize, but not to bring us peace. In the end, he spent more on the military than Bush and dropped more bombs on more countries, including a ten-fold increase in CIA drone strikes.  Obama’s main innovation was a doctrine of covert and proxy wars that reduced U.S. casualties and muted domestic opposition to war, but brought new violence and chaos to Libya, Syria and Yemen. Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan, the fabled “graveyard of empires,” turned that war into the longest U.S. war since the U.S. conquest of Native America (1783-1924).

Trump’s election was also boosted by false promises of peace, with recent war veterans delivering critical votes in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But Trump quickly surrounded himself with generals and neocons, escalated the warsin Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan, and has fully backed the Saudi-led war in Yemen. His hawkish advisers have so far ensured that any U.S. steps toward peace in Syria, Afghanistan or Korea remain symbolic, while U.S. efforts to destabilize Iran and Venezuela threaten the world with new wars. Trump’s complaint, “We don’t win any more,” echoes through his presidency, ominously suggesting that he’s still looking for a war he can “win.”

While we can’t guarantee that candidates will stick to their campaign promises, it is important to look at this new crop of presidential candidates and examine their views—and, when possible, voting records—on issues of war and peace. What prospects for peace might each of them bring to the White House?

Bernie Sanders

Senator Sanders has the best voting record of any candidate on war and peace issues, especially on military spending. Opposing the oversized Pentagon budget, he has only voted for 3 out of 19 military spending bills since 2013.  By this measure, no other candidate comes close, including Tulsi Gabbard. In other votes on war and peace, Sanders voted as requested by Peace Action 84% of the time from 2011 to 2016, despite some hawkish votes on Iran from 2011-2013.

One major contradiction in Sanders’ opposition to out-of-control military spending has been his support for the world’s most expensive and wasteful weapon system: the trillion-dollar F-35 fighter jet. Not only did Sanders support the F-35, he pushed—despite local opposition—to get these fighter jets stationed at the Burlington airport for the Vermont National Guard.

In terms of stopping the war in Yemen, Sanders has been a hero. Over the past year, he and Senators Murphy and Lee have led a sustained effort to shepherd his historic War Powers bill on Yemen through the Senate. Congressman Ro Khanna, whom Sanders has chosen as one of his 4 campaign co-chairs, has led the parallel effort in the House.

Sanders’ 2016 campaign highlighted his popular domestic proposals for universal healthcare and social and economic justice, but was criticized as light on foreign policy. Beyond chiding Clinton for being “too much into regime change,” he seemed reluctant to debate her on foreign policy, despite her hawkish record. By contrast, during his current presidential run, he regularly includes the Military-Industrial Complex among the entrenched interests his political revolution is confronting, and his voting record backs up his rhetoric. 

Sanders supports U.S. withdrawals from Afghanistan and Syria and opposes U.S. threats of war against Venezuela. But his rhetoric on foreign policy sometimes demonizes foreign leaders in ways that unwittingly lend support to the “regime change” policies he opposes – as when he joined a chorus of U.S. politicians labeling Colonel Gaddafi of Libya a “thug and a murderer,” shortly before U.S.-backed thugs actually murdered Gaddafi.

Open Secrets shows Sanders taking in over $366,000 from the “defense industry” during his 2016 presidential campaign, but only $17,134 for his 2018 Senate reelection campaign.

So our question on Sanders is, “Which Bernie would we see in the White House?”  Would it be the one who has the clarity and courage to vote “No” on 84% of military spending bills in the Senate, or the one who supports military boondoggles like the F-35 and can’t resist repeating inflammatory smears of foreign leaders? It is vital that Sanders should appoint genuinely progressive foreign policy advisors to his campaign, and then to his administration, to complement his own greater experience and interest in domestic policy.

Tulsi Gabbard

While most candidates shy away from foreign policy, Congressmember Gabbard has made foreign policy—particularly ending war—the centerpiece of her campaign.

She was truly impressive in her March 10 CNN Town Hall, talking more honestly about U.S. wars than any other presidential candidate in recent history.  Gabbard promises to end senseless wars like the one she witnessed as a National Guard officer in Iraq. She unequivocally states her opposition to U.S. “regime change” interventions, as well as the New Cold War and arms race with Russia, and supports rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.  She was also an original cosponsor of Rep. Khanna’s Yemen War Powers bill.

But Gabbard’s actual voting record on war and peace issues, especially on military spending, is not nearly as dovish as Sanders’. She voted for 19 of 29 military spending bills in the past 6 years, and she has only a 51% Peace Action voting record. Many of the votes that Peace Action counted against her were votes to fully fund controversial new weapons systems, including nuclear-tipped cruise missiles (in 2014, 2015 and 2016); an 11th U.S. aircraft-carrier (in 2013 and 2015); and various parts of Obama’s anti-ballistic missile program, which fueled the New Cold War and arms race she now decries.

Gabbard voted at least twice (in 2015 and 2016) not to repeal the much-abused 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, and she voted three times not to limit the use of Pentagon slush funds. In 2016, she voted against an amendment to cut the military budget by just 1%.  Gabbard received $8,192 in “defense” industrycontributions for her 2018 reelection campaign.

Gabbard still believes in a militarized approach to counterterrorism, despite studies showing that this feeds a self-perpetuating cycle of violence on both sides.

She is still in the military herself and embraces what she calls a “military mindset.”  She ended her CNN Town Hall by saying that being Commander-in-Chief is the most important part of being president. As with Sanders, we have to ask, “Which Tulsi would we see in the White House?”  Would it be the Major with the military mindset, who cannot bring herself to deprive her military colleagues of new weapons systems or even a 1% cut from the trillions of dollars in military spending she has voted for?  Or would it be the veteran who has seen the horrors of war and is determined to bring the troops home and never again send them off to kill and be killed in endless regime change wars?

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren made her reputation with her bold challenges of our nation’s economic inequality and corporate greed, and has slowly started to stake out her foreign policy positions. Her campaign website says that she supports “cutting our bloated defense budget and ending the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy.” But, like Gabbard, she has voted to approve over two-thirds of the “bloated” military spending bills that have come before her in the Senate.

Her website also says, “It’s time to bring the troops home,” and that she supports “reinvesting in diplomacy.”  She has come out in favor of the U.S. rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement and has also proposed legislation that would prevent the United States from using nuclear weapons as a first-strike option, saying she wants to “reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation.”

Her Peace Action voting record exactly matches Sanders’ for the shorter time she has sat in the Senate, and she was one of the first five Senators to cosponsor his Yemen War Powers bill in March 2018.  Warren took in $34,729 in “Defense” industrycontributions for her 2018 Senate reelection campaign.

With regards to Israel, the Senator angered many of her liberal constituents when, in 2014, she supported Israel’s invasion of Gaza that left over 2,000 dead, and blamed the civilian casualties on Hamas. She has since taken a more critical position. She opposed a bill to criminalize boycotting Israel and condemned Israel’s use of deadly force against peaceful Gaza protesters in 2018.

Warren is following where Sanders has led on issues from universal healthcare to challenging inequality and corporate, plutocratic interests, and she is also following him on Yemen and other war and peace issues.  But as with Gabbard, Warren’s votes to approve 68% of military spending bills reveal a lack of conviction on tackling the very obstacle she acknowledges: “the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy.”

Kamala Harris

Senator Harris announced her candidacy for president in a lengthy speech in her native Oakland, CA, where she addressed a wide range of issues, but failed to mention U.S. wars or military spending at all. Her only reference to foreign policy was a vague statement about “democratic values,” “authoritarianism” and “nuclear proliferation,” with no hint that the U.S. has contributed to any of those problems. Either she’s not interested in foreign or military policy, or she’s afraid to talk about her positions, especially in her hometown in the heart of Barbara Lee’s progressive congressional district.

One issue Harris has been vocal about in other settings is her unconditional support for Israel. She told an AIPAC conference in 2017, “I will do everything in my power to ensure broad and bipartisan support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense.”  She demonstrated how far she would take that support for Israel when President Obama finally allowed the U.S. to join a UN Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine as a “flagrant violation” of international law.  Harris, Booker and Klobuchar were among 30 Democratic (and 47 Republican) Senators who cosponsored a bill to withhold U.S. dues to the UN over the resolution.

Faced with grassroots pressure to #SkipAIPAC in 2019, Harris did join most of the other presidential candidates who chose not to speak at AIPAC’s 2019 gathering. She also supports rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement.

In her short time in the Senate, Harris has voted for six out of eight military spending bills, but she did cosponsor and vote for Sanders’ Yemen War Powers bill.  Harris was not up for reelection in 2018, but took in $26,424 in “Defense” industry contributions in the 2018 election cycle.

Kirsten Gillibrand

After Senator Sanders, Senator Gillibrand has the second best record on opposing runaway military spending, voting against 47% of military spending bills since 2013. Her Peace Action voting record is 80%, reduced mainly by the same hawkish votes on Iran as Sanders from 2011 to 2013. There is nothing on Gillibrand’s campaign website about wars or military spending, despite serving on the Armed Services Committee. She took in $104,685 in “defense” industry contributions for her 2018 reelection campaign, more than any other senator running for president.

Gillibrand was an early cosponsor of Sanders’ Yemen War Powers bill. She has also supported a full withdrawal from Afghanistan since at least 2011, when she worked on a withdrawal bill with then Senator Barbara Boxer and wrote a letter to Secretaries Gates and Clinton, asking for a firm commitment that U.S. troops would be out “no later than 2014.”

Gillibrand cosponsored the Anti-Israel Boycott Act in 2017 but later withdrew her cosponsorship when pushed by grassroots opponents and the ACLU, and she voted against S.1, which included similar provisions, in January 2019.  She has spoken favorably of Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea. Originally a Blue Dog Democrat from rural upstate New York in the House, she has become more liberal as a Senator for New York state and now, as a presidential candidate.

Cory Booker

Senator Booker has voted for 16 out of 19 military spending bills in the Senate.  He also describes himself as a “staunch advocate for a strengthened relationship with Israel,” and he cosponsored the Senate bill condemning the UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements in 2016.  He was an original cosponsor of a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran in December 2013, before eventually voting for the nuclear agreement in 2015.

Like Warren, Booker was one of the first five cosponsors of Sanders’ Yemen War Powers bill, and he has an 86% Peace Action voting record.  But despite serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee, he has not taken a public position for ending America’s wars or cutting its record military spending.  His record of voting for 84% of military spending bills suggests he would not make major cuts.  Booker was not up for reelection in 2018, but received $50,078 in “defense” industry contributions for the 2018 election cycle.

Amy Klobuchar

Senator Klobuchar is the most unapologetic hawk of the senators in the race.  She has voted for all but one, or 95%, of the military spending bills since 2013.  She has only voted as requested by Peace Action 69% of the time, the lowest among senators running for president.  Klobuchar supported the U.S-NATO-led regime change war in Libya in 2011, and her public statements suggest that her main condition for the U.S. use of military force anywhere is that U.S. allies also take part, as in Libya.

In January 2019, Klobuchar was the only presidential candidate who voted for S.1, a bill to reauthorize U.S. military aid to Israel that also included an anti-BDS provision to allow U.S. state and local governments to divest from companies that boycott Israel.  She is the only Democratic presidential candidate in the Senate who did not cosponsor Sanders’ Yemen War Powers bill in 2018, but she did cosponsor and vote for it in 2019. Klobuchar received $17,704 in “defense” industry contributions for her 2018 reelection campaign.

Beto O’Rourke

Former Congressmember O’Rourke voted for 20 out of 29 military spending bills (69%) since 2013, and had an 84% Peace Action voting record.  Most of the votes Peace Action counted against him were votes opposing specific cuts in the military budget.  Like Tulsi Gabbard, he voted for an 11th aircraft-carrier in 2015, and against an overall 1% cut in the military budget in 2016. He voted against reducing the number of U.S. troops in Europe in 2013 and he twice voted against placing limits on a Navy slush fund.  O’Rourke was a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and he took in $111,210 from the “defense” industry for his Senate campaign, more than any other Democratic presidential candidate.

Despite an obvious affinity with military-industrial interests, of which there are many throughout Texas, O’Rourke has not highlighted foreign or military policy in his Senate or presidential campaigns, suggesting that this is something he would like to downplay. In Congress, he was a member of the corporate New Democrat Coalition that progressives see as a tool of plutocratic and corporate interests.

John Delaney

Former Congressmember Delaney provides an alternative to Senator Klobuchar at the hawkish end of the spectrum, after voting for 25 out of 28 military spending bills since 2013, and earning a 53% Peace Action voting record.  He took in $23,500 from“Defense” interests for his last Congressional campaign, and, like O’Rourke and Inslee, he was a member of the corporate New Democrat Coalition.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington State, served in Congress from 1993-1995 and from 1999-2012.  Inslee was a strong opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq, and introduced a bill to impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez for approving torture by U.S. forces.  Like O’Rourke and Delaney, Inslee was a member of the New Democrat Coalition of corporate Democrats, but also a strong voice for action on climate change. In his 2010 reelection campaign, he took in $27,250 in “defense” industry contributions. Inslee’’s campaign is very focused on climate change, and his campaign website so far does not mention foreign or military policy at all.

Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang

These two candidates from outside the world of politics both bring refreshing ideas to the presidential contest. Spiritual teacher Williamson believes, “Our country’s way of dealing with security issues is obsolete. We cannot simply rely on brute force to rid ourselves of international enemies.”  She recognizes that, on the contrary, the U.S. militarized foreign policy creates enemies, and our huge military budget “simply increase(s) the coffers of the military-industrial complex.” She writes, “The only way to make peace with your neighbors is to make peace with your neighbors.”

Williamson proposes a 10 or 20 year plan to transform our wartime economy into a “peace-time economy.” “”From massive investment in the development of clean energy, to the retrofitting of our buildings and bridges, to the building of new schools and the creation of a green manufacturing base,” she writes, “it is time to release this powerful sector of American genius to the work of promoting life instead of death.”

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang  promises to “bring our military spending under control,” to “make it harder for the U.S. to get involved in foreign engagements with no clear goal,” and to “reinvest in diplomacy.”  He believes that much of the military budget “is focused on defending against threats from decades ago as opposed to the threats of 2020.” But he defines all these problems in terms of foreign “threats” and U.S. military responses to them, failing to recognize that U.S. militarism is itself a serious threat to many of our neighbors.    

Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg and John Hickenlooper

Neither Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg nor John Hickenlooper mention foreign or military policy on their campaign websites at all.

Joe Biden

Although Biden has yet to throw his hat into the ring, he is already making videos and speeches trying to tout his foreign policy expertise. Biden has been engaged in foreign policy since he won a Senate seat in 1972, eventually chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for four years, and becoming Obama’s vice president. Echoing traditional mainstream Democratic rhetoric, he accuses Trump of abandoning U.S. global leadership and wants to see the U.S. regain its place as the “indispensable leaderof the free world.”

Biden presents himself as a pragmatist, saying that he opposed the Vietnam War not because he considered it immoral but because he thought it wouldn’t work. Biden at first endorsed full-scale nation-building in Afghanistan but when he saw it wasn’t working, he changed his mind, arguing that the U.S. military should destroy Al Qaeda and then leave.  As vice president, he was a lonely voice in the Cabinet opposing Obama’s escalation of the war in 2009. 

Regarding Iraq, however, he was a hawk. He repeated false intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and was seeking nuclear weapons, and therefore was a threat that had to be “eliminated.” He later called his vote for the 2003 invasion a “mistake.”

Biden is a self-described Zionist. He has stated that the Democrats’ support for Israel “comes from our gut, moves through our heart, and ends up in our head. It’s almost genetic.”

There is one issue, however, where he would disagree with the present Israeli government, and that is on Iran. He wrote that “War with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster,” and he supported Obama’s entry into the Iran nuclear agreement. He would therefore likely support re-entering it if he were president.

While Biden emphasizes diplomacy, he favors the NATO alliance so that “when we have to fight, we are not fighting alone.” He ignores that NATO outlived its original Cold War purpose and has perpetuated and expanded its ambitions on a global scale since the 1990s – and that this has predictably ignited a new Cold War with Russia and China.

Despite paying lip service to international law and diplomacy, Biden sponsored the McCain-Biden Kosovo Resolution, which authorized the U.S. to lead the NATO assault on Yugoslavia and invasion of Kosovo in 1999. This was the first major war in which the U.S. and NATO used force in violation of the UN Charter in the post-Cold War era, establishing the dangerous precedent that led to all our post-9/11 wars. 

Like many other corporate Democrats, Biden champions a misleadingly benign view of the dangerous and destructive role the U.S. has played in the world over the past 20 years, under the Democratic administration in which he served as vice-president as well as under Republican ones.  

Biden might support slight cuts in the Pentagon budget, but he is not likely to challenge the military-industrial complex he has served for so long in any significant way. He does, however, know the trauma of war firsthand, connecting his son’s exposure to military burn pits while serving in Iraq and Kosovo to his fatal brain cancer, which might make him think twice about launching new wars.

On the other hand, Biden’s long experience and skill as an advocate for the military-industrial complex and a militarized U.S. foreign policy suggest that those influences might well outweigh even his own personal tragedy if he is elected president and faced with critical choices between war and peace. 

Conclusion

The United States has been at war for over 17 years, and we are spending most of our national tax revenues to pay for these wars and the forces and weapons to wage them.  It would be foolish to think that presidential candidates who have little or nothing to say about this state of affairs will, out of the blue, come up with a brilliant plan to reverse course once we install them in the White House. It is especially disturbing that Gillibrand and O’Rourke, the two candidates most beholden to the military-industrial complex for campaign funding in 2018, are eerily quiet on these urgent questions.

But even the candidates who are vowing to tackle this crisis of militarism are doing so in ways that leave serious questions unanswered.  Not one of them has said how much they would cut the record military budget that makes these wars possible – and thus almost inevitable.

In 1989, at the end of the Cold War, former Pentagon officials Robert McNamara and Larry Korb told the Senate Budget Committee that the U.S. military budget could safely be cut by 50% over the next 10 years. That obviously never happened, and our military spending under Bush II, Obama and Trump has outstripped the peak spending of the Cold War arms race.

In 2010, Barney Frank and three colleagues from both parties convened a Sustainable Defense Task Force that recommended a 25% cut in military spending.  The Green Party has endorsed a 50% cut in today’s military budget. That sounds radical, but, because inflation-adjusted spending is now higher than in 1989, that would still leave us with a larger military budget than MacNamara and Korb called for in 1989.

Presidential campaigns are key moments for raising these issues. We are greatly encouraged by Tulsi Gabbard’s courageous decision to place solving the crisis of war and militarism at the heart of her presidential campaign. We thank Bernie Sanders for voting against the obscenely bloated military budget year after year, and for identifying the military-industrial complex as one of the most powerful interest groups that his political revolution must confront. We applaud Elizabeth Warren for condemning “the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy.”  And we welcome Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang and other original voices to this debate.

But we need to hear a much more vigorous debate about war and peace in this campaign, with more specific plans from all the candidates. This vicious cycle of U.S. wars, militarism and runaway military spending drains our resources, corrupts our national priorities and undermines international cooperation, including on the existential dangers of climate change and nuclear weapons proliferation, which no country can solve on its own.

We are calling for this debate most of all because we mourn the millions of people being killed by our country’s wars and we want the killing to stop. If you have other priorities, we understand and respect that. But unless and until we address militarism and all the money it sucks out of our national coffers, it may well prove impossible to solve the other very serious problems facing the United States and the world in the 21st century.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Top Oil Firms Spending Millions Lobbying to Block Climate Change Policies

March 29th, 2019 - by Sandra Laville / The Guardian

Ad campaigns hide investment in a huge expansion of oil and gas extraction

Shutterstock

 (March 21, 2019) — The largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153 million) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change, according to a new report.

Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil were the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming, the report said.

Increasingly they are using social media to successfully push their agenda to weaken and oppose any meaningful legislation to tackle global warming.

In the run-up to the US midterm elections last year $2 milliion was spent on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads by global oil giants and their industry bodies, promoting the benefits of increased fossil fuel production, according to the report published on Friday by InfluenceMap.

Separately, BP donated $13m to a campaign, also supported by Chevron, that successfully stopped a carbon tax in Washington state —$1 million of which was spent on social media ads, the research shows.

Edward Collins, the report’s author, analysed corporate spending on lobbying, briefing and advertising, and assessed what proportion was dedicated to climate issues.

He said: “Oil majors’ climate branding sounds increasingly hollow and their credibility is on the line. They publicly support climate action while lobbying against binding policy. They advocate low-carbon solutions but such investments are dwarfed by spending on expanding their fossil fuel business.”

After the Paris climate agreement in 2015 the large integrated oil and gas companies said they supported a price on carbon and formed groups like the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which promote voluntary measures.

But, the report states, there is a glaring gap between their words and their actions.

The five publicly listed oil majors —ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total —now spend about $195 million a year on branding campaigns suggesting they support action against climate change.

But the report said these campaigns were misleading the public about the extent of the oil companies’ actions because while publicly endorsing the need to act, they are massively increasing investment in a huge expansion of oil and gas extraction. In 2019 their spending will increase to $115 billion, with just 3% of that directed at low carbon projects.

Shell said in a statement: “We firmly reject the premise of this report. We are very clear about our support for the Paris agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy.

“We make no apology for talking to policymakers and regulators around the world to make our voice heard on crucial topics such as climate change and how to address it.”

Chevron said it disagreed with the report’s findings. “Chevron is taking prudent, cost-effective actions and is committed to working with policymakers to design balanced and transparent greenhouse gas emissions reductions policies that address environmental goals and ensure consumers have access to affordable, reliable and ever cleaner energy.”

The successful lobbying and direct opposition to policy measures to tackle global warming have hindered governments globally in their efforts to implement policies after the Paris agreement to meet climate targets and keep warming below 1.5C.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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