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Pay Your Taxes, Go to Gitmo?

April 15th, 2019 - by Gar Smith / War Is A Crime & Truthout
ICE deports California taxi driver Ahmed Taalil Mohamud for allegedly sending 15 wire transfers to an address in Somalia.

Does Paying U.S. Taxes Violate a Law Against Providing Aid and Support to Terrorist Organizations?

BERKELEY, Calif. (April 17, 2014) — I have just finished mailing my 1040. This year, I didn’t owe taxes and, boy, am I relieved. Not because I can’t afford to cut a check, it’s just that I don’t want to spend the next six years in a federal prison for violating the provisions of US Code Title 18 — Crimes and Criminal Procedures.

That’s exactly what happened to Ahmed Taalil Mohamud, a cab driver in Anaheim, California, who was sentenced to six years in prison for—as the Associated Press put it—“funneling thousands of dollars to a terrorist organization” in Somalia.

Mohamud was one of four Somali immigrants convicted of sending nearly $11,000 to al-Shabab, a militant group linked to Al Qaeda. The other co-conspirators received prison sentences ranging between 10 and 18 years.

The Somalis ran afoul of Title 18 — specifically Article 2339C, which sets forth “Prohibitions against the financing of terrorism.”

This law stipulates that it is a crime to collect funds with the intention or knowledge that such funds might be used to carry out any “act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed combat, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

Title 18’s Article 2339B further states that: “whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”

Any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian” — that stands as a perfectly legitimate definition of terrorism. President Barack Obama offered an equally straightforward definition of terrorism on the eve of the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings when he stated: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.”

My concern is that my government has a long and abiding history of engaging in acts that clearly meet all-of-the-above definitions of terrorism.

A Long, Proud History of Bombing Civilians

US bombs have been killing civilians in great numbers ever since the end of WWII when the detonation of a single bomb over the city of Hiroshima incinerated 220,000 men, women and children.

By 1968, US bombs and bullets had killed an estimated 300,000 civilians in Vietnam.

Between 1969 and 1973, America’s secret bombing raids over Cambodia may have killed as many as 150,000 civilians.

On February 13, 1991, more than 408 civilians were blown to bits in an aerial attack on the Amiriyah shelter (aka “Public Shelter No. 25”) in Iraq. The attack was carried out by the US Air Force, using two laser-guided “smart bombs.”

In Operation Allied Force, the US-led assault on Kosovo, Human Rights Watch documented 528 civilians killed in 90 different incidents.

The devastating US siege of Fallujah is believed to have killed at least 800 Iraqi civilians.

The 1989 US bombing of Panama City — Operation Just Cause — left a sprawling barrio in flames, 10,000 homeless and as many as 4,000 civilians dead

In the process of enforcing a “no-fly zone” over Libya — ostensibly “to protect civilians” — US and allied bombs left “at least 72” civilians dead.

In Afghanistan, between October 2001 and March 2002, US bombs and drones claimed the lives of 3,000 – 3,400 civilians.

On April 1, 2003, a US nighttime air attack on a residential district in the town of Hilla killed at least 11 Iraqi civilians, mostly children.

On June 18, 2004, Washington’s first known drone strike inside Pakistankilled 5-8 people, including two children.

In a pre-dawn attack on October 30, 2006, three missiles fired by a US Predator drone slammed into a madrassa in Chenagai village, killing 80 Afghan students and teachers sleeping in the seminary.

In June 2007, seven children were killed in a US air strike on a mosque and religious school in eastern Afghanistan.

On November 3, 2008, a US airstrike on a wedding party in Wech Baghtu, Afghanistan, killed 26 “insurgents” — and 37 civilians, largely women and children.

In 2009, more than half of the 131 children killed in Afghanistan were victims of US/NATO air strikes.

In March 2011, a CIA drone attack killed scores of Pakistanis — mainly civilians and tribal elders — as they gathered to discuss a local land dispute. “Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that jirga,” Brig. Abdullah Dogar told the London Sunday Times, “but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?”

As of August 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism determined, 2,292 Pakistanis had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians — 168 of whom were children.

Between June 2011 and January 12, 2013, the US had conducted at least 23 air attacks inside Somalia, nine of which involved drones. Investigations by journalists determined that between 58 to 170 people were killed in these attacks, including 11 to 57 civilians and 3 children.

In the last week of November 2013, a “botched NATO drone attack” in Afghanistan killed three civilians, one of them a two-year-old toddler.

In December 2013, a US drone killed 15 civilians in Yemen as they were driving to a wedding party.

In April 2014, Time magazine (citing a 2013 report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) reported “US drone attacks have killed an estimated 900 civilians in Pakistan since 2004.” The latest BIJ figures list 383 drone strikes (87 percent authorized by Barack Obama) with as many as 957 civilians and 202 children killed.

No wonder that, in an April 10 interview with Salon, former President Jimmy Carter observed: “The rest of the world, almost unanimously, looks at America as the No. 1 warmonger.

And the White House has not done the country any favors by lowering its terrorism bar. Only a few days after the murder of a two-year-old child inflamed Afghan anger against the US, the White House radically revised its rules of engagement. The previous standard required that the US military was to “ensure” that civilians were not targeted. Now, troops are merely advised to “avoid targeting” civilians. Civilian deaths are now acceptable. The only limitation is that they “must not be excessive” — a slippery word that is open to interpretation.

www.conscienceonline.org

A US Taxpayer’s Liability

According to the “jurisdiction” section of article 2339C, the potential targets of the law are not limited to immigrant cabdrivers. American citizens are also placed in the legal crosshairs. The law makes it clear that its enforcement also applies when “a perpetrator is a national of United States.”

What kind of crimes are we talking about? They can include assaults against a government building, acts directed against “any person or property within the US,” or any offense “committed onboard” an aircraft registered under US law or a vessel flying the US flag. Taking a cue from the USA PATRIOT Act, the law criminalizes any “predicate act committed in an attempt to compel United States to do or abstain from doing any act.” This would seem to include everything from firebombing the Pentagon to staging vigils at US military bases or holding mass rallies in the Capital Mall.

The penalties for violating this law are severe, including fines and imprisonment “for not more than 20 years, or both.” And the Department of Justice is not even required to prove that funds volunteered by a would-be terrorist — or taxpayer — were actually used to finance, support or provoke some proscribed act. As Article 2339C clearly stipulates: “[F]or an act to constitute an offense set forth in this subsection, it shall not be necessary that the funds were actually used to carry out a predicate act.”

“Prohibited activities” include knowingly providing material support or resources. Individuals or financial institutions found to have “possessed or controlled funds used by any designated terrorist organizations” are liable to a fine of $50,000 or imprisonment “for not more than 15 years or both.” If someone is killed as a result of the “predicate act,” US law requires a life sentence.

According to US Code, Article 2339B: “A person must have knowledge that the organization is designated terrorist organization. . . , that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity. . . or that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism.”

In light of this definition, a taxpayer’s only defense against a charge of complicity in supporting state-sponsored terrorism would be to claim total ignorance of the Pentagon’s long history of collateral damage and civilian carnage. But, given the state of the US media and education, such claims might prove persuasive in a court of law.

Article 2339B contains a curious escape clause. “No person may be prosecuted under this section . . . if the provision of that materiel support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization was approved by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Attorney General.” Article 2339B then seems to double back on itself by adding: “the Secretary of State may not approve the provision of any material support that may be used to carry out terrorist activity.”

Article 2339B provides a possible loophole for taxpayers who fear being prosecuted under to Article 2339C when it states “whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreignterrorist organization . . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both . . . .” [Emphasis added.]

Meanwhile, even the government itself has not been able to avoid violating its own laws. According to “Contracting with the Enemy,” an April 2014 report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, taxpayer money is already being used to finance terrorism in Afghanistan.

In 2013, $1.7 million worth of tax dollars were handed over to 9,733 Afghan contractors but, because of the way law is written, 80 percent of these contracts were granted without scrutiny. As a result, the report notes, “millions of contracting dollars could be diverted to forces seeking to harm US Military and civilian personnel.”

So the Pentagon is not only perpetrating acts of terror against civilians from the Middle East to Panama; it is now in the position of financing terrorism against itself.

Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, a Project Censored award-winning investigative journalist, and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War. He has covered revolutions in Central America and has engaged in environmental campaigns on three continents and currently serves on the Coordinating Council of World BEYOND War. He is the author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) and The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books, 2017).

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

Moving Money for a Nuclear-Free and Eco- Friendly World

April 15th, 2019 - by Jamshed Baruah / InDepthNews

GENEVA | BASEL (April 11, 2019)—While Fridays for Future protests underline a global dissatisfaction with the continuing failure of governments and industry to protect the climate, the setting of the Doomsday Clock hands to 2 minutes to midnight in January 2019 signifies a continuing high risk of a nuclear clash with disastrous consequences for human beings and the planet Earth. 

But devastating climate change and the risk of a nuclear war will not be prevented unless the international community tackles the economic and political influence of the fossil fuel and nuclear weapons industries: this is the crux of the message expected to emerge from an international conference organized by the Basel Peace Office and taking place in Basel, Switzerland on April 12-13, 2019.

“Companies manufacturing nuclear weapons and producing fossil fuels are making billions—if not trillions—of dollars fostering a nuclear arms race and destroying the climate,” explains Australia’s Dr. Keith Suter the logic behind the conference titled Move the Nuclear Weapons Money. He is Economics Futurist and member of the Club of Rome.

Dr. Suter adds: “They have vested financial interests in producing more and more nuclear weapons and in preventing a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and they exert intense political power on decision makers to protect these interests. We must shift the economic incentives from destroying the planet to instead support peace and the environment.”

The conference is part of the move the nuclear weapons money campaign which is gaining traction around the world, says a press release. “Already a number of sovereign wealth (national government) funds, pension funds, city and state funds, banks, universities and religious organisations have decided to end their investments in the nuclear weapons and/or fossil fuel industries,” says Thies Kätow, researcher for the World Future Council, one of the co-sponsors of the conference.

“As a portion of the trillions of dollars of global investment money, the amount divested to date is only moderate,” adds Kätow. “However, as the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel divestment campaigns grow, their political impact could be as powerful as the divestment campaign against South Africa in the late 20th Century, which was a critical factor in moving the South African government to end apartheid in 1994.”

Legislators including mayors, city councillors and parliamentarians, financial managers, civil society representatives and experts in disarmament and climate change are attending the conference, which is focusing on socially responsible investment (SRI) as a powerful tool to shift this economic and political power.

SRI includes divestment, that is, ending investments in nuclear weapons and fossil fuels, and re-investing in sustainability also described as impact investment.

“Most of us are currently supporting fossil fuels and nuclear weapons through investments made in these industries on our behalf by our governments, cities, universities, religious organisations, banks or pension funds,” says Professor (em) Andreas Nidecker MD, President of the Basel Peace Office. “We can each make a difference by calling on them to end these investments.”

“Through divestment, we can put pressure on the industries to change,” says Dr. Ute Finckh-Krämer, Council Member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and former Deputy Chair of the German Parliament Subcommittee on Disarmament and Arms Control.

“Such action highlights the immorality (and stupidity) of making vast profits on the destruction of the planet. It also gives support to legislators who are trying to adopt and implement policies for nuclear disarmament and climate protection,” adds Dr. Finckh-Krämer in a press release.

“Impact investment is the other side of the Socially Responsible Investment coin,” says Professor Laurent Goetschel, Executive Director of swisspeace. “By focusing investments on economic enterprises which support sustainable development, investors can benefit from stable returns as well as the satisfaction that their investment funds are being used for the improvement of human lives and the environment. It’s a win-win for all and should be a guiding principle, at least for all public investment funds.”

The significance of the conference is highlighted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ warning in the letter on June 30, 2018 to member states and the UN staff that the world body is $140 million short of its budget and could run out of cash, due to late and non-payment of UN dues by member states.

The Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out then that the cost to extend the lifetime of each U.S. Trident nuclear missile is $140 million, the same amount as the UN shortfall.

“If the US retires just one Trident nuclear missile from their arsenal, the money saved could be used to wipe out the current UN deficit,” said Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and Co-founder of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money.

“Better yet, if all the nuclear armed States abandoned their plans to upgrade current nuclear weapons and build new weapons and delivery systems, nearly $100 billion could be saved. This could then re-directed into the economy for job creation, climate protection, education, health, peace, diplomacy and sustainable security,” added Ware then.

Image: Reversing the financial interests in fossil fuels and the nuclear arms race. Credit: nuclearweaponsmoney.org

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

International Conference: Move the Nuclear Weapons Money

An international conference on divestment and other actions to reverse the nuclear arms race and protect the climate

BASEL, Switzerland (April 12-13, 2019) — Nuclear weapons and climate change create existential threats to humanity and the environment. Federal governments have committed to eliminating both threats—nuclear weapons through the disarmament obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and climate change through the Paris Agreement. However, implementation of these obligations is being prevented by institutional inertia and vested financial interests in the status quo, especially from the fossil fuel and nuclear weapons industries.

Corporations involved in the nuclear weapons industry, for example, actively lobby their parliaments and governments to allocate even more funds to nuclear weapons. And they support think tanks and other public relations initiatives to promote the ‘need’ for nuclear weapons to be maintained, modernized and deployed.

Basel Peace Office has joined with other partners in launching Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global initiative to cut nuclear weapons budgets and investments, and reinvest these in climate protection, peace and key areas of a sustainable economy, such as education, renewable energy, health, job creation and sustainable development.

One of the most effective tools for non-nuclear governments, cities, universities and civil society is nuclear weapons divestment. Such action puts economic and political pressure on corporations to abandon their involvement in the nuclear weapons industry or convert such production to civilian purposes.  Similar divestment from the fossil fuel industry can assist in cutting carbon use and supporting renewable energy.

Already several governments, cities, religious institutions and universities in Europe, USA and globally have adopted nuclear weapons and or fossil fuel divestment policies. These include the Swiss War Materials Act of 2012, Berlin city policy on non-investment in armed warfare, Göttingen University policy of non-investment in fossil fuels or nuclear weapons, Cambridge MA city policy of divesting from nuclear weapons, and the UK Quaker meetings divestment from fossil fuels.

Additional impetus for nuclear weapons divestment comes from the 1996 International Court of Justice opinion on nuclear weapons, United Nations adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017 and the UN Human Rights Committee affirmation in October 2018 that nuclear weapons violate the Right to Life as codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This conference will bring together legislators (mayors, city councilors and parliamentarians), financial managers, and experts in disarmament and climate change to examine successful divestment policies and support their expansion and replication. The conference will also address impact investment and build cooperation to advance related nuclear disarmament policies.

The conference will build upon previous Basel events including a European Regional Meeting of Mayors for Peace and PNND held in January 2019, the 2019 Basel Peace Forum which focused on impact investment, and an international conference in Basel in September 2017 on Human Rights, Future Generations and Crimes in the Nuclear Age.

Participants

Mayors, city officials, parliamentarians, financial managers, policy analysts, experts in nuclear disarmament and climate change, university students and nuclear disarmament campaigners from Europe and North America, with a focus on Switzerland, Germany and France.

Conference format

The conference will consist of six sessions, two on the afternoon of Friday April 12 and four on Saturday April 13. The Friday sessions will be public and consist of presentations followed by Q&A from the audience. The Saturday sessions will be restricted to conference participants and will be in seminar workshop format.

Confirmed Speakers Include

Lukas Ott, Head of Cantonal and City Development Unit, Basel-Stadt Kanton President’s Department;

General (ret) Bernard Norlain, Former Air Defense Commander (France), Vice-President of Initiatives pour le désarmement nucléaire

Cllr Audrey Doig, Member of the Renfrewshire City Council, Vice Chair of Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Scotland;

Fabian Hamilton MP, UK Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament;

Serge Stroobants, Director of European Operations for the Institute for Economics and Peace and the Global Peace Index;

Robert SmithICV Investment Group;

Rudolf Rechsteiner, President Ethos Foundation;

Nishant Malapatti, Financial adviser for Blackrock USA;

Margret Kiener Nellen MP, Head of Swiss delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly;

Bärbel Höhn MP, Chair of the Global Renewables Congress;

Maaike Beenes, Program officer at PAX Netherlands and researcher for Don’t Bank on the Bomb;

Chayley Collis, Member of Huddersfield Quakers UK;

Marc Finaud, Senior Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy;

Ute Finckh-Kraemer, former Vice-Chair, Bundestag Subcommittee on Disarmament and Arms Control;

Laurent Goeschel, Executive Director of Swisspeace;

Andreas Nidecker MD, President of the Basel Peace Office, Board Member of Swiss Physicians for Social Responsibility;

Quique Sánchez, Project Manager at Centre Delàs, Coordination team member for the Global Campaign on Military Spending;

Jürgen Grässlin, Spokesman of the campaign Crying out loud—Stop Weapons Exports!, of the German Peace Society (DFG-VK);

Keith Suter, Member Club of Rome. Foreign Affairs Editor, TV Channel 7 “The Morning Show” (Australia);

Daniel Rietiker, Lecturer in International Law at the University of Lausanne, President of the Association of Swiss Lawyers for Nuclear Disarmament.

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

A $350 Billion Defense Department Would Keep Us Safer Than a $700 Billion War Machine

April 15th, 2019 - by Nicolas J. S. Davies / AntiWar.com

(April 15, 2019) — The U.S. Congress has begun debate on the FY2020 military budget. The FY2019 budget for the US Department of Defense is $695 billion dollars. President Trump’s budget request for FY 2020 would increase it to $718 billion.

Spending by other federal Departments adds over $200 billion to the total “national security” budget ($93 billion to Veterans’ Affairs; $16.5 billion to the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons; $43 billion to the State Department; and $52 billion to the Dept. of Homeland Security).

These sums don’t include the interest on US debts incurred to fund past wars and military buildups, which boost the real cost of the US Military-Industrial Complex to well over a trillion dollars per year.

Depending which of these sums one counts as military spending, they already eat up between 53% and 66% of federal discretionary spending (interest payments are not part of this calculation because they are not discretionary), leaving only a third of discretionary spending for everything else.

At the April 4th NATO summit in Washington, the US pressed its NATO allies to increase their military spending to 2% of GDP.  But a July 2018 article by Jeff Stein in the Washington Post flipped that on its head and examined how the US could fund many of our unmet social needs by instead reducing our own military spending to 2% of GDP from its current 3.5%-4%. Stein calculated that that would release $300 billion per year for other national priorities, and he explored some of the ways those funds could be used, from balancing the federal budget to eliminating child poverty and homelessness.

Perhaps to create an illusion of balance, Jeff Stein quoted Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, who tried to pour cold water on his idea. “It’s not just a matter of buying fewer bombs,” Riedl told him. “The United States spends $100,000 per troop on compensation – such as salaries, housing (and) healthcare.”

But Riedl was being disingenuous. Only one eighth of the post-Cold War increase in US military spending is for pay and benefits for US troops. Since US military spending bottomed out in 1998 after the end of the Cold war, inflation-adjusted “Personnel” costs have only risen by about 30%, or $39 billion per year. But the Pentagon is spending $144.5 billion on “Procurement” of new warships, warplanes and other weapons and equipment. That is more than double what it spent in 1998, an increase of 124% or $80 billion per year. As for housing, the Pentagon has slashed funds for military family housing by over 70%, just to save $4 billion per year.

The largest category of military spending is “Operation and Maintenance,” which now accounts for $284 billion per year, or 41% of the Pentagon budget. That’s $123 billion (76%) more than in 1998. “RDT&E” (research, development, testing & evaluation) accounts for another $92 billion, a 72% or $39 billion increase over 1998. (All these figures are inflation-adjusted, using the Pentagon’s own “constant dollar” amounts from the FY2019 DOD Green Book.) So net increases in personnel costs, including family housing, account for only $35 billion, one eighth of the $278 billion per year rise in military spending since 1998.

A major factor in rising costs at the Pentagon, especially in the most expensive “Operation and Maintenance” portion of the budget, has been the policy of contracting out functions traditionally performed by military personnel to for-profit corporate “contractors.” This outsourcing drive has been an unprecedented gravy train for hundreds of for-profit corporations.

A 2018 study by the Congressional Research Service found that an incredible $380 billion of the $605 billion FY2017 Pentagon base budget ended up in the coffers of corporate contractors. The portion of the “Operation and Maintenance” budget that is contracted out has grown from about 40% in 1999 to 57% of today’s much larger budget – a bigger share of a much larger pie.

The largest US weapons makers have developed, lobbied for and now profit enormously from this new business model. In their book, Top Secret America, Dana Priest and William Arkin revealed how General Dynamics, founded and headed for most of its history by Barack Obama’s patrons, the Crown family of Chicago, has exploited this outsourcing surge to become the largest supplier of IT services to the US government.

Priest and Arkin described how Pentagon contractors like General Dynamics have evolved from simply manufacturing weapons to playing an integrated role in military operations, targeted killings and the new surveillance state. “The evolution of General Dynamics was based on one simple strategy,” they wrote: “Follow the money.”

Priest and Arkin revealed that the largest weapons makers have secured the lions’ share of the most lucrative new contracts. “Of the 1,900 or so companies working on top secret contracts in mid-2010, roughly 90 percent of the work was done by 6% (110) of them,” Priest and Arkin explained. “To understand how these firms have come to dominate the post-9/11 era, there’s no place better to look than…General Dynamics.”

Trump’s choice of General Dynamics board member General James Mattis as his first Defense Secretary personified the revolving door between the upper echelons of the armed forces, weapons manufacturers and the civilian branches of government that fuels this corrupt system of corporate militarism. This is exactly what President Eisenhower warned the American public against in his farewell speech in 1960, when he coined the term “Military-Industrial Complex.”

What To Do?

By contrast with Riedl, William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told the Washington Post that the substantial cuts in military spending Jeff Stein was considering were not unreasonable. “I think it’s very reasonable in terms of still defending the country,” said Hartung, “Though you would need a strategy to do it.”

Such a strategy would have to start from a clear-eyed analysis of the 67%, or $278 billion per year, inflation-adjusted increase in military spending between 1998 and 2019.

– How much of this increase is the result of US leaders’ decisions to wage disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen?

– And how much is the result of military-industrial interests leveraging this state of war to cash in on wish-lists of expensive new warships, warplanes and other weapons systems and the corrupt gravy train of corporate outsourcing I have already described?

The bipartisan 2010 Sustainable Defense Task Force convened by Congressman Barney Frank in 2010 answered these questions for the period 2001-2010, concluding that only 43% of military spending increases were related to the wars US forces were actually fighting, while 57% were not related to current wars.

Since 2010, while the US has continued and even expanded its air wars and covert operations, it has brought home most of its occupation forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, handing over bases and ground combat operations to local proxy forces. The FY2010 Pentagon budget was $801.5 billion, only a few billion shy of Bush’s $806 billion FY2008 budget, a post-WW II record. But in 2019, US military spending is only $106 billion (or 13%) lower than in 2010.

A breakdown of the small cuts since 2010 makes it clear that an even higher proportion of today’s military spending is non-war-related. While Operation and Maintenance costs have dropped by 15.5% and Military Construction costs have shrunk by 62.5%, the Pentagon’s budget for Procurement and RDT&E has only been cut by 4.5% since the 2010 peak of Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan. (Once again, these figures are all in “FY2019 Constant Dollars” from the Pentagon’s DOD Green Book.)

So large amounts of money can be cut from the military budget just by seriously applying the discipline on which the military prides itself to the way it spends our country’s money. The Pentagon has already determined it should close 22% of its military bases in the US and around the world, but the trillions of dollars with which Trump and Congress keep flooding its accounts have persuaded it to put off closing hundreds of redundant bases.

But reforming US military and foreign policy requires more than just closing redundant bases and fighting rampant waste, fraud and abuse. After 20 years of war, it is way past time to admit that the aggressive militarism that the US adopted to exploit its position as a “sole superpower” after the end of the Cold War, and then to respond to the crimes of September 11th, has been a catastrophic and bloody failure, making the world much more dangerous without making Americans any safer.

So the US also faces an urgent foreign policy imperative for a new commitment to international cooperation, diplomacy and the rule of international law. The US’s illegal reliance on the threat and use of force as our country’s main foreign policy tool is a greater threat to the whole world than any of the countries the US has attacked since 2001 ever were to the United States.

But whether the Military-Industrial Complex uses our nation’s resources to fight catastrophic wars or just to line its own pockets, maintaining a trillion-dollar war machine that costs more than the seven to ten next largest militaries in the world put together creates an ever-present danger. Like Madeleine Albright on the Clinton transition team in 1992, new US administrations come into office asking, “What’s the good of having this wonderful military you’re always talking about if we’re not allowed to use it?”

So the very existence of this war machine and the rationales conjured up to justify it become self-fulfilling, leading to the dangerous illusion that the US can and therefore should try to impose its political will by force on other countries and people around the world.

A Progressive Foreign Policy

So what would an alternative, progressive US foreign policy look like?

  • If the United States were to comply with the renunciation of war as an “instrument of national policy” in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact and the prohibition against the threat or use of force in the UN Charter, what kind of Department of Defense would we actually need? The answer is self-evident: a Department of Defense.
  • If the US was committed to serious diplomacy with Russia, China and other nuclear-armed nations to gradually dismantle our nuclear arsenals, as they already agreed to in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), how quickly could the US join the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), to eliminate the greatest existential threat facing us all? This answer is also self-evident: the sooner the better.
  • Once we no longer wield our military forces and weapons to threaten illegal aggression against other countries, which of our budget-busting weapons systems can we manufacture and maintain in much smaller numbers? And which can we do without altogether? These questions would require some detailed and hard-nosed analysis, but they must be asked — and answered.

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies made a good start on answering some of these questions at the underlying policy level in an August 2018 article in In These Times titled, “A Bold Foreign Policy Platform for the New Wave of Left Lawmakers.” Bennis wrote that,

“A progressive foreign policy must reject US military and economic domination and instead be grounded in global cooperation, human rights, respect for international law and privileging diplomacy over war.”

Bennis proposed:

  • Serious diplomacy for peace and disarmament with Russia, China, North Korea and Iran;
  • Abolishing NATO as an obsolete and dangerous relic of the Cold War;
  • Ending the self-fulfilling cycle of violence and chaos unleashed by the US’s militarized “War on Terror”;
  • Ending US military aid and unconditional diplomatic support for Israel;
  • Ending US military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen;
  • Ending US threats and economic sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Venezuela;
  • Reversing the creeping militarization of US relations with Africa and Latin America.

Even without a progressive policy platform that would transform the U.S.’s existing aggressive military posture, Barney Frank’s 2010 Sustainable Defense Task Force proposed cuts of about a trillion dollars over ten years. The main details of its recommendations were:

  • Reduce US nuclear posture to 1,000 nuclear warheads on 7 submarines and 160 Minuteman missiles;
  • Reduce overall troop strength by 50,000 (with partial withdrawals from Asia and Europe);
  • A 230 ship navy, with 9 “big-deck” aircraft carriers (we now have 11, plus 2 under construction and 2 more on order, plus 9 smaller amphibious assault ships or helicopter carriers);
  • Two fewer Air Force wings;
  • Buy less costly alternatives to the F-35 fighter, MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff plane, Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and KC-X air tanker;
  • Reform top-heavy military command structures (one general or admiral per 1,500 troops in 2019);
  • Reform the military healthcare system.

So how much more could we cut from the bloated military budget in the context of serious progressive reforms to US foreign policy and a new commitment to the rule of international law?

The US has designed and built a war machine to threaten and conduct offensive military operations anywhere in the world. It responds to crises, wherever they are and including ones it created itself, by declaring that “all options are on the table,” including the threat of military force. That is an illegal threat, in violation of the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force.

US officials politically justify their threats and uses of force by claiming that they are to “defend US vital interests.” But, as the U.K.’s senior legal adviser told his government during the Suez crisis in 1956, “The plea of vital interests, which has been one of the main justifications for wars in the past, is indeed the very one which the (UN) Charter was intended to exclude as a basis for armed intervention in another country.”

One country trying to impose its will on countries and people all over the world by the threat and use of force is not the rule of law — it is imperialism. Progressive policymakers and politicians should insist that the United States must live by the binding rules of international law that previous generations of US leaders and statesmen have agreed to and by which we judge other countries’ behavior. As our recent history demonstrates, the alternative is a predictable downward slide into the law of the jungle, with ever-proliferating violence and chaos in country after country.

Conclusion

First of all, eliminating our nuclear arsenal through multilateral treaties and disarmament agreements is not just possible. It is essential.

Next, how many “big-deck” nuclear-powered aircraft carriers will we need to defend our own shores, play a cooperative role in keeping the world’s shipping lanes safe and take part in legitimate UN peacekeeping missions? The answer to this question is the number we should keep and maintain, even if it is zero.

The same hard-nosed analysis must be applied to each element in the military budget, from closing bases to buying more of existing or new weapons systems. The answers to all these questions must be based on our country’s legitimate defense needs, not on any US politician or general’s ambitions to “win” illegal wars or bend other countries to their will by economic warfare and “all options are on the table” threats.

This reform of US foreign and defense policy should be conducted with one eye on a transcript of President Eisenhower’s farewell speech. We must not allow the vital transformation of the US war machine into a legitimate Department of Defense to be controlled or corrupted by the “unwarranted influence” of the Military-Industrial Complex.

As Eisenhower said, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

A legitimate Department of Defense should provide the United States with better foreign policy outcomes for no more than half the cost of our current budget-busting war machine. Every Member of Congress should therefore vote against final passage of the wasteful, corrupt and dangerous FY2020 military budget.

And as part of a progressive and legitimate reform of US foreign and defense policy, the next President of the United States, whoever he or she may be, must make it a national priority to cut US military spending by at least 50%.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, and of the chapter on “Obama At War” in Grading the 44th President. He is a researcher for CODEPINK: Women For Peace, and a freelance writer whose work has been widely published by independent, non-corporate media.

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

Historic Revolt Against Cost of Militarism Stirs US Congress

April 15th, 2019 - by Win Without War

An Unheard-of Progressive Rebellion in the Democratic Caucus

WASHINGTON, DC (April 14, 2019) —We are in an uphill battle to stop the Pentagon from gobbling up all our resources, and we need your help to fight back. Donald Trump’s team proposed increasing Pentagon spending to an inexplicable, mind-boggling 750 BILLION DOLLARS next year. And this came just weeks after he dipped into the Pentagon’s overflowing coffers to build his racist, unnecessary, hugely expensive border wall in an unconstitutional power grab.

Instead of opposing this absurd proposal, House Democrats “countered” by offering 733 BILLION DOLLARS to the Pentagon — a figure Trump’s Republican Congressional allies have called for — continuing to make funding for the war machine a priority.

Democrats control the House, which means they control the purse-strings, so why on earth would they give Trump exactly what he wants?! And that’s why it’s a HUGE deal that last week, an unheard-of rebellion in the Democratic caucus, led by progressives, beat back the obscene budget proposal.

We cracked the door open for the fight to come and showed that we won’t stay quiet for political expediency. And it wouldn’t have happened without progressives like you making a ruckus. 

But this is only the beginning and it’s going to be a uphill battle to prevent the Pentagon from gobbling up all our resources, so we need your help to fight back.

Progressives Applaud House Dems For Pulling Unworkable Budget Bill

CREDO Action, Indivisible, MoveOn, and Win Without War

WASHINGTON, DC (April 9, 2019) — CREDO Action, Indivisible, MoveOn, and Win Without War released the following statement in response to the reports that House Democratic leadership has withdrawn its budget caps-raising bill, H.R. 2021, from the floor: 

“Last week, we asked House Democrats to scrap their budget proposal which would have thrown even more money at the Pentagon’s already overflowing coffers at the expense of investing in our communities and in solutions to real global challenges like climate change. 
“We were encouraged that House progressives agreed, and we commend House leadership for ultimately pulling the bill from consideration. 

“Now that the public and the progressive movement has spoken, we urge Democratic leadership to come up with a new plan based on the realities that are facing our country, and that prioritizes human needs over an already-bloated Pentagon budget.” 

Trump’s Defense Budget Based On Greed Not Need

Win Without War

(March 11, 2019) — Win Without War Director Stephen Miles released the following statement regarding President Trump’s proposed FY2020 budget: 

“The Trump administration’s proposed $750 billion so-called defense budget is yet another disgraceful corporate giveaway that will only serve to further line the pockets of defense industry CEOs rather than making us more secure. This unprecedented spending spree at the Pentagon is based on politics and greed, not security or need.

The United States already outspends the next ten countries combined (most of which are our allies). And there’s no reason to throw more money at the Pentagon amid continued waste, fraud, and abuse, and its inability to pass a financial audit.

“In fact, the $750 billion proposal is so outlandish that it’s nearly $20 billion more than defense officials were originally asking for, and it’s more than $30 billion above the $716 billion figure Trump himself called ‘crazy’ as recently as last December.

“Instead of rewarding Pentagon corruption and waste, the White House and the Congress should set the national defense budget at or below $576 billion — the level established by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 for FY2020 — eliminate the off-books slush fund the Pentagon uses to avoid budget caps, and work towards a budget that is more aligned with the priorities of the American people, not corporate CEOs.”

House Dem Budget Plan Must be Reworked to Fund People Not War and Waste

CREDO Action, Indivisible, MoveOn and Win Without War

WASHINGTON, DC (April 4, 2019) — CREDO Action, Indivisible, MoveOn, and Win Without War released the following statement in response to the House Budget Committee markup of H.R. 2021 Investing for the People Act of 2019

“While we agree with the House Democrats in their rejection of Donald Trump’s immoral and draconian budget, the solution cannot and must not be to put even more money into an already bloated and wasteful budget for the Pentagon. 

“House Democrats appear to be accepting at face value the absurd notion that the Pentagon needs more money, when it can’t even account for what it already spends, can’t even spend the obscene amount of money Congress already appropriates, and can’t rein in waste, fraud, and abuse.

This proposal also ignores the reality that Donald Trump is using the Pentagon’s overflowing coffers to advance anti-immigrant, extremist policies including needlessly deploying thousands of U.S. military personnel to the border and building his wall. Giving Donald Trump essentially what he wants and hoping that he returns the favor is nothing more than delusion masquerading as strategy.

“House Democrats should immediately drop this plan and instead put forward a bold vision that shows what it would actually look like to invest in people and our communities through much-needed domestic programs and to deal with real global challenges like climate change. ”

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

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