REMEMBERING THE PERMANENT WAR ECONOMY

https://heartlandradical.blogspot.com/2018/11/remembering-permanent-war-economy.html

Written nearly 10 years ago…

In the Beginning

After suffering the greatest economic depression in United States history, this country participated in a war-time coalition with Great Britain and the former Soviet Union to defeat fascism in Europe and Japanese imperialism in Asia. As a result of the economic mobilization for war, the United States economy grew to become the most powerful one by war’s end. By 1945, Americans were responsible for three-fourths of the world’s invested capital and controlled two-thirds of its industrial capacity. Near the end of World War II, General Electric CEO Charles Wilson recommended that the U.S. continue the wartime partnership between the government, the corporate sector, and the military to maintain what he called a “permanent war economy.” He and others feared the possibility of return to depression.  Read the whole article.

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How America’s War-Financing Strategies Increase Social Inequality in the U.S.

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By Stephanie Savell / Tom Dispatch

In the name of the fight against terrorism, the United States is currently waging “credit-card wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Never before has this country relied so heavily on deficit spending to pay for its conflicts. The consequences are expected to be ruinous for the long-term fiscal health of the U.S., but they go far beyond the economic. Massive levels of war-related debt will have lasting repercussions of all sorts. One potentially devastating effect, a new study finds, will be more societal inequality.

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Divest From War Campaign

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Congress Keeps Funding a War Machine That the Public Should Divest From

By Medea Benjamin, Elliot Swain / AlterNet

Photo Credit: specnaz / Shutterstock.com

In recent budget negotiations, Senate Democrats agreed to a boost in military spending that exceeded the cap for fiscal 2018 by $70 billion, bringing the total request to an enormous $716 billion. Inevitably, this means more Pentagon contracts will be awarded to private corporations that use endless war to line their pockets. Democrats capitulated to this massive increase without so much as a scuffle. But the move hardly comes as a surprise, given how much money flows from weapons makers to the coffers of congressional campaigns for both parties.

While the majority of the weapons money goes to Republicans, Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Bill Nelson appear in the top ten recipients of campaign contributions–in both chambers and parties–from military contractors in 2017 and 2018. Northrop Grumman gave$785,000 to Democratic candidates since 2017.Hillary Clinton took over $1 million from the industry in 2016. Even progressive darlings like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders take money from weapons manufacturers, and Sanders supported Boeing’s disastrous F-35 because his home state had a financial stake in the program.

If neither major political party will stand up to this status quo, what can be done?

One answer might be found in the recent push to divest from fossil fuel companies undertaken by, among others, Norway and New York City. By December of 2016, 688 institutions, representing over $5 trillion in assets, had divested from fossil fuels. In an interview with The Guardian, author Naomi Klein described the fossil fuel divestment effort as “a process of delegitimizing” the sector and of affirming that it yields “odious profits.”

An analogous campaign to delegitimize beneficiaries of war is long overdue. In addition to pressuring our members of Congress to refuse campaign donations from weapons manufacturers and war profiteers, we must mount a divestment effort at the institutional and municipal level. Investment in war must come at the cost of public disgrace.

University students can request holdings information from their schools. Often, investments in military corporations are bundled into more complex financial instruments whose investments are not publicly disclosed. The content of these instruments can be determined by contacting a university board of trustees or endowment manager. Then a divestment campaign can be launched, building campus coalitions, creating petitions, organizing direct actions and passing resolutions through student government bodies. A helpful guide for student activists can be found here.

Activists can launch municipal divestment efforts by determining the holdings of city pension, utility, or insurance funds. In 2017 the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the national association of cities with populations over 30,000, adopted a resolution acknowledging the need to transform funding priorities away from war-making and into local communities. Divestment campaigns can leverage this resolution in order to hold city leaders to their word. More information for activists at the city level is available here.

Divestment offers an alternate means of addressing the blight of war profiteering in an era in which traditional political routes have been closed by our craven representatives. It also brings the message into smaller communities–communities that crumble while defense contractors live in luxury.

A new coalition of about 70 groups across the country has formed to launch a Divest From the War Machine campaign. The coalition is inviting all those who are disgusted by the war profiteers to help galvanize university, city, pension and faith institutions to divest from war. Learn more at: //www.divestfromwarmachine.org/

In a 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, the very Congress that is so beholden to the war machine, Pope Francis asked why deadly weapons were being sold to those who inflict untold suffering on society. The answer, he said, was money, “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” Looking at a room full of congresspeople who benefit from what he called “merchants of death,” the Pope called for the elimination of the arms trade. One way to heed the Pope’s call is to eat away at the profits of those who make a killing on killing.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the peace group CodePink. Her latest book is Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection (OR Books, September 2016).

Elliot Swain is a Baltimore-based activist, public policy graduate student and researcher for CODEPINK.

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Medea Benjamin: 10 Good Things About 2017

When I recently asked a prominent activist how she was doing, she took my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “Everything I’ve been working on for 50 years has gone down the toilet.” With so many good people feeling depressed, let’s point to the positive things that happened, even in this really, really bad year.

1. #MeToo movement has empowered victims of sexual harassment and assault, and encouraged accountability. Those two small words defined a social media-based movement in which women,  and some men, have come forward to publicly share their stories of sexual assault and harassment, and expose their abusers. The movement—and fallout—spread globally, with the hashtag trending in at least 85 countries. The bravery and solidarity of these victims of sexual abuse will help build a future in which impunity for sexual predators is no longer the norm.

2. The year has seen an explosion of grassroots organizing, protest, and activism. An active and uncompromising spirit of revolt has blossomed in the face of a frightening political climate during Donald Trump’s presidency. On January 21, two million people took to the streets in Women’s Marches across the world as a show of solidarity against Trump’s vile and misogynistic rhetoric.

On January 29, thousands gathered in airports around the country to protest Trump’s xenophobic and unconstitutional Muslim ban. In April, 200,000 people joined the People’s Climate March to stand up to the administration’s reckless stance on climate. In July, disability rights activists staged countless actions on Capitol Hill in response to the GOP’s cruel and life-threatening healthcare bill.

In November and December, “Dreamers” protected by Obama’s provision called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) stormed the Hill to demand a replacement for that program, which Trump ended in September.

New groups like Indivisible have helped millions of Americans confront their members of Congress, roughly 24,000 people joined the Democratic Socialists of America, and organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have seen massive surges in donations.

3. We’re already seeing rebukes of Trump at the ballot box. A wave of Democratic electoral victories swept some unlikely regions of the country, showing popular rejection of Donald Trump and his party. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who ran a shameless race-baiting campaign, lost by a wide margin to Democrat Ralph Northam in Virginia.

In New Jersey, Phil Murphy handily defeated Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, making that state the seventh in the nation with Democratic control over legislative and executive branches. In Alabama’s special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat, Democrat Doug Jones took the lead over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore—an astonishing win in a deep red state, propelled largely by Black voters.

Danica Roem in Virginia, who ran against a virulently anti-LGBTQ opponent, became the first openly transgender person elected as a US legislator. Her win ended 26 years of Republican rule in that district. And in Virginia’s 50th district, self-described democratic socialist Lee Carter defeated powerful Republican delegate Jackson Miller.

4. The first group of J20 protesters, people arrested in Washington DC on the day of Trump’s inauguration, were found not guilty. It was a scary year for the 194 protesters, journalists and medics facing multiple felony charges, including rioting and property destruction, that could have resulted in prison terms of up to 60 years.

The state’s attempt to collectively punish almost 200 people for property destruction committed by a handful is an outrageous example of judicial overreach in an era in which First Amendment rights are under siege. On December 21, however, the jury returned 42 separate not-guilty verdicts for the first six defendants to stand trial. Their acquittal on all charges hopefully portends more non-guilty verdicts for the remaining 188 defendants and gives a boost to our basic rights of free speech and assembly.

5. Chelsea Manning was released from prison after 7 years. Army Pvt. Manning was first detained in 2010 and ultimately convicted of violating the Espionage Act after she leaked troves of documents exposing abuses by the US military, including a video of American helicopters firing on unarmed civilians in Baghdad, Iraq. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

She developed post-traumatic stress disorder in prison and was repeatedly denied medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. The Army finally granted her the treatment after she went on a hunger strike. On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, and she was released in May. We owe Chelsea Manning a debt of gratitude for her tenacious commitment to exposing the crimes of U.S. empire.

6. Cities and states have committed to positive climate initiatives, despite federal regression. Twenty states and 110 cities signed “America’s Pledge,” a commitment to stick to Obama-era climate goals even after Trump’s disastrous decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. In December, a group of 36 cities signed the “Chicago Charter,” an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions and monitor each others progress. These pacts demonstrate popular sentiment and political will, at the local, city and state level, to fight the corporate oligarchs who perpetuate climate chaos.

7. Trump’s presidency has deepened the critical national conversation about racism and white supremacy. The Black Lives Matter movement, which started under Obama’s administration, exposed this nation’s systemic racism. The victory of Donald Trump emboldened white supremacists, as evidenced in the violent Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally in August.

But the year has also seen a wave of opposition to racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism that includes the toppling of confederate flags and statues, confronting hate speech, demanding the removal of white supremacists Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House (two of the three are gone), and building strong interfaith alliances locally and nationally.

8. This was the year the world said no to nuclear weapons. While Donald Trump taunted North Korea’s Kim Jung Un (“Little Rocket Man”) and threatened to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, on July 7, 122 of the world’s nations showed their rejection of nuclear weapons by adopting an historic Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty. The treaty, opposed by all nine nuclear states, is now open for signatures and the ban will come into effect 90 days after being ratified by 50 states.

The organization that promoted this ban is The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an alliance of 450 nongovernmental organizations in about 100 countries. It was thrilling to learn that ICAN was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The treaty and the Peace Prize are indications that despite the intransigence of the nuclear-armed states, the global community is determined to ban nuclear weapons.

9. ISIS no longer has a caliphate. For peace activists, it’s hard to put forth military actions as victories, especially when these actions incur a large civilian toll. This is indeed the case with ISIS, where at least 9,000 civilians were killed in the battle to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

But we do have to acknowledge that taking away ISIS’ territorial base has put a stop to some of the group’s horrific human rights abuses. It will also hopefully make it easier to find a settlement to the dreadful wars that have been raging in Syria and Iraq, and give our government one less excuse for dumping so much of our resources into the military.

10. The global community stood up to Trump’s stance on Jerusalem. In a stinging rebuke of President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, 128 countries, including some of the US’s most trusted and reliable allies, voted in favor of a United Nations resolution calling for a reversal of his position.

Despite the threat from US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley that the US would be“taking names” of those who voted against it, only nine countries voted with the US and 25 abstained. The resolution isn’t binding, but it’s a stark illustration of just how isolated the United States is in its stance toward Israel.

As we head into the new year, let’s keep ourselves inspired by the hard work of folks at home and abroad who gave us something to cheer about for 2017. May we have a much longer list in 2018.

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North Korea: The Costs of War, Calculated

By ,

Donald Trump is contemplating wars that would dwarf anything that his immediate predecessors ever considered.

He has dropped the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan, and he’s considering the mother of all wars in the Middle East. He is abetting Saudi Arabia’s devastating war in Yemen. Many evangelicals are welcoming his announcement of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a sign that the end of days is nigh. The conflict with Iran is about to heat up early next year when Trump, in the absence of any congressional action, will decide whether to fulfill his promise to tear up the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration worked so hard to negotiate and the peace movement backed with crucial support.

But no war has acquired quite the same apparent inevitability as the conflict with North Korea. Here in Washington, pundits and policymakers are talking about a “three-month window” within which the Trump administration can stop North Korea from acquiring the capability to strike U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

Read the full article.

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America Has Taken Nearly 70% of the World’s Wealth Gains Since 2012

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Incentive for Terrorism: America Has Taken Nearly 70% of the World’s Wealth Gains Since 2012

By Paul Buchheit / AlterNet

America’s super-rich are taking not just from their own nation, but from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook and various war reports help to explain why U.S. citizens are alienating people outside our borders.

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America’s richest 10 percent—much less than 1 percent of the world’s adult population—took over half the world’s wealth gain in the past five years.

Wealth in the Volatile Middle East Has Declined

It’s not surprising that young men in the Middle East and Africa would harbor resentment against a country that takes the great majority of the wealth—especially considering that the most troubled areas of the world have collectively lost wealth between 2012 and 2017. That’s both average wealth and median wealth.

Although the GWD has limited data about individual nations in the Middle East and Africa, some is available. Median wealth has plummeted in Syria and Iran and Yemen. It has gone down by almost half in all of Africa. Wealth levels are crashing in the areas of the world where we wage war.

We’re Bombing Nations That Aren’t Terrorist Threats

An explosion jolted Basim awake, and he could see the night sky through the massive hole in his bombed-out Iraqi house. “Mayada!” he screamed for his wife. No response from her, or from his daughter Tuqa…. In the hospital days later, Basim lifted his phone and looked at the smiling images of a wife and daughter he would never see again. He began to sob uncontrollably.

One would think that a nation monopolizing the world’s new wealth would avoid alienating the victims of inequality. But it’s just the opposite. The U.S. dropped thousands of bombs on seven Middle Eastern and African countries in 2016. Estimates of civilian deaths by airwar monitoring groups surpass official Pentagon numbers by a wide margin.

For the desperate residents of Yemen, attacks by Saudi Arabia continue with American weapons, using American targeting data and delivered by American jets. Power and water facilities have been destroyed. Supply lines have been cut. Hospitals have been bombed, and a cholera epidemic is raging out of control.

In Africa, the Pentagon is engaged in about 100 missions in 20 African countries. That includes Somalia, which has been the target of a wave of new U.S. bombings in 2017, even though that country is one of the Middle Eastern states that “are not serious terrorism risks,” according to the Cato Institute. The bombing campaign in Somalia is waged with no public debate or congressional authorization. Since 2001 the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act has been used to justify deadly attacks on any newly feared potential enemy, under the guise of taking aggressive action on any nation that might have “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” of 9/11.

Apology to the Troops

Big money interests have turned America into a financial machine, accumulating more and more tax-deferred wealth through the stock market, and using the media to frighten us with overblown terrorist threats. At the same time, Americans are brainwashed into believing that we’re forever fighting a war for freedom. But freedom has become a distorted concept in our increasingly unequal nation. Young lives are put at risk to ensure that a few thousand American households are free to take most of the wealth.

Paul Buchheit is the author of “Disposable Americans” (2017). He is an advocate for social and economic justice. His essays, videos, and poems can be found at YouDeserveFacts.org.

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Discussion on the American War against Viet Nam

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