Discussion on the American War against Viet Nam

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Deaths In Other Nations Since WW II Due To Us Interventions

By James A. Lucas

24 April, 2007
Countercurrents.org

INTRODUCTION

After the catastrophic attacks of September 11 2001 monumental sorrow and a feeling of desperate and understandable anger began to permeate the American psyche. A few people at that time attempted to promote a balanced perspective by pointing out that the United States had also been responsible for causing those same feelings in people in other nations, but they produced hardly a ripple. Although Americans understand in the abstract the wisdom of people around the world empathizing with the suffering of one another, such a reminder of wrongs committed by our nation got little hearing and was soon overshadowed by an accelerated “war on terrorism.”

But we must continue our efforts to develop understanding and compassion in the world. Hopefully, this article will assist in doing that by addressing the question “How many September 11ths has the United States caused in other nations since WWII?” This theme is developed in this report which contains an estimated numbers of such deaths in 37 nations as well as brief explanations of why the U.S. is considered culpable.

The causes of wars are complex. In some instances nations other than the U.S. may have been responsible for more deaths, but if the involvement of our nation appeared to have been a necessary cause of a war or conflict it was considered responsible for the deaths in it. In other words they probably would not have taken place if the U.S. had not used the heavy hand of its power. The military and economic power of the United States was crucial.

This study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.

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The Hidden Costs of “National Security”

Ten Ways Your Tax Dollars Pay for War — Past, Present, and Future
By William D. Hartung

You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians, and the president, but these are the best of times for the Pentagon.  Spending on the Department of Defense alone is already well in excess of half a trillion dollars a year and counting.  Adjusted for inflation, that means it’s higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak.  And yet that’s barely half the story.  There are hundreds of billions of dollars in “defense” spending that aren’t even counted in the Pentagon budget.

Under the circumstances, laying all this out in grisly detail — and believe me, when you dive into the figures, they couldn’t be grislier — is the only way to offer a better sense of the true costs of our wars past, present, and future, and of the funding that is the lifeblood of the national security state.  When you do that, you end up with no less than 10 categories of national security spending (only one of which is the Pentagon budget).  So steel yourself for a tour of our nation’s trillion-dollar-plus “national security” budget. Given the Pentagon’s penchant for wasting money and our government’s record of engaging in dangerously misguided wars without end, it’s clear that a large portion of this massive investment of taxpayer dollars isn’t making anyone any safer.

1) The Pentagon Budget: The Pentagon’s “base” or regular budget contains the costs of the peacetime training, arming, and operation of the U.S. military and of the massive civilian workforce that supports it — and if waste is your Eden, then you’re in paradise.

The department’s budget is awash in waste, as you might expect from the only major federal agency that has never passed an audit.  For example, last year a report by the Defense Business Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, found that the Department of Defense could save $125 billion over five years just by trimming excess bureaucracy.  And a new study by the Pentagon’s Inspector General indicates that the department has ignored hundreds of recommendations that could have saved it more than $33.6 billion.

The Pentagon can’t even get an accurate count of the number of private contractors it employs, but the figure is certainly in the range of 600,000 or higher, and many of them carry out tasks that might far better be handled by government employees.  Cutting that enormous contractor work force by just 15%, only a start when it comes to eliminating the unnecessary duplication involved in hiring government employees and private contractors to do the same work, would save an easy $20 billion annually.

And the items mentioned so far are only the most obvious examples of misguided expenditures at the Department of Defense.  Even larger savings could be realized by scaling back the Pentagon’s global ambitions, which have caused nothing but trouble in the last decade and a half as the U.S. military has waged devastating and counterproductive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  An analysis by Ben Friedman of the libertarian Cato Institute estimates that the Pentagon could reduce its projected spending by one trillion dollars over the next decade if Washington reined in its interventionary instincts and focused only on America’s core interests.

Donald Trump, of course, ran for president as a businessman who would clean house and institute unprecedented efficiencies in government.  Instead, on entering the Oval Office, he’s done a superb job of ignoring chronic problems at the Pentagon, proposing instead to give that department a hefty raise: $575 billion next year.  And yet his expansive military funding plans look relatively mild compared to the desires of the gung-ho members of the armed services committees in the House and Senate.  Democrats and Republicans alike want to hike the Pentagon budget to at least $600 billion or more.  The legislative fight over a final number will play out over the rest of this year.  For now, let’s just use Trump’s number as a placeholder.

Pentagon Budget: $575 billion

2) The War Budget: The wars of this century, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, have largely been paid for through a special account that lies outside the regular Pentagon budget.  This war budget — known in the antiseptic language of the Pentagon as the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account, or OCO — peaked at more than $180 billion at the height of the Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq.

As troop numbers in that country and Afghanistan have plumetted from hundreds of thousands to about 15,000, the war budget, miraculously enough, hasn’t fallen at anywhere near the same pace.  That’s because it’s not even subject to the modest caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget imposed by Congress back in 2011, as part of a deal to keep the government open.

In reality, over the past five years, the war budget has become a slush fund that pays for tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon expenses that have nothing to do with fighting wars.  The Trump administration wants $64.6 billion for that boondoggle budget in fiscal year 2018.  Some in Congress would like to hike it another $10 billion.  For consistency, we’ll again use the Trump number as a baseline.

War Budget: $64.6 Billion

Running Total: $639.6 Billion

3) Nuclear Warheads (and more): You might think that the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal — nuclear warheads — would be paid for out of the Pentagon budget.   And you would, of course, be wrong.  The cost of researching, developing, maintaining, and “modernizing” the American arsenal of 6,800 nuclear warheads falls to an obscure agency located inside the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA. It also works on naval nuclear reactors, pays for the environmental cleanup of nuclear weapons facilities, and funds the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, at a total annual cost of more than $20 billion per year.

Department of Energy (nuclear): $20 Billion

Running total: $659.6 billion

4) “Other Defense”: This catchall category encompasses a number of flows of defense-related funding that go to agencies other than the Pentagon.  It totals about $8 billion per year. In recent years, about two-thirds of this money has gone to pay for the homeland security activities of the FBI, accounting for more than half of that agency’s annual budget.

“Other Defense”: $8 Billion

Running Total: $677.6 billion

The four categories above make up what the White House budget office considers total spending on “national defense.”  But I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that their cumulative $677.6 billion represents far from the full story.  So let’s keep right on going.

5) Homeland Security: After the 9/11 attacks, Congress created a mega-agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  It absorbed 22 then-existing entities, all involved in internal security and border protection, creating the sprawling cabinet department that now has 240,000 employees.  For those of you keeping score at home, the agencies and other entities currently under the umbrella of DHS include the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the Transportation Security Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and the Office of Intelligence Analysis (the only one of America’s 17 intelligence agencies to fit under the department’s rubric).

How many of these agencies actually make us safer?  That would be a debatable topic, if anyone were actually interested in such a debate.  ICE — America’s deportation force — has, for instance, done far more to cause suffering than to protect us from criminals or terrorists.  On the other hand, it’s reassuring to know that there is an office charged with determining whether there is a nuclear weapon or radioactive “dirty bomb” in our midst.

While it’s hard to outdo the Pentagon, DHS has its own record of dubious expenditures on items large and small.  They range from $1,000 fees for employees to attend conferences at spas to the purchase of bagpipes for border protection personnel to the payment of scores of remarkably fat salaries to agency bureaucrats.  On the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2013, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) excoriated the department as “rife with waste,” among other things, pointing to a report by the DHS inspector general that it had misspent over $1 billion.

DHS was supposed to provide a better focus for efforts to protect the United States from internal threats.  Its biggest problem, though, may be that it has become a magnet for increased funding for haphazard, misplaced, and often simply dangerous initiatives.  These would, for instance, include its program to supply grants to local law enforcement agencies to help them buy military-grade equipment to be deployed not against terrorists, but against citizens protesting the injustices perpetrated by the very same agencies being armed by DHS.

The Trump administration has proposed spending $50 billion on DHS in FY 2018.

Homeland Security: $50 Billion

Running Total: $717.6 Billion

6) Military Aid: U.S. government-run military aid programs have proliferated rapidly in this century.  The United States now has scores of arms and training programs serving more than 140 countries.  They cost more than $18 billion per year, with about 40% of that total located in the State Department’s budget.  While the Pentagon’s share has already been accounted for, the $7 billion at State — which can ill afford to pay for such programs with the Trump administration seeking to gut the rest of its budget — has not.

Military Aid at the State Department: $7 Billion

Running Total: $724.6 Billion

7) Intelligence: The United States government has 16 separate intelligence agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the National Security Agency (NSA); the Defense Intelligence Agency; the FBI; the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence Analysis; the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of National Security Intelligence; the Treasury Department Office of Intelligence and Analysis; the Department of Energy Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; the National Reconnaissance Office; the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Army Military Intelligence; the Office of Naval Intelligence; Marine Corps Intelligence; and Coast Guard Intelligence. Add to these the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is supposed to coordinate this far-flung intelligence network, and you have a grand total of 17 agencies.

The U.S. will spend more than $70 billion on intelligence this year, spread across all these agencies.  The bulk of this funding is contained in the Pentagon budget — including the budgets of the CIA and the NSA (believed to be hidden under obscure line items there).  At most, a few billion dollars in additional expenditures on intelligence fall outside the Pentagon budget and since, given the secrecy involved, that figure can’t be determined, let’s not add anything further to our running tally.

Intelligence: $70 Billion (mostly contained inside the Pentagon budget)

Running Total: $724.6 Billion

8) Supporting Veterans: A steady uptick of veterans generated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has dramatically increased the costs of supporting such vets once they come home, including the war wounded, some of whom will need medical care for life.  For 2018, the Veterans Administration has requested over $186 billion for its budget, more than three times what it was before the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan.

Veterans: $186 billion

Running Total: $910.6 Billion

9) Military Retirement: The trust fund set up to cover pensions for military retirees and their survivors doesn’t have enough money to pay out all the benefits promised to these individuals.  As a result, it is supplemented annually by an appropriation from the general revenues of the government.  That supplement has by now reached roughly $80 billion per year.

Military Retirement: $80 Billion

Running Total: $990.6 Billion 

10) Defense Share of Interest on the Debt: It’s no secret that the U.S. government regularly runs at a deficit and that the total national debt is growing. It may be more surprising to learn that the interest on that debt runs at roughly $500 billion per year.  The Project on Government Oversight calculates the share of the interest on that debt generated by defense-related programs at more than $100 billion annually.

Defense Share of the Interest on the Debt: $100 billion

Grand Total: $1.09 Trillion

That final annual tally of nearly $1.1 trillion to pay for past wars, fund current wars, and prepare for possible future conflicts is roughly double the already staggering $575 billion the Trump administration has proposed as the Pentagon’s regular budget for 2018.  Most taxpayers have no idea that more than a trillion dollars a year is going to what’s still called “defense,” but these days might equally be called national insecurity.

So the next time you hear the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or a hawkish lawmaker claim that the U.S. military is practically collapsing from a lack of funding, don’t believe it for a second.  Donald Trump may finally have put plutocracy in the Oval Office, but a militarized version of it has long been ensconced in the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state.  In government terms, make no mistake about it, the Pentagon & Co. are the 1%.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 William D. Hartung

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invitation poster April 29

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Jeffrey D. Sachs: US military should get out of the Middle East

bostonglobe.com

Jeffrey D. Sachs: US military should get out of the Middle East

By Jeffrey D. Sachs   April 03, 2017

It’s time to end US military engagements in the Middle East. Drones, special operations, CIA arms supplies, military advisers, aerial bombings — the whole nine yards. Over and done with. That might seem impossible in the face of ISIS, terrorism, Iranian ballistic missiles, and other US security interests, but a military withdrawal from the Middle East is by far the safest path for the United States and the region. That approach has instructive historical precedents.

America has been no different from other imperial powers in finding itself ensnared repeatedly in costly, bloody, and eventually futile overseas wars. From the Roman empire till today, the issue is not whether an imperial army can defeat a local one. It usually can, just as the United States did quickly in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The issue is whether it gains anything by doing so. Following such a “victory,” the imperial power faces unending heavy costs in terms of policing, political instability, guerilla war, and terrorist blowback.

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Terrorism is a frequent consequence of imperial wars and imperial rule. Local populations are unable to defeat the imperial powers, so they impose high costs through terror instead. Consider the terrorism used by Jewish settlers against the British Empire and local Palestinians in their fight for Israel’s independence and territory; or Serbian terrorism deployed against the Hapsburg Empire; or Vietnamese terrorism used against the French and United States in Vietnam’s long war for independence; or American terrorism, for that matter, that independence fighters used against the British in America’s war of independence.

This is of course not to condone terrorism. Indeed, my point is to condemn imperial rule, and to argue for political solutions rather than imperial oppression, war, and the terror that comes in its wake. Imperial rulers, whether the British in pre-independence America; the Americans in Cuba and the Philippines after 1898; the French and Americans in Vietnam; and the United States in the Middle East in recent decades, foment violent reactions that destroy peace, prosperity, good governance, and hope. The real solutions to these conflicts lie in diplomacy and political justice, not in imperial rule, repression, and terror.

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Let me get some verbiage out of the way. By “empire” I mean a state that uses force to impose the rulers of another country. Empires are most visible when they rule directly through conquest and annexation, such as in the US conquests of Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico at the end of the 19th century. Yet empires also rule indirectly, when they use force, covert or overt, to depose a government they deem hostile and replace it with a government of their design and that they intend to be under their control.

Indirect rule has been the more typical US approach, for example when America overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 in order to impose the autocratic Shah of Iran. Similarly, America toppled the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003, in order to install regimes friendly to the United States Easier said than done. In all of these cases, the American imperial vision proved to be a fantasy, and the US-led violence came to naught in terms of US interests.

In fact, there are dozens of cases in which the CIA or American military has overthrown governments in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, with the aim of indirect rule. And there are also countless bloody cases, such as Syria and Yemen today, where the United States and local allies tried and failed to overthrow a government and instead fomented a prolonged war. Whether the overthrows have succeeded or failed, the long-term consequences have almost always been violence and instability.

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Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the American empire is that it was a latecomer to imperial rule. While the European powers, especially Britain and France, were building their far-flung overseas empires in the 19th century, the United States was still engaged in its genocidal wars against Native Americans and its Civil War. America’s overseas empire building began almost like clockwork in the 1890s, once the United States finally stretched from coast to coast, thereby “closing the frontier” in North America. The next step for America was overseas empire.

As a latecomer empire, the United States repeatedly found itself taking up the imperial cloak from a former European imperial power. Thus, the United States grabbed Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines from Spain in 1898. It did so in the name of supporting local freedom fighters against the Spanish Empire, only to betray those freedom fighters immediately by installing US-backed regimes (in Cuba) or direct rule (in Puerto Rico and the Philippines).

From 1898 until the end of World War II, America had few prospects for expanding its imperial reach, since the British and French empires were still expanding. Their biggest expansion occurred after World War I, when Britain and France carved up the Arab lands of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Today’s Middle Eastern war zones, including Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, are the post-World War I creations of the British and French empires, designed originally not for local rule but for rule by the outside empires.

World War II bled Europe dry. Though Britain was a victor of the war, and France was liberated, neither country had the economic, financial, military, or political wherewithal to hold on to their overseas empires, especially since freedom movements in their colonies were engaged in terrorism and guerilla warfare to gain their independence. Britain and France peacefully granted independence to some of their colonies but in other cases fought bloody wars against the independence movements (as the French did in Algeria and Vietnam), almost always losing in the end.

After World War II, the United States asserted global leadership, including through indirect rule. The United States had lent, rather than given, Britain the armaments to fight Hitler. As a result, Britain was in debt to the United States and the United States was well positioned to replace Britain as the dominant world power.

America’s postwar empire building coincided with the Cold War. More often than not, America justified its overseas wars and CIA-led coups as necessary to defend itself and its allies against the Soviet Union. American leaders shunned the language of empire and direct rule. Yet the simple fact is that the United States very often had its own narrow interests at heart: oil wealth in the Middle East; valuable farmlands and industry in Latin America; and US military bases across the world.

The United States often found itself fighting a continuation of earlier imperial wars. Vietnam is a clear case in point. Following World War II, Vietnamese freedom fighters under Ho Chi Minh battled French imperial rule to establish an independent Vietnam. When the Vietnamese defeated the French in a key battle in 1954, and France decided to withdraw, the United States stepped in the fight against the Vietnamese independence fighters, a costly and bloody war that lasted until the US withdrawal in 1975. By that point, more than one million Vietnamese had died at US hands and more than 50,000 American soldiers had lost their lives for no reason. The US war-making also spread disastrously to neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

In the Middle East, the United States also took up the preceding wars of imperial Britain and France. America’s motives were essentially the same: to secure Mideast oil and to project military power in Western Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean. In 1953, the CIA teamed up with Britain’s MI6 to overthrow the elected government of Iran in order to secure Iran’s oil for the UK and United States. Yet this was Britain’s last imperial hurrah in the region, since the United States took the lead from that point onward.

To examine the political histories of Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Israel-Palestine after 1950, is to observe the United States engaged in the intrigues, wars, CIA-led coups, and military overthrows that had been the handiwork of Britain and France during earlier decades. The CIA toppled governments in the Middle East on countless occasions. Media pundits tended to overlook the US role in this instability.

The United States is now ensnared in a perpetual, indeed expanding Middle East war, with drones and air strikes increasingly replacing ground troops. In the past, US ground troops committed atrocities, such as My Lai in Vietnam, that were seared into the national conscience. Now we have drone strikes, killing hundreds of civilians, that barely register in the news. The atrocities continue, but the reaction to them has been automated with the efficiency of the information age.

The United States is trapped in the Middle East by its own pseudo-intellectual constructions. During the Vietnam War, the “domino theory” claimed that if America withdrew from Vietnam, communism would sweep Asia. The new domino theory is that if the United States stops were to stop fighting ISIS, Islamic terrorists would soon be at our doorstep.

The truth is almost the opposite. ISIS is a ragtag army of perhaps 30,000 troops in a region in which the large nations — including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey — have standing armies that are vastly larger and better equipped. These regional powers could easily drive ISIS out of existence if they chose to do so. The US military presence is actually ISIS’s main recruiting tool. Young people stream into Syria and Iraq to fight the imperial enemy.

Empires trapped in regional wars can choose to fight on or more wisely to acknowledge that the imperial adventure is both futile and self-destructive. King George III was wise to give up in 1781; fighting the Americans wasn’t worth the effort, even if it was possible militarily. The United States was wise to give up the war in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in 1975. America’s decision to cut its losses saved not only Southeast Asia but the United States, as well. The United States was similarly wise to curtail its CIA-led coups throughout Latin America, as a prelude to peace in the region.

The United States should immediately end its fighting in the Middle East and turn to UN-based diplomacy for real solutions and security. The Turks, Arabs, and Persians have lived together as organized states for around 2,500 years. The United States has meddled unsuccessfully in the region for 65 years. It’s time to let the locals sort out their problems, supported by the good offices of the United Nations, including peacekeeping and peace-building efforts. Just recently, the Arabs once again wisely and rightly reiterated their support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians if Israel withdraws from the conquered territories. This gives added reason to back diplomacy, not war.

We are at the 100th anniversary of British and French imperial rule in the Mideast. The United States has unwisely prolonged the misery and blunders. One hundred years is enough.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and author of “The Age of Sustainable Development.”

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No Way to Treat a Child — April 12

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