Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Costs of War

"WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives." Major General Smedley Butler

I was asked to talk about the costs of war. This is not an easy subject to research.

You would expect that the dollar costs of war for the US would be easy to find. After all, our Constitution requires that "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time". So the monetary costs of the various wars should be right there in plain view, not hidden in separate accounts, or put into an unconstitutional "black budget". (Of course, the Constitution also states that only Congress can declare war, and we see how well that provision is followed). While it would take hours to try to track US spending on war, I can safely say that many trillions of dollars have been spent on wars, weapons, and occupations since WW2.

What about the human costs of war? There is a very specific count kept of dead US service members. But is it accurate? We don't know. The tally for the two biggest invasions and occupations of the last 10 years is said to be 6051. If a soldier is wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan, and airlifted to Germany and then dies there, does his or her death count? Dead mercenaries are not included, even if they are American. Suicides are not counted, even if in-country. Special Forces deaths in unacknowledged attacks are not counted.

The wounded are counted, but again, we don't know how accurate the count is. And what about the psychic wounds? The broken marriages, the alcohol and drug abuse, the nightmares, the rages, the child abuse, the 100 mph motorcycle crash? Not counted.

And when it comes to the victims of US wars-well, we don't do body counts. Our government doesn't care. It doesn't have to.

How many people died in Iraq? The estimates range from the US government count of 150,000 to more accurate estimates of over one million people, not counting those who died from lack of clean water, sewage treatment or medical care, caused by the attacks on water and sewage treatment plans, and the bombings of hospitals. These are all war crimes, by the way, along with the torture of prisoners, including many people who were tortured to death. All war crimes, which is ignored by the media. How many refugees? Again, the estimates vary, but there are millions of displaced people inside of Iraq and around 2 million outside of Iraq, including one million in Syria, now being threatened by the US again. How many widows and orphans have we made? How many children traumatized by the terrors of bombs dropping for hours at a time, of seeing family members killed, of having their homes broken into in the middle of the night and their fathers and brothers dragged away by heavily armored troops?

How many Afghans have died? There seems to be even less effort to find that out.

Shortly after Obama was inaugurated, even before he received his Nobel Peace Prize, he increased the number of drone attacks on Pakistan, driving 2 million people from their homes, in the winter, to live in tents in the freezing cold. 2 million homeless refugees, not usually even mentioned in the accounting of the costs of war. And we know that there are drone attacks also in Yemen and Somalia. How many have died? We don't know. Our government might know but it doesn't care to tell us.

The environmental costs of war are enormous and ongoing. From the depleted uranium bombs dropped onto Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, to the burning of oil and other toxic wastes, the destruction of forests, marshes and farmland, not only from bombs, but from the heavy military equipment the US uses to invade, the destruction of the environment is a terrible cost of war. Although we know that rainforests are essential to our world, the US dropped tons of herbicide on Asian rainforests and continues to drop herbicides onto Columbia. The US uses vast amounts of oil to invade other countries. Birds, amphibians, animals and other wildlife are killed by the destruction and pollution of their habitat. The birth defect rates and cancer rates are skyrocketing in victim countries, especially in Falllujah,

US soldiers also kill the livestock and pets of their victims. There was a brief scandal in the US when a video went viral of US Marines throwing a puppy over a cliff and laughing about it. We were treated to the usual claims that this is not the American way. But many, many citizens of these countries report that their animals have been killed by US troops.

We are now going through a variation of previous scandals. A US soldier (or more, according to witnesses) broke into a house in Afghanistan and massacred 16 people, including 9 children. The media is covering this extensively, especially showing sympathy for the perp, who was on his fourth tour. (His lawyer had previously been Ted Bundy's lawyer, but I don't recall the same sympathetic treatment of Ted Bundy in the media. ) Obama solemnly declares that mass murder is not part of the American character.

OK, we know that killing civilians while drunk, or urinating on those you've killed, or burning Korans, are not part of the exalted American character. But dropping bombs for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as part of a shock and awe strategy, dropping bombs on family celebrations, such as weddings and birthday parties, killing scores of people with drones, apparently is a perfectly fine part of the American character.

Does anyone else find this baffling? Why is it OK to call in an air strike and kill hundreds of people, or blow people up at checkpoints who don't understand commands given in English, but not OK to urinate on their corpses? It's OK to burn children, but not Korans. It's OK to kick down doors in the middle of the night, and kidnap or kill the sleeping people, but not OK if you're drunk?

What IS the American character and how is it affected by our endless wars? This cost is rarely mentioned in the accounting of the tragedies of war.

American immigrants before WW2 were frequently people escaping conscription in their home countries. America had a strong tradition of resisting foreign entanglements. But this changed with the 2 world wars of the 20th century. While enough Europeans were slaughtered to sober them into giving up their warlike ways, at least temporarily, American civilians came out of WW2 sitting pretty. A decision was made by our ruling overlords to turn to a permanent war economy. We all know that the famous "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned us about is now a reality. Bits of the war machine are scattered into each district in America, including our own General Dynamics, which manufactures depleted uranium weapons, which kill not only this generation, but poison generations to come in the future. This is a war crime. Instead of despising the war profiteers, as our ancestors did, we revere them as "job providers". We have over 700 bases all over the world, and our immense standing military of the last 60 years equals millions of children born into military families, brought up on military bases, and educated at military schools. What effect does this have upon our society? When I was a child, we were taught thecivilian values of the previous America, like- pick on someone your own size, and don't be a bully. You don't hear those values anymore. Instead, the overwhelming US military superiority is celebrated, and the lack of the ability of self-defense of our victims is considered a very good thing.

After WW2, a "Ratline" was set up and numerous Nazis and Nazi sympathizers were brought into the Americas, and in the following decades, as some of the Empire's subjects rebelled against our proxy rulers, other war criminals, death squad leaders, terrorists and collaborators were brought into our country. What effect do they have on our society? Just last month, a war criminal, Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova from El Salvador, was ordered deported for war crimes he committed in 1980. So for over 30 years, he's lived unmolested. About 80,000 people were killed by their own government in El Salvador in the 1980s. Did the US call for an invasion to stop the killings? No. They supported the junta, and allowed numerous criminal immigrants into the US. Chilean and Haitian war criminals, among others, are also living in the US. A terrorist who was convicted of blowing up a civilian airliner and killing everyone on board is living openly in Miami.

In WW2, it was found that only 15% of soldiers were willing to fire at a person they were face to face with. This was considered a problem, and the military spent many millions of dollars finding ways to overcome this human tendency.

Our entire society has been subjected to a propaganda campaign to justify wars, and our TV shows, our movies and our video games glorify violence and teach that the only possible outcome to conflict is violence. By the time our children are 18 years-of-age; he or she will witness 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders. The US Army gives away millions of violent video games to teenagers.

Where has this been leading us? A violent culture, coupled with the simultaneous self-righteous belief in our ultimate goodness and inalienable right to dictate to the rest of the world, further combined with the wide-spread cowering fear that we are vulnerable to violent acts of other peoples of the world, and must kill them before they kill us. As Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out in 1967, in the midst of the brutal US attack on Vietnam,

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."

45 years later, we are much farther along in our spiritual demise and our programs of social uplift have been devastated and are under further attack. It seems very easy at this time for the US government to attack other countries. Like well-trained dogs, we are willing to sic anyone that our ruling overlords point to. There are many Americans very willing to advocate killing everyone in Iran, a country of 75 million people.

Wikileaks released a video of US soldiers killing a group of men on a street in Iraq, and then wounding a man who stopped to help him. When the Good Samaritan tried to get back in his car, they shot up the car, and severely wounded his children. When the Americans found out that there were injured children in the car, one of them said "It's his fault for bringing his children into a war zone". What kind of demented mindset could believe that? The man didn't bring his children into a war zone. America brought the war zone to his children.

And who was arrested, tortured and prosecuted for this crime? Bradley Manning, the soldier with a conscience, who is said to have given the evidence to Wikileaks.

Last year, the US and NATO attacked Libya, telling us that they were protecting the civilians from their evil dictator. The country with the highest standard living in Africa has now had its infrastructure destroyed, and a civil war has started with tens of thousands of dead civilians killed in order to save them. How many? Our government doesn't care; it doesn't have to.

Last week a new kind of propaganda was rolled out. I'm sure that most people here were exposed to the internet video of a cute little American kid, learning about a bad guy who must be killed in order to save the children of Uganda. What was this? It didn't take long for debunkers to expose that Joseph Kony hasn't been in Uganda for 6 years, and that the decades-long civil war, in which the US-backed government of Musevini was also guilty of war crimes, has been over for years. Why would US citizens now be asked to support US military intervention to get a long-gone "bad guy"? Could it be the oil found in Uganda, and the wish of the US to have a military base in Africa?

Now we are told that Syrian President Assad is attacking his own people and must be stopped. And that Iran is thinking about someday maybe getting nuclear weapons and must be attacked. It seems that these two excuses for war have played well before and so are being rolled out again. It doesn't matter that they used the WMD excuse on Iraq 9 years ago, and then admitted that it was a lie. It doesn't matter that the so-called humanitarian interventions in Yugoslavia and Libya ended up killing far more civilians than were projected to have been killed by their evil dictators, and that the people in all the countries that the US has attacked are worse off now.

Even people who believe in peaceful ways sometimes fall for the assumption that the US military can be used for good, decades of evidence to the contrary. We must remember that people are never better off when bombs fall onto them, no matter what our media tells us.

The blatant disregard for international law that the US has shown in its interactions with other countries has come home to roost. Our ruling elite breaks laws with impunity, while ordinary Americans are imprisoned at rates far higher than any other country on the planet. While Americans can plan weddings and birthday parties without worrying about drone attacks wiping out the participants, we are not immune from late night attacks from heavily armed SWAT teams, breaking down doors, terrorizing children, killing dogs, and arresting adults. There are such raids every night now. The US was founded on the rule of law, but everyone now knows that the laws don't apply to the rich and powerful. The very foundation of our society and government has been undermined.

The last cost that I want to mention is the loss of civil liberties at home. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. . . , as James Madison pointed out. So endless war leads to the permanent loss of liberty that we have seen in the last decades. Methods of oppression learned in occupation are brought home to use on our own population. Tolerance of brutality in other countries leads to tolerance of police and prison brutality at home. Our police forces have been militarized, and since 2002, there is now a military command over the United States, Northcom.

I have focused more on the costs of war to Americans than to our victims. I apologize for that, but it is our task to take responsibility for what our own nations's government does, and it is here that so many modern wars have originated. The next wars are connected to the last wars because the underlying causes are the same. To change our nation's course, we must learn from our history and recent experience. The lesson we must take from that is that we must work to change the midset of our citizens, and the underlying economic and class causes of war, or we will continually be, as Martin Luther King pointed out, protesting war after war after war.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Running for Congress

For Congress!

Today, as Ralph Nader put it, “Washington, D.C. is corporate-
occupied territory.” But we, the people, can – and must –
fight back. We must elect representatives to Congress who
will truly be representatives for us, not the corporate elite and
big banking interests that buy political results with campaign
contributions, Super-PACs and an army of lobbyists.

Wage will be a true representative of the people. A
registered nurse by profession and long-time advocate for
peace and social progress, she is a true working-class
candidate. As a candidate of the Green Party, she is guided by its principles and values. With your support, Wage will
lead the fight for a government devoted to preserving the commons, protecting the environment, restoring civil rights and
freedoms, and serving the public good.

Here are some of the things Wage stands for:

Restore Our Rights and Freedoms

Congress has abdicated its oath to protect the Constitution and voted for numerous freedom-stripping bills -- from the
Patriot Act of 2001, through the Military Commissions Act, Homegrown Terrorism Act, Protect America Act, and now
the National Defense Authorization Act. Wage will work to repeal these laws and defend your rights and freedoms.

Stop Corporate Welfare

Corporate politicians and media keep perpetuating the myth that massive tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent will
somehow create jobs and allow wealth to trickle down to us – even though this has been tried for 30 years and hasn’t
worked. It has instead led to rising poverty, mass unemployment and closed factories -- while the wealthy corporate
owners sit on literally trillions of dollars that they cannot profitably invest, and the vast majority of working people
shoulder unprecedented tax burdens. Wage says: No more tax giveaways to the rich and no more public subsidies and
giveaways to the corporations.

No American Empire

All empires fall, usually from overextension. The U.S. has over 700 military bases around the world, and the stated
goal of the U.S. military is “full spectrum dominance” of the globe. Not only is this impossible, it's illegal and immoral.
How can we teach our children that bullying is wrong, and kindness and generosity good, when we live in a country
that operates under the principle that we must dominate all other people and resources of the world? Our military should
protect our country, within our geographic borders. Wage will oppose all illegal wars, bombings, assassinations and drone
attacks. Occupy Wall Street – yes. Occupy Afghanistan – no.

Protect Americans; Promote Economic Security

Americans are now subjected to the terrors of unemployment, homelessness, poverty, hunger, record levels of
imprisonment and massive cuts to education, unemployment benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. Thirty years
of attacks on unions and the public sector has devastated U.S. workers. Corporations are blowing up mountains, poisoning
rivers and wells, and dumping toxins into the air. Mercury and lead in the water cause brain damage, while sulfur dioxide
in the air causes some children to suffocate with asthma. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and droughts are bringing
global climate instability home, while Congress ignores reality and pretends that we can somehow return to the days of
cheap gas and no consequences for burning it. SWAT teams kick in doors every night, and the police attack peaceful

protesters, while Wall Street loots pension funds with impunity. Meanwhile, we are told that the biggest threat to our well-
being is a chance of a passenger with a bomb on an airplane -- so travelers on planes are irradiated and groped, while
freight is loaded below them without such screening.

Wage will stand up against the real threats to our well-being – the exploiters, polluters and oppressors. While most of
Congress and the corporate media tell us that we “can’t afford” to fund education, public works and public services
any more, the Federal Reserve almost instantaneously created $16 trillion to give to Wall Street bankers and we waste
hundreds of billions of dollars on wars and illegal occupations of other nations. The top 1% of Americans own more
wealth than the lowest 90 percent combined. The notion that we “can’t afford” to meet our needs is a big lie.

Wage supports the National Emergency Employment Defense Act of 2011, which would shift control of our money
supply and monetary policy back to Congress, in keeping with Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. It would
nationalize the Federal Reserve and take the power to create money away from private banks by curtailing the fractional
reserve system. Instead, money would be spent into circulation by paying workers directly to perform socially necessary
services. Wage also supports ending the colossal waste of militarism and war, and taxing financial speculation, to provide
the additional revenue needed to provide economic security.

It is absurd that millions of workers are unemployed while others are overworked and there is so much necessary work
to do. It is ridiculous that homes sit vacant while so many Americans are homeless. It is unconscionable that people go
without health care while private health insurers rake in record profits. These are not unsolvable problems – if we have the
political will to tackle them.

Back to Basics

“The Earth has enough to provide for our needs, but not enough to provide for our greed.” -- Ghandi

Americans are now being urged to sacrifice the air, water and topsoil of our country in order to blow out the last
remaining bits of fossil fuels for the current generation. That is madness. We must be concerned with the kind of world
our children and future generations will inherit. We must live sustainably in order that others may also live, now and in
the future. Humans need air, water and food to survive. We need clothing and shelter to be comfortable. We need health
care, education, renewable energy and transportation to be prosperous.

Caring for future generations begins with caring for today’s children. Every child born should be a wanted child. A
national health care system unconnected to employment could not only provide quality care for all, it would make
birth control, abortion and voluntary sterilization free and easily available. Those who choose to become parents need
education and support to help get their children off to a good start in life. We need mothering centers, where new mothers
can learn from others, children can play together, and moms can learn how to stimulate their children's intellectual
abilities. Newborn babies need nurturing but the U.S. is one of only three countries in the world which doesn't provide
paid maternity leave. Wage will introduce legislation establishing 18 months paid maternity leave. We need daycare
centers staffed with educated and kind caretakers for when parents go back to work. We must recognize that education
begins at home and that schools can’t make up for lack of parental involvement.

“I believe that Americans are a kind and generous people. I believe that we are capable
of creating a kinder, gentler nation that cares for its people, nurtures its children and
provides for its elderly. I believe that a small minority of greedy, immoral people have
taken control of our economy and bought our elected officials, but that the majority can
take it back. That is why I am running for Congress.”
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Green Economics

All life on Earth depends on the ecosystem in which we evolved. What we call the "economy" is what humans have created to provide for our needs. What we call the "financial system" is the way in which we trade goods and services between ourselves and others on this planet.

Is the system working? I don't think that any rational person would conclude that it is. Somehow, humans have been convinced that the bounty of the Earth is owned by a small minority of people, and that the products that millions of working people make are also owned by a small minority.

Many people in the United States, including all the corporate candidates and some in the Occupy movement, demand a return of the so-called "middle class".

What was the "middle class"?

After WW2, when the rest of the industrialized world had been bombed into rubble, the US rode high. After decades of agitation, the ruling class gave some ground to the working class, and vast sections of the working class were paid very well, especially the unionized members. Although the widespread purges of the 50s decimated leftists, especially in the government,unions, education and the media, the idea that workers deserved to be paid a living wage, that the elderly deserved a pension, that the unemployed deserved a pittance, continued to form the basis of our society.

The United States, with 5% of the world's population, consumed 25% of the world's resources, and most people lived large. And the government made sure that this inequality was protected. George Kennan, in 1948, pointed this out explicitly-

"we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population.…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.…To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.…We should cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

… We should recognize that our influence in the Far Eastern area in the coming period is going to be primarily military and economic. We should make a careful study to see what parts of the Pacific and Far Eastern world are absolutely vital to our security, and we should concentrate our policy on seeing to it that those areas remain in hands which we can control or rely on."

— George Kennan, U.S. State Department Policy Planning, Study #23, February 24, 1948

.Not all of US workers shared in the bounty, though, and in the 60s and 70s, an attempt was made to improve the lives of the poor, with the Great Society. Women and African Americans demanded that they, too, have a chance to be well-paid.

Many of the unionized white men joined with the ruling class in the backlash.

1972 was the year in which working Americans made the best wages. We've been losing ground ever since. Now women are indeed part of the workforce, because it takes two workers to earn a family wage.

1972 was also the year that the US hit peak oil. A century in which the US was the world's leading producer of oil came to an end. The first reaction of the adults in charge at that time was to move away from oil, with alternative energy being pushed, CAFE standards passed, and a general discussion about sustainable living.

The oil companies struck back, and in 1981, they put an actor in the White House, who pulled the solar panels off the roof, fired the striking union air traffic controller workers, cut taxes on the rich, attacked Central American countries struggling to better themselves, as well as progressive Afghans, and fed Americans a line of bull that hasn't stopped throughout the ensuing Presidents.

The so-called middle class, the better paid section of workers, started to shrink. First the industrialized union workers without college degrees. So the mantra began that only those with higher education deserved good wages. Young people were encouraged to go into debt to buy themselves a college degree, and colleges turned into diploma factories.

Now we see that a college degree doesn't guarantee a good paying job. And the remaining unionized workers, those in the public sector, are being targeted for impoverishment, along with doctors and nurses in the so-called private sector, which is really publically-funded by Medicare and Medicaid. The so-called Obamacare bill was designed to take the money from the health care industry and give it to the insurance industry, thus driving down wages for doctors, nurses and other health care employees.

Can we return to the previous state of affairs, where some Americans were paid enough to buy more than their share of the world's resources? Why no, we can't.

Industrial capitalism was built on cheap fossil fuels. As I pointed out, the US hit peak oil in 1972, and the attempt to control the rest of the world's supply is starting to fail. Most likely, the world has also hit peak oil, so even if the US manages to control Iraq's, Libya's, Iran's, the Artctic's and Africa's oil, which is unlikely, we have to face the future without believing in fairy tales of unlimited supply forever and ever. And the idea of burning every last bit of carbon stored over millions of years is a plantetary suicide plan anyway. Are we going to ignore the tornadoes in Joplin and Harrisburg, Katrina in New Orleans, or the inland hurricane we experienced 3 years ago?

How do we have a decent life without destroying our ecosystem in the process? That is why the Green Party was formed.

We advocate putting people to work improving our collective well-being, providing decent food, sustainable transportation, improving our housing stock to be energy-efficient, providing for our children and our elderly, living well on less energy, sustainably and environmentally supplied. We have too many workers for each to work a 40 hour week, so we need to have a shorter workweek, so that all willing and able to work can participate.

Obviously, we can't do this with a private, profit motivated 1% "creating jobs". They won't create jobs that provide for the common welfare unless they can profit from it. Providing for the common welfare is the job of the people, both individually, and united in a democratic government.

Congress is empowered by the Constitution to issue money. There is no reason for 310 million people to be at the mercy of a money system which is privately owned, and debt-based. Clearly, it's not working for us. And the 1% proclaims absurdities, as when they state that the planet can supply resources endlessly, while money, which is a computer-based human creation, is limited. Even when the Federal Reserve created $16 TRILLION dollars for Wall Street in the last 2 years, they straight-facedly claimed that children, the elderly and the sick could not be provided for, due to lack of money.

Richard Nixon, and others in the 70s, were talking about economic citizenship, the idea that every American should have a guaranteed basic income, so that no one would fall into absolute poverty.

The US government can spend money into existence, paying for socially necessary and useful work to be done, and providing retired Americans with a decent standard of living. The US could join most of the rest of the world, and pay maternity leave for at least 18 months. Private banks should be taken out of the business of creating money as debt.

The Green Party advocates that the people, united, should work together to make a better life for us all, and for all other people and species with which we share the planet.
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