A handful of Democratic and Republican senators are considering a rewrite of 60 of the most consequential words to ever pass through Congress. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed after the attacks of 11 September 2001, and provides the legal cornerstone for the so-called US “war on terror”. Only one brave Congress member opposed it. It allows the US government to wage war at anytime, any place and on anyone deemed a threat to national security – with remarkably little evidence needed.
via Authorization for Use of Military Force: a blank check for war without end | Michael Shank and Matt Southworth | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.
As my friends over at Friends Committee on National Legislations said
”More than a decade later, Congress is still using legislation from just after 9/11 to justify troops and drone strikes around the world.“
Unlike every other occurrence in our history, when World War II ended we did not drop back to a peace time military. Instead we chose to continue fund our war machine at near maximum levels and obviously since then we have been in almost endless wars. I wonder if there is a cause/effect there? We have lost a significant number of our kids to war in every generation since. We are now fighting a “war” against terror and that by definition is not a country, State, or even a particular group but it is indeed an endless war.
One of the most disappointing things about President Obama is is radical turn from campaign rhetoric to his Oval Office stands when it comes to war making. He turned out to be very little difference from his predecessor in that regard. It is only a small glimmer of hope to see him come out recently and admit that we maybe need to get more focused than just a war on the concept of terror. A terrorist is someone who does something to strike fear in someone. You could say that is the mantra for both political parties right now. They both want you to be fearful about almost everything in this world but particularly about electing someone from the other party. Shouldn’t our war on terror include those yahoos by electing someone from the Centrist Movement.
It is insane to see how we can year after year hand over a blank check to our war manufacturers while letting our infrastructure rust away. It is insane to me how we hand over a blank check and then deny some aid for food and shelter to the least of our citizens. An absurd example of that is the $1.7 trillion that is being budgeted for the latest super high-tech fighter plane that really has little or no purpose in today’s world. It is being spent mainly to appease our military/industrial base at least until our next war is declared. This makes absolutely no sense to me.
In his first major policy speech Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signaled he will be taking a hard look at the way the Pentagon spends its money and at whether the US military needs quite so many officers….
That’s because too often the weapons systems that Pentagon officials buy “are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what was promised or budgeted for.” And the hard truth is that the most pressing problems the world faces “do not necessarily lend themselves to being resolved by conventional military strength,” he said.
“Indeed the most destructive and horrific attack ever on the United States came not from fleets of ships, bombers, and armored divisions, but from 19 fanatical men wielding box cutters and one-way plane tickets.”
Source: Hagel invokes Eisenhower as he signals era of austerity at Pentagon (+video) – CSMonitor.com.
Maybe we will finally get at least a small dose of sanity in our Defense Department spending. For way too long this department of the federal government has been given carte blanche to spend whatever they want. There has literally been no accounting for the spending; even the department itself has no idea where the money goes! This would not be so sad if it were not for the fact that the DOD amounts to half of our discretionary spending in this country. Far far more than any other country in the world. Here we are reducing many social services while continuing to expand our spending on weapons systems that have long lost their usefulness.
I pray that secretary Hagel can get a little sanity back into this process. It was taking the two wars started by the Bush administration “off-the-books” that started the latest massive slide in our deficits. We are spending millions, perhaps billions on drones (no body knows), while continuing to buy multimillion dollar planes that serve little purpose other than to enrich a particular representative’s electoral district. A fellow blogger friend who lives in Arizona mentions an aircraft graveyard there that contains thousands of mothballed planes. Maybe it is time to pull a few of them out and drop the billions being spent for new ones.
We could easily drop the defense department budgets in half and still maintain a military superiority fifty times greater than any other country. Lets get back to spending our tax dollars on our crumbling infrastructure and on our people instead of unneeded bombs and weapons of destruction. Lets finally bring some sanity back into this process….
But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….
I know the current version of the Republican party is supposed to be all about fiscal austerity but I have trouble actually seeing them live out that concept. When it comes to the safety net and so-called “entitlement” issues they scream about needing to cut back or at least for total accountability. But when it comes to the bloated military expenses, homeland security and tax breaks for the rich they appear to throw that concept out the window. Of course that means that their austerity programs, if they are implemented as they suggest, will end up being done on the backs of the poor as almost everything else is “off the table”.
We spend more than the other 96% of the world combines on our supposed security. Our military budgets eat up so much of our prosperity as to force future looking programs off the stove. Education, our R&D forces, and our colleges suffer as a result of our insistence that to be safe we must spend so much on our war machine. In fact we throw so much money into the military that they don’t even bother to try to determine if it is going to the best place. For that matter they really don’t even try to categorize where it is even spent. But that doesn’t seem to phase the Republican senators and congressmen in Washington. They continue to demand more and more of our precious resource for this bloated machine.
For that reason I have little confidence that my budgeted minded friends are really serious about budgets but are really more concerned in reducing or even eliminating the very function of government or at least making sure that 47% don’t get things they supposedly haven’t earned. If they were really serious about our current deficits they would be looking at our war machine first not last. When you throw trillions of dollars into a black hole you dictate that much of it will be spent unwisely or even fraudulently. They demand total accountability for agencies supporting our safety net and nothing for our industrial/ military complex. How strange is that???
Source: President Obama, Hamid Karzai: US Combat Operations in Afghanistan to End in Spring – ABC News.
Roughly 66,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan. The military has proposed keeping several thousand troops in the country after 2014 as advisers, trainers and logistical support for Afghan forces; the White House has said it remains open to pulling out all troops entirely.
Leaving no troops behind when we finally exit Afghanistan? That would be a first for us. We currently have troops stationed in about seventy-five percent of the world’s countries. It wouldn’t be so bad to just leave some temporarily behind but when their tour is complete we send someone in to replace them for years and years to come. We have had thousands of troops in Germany and Korea for my entire lifetime.
If I were a small country I don’t think I would want some other country’s soldiers constantly among us. What would we U.S. citizens say if President Obama suddenly announced that he was allowing 50,000 German soldiers to be permanently stationed in Texas. I think there would be an uproar almost as loud as trying to take a Texan’s assault rifle away from him!! More…
Source: Survey: U.S. global competitiveness falls again – USATODAY.com.
The United States’ ability to compete on the global stage has fallen for the fourth year running as confidence in the country’s politicians continues to decline. The finding is from an annual survey from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Of the top 10 nations, the Netherlands and Germany have moved ahead of the U.S. The U.S.’ ranking dropped two places to seventh this year, the WEF says.
It is sad to see that the U.S. is falling behind in yet another metric. Our manufacturing base is quickly dwindling. Almost everything we buy now comes from outside our shores. Our healthcare cost us more than any other country and still we die younger than many. Our military eats us so More…
via Due Diligence: Where the candidates differ on foreign policy – CBS News.
The president wants the military to focus more on nontraditional threats like al Qaeda, and no longer wants the United States to serve as the world’s policeman. He noted on Monday that America spends more on the military than the next ten countries combined – which you only say if you think America is carrying too large a burden.
It can be difficult to tease out differences between the candidates on specific issues. But when it comes to the larger, overarching philosophy, there is a clear difference: Romney wants to spend more money to expand America’s traditional military role in the world, while the president wants to transition to a new era in which America plays a fundamentally different role. And that philosophical chasm is more important than the lack of difference on many individual issues. More…
via Romney Reframes Donor Remarks to Refocus on Economic Issues – Businessweek.
Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who is running for re-election in a close race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard University professor, told The Hill newspaper: “That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in.”
While Romney said he was talking about people who don’t pay income taxes, his comments about Americans who feel “entitled” to government help prompted some Republicans to say that they might alienate veterans as well.
Richard Armitage, former deputy Secretary of State under Republican President George W. Bush and a former Defense Department official, said the remarks showed “that Mr. Romney doesn’t know what this country looks like, and he has no idea how government works.” More…
I have spent the better part of a week looking at the new vice presidential candidate for the GOP. Up until now I was not familiar with him other than superficially. This will be the last post in this area so I am going to try to summarize what I have learned about the man.
- Paul Ryan is definitely a passionate person who is true to his principles taught to him by his heroes in life such as Ayn Rand who says money is the source of all good and altruism is stupid. I’m also sure he thinks each one of his ideas is somehow for the greater good of the country.
- As shown by his recent convention speech he is a very articulate person to much the same degree as Barak Obama but at the exact opposite end of the political spectrum.
- He adamantly supported the stimulus packages of President Bush in both 2002 and 2008 but when a Democratic president was just continuing the same it somehow became totally wrong to him. Everything he supported during the Bush years are now somehow unacceptable. That seems highly partisan to me and that is not something I want to continue seeing in our elected leaders in the coming years.
- His budget proposal that he claims is compassionate is totally rejected by his faith leaders in the Catholic church as very uncaring for the least among us.
- 62% of his proposed budget cuts for 2012 comes from cuts to the country’s safety net. This is hard to take especially when at the same time he is proposing big additional increases in our already very blotted military spending. Since we spend about forty times more than any other country on our war machine he seems to be a hawk to the nth degree.
- He plays politics with the best of them. He gets people from the other party on board by promising things that he then leaves them out of his proposed bill when it is submitted. He then wonders why the colleagues who he betrayed object to his calling his bill bipartisan. These types of actions show he can’t be trusted to keep his word.
- His original proposal for “fixing” Medicare was to give seniors a limited voucher to buy private insurance. If the private carrier even agreed to offer them insurance they would end up paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for less coverage than their current Medicare plan. Because of the huge backlash he modified his plan somewhat but given his propensity to got back on his word I think we have to assume that the first option if it could be passed is his preference.
- He is a favorite of the radical fringe Tea Party. This alone says much about his spirit of compassion and compromise.
- But maybe worst of all is that he seems to enthusiastically want to toss aside the people at the lower end of our society in order for the upper echelons to prosper even more. Ayn Rand, who is his hero taught him well in that area.
- Finally, I’m sure Mr. Ryan is a good family man who loves his wife and children but he seems to lack even a basic empathy for so many others.
At the end of this week-long investigation I still don’t understand why my clergy friend from the past reveres him so. On the surface Mr. Ryan seems like a nice guy but when you look at his other face he has a very narrow and seemingly dark view of life.
There are three qualities I believe must be used to judge a person’s character. One is his spiritual side; does he have a moral compass? The second is who are his heroes in life are and the third is whether he is true to his word; in other words can he be trusted? Even from this cursory study of Mr. Ryan I don’t see a lot about him in any of these three categories that entices me to vote the GOP ticket this time around.
Source: Bye, bye, GI: Deep impact for many Germans as US troops downsize – World News.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced defense cuts of $487 billion over the next decade, as the United States seeks to move to a smaller, leaner and more agile force, putting a new strategic focus on the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
The Defense Department in January said that it would remove two of the four U.S. combat brigades stationed in Europe as part of its military restructuring.
In this blog, especially in the past, I have spoken often about our bloated military budgets gobbling up funds that could more wisely be spent on other things. It is one of my passions to see our Pentagon budgets get more in line with the rest of the world. So, when I ran across the following article it gave me hope that this gargantuan task is at least being started.
We put hundreds of military installations in Germany more than sixty years ago to prevent Germany from causing yet another world war. We later justified their existence by using them during the cold war with the USSR. It looks like there is finally some admittance that their existence is no longer necessary. $50 billion a year savings is almost 7% of the present budget. I will give credit where credit is due with this drawdown.
Now if the Pentagon generals and especially those in our congress will reduce their budgets a corresponding amount. Given past history on this topic that is very doubtful. Instead they will just end up spending, as the article states, that amount and even more someplace else. Once you get a certain amount of money it is hard to give any of it back….
But what do I know….
Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week - Maggie Kuhn
I guess I am old at least as far as this saying goes. But it does seem as though when you get some years under your belt you have seen more of this world that warrants getting outraged about. Let’s face it most of us have seen some pretty stupid things in our lives. We let our government spend our tax dollars for some pretty dreadful things like our obese military establishment while denying healthcare to many of our citizens and say nothing about it!
We, like Maggie Kuhn before us, should all be saying outrageous things when in comes to much of what is wrong with our society today and that includes our religious establishments. We Christians claim to love God but then go on to totally ignore his very direct commands to love our neighbors. We would rather fixate on someone’s sex lives than concentrate on giving the poor kid down the block a nourishing meal once in a while. We would rather spend our church money building lavish clubhouses for ourselves rather than get out in the community and help those less fortunate than us and yes there are less fortunate are around any church in America. This I find outrageous and worth shouting about.
We all seem to praise our war makers and totally ignore our peacemakers. We do some pretty outrageous things in the name of patriotism. So yes I do believe that old age is an excellent time for outrage. I seem to have plenty of it lately and don’t mind spouting it off at least once every week.
About the Author:
Maggie Kuhn was born in 1905 in Buffalo New York. I remember her best as being the founder of the Grey Panthers. She is one of my heroes. Here is what Wikipedia says about her
Maggie Kuhn (August 3, 1905 – April 22, 1995) was an American activist known for founding the Gray Panthers movement in August 1970, after being forced into retirement by the Presbyterian Church. The Gray Panthers became known for advocating nursing home reform and fighting ageism, claiming that “old people and women constitute America’s biggest untapped and undervalued human energy source.” She also dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, social and economic justice, global peace, integration, and an understanding of mental health issues. For decades she combined her activism with caring for her disabled mother and a brother who suffered from mental illness.
Here is a rather straight forward graph showing military spending by country. Are you like me and see a very basic problem here? If we look at is per citizen it is even more skewed.
No wonder our budgets are in so much trouble. No wonder the world always comes to us to solve their problems. We are taking on massive debt to be the policemen of the world. When will it end????
It seems popular now days to rally against the one-percent of the population in the U.S. that controls so much of our country’s wealth. I am one of the many who think the distribution of wealth has been skewed too far the last thirty years or so. We need to bring back a more moralistic ratio of wealth. We need to re-establish the quickly shrinking middle class in this country and do away with the recent lopsided subsidies for the rich.
But if we take a more worldly view of our circumstance we in the U.S. make up about 5% of the world’s population but we consume a much higher percentage of the world’s resources.
- We use about ten time more of the world’s resources per citizen than most other countries.
- In order to maintain our lifestyle we borrow more than any other in the world; we are spending way beyond our means.
- We pollute the atmosphere more than any other country, although China is quickly approaching polluting more than we do.
- We account for more than 50% of its war making machinery and sell more weapons than anyone else in the world.
So in a way when looking at it from a world standpoint all of us in the United States are like the 1% we rally so much against. For this reason there are many in the rest of the world that hold us in contempt. But, at the same time covet our lavish lifestyles. Some see us as bullies who come into their country to strip out what we need and then either leave or worse yet force some kind of “regime change” to get more. Should the rest of the world be rallying against the 5% who are gobbling up the world’s resources for their own pleasure?
I don’t want to leave this post on such a negative point. Yes, compared to much of the rest of the world we are greedy when it comes to our comforts but we are also gracious with it comes to our worldwide relief efforts. As is typical of everything in this world our country has a good side and a bad side. Let’s just pray that we show our good side more often. That will result in a much more peaceful world than all our nuclear bombs and our outrageous military spending can ever provide.
Success: Senate Supports Quicker Afghanistan Withdrawal
Good news! For the first time, the Senate has approved legislation calling for an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan and your support was a big factor in this success. Last week, the Senate added the amendment, offered by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) and Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT), to the military authorization bill.
The near-unanimous approval of this amendment shows the significant and growing dissatisfaction with the war in Congress and the power of your action.
I got this from an email from the FCNL a few days ago. It seems like the cost of our endless wars in terms of our time, money, and especially our young people’s lives is starting to sink in with some members of Congress. I pray that the power mongers in Congress do not stifle this new-found awareness among its members.
I see where the Republicans in the House have only managed to eliminate half the “earmarks” in the current budget. I guess some things are just too sacred. Most of the remaining “pork” is associated with military projects. If the Republicans are serious about reducing the deficits, and I hope they are, they must come to understand:
- The U.S. represents 4% of the world’s population
- The U.S. spends almost 60% of the total world’s expenses on military things
- The U.S. spends an average of 40 times more for our military than any other country in the world
- If the U.S. pared down our military spending to be just three times more than any other country we could automatically reduce our deficits about almost $400 billions per year
- The U.S. still have thousands of soldiers stationed in Germany, Japan, Korea, and hundreds of other places. Why???
- The U.S. does NOT need to be the policemen of the world. Other countries are more than capable of helping to do this job. Just look at the coalition around the no-fly zone in Libya as evidence of that.
If only we came to some sense on our military spending we could solve so many of our current deficit issues. The rest of the world knows this. Why don’t we? I’m not saying that this military fixation is solely a Republican issue. In fact it has probably infected just as many Democrats. Let’s move beyond this insanity. It would save us trillions of dollars and ten of thousands of lives of our young people needlessly being put in harm’s way.
But what do I know.
WASHINGTON — To hear the Republican leadership tell it, the once-sacred Pentagon budget, protected by the party for generations, is suddenly on the table. But a closer look shows that even as Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, insist on the need for military cuts, divisions have opened among Republicans about whether, and how much, to chop Pentagon spending that comes to more than a half trillion dollars a year……..
The discordant Republican voices on military spending have bred confusion on Capitol Hill, among military contractors and within the military itself, where no one is exactly sure what the members backed by the Tea Party will do. It also shows why taking on the military budget will be so hard, even though a widening deficit has led the president and the leaders of both parties to say this time they are serious.
(Excerpts from the article- click the link below to see the entire story)
Ok, here is one for the books. While Republican have always been eager to cut money from old and/or poor people they almost never want to cut any money from our war machine. They think every million dollar bomb we have is absolutely necessary. So to say “Republicans are split” is in itself quite a statement. I don’t think much of the Tea Party but they do have a good side. Anyone that is willing to tackle the military establishment is pretty brave in my books. To even call the military budget a “defense” budget is a joke. The rest of the world “defends” themselves on many times less per person than we do and they all seem to be getting along fine.
I don’t know why all those yahoos in the press can’t get the message to the American people about how the U.S. spends twenty times more per citizen on it’s war machine than any other country in the world and more than one hundred times more than most! Why don’t more people know that? Much of the rest of the world thinks that Americans are just cowboys itching to get into another fight. Given what we spend for our “fancy six shooters” that might not be too far from the truth.
So, this latest split in the Republicans has the military contractors confused. Maybe that in itself is a very good thing. They won’t know who to give their generous donations to (ha). Lord forbid they give it to someone who might be cutting into their profits!! Until congress tackles the elephant in the room of fiscal responsibility their efforts will never be considered serious. We could cut our military budget in half and almost no one outside our military contractors would even know it
I recently read an article that proudly made the point that the U.S. military is the largest minority employer in the country. It went on to argue that if our military complex were proportioned like the rest of the world there would be many more people without jobs. The United States which makes up four percent of the world’s population maintains over 60% of the worlds military complex! Another way of saying this is that each U.S. taxpayer pays more taxes for military expenses than thirty people in just about any other country in the world. Is it any wonder that we have the highest deficits in the world?
I personally think it is kind of lame to spout the military complex as the savior of minority employment. It seems like we could use our young people for more productive things than to carry a gun in some far off country. How about promoting peace instead of war. Our first answer to any world problem is to send in our military. If we put as much effort in promoting peace what would the world look like today. It seems that we poke our noses in where they don’t belong and our simple presence in a region is much the reason for the continuing conflicts that result.
I was one of those young men who our government wanted to send to Vietnam to kill in the name of freedom. Fortunately I was not required to go but I did lose several good friends to that war. And of course there are even to this day thousands of men my age who are still living on a daily basis the horror story of their time there. As it turns out now more than thirty years later Vietnam is no better or worse than any other country in the region. If we look back to World War II most of our enemies of that time are now some of our closest allies. It greatly saddens me that humanity continues to send it’s young men, and now young women, to die in wars that have little or no long term consequences. I believe that we should take Jesus’ words to heart and yes, even love our enemies…
If we were to do a radical thing such as letting the rest of the world take care of their own business and proportioned our military complex to be similar to the rest of the world I believe there would be much more peace in the world. Not to mention a huge drain off our personal taxes. We don’t need to be the world’s policemen! Let’s turn most of that responsibility over to the countries that are in the region of the conflict. We still have thousands of our military personnel in Germany, Japan, Korea, and scores of other countries. Why??
The picture here is of a very good friend of mine who lost his life in Vietnam. He was drafted soon after college graduation and was killed almost immediately upon arrival in the country. He left behind a pregnant young bride and a future son who would never know his father. He was the first friend I lost to a war but he was not by any means the last. This also saddens me greatly
….And the journey goes on…