Wednesday, July 6, 2016

End the Manufacture of Weapons for War in Woodstock

Sign this petition

To: Ametek Rotron
Convert production in their Woodstock, NY, plant from parts for military drones, nuclear missiles, cluster bombs and other weapons of war to peaceful production

Why is this important?

Ametek Rotron is Woodstock’s largest employer. Located in buildings just out of sight, off Rte 375, Ametek Rotron makes high-tech fans, ball bearings and other essential parts for weapons used to terrorize and kill people the world over. Here in Woodstock Ametek Rotron is the sole supplier of such crucial parts as the fuel density probe for Predator drones. Ametek Rotron makes parts for missiles, nuclear weapons and many other weapons of death and destruction. In 2015 Ametek Rotron had $2,603,158 in Pentagon contracts. As most of us in Woodstock support peace and not war, the signers below request that Ametek Rotron explore how to convert its manufacturing facilities to support peace and not war.

Sign this petition at RootsAction

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tell Senator Reed to Stop Justifying Cluster Bomb Sales to Saudi Arabia!

From Code Pink
Last week, the House of Representatives failed to pass an amendment that would have halted the sale of U.S. made cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, which has used the munitions as part of their devastating military campaign against Yemen. Now as our hopes turn to the Senate, we’ve discovered it’s Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed who is leading the charge to keep the flow of weapons going – weapons manufactured in his own state by a company that donates to his political campaigns!
Tell Senator Reed to stop putting the interests of war profiteers over human rights, and end cluster bomb sales to Saudi Arabia!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

12 arrested calling for peaceful production instead of $4 billion destroyers

Twelve protesters were arrested last Saturday outside Bath Iron Works (Maine) before a ceremony began at the shipyard christening the Michael Monsoor, a guided missile destroyer.

The Global Network says: “We continue to call for the conversion of BIW to build rail, solar, wind and tidal power systems so the future generations can have a life. We need more help projecting this demand into the public consciousness.”

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Pentagon Excess Has Fueled a Civil-Military Crisis

How Civilian Control of the Military Has Become a Fantasy
By Gregory D. Foster

Published by TomDispatch

Item: Two U.S. Navy patrol boats, with 10 sailors aboard, “stray” into Iranian territorial waters, and are apprehended and held by Iranian revolutionary guards, precipitating a 24-hour international incident involving negotiations at the highest levels of government to secure their release. The Pentagon offers conflicting reports on why this happened: navigational error, mechanical breakdown, fuel depletion -- but not intelligence-gathering, intentional provocation, or hormonally induced hot-dogging.
Item: The Pentagon, according to a Reuters exposé, has been consciously and systematically engaged in thwarting White House efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and release cleared detainees. Pentagon officials have repeatedly refused to provide basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take those detainees and have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantanamo to assess them. Ninety-one of the 779 detainees held there over the years remain, 34 of whom have been cleared for release.
Item: The Pentagon elects not to reduce General David Petraeus in rank, thereby ensuring that he receives full, four-star retirement pay, after previously being sentenced on misdemeanor charges to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine for illegally passing highly classified material (a criminal offense) to his mistress (adultery, ordinarily punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and lying to FBI officials (a criminal offense). Meanwhile, Private Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning continues to serve a 35-year prison sentence, having been reduced to the Army’s lowest rank and given a dishonorable discharge for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks that included incriminating on-board videos of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed up to 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounded two children, and of a 2009 massacre in Afghanistan in which a B-1 bomber killed as many as 147 civilians, reportedly including some 93 children.

What do these episodes have in common? In their own way, they’re all symptomatic of an enduring crisis in civil-military relations that afflicts the United States.

Hyperbolic though it may sound, it is a crisis, though not like the Flint water crisis, or the international refugee crisis, or the ISIS crisis, or the Zika crisis.  It’s more like the climate crisis, or a lymphoma or termite infestation that destroys from within, unrecognized and unattended.  And yes, it’s an enduring crisis, a state of affairs that has been with us, unbeknownst to the public and barely acknowledged by purported experts on the subject of civil-military relations, for the past two decades or more. 
The essence of the situation begins, but doesn’t end, with civilian control of the military, where direction, oversight, and final decision-making authority reside with duly elected and appointed civil officials. That’s a minimalist precondition for democracy. A more ideal version of the relationship would be civilian supremacy, where there is civically engaged public oversight of strategically competent legislative oversight of strategically competent executive oversight of a willingly accountable, self-policing military. 
What we have today, instead, is the polar opposite: not civilian supremacy over, nor even civilian control of the military, but what could be characterized as civilian subjugation to the military, where civilian officials are largely militarily illiterate, more militaristic than the military itself, advocates for -- rather than overseers of -- the institution, and running scared politically (lest they be labeled weak on defense and security). 
That, then, is our lot today. Civilian authorities are almost unequivocally deferential to established military preferences, practices, and ways of thinking.  The military itself, as the three “items” above suggest, sets its own standards, makes and produces its own news, and appropriates policy and policymaking for its own ends, whatever civilian leadership may think or want. It is a demonstrably massive, self-propelled institution increasingly central to American life, and what it says and wants and does matters in striking ways. We would do well to consider the many faces of civil-military relations today, especially in light of the role the military has arrogated to itself. 
A Crisis Appears and Disappears 
University of North Carolina historian Richard Kohn raised the specter of a civil-military crisis in a 1994 National Interest article titled “Out of Control: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations.” He focused on the ill-disguised disdain of many in uniform for Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton, highlighting the particularly politicized behavior of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, who had spoken out in opposition to two prime items on the Clinton agenda: intervention in the Balkans and gays in the military. Typical of how the bounds of propriety had been crossed, Kohn also alluded to the example of the Air Force major general who, at a military gathering, contemptuously characterized the president as “gay-loving,” “pot-smoking,” “draft-dodging,” and “womanizing.” 
Too alarmist for many pundits, Kohn’s claim of a growing crisis gave way to the milder thought, advocated most forcefully by journalist Tom Ricks, that there was simply an increasing cultural, experiential, and ideological “gap” between the military and society, a thesis that itself then went dormant when George W. Bush entered office.
Those who profess expertise on civil-military relations have tended to focus almost exclusively on civilian control and the associated issue of the military’s political “neutrality.” That’s why so much attention and controversy were generated over President Obama’s highly publicized firing of General Stanley McChrystal for the climate he created that led to the disparagement of senior Obama officials by his subordinates (as reported in the 2010 Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General”). Yet far bigger and more fundamental matters have gone largely unnoticed. 
Civil-military relations are built on a tacit but binding social contract of mutual rights, obligations, and expectations among the military, its civilian overseers (executive and legislative), and society. Four things are expected of the military as part of this compact: operational competence, sound advice, political neutrality, and social responsibility. Operational competence and social responsibility are rarely even part of the discussion and yet they go to the heart of the crisis that exists, pointing both to the outsized presence of the military in American life and statecraft, and to a disturbingly pervasive pattern of misconduct over time among those in uniform. 
The Failure of Operational Competence 
If we enjoyed a truly healthy state of civil-military relations, it would be characterized by a strategically -- not just a militarily -- effective force. By implication, such a military would be capable of successfully accomplishing whatever it is called upon to do. The military we have today is, arguably, ineffective not only militarily but demonstrably strategically as well. It doesn’t prevent wars; it doesn’t win wars; and it certainly doesn’t secure and preserve the peace. 
No, the military doesn’t prevent wars. At any given time over the past quarter century, on average roughly 40 violent conflicts a year have been underway around the world. The U.S. military has had virtually no discernible influence on lessening the outbreak of such conflicts. It isn’t even clear that its size, configuration, and positioning, no less the staggering sums invested in it, have had any appreciable deterrent effect on the warring propensities of our so-called peer competitors (Russia and China). That they have not sought war with us is due far less to simplistic Washington assumptions about deterrence than to factors we don’t even grasp. 
And no, the military doesn’t win wars anymore. It hasn’t won one of note in 70 years. The dirty wars in the shadows it now regularly fights are intrinsically unwinnable, especially given our preferred American Way of War: killing people and breaking things as lethally, destructively, and overwhelmingly as possible. It’s an approach -- a state of mind -- still largely geared to a different type of conflict from an era now long since past and to those classic generals who are always preparing for the last war. That’s why today’s principal adversaries have been so uniformly effective in employing asymmetric methods as a form of strategic jujitsu to turn our presumed strengths into crippling weaknesses. 
Instead of a strategically effective military, what we have is quite the opposite: heavy, disproportionately destructive, indiscriminately lethal, single-mindedly combat-oriented, technology-dominant, exorbitantly expensive, unsustainably consumptive, and increasingly alienated from the rest of society. Just as important, wherever it goes, it provokes and antagonizes where it should reassure and thereby invariably fathers the mirror image of itself in others. 
Not surprisingly, the military today doesn’t secure and preserve peace, a concept no longer evident in Washington’s store of know-how. Those in uniform and in positions of civilian authority who employ the military subscribe almost universally and uncritically to the inherently illogical maxim that if you want peace, you had best prepare for war. The result is that the force being prepared (even engorged) feeds and nurtures pervasive militarism -- the primacy of, preference for, and deference to military solutions in the conduct of statecraft. Where it should provide security, it instead produces only self-defeating insecurity.  
Consider just five key areas where military preferences override civilian ones and accentuate all manner of insecurity in the process. 
Rapacious defense spending: The U.S. military budget exceeds that of the next 10 countries combined, as well as of the gross domestic products of all but 20 countries. At 54% of federal discretionary spending, it surpasses all other discretionary accounts combined, including government, education, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, housing, international affairs, energy and the environment, transportation, and agriculture. Thanks to the calculations of the National Priorities Project, we know that the total cost of American war since 2001 -- $1.6 trillion -- would have gotten us 19.5 million Head Start slots for 10 years or paid for 2.2 million elementary school teachers for a decade. A mere 1% of the defense budget for one year -- just over $5 billion -- would pay for 152,000 four-year university scholarships or 6,342 police officers for 10 years. What we spend on nuclear weapons alone each year -- $19.3 billion -- would cover a decade of low-income healthcare for 825,000 children or 549,000 adults. 
Promiscuous arms sales: The United States remains by far the world’s leading proliferator of conventional arms, accounting for some 50% of all global sales and 48% of all sales to the developing world. During the 2011-2014 period alone, U.S. weapons deliveries included a wide array of advanced weapons technologies: 104 tanks and self-propelled guns, 230 artillery pieces, 419 armored personnel vehicles, 48 supersonic aircraft and 58 other aircraft, 835 surface-to-air missiles, and 144 anti-ship missiles, much of that to the volatile Middle East. Skeptics would say that such transactions are motivated less by an urge to enable recipient countries to defend themselves than by the desire to buy influence abroad while aiding and abetting arms manufacturers at home. The result of such massive sales is, of course, the creation of yet more instability where stability should be.  ...
Read the full article

Monday, May 26, 2014

How to make Woodstock a "No Drone Zone"

The Town Board of Woodstock, NY, has passed a resolution stating the Town Board's desire that Woodstock be a "No Drone Zone". In a 4-0 vote this week, the board decided to urge Congress, the state Legislature and members of the Ulster County Legislature to keep the unmanned aircraft out of municipal skies. The resolution stresses the threats that surveillance drones pose to privacy and constitutional rights, and notes that "the use of drones by the United States military provides a dangerous precedent for their domestic use".

This is an admirable precedent that should spread to other towns. But it's worse than an empty gesture if Woodstock doesn't end its role as a source of crucial components for these same drones. We know that Woodstock's largest employer is the sole supplier of a crucial component of the military's Predator drone, and makes components for the Global Hawk spy drone. (And we can be sure that Woodstock's Ametek Rotron has other drone contracts, as only a few of the company's contracts come to public notice.)

Communities like Woodstock have an opportunity to play a positive role in making our skies safe from the scourge of drones, by cutting off the source -- by ending their role in the manufacture of drones and investigating ways to convert their local economies to peaceful, productive purposes. That way Woodstock can keep to the spirit, as well as the letter, of its resolution.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

'Shock Doctrine' Americana: Endless War as the Ultimate Business Model

Published on Monday, October 21, 2013 by TomDispatch.com
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175762/tomgram:_william_astore,_war!_what_is_it_good_for_profit_and_power/

'Shock Doctrine' Americana: Endless War as the Ultimate Business Model

Disaster Capitalism on the battlefield and in the boardroom

by William Astore

There is a new normal in America: our government may shut down, but our wars continue. Congress may not be able to pass a budget, but the U.S. military can still launch commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the Afghan War can still be prosecuted, Italy can begarrisoned by American troops (putting the “empire” back in Rome), Africa can be used as an imperial playground (as in the late nineteenth century “scramble for Africa,” but with the U.S. and China doing the scrambling this time around), and the military-industrial complex can still dominate the world’s arms trade.

In the halls of Congress and the Pentagon, it’s business as usual, if your definition of “business” is the power and profits you get from constantly preparing for and prosecuting wars around the world. “War is a racket,” General Smedley Butler famously declared in 1935, and even now it’s hard to disagree with a man who had two Congressional Medals of Honor to his credit and was intimately familiar with American imperialism.

War Is Politics, Right?

Once upon a time, as a serving officer in the U.S. Air Force, I was taught that Carl von Clausewitz had defined war as a continuation of politics by other means. This definition is, in fact, a simplification of his classic and complex book, On War, written after his experiences fighting Napoleon in the early nineteenth century.

The idea of war as a continuation of politics is both moderately interesting and dangerously misleading: interesting because it connects war to political processes and suggests that they should be fought for political goals; misleading because it suggests that war is essentially rational and so controllable. The fault here is not Clausewitz’s, but the American military’s for misreading and oversimplifying him.

Perhaps another “Carl” might lend a hand when it comes to helping Americans understand what war is really all about. I’m referring to Karl Marx, who admired Clausewitz, notably for his idea that combat is to war what a cash payment is to commerce. However seldom combat (or such payments) may happen, they are the culmination and so the ultimate arbiters of the process.

War, in other words, is settled by killing, a bloody transaction that echoes the exploitative exchanges of capitalism. Marx found this idea to be both suggestive and pregnant with meaning. So should we all.

Following Marx, Americans ought to think about war not just as an extreme exercise of politics, but also as a continuation of exploitative commerce by other means. Combat as commerce: there’s more in that than simple alliteration.

In the history of war, such commercial transactions took many forms, whether as territory conquered, spoils carted away, raw materials appropriated, or market share gained. Consider American wars. The War of 1812 is sometimes portrayed as a minor dust-up with Britain, involving the temporary occupation and burning of our capital, but it really was about crushing Indians on the frontier and grabbing their land. The Mexican-American War was another land grab, this time for the benefit of slaveholders. The Spanish-American War was a land grab for those seeking an American empire overseas, while World War I was for making the world “safe for democracy” -- and for American business interests globally.

Even World War II, a war necessary to stop Hitler and Imperial Japan, witnessed the emergence of the U.S. as the arsenal of democracy, the world’s dominant power, and the new imperial stand-in for a bankrupt British Empire.

Korea? Vietnam? Lots of profit for the military-industrial complex and plenty of power for the Pentagon establishment. Iraq, the Middle East, current adventures in Africa? Oil, markets, natural resources, global dominance.

In societal calamities like war, there will always be winners and losers. But the clearest winners are often companies like Boeing and Dow Chemical, which provided B-52 bombers and Agent Orange, respectively, to the U.S. military in Vietnam. Such “arms merchants” -- an older, more honest term than today’s “defense contractor” -- don’t have to pursue the hard sell, not when war and preparations for it have become so permanently, inseparably intertwined with the American economy, foreign policy, and our nation’s identity as a rugged land of “warriors” and “heroes” (more on that in a moment).

War as Disaster Capitalism

Consider one more definition of war: not as politics or even as commerce, but as societal catastrophe. Thinking this way, we can apply Naomi Klein's concepts of the "shock doctrine" and "disaster capitalism" to it. When such disasters occur, there are always those who seek to turn a profit.

Most Americans are, however, discouraged from thinking about war this way thanks to the power of what we call “patriotism” or, at an extreme, “superpatriotism” when it applies to us, and the significantly more negative “nationalism” or “ultra-nationalism” when it appears in other countries. During wars, we’re told to “support our troops,” to wave the flag, to put country first, to respect the patriotic ideal of selfless service and redemptive sacrifice (even if all but 1% of us are never expected to serve or sacrifice).

We’re discouraged from reflecting on the uncomfortable fact that, as “our” troops sacrifice and suffer, others in society are profiting big time. Such thoughts are considered unseemly and unpatriotic. Pay no attention to the war profiteers, who pass as perfectly respectable companies. After all, any price is worth paying (or profits worth offering up) to contain the enemy -- not so long ago, the red menace, but in the twenty-first century, the murderous terrorist.

Forever war is forever profitable. Think of the Lockheed Martins of the world. In their commerce with the Pentagon, as well as the militaries of other nations, they ultimately seek cash payment for their weapons and a world in which such weaponry will be eternally needed. In the pursuit of security or victory, political leaders willingly pay their price.

Call it a Clausewitzian/Marxian feedback loop or the dialectic of Carl and Karl. It also represents the eternal marriage of combat and commerce. If it doesn’t catch all of what war is about, it should at least remind us of the degree to which war as disaster capitalism is driven by profit and power.

For a synthesis, we need only turn from Carl or Karl to Cal -- President Calvin Coolidge, that is. “The business of America is business,” he declared in the Roaring Twenties. Almost a century later, the business of America is war, even if today’s presidents are too polite to mention that the business is booming.

America’s War Heroes as Commodities

Many young people today are, in fact, looking for a release from consumerism. In seeking new identities, quite a few turn to the military. And it provides. Recruits are hailed aswarriors and warfighters, as heroes, and not just within the military either, but by society at large.

Yet in joining the military and being celebrated for that act, our troops paradoxically become yet another commodity, another consumable of the state. Indeed, they become consumed by war and its violence. Their compensation? To be packaged and marketed as the heroes of our militarized moment. Steven Gardiner, a cultural anthropologist and U.S. Army veteran, has written eloquently about what he calls the “heroic masochism” of militarized settings and their allure for America’s youth. Put succinctly, in seeking to escape a consumerism that has lost its meaning and find a release from dead-end jobs, many volunteers are transformed into celebrants of violence, seekers and givers of pain, a harsh reality Americans ignore as long as that violence is acted out overseas against our enemies and local populations.

Such “heroic” identities, tied so closely to violence in war, often prove poorly suited to peacetime settings. Frustration and demoralization devolve into domestic violence andsuicide. In an American society with ever fewer meaningful peacetime jobs, exhibiting greater and greater polarization of wealth and opportunity, the decisions of some veterans to turn to or return to mind-numbing drugs of various sorts and soul-stirring violence is tragically predictable. That it stems from their exploitative commodification as so many heroic inflictors of violence in our name is a reality most Americans are content to forget.

You May Not Be Interested in War, but War Is Interested in You

As Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky pithily observed, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” If war is combat and commerce, calamity and commodity, it cannot be left to our political leaders alone -- and certainly not to our generals. When it comes to war, however far from it we may seem to be, we’re all in our own ways customers and consumers. Some pay a high price. Many pay a little. A few gain a lot. Keep an eye on those few and you’ll end up with a keener appreciation of what war is actually all about.

No wonder our leaders tell us not to worry our little heads about our wars -- just support those troops, go shopping, and keep waving that flag. If patriotism is famously the last refuge of the scoundrel, it’s also the first recourse of those seeking to mobilize customers for the latest bloodletting exercise in combat as commerce.

Just remember: in the grand bargain that is war, it’s their product and their profit. And that’s no bargain for America, or for that matter for the world.

© 2013 William Astore

- William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, is a TomDispatch regular. He welcomes reader comments atwjastore@gmail.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Astore discusses the difficulty of speaking one’s mind in the military, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Shame of Nations: A New Record is Set for Spending on War

An article by Lawrence Wittner on Common Dreams is well worth reading.

"... World military spending reached a record $1,738 billion in 2011 -- an increase of $138 billion over the previous year. The United States accounted for 41 percent of that, or $711 billion. ..."