Category Archives: Military-Industrial Complex

How do we get the US government to stop aiding the war on Yemen?

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If you want to know why I think centralized “democracy” is an illusion and calling people in Congress “representatives” is an Orwellian torture of language, the following letter I received from the office of Idaho Senator James Risch provides a great example of why. I wrote a letter to the Senator, asking that the US stop selling weapons to the Saudis, who are creating a horrible humanitarian crisis in Yemen. This is what I got back:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding military aid to Saudi Arabia.  I really appreciate hearing from you.

Saudi Arabia has been a strong partner of the United States in the Middle East and played an important role in containing Iran.  While the U.S. has provided a lot of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have paid for all of it.  No equipment has been provided as foreign aid.

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I closely follow Saudi Arabia.  If legislation regarding U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia comes before the Senate, I will give it full consideration.

Again, I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.

Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

I suppose his office didn’t have the proper canned response for my particular objection, but it’s rather insulting that when I say, “Please stop helping to kill civilians in Yemen,” the response I get is, “Hey, we’re at least making money off the deal.”

Update:

After contacting Risch again, expressing that my concern was about innocent people in Yemen, not foreign aid spending, I got this response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding Yemen.  I really appreciate hearing from you.

Over the past decade Yemen has been home to some of the largest terrorist networks in the world at the same time ethnic divisions and a weak government have produced substantial humanitarian suffering.  U.S. policy has tried to help alleviate some of this suffering while helping eliminate terrorism in the country.

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I very closely monitor what is happening in countries in the Middle East.  If legislation regarding Yemen and the should come before the Senate, I will give it full consideration.

Again, I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.

Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

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Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry Argues For Compulsory Military Service (from a Libertarian Perspective)

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Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Not sure if you like to check out Cato Unbound, which is project of the Cato Institute where a lead essay is presented and response essays follow, but this month’s lead essay is entitled, “The Libertarian Case for National Military Service,” written by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

Predictably, many readers found such an idea ridiculous. On its face, I agree with them: what could be more antithetical to libertarians than combining the injustice of forced servitude with the atrocity of war? Indeed, many of the commenters took issue with Gobry’s definition of a libertarian, which he sharply distinguished from being anarchist. (Which seems a bit pretentious since in a comment to Kuznicki’s response, Gobry claims that he is not a libertarian.)

However, I seriously attempted to overcome the obvious points of contention about what a libertarian is and is not, and focused on the main point being made: that an ideal libertarian society would have a compulsory national military service.

Thus, I left the following comment, which is currently still awaiting a response:

Despite finding myriad problems with the points made on this essay, I want to focus on three.

One is that I don’t find the case made for conscription being a bulwark against jingoism all that convincing. Is there an example outside of Switzerland that this is the case (assuming that universal conscription is, in fact, a major contributing factor)? Is it not the case that totalitarian regimes won’t hesitate to conscript unwilling civilians? I’m ignorant of which nations do what, but would be surprised if there is a correlation between countries that use conscription and how free they are generally.

The war in Vietnam is contrasted with the war in Iraq as having more protestation due to the draft. But this is hardly a comfort; unwilling men were sent to kill and die in southeast Asia, nonetheless. Conscription did not keep the US out of WWI or WWII or the Korean War.

Secondly, it seems that the argument that universal conscription will make Americans more dovish towards foreign policy because they bear the costs is contradicted earlier in the essay, when it’s said that only a small minority will ever see combat and for most, military service is playing in the mud while being yelled at. So, universal military service isn’t so bad because it’s probably the case you won’t be shot at, but it’s important to have because everyone bears the costs?

Lastly, if the goal is really to have the costs be widespread so that people are less anxious to go to war, I think a measure much more acceptable to libertarians would be to restore a hard money standard and force the government to fund these wars through direct taxation rather than through credit and inflation. If the financial costs of foreign wars were not hidden from taxpayers and put on future generations, there would be a revolt before the wars could last as long as they have.

If anything, Gobry demonstrates what a slippery slope accepting expanded roles for the State can be. Here are the implications Gobry gets from what he thinks libertarians believe:

But let’s take the argument on its merits and see whether it holds up. What powers of the state do libertarians think are legitimate?

Libertarians think the state should provide for the national defense. They think it’s legitimate for a state to have a military.

Libertarians think it’s legitimate for the state to use violence to take people’s money. If you don’t think taxation is legitimate, you are an anarchist, not a libertarian.

Well, military service is a form of in-kind taxation. Money is time. That’s what it is. When I buy a loaf of bread, I exchange a little bit of my time for a little bit of the baker’s time.

Perhaps it’s only legitimate for the state to take our time in the form of money and not in its original form, but we know that it’s not true.

We think it’s legitimate for the state to mandate children to be educated for approximately twelve years of their life. Twelve years! Not the one or two years of conscription in most countries. Libertarians are very rightly adamant about defending choice in how and where children may be educated, but few libertarians have a problem with the idea that it should be mandatory to educate children. Some libertarians oppose mandatory schooling, but supporting mandatory schooling is hardly libertarian heresy. And the reason why schooling is mandatory is very much the logic for military service: it was thought in the Enlightenment era that education is a prerequisite for freedom just as soldierdom is.

Perhaps this way of thinking will turn more minarchists into anarchists. Why, if we allow a role for the State to coerce at all, then we have to accept its ability to force people to kill and die in its name, mandate compulsory schooling, and that being forced to become a soldier is a prerequisite for freedom!

I think David D’Amato summed it up best in his response to Gobry’s essay:

I’ve never had much interest in attempting to decide who is or isn’t allowed to call himself a libertarian…Instead, I would want to make it very plain that if we assume, arguendo, libertarianism actually can countenance military conscription, then I no longer wish to identify myself as a libertarian. If libertarianism can tolerate something as odious and authoritarian as legally enforced enslavement to a war machine, it’s really not something I want to have even the remotest association with.

“JAG” and the Military-Industrial Complex

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JAG

Hey Colonel, is that uniform regulation?

I’m not sure where my fascination with JAG comes from. Maybe I just watch it because Colonel McKenzie was in it. Maybe I find the workings of the US Navy fascinating. Maybe I wanted to see how ridiculous the plots would get, just so they would have an excuse for Rabb to fly F-14s and be the hero, no matter how farfetched.

Maybe it was a combination of all these things.

But these days I look at the show with a different perspective.

http://www.free-tv-video-online.me/player/gorillavid.php?id=4us6qo9ngox7

The above link goes to an episode involving the malfunction and crash of a military plane. There is subsequent investigation and dispute to whether the error was caused by negligence of the flight maintenance officers or malfeasance by the military contracting company providing plane upgrades. I won’t spoil the results (at least not explicitly), but I can’t say that I can recall a single JAG episode that ever questioned the Navy as an institution. To be sure, it does make clear that there are less savory realities of it, particularly the often political nature of how the Uniform Code of Military Justice is applied. Interestingly, though, this is presented as something almost outside of the Navy itself: when political pressure comes to decide cases one way or the other, it comes from the civilian Secretary of the Navy. Those in uniform are typically beyond reproach. If there are any bad apples, they are isolated incidents reflecting only the character of those involved.

JAG does seem to try to delve into controversial issues, mostly those having to do with women in the military (though it did have an episode with a gay Navy SEAL who had another SEAL flack him in a firefight because he was diagnosed with AIDS and didn’t want to live with the shame of it). But I would really like JAG to wrestle some other institutional things about military life that have been around for so long that nobody questions them. More than one episode involves cases of desertion. But why is it “desertion” and not simply “resignation”? As Jeffrey Tucker brilliantly points out in “The Myth of the Voluntary Military,” one is not free to leave. In any private business contract, you may be subject to civil penalties for not fulfilling it but you cannot be forced to work. So should we think of what the military does as forced labor (that is, slavery) or as a necessary measure to protect the lives and property of Americans? (After reading this last sentence, I feel as though I have presented a false dichotomy, as the latter assumes that protection is the primary purpose of the military, rather than to carry out the orders of the politicians.)

Or, better yet, why doesn’t JAG question US involvement in Bosnia or other conflicts during the 1990s? Staying out of those kinds of issues was probably better for the show.

After mulling it over, I think that JAG is no apologist for the military-industrial complex, but it seems to underestimate the influence it has. Indeed, the episode in season six involving a mishap with the Osprey aircraft and the zealous Congresswoman Bobbie Latham demonstrates this. Whereas in TV world, a lone Congresswoman trying to make sure the military doesn’t waste money on equipment can be seen as a well-intentioned budget hawk, in reality, anybody in Congress seriously questioning military spending is usually painted as anti-military. That is why unpopular measures are connected to military spending bills – if someone votes against them they risk being accused of being “against the troops.”

In the end, though, JAG presents the Navy much like it does Cmdr. Rabb. If he has any faults whatsoever, it is that he is too tenacious and obsessed with accomplishing his goals. It’s an oversimplified view of the military, one I wish would be challenged.

They Fight for Our Freedoms?

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u.s. flag and ribbonI sincerely do not want to step on anyone’s toes with today’s post. It regards a question that is near and dear to my heart and is also one that deserves to be discussed.

I was born in the late 80’s. I’ve heard since I can remember that the U.S. military fights for/defends our freedoms. But as I think of the military conflicts that have happened during my lifetime, I’m wondering if any one of them was truly a threat to my own freedom. Take a look at Wikipedia’s page listing the Timeline of United States Military Operations. It’s astounding how many there have been.

What also is quite telling is how few of them had anything to do with protecting Americans on US soil (embassy subtleties aside). Indeed, I don’t think any Afghan, Iraqi, Somalian, Bosnian, Haitian, Filipino, Libyan, Pakistani, Ugandan, etc. has ever been a direct threat to my freedom. And yet trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives have been consumed because of conflicts involving these people.

So, it leads me to the question: does the U.S. military really fight for our freedoms?

Bradley Manning deserves a medal | Glenn Greenwald

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I think Glenn Greenwald states it succinctly:

Bradley Manning deserves a medal

The prosecution of the whistleblower and alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning is an exercise in intimidation, not justice

Danielle Greene
Bradley Manning supporters demonstrate outside FBI headquarters in Washington. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

After 17 months of pre-trial imprisonment, Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old US army private and accused WikiLeaks source, is finally going to see the inside of a courtroom. This Friday, on an army base in Maryland, the preliminary stage of his military trial will start.

He is accused of leaking to the whistleblowing site hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, war reports, and the now infamous 2007 video showing a US Apache helicopter in Baghdad gunning down civilians and a Reuters journalist. Though it is Manning who is nominally on trial, these proceedings reveal the US government’s fixation with extreme secrecy, covering up its own crimes, and intimidating future whistleblowers.
Read the rest of this entry

Military Worries About Losing Worshipers

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Is the US military not big enough? In my local newspaper today there was an article called “Warrior Class: An all-volunteer armed forces may desensitize U.S. to war, some fear.” In it, the following things were mentioned:

  • Staff Sgt. Jerry Majetich was torn apart by a Baghdad roadside bomb and put together through 62 operations. His five older brothers had also enlisted, his mother was an Army nurse in Korea, his son is considering leaving college to join the military, and his daughter is part of the ROTC in her high school. The author of the article, Matthew Schofield, uses this as the archetypal example of the military family: 57% “of active troops today are the children of current or former active or reserve members” of the military.
  • Such inter-generational enlistment is “causing some to worry that the United States is developing a warrior class.” Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, says this is of concern, since there are fewer young adults who are exposed to military service. The stated feared risks “range from a reluctance to fully support those who serve to an almost cavalier willingness to wage war.
  • One of the empire’s criminals, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, desires the return of the draft, claiming that military service makes better citizens.
  • The only positive thing cited regarding the smaller recruiting pool is that “the children of service members enlist understanding the job. They often were raised around the military and aren’t shocked by the culture, the level of expectations or long deployments.

While reading this I had the image of a character in a Looney Tunes cartoon, waiting for a large anvil to fall on them with the word “IRONY” written on the side. The military is worried about people being desensitized to war? But when looked at more closely, the military brass isn’t necessarily concerned about Americans not realizing that war implies mass suffering, death, and destruction (isn’t that what is usually meant by “desensitized to war”?). Rather, they are worried about Americans losing their sympathy for military members and consequently their support of the military as a whole. Realistically, the military RELIES upon a desensitization to the costs and realities of war to keep the machine going. I guarantee that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would have ended long ago if the US taxpayer were forced to pay for them upfront rather than later through borrowing and inflation. Guaranteed.

Staff Sgt. Jerry Majetich

Staff Sgt. Jerry Majetich

Staff Sgt. Majetich is also quoted as saying, “Do people understand the sacrifices? Do they understand the toll combat, long deployments, not to mention injuries and death, take on a person, a family? Do they understand that my 17-year-old daughter has more memories of me in recovery than before the injury? No, they don’t. Not at all.” He’s probably right about that. But it seems absurd that the proposed solution in this article is to increase the number of people who have to endure such hardships, instead of minimizing the number of people who do by not sending them to war unless absolutely necessary. I’m certain that Majetich would rather not have been blown up than have several other people blown up as well just so that they have the benefit of being able to empathize with him.

However, it is interesting that he says,  “Despite everything, I believe in military service.” Back in 2007, I remember hearing disabled Marine veterans of the Iraq War on the radio saying that they would go back if they could. At the time I thought that wanting to go back MUST mean that they believe in the mission and that it MUST be worth it. But since then I realized there was another possibility: no one wants to lose their legs for a lie. Indeed, it is infinitely more comforting to believe that one’s “sacrifices” were for the greater good rather than for no good at all. It seemed that combat veterans were more likely to be emotionally invested into wanting to believe that the cause of the US military was just than to be objective observers of whatever they had witnessed in war zones (though there is much more to consider than this, as evidenced by the support of Ron Paul by active-duty military).

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)

Senator James Inhofe, “one of the few politicians around who still yearn for a draft,” was in the US Army from 1957-1958, according to his Wikipedia page. The US was not at war at this time. Wikipedia also says

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, he was among the panelists questioning witnesses about the 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, stating he was “outraged by the outrage” over the revelations of abuse. Although he believed that the individuals responsible for mistreating prisoners should be punished, he stated that the prisoners “are not there for traffic violations . . . they’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents“.[26][27] In 2006, Inhofe was one of only nine senators to vote against the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 which prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of individuals in U.S. Government custody.

It would seem only right that he disregards the dignity of human beings. Implicit in the belief that the government has the right to draft people is that the government owns you and therefore has the right to send you to die in some foreign land.

Lastly, the Department of Defense’s concern over fewer people enlisting in the military has nothing to do with the actual defense of Americans. Indeed, nothing of the sort was even mentioned in the article. The concern is over the “loss of political clout”. Without it, they might lose their support as being the center of the altar of the civic religion and essentially their status of being beyond criticism. We can only hope that such a thing happens soon.