Morning coffee: Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, Let Us Honor but also Resolve

“But, more important, how can we honor and mourn these troops and all the fallen heroes before them if we don’t, as Americans, resolve that our nation will never again send our men and women into harm’s way in distant lands on a whim, on bombast, on a prevarication. Resolve that if and when we do so — as a last resort and only in defense of our nation and our freedom– we will make sure our troops have the nation’s support and the means and leadership to achieve the mission so that we can, quickly and honestly, claim “mission accomplished” and bring our troops safely home. Finally, resolve that when we do send our men and women into harm’s way, we will take proper care of them when they return, especially of those with physical and mental wounds, and in particular of the dependent loved ones left behind by our fallen heroes.”

Always remember the WMD’s, y’all!

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For Memorial Day, go online to go ‘Go Silent’ and honor veterans

The nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America currently has a page on its website for its Memorial Day “Go Silent” campaign. You can pledge online to go silent for a minute starting at one minute past noon. The online page allows you to name a fallen veteran in whose honor you are going silent. Comments by those taking the pledge and the names of the people they are remembering flash across the screen continuously above a stark photograph of well-worn combat boots. The group is also among the chorus of persistent and strong voices urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to work harder to fix the backlog of veterans’ claims that have some waiting more than a year for benefits. In Los Angeles, it can take an appallingly long 600 days. The Times’ editorial board has urged the government to rectify this situation as soon as possible.

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Memorial Day parade cancelled for first time in 152 years because too few older veterans are well enough to march, younger veterans too busy


image: rogerwilkerson

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Remember and honor all those who are currently serving, those who never returned, and those who came back forever changed.

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Ten years into the Bush-Cheney Clusterfuck

Year: 2003
Photographer: Jean-Marc Bouju
Nationality: France
Organization / Publication: The Associated Press
Date: 31-03-2003
Country: Iraq

Caption: An Iraqi man comforts his four-year-old son at a holding center for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf. The boy had become terrified when, according to orders, his father was hooded and handcuffed. A soldier later severed the plastic handcuffs so that the man could comfort his child. Hoods were placed over detainees’ heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds. The military said the bags were used to disorient prisoners and protect their identities. It is not known what happened to the man or the boy.

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socialismartnatureTo this day, not a single soul among the US political elite has been brought to justice for the crime against humanity that was the invasion, war, and occupation of Iraq. (via: ihatepeacocks)

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Dying vet’s ‘fuck you’ letter to George Bush & Dick Cheney needs to be read by every American

“…I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences…”

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The war lasted years longer and cost 100 times as much as the Bush administration’s estimates.

JM Ashby: It should be reiterated that President Bush kept the cost of the Iraq war off the books while he was in office, and when Republicans make the claim that President Obama dramatically increased the national debt upon taking office, the only reason they are able to make that claim is because the president decided we should begin taking responsibly for the cost of the war by adding it to routine budgets rather than paying for it with emergency authorization bills.

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A Decade Of Mistakes: Timeline Of The Iraq War (3 selections):

MAY 1, 2003: Mission Accomplished. [M]y fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. [Bush, 5/1/03]

MAY 12, 2007: Billions in oil missing in Iraq. “Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq’s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report. Using an average of $50 a barrel, the report said the discrepancy was valued at $5 million to $15 million daily.” [New York Times, 5/12/2007]

JUNE 13, 2011: Department of Defense announces that $6.6 billion dollars earmarked for Iraq has been lost with no explanation. [It was] enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things. For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. [LA Times, 6/13/11]

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Related: 

10 years later: documenting the true history of the Bush Administration

“The true history of my administration will be written 50 years from now, and you and I will not be around to see it.” — George W. Bush

On this day in 2003, a U.S. led coalition invaded Iraq. President Bush said the goal of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to “disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” The Iraqi invasion was strongly supported by Vice President Cheney. As Defense Secretary during the 1991 Gulf War, he opposed an invasion of Iraq, saying it wasn’t worth the casualties or “getting bogged down.” The U.S. combat role in Iraq ended last year after 4,486 Americans were killed, another 32,223 wounded. Direct spending on the Iraq war is estimated at $757 billion, a figure that does not include interest on money borrowed to finance the war — or taking care of veterans. A Brown University study in 2011 said it may also cost $1 trillion more (through 2050) to care for veterans of the 105-month war. On this day in 2011,  President Obama ordered air strikes on Libya.

MARCH 19: On this day in 2003, a U.S. led coalition invaded Iraq. President Bush said the goal of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to “disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” The Iraqi invasion was strongly supported by Vice President Cheney. As Defense Secretary during the 1991 Gulf War, he opposed an invasion of Iraq, saying it wasn’t worth the casualties or “getting bogged down.” …A Brown University study in 2011 said it may also cost $1 trillion more (through 2050) to care for veterans of the 105-month war.

OFFICIALS KNEW Iraq Had No Weapons of Mass Destruction

British and U.S. intelligence agencies “were informed by top sources months before the invasion that Iraq had no active WMD programme, and that the information was not passed to subsequent inquiries,” according to the Guardian.

MOTHER JONES: According to the first-ever comprehensive count of the true toll of the combined wars, the estimate the [Bush Administration] used to sell the invasion in 2003 was about 100 times too low. (i.e. $50-60 billion):

So what did that $6 trillion get us, exactly? Since we borrowed to pay for much of the war, we’re facing nearing $4 trillion in cumulative interest between now and 2053, according to the 30 researchers who worked on the Costs of War report for Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

To date, according to the report, medical and disability claims of U.S. war veterans of Iraq have reached $84 billion; ongoing care for wounded Iraq war vets and their families is expected to require nearly $500 billion more over the next several decades. Homeland Security got $245 billion in additional funding thanks to increased threats of terror—real, imagined, and staged—over the last ten years. On-the-ground operations alone ended up being 16 times more expensive than the Bush cabinet’s original estimate for the entire enterprise.

Apparently the Office of Management and Budget was really, really bad at math for a while there in 2003.


PAUL KRUGMAN wonders why there seems to be so little coverage of the 10-year anniversary:

Well, it’s not hard to think of a reason: a lot of people behaved badly in the runup to that war, and many though not all people in the news media behaved especially badly.

It’s hard now to recall the atmosphere of the time, but there was both an overpowering force of conventional wisdom — all the Very Serious People were for war, don’t you know, and if you were against you were by definition flaky — and a strong current of fear. To come out against the war, let alone to suggest that the Bush administration was deliberately misleading the nation into war, looked all too likely to be a career-ending stance. And there were all too few profiles in courage.

The war, then, was a big test — a test of your ability to cut through a fog of propaganda, but also a test of your moral and to some extent personal courage. And a lot of people in the media failed.

42% OF AMERICANS REMAIN COMFORTABLY DELUSIONAL, IGNORANT

53% of Americans believe the United States “made a mistake sending troops to fight in Iraq” while 42% say it was not a mistake. — a new Gallup poll

FACT: 100% of that 42% also believe this woman should lead the country

FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY:

Cheney: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked.  That’s been a major success.
Martha Raddatz: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.
Cheney: So?
Martha Raddatz: So?  You don’t care what the American people think?
Cheney: No.

TEN YEARS LATER: “I did what I did. It’s all on the public record, and I feel very good about it. If I had to do it over again, I’d do it in a minute.” — Cheney in a new  documentary which aired last Friday.

10 COMPANIES PROFITING THE MOST FROM WAR: The 10 biggest arms producers accounted for more than half of the 2010 sales. The composition of those sales reflects the state of modern warfare, as battles are now often fought with remote surveillance and air strikes instead of ground combat.

Click here for a closer look at each company.

In this charmed circle of American capitalism, Lockheed Martin-, Boeing-, and Raytheon-manufactured munitions destroy Iraq; George Schultz’s Bechtel Corporation and Dick Cheney’s Halliburton rebuild Iraq; and Iraq oil pays for it all.” — Who Benefits from Global Violence and War: Uncovering a Destructive System

Unfortunately military contractors and the politicians they handle walked away from the Iraq-Oil Party with greatly increased wealth and power, and left generations of American taxpayers to foot the bill.

NEVER FORGET:

“Maybe the American people can be brainwashed into forgetting why we supposedly went to war. Near as I can tell, our national memory span is down to about two weeks, and the media have been spectacularly unskeptical on this issue. But the rest of the world is not going to forget that WMDs were our primary reason for an unprovoked, pre-emptive war.” — the late Molly Ivins’ from April 29, 2003, barely a month after Shock ‘n Awe

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s “Final Solution”

I hope people actually pay attention to what Lindsey Graham is proposing here, especially with all the effort that’s been going into the rebranding and remarketing of the Republican Party and their “message.”  Graham is saying that because of the sequester’s automatic cuts to the military (about 7.5% out of an astronomically huge defense budget), he thinks we should cut the health coverage of about 30 million people to pay for that shortfall and protect the DoD’s budget.

JOSH ISRAEL | THINK PROGRESS: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Sunday the government should protect the Defense Department from automatic spending cuts by slashing $1.2 trillion from the Affordable Care Act. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Graham suggested that the sequester’s across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including about a roughly 7.5 percent reduction in military spending, would be “destroying the military.” But rather than agree to President Obama’s proposed alternatives to the sequester, the South Carolina Republican said we should save money by eliminating health care for the 30 million people covered by the Affordable Care Act:

GRAHAM: Well, all I can say is the commander-in-chief thought — came up with the idea of sequestration, destroying the military and putting a lot of good programs at risk. It is my belief — take Obamacare and put it on the table. You can make $86,000 a year in income and still get a government subsidy under Obamacare. Obamacare is destroying health care in this country and people are leaving the private sector, because their companies cannot afford to offer Obamacare and if you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, look at Obamacare, don’t destroy the military and cut blindly across the board…

JOSH ISRAEL: But Graham’s “solution” also misses a key reality: Obamacare actually reduced the deficit. His proposal to put its elimination on the table would mean increasing the budget deficit by an estimated $109 billion over the same 10-year period, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

JOHN COLE: The notion that miniscule cuts to the most bloated military in the world [will destroy it] is, in and of itself, offensive to common sense. That this douchebag wants millions of Americans to die without health coverage to keep shuffling three quarters of a trillion to said military really says it all.

CHARLES JOHNSON: And if you’re tempted to believe Lindsey Graham’s risible statement that a 7.5% cut would “destroy the military,” just take a quick look at this simple chart showing the world’s top 5 military spenders in 2012.

Another thing, they can all freely blame Obama for the sequester on Fox ‘news,’ naturally, but they don’t get away with it so easily on other networks:

IGOR VOLSKY reports that “ABC News’ Jonathan Karl confronted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) over his past support for the sequester, just as the one-time GOP vice presidential candidate sought to blame President Obama for the automatic across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect on March 1.”

“Ryan’s argument is fundamentally dishonest, as he is one of the Republicans responsible for creating the sequester in the first place. In the summer of 2011, Republicans demanded spending cuts to offset a debt ceiling increase and refused to consider new revenues in those negotiations. That standoff produced the Budget Control Act, which Ryan voted for and promoted. The law included spending caps and a devastating sequester as a way to motivate a bipartisan Super Committee to find $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

After the Super Committee failed to agree on a spending reduction package, Ryan — then the GOP’s vice presidential candidate — consistently railed against the sequester mechanism he previously supported, calling it “reckless” and “devastating.” Two months later, he wants the sequester to go into effect and may incorporate its savings in his upcoming budget.”

It’s as if Graham and Ryan would have us believe the sequester was never voted on and passed as law through Congress by Republicans.

Not only is Ryan’s argument “fundamentally dishonest,” but Paul Ryan, the man, is fundamentally dishonest. And I think most of us can agree that’s a standardized requirement for the chosen ‘rock stars‘ of the GOP.

The GOP doesn’t really care about saving money: average defense contractor pay vs. fed pay

Following the last post on the sequester and comparisons between average salaries of federal workers and defense contractor executives ($45,000 to $760,000), in case you didn’t already know: Republicans are not interested in balancing the budget or saving money. That’s not the business they’re in, no matter how much Fox airtime they expend towards that particular party propaganda. Their business is to take revenue from programs and services that benefit the average American and divert it to corporations — and that’s especially true for the military-industrial complex.

Remember when Mitt Romney made the ridiculous claim that federal workers make more than he does? Take a gander at how much his campaign raked in from three defense contractors (see larger table below):

NORTHRUP GRUMMOND LOCKHEED MARTIN GENERAL DYNAMICS TOTAL
Romney, Mitt (R ) $111,014 $165,244 $86,829 $363,087
Obama, Barack (D) $108,756 $126,932 $41,457 $277,145

And, yeah, the President received contributions from them too. You know what the difference is? Obama hasn’t ever claimed federal workers are overpaid or make more than he does. He wanted to give feds a measly 0.5% salary increase this year, and the GOP rebelled.

By the way, a 0.5% increase on an average annual salary of $45,000 would be a massive $225.00 a year. Who was against that? In January, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to block the planned raise in 2013 of 0.5% for federal workers, which was co-sponsored by 28 Republicans, including Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). The Washington Post reported that Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) “quick scheduling of the bill for a vote demonstrates the priority House GOP members give to holding down federal pay.” Ever notice Republicans never suggest reducing the pay of defense contractors?

The DeSantis Bill currently has 35 co-sponsors and is being held in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Let’s look at how much the bill’s author (and the 10 fastest co-sponsors) received from three of the largest defense contractors:

Ranked by who co-sponsored the quickest 2012 CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FROM:
Cosponsors: H.R.273 [113th] NORTHROP GRUMMAN LOCKHEED MARTIN GENERAL DYNAMICS TOTAL
Issa, Darrell E. [R-CA-49]* $5,000 $10,000 $15,000
Farenthold, Blake [R-TX-27]* $1,000 $2,000 $3,000
Mica, John L. [R-FL-7]* $18,250 $10,000 $7,000 $35,250
Duncan, John J., Jr. [R-TN-2]* $1,000 $4,000 $5,000
Jordan, Jim [R-OH-4]* $1,000 $2,000 $10,000 $13,000
Collins, Doug [R-GA-9]* $1,000 $1,000
Meadows, Mark [R-NC-11]* $0
Yoho, Ted S. [R-FL-3]* $0
Massie, Thomas [R-KY-4]* $0
Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8]* $2,000 $2,000

And, for good measure:

Cantor, Eric [R-VA] $20,000 $10,000 $10,000 $40,000

And don’t you even worry about MeadowsYoho, and Massie — they’re brand new and were elected by the tea crowd. They’re still working on their bona fides for future contributions from the big boys. Farenhold and Collins, on the other hand, will simply take even one to three pieces of silver from whomever they can get it.

Defense contractors, unlike federal employees, aren’t that worried about the sequester

The Washington Post reports that defense contractors aren’t very concerned about sequestration:

“In call after call with investors, officials at some of the area’s largest contracting firms refused to guess how much it would cost them if Congress allows the “sequester” to kick in on March 1. Even as their lobbyists keep warning how much the cuts would hurt the industry, the executives are projecting confidence that the sequester will not happen. Northrop Grumman chief executive Wes Bush said Wednesday that his company’s outlook for the year projects “the sequestration is not triggered” and that Congress barely touches federal contract spending levels for 2013. General Dynamics …too, assumes no sequestration. Their confidence defies the emerging consensus on Capitol Hill that Congress will not find an agreement in time to cancel or delay the cuts… If the sequester cuts take effect in full, economists estimate they will destroy about 1 million jobs nationwide, including hundreds of thousands in the Washington area. The executives do not appear to believe that will come to pass. It may be because Congress keeps averting fiscal crises at the very last minute, and because the Obama administration asked contractors last year not to issue layoff notices in preparation for cuts that were originally scheduled to begin this month. It may also be because contracting firms appear confident in their ability to lobby for sequester relief.”

Meanwhile, federal labor unions are asking Congress (*cough* Republicans *cough*) to quit playing favorites with their defense contractor buddies if they really want to balance the budget:

“The NTEU has called on Congress to focus its attention on contractors for cost savings. During the last session of Congress, the union lobbied for a stalled measure that would limit reimbursements for contractor executive pay. Gilman said the legislation could save the government up to $50 billion over 10 years. “Some folks are just adamant that their number one goal is to prevent these guys that are making $45,000 a year from getting a half-percent raise as opposed to limiting folks that are being reimbursed $760,000 a year,” Gilman said. “We can’t get some of the people who are screaming loudest about cutting the budget to look at the total dollars as opposed to just looking at the federal workforce.””

$45,000 to $760,000 is quite a discrepancy between the average federal salary and the average pay for a defense contractor executive. The Bush Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are over now, right? Why is the war machine not winding down?

The enormous salaries paid by the taxpayer to defense contractor executives are just another form of corporate welfare. How is this not “big government?” It’s ridiculous that federal workers could be doing the same work for less money, but the conservative talking point is that by the government hiring contractors at enormous wages we’re “drowning government in a bathtub.” Bullshit. Defense contractors are banking massive amounts of tax payer money and WE’RE the ones who are drowning.

Chuck Hagel vs. John McCain: Defense Secretary nominee vs. a sad, little man

Chuck Hagel, John McCain Clash Over Iraq Surge (VIDEO)

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Or as Josh Marshall says: “There’s simply no elevating it. Sen. McCain’s (R-AZ) entire game here is about score settling and holding on to what is arguably the only thing he was right about in the last 20 years. The ‘surge’ McCain may have been right about. There’s a decent argument. But, of course, this is one move in the larger Iraq story which is undeniably one of the biggest foreign policy catastrophes in modern American history — and one which John McCain is one of the great authors of. What a sad little man.”

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Defending a ‘surge’ in a dishonest, catastrophic war is like defending seatbelts in a car that’s about to go into a crusher. And then there’s the whole ‘Palin’ decision… McCain doesn’t even know how big of a joke he really is.

New hostages: the Sequester and the expiration of the Continuing Resolution

Mark your calendars: March 1 and March 27.

Suzy Khimm discusses why the Republicans aren’t worried about the sequester — and why Paul Ryan seems to be one of the lead cheerleaders for letting it happen.

…it was only about two weeks ago that many of the House GOP’s defense hawks were vocally opposing letting the defense cuts in the sequester take effect, rejecting the notion that Boehner had the sequester “in my back pocket” as a threat to use against Democrats…

[...] That was before the House GOP retreat, however, after which the message on sequester seemed to become more unified. But given the genuine fears that rank-and-file GOP members expressed about the sequester’s defense cuts, it’s unclear whether House Republicans’ message on the sequester is political bluster or a genuine threat...

What’s more, the real impact of the sequester is becoming increasingly apparent as we approach the new March 1 deadline. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already ordered the Pentagon to “prepare for the worst” by taking preliminary cost-cutting measures to training, operations and weapons maintenance. And the impact of the cuts on local military bases is crystallizing as well, adding to the pushback that legislators will feel back at home if they let the sequester take effect.

And while it’s true that Congress still doesn’t have an agreement on dealing with the sequester, or anything close to it, it could also just kick the can for a few weeks until March 27, when the Continuing Resolution to fund the government expires. The sequester would then get lumped into the bigger budget debate and Republicans would have a new point of leverage that they’d be arguably more likely to use than defense cuts: a government shutdown.

The Republicans just want to watch the world burn. Sequestration ties in nicely with the government shutdown that many of them just “need to get out of their system,” according to Boehner.

However, Ezra Klein doesn’t think the sequester gives Republicans any advantages:

[T]he sequester doesn’t touch Medicaid, Social Security or Pell grants. It exempts most programs for low-income Americans, like food stamps. Veteran’s benefits are home free, as are federal retirement benefits. Medicare providers see cuts, but Medicare beneficiaries don’t. And fully half of the cuts come from the military — a huge reduction in defense spending that Democrats couldn’t dream about achieving any other way.

That’s not to say Democrats will love the sequester. It slashes deep into everything from the National Institutes of Health to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education to the Environmental Protection Agency. Worse, the cuts are done with a cleaver rather than a scalpel. Rather than giving agencies control over how to apportion the spending cuts, every affected program simply sees the same reduction. Democrats don’t much like that, but given the sequester’s disproportionate focus on the military, it’s even worse for Republicans.

Valor knows no gender

“Today, by moving to open more military positions—including ground combat units—to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens.  This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today’s military.  Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 150 women who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan—patriots whose sacrifices show that valor knows no gender.” President Barack Obama

Charlie Pierce: “According to the 2010 study, a recent IDF report found that female combatants maintained alertness better, were more knowledgable and professional when using their weapons, and had better shooting abilities than men. But even still, like in many other nations, a good number of combat positions remain closed to them, including much of those on the front lines. And though there was a 400 percent increase in Israeli women military careerists between 1999 and 2009, the brass ceiling in many ways still remains. [...] But momentum is gathering. And while, again, this morning’s change has a three-year span before the military needs to make final decisions about which combat roles it will open to American women, over the next few years, across the world—in South Korea, in Australia, and now in the U.S. — more and more women will see combat with some, but, if precedent holds, not all of the titles they damn well deserve. [Via NPR]

Mother Jones: “If the United States had previously allowed women to serve officially in military combat roles, including special operations forces, there might be fewer sexual assaults in the armed services, the Pentagon’s top general told reporters Thursday. Having studied the issue of rampant sexual misconduct in the ranks, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that he has concluded that the phenomenon exists partly because women have been subordinated to men in military culture: “It’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel.””

Additionally the United States is, once again, lagging behind the rest of the civilized world in finally opening combat roles to women. Over a dozen other countries have allowed it for years, such as: (Buzzfeed)

  1. Canada
  2. Israel
  3. Finland
  4. Poland
  5. Norway
  6. Denmark
  7. France
  8. Romania
  9. Germany
  10. Sweden
  11. The Netherlands
  12. Australia
  13. New Zealand

And what are some of the silliest reactions to this news so far?

  • Steve Benen: Internet television personality Allen West was not at all pleased with the Pentagon’s decision to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, calling this part of “another misconceived liberal vision of fairness and equality.” Of course, given that West was forced from the military after an interrogation in which he threatened to kill a police officer, then fired a 9mm next to his head to make the threat credible, maybe he’s not the best judge on military qualifications.
  • Tucker Carlson also tweeted: “The latest feminist victory: The right to get your limbs blown off in war. Note to Tucker: 130 American women have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And of the several hundred who are injured, one now serves quite ably in Congress. (Rep. Tammy Duckworth flew helicopters.) I suspect that many feminists might well agree with Carlson: Women ought to have the right to get their limbs blown off if they’re as qualified as men are. Duckworth, whose limbs were, well, blown off, was as good a pilot as the many more men who were injured by IEDs too. This is quaint and false chivalry.
  • David Frum: “The people we are likely to meet on the next battlefield are people who use rape and sexual abuse as actual tools of politics. In Iranian prisons, rape is a frequent practice. Women are raped before they are executed. In Iran, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan rape is a conscious tool of subjugation and it is something women will be exposed to. In the name of equal opportunity they will face unequal risk.” — Adam Serwer: “It’s true that women face the danger of sexual assault if captured. The same could be said of men. Frum’s objection seems somewhat selective; women in the US military are more likely to face sexual assault from their comrades in the service than they are to be killed by enemy fire. Perhaps that’s less sensational than the thought of scary foreigners violating American women, but it’s a more urgent threat.”
  • WSJ Op-ed: Women shouldn’t be allowed in combat positions because men poop and it would be humiliating to poop in front of women.
  • Bill Kristol: “It’s predictable that few in our political and cultural elites will speak up for biology, for common sense, or for decency or honor.”

Finally, WHY is ending the ban so crucial? Andrew Sullivan:

Without the combat designation, women veterans can be denied the benefits they need, particularly medical and psychological, because they were designated non-combat while serving. Receiving many benefits from the VA is dependent on “if the veteran engaged in combat with the enemy.” A critical part of the approval process is what was the veteran’s designated military occupational speciality. If women will have noncombat MOS even if they engaged in combat because they are women then that means the VA might not approve them for combat related requests for benefits.  Women are not being treated equally under the law because of the noncombat designation.

I expect there will be a massive  lawsuit on behalf of all the female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to be retroactively reclassified as having served with combat duty in order to get the medical benefits they will need from the VA for the rest of their lives.  Because right now, that shit is being denied and will continue being denied for the entirety of their lives, all because they were designated ‘non-combat’ when they served.

This afternoon’s BFD

shortformblog: The decision reverses a combat exclusion policy passed back in 1994. source

Sequestration and defense spending: the class war continues


via truth-has-a-liberal-bias

“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.” — George Orwell, from 1984

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“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower


Defense CEOs vs. Workers

The military’s new fighter jet project only costs $1.45 trillion – While [Gov. Rick] Scott famously refused $2 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail in Florida, deriding it as an expensive boondoggle, his team shows no such hesitations about the $1.45 trillion F-35 project. The most expensive weapons system in Pentagon history, it has suffered technical setbacks, nearly a decade of production delays, and substantial cost overruns; the Pentagon currently estimates each plane will cost $135 million to build and maintain. So it’s no surprise that the Simpson-Bowles commission pointed to halving the Navy and Air Forces’ orders and eliminating the Marines’ version as a deficit-reduction step; in 2009, the Congressional Budget Office floated a similar cut. Any such reductions would lower the $1.59 billion in economic impact that, Lockheed boasts, Florida will get from F-35 contracts held by 95 in-state suppliers. […] During the Republican rebuttal to Obama’s 2012 State of the Union, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ripped the president for trying to “build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed dollars.” Yet just three months earlier, his deputy, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, blessed a report highlighting the stimulus brought to her state’s economy by nearly 40,000 deficit-exploding federal defense jobs. – Mother Jones


Where did your 2011 federal income taxes go? Find out more here.


“The U.S. defense budget is about 43 percent of the world’s total military spending — more than the combined defense spending of the next 17 nations, many of which are U.S. allies. Are Republicans really going to warn voters that America will be imperiled if the defense budget is cut 8 percent from projections over the next decade? In 2017, defense spending would still be more than that of the next 10 countries combined.” — George Will, The Washington Post 


CHARTS: U.S. Military Spending Is Totally Out Of Control And Can’t Last: “Between 2009 and 2010 defense spending increased 3 percent even as the economy continued to slow, with the 2012 military budget claiming $1.4 trillion tax dollars. That amount doesn’t even include classified programs and that money is buying expensive equipment that is just as costly to maintain.” — businessinsider.com


wordsagainstchaos: With defense spending soaring, from 2001-2011, and government revenues falling to 24% below 2001 levels (imagine how difficult it would be to pay your bills if you were earning 24% less than you did 10 years ago), the United States finds itself in a security-state deficit crisis. If we can be smarter about how we manage our money, we can ease out of record deficits without crippling the middle class or the states.

Safety nets and cannon fodder

Nicholas Kristoff complains:

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire. Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

To which Duncan Black summarizes excellently:

The poors are refusing to assume their God-given place as cannon fodder for our empire.

John McCain actually compared a planned raid to a surprise attack: bin Laden vs. Benghazi


pimmyjalmer: Rachel Maddow facepalm.

Josh Marshall asks: is this the stupidest thing McCain ever said?

“Under what circumstances? Why was reference to Al Qaeda left out? There are so many things that have happened. The interesting things finally, we knew in hours of all the details when we got bin Laden, they making a movie out of it and we are ten weeks later and finally our ambassador to the United Nations, who appeared on every national Sunday show, is now saying that she gave false information concerning how this tragedy happened as far as the spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video.”

As Josh points out: “…you tend to know more about a raid you spent a year planning and executed yourself than a raid on your compound which, as kinda tends to happen in these [situations], you didn’t know about in advance and happened in dark.”

Yes, it’s a great mystery that we had “all the details” about a long-planned raid — and it’s simply dereliction of duty that we can’t foretell the future.

After his comment, perhaps it’s worth noting that John McCain graduated sixth from last place (894th out of 899th) in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy. Ironically, he called Susan Rice “not very bright” (Rice graduated from Stanford University with honors, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. at Oxford University). Of course, he’s a rich conservative white man, so… that makes him qualified to judge those who aren’t.

It’s somehow fitting that John McCain’s legacy will be Sarah Palin, who has proven herself to be one of the dullest knives rattling around in our nation’s junk drawer.

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The conspiracy therefore was not to mislead the American public but to mislead America’s enemies. If Rice had gone beyond her unclassified talking points and said that Ansar al-Sharia was suspected to be behind the Benghazi attacks, no doubt she would now be being hounded for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” — Peter Bergen, CNN (AS)

The Petraeus Affair: Erica Kane reveals all

  

  
  
  

via: pricklylegs

Happy Veterans Day!

justinspoliticalcorner: Happy Veterans Day!