Beltway Braces for a Very Cratchit Christmas

Today’s Washington Post informs us that “for the holidays, the spies say they’ll scrimp.”

This year's CIA party will be much more subdued.

[W]ith budget cuts looming, party plans are being pared back for the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA. …

Under then-director Leon E. Panetta last year, the CIA brought in shipments of California wine, and served fried oysters, grilled shrimp and quesadillas. His predecessor, Michael V. Hayden, made sure there were musicians playing Irish music while stations set up inside the agency’s cavernous headquarters hallway served drinks and hors d’oeuvres. …

But the CIA and DNI both acknowledged this week that the events this time around will be smaller, cheaper and off-limits to the press. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the holiday austerity reflects the nation’s financial condition.

“Scaling back our holiday celebrations is just another small example of our commitment to making sure that we continue to make wise fiscal decisions across the board,” Clapper said in a prepared statement.

The measures come at a time when the Obama administration is also probably eager to avoid any appearance of opulence amid the sour economy and soaring national debt.

Tiny Tim celebrates the good fortune of the military-industrial complex.
Elsewhere in the Post, though, we read that while “home prices continue to fall, D.C. bucks trend.” And — oops! — I left out the last graf of that other story:

Indeed, the party savings are probably more meaningful symbolically than financially. A U.S. official said the annual DNI party typically cost about $50,000, or roughly the cost of a single Hellfire missile, and a fraction of the $54 billion spy budget this year.

(Second link via David Friedman.)

“Come Home America” Message Was Clear Winner at Iowa Straw Poll

Come Home America Ames Message
coleenCHA1
W.A.R: Wasted American Resources

The Des Moines news reporter who noted our anti-war message at the entrance of yesterday’s Republican Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, was not present with us long enough to see the real story. Our banners actually got an amazingly good reception! Our group of sign holders were all surprised how many of the thousands of straw poll attendees, even Pawlenty and Santorum t-shirted fans, were responding positively to the “Come Home America” message and banners warning that “Endless War = Endless Debt” and “War IS Taxing”: The anti-war enthusiasm also manifested itself as people from all political (conservative, libertarian, and socially progressive) backgrounds stopped to talk, with many even giving up an hour or two to help us hold the banners.

Endless War: Endless Death
coleenCHA2
Endless War: Endless Death

Attendees seemed genuinely interested when we encouraged them to sign our recent “Dear Obama” letter and told them we were part of a non-partisan effort to focus on the most important ISSUES of the day, instead of the promises, slogans, cute winks and other crazy antics of any particular political candidate.

Remember the Constitution
coleenCHA3
Remember the Constitution

The truth is that progressives who support social safety nets, funding of public education, and who are opposed to the widening disparity between the wealthiest and the poor in the United States cannot possibly see their goals realized without the US government making a clean break from the last decade of destructive and costly wars.

Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan
coleenCHA4

Libertarians will not see a return to adherence to the Constitution, civil liberties and away from national security policing and “War Presidency” empowerment. “Greens” will not see more funding and research diverted to sustainable and environmentally clean energy technologies. And fiscal conservatives cannot possibly get the small, decentralized government they long for while the United States seeks costly world empire and military superpower status.

coleenCHA5

All the people’s worthwhile goals are connected by money and are antithetical to the US’ spending on runaway militarism. If the American government continues to be controlled by the military-industrial-congressional-media complex, in defiance of this popular consensus, throwing trillions of hard-earned and increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars on bombs, drone technology, armoring tanks, and outright corporate contractor fraud, none of these other popular group objectives are possible.

Come Home America at Ames
coleenCHA6

While the hundreds of national media in Iowa covered the actual, close straw poll finish (near tie) of Michele Bachmann only beating Ron Paul by 152 votes, they did not seem to care or cover the enormous outpouring we witnessed from people of different political backgrounds and loyalties—confirmed by numerous national polls–showing consensus for ending the wars and runaway militarism. Perhaps the “Come Home America” kick-off bannering at the early Iowa Straw Poll event revealed the unique moment we’re in, watching a perfect storm of various rationales coming together.

Stop War at Ames, Iowa
coleenCHA7

In any event, look for our Come Home America initiative to represent this convergence and strengthening consensus outside many of Obama’s upcoming speeches as well as other major political events throughout the nation. We hope to mount banners as in the photos of yesterday’s event in Iowa. While politicos and horse race bettors constantly talk of making their selections using the “lesser of two evils”, one thing is clear: It is the issues more than the political personalities that matter and WAR is not the lesser of two evils! It is THE EVIL that poisons and contaminates everything else.

Endless War and Endless Debt
coleenCHA9
Endless War and Endless Debt

Dubya was right??

From film-maker Oliver Stone’s interview with former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, we discover:

Oliver Stone: "Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?"

Nestor Kirchner: "…I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. …He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war."

Stone: "War. He said that?"

Kirchner: "He said that. Those were his exact words."

Stone: "Was he suggesting that South America go to war?"

Kirchner: "Well, he was talking about the United States. …All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. –Fmr. Argentine President Kirchner Dies of Heart Attack, Democracy Now!, Oct. 28, 2010

So, WAS Dubya right?

"War" [1] is indeed a key part of the U.S. economy. Some folks call this "military keynesianism."

Consider: Despite one of the most defensible geographic situations on earth — unless you fear the Canadians — the U.S. Government spends more on "defense" than almost the rest of the world combined. AND, not surprisingly, U.S.A. is the biggest arms merchant in the world.

So, Mr. Bush was exactly right.

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, approximately 43% of your income taxes go to pay for wars, past and present. And that’s before Uncle Sam is forced, kicking and screaming, into officially admitting PTSD is nearly universal in combat veterans, lasts a lifetime, and is expensive to treat. According to former IMF Chief Economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the two current "wars" will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers between four and six trillion dollars. That’s trillion. With a "T."

And don’t fret about the militaryindustrial budget. While Mr. Obama isn’t yet responsible for killing as many men, women and children as Mr. Bush — and hasn’t spent as much doing so, give him a chance — he’s not even two years into his presidency and he’s already sent at least 60,000 new U.S. troops into Afghanistan and has plans to escalate the U.S. presence in Pakistan, and the largely ignoredU.S. presence in Yemen too.

With these kinds of numbers — that 43% of your income tax spent for “wars” for example — maybe a bit of money invested in antiwar.com to stop them might be a good investment, not only for you, but for your kids, grand kids and the yet unborn. What do you say?

Notes:

[1] The U.S. Government hasn’t been at war according to its Constitution since the end of World War II. That would require the U.S. House of Representatives to vote for war, which it hasn’t done. This means the so-called "wars" — the Korean "War," the Vietnam "War," The Iraq "Wars," the "War" in Afghanistan, etc. — must be something else. Or, since they insist on calling them "wars" anyway, unconstitutional. But as George W. Bush is reported to have claimed, "The constitution is just a damned piece of paper." So, who cares? return

Blackout?

Can YOUR card do this?

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you how war fits into this. I mean, you co-wrote the book with Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War. How does war fit into our problems with the economy?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, war fits in because you’re creating a liability, you’re spending money. And when we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we already had a deficit. And so, these wars were the first wars in America’s history financed totally on the credit card. So, you’re creating a liability, but you’re not creating an asset. So that’s the kind of spending that does weaken the economy, because it’s one-sided. … The numbers now are much more like four to six trillion.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, across this country, as the debates for various congressional and Senate seats[go], war is almost never raised [as an issue]. –Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz: Foreclosure Moratorium, Government Stimulus Needed to Revive US Economy

Blackout??

PRECEDENT? According to a "Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting" two week study, during the lead-up to the Iraq war, a period of particularly intense debate (Jan. 30 to Feb 12, 2003), U.S. mainstream media, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS Evening News, conducted 393 interviews about the pending war. Only three of those interviews were with peace leaders.

Don’t F*ck Me Up With Peace and Love?

Maybe this post by George Hawley, “Solving Non-Interventionism’s Tough-Guy Problem,” wasn’t directed at Antiwar.com, but I’ll address some excerpts from it anyway.

In the years since I abandoned my status as a typical neoconservative chicken hawk and adopted Old Right non-interventionism, I’ve been somewhat uneasy with much of the movement’s rhetoric. Specifically, I often find much of the anti-war Right a little too reminiscent of the anti-war Left. That is, many anti-war conservatives and libertarians expend a great number of keystrokes lamenting the American war machine’s innocent foreign victims (see Chronicles
or LewRockwell.com just about any day of the week for examples). This is often my own preferred argument. My concern is that this kind of rhetoric does little to grow the non-interventionist movement’s ranks. …

Although their message is utterly vacuous, the Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Levins know exactly how to frame their arguments in a way that appeals to the GOP base. It’s time for more doves on the Right to learn to do the same.

But, of course, we do make coldly consequentialist, self-interested arguments
against militarism, war, and empire. We also make arguments on moral grounds, from a number of different starting points (including conservative Christianity, which I hear this GOP base is really into). Why make this an either/or matter? Why should we drop half (or more) of our arguments when they don’t conflict with the other half? (There are various types of “humanitarianism” that do conflict with non-interventionism, but we avoid those, so no problem there.)

As for learning from Limbaugh and Levin, please. I know their audience. I was born into it. If I ever write a political memoir, I’ll name it Up From Hannity. There is a Reasonable Right worth reaching out to, but it ain’t in talk radio. These people “think very little about foreign policy,” as Hawley puts it, not out of apathy, but on principle, because thinking leads to questioning, and questioning is a mere Bic flick away from flag-burning, bin Laden, buggery, and Buddhism. The funny thing is, the warbots are not allergic to “humanitarian, we-are-the-world gobbledygook” – in fact, they devour it when it’s in the service of American imperialism. Anyone who watches Fox News knows how quickly right-wingers can pivot from “kill ’em all” to “aww, purple fingers!” The problem is not that peaceniks have tried the wrong arguments on them; they will accept any argument, no matter how heterodox it appears on its face, so long as it reaches the correct conclusion, roughly summarized here. But any argument that reaches a different conclusion, no matter how consonant it is with “conservative values” such as traditionalism, small government, fiscal responsibility, or national sovereignty, doesn’t stand a chance with that crowd.

Lamenting the suffering created by harsh economic sanctions and bombing campaigns is a good way for non-interventionist right-wingers to suck up to their leftist friends and colleagues, but so what? The people moved by such arguments are already anti-war. Building a powerful anti-war coalition on the Right will require an entirely different rhetoric. At all costs it must avoid sounding like Code Pink.

This ignores the salvageable, non-Rush Right, whom we do address, and it seems a little confused about the purposes of advocacy. Not all arguments are about convincing someone to switch sides. Often, it’s more important to get those who agree with you on an issue to care more about that issue, in both absolute and relative terms. For instance, much of our commentary since January has been aimed at convincing our lefty readers that they shouldn’t surrender peace and civil liberties for the various goodies Obama has promised them. We’re always trying to make people rethink their priorities, or merely come out of the closet. Even after a majority of Americans soured on the Iraq war, most remained sheepish, even silent, in their opposition, revealing it only to pollsters. Part of our job is to get people fired up, to translate their dissatisfaction into action of some sort. And you know what? Moral arguments are often good motivators, even for people whose default modes of analysis are amoral.

Luckily, we already have a pretty good format that has worked pretty well in America’s Red regions, and can be applied to the cause of peace. There is a certain ethos that characterizes a great number of ordinary Republicans – or at least the ordinary Republicans with whom I prefer to spend my time. For the lack of a better term, I will call this frame of mind, “Who-Gives-a-Damn? Conservatism.” This is the type of thinking that leads to support for standard GOP policies, but not for particularly-sophisticated reasons. I have no doubt that a great number of grassroots Republicans oppose ideas like universal health care and more federal spending on public schools because they understand, and find compelling, conservative and libertarian arguments about the utility of such policies. I suspect much of the opposition to these schemes, however, is based on a more primal emotion. That is, a lot of people don’t like Big Government because they don’t want to pay for it and don’t really care about the people it is supposed to help.

If you think most self-described conservatives really hate Big Government,
then you stopped paying attention sometime around, oh, the Nixon administration. Good God, man, if they hated Big Government, wouldn’t they at least dislike the most wasteful and intrusive government programs of them all, from the War on Terror to the War on Drugs? No, they love Big Government, from its big, fat boots to its big, fat head. Oh, they’re angry that some of the loot falls on the, um… undeserving, but that won’t stop them from sucking the teats of Social Security and Medicare to the shape and texture of a deflated football. They won’t abide tax increases, but they see no connection between those and deficit spending. And why should they? Just keep those F-22s coming, barkeep! The grandkids are buying!

I do agree with this part completely:

The neocons’ democratist ideology should be treated as just another example of fuzzy-headed utopianism. Bringing “liberal democracy” and “democratic capitalism” to the entire world should be added to the category of ridiculous, never-going-to-happen ideas. The best argument against the neocons is that they are delusional. They are the eggheads dreaming up sentimental, utopian schemes, not us.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Nonetheless, we will gain nothing from adopting the language and posture of the neocons and their fellow travelers. Non-interventionism’s only “tough-guy problem” is the widespread attachment to a mindset derived entirely from dumbass action flicks, which are about as useful a guide for foreign policy as romantic comedies are for romance.