Well, the good folks at truthout changed the header on my op-ed to a less colorful “North Korea and U.S. Special Ops Forces” but still glad they published it. Copyright Truthout.org, reprinted with permission.North Korea and US Special Ops Forces
Friday, 19 April 2013 10:56By Kevin Martin, SpeakOut | ONormally I prefer it when Congress is not in session in Washington, reasoning our legislators can do us no harm, or less harm anyway, when they are back home in their districts meeting with constituents and/or pandering to and raising money from corporate special interests.
However this week, two congressional hearings shed light on some very interesting, previously unknown (or at least not widely known) facts related to our “national security.”
The first, earlier this week, came at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on emerging threats. As reported by Walter Pincus for the Washington Post, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM in military shorthand), Admiral William McRaven, stated, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”
Now this number surprised me very much. Had I been asked to guess, I might have said we have special ops forces in maybe half that number of countries. On the other hand, given that the U.S. has somewhere between 800 and over 1,000 foreign military bases around the world (there is no consensus on how to even count them), as well as an overall unprecedented global military footprint, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the 70 to 90 number. It may in fact be low.
Pincus’s article hinted at not only the increased role of Special Ops (which, along with drone strikes, are preferred means of projecting U.S. military might as the military seeks to reduce boots on the ground in some regions of the world), but also its growing budget (“Special Operations wins in 2014 budget”). Of course the budget, along with the number of countries, not to mention what the special ops forces are doing, all fall into the “we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you” category.
Which is ludicrous, since we taxpayers foot the bill for all of this special opping. Shouldn’t we know what the tab is, and be able to judge if it’s worth it? Is this making us safer, or earning us more enemies around the world? Is this a good priority for our tax dollars, or would we feel more secure investing instead in our improving our schools, re-building our aging infrastructure, creating jobs and affordable housing and investing in green energy sources?
The Obama White House, which is failing miserably in its pledge to be the most transparent administration ever, should heed the adage that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and release the budget, list of countries we’re on the ground in, and various missions of the Special Operations Command.
The second illuminating hearing, of the House Armed Services Committee, was held Thursday. As was widely reported, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) revealed a Defense Intelligence (oxymoron alert!) Agency report that, counter to widely held belief, North Korea has the capability to hit the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, though the weapon’s reliability would be low. The Obama Administration and other government spokespeople were quick to either disavow the DIA finding or point out this is not a consensus position of the U.S. intelligence community.
On this one, I’m inclined to the skeptical view. Miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, fitting it atop a missile that has to fly across the North Pole or the world’s largest ocean, come close to its target and explode at the right time, well this is called “rocket science.” North Korea’s ain’t anywhere close to ours.
Do you know what’s not rocket science? Understanding North Korea’s government isn’t crazy, paranoid or irrational. Their recent nuclear and missile tests, as well as other provocative actions and threats, while regrettable, are the moves of an isolated, impoverished country targeted as part of the “Axis of Evil” by our previous president. It keenly observed what happened to the other two, sanctioned-to- death, invaded, regime-changed and occupied Iraq, and sanctioned-to-death and threatened with “all options on the table” Iran. Both lacked nuclear weapons of their own to deter U.S. (and Israeli, in the case of Iran) aggression, so North Korea learned the obvious lesson about nuclear weapons – “we better get us some.” Moreover, North Korea has long faced the overwhelming economic, political and especially military power of the U.S. and South Korea.
While recently the U.S. has correctly backed off plans to escalate military pressure on the North, in the last few weeks it conducted massive war games with South Korea, with the stated objective of preparing for regime change or collapse in the North. U.S. B-2s and B-52s ran simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, and F-22 fighter jets were moved to the South. If you were in the North Korean government, wouldn’t you be pretty jumpy right about now?
Putting out the fire with gasoline is not what we need. Let’s hope Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the region succeeds in calming the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Calm, reasoned diplomacy is what we need, not military escalation and threats. Let’s also look longer term, to put in place steps leading to a peace treaty with North Korea (we have only a supposedly temporary armistice signed 60 years ago at the end of the Korean War) and denuclearization of the region, and the world.
Nuclear deterrence clearly isn’t working; if it were, wouldn’t the U.S.’s massive nuclear arsenal of over 5,000 warheads, most of which are tens or hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed over 130,000 people, be dissuading North Korea from threatening to attack us, whether the threat is credible or not? Nuclear disarmament would make the region and the world much safer, and cost a lot less to boot.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Great piece on Huffington Post, as always, by SUNY-Albany emeritus professor of history and politics and Peace Action board member Larry Wittner, on U.S. and global military spending.
According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.
The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the U.S. government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion — 39 percent of the global total. The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third). Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.
U.S. military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012. NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.
Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.
This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes. Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.
Of course, there is a direct connection between the massive level of U.S. military spending and belt-tightening austerity at home: most federal discretionary spending goes for war.
The Lockheed Martin Corporation’s new F-35 joint strike fighter plane provides a good example of the U.S. government’s warped priorities. It is estimated that this military weapons system will cost the U.S. government $1.5 trillion by the time of its completion. Does this Cold War-style warplane, designed for fighting enemies the U.S. government no longer faces, represent a good investment for Americans? After twelve years of production, costing $396 billion, the F-35 has exhibited numerous design and engineering flaws, has been grounded twice, and has never been flown in combat. Given the immense military advantage the United States already has over all other nations in the world, is this most expensive weapons system in world history really necessary? And aren’t there other, better things that Americans could be doing with their money?
Of course, the same is true for other countries. Is there really any justification for the nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to be increasing their level of military spending –as they did in 2012 – while millions of their people live in dire poverty? Projections indicate that, by 2015, about a billion people around the world will be living on an income of about $1.25 per day. When, in desperation, they riot for bread, will the government officials of these nations, echoing Marie Antoinette, suggest that they eat the new warplanes and missiles?
President Dwight Eisenhower put it well in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors 60 years ago:
“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 … This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
That sentiment persists. On April 15, 2013, people in 43 countries participated in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending, designed to call attention to the squandering of the world’s resources on war. Among these countries was the United States, where polls show that 58 percent of Americans favor major reductions in U.S. military spending.
How long will it take the governments of the United States and of other nations to catch up with them?
Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press).This Blogger’s Books from Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford Nuclear Age Series)
Published on Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Common Dreams
Tax Day and the Pentagon
by Kevin Martin
This month, as budget and policy issues in Washington muddle along inconclusively as usual, grassroots peace activists are busy organizing, educating, protesting and lobbying.
Last weekend, Historians Against the War hosted an ambitious, illuminating conference at Towson University north of Baltimore on “The New Faces of War” with speakers and participants examining rapidly-changing foreign and domestic policies.
Anti-Nuclear activists will converge on Washington next week for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s D.C. Days, for strategizing, training and lobbying on nuclear weapons, power, waste and cleanup issues.
Around the country, peace and social justice organizers will convene local actions on Tax Day, April 15, to educate taxpayers on the country’s skewed budget priorities that favor the Pentagon over human and environmental needs. This year, April 15 is also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, with activities around the world and in over 30 U.S. states drawing attention to the world’s addiction to militarism and exorbitant “defense” budgets. If you can’t organize or attend a Tax Day event, you can still join our Thunderclap “It’s Our Tax Day, Not Theirs” online social media action.
The prestigious, independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) will release its annual report on world military expenditures on Monday, which will show the United States continues to spend over 40% of the world’s $1.7 trillion annually allocated to weapons and war. Randy Schutt of Cleveland Peace Action put together an impressive article titled Our Tax Dollars are off the War – 2013 edition on Daily Kos with charts, graphs and citations comparing U.S. military spending to the rest of the world, and to domestic spending, which serves as a nice complement to the upcoming SIPRI report.
Lastly, an impressive national coalition has come together to organize days of action throughout the month to stop U.S. drone warfare.
All these actions focus on crucial issues, and they come at a time when there is hope not just to impact those specific policies, but when a confluence of events give us an opportunity not seen in at least a decade to fundamentally question the mission and role of the U.S. military in both domestic and foreign policy.
In short, it’s time for the Pentagon to stop weaving all over the road, to get back in its lane, and to stay there.
On domestic policy, the most obvious issue is the metastasis of the Pentagon budget, which has doubled since 9/11. The total “national security budget,” which includes not just the Pentagon but also intelligence agencies, Department of Homeland Security and nuclear weapons spending under the Department of Energy is over $1 trillion per year. Globally, the U.S. accounts for about 43% of total military spending, and more than the next 13 countries (most of which are U.S. allies) combined. The opportunity cost of this Pentagon pig-out is investment in the things we really need to make our country more secure – improved education, health care, jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure and addressing climate change.
While not necessarily the fault of the Pentagon, a creeping militarization of social policy, as seen in policing, prisons, the “war on drugs” and immigration, among other areas, is cause for grave concern and corrective action.
Constitutionally, the arrogation of power by the Obama Administration to assassinate anyone, anywhere on the planet, anytime it wants to by drones or other weapons with little or no congressional or judicial oversight can hardly be what the president ran on as “change you can believe in.”
(The president’s home state senator and former colleague, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, plans a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing later this month to address this issue, including the Administration’s assertion of the Authorization of the Use of Military Force after 9/11 as the legal justification for drone strikes in countries with which we are not at war.)
Militarization of U.S. foreign policy has been a bipartisan project since at least the end of World War II. And perhaps that’s not surprising for a country founded on and consolidated by the extreme violence of the genocide of the First Americans and imposition of slavery on Africans brought here in chains.
Quick, name the last real diplomatic success by the United States. Anything really significant since Carter’s Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel? That was in 1978 (and of course Palestine is still waiting for justice while Israel gets over $3 billion in U.S. military aid annually).
Look at U.S. foreign policy under our current Nobel Peace Prize laureate president. It’s less obviously and ham-handedly belligerent than Bush’s, okay. But in addition to ongoing drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, he says “all options are on the table” with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, when even military leaders themselves say there is no military solution, only a diplomatic one. The U.S. and South Korea evidently think putting out the fire with gasoline is the right approach to North Korea’s nuclear test and recent threats, evidenced by ongoing war games, simulated nuclear attacks on the North using B-2 and B-52 bombers, and rushing F-22 fighter jets to South Korea to beef up the already robust U.S. military presence in the region as part of the “Asia-Pacific Pivot” aimed at isolating our main banker, China. And last but not least, despite voting for the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations this week, the U.S. remains the world’s number one exporter of conventional weapons.
Certainly the tens of millions of dollars annually spent on lobbying and campaign contributions by the largest war profiteers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon and others — have a toxic effect on our national priorities. It’s doubly galling, in that their profits come almost entirely from military contracts paid for by our tax dollars, which they then use to impact legislation and elections to benefit their interests, to the detriment of those of the taxpaying public.
It is not necessary to pinpoint cause and effect on this state of affairs, where Pentagon interests and macho militarist approaches seemingly run roughshod over everything else, to declare that it is wrong, and needs to be changed. And there is no blame, only respect, for those serving in the military, who need the very best care we can provide as they return home from our misguided wars and far-flung military bases abroad (over 800 of them!).
So what is the mission of the U.S. military supposed to be? According to United States law, it is “Preserving the peace and security and providing for the defense of the United States, the Commonwealths and possessions and any areas occupied by the United States; Supporting the national policies; Implementing the national objectives; Overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.”
I see nothing there about “full-spectrum dominance” of the rest of the world, as the Pentagon’s joint Vision 20/20 doctrine released in 2000 advocates, and which has seemingly become the military’s de facto mission.
Regardless of what anyone in the military says its mission is, they work for us, the taxpayers that provide their salaries and buy their weapons. So we can overrule them and force the Pentagon to reduce its role and get back in its lane.
It shouldn’t be hard to see how we can get the Pentagon back in its lane, and let more peaceful, just and sustainable priorities prevail in our domestic and foreign policies. Slash the Pentagon budget by at least 25%, and invest those savings in human and environmental needs in order to jump start our economy. Let diplomacy take precedence in foreign policy over military threats and false solutions. I suspect many people, even in the military hierarchy, might welcome such a reduced role in U.S. policy, and in the world. It must be tiring driving all over the road. Staying in one’s own lane can have its advantages.
Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and over 70,000 on-line supporters.
Check out this great article on Daily Kos yesterday by Cleveland Peace Action’s Randy Schutt. It’s got very clear illustrations on U.S. military spending vs. the rest of the world, and vs. discretionary domestic spending. Great charts and graphs for those that like that kinda thing.
More soon on the Pentagon budget, just before Tax Day. We gotta Move the Money!
President Obama released his budget on Wednesday. Poverty is at its highest level in fifty years. The wealthiest 2% and corporations are still not paying their fair share of taxes. Military corporations, like Lockheed Martin1 are even finding ways to dodge state taxes as they make maximum profits with our federal tax dollars.
As “sequestration” or across the board cuts of $85 billion mandated by Congress begin, the President’s budget adds another layer of crisis.
The President’s budget proposes cuts for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities through the use of a discredited method of calculating annual cost of living increases, called “chained” CPI that in fact, bites into the benefits. All in hopes of striking a deal with those in Congress who are bent on gutting social safety net to protect the rich and corporate profits.
No one, least of all senior citizens, the disabled or veterans should foot the bill for the budget crisis or the Pentagon. As Social Security benefits and community services are cut, where is the substantial, game changing cut to the biggest gobbler of annual discretionary spending: the Pentagon?
By the way, Social Security adds absolutely nothing to the budget deficit! The Pentagon does!
The President’s budget is expected to include 2 rounds of domestic base closings, reduce the cost of living increase in military salaries and raise healthcare fees.
Sorry Mr. President, but those aren’t game changers
Again, the burden is being put on those who can least afford, the enlisted service people. Why not the mega profitable military corporations, which produce arms, we do not need?
Project on Government Oversight says, “In other words, the Pentagon has, on average, been spending nearly $1 billion a day on contractors. Even if we just looked at what the Pentagon spends on service contracts, that alone is more than what it spends on troops and civilian employees combined.”2
While the CEOs of military corporation live the high life on our tax dollars3, our communities are faced with no choice, but to organize a push back.
On Tax Day, April 15, join Peace Action and our allies in over 28 states, and around the world and take action to move the money from the Pentagon to fund jobs and human services on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. Click here to see if there’s an event near you. You can also use the materials we compiled to write letters to the editor or create leaflets for events in your community.
Join the Thunderclap. Spread the April 15 message across Facebook and Twitter.
Power to the Peaceful,
Judith Le Blanc
Peace Action Field Director Peace Action
1 Baltimore Sun Op-ed by Lawrence Wittnerhttp://bsun.md/156S8wq
2 Project on Government Oversight, “The 360 Billion Gorilla in the Sequestration Debate” http://bit.ly/XztVAY
3 Project on Government Oversight, Groups Urge Congress to Lower the Cap on Maximum Allowable Compensation Paid to All Pentagon Contractor Employees http://bit.ly/10HPj3z
By Jane Stoever, PeaceWorks Kansas City
Kansas City, Mo., voters received a barrage of negative publicity from the “vote no” camp before the April 2 election, but 23 percent of the voters still said yes to stopping future KC financing for producing parts for nuclear weapons. The vote tally was 25,006 against and 7,559 for the measure.
“It’s a win!” said Rachel MacNair, campaign coordinator for “vote yes” proponents, after the polls closed April 2. “We’ve always said our strategy was to educate the public about the nuclear weapons parts plant, and our goal of making the plant and the nuclear weapons upgrade program more controversial has been achieved.” She said it was amazing to gain 23 percent of the vote in the face of the negative publicity from the opposition.
That publicity, focusing on jobs and national security, included three pricey mailers, robo calls from Mayor Sly James, handouts from paid workers at polls, and ads in local papers. For example, a promotional insert from Freedom Inc. in The Pitch in late March said of the ballot measure, “This is a rogue issue that was placed on the ballot by initiative petition, motivated by anti-nuclear extremists who want the United States to dispose of its nuclear weapons while other nations keep theirs.”
When, earlier, the second mailer from the “vote no” camp made the same charge, MacNair countered that peace groups are calling for multilateral, not unilateral, disarmament, and the third mailer carried revised language. However, that third mailing featured North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threat to turn Washington, D.C., into a sea of fire—a way to call for strengthening the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Despite the fear-based mailers, many voters talked with peace activists outside the polls, and some voters said they’d vote yes because of those contacts. One voter who, on leaving the poll, said she had voted yes, was asked why. In a quiet voice, she replied, “It’s just terrible to make those weapons.”
Before election day, PeaceWorks members informed the community about the peace measure through multiple activities. KKFI community radio interviewed various proponents on four programs and played a public service announcement. KCUR, an affiliate of National Public Radio, played and replayed a segment quoting MacNair and City Councilman Scott Taylor, who opposed the measure. Local TV programs such as “Week in Review” discussed all the election issues. Although The Kansas City Star editors recommended a no vote on the measure, news reporter Lynn Horsley quoted heavily from MacNair in her story originally titled “David vs. Goliath in Measure on Weapons Manufacturing.” PeaceWorks members circulated flyers at churches, offered informational cards to “Disney on Ice” attendees and to community groups, and leafleted on sidewalks. Perhaps the most flamboyant stint was the dropping of three banners above highways 71 and 670. The banners flew a few days.
PeaceWorks committed $4,000 to the campaign as its major contributor. The opposition amassed more than $123,000, with donors including Honeywell, which manages the current and new KC plants for the National Nuclear Security Administration; J.E. Dunn Construction Co., which heads up construction for the new plant; and the Chicago law firm Richmond Breslin, home base to Kevin Breslin, lawyer for CenterPoint, the development company that worked with KC on the plan for public/private ownership of the new plant.
Ann Suellentrop of PeaceWorks shared election results with national peace leaders on behalf of the KC peace community. The American Friends Service Committee disarmament coordinator, Joseph Gerson, replied, “Thank you for all that you’ve done. Born Jewish in 1946, in many ways my frames of reference are from the Second World War and the Holocaust. It would seem that … the majority of voters in KC seem to care in the short term about their well-being but, in what Hannah Arendt once termed the ‘banality of evil,’ put jobs and comfort ahead of nuclear genocide or omnicide.”
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A sad anniversary for sure, but also an occasion to recall and be inspired anew by one of the most ardent champions of nonviolence, social justice and peace this profoundly violent, warmongering, unjust country has ever known.
Exactly one year before his death, at Riverside Church in New York City, King delivered one of his greatest speeches, “Beyond Vietnam: A time to Break the Silence,” which remains for me one of the strongest clarion calls against war I’ve ever encountered. You can read the speech or listen to the audio here.
There are so many highlights of the speech for me, but two always stick in my mind, King’s accurate depiction of the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” (still true) and his assertion that the Vietnamese must view Americans as “strange liberators.” Were he alive today he would surely say the same of the Iraqi and Afghan people, no?
And perhaps the most enduring message for me is King’s denunciation of the “giant triplets” – racism, extreme materialism and militarism – which continue, 46 years hence, to plague on our society.
King’s impact is immeasurable, and touches so many people in so many fields, including not just politics or organizing but culture and especially music, which has a unique ability to stir peoples’ emotions (as King himself knew as a preacher!) Here are some moving musical tributes to King:
Nina Simone’s “Why (The King of Love is Dead)” (from a King tribute concert)
If you want to stoke your anger or righteous indignation at King’s murder, here are two articles in the independent media today on the subject of the conspiracy to kill King:
Please write President Obama and tell him to end the provocative military escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is very dangerous, with the recent provocation of North Korea’s third nuclear weapons test explosion (by comparison, the United States conducted over 1,000 nuclear test explosions, though none since 1992, thanks to vigilance by the U.S. peace movement) and threats to attack the U.S. and South Korea. North Korea’s nuclear test and threats are deplorable, yet the United States and South Korea are in, by far, the stronger military, political and economic position.
Putting out the fire with gasoline is not the answer, yet that is what the U.S. and South Korea appear to be doing with their ongoing war games, simulated U.S. nuclear attacks on North Korea by B-2 and B-52 bombers, and F-22 fighters just deployed to South Korea.
Restraint and diplomacy, not increasing the already robust U.S. military presence in the region, are what’s needed.
Please write the President, urging him to stop the flaunting of U.S. military might and seek diplomatic avenues to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Humbly for Peace,
Peace activists and groups in Kansas City, Missouri, including our Peace Action affiliate PeaceWorks KC, have been waging an impressive local struggle around the oddball government-corporate (Honeywell – don’t buy their products!) partnership that was concocted to build a new plant in KC that will manufacture the non-nuclear components of U.S. nuclear bombs (why such a thing is needed as we downsize our nuclear arsenal is quite a head-scratcher). They succeeded in getting an initiative on tomorrow’s municipal ballot to prevent such shenanigans from being repeated or expanded in the future. The local NPR affiliate ran a story on the issue this morning, give it a listen and if you have friends or relatives in KC, make sure they vote yes on Question 3!
Here’s the text of the story on KCUR radio:
The National Nuclear Security Agency contracted that work to a company called Bendix (after a merger, it’s now called Honeywell). At the height of the Cold War, in the 1980s, the factory employed some 8000 workers.
That was when psychologist Rachel MacNair first got involved in the movement against nuclear weapons.
“Back in the 1970s and 80s, people were really afraid the world was going to end in a nuclear holocaust,” MacNair says.
She joined a group in Kansas City that advocated converting the Bannister facility to a factory that made some other product.
“At the time it was a pie-in-the-sky, starry-eyed idealist, easily-dismissed kind of idea,” MacNair says. “And then the Cold War ended. And the Cold War has been over for a couple of decades. And nowadays we have retired military people, we have military experts, we have the same people who set up mutually assured destruction saying that it’s time to get rid of nuclear weapons.
According to The Kansas City Star, the Honeywell plant currently employs about 2000 workers, who “maintain the W76 missile warhead, a submarine-based weapon which is seven times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.”
The factory is getting old, though, and Kansas City officials were afraid of losing the plant, and the jobs, to New Mexico. So, they offered tax incentives to a private developer. And in 2010, ground was broken on a $1 billion new facility.
MacNair thought the project made no sense, since the Obama administration is talking about reducing nuclear arsenals.
“I just could not stand the idea of building a whole new plant as if we were going to be making new parts for decades.”
Anti-nuclear weapon activists in Kansas City tried to stop the incentives with previous petitions. And two years ago, some 50 people were arrested in a protest at the construction site.
The building’s complete now. The NNSA and Honeywell have been transferring operations already. It’s supposed to go online in August of 2014.
The question on the ballot isn’t about shutting down the new plant down, but rather, it prohibits the city from offering any futures incentives to “facilities that produce or procure components for, assemble, or refurbish nuclear weapons.” This would apply to companies that work exclusively with Honeywell or any future nuclear weapons plant.
According to city councilman Scott Taylor, this makes Kansas City look like an unappealing place to do business.
“A company, regardless of the size, is looking to locate a new facility. They will usually have a site selection process, that has multiple sites,” Taylor says. “And if one of those sites happens to have something that’s different from all the others, that’s a little strange and really might require some additional legal work, or research to see if they have some legal issues, they’ll just take us off the list and move to the other options because it will be a lot easier for them.”
Taylor is the at-large councilman in District 6, where the new plant is located. He says the new building has already helped bolster Kansas City’s construction industry through the recession. And he’s hoping it will anchor development in a struggling part of town.
‘Specifically in South Kansas City, we’ve really been fighting hard for the Three Trails re-development, the old Bannister Mall,” Taylor says. “We’ve had an incentive package on all that property; it’s already in place, we’ve already done that. If a company has any ties to this facility there’s a question as to whether they can even locate there if they wanted to. If they can’t locate there, it’s just as easy for a lot of these companies looking to locate near this plant to locate in Overland Park, Leawood, Grandview and other areas. I’d rather have them in South Kansas City.”
Taylor says the old Bannister facility is on federal land, so it doesn’t generate taxes for the city and the school district. The new plant is on private land, so despite the incentives, it will bring in property taxes for Kansas City, Missouri, as well as the Grandview school district, which dips into KC at that spot.
Taylor says he understands the intent behind the ballot question.
‘We all agree that it would be nice if all countries would disarm nuclear weapons,’ Taylor says. “But that’s not the world we live in and quite frankly the language of this doesn’t address disarmament or doing anything with the federal government specifically. My concern is that the unintended consequences of this would be very dramatic for our local economy.”
Other opponents say that the ballot question would not stop the production of nuclear weapons, anyway, that it would just shift the jobs elsewhere.
But proponents say they want to raise awareness that the nuclear weapons plant is here, and that it’s controversial.
Peace Action Wisconsin has been doing some slammin’ media work lately, here’s another op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this one on drones, by PA WI board member Conor McMullen.
After years of slumber, Congress is finally starting to wake up to its responsibilities to question the legality, the wisdom and the morality of the administration’s officially and absurdly “secret war” using drone strikes to try to kill alleged members of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, far from any legally recognizable battlefield.
When President Barack Obama nominated John Brennan to head the CIA, which has been carrying out the officially “secret” drone strike policy, a bipartisan group of 11 senators wrote to the administration and said: You need to hand over to Congress the secret memos written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that purport to justify the legality of the drone strike policy, which we have been seeking for more than a year. If you don’t hand over the memos, they said, Brennan’s nomination could be in trouble.
As a result of the threat, the administration finally shared some of the memos with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which are supposed to oversee the CIA. The administration still has not shared the memos with the Judiciary Committees, which are supposed to oversee the Justice Department, which produced the memos, even though Attorney General Eric Holder admitted in Senate testimony that access to the memos was necessary to understand the policy.
Some members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have threatened to issue subpoenas for the drone strike memos if the administration doesn’t hand them over, but they have not yet followed through. Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is a member of the House Judiciary Committee; he could be doing more to press the administration to release the memos to the committee.
When the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Brennan if the administration was claiming that it had the legal authority to conduct drone strikes in the United States, Brennan answered: “This administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.” That was clearly a dodge of the question.
The question wasn’t about what the administration intended to do. The question was about what legal authority the administration was claiming. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has claimed that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks, legalized a global war without borders in every corner of Earth. This claim logically begs the question: If the war is legal everywhere on Earth, does that include the U.S.? If not, why not? If it does not include the U.S., what exactly does it include?
Brennan’s subsequent confirmation shouldn’t mean the end of congressional scrutiny of this policy, and it won’t. On April 16, the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding its first ever public hearing on the drone strike policy. This subcommittee is chaired by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, and the hearing is expected to include witnesses who can testify to the reality of who is being targeted by drone strikes and who is being killed.
Until now, the administration has publicly claimed that only top terrorist leaders are being targeted and that civilian casualties have been extremely rare. But the record of independent reporting suggests that the standards for targeting have been extremely loose – something along the lines of “military age male in an area controlled by insurgents who looks like a terrorist” – and that civilian casualties have been quite common, with around 20% of the killings from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 being civilians.
Progressive Students of Milwaukee and Peace Action Wisconsin are sponsoring a public forum Thursday on the drone strike policy. We’ll be discussing what is known about the policy from independent reporting and what the public can do to help bring this policy into transparent compliance with U.S. and international law.
Conor McMullen is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a member of Progressive Students of Milwaukee.