Rage Against The War Machine Speech / By Chris Hedges

Murder King – by Mr. Fish

Originally published in Sheerpost on February 19, 2023

Hedges spoke at the Washington DC rally on Feb. 19 alongside an array of other notable speakers.

Idolatry is the primal sin from which all other sins derive. Idols tempt us to become God. They  demand the sacrifice of others in the mad quest for wealth, fame or power. But the idol always ends by requiring self-sacrifice, leaving us to perish on the blood-soaked altars we erected for others. 

For empires are not murdered, they commit suicide at the feet of the idols that entrance them. 

We are here today to denounce the unelected, unaccountable high priests of Empire, who funnel the bodies of millions of victims, along with trillions of our national wealth, into the bowels of our own version of the Canaanite idol, Moloch.

The political class, the media, the entertainment industry, the financiers and even religious institutions bay like wolves for the blood of Muslims or Russians or Chinese, or whoever the idol has demonized as unworthy of life. There were no rational objectives in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Somalia. There are none in Ukraine. Permanent war and industrial slaughter are their own justification. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman earn billions of dollars in profits. The vast expenditures demanded by the Pentagon are sacrosanct. The cabal of warmongering pundits, diplomats and technocrats, who smugly dodge responsibility for the array of military disasters they orchestrate, are protean, shifting adroitly with the political tides, moving from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party and then back again, mutating from cold warriors to neocons to liberal interventionists. Julien Benda called these courtiers to power “the self-made barbarians of the intelligentsia.”

These pimps of war do not see the corpses of their victims. I did. Including children. Every lifeless body I stood over as a reporter in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Bosnia, or Kosovo, month after month, year after year, exposed their moral bankruptcy, intellectual dishonesty, sick bloodlust and delusional fantasies. They are puppets of the Pentagon, a state within a state, and the weapons manufacturers who lavishly fund their think tanks: Project for the New American CenturyForeign Policy InitiativeAmerican Enterprise InstituteCenter for a New American SecurityInstitute for the Study of WarAtlantic Council and Brookings Institute. Like some mutant strain of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they cannot be vanquished. It does not matter how wrong they are, how absurd their theories of global dominance, how many times they lie or denigrate other cultures and societies as uncivilized or how many they condemn to death. They are immovable props, parasites vomited up in the dying days of all empires, ready to sell us the next virtuous war against whoever they have decided is the new Hitler. The map changes. The game is the same.

Pity our prophets, those who wander the desolate landscape crying out in the darkness. Pity Julian Assange, undergoing a slow-motion execution in a high-security prison in London. He committed Empire’s fatal sin. He exposed its crimes, its machinery of death, its moral depravity. 

A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.

Some here today might like to think of themselves as radicals, maybe even revolutionaries. But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is, in fact, conservative: the restoration of the rule of law. It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning republic, be incendiary. But living in truth in a despotic system, one the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism,” is subversive. 

The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious mouth pieces in the media and academia, are illegitimate. Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins. Prove this truth, as Julian did, and you are crucified.

“Red Rosa now has vanished too…” Bertolt Brecht wrote of the murdered socialist Rosa Luxemburg. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”

We have undergone a corporate coup d’état, where the poor and working men and women, half of whom lack $400 to cover an emergency expense, are reduced to chronic instability. Joblessness and food insecurity are endemic. Our communities and cities are desolate. War, financial speculation, constant surveillance and militarized police that function as internal armies of occupation are the only real concerns of the state. Even habeas corpus no longer exists. We, as citizens, are commodities to corporate systems of power, used and discarded. And the endless wars we fight overseas have spawned the wars we fight at home, as the students I teach in the New Jersey prison system are acutely aware. All empires die in the same act of self-immolation. The tyranny the Athenian empire imposed on others, Thucydides noted in his history of the Peloponnesian war, it finally imposed on itself.

To fight back, to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet from ecocide, to decry the domestic and international crimes of the ruling class, to demand justice, to live in truth, to smash the graven images, is to bear the mark of Cain.

Those in power must feel our wrath, which means constant acts of non-violent civil disobedience, social and political disruption. Organized power from below is the only power that can save us. Politics is a game of fear. It is our duty to make those in power very, very afraid.

The ruling oligarchy has us locked in its death grip. It cannot be reformed. It obscures and falsifies the truth.  It is on a maniacal quest to increase its obscene wealth and unchecked power. It forces us to kneel before its false gods. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically, of course, I say, “Off with their heads!” 

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was an early and outspoken critic of the US plan to invade and occupy Iraq and called the press coverage at the time “shameful cheerleading.” He is the author of the 2002 best seller, War is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, which is an examination of what war does to individuals and societies. He states that war is the pornography of violence, a powerful narcotic that “…has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque.” Hedges has also published the following books: What Every Person Should Know About War (2003); Losing Moses on the Freeway: The Ten Commandments in America (2005); American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2008); I Don’t Believe in Atheists (2008); Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle ( 2009); and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012). He writes a weekly column for Truthdig.com

Review: Being Aware is First Step to Resisting US Militarization / by W.T. Whitney Jr.

Photograph Source: Jason Eppink – CC BY 2.0

The military draft in the United States has disappeared. There’s no major U.S. war and military affairs rate little attention in the media. The U.S. public embraces the pervasive influence of the military-industrial complex across U.S. society. The U.S. Congress seems never to hold back on wildly exorbitant military spending.

Travelers entering North Carolina on Interstate 95 almost immediately see a sign proclaiming “Nation’s most military friendly state” – a sign paid for, in part, by the N.C. Bankers Association.  In high schools, military recruiters “insinuate themselves into school life at every level.” Loudspeakers at sports events sound out tributes to veterans and active-duty troops. The latter may receive free tickets to performances, preferential parking, and discounts on merchandise.

Unveiling of the new “Welcome to North Carolina” sign for interstate highways in the state – Fayetteville Observer

Clarity Press, 2023

Author Joan Roelofs has written a new and much needed book that explains much about praise and support for the U.S. military. The Trillion Dollar Silencer, provides atravelogue of sorts through the U.S. military-industrial complex. It moves from the military establishment and big corporations to colleges, universities, NGOs, philanthropies, foundations research institutes, and other kinds of defense contractors.

Her thesis is that dependency on the part of civilian institutions involved with the military establishment has the effect of shielding the military from widespread popular outrage at war-making and big spending. She asks, “Why is there so much acceptance of and so little protest against our government’s illegal and immoral wars and other military opera­tions?”

The author shows her anti-war perspective in rejecting NATO and in criticizing U.S. military interventions, subversion, and covert military actions as violations of international law. She condemns U.S war-makers’ use of Cold War and anti-terrorism pretexts to have free rein to maim and destroy.

Roelofs, a retired professor of political science, is the author also of Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY Press) and Greening Cities (Rowman and Littlefield).

She argues that the incentive for civilian institutions and private companies to support military funding and U.S. military purpose lies in their interests being satisfied. Propaganda, distractions, and fear of repression, she points out, are other persuaders. Her new book is about “the interests created by [the] military’s penetration into so many aspects of civilian life.”

Roelofs writes about large and small defense contractors and private, public, and non-profit ones. They are colleges, universities, research foundations, healthcare organizations, and groups working on political and legal issues and the environment.  They provide the military with supplies, logistics, weapons development, human services, defense against atypical threats.

She indicates that, “75% of the [Defense Department] budget is paid to contractors.” These had enough funds, she reports, to financially support dozens of think tanks and foundations. Money, we suggest, is basic to the “interests” cited by the author.

Other observers point out that U.S. companies in 2019 accounted for 57% of the arms sold by the world’s 100 top weapons manufactures. The world’s five biggest weapons manufacturers are U.S. corporations.

Lockheed Martin took in $58.2 billion in revenues in 2020 and showed profits of $9.1 billionin 2021. Raytheon Technologies reported arms sales of $36.8 billion in 2020 and profits of $5 billion in 2021. Boeing’s profits in 2021 were $5.19 billion. Northrop Grumman sold arms worth $30.4 billion in 2021 with $7.0 billion in net income. General Dynamics’s arms sales totaled $25.8 billion; its 2021 profits were $3.3 billion.  The average salary of the CEOs of these companies was $20,795,527, according to inequality.org.

According to the book, defense contracts provide economic rescue even for next-door operations.  In 2012 an $866,000 three-year contract for making cribs for childcare centers helped to revive a children’s furniture manufacturer in the author’s hometown Keene, New Hampshire. Granite Industries of Vermont was declining until it received a contract for making up to 4000 headstones a year for Arlington National Cemetery.

Surprises turn up as to who are the big defense contractors. The for-profit health insurance company Humana is the seventh largest of all of them, according to Roelofs. Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks in 38th place.

Relationships are tight within the military industrial complex. Upper-level employees of universities, philanthropies, and non-government organizations and the top military brass and Defense Department officials oscillate between one sphere and the other. According to the author, Defense Department grants to philanthropies, foundations, and to environmental and civil rights groups are oriented to reforms and not so much to basic social change.

The single-issue orientation of most of the contracting philanthropies and NGOs fits with military and official preferences; their fear would be that different issues seen as connected might encourage critical thinking and even dissent. Roelofs looks at the role of state and local government entities in reaching out to youth to serve military needs such as ROTC units, recruitment, and encouragement of scientific and technical educational paths.

Roelofs’ purpose has been to make “the extent and implications of the military industrial complex more visible.” But, as she notes, “many look away, and the mountain is huge to move.” Additionally, “Our political system …  does not afford citizens much democratic control over policies, and hardly any over foreign policy.” The question is: “What can be done.”

Roelofs is alluding to the powerful forces attached to the economic and political status quo, among them the civilian enablers of the military establishment. She is saying, in essence, that the process of consciousness-raising that does lead to useful political action would be a long and arduous one.

Her book, which is written in a readable, accessible style, would have us start out at the beginning. The first item on the agenda is that of persuading ordinary people to say “No.” They would stand up, test the waters, be active in some way, and make a few gains.

She calls upon her readers to speak out, write to editors, contact elected officials, join and work with antiwar organizations. She advocates for a Green New Deal, a “national service program,” and “conversion to a civilian economy.” She is evidently hoping that masses of people will build a resistance movement, score some victories, gain confidence, and learn.

If Roelofs had presented all-encompassing themes like past U.S. military misadventures and the evils of a profit-driven political system, her call to action would have yielded almost nothing. Instead, more promisingly, she is lending support to a protest movement in its infancy. Now is exactly the right time for her highly recommended book.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

Counterpunch, November 18, 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/

A New Bill Would Redirect $100 Billion from the Military Budget to Pro-Worker Programs / by Stephen Semler

US Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol on December 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Every year the US military budget grows ever larger, sucking up resources that we could use to improve the lives of workers. A new bill seeks to do just that, immediately cutting $100 billion from the military budget and putting it in social programs.

arlier this week, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) — co-chairs of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus — introduced legislation to significantly draw down US military spending. The People Over Pentagon Act would cut the Department of Defense budget by $100 billion and reinvest the money in nonmilitary federal programs.

The proposed reduction, which would lower the military budget to a still-whopping $682 billion, will be slandered by the political establishment as haphazard and extreme. It is neither.

First, the bill is considered in its cuts, taking guidance from a Congressional Budget Office report from October 2021 that presents several options for shrinking military spending by $1 trillion over a decade (the report was prepared at the request of the Senate Budget Committee chairman, Bernie Sanders). Second, a $100 billion decrease is considerably more modest than other sensible proposals for zapping Pentagon largesse — Rep. Lee herself released a framework in 2020 for slashing the military budget by $350 billion.

All told, the cuts in Lee and Pocan’s legislation would result in a level of military spending only slightly less than the total before the Trump-Biden military buildup from Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 on.

Simply shrinking the military budget isn’t the main thing Reps. Lee and Pocan are after, however. The pair’s chief motivation is to reinvest the canceled military funds in programs that will boost ordinary people’s security and livelihoods. The bill text notes that because “many of the most urgent threats . . . are not military in nature,” Pentagon spending ought to be reduced “and the associated savings should be reallocated” to better respond to those nonmilitary threats.

In other words, the legislation’s intent is to make US spending priorities more favorable to the needs of the working class by using excess Pentagon capital to buttress social programs. As Lee and Pocan argued in the press release announcing the bill, showering the military with more and more money, year after year, not only fails to improve security — it actually produces insecurity by crowding out funding for addressing crises like climate change and pandemics.

The bill doesn’t dictate what programs would receive the $100 billion in savings. The money could go to, say, healthcare or education or a green jobs bill. (Under House rules, a separate bill or amendment is needed to set out those allocations.) But what’s certain is that the Lee-Pocan measure is an indictment of the anti-worker policies that habitually come out of Washington. More specifically, it’s an indictment of Biden’s military budgets and spending priorities.

For next year’s Pentagon allocation, Biden has proposed the fifth-largest military budget since World War II. This week, the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed adding another $45 billion to Biden’s request. There is little reason to think Biden will oppose the Senate committee’s move. After all, the president had no qualms about approving the FY 2022 military budget after Congress allocated about $30 billion more than his initial request.

At the same time, Biden’s budget request for FY 2023 is a direct appeal to the same conservative Democrats who derailed his domestic agenda last year. Unlike his FY 2022 proposal, Biden’s FY 2023 plan doesn’t appeal to Congress to pass progressive legislation on labor, social spending, or the climate. It doesn’t put forth a second infrastructure bill, for example, despite the first ending up as a hollowed-out version of his original plan, containing just a quarter of its initial climate funding. It’s noncommittal about renewing the push to pass the Build Back Better (BBB) bill, the ostensible centerpiece of his domestic program. Several BBB provisions are mentioned in Biden’s FY2023 request, but they’re lumped together in a nonspecific placeholder called a “deficit neutral reserve fund.” Other BBB provisions are left out of the request entirely.

The People Over Pentagon Act offers a major course correction to escalating militarism and an atrophying welfare state. While its legislative prospects are uncertain, the bill is exciting (and legible) enough to offer value as a mobilizing tool. And because it affects all parts of the federal budget, the act has something for working-class people across the country. It would be a first step in funding human needs rather than padding the bottom lines of weapons contractors.

Stephen Semler is cofounder of Security Policy Reform Institute, a grassroots-funded US foreign policy think tank.

Jacobin, June 18, 2022, https://jacobin.com/

Biden budget: Hike the military, defuse protests by taxing the rich / by Mark Gruenberg

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, center, along with other lawmakers, talks with reporters. Jayapal is joined by from left, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-New York. Susan Walsh | AP

WASHINGTON—Tax the rich to reduce the nation’s yearly budget deficit but give the military more than ever.

Taxing the rich and making corporations pay more, not padding the military, is the big takeaway Democratic President Joe Biden wants voters—and some centrist lawmakers—to get from his proposed $5.8 trillion spending plan for the fiscal year starting October 1.

But there’s a big problem in Biden’s budget, as far as progressives are concerned: The record amount of money for the military and its dependent war corporate contractors: $813 billion, counting some extra defense spending hidden elsewhere than in the Pentagon’s own budget line.

“Right now, billionaires pay an average rate of 8% on their total income. Eight—that’s the average they pay,” the president declared when he unveiled the budget blueprint on March 28.

“If you make a billion bucks, great. Just pay your fair share. Pay a little bit. A firefighter and a teacher pay more than double the tax rate that a billionaire pays. That’s not right. That’s not fair.”

But on spending, Biden’s numbers contradict his words. As he drums up support for the war in Ukraine and paying for the weapons he is pumping in there, he increases defense spending by $31 billion and reduces non-defense spending—for education, labor, health, fighting the coronavirus, and other “discretionary” programs—by $13 billion, to $915 billion. The president attributed that decline to winding down and ending anti-pandemic aid. He said nothing about whether the budget could allow revival, in whole or in part, of his Build Back Better agenda killed by Democratic Party conservatives led by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

And he justified the Pentagon dollar hike by claiming the military needs more money so it can help Ukraine. And even if the Ukraine war is not enough of an excuse to fatten the military budget, he raised the alleged threat the nation faces down the line from China to justify the increase. “We’re once again facing increased competition from other nation states—China and Russia,” he declared.

That analysis irks critics of war spending and gladdens the hearts of the military contractors who dine and drink at the Pentagon’s table.

“At a time when we are already spending more on the military than the next 11 countries combined, no we do not need a massive increase in the defense budget,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., said in advance of his panel’s March 30 hearing on Biden’s budget blueprint.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. AP

“Appropriators and advocates” must always defend spending “to expand access to health care” while cutting its costs to workers and families, to build affordable housing, to fight climate change, and to combat the coronavirus pandemic, said Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., former chair Mark Pocan, D-Wash., and longtime anti-war Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., in a joint press conference.

“But such concerns evaporate when it comes to the Pentagon’s endlessly growing, unaudited budget. We will continue to vigorously advocate against this military spending proposal, as we have in years past,” the three promised.

Biden preferred to concentrate on hammering the rich.

“My budget contains a ‘billionaire minimum tax’” of 20%, he said. The top “one-hundredth of 1% of the Americans will pay this tax. The billionaire minimum tax is fair, and it raises $360 billion that can be used to lower costs for families and cut the deficit.”

And Biden would raise the top tax rate on the highest end of income of all the superrich to 39.6%–its level before the GOP-Trump tax cut four years ago for corporations and the rich. The corporate tax rate would rise from the current 21% to a proposed 28%. It was 35% before the Trump-GOP cut.

Biden also would eliminate the “carried interest” deduction, a bonanza which lets hedge fund Wall Streeters pay on their gains at lower tax rates. Killing that tax break alone would raise $406 billion in fiscal 2023, the budget tables show. Biden also would increase estate taxes on the rich—rolling back part of the Trump-GOP giveaway—by $48 billion.

What Biden did not say was hedge fund vultures who claim “carried interest” use the windfall to grab loans to buy and destroy companies, notably newspapers, and lives, all in the name of corporate greed.

Instead, “My budget also ensures corporations pay their fair share. In 2020, there were 50 Fortune 500 companies that made $40 billion in profit combined but didn’t pay a single, solitary cent in federal taxes. My budget raises the corporate tax rate to 28%, far lower than the rate it was between World War II and 2017 when it was lowered,” he said.

Overall, all of Biden’s tax hikes on corporations and the rich, if enacted, and that’s in doubt, would raise $2.5 trillion. But that sum stretches over a decade.

So, for example, the billionaire minimum tax doesn’t kick in—if Congress approves it—until fiscal 2024, which starts Oct. 1, 2023. And it raises only 10% of its $3.6 trillion decade-long total in that fiscal year.

One revenue raiser not in Biden’s budget: The increased money that would come into the Treasury from higher fines and the wider reach of those fines—to corporate honchos and covering more offenses—for company labor law-breaking. The new basic fine for a first-time law-breaker would be $50,000, rather than net back pay to illegally hurt workers. Corporate repeat offenders would pay $100,000 per abuse.

Those higher fines and related provisions, taken from the Protect The Right To Organize Act, labor’s #1 legislative priority, were in Biden’s Build Back Better budget “reconciliation” bill for this fiscal year. They’re not in his budget blueprint.

The Democratic-run House passed BBB on party lines. The evenly split Senate didn’t even debate it. The revenue raisers from BBB carried into Biden’s budget were the corporate and individual income tax hikes and elimination of $45 billion in tax breaks for fossil fuel firms. Those companies benefit in other ways not contained in the budget: Gaining European market share as sanctions hit against Ukraine.

Biden’s budget, like any other presidential spending blueprint, is a political document, intended to set out priorities. “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value,” the president said. So here are some other Biden values:

More money for schools, especially those whose teachers have classes full of low-income kids.

Funds for that program, called Title I, would double, which cheered Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, one of the earliest union commenters on the budget plan.

“It includes $1 billion to help schools hire additional counselors, school psychologists, and other health professionals to address the mental health crisis,” she added—a crisis the coronavirus pandemic illuminated. And Biden adds $400 million “for the Education Department’s Full-Service Community Schools Program, which aims to bring healthcare and other social service programs onto school campuses.” Adding such wraparound services in schools is a longtime AFT aim.

“It’s clear Biden is making important investments in helping our public schools meet the needs of every child and provide more opportunities for students to recover and thrive after two years of disruption,” Weingarten said.

More money for pro-worker enforcement programs. Biden again seeks $319.4 million for the National Labor Relations Board. That’s $45 million more than this year—and the figure the House OKd before the Senate eliminated that hike, leaving NLRB at $274 million,

And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would get a record $704 million, which would let it hire 330 more staffers, rising to 2,346. The budget envisions a 7.6% increase in OSHA inspections, from 31,400 to 33,790. That doesn’t count state OSHA inspections.

The NLRB’s staff union welcomed that agency’s hike with “Yes, but…” tweets. The first one noted the NLRB budget stalled at $274 million yearly in 2014. “While this proposal is encouraging, the agency needs these resources now,” the staff union said.

“If the NLRB’s 2014 budget had merely been increased to match inflation, our budget would stand at $328 million this year…We need these resources in FY2022”—the current fiscal year—”to adequately carry out our agency’s mission of enforcing federal labor law.” Its current year total: $274 million, again.

The comparison between military money and domestic spending led to political fireworks when Biden Budget Director Shalanda Young testified on March 29 before the Senate Budget Committee. Chairman Bernie Sanders is labor’s longest-tenured supporter in Congress. He also hates growing the military, especially when the Pentagon outspends the next 11 nations’ military budgets, combined.

“At a time when corporations are making obscene profits by charging outrageously high prices for gas, food, and rent, we need a budget that takes on the unprecedented corporate greed that is taking place in America today by enacting a windfall profits tax and preventing corporations from ripping off working families,” Sanders added.

“At a time when over 700 billionaires in America became nearly $2 trillion richer during the pandemic while tens of millions continue to struggle, we need a budget that demands that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes and substantially improves the lives of working families with children, the elderly, the sick and the poor.”

Flak also came from the right. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., who will take over the panel if the GOP wins control in November, slammed Biden’s budget, too…for not spending enough on war. “The Biden budget fails once again to fund our national defense at adequate levels,” was one Graham complaint.

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, March 30, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/biden-budget-hike-the-military-defuse-protests-by-taxing-the-rich/