Two Quick Thoughts on the U.S. Military

We’re witnessing the return of the Great White Fleet

W.J. Astore

At TomDispatch.com, Michael Klare has a fine article on the U.S. military’s “all-domain” warfare plans, including nuclear exchanges and big fleet carrier operations against China, among other hair-raising plans of “defense.” I had two thoughts while reading his article:

  1. Remember how, according to the Downing Street Memo, the intelligence was fixed around the policy, thereby justifying the Iraq War that Bush/Cheney wanted? It seems today that U.S. military strategy is being fixed around the weaponry that most profits the MICC (military-industrial-Congressional complex). Of course, strategy is supposed to drive choices in weaponry, but it seems the opposite is true today for the U.S. military. Put differently, the U.S. military is so awash with money, and so enamored with “all-domain” dominance, that virtually any weapons system can be justified in any realm of warfare. Cyber, COIN, fleet operations, nuclear, space, counter-terror, anywhere and everywhere.
  2. Is there such a thing as a true American isolationist? Even in Trumpland? Advocating for a reduction in the U.S. military’s imperial profile doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make you an isolationist. Saying you only want 400, or even 200, overseas bases instead of the 800 the U.S. military has doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make you a crank. Saying you want to wage no unnecessary wars doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make you an isolationist.

There are very few U.S. politicians today who advocate for significant reductions to the U.S. war/imperial budget. It is arguably the new “third rail” of American politics. Consider again the case of Tulsi Gabbard, a U.S. Congresswoman who enlisted in her state’s national guard unit, then became an officer, and currently serves as a major who deployed to the Iraq War. Merely for suggesting an end to disastrous regime-change wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she was smeared by the mainstream media and by Hillary Clinton as a tool of Russia.

As Tom Engelhardt has noted, the U.S. National Security State, with all its branches and services and agencies, represents a “shadow government.” How could it not be so, when more than half of the federal government’s discretionary spending goes to that military/intelligence establishment? And when that “shadow government” feels threatened or challenged, it is more than ready to defend its prerogatives and perks.

Update: I should have mentioned that Congress just approved a “Defense” budget for 2021 of $740 billion. No problem with bipartisan support of nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars for wars and weapons! Speaking of weapons, for FY2020 the U.S. has generated $175 billion in authorized arms exports. Yes, the USA remains solidly #1 in both war spending and weapons exports!

Now, what about our response to Covid-19? The USA ranks #18 in that. Wouldn’t it be far better if we ranked #1 in responding to a deadly pandemic?

64 thoughts on “Two Quick Thoughts on the U.S. Military

  1. Whenever I read of the (predictably) massive response to suggestions of troop withdrawals/military budget cuts, I am reminded of Lenny Bruce’s “Thank You, Masked Man” in which the Lone Ranger wakes up one day to be told “the Messiah has come” and there’s no longer any use for people like him or “Lenny Bruce and Jonas Salk” who feed upon the lack of purity they protest a need for.
    “What is it you do with me?”
    “You’re in the sh*thouse.”
    “Okay. Then I’ll make trouble ….”

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    1. When Christ returns, in that Day, NO ONE would have to talk about God anymore, because everyone would know God.

      The 1st ones to lose their jobs would be the TV Evangelists living the lifestyle of the rich and famous and all other Priests and Pastors.

      On July 15, 1978, The Ottawa Citizen published a record of me wearing my trademark #13 jersey and a WWI Gas Mask, protesting Military, Economic and Political Pollution.
      In retrospect, I should have included Religious Pollution because there’s too much of that obfuscating what needs to be done.

      The 1st Gulf War happened in 13 years later in 1991, and the obsession leading up to it was over Gas Masks.

      https://rayjc.com/2011/03/21/gas-masks-and-the-1st-gulf-war/

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      1. Glad you like the comment Gregory. The 1st Gulf War was a prime example of what I was talking about the Newspaper recorded for Posterity in 1978 – “Economic, Military and Political Pollution.”

        This article by Bill is still writing along the same lines all these 42 years later, with no discernible change in Direction.

        Considering this Blog attracts thoughtful people I see and appreciate by most comments, I am disappointed no one from this Blog followed the link to my Blog, to see the Original Historical Newspaper Record for themselves, including you Gregory.
        The Stats to my Blog tell me that!

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        1. My dad liked the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This is certainly true of the USA and war.

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  2. Realistically, is there a way to get rid of hundreds of bases, reduce military spending by a large percentage, break the hold the MIC has on this country? We can say, “Well, we need to do this or that,” but is there actually a hope of accomplishing any of it before the planet is a cinder? No wonder the Doomsday Clock shows we’re a few seconds from Armageddon.

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    1. I was thinking of this question while walking today.

      What would it take? Probably another great depression. Either that or a major movement in our society against weaponry and war, but I don’t see where that movement will come from, other than under major duress like a great depression.

      Another possibility that I hate to entertain is a nuclear weapons accident. Or perhaps a major climate-driven cataclysm that forces us to turn inwards.

      Thoughts?

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      1. I can’t be optimistic. My thinking is that we came close to another Great Depression in 2008 (a friend who’s a financial analyst said it was a lot closer than the public knew), yet the MIC is stronger than ever. Now, there’s a nearly unresolvable conflict in Congress over helping our citizenry with another relief package, but the two parties had no trouble agreeing on a $740B military giveaway. I’ll bet that if the economy totally crashed, guns and bombs would still take precedence over ensuring food and shelter for the population.

        As for a climate catastrophe, it would have to be simultaneously worldwide. Otherwise, the paranoid people in charge of the U.S. military would be seeing potential attacks 24/7: “They’re gonna get us while we’re weak.”

        A nuclear accident, or some kind of communications glitch resulting in a launch, or an incident similar to the one in Hawaii (?) last year, might put a pause on MIC operations, UNLESS they could pin it on a foreign power, in which case, we could be living “On the Beach.”

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        1. As I see it Denise, the 2008 Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour that happened in the last months of 8 years of the Republican Administration fighting 2 Foreign Wars on borrowed money, and at the same Time, gave significant tax breaks to the rich, was the visible ‘Writing On The Wall’ the whole world saw for the 1st Time, at the same Time.

          Everyone knows the implications in saying The Writing’s on the Wall. It was not recognized as such in 2008 and ignored, with no meaningful reform. The Billionaires at the Top of our Pyramid System are getting richer, and the poor are multiplying at the Bottom.

          The Writing on the Wall record comes from Daniel 5 in the Bible, when the king of Babylon put on a feast for 1000 of the Elite in the kingdom.
          The record continues, they praised
          “the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone.”

          In other words, from THEN, 2800 years ago, to NOW, it’s the Economy, Stupid!

          It can no longer be ignored with Covid-19

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          1. Without a doubt, the entire global financial system, since it’s become so interwoven starting last century, is gonna collapse like the proverbial house of cards. Some day. Ah, the timing is the trick!! Like the Covid pandemic, a “black swan event” could arrive at any time as catalyst. It is a “miracle of Biblical proportions”–sorry, couldn’t resist–that “They” (the Powers That Be) have been able to stall it off so long. So much of the “wealth” of the 1% is just paper wealth, based on rising prices of stocks and their derivative instruments. It’s all subject to evaporating one day! Frankly, from my perspective, I can scarcely wait for that day to arrive!

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      2. I’m just like Pooh
        A bear of very little brains, so this probably is a meager idea. But….
        Back in the day there was a route I delivered, and it was the only walking route left in the city. The town was 1% affluent and very hard right; it was nestled into the once pristine coastline of SWFLA. The community I walked through was a mixture of retirees and working class folks. These were the days after 9-11 and the taming of the Middle East was well underway. Being the hippie dippy mailman who let the freak flag fly made my presence in the town an unsettling sight on most all of the routes I ever worked during my career. It wasn’t comfortable being the opposition in such a glaring way; but I learned to speak freely without any shame.
        Spending the most active of the war years doing this particular route brought me a bit of comfort knowing that there was still one brave soul who was not afraid to call this despicable campaign out in a most public and unique way. What he was doing created feelings that ping ponged back and forth between sorrow and hopefulness. It was easy to meditate on many things as you walked the miles between homes completing the appointed rounds. The horrors of war and the Masters of it, who create John Browns without thinking anymore; we’re always a topic after I finished delivering this wise WWII veterans mail and sharing words of encouragement for that bright and shining day when war is no more.
        In his front yard he created a billboard written in block letters and numbers large enough to be read from the street as your vehicle drove past. He posted and updated when necessary the war dead and wounded scores for all to see. Like I said it was sorrowful to watch the figures increase; but I’m sure it also helped shake awake some indifferent hearts. The incriminating message stood out and spoke volumes in a town where enrichment from the practices of conflict paid the faithful investors handsomely. It made me proud to know this brave soul; and he taught me many things as we established our friendship.
        So why not get folks to start putting up billboards that expose the spending practices of those who create horror, wealth, sickness, and robbery. Keep the tally’s front and center of our eyesight by posting the figures in yards, on walls in public places, at tables where you once sat; sort of like a “war trac”, a telling of the madness of these machinations that seeks to educate the truth about these corrupt manufactured matters. Who knows, if someone with some presence would create a space that kept the figures available for access; people could begin to spread the truth in an openly public way.
        This is what happens when you walk under a blistering sun and muse about what you have just walked upon while goofing your mailbag up the odd and down the even.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good idea. I also like the idea of every Member of Congress wearing their top ten corporate donors on their suits like Nascar drivers wear their sponsors. Lockheed Martin! Raytheon! Boeing! We could clearly and always see who is really pulling their strings as they pontificate and vote in Congress.

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          1. I love it!! But of course Congress itself would have to vote to approve mandatory display of these corporate logos. Oops! “Slight” stumbling block!

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        2. Interesting. I’m sure somewhere there’s still an electronic clock display counting up the National Debt. We know that if all the costs of war–medical care for the vets of past and ongoing ones, maintenance of those innumerable bases around the globe, maintenance of equipment, handsome pensions for former high-ranking officers, preparation for future wars, etc., etc.–were toted up, it would constitute a revolting percentage of where our tax dollars go. Far higher than what the official Federal Budget shows each passing year.

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  3. I walk among the Pines , Ponds, & Coastline of my Town of Plymouth thinking the same thing and my guess is before the Doomsday clock strikes “Midnite”– reason will prevail because to think otherwise is complete insanity… As Sting sings in one of his Eighties tunes I remember “I hope the Russians Love their Children too”

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    1. Why is it insane to think that reason wouldn’t prevail? We have former high-ranking military officers now crying out for martial law and the suspension of the Constitution. And over 40%of the country supports the maniac on whose behalf these military guys are speaking….

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  4. I should have mentioned that Congress just approved a “Defense” budget for 2021 of $740 billion. No problem with bipartisan support of nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars for wars and weapons! Speaking of weapons, for FY2020 the U.S. has generated $175 billion in authorized arms exports. Yes, the USA remains solidly #1 in both war spending and weapons exports!

    Now, what about our response to Covid-19? The USA ranks #18 in that. Wouldn’t it be far better if we ranked #1 in responding to a deadly pandemic?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Remember the old joke about the guy who stops in Las Vegas and is approached by a destitute, bedraggled looking man on the streets asking for money? “I’ve been sleeping on the streets for the past month, I haven’t had anything to eat in days… please, can you help me out?” “How do I know you won’t just go spend it on gambling?” “Oh, I’ve got gambling money!” We ALWAYS have war money. It’s one expense where the “But how will we afford it?” question never comes up. (tax breaks for the wealthy and massive handouts and subsidies for powerful corporations also don’t seem to ever get questioned by those who are deficit hawks when it comes to everything else).

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  5. I skimmed a very long Pearl Harbor Day post by anti-war activist David Swanson, background to the Pacific war of 1941-45. The gov’t of Imperial Japan had become very alarmed about US expansion of its footprint in the Pacific and had dropped hints that this would lead to big trouble. I think the US seized islands like Guam and Midway from Spain in War of 1898–I could be wrong on that, though. But at any rate, per this article it was only in the 1930s that US started building airstrips, etc. on those islands, ratcheting up tensions. Now let’s bring the Pacific region up to date, with the US’s renewed interest in maintaining economic/military dominance and countering Chinese influence. Gee, you don’t suppose this could end BADLY, now do ya?!?

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    1. See Gore Vidal’s well-researched “The Golden Age” for more about how the U.S. provoked war with Japan. Quite revelatory. They may be dismissed as conspiracy theorists, but there were a good many people who were adults at the time of Pearl Harbor and were convinced that FDR knew it was coming.

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      1. I’m convinced FDR didn’t know Pearl Harbor was coming. He was a Navy man. Plus Pearl Harbor could have been far worse for the USA if the Japan had launched a third strike.

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        1. But per the “theory,” the US wanted to modernize the Pacific Fleet. The Arizona, etc., were little more advanced than the battleships that helped seize the Philippines, etc., from Spain in War of 1898. Get rid of the old tubs and build sleek new vessels! It was known that Japan had been building up its own military for many years.

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          1. Way too risky IMHO. A stronger Japanese strike against Pearl Harbor could have left California open to attack — seriously.

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          2. Japan may not have been capable of refueling their aircraft carriers adequately to make CA an achievable target. But, I don’t claim to be an expert in such matters. Had they seized and occupied Hawaii they would’ve had a new base of ops, but they would’ve had to repair the runways they’d bombed on Dec. 7! You know what, though? I could see them doing that quickly! They were very serious about what they were undertaking.

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        2. According to actual FDR memos published by Vidal, FDR deliberately boxed Japan in, by cutting off its fuel supply, among other actions. He reasoned that Japan would have no choice but to attack the U.S. However, his prediction was that the attack would happen on a U.S. possession closer to the Japanese mainland.

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          1. Yes, Japan must have foiled/misled US espionage agents. I don’t think US intel expected exactly what transpired on 9/11, though Dubya (the great reader!) had been given a briefing warning that bin-Laden might employ commercial air flights as weapons.

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        3. My husband, also a navy man, says that, because all the aircraft carriers were well out at sea during the Japanese attack, a third wave might only have claimed the one or two remaining battleships. He commented that the attack was deemed a success by the Japanese, but the damage wasn’t critical to naval operations.

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          1. A third strike could have knocked out the fuel tanks and naval yards/maintenance equipment. Pearl Harbor could have been destroyed as a naval base for months — longer, perhaps.

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      2. Similarly, it was claimed that one of Cheney’s plotters for Regime Change made a statement prior to 9/11 that “What we need is a Pearl Harbor level incident” to justify launching new wars. I wish there was concrete documented proof of this wish having been expressed, but I’m not aware such exists.

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        1. I think the document that you refer to is: Rebuilding America’s Defenses (RAD), published in September 2000, by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

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          1. That sounds like a very likely source. But I’m not sure any public authentic document exists. May have just been an insider leaking that such a sentiment had been expressed.

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        2. OK, Greg, found some documentation about your “Pearl Harbor” comment. Go to page 51 here:

          Click to access RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

          And you can scroll through some references here:

          http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a030399newpearlharbor

          http://www.911myths.com/html/new_pearl_harbour.html

          https://www.newstatesman.com/node/192545

          I’d found another citation this afternoon, but when I went back to retrieve it, it was gone. Weird.

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          1. Okay, some of this has vanished from the internet, it seems. But from what I see in cursory examination, I have no problem interpreting the statement “…absent a new Pearl Harbor type event” (I paraphrased a bit). Of course PNAC wasn’t going to issue a public statement WISHING for such an event, or hinting they’d PLAN IT themselves. The gist, I think, is “wouldn’t it be convenient” for such an event to manifest so they could accelerate the Regime Change project? I do find it suspicious that the US’s air defense system seemed rather “conveniently” asleep at the switch the morning of 9/11. However, I totally REJECT the conspiracy theorists’ argument that to bring down the twin towers it would’ve been necessary for CIA/Mossad/whomever to PRE-POSITION explosives inside the buildings. That is UTTER NONSENSE and only serves to distract folks from the real issues. No, I’m not a Structural Engineer, but I do have eyes to see, and they tell me those aircraft got the job done without “inside” help.

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    2. Well, you had an expansionist USA empire against an expansionist Japanese empire. Something had to give.

      Having studied this history, I’d say both sides were pursuing a path to war. The Japanese simply decided to get in the first big blow. It worked for them against Russia in 1904-05 … it did not work so well after 1942 with the USA.

      Of course, the Japanese didn’t just attack us. They attacked Manchuria, China, Korea, French Indochina, Dutch and British possessions, etc., and probably would have invaded Australia in time.

      Now Japan is peaceful and the U.S. has become the imperial octopus … we learned we were “the greatest” country from the war and Japan learned war didn’t pay. Hmmm … who won the war again?

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      1. The Empire invaded Manchuria in 1937, I believe. And today’s Japan is less “pacific” than it had been. Under US pressure, if memory serves, they even changed their constitution to modernize and up-size their own military.

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      2. For a thoroughly depressing read, go here:
        https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2020/12/07/total-shutdown-of-dissent-is-u-s-censorships-endgame-by-rainer-shea/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DandelionSalad+%28Dandelion+Salad%29

        The topic is censorship, but the article explains it in the context of the ever-expanding militarism of the U.S. There’s a link to another article which I found literally terrifying, detailing the War College’s gaming of military occupation of large cities around the world, including some here at home.

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        1. Denise, all options are always on the table for the Empire to defend itself. We may be sure that after things started to erupt in Portland, OR a whole new batch of plans for mobilizing Fed. forces domestically were added to the considerable stack on that table. Some of those forces, we know, WERE sent to Portland, but I’m talking about much wider mobilization here at home. We should never forget that Dwight D. Eisenhower was among the Army officers called upon to break up the Bonus March of WW I veterans in D.C. c. 1932 or ’33. MacArthur and Patton were there as well.

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  6. President elect Biden’s pick to be the next Secretary of Defense is retired General Lloyd Austin who has all the right pedigrees and resume; West Point, command responsibilities, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., etc. Upon his retirement in 2016 he became………wait for it…………a member of the Board of Directors at Raytheon. Shocker!

    So, the Black Congressional Caucus got their way. Biden nominated a Black man to be Secretary of Defense. Will he, if approved (he will need a congressional waiver to be considered, like Mattis), support reducing the number of U.S. bases around the world, reduce weapons sales, reel in the MIC, reduce our military footprint around the globe, do any really meaningful savings of taxpayer monies at the Pentagon, even complete a thorough audit of Pentagon spending?

    The answer to that is NO. It will remain business as usual at the Pentagon. Neither Biden nor any retired general/admiral/congressional member is going the slap the hand that feeds him/her from many different troughs. Not sure if the Black Congressional Caucus consider themselves “Progressives”. If they do, seems like they would want someone as Secretary of Defense who would divert some monies that will be “Pentagon wasted” to programs that would help the domestic home front; like healthcare, infrastructure, livable incomes, education, reduction of national debt, the list is endless as to where wasted monies could be put to really good use. I wonder, can you be a “Progressive” and at the same time a supportive MIC/”warhawk”? Appears many congressional members can.

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    1. He puts the military and industrial back into the military-industrial complex.

      It’s another reflection of our militarized society. And it’s contrary to the ideal of citizen control of the military.

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      1. “What’s in a name?” inquired the Bard of Avon-on-Thames, or whatever the damned town was called.

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          1. Thanks for the correction! (I knew this somewhere deep in my memory bank but my withdrawal slip got lost in the mail!) What the hell does that even mean? Is Avon another river??

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    2. I would love to be pleasantly surprised, but don’t expect it. Your reply of NO! to your own series of rhetorical questions seems carved in stone in destiny to prove accurate. You don’t get nominated for this position in the first place if you don’t hew to The Pentagon party line!! I imagine Gen. Austin never wrote an official memorandum even ever so mildly criticizing what US was doing in those areas of the globe where he was assigned.

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    3. It makes me crazy that so-called Progressive Norman Solomon came out yesterday with an essay declaring, essentially, “See? Told you we could push Biden to the left. It was pressure from us Progressives that made him NOT nominate Michele Flournoy.” Is Solomon a wolf in sheep’s clothing, just a semi-covert shill for establishment Dems, or is he really that uninformed/deluded?

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      1. One thing I can guarantee: It wasn’t Progressive pressure that led Biden to nominate General Austin instead of Flournoy as SecDef.

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    4. Now we have the spectacle of a retired general who’s spent his whole adult life in the military claiming that he’s a “civilian,” just like you and, well, maybe me (I spent 20 years in the military, but General Austin easily doubles that).

      Here’s what “Civilian” Austin had to say today:

      “I come to this new role as a civilian leader — with military experience, to be sure — but also with a deep appreciation and reverence for the prevailing wisdom of civilian control of our military,” Austin said.

      Ha Ha. Just a little military experience, as in my entire life …

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      1. If we’re gonna be stuck with Gen. Austin, at least I think we can trust him more to respect the Constitution than any Trump appointee. Um, I think!

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  7. In case anybody is still keeping score…
    MIC….700
    HUMANITY… 6 feet outta sight

    Rising Civilian Death Toll in Afghanistan_Costs of War_Dec 7 2020.pdf
    I too enjoyed your honesty sir, with Daniel today
    I appreciate you both for increasing my understanding
    Also a sad note
    On this day …12-8-80 … we lost a voice for Peace
    I dearly miss the Beatle John

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  8. Really great insight. This is what’s happening backstage while the 45 distracts in his usual outrageous yet completely predictable ways. Thank you for shining a light on it.

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