Supporting trillions of dollars “to update and modernize our nuclear arsenal” is akin to advocating for more production of Zyklon B and improved gas chambers.
Incendiary claim? I think not. Like Zyklon B, nuclear weapons are genocidal. They are designed to kill millions; used en masse, they will kill billions. They are ecocidal as well; nuclear weapons with their intense heat and blast and radiation kill virtually everything in their radius. How can anyone who’s sane want more of them?
I happened to catch Kelly Ayotte, a former U.S. senator who’s now the Chair of the Board of Directors for BAE Systems, a major weapons contractor, say that she’s “always” been a strong supporter of updating and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Of course, she and her company stand to profit from this. But at what cost to life on this planet?
Nevertheless, nuclear “modernization” proceeds apace in the U.S. at an estimated cost of nearly $2 trillion over the next few decades. Is this not the very definition of a murderous insanity?
As Daniel Ellsberg pointed out, U.S. nuclear attacks plans in the early 1960s could have resulted in the death of 600 million people, mainly in China and the Soviet Union. As Ellsberg noted, the U.S. was prepared to launch 100 Holocausts in the name of defending its “ideals.” (And this was before we knew about the dangers of nuclear winter.)
This murderous madness has to stop before we put an end to ourselves and our planet.
We’ll produce new nuclear missiles like so many sausages. But it’s all OK because we need to “update” and “modernize” our (genocidal and ecocidal) nuclear arsenal. Sure makes me proud to be an American.
Addendum: When you think of nuclear weapons as “investments” or as “sensible” (see comments), please consider this scene from “Terminator II.”
What is “sensible” about any of this? Sorry, count me out of “investing” in mass death via nuclear holocaust.
A reader contacted me about China, Russia, and risks for war. One thing history has taught me is to be humble about predicting anything. Here was my response:
Have to admit I don’t know what China is planning. I understand the policy of “One China,” i.e. that Taiwan is still part of China. I don’t know if China is planning war. I tend to doubt it. Unlike the U.S., China is patient and careful. But war by miscalculation is always possible. Just look at 1914. Here in the USA, we keep hearing that China is our most serious potential enemy. That kind of rhetoric is not helpful, to put it mildly.
With respect to the Russia-Ukraine war, history teaches us that war is unpredictable, even chaotic. The war already approaches 90 days, longer than most people predicted, I think, with no clear end in sight. Meanwhile, the USA is planning to send $40 billion in “aid,” mostly military, on top of the already $12 billion or so that we’ve sent. This money is not intended to end the war; indeed, it can only prolong it.
So I’m not optimistic about any of this. It all strikes me as reckless and escalatory.
If I had but one message for my country, it would be this: Reject militarism. Reclaim democracy. Reinvest in America. Restore peace.
But we’re doing the very opposite of my message. We’re priming the pump for more war. Meanwhile, more violence overseas feeds more violence at home. And the government’s response is always the same: More police internally and more troops externally. More spending on police and the military. More focus on “security” achieved through weaponry and surveillance.
To me, it’s sobering and sad how broadly yet narrowly we define “national security.” It’s broad in the sense that America seeks full-spectrum dominance of the land, sea, air, space, and cyber; that global reach, global power, and global dominance is the goal; that the U.S. military splits the globe into “commands” headed by four-star generals and admirals. Yet it’s narrow because we don’t equate security with having affordable health care, a clean environment, a quality education, safe water and healthy food, and similar, non-military essentials.
How can we be safe and secure when kids are drinking water with lead and other toxic chemicals in it? When sickness leads to personal bankruptcy? When people can’t afford to put gas in their tanks while putting food in their bellies and paying their rent? When they have to ration essential drugs like insulin?
Instead of priming the pump for more war, we should be doing everything possible to work toward peace. Ike told us this in 1953, JFK in 1963, and MLK in 1967. George McGovern in 1972 told America to come home, to reject constant warfare overseas, and to focus on healing our country and its divisions.
Yet the pacific wisdom of leaders like Ike, JFK, MLK, and McGovern is being repressed in America today. If Ike gave his 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech today, explaining how weapons spending represents a theft from the American people, he’d be dismissed as muddleheaded and misguided. If JFK gave his 1963 speech calling for peace with the Russians, he’d be called a Putin puppet. If MLK gave his 1967 speech about the evils of militarism, materialism, and racism in America, he’d be called unpatriotic and even traitorous. (As he pretty much was in 1967, but that’s another story.) And McGovern and his principled anti-war stance? He’d never get near the Democratic nomination as a presidential candidate. (Indeed, that’s why the DNC invented super-delegates.) Doubtless he’d be smeared as an isolationist, as a Russian (or Chinese) agent, as an idealistic dupe or a useful idiot for America’s alleged enemies.
So we keep priming the pump for more war. And I have some experience priming a hand pump for water. Keep cranking that handle (war rhetoric), keep adding some water (more and more weaponry and troops), and soon enough the water starts gushing out.
When will war start gushing out for America? Don’t events at home and abroad suggest it’s already beginning to flow?
I’ve been meaning to post more about President Biden’s decision to throw $33 billion in weapons and money at Ukraine, followed by the decision in the House to boost that to $40 billion, and the vote that took place in which all Democrats, including the so-called Squad, voted for it, with a few dozen Republicans voting against. The implications of this are staggering. The U.S. has already committed more than $50 billion to the proxy war against Russia as Americans stagger under rising costs for everything.
We need Russia to attack the American working class — only then might workers in America get some financial relief from “their” government.
Democrats are “all-in” on being pro-war and pro-military (and pro-police, since Biden has called for even more police to be hired), leaving anti-war positions to a smattering of Republicans with various motivations. All credit to Senator Rand Paul for holding up the $40 billion Ukraine “aid” package. He wants an Inspector General to monitor and control how this immense sum of money will be spent for Ukraine. A smidgen of accountability — imagine that! I actually wrote a note to Senator Paul to salute him for this and for his opposition to the DHS Disinformation Governance Board.
More unaccountable billions for Ukraine and the military-industrial complex, more government censorship for Americans: a couple of worries for our Wednesday.
Anyhow, here are a few good articles I’ve been meaning to cite on this:
The US House of Representatives has voted 368-57 to spend $40 billion on a world-threatening proxy war while ordinary Americans struggle to feed themselves and their children. All 57 “no” votes were Republicans. Every member of the small faction of progressive House Democrats popularly known as “The Squad” voted yes.
The massive proxy war bill then went to the Senate, where it was stalled with scrutiny not from progressive superstar Bernie Sanders, but from Republican Rand Paul.
This is because the left-wing Democrat is a myth, like the good billionaire or the happy open marriage. It’s not a real thing; it’s just a pleasant fairy tale people tell themselves so they don’t have to go through the psychological turmoil of acknowledging that their entire worldview is built on lies.
You could see something new playing out on the Sunday shows this past weekend: Some TV news networks are starting to raise questions about whether the U.S. involvement in the Ukraine might have some downsides.
After hearing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who called for “more weapons, more sanctions” — and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova — who asked for “more military support, more sanctions” — “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan warmly welcomed Jim Taiclet, the chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, tossing him questions that weren’t even softballs, they were bouquets.
One can imagine how that might have come about. Earlier in the week, President Biden visited a Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama that makes Javelin anti-tank missiles, pitching his requests for $33 billion in aid to Ukraine and subsidies for American microchip production. So Ukraine and supply-chain issues were in the news, and Taiclet could address both.
But still, what it came down to was a major television network inviting onto its marquee news show the head of the largest weapons manufacturer in the world — the company that profits more from war than any other company worldwide — and not asking a single pointed question.
Watch the entire six-minute segment and ask yourself if state television in a totalitarian country would have done it any differently.
In the 1970s and into the 1980s, the mainstream media occasionally did challenge the military-industrial complex. Those days are gone. I no longer see articles that criticize waste, fraud, abuse, threat inflation, and so on. The mainstream media, like the Democrats, have become pro-war and pro-weapons and pro-Pentagon. Rare indeed do you hear any sustained criticism or meaningful opposition. (You do get posturing from the Squad, but only when their posturing has no effect on legislation and money.)
What good is freedom of the press when the press muzzles itself on issues that could very well lead to a wider war, even a nuclear one? Why is America shoveling scores of billions of dollars to sustain a bloodletting in Ukraine? What is our strategy to end this war, rather than simply prolonging it and profiting from it?
Today, I parked behind a car that had a “Semper Fi” sticker for the Marines, an American flag sticker, another sticker that said “Don’t blame me, I voted for Trump,” and a final sticker that read: “The Media Is the Virus” (in place of Covid-19, I assume). It’s nice that people identify themselves so readily in America, thereby making it easier to avoid them. I’ve traveled to a few countries and I’ve never seen this proclivity for bumper stickers and the like replicated in other lands. What is it about Americans that we want our cars and trucks and SUVs to scream our views? Doesn’t matter if you’re “liberal” or a Trumper or what-have-you. Americans are very much in your face about their beliefs. Because, ah, freedom?
Who will win in 2022 and 2024: the woke Republicans, otherwise known as Democrats, or the unwoke ones who generally support Trump? And if you think Democrats like Joe Biden aren’t like Republicans, consider this: Biden is pro-police, pro-military, pro-war, and anti-worker in the sense that we’ve seen no increase to the federal minimum wage, no student debt relief, no meaningful health care reform, and no concerted effort to reduce inflation or to lower gasoline prices. As the rich get richer under Biden, generally the poor get poorer. Worked the same way under Trump and Obama, didn’t it?
If we judge Biden by his deeds as well as his words, he’s emulated the pro-business Republican-lite policies of Barack Obama, but with none of Obama’s charisma.
Isn’t it time America had a second party to choose from, rather than two right-wing factions of the same corporate uniparty?
Biden has a new press secretary who’s a Black female and a member of the LGBTQ community. Will it feel any better being lied to by her rather than a white female or the typical cis white male? As Cornel West noted, it’s not enough to put Black faces in high places if they’re just as committed to the Establishment as the typical cis white male. We need more than optical diversity in this country.
That said, I’d love to see more women in Congress (indeed, more women in all positions of power), and more diversity across America. But, again, if the “civilian” Secretary of Defense is from Raytheon via a career spent in the U.S. Army, does it really matter that he’s Black when he’s thoroughly a man of the military-industrial complex?
What if all NFL players wore peace symbols on their helmets rather than American flags? Would their heads explode first, or ours?
There’s no escaping the military-industrial complex. This weekend, I watched the Red Sox play the Rangers in Texas. There’s a huge blue and white ad for Lockheed Martin in the outfield; even worse, the company logo was superimposed on the pitcher’s mound! Every pitch, almost every play, was sponsored by my friends at Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-35 jet fighter, among other weapons. How heartening!
Remember those old commercials: baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet? Chevrolet has been replaced by Lockheed Martin, with our president visiting weapons factories to promote the Javelin missile. With our president shilling for weapons and with Congress shoveling more than $50 billion to Ukraine to sustain a devastating war, tell me again how Democrats are making the world safer and more secure?
What will be the next galvanizing cause that forces people into the streets? The last one was Black Lives Matter and protests against police brutality that briefly led to a “defund the police” moment, which really meant to decrease police militarization while allocating more funds for mental health, family counselors, and other non-violent approaches to defusing trouble. President Biden has already said the answer is to fund the police, not defund them. How is this a “democratic” message? How is this even remotely adequate as a response to the very real anger and grievances of the BLM movement?
Fifty years ago, George McGovern asked America “to come home.” To end foreign wars. To focus on our problems here. To cut the Pentagon budget and to refund the savings to the American people. Was he the last real Democrat to run for President? Why do you never, ever, hear about his ideas today?
Why has every president since Ronald Reagan used the office to cash in after leaving? Kudos to Jimmy Carter for being a true, humble, and honorable public servant, and for having a brother who briefly brought us Billy Beer.
Thirty years ago, I co-taught a course on the making and use of the atomic bomb at the U.S. Air Force Academy. We took cadets to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the first nuclear weapons were designed and built during World War II, and we also visited the Trinity test site, where the first atomic device exploded in a test conducted in July of 1945. It was after that first test when J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, mused that he had become death, the destroyer of worlds. And that is what nuclear weapons are: they are death, and they can literally destroy our world, producing nuclear winter and mass sickness and starvation.
Over the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has killed millions of people across the globe. A general nuclear war could kill billions of people in a matter of days. As Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reportedly said in 1963, “The living will envy the dead” after such a nuclear cataclysm.
Despite this, an intellectual fad of the Cold War era was to “think about the unthinkable,” to “war game” or plan for various nuclear “exchanges” resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, even to imagine that there could be a “winner” of such a war. Remarkably, in the context of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, that fad is returning today as pundits write articles that suggest the US needs to show the Russians it is willing and able to fight and win a nuclear war, as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal argued on April 27th of this year.
Such suggestions are madness.
As a young Air Force lieutenant, I sat in the Missile Warning Center in Cheyenne Mountain during an exercise that simulated a nuclear war. This was 35 years ago, but I still remember those simulated Soviet missile tracks crossing the North Pole and ending in various American cities. There were no snazzy special effects or colorful high-definition computer monitors. It all happened in silence on a monochrome monitor as I sat under two thousand feet of solid granite in America’s largest nuclear bomb shelter. “There goes Kansas City,” somebody quietly said. It was a sobering experience that I’ll never forget.
Many years later, I watched a stunning documentary, The Day After Trinity, that detailed the development of the atomic bomb. I’ll never forget the words of Hans Bethe, legendary physicist and one of the bomb’s key developers. The first reaction among the scientists to the news the bomb had exploded over Hiroshima, Bethe recalled, was a feeling of fulfillment. The crash project to build the bomb had worked. The second reaction was one of shock and awe, of “What have we done,” Bethe quietly noted. And the third reaction: It should never be done again. And after Nagasaki the world somehow managed not to do it again, despite nearly catastrophic events like the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago.
I was raised Roman Catholic, and I can think of no worse crime against humanity than mass murder by genocidal weaponry, not only of ourselves but of all life forms that would be vaporized by thermonuclear warheads. Let’s not think about the unthinkable; let’s not think we must show the Russians (or anyone else) that we’re willing to use nuclear weapons. Rather, let’s achieve the difficult but doable. The only sane course of action here is for all the world’s nations to negotiate major reductions in nuclear arsenals with the eventual goal of total nuclear disarmament.
Remember President Biden’s request for $33 billion in “aid” to Ukraine? That $33 billion package has become $40 billion and has already been approved by the House. More than half of this “aid” is in the form of weapons or in support of deploying more U.S. troops and equipment to Europe. And even that $40 billion isn’t high enough for some members of the Senate, who are calling for even more “aid,” i.e. more spending at the expense of the American taxpayer that will likely serve to prolong the Russia-Ukraine War.
More and more money for war recalls a famous quip by Winston Churchill in the age of navalism, when industrial interests in the UK pushed for more and more battleships to be built so that Britain could continue to rule the waves and not be slaves.
As Churchill famously said: The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight.
America has embraced a militarized Keynesianism that is very good indeed for weapons makers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. It’s also very good for the Pentagon, whose budget projections keep rising when they should be falling.
Think about it. Overall, the Russian military hasn’t yet distinguished itself in Ukraine, and the longer the war lasts, the weaker that military becomes. If the U.S. military budget was actually based on an honest assessment of threats, the budget should be decreasing as Russia becomes less of a threat.
Another interesting aspect of this is that it’s mainly been Republicans voting against the $40 billion package in “aid.” Democrats, no matter how “progressive,” are eagerly voting for it, even as inflation soars in America and people struggle to make ends meet.
Perhaps it’s time to build more battleships to help the poor and struggling? We can house the unhoused in ships!
In the 1960s, in response to the Vietnam War, young Americans vowed to “make love, not war.” Ever since 9/11, if not before, America has a new vow: Make War, Not Love.
The American empire believes it must dominate the world stage. Partly this is due to hubris unleashed by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. As Colin Powell put it that year:
“We no longer have the luxury of having a threat to plan for. What we plan for is that we’re a superpower. We are the major player on the world stage with responsibilities around the world, with interests around the world.”
When you define the world as your “stage” and define yourself as a military and economic “superpower,” as the major player, a hubristic and militaristic foreign policy almost naturally follows. And so it has.
In my latest article for TomDispatch.com, I detail five reasons why America remains addicted to hubristic war; what follows is an excerpt that focuses on America’s vision of itself as the best and purest actor on the world stage. Please read the entire article at TomDispatch.com.
About 15 years ago, I got involved in a heartfelt argument with a conservative friend about whether it was wise for this country to shrink its global presence, especially militarily. He saw us as a benevolent actor on the world stage. I saw us as overly ambitious, though not necessarily malevolent, as well as often misguided and in denial when it came to our flaws. I think of his rejoinder to me as the “empty stage” argument. Basically, he suggested that all the world’s a stage and, should this country become too timid and abandon it, other far more dangerous actors could take our place, with everyone suffering. My response was that we should, at least, try to leave that stage in some fashion and see if we were missed. Wasn’t our own American stage ever big enough for us? And if this country were truly missed, it could always return, perhaps even triumphantly.
Of course, officials in Washington and the Pentagon do like to imagine themselves as leading “the indispensable nation” and are generally unwilling to test any other possibilities. Instead, like so many ham actors, all they want is to eternally mug and try to dominate every stage in sight.
In truth, the U.S. doesn’t really have to be involved in every war around and undoubtedly wouldn’t be if certain actors (corporate as well as individual) didn’t feel it was just so profitable. If my five answers above were ever taken seriously here, there might indeed be a wiser and more peaceful path forward for this country. But that can’t happen if the forces that profit from the status quo — where bellum (war) is never ante- or post- but simply ongoing — remain so powerful. The question is, of course, how to take the profits of every sort out of war and radically downsize our military (especially its overseas “footprint”), so that it truly becomes a force for “national security,” rather than national insecurity.
Most of all, Americans need to resist the seductiveness of war, because endless war and preparations for more of the same have been a leading cause of national decline. One thing I know: Waving blue-and-yellow flags in solidarity with Ukraine and supporting “our” troops may feel good but it won’t make us good. In fact, it will only contribute to ever more gruesome versions of war.
A striking feature of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that, after so many increasingly dim years, it’s finally allowed America’s war party to pose as the “good guys” again. After two decades of a calamitous “war on terror” and unmitigated disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and so many other places, Americans find themselves on the side of the underdog Ukrainians against that “genocidal” “war criminal” Vladimir Putin. That such a reading of the present situation might be uncritical and reductively one-sided should (but doesn’t) go without saying. That it’s seductive because it feeds both American nationalism and narcissism, while furthering a mythology of redemptive violence, should be scary indeed.
Yes, it’s high time to call a halt to the Pentagon’s unending ham-fisted version of a world tour. If only it were also time to try dreaming a different dream, a more pacific one of being perhaps a first among equals. In the America of this moment, even that is undoubtedly asking too much. An Air Force buddy of mine once said to me that when you wage war long, you wage it wrong. Unfortunately, when you choose the dark path of global dominance, you also choose a path of constant warfare and troubled times marked by the cruel risk of violent blowback (a phenomenon of which historian and critic Chalmers Johnson so presciently warned us in the years before 9/11).
Washington certainly feels it’s on the right side of history in this Ukraine moment. However, persistent warfare should never be confused with strength and certainly not with righteousness, especially on a planet haunted by a growing sense of impending doom.
You would think that a U.S. president would have better things to do than to tour and tout a missile-production facility in Alabama, but then you’d be forgetting the power of the military-industrial complex and the profitability of war. Yesterday, President Biden toured a Lockheed plant that makes the Javelin missile, which I’m sure is working overtime given the number of missiles (about 5500) this country has shipped to Ukraine in its war against Russia. I was asked for a quick comment before Biden’s visit, and here’s what I came up with:
You don’t defuse a war by sending more and more weapons to the war zone. You don’t send a message of peace by visiting a missile-making facility. President Biden spoke of inspiring other nations with the power of our example, but he’s opting instead for examples of our power. In so doing, he’s betraying his own promise to America and to the world. Statesmanship, not brinksmanship, is what’s required to end the disastrous war in Ukraine. Negotiation, not militarism, is the correct path forward. But it’s hard indeed to play the statesman and to foster negotiation when you pimp yourself out to the weapons makers.
Incredibly, or perhaps not so incredibly, Noam Chomsky has praised Donald Trump for his willingness to call for a negotiated settlement to the war. By contrast, the Biden administration appears content to let the war drag on in the cause of weakening Russia. In short, Ukraine is the administration’s proxy, and Biden & Company are willing to fight and die to the last Ukrainian while supplying plenty of arms to the same. Indeed, the latest aid package for $33 billion for Ukraine includes $20 billion in weaponry.
Should weapons really be identified as “aid”? No matter. The U.S. media is pimping for war, the president is visiting missile plants and praising the wonders of our weapons and how many Russian tanks they’ve destroyed, and we’re all supposed to accept this as business as usual in America. Which it is.
Today’s big news: a “leaked” memo from the Supreme Court suggests that the court will overturn Roe v. Wade. My first thought is that the leak was deliberate, a way to get people used to the idea that a decision that has stood for 50 years is being negated by a packed and biased court. Let people yell and tweet and fulminate, but that’s all you get to do.
My second thought: the main victims of this law will be women without financial means. Women of means will always have access to abortion; they can travel to another state, pay a private doctor, etc. It’s poorer women, often of color, who will suffer the most.
But who cares about them, right? Justice is blind to them, never for them.
What a partisan joke the Supreme Court is in the U.S. And they have the gall to argue that the court is apolitical!
I truly believe that if men got pregnant, abortion would be free, legal, and readily available across the United States.
But men don’t get pregnant, so the idea of carrying an unwanted baby to term is mainly theoretical for them. How easy it is, then, to outlaw abortion while claiming to be pro-life.
Having been raised Catholic, I was taught abortion is murder. It’s that blunt. As the Church was teaching me that, it was allowing predatory priests to molest children. There was even a predatory priest assigned to my parish when I was young. So I’m not too keen on the moral authority and teachings of the Church here. Again, if priests got pregnant, I truly believe abortion would be accepted within the Church. Perhaps it would be justified by arguing that priests, first and foremost, have to serve God and the Church and therefore shouldn’t be…
War has much been on my mind lately, with a scene from “Gone with the Wind” flashing through my brain. It’s when Ashley Wilkes, the paragon of honor and decency, reflects on war: “Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars,” Wilkes says. “And when the wars were over, no one ever knew what they were about.”
Powerful words coming from a Southern cavalier who went off to do his duty in the “War Between the States.” Interestingly, the South often called it “the war of northern aggression,” whereas the North used “the war of southern rebellion.” War is a remarkably protean thing, and often completely unpredictable in its duration and effects. We often can’t even agree how to name it.
Here’s a repost from the end of 2013, nine distant years ago. Who could have predicted America’s Afghan War would finally be over, only to be replaced by a new Cold War and massive weapons shipments to Ukraine in a war with Russia that could also last for years, spreading miseries for reasons that are already disputed and which may yet prove unfathomable.
“War is like love; it always finds a way.” So wrote Bertolt Brecht, and when it comes to American politics and foreign policy in 2014, you can bet on Brecht being right. There is no major anti-war party in the USA today. Despite claims to fiscal austerity, Democrats and Republicans fall over themselves to fully fund the Pentagon and its ongoing wars across the globe. Our misguided involvement in Afghanistan lurches into its thirteenth year with promises that it won’t end until 2024 at the earliest. The only certainty for 2014 is more dead bodies, more casualties of war, more money wasted.
Barbara Tuchman, a historian who knew how to write for the educated public, was right in pointing out the persistence of folly in history. A heavily militarized U.S. foreign policy is an illustration of that. Our country continues to seek global dominance through militarized measures, perhaps…